Bear in mind, that you have engaged for a stated sum of money, to devote your time and energies, for an entire year, to one object—to carry out the orders of your employer, strictly, cheerfully, and to the best of your ability; and, in all things, to study his interests—requiring something more than your mere presence on the plantation, and that at such times as suits your own pleasure and convenience.
On entering upon your duties, inform yourself thoroughly of the condition of the plantation, negroes, stock, implements, etc. Learn the views of your employer as to the general course of management he wishes pursued, and make up your mind to carry out these views fully, as far as in your power. If any objections occur to you, state them distinctly, that they may either be yielded to or overcome.
Where full and particular directions are not given to you, but you are left, in a great measure, to the exercise of your own judgment, you will find the following hints of service. They are compiled from excellent sources—from able articles in the agricultural journals of the day, from Washington’s Directions to his Overseers, and from personal experience.
“I do, in explicit terms, enjoin it upon you to remain constantly at home (unless called off by unavoidable business, or to attend Divine worship), and to be constantly with your people when there. There is no other sure way of getting work well done, and quietly, by negroes; for when an overlooker’s back is turned the most of them will slight their work, or be idle altogether. In which case correction cannot retrieve either, but often produces evils which are worse than the disease. Nor is there any other mode than this to prevent thieving and other disorders, the consequences of opportunities. You will recollect that your time is paid for by me, and if I am deprived of it, it is worse even than robbing my purse, because it is also a breach of trust, which every honest man ought to hold most sacred. You have found me, and you will continue to find me, faithful to my part of the agreement which was made with you, whilst you are attentive to your part; but it is to be remembered that a breach on one side releases the obligation on the other.”
Neither is it right that you should entertain a constant run of company at your house, incurring unnecessary expense, taking up your own time and that of the servants beyond what is needful for your own comfort—a woman to cook and wash for you, milk, make butter, and so on. More than this you have no claim to.
Endeavor to take the same interest in every thing upon the place, as if it were your own; indeed, the responsibility in this case is greater than if it were all your own—having been intrusted to you by another. Unless you feel thus, it is impossible that you can do your employer justice.