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that it is a mere empty form of words, unless they have been baptized as Christians; but they regard their own mode of taking an oath as most solemn and binding; this however can only be administered by one negro to another.
sidering then the revengeful spirit of the negroes,
and how prone they are to complain, from frivolous causes, against the whites, their own unsupported assertions, unqualified by other evidence, would be a source of perpetual confusion and employment to the magistrates and the courts. As to the petty oppression and severity to which the slaves may be liable on the estates, from an unfeeling overseer, the employer, or proprietor, will soon discover, by various means, whether such abuse exists on any of his properties, and he will immediately dismiss this tyrannical manager from his service. The character of a cruel and oppressive person is indeed now so inimical to the welfare of an overseer, and to his being admitted into any reputable employ, that, whatever his disposition may be, he carefully avoids the appearance of being one of that character. Neither overseer nor owner is allowed by the law to exceed, in inflicting punishment, thirtynine lashes; nor is a book-keeper, nor others in subordinate situations, permitted to exceed the fourth part of that quantum : at least, if they abuse this law, they are liable to a heavy penalty, one half of which goes to the informer. But,
after all, it is not so much these minor laws for the restraining of this official severity, as the example and exertions of the leading and respectable men of the country, which tends to produce a system of mildness and humanity. These laws may be partially evaded; but the general tenor of an overseer's conduct towards the slaves under his authority, cannot escape the observation of his employer; and where his character and prosperity are at stake, he will necessarily be cautious, however he may be disposed, how he injures himself by an oppressive and severe conduct. The incentives of the proprietor to be thus watchful over the comforts and welfare of his slaves are sufficiently obvious.
Formerly the slaves on the estates were cruelly and injudiciously made to perform much supernumerary work, at improper times. After the labours of crop were over, and they should have enjoyed a little additional respite, they were, on many properties, harassed to a shameful degree. Not even the light of heaven circumscribed their labours, but they were made to work for hours after it was dark, and for hours before the light dawned in the morning. At present their labour is light, and this supernumerary toil is no longer exacted. On a property which has five hundred acres of land in cultivation (including pasture and provisions) there are two hundred slaves, about half of which number are constantly em
ployed in the agricultural duties of the estate, and manufacturing the produce. In England, an estate of this extent would be cultivated by the tenth of this number. It is true, the mode of cultivation is here different. This proportion shews at least that the work the slaves here perform is far from being excessive. The routine of their daily work is as follows: They assemble in the fields at day break; about ten in the forenoon, they are allowed about half an hour to eat their breakfast, which is brought out into the fields by the negro cooks; at one they go to dinner, and in about two hours after are again assembled in the fields (either by a bell, or, as is most usual, by the sound of a conque-shell, which is heard at a very great distance); and they draw off from work in the twilight of the evening. Once a fortnight, out of crop, they are allowed a day; but during crop none can be allowed, as that is too busy a season for any extra allowance of time. Perhaps, if one day out of every week throughout the year was allowed, besides Sunday, which should rather be deemed a day of rest, in conformity with our holy religion, it would not be more than humanity entitles them to; and if that were impracticable, as in truth it is during the season of crop, some compensation might be allowed in lieu of the deprivation of it. At Christmas they are allowed three days, and at the end of crop, or harvest-home, one day to
make merry. merry. Though the season of crop brings along with it many additional labours, yet is it the gayest and most cheerful throughout the year to the negroes. At this time they seem animated with a livelier flow of spirits, and merriment and song every where resounds: in short, a stranger, with the anticipation of being a witness of naught but depression and misery, would be astonished and delighted with this exterior shew of happiness, both at this time, and at Christmas, when they give way to unrestrained festivity. It is difficult to say, whether the juice of the sugar-cane has any effect in elevating their spirits; certain it is, that it has a very evident one in promoting their health. Indeed, so salubrious is this liquor, that not only the negroes, but all the different animals on the estate are fond of, and thrive wonderfully on it. The negroes are formed into different gangs, according to their age and strength. The first gang consists of the ablest hands (of both sexes) on the estate; the second gang of less able hands, and boys and girls; and the third, or small gang, of children from eight to twelve years of age, who are employed in weeding the young plant-canes, and such other light work. The two principal gangs are followed by black drivers, as they are called, who superintend the work under the book-keepers, and carry whips, as instruments of occasional correction, which it is the duty of the book keeper, in the absence of
the overseer, to see they do not unnecessarily or maliciously inflict, and only in a moderate degree. It were perhaps to be wished, that this instrument were laid aside, at least only used in cases of marked delinquency, and a mode of common correction, less revolting, substituted; for, however seldom this instrument may be used, it is in itself a disgusting and unnatural thing, and the very sound of it must be the reverse of music to the ears of a man of sentiment and feeling.
The houses of the negroes are in general comfortable. They are built with hard wood posts, wattled and plaistered, and either roofed with shingles (wood split and dressed into the shape of slates, and used as a substitute for them), or thatched with the top of the sugar-cane; or, if at a short distance from the woods, with the mountain thatch. This latter, when neatly plaited, forms a very handsome roof; and is of so durable a nature, that, like the English thatching-reed, it will last for upwards of half a century. The furniture of this dwelling, which usually consists of three apartments, is a small table, two or three chairs or stools, a small cupboard, furnished with a few articles of crockery-ware, some wooden bowls and calabashes, a water-jar, a wooden mortar for pounding their Indian corn, &c. and various other articles. The beds are seldom more than wooden frames spread with a mat and blankets. The negro's common food is salt meat,