Treatment of Slaves: General Treatment 

 

                 William S. Drewry (1870 - 1948) highlighted the wonderous qualities of slave life in Southampton before the insurrection of Nat Turner in his book. He based his findings on interviews with old former slaves.

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                 The slaves were cared for with the greatest kindness. The white master did not treat his slave as his ox. Slavery was simply domestic servitude, under practically efficient guarantees against ill-treatment. The system was more on the order of that in the Mosaic law, where the slave was a member of the family, and to insult or maltreat a slave was an insult which had to be atoned for upon the field of honor. The slave quarters formed a long street in the rear of the dwelling of the master, resembling a mediaeval village community, and during the cold winter nights the last duty of the master before retiring was to visit these quarters to see that the children were well provided with food, covering, and fuel. In many respects the slave fared better than the master.[3] There was an attachment between the blacks and whites which is difficult to describe, and which is exhibited until within a few years past, when the population of Southampton was contaminated by the influx of foreigners employed in sawmills and railroad work. Both races were benefited and a noble people developed, the native blacks being the equals of any of their race. Gentle treatment rendered the slave not only more faithful and affectionate, but more intelligent, and his condition, in fact, approximated that of a free servant. Slaves were the happiest laboring class in the world, and under these favorable conditions furnished a contradiction of the “orthodox” economic theory as to the unproductiveness of slave.

 

[3] They had no responsibility and never suffered for food or clothing. The general consensus of opinion among the old slaves is that they fared better than at the present time. This want of responsibility explains the more rapid increase of the negroes as slaves than as free citizens. This also accounts for the fact that pulmonary diseases were almost unheard of among slaves. The want of such care at the present day in turn explains the great prevalence of the disease, among the negroes of the present day.

 

 

From William S. Drewry, The Southampton Insurrection (Washington D.C.: The Neal Company), 109-110.