Treatment of Slaves: Punishment

 

                 According to abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, the following testimony came from a Mr. L. Turner, a native of Caroline County, Virginia, several counties north of Southampton.

 

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                 The following facts I have just taken down from the lips of Mr. L. Turner, a regular and respectable member of the Second Presbyterian Church in Springfield, our county town. He was born and brought up in Caroline county, Virginia. He says that the slaves are neither considered nor treated as human beings. One of his neighbors whose name was Barr, he says, on one occasion stripped a slave and lacerated his back with a handcard (for cotton or wool) and then washed it with salt and water, with pepper in it. Mr. Turner saw this. He further remarked that he believed there were many slaves there in advanced life whose backs had never been well since they began to work.

 

                 He stated that one of his uncles had killed a woman--broke her skull with an ax helve: she had insulted her mistress! No notice was taken of the affair. Mr. T. said, further, that slaves were frequently murdered.

 

                 He mentioned the case of one slaveholder, whom he had seen lay his slaves on a large log, which he kept for the purpose, strip them, tie them with the face downward, then have a kettle of hot water brought--take the paddle, made of hard wood, and perforated with holes, dip it into the hot water and strike--before every blow dipping it into the water--every hole at every blow would raise a 'whelk.' This was the usual punishment for running away.

 

                 Another slaveholder had a slave who had often run away, and often been severely whipped. After one of his floggings he burnt his master's barn: this so enraged the man, that when he caught him he took a pair of pincers and pulled his toe nails out. The negro then murdered two of his master's children. He was taken after a desperate pursuit, (having been shot through the shoulder) and hung. . . .

 

                 Mr. T. related the whipping habits of one of his uncles in Virginia. He was a wealthy man, had a splendid house and grounds. A tree in his front yard, was used as a whipping post. When a slave was to be punished, he would frequently invite some of his friends, have a table, cards and wine set out under the shade; he would then flog his slave a little while, and then play cards and drink with his friends, occasionally taunting the slave, giving him the privilege of confessing such and such things, at his leisure, after a while flog him again, thus keeping it up for hours or half the day, and sometimes all day. This was his habit.

 

 

From Theodore Dwight Weld, American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses (New York: American Antislavery Society, 1839), 46.