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to him to expose his conftitution to the climate, when his falary would barely pay for clothes, much less the doctor's exorbitant bills; nor could fuch a one go with alacrity through the menial drudgeries of a book-keeper's life for three, four, or five years; for he who would wish to be an overfeer muft ferve his time; during which painful period, if he does not humbly cringe, fawn, flatter, lie and diffemble, and bear all the overfeer's infults and reproaches tamely without murmering, he need never expect to fucceed; and tho' the overfeer be ever fo vile a scoundrel, he must not find fault with him; for fhould a vindictive fpirit, which commonly rages in youth, tempt him to complain to the proprietor or attorney, though the griev ance and complaint are juft, he may depend, as fure as he exifts, that the whole fraternity of cowskin heroes will be against him, and ever after will point him out as a dangerous perfon, and it will be a vain attempt indeed for him to perfevere in the planting line afterwards.
The business on a plantation is no way intricate; there are thousands of circumftances which appearances only can teach; an overfeer fhould be active and industrious, of a steady, fober difpofition, humane and charitable, fhrewd and difcerning in all his remarks and tranfactions. amongst the flaves, as to their difpofitions, health, ftrength, food and raiment; he fhould not only be a quack in phyfic, but should have
fome knowledge of every trade which concerns a plantation, whereby he might be capacle of conducting business without rigid feverity.Heavens! how few are fit for fo weighty a charge!
Men, from their first entrance into the West Indies, are taught to practice severities to the flaves; their minds are impreffed by their brother book-keepers, or others, with strange and cruel ideas of the nature of blacks, fo that in time their hearts become callous to all tender feelings which foften and dignify our nature; the most infignificant Connought favage bumpkin, or filly Highland gauky, will foon learn to flog without mercy to fhew his authority; but when fuch get elevated to the exalted sphere of overfeer or cowskin hero, and get poffeffion of a few new negroes, they become proud, infolent, and haughty; it is a very true adage-" Set a beg gar on horseback, and he'll ride to the devil.". The first and most effential qualifications fuch think neceffary, is to infult, offend, and injure their raw book-keepers, and to flog and torture the flaves for the fake of floging.
I was on many plantations, and am well acquainted with the nature of the cowfkin herd; and though I have known feveral worthy men among them, I am forry to say that the major part by far are mean, low-lived, ignorant fellows. Sneaking Caution was an overfeer on a fine plantation in the parish of Clarendon, which
which had 270 flaves upon it; and though it commonly produced 300 hogsheads of fugar when fuperintended by a former overseer, Sneaking Caution could never make it exceed 130 hogtheads yearly; yet he was fupported by the attorney, and made a confiderable property in flaves. Sneaking Caution was a poor, ftupid, filly, narrow-minded animal, of a timid jealous difpofition; when he perceived merit in any of his book-keepers (particularly if he could find they had friends), he treacherously exerted every bafe means to injure them, leaft they should fupplant him or get preferred; but when he chanced to meet an infignificant puppy like himself, they agreed well together. As Dryden says,
His hair and beard are of a diff'rent dye;
He commonly fet the negroes to work at wrong feafons; to dig cane holes in wet weather, and to plant in drought; and yet he always found excufes to palliate his bad conduct; when the plants did not thrive, or were burning, he ftill exclaimed against the elements for not reverting the feafons to water and refreth his plants; and when heavy rains fell in proper feafon, he was always difpleafed; the ground was fo wet and heavy, that it was very laborious to dig the cane holes, or the beft of the canes were lodged, or the earth was washed
washed away from the young plants; thus the capricious animal went on, conftantly peftering the attorney with long and difagreeable letters and journals; he commonly concluded his letter with this cheering comfort: "Notwithstanding "all the calamities this ill-fated plantation has "fuffered, I hope I will be able to make an hun"dred hogfheads next crop." Sneaking Caution, kept fome of the best flaves for domeftics, to wit, three house-maids, three fempftreffes, and two ftout wenches their apprentices, two washerwomen, two cooks, two women attending poultry, and two ftout wenches affifting them, two fhepherds, two fwine-herds, two fishermen, one fowler, and one attending the warren and pidgeons; here is a lift of twenty-four flaves kept from plantation duty every day in the year, to attend a cowskin hero and his two deputies, befides two boys to attend his horfes, makes the number twenty-fix. I think that fix flaves are fufficient to attend two or three men, and rather too many; he always appointed the ftouteft flaves for watchmen, and the flighteft occupations, whilst the weak and meagre only cultivated the plantation; befides, he had not penetration fufficient to know when flaves were ftout and healthy, fick or weakly, poor or hungry, or whether they worked cheerfully, or loitered their time, fo that he frequently flogged them without faults, to fhew his authority; by which cruel and unmerciful treatment, he forced many to feek fhelter in the woods; there
there was commonly fourteen or fixteen run away, and four or five of the very best flaves in purfuit of them.
He gave ftrict orders to the watchmen to hide every flave which they might find breaking the corn or canes; i. e. to chop and murder them, and bury them fecretly; and when the skeleton of a flave, who had been " done over" in this manner, (for breaking a cane, the root of which he himself probably planted,) was found, he made an entry in the plantation book thus: "Longville, "a worthlefs fuperanuated flave, died by eating "dirt; or Eaft, a diftempered worthlefs run away, "died of a dropfy."
When the lift of flaves with their occupations and conditions was made out yearly, to be fent to their master in London, he was very particular in annexing fome degrading word to their names; fuch as "old, infirm, lame, diftempered, fickly, "weakly, dropfical, fore legs, yaws, invalid, "run-away." So that out of two hundred and feventy, he hardly allowed fifty healthy and ftout, and all to fcreen his bad management. He fel dom mustered more than seventy in the field, fo that he put the estate to an annual expence of £200 or £300 for jobing gangs to affift to cultivate the eftate.
Sneaking Caution took special care to plant plenty of Indian corn to pamper his horfes, and feed his flaves which were hired on the eftate; he always had excellent dinners and good accommodations