Treatment of the Davis Slaves

ForeverFree

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Doesn't matter, as some seem to think slaves were incapable of forming bonds, affection or loyalty.......

Personally that some did isn't surprising to me at all.
I think there are people ~ not on this forum ~ who discount that an enslaved person could have any affection for an enslaver. This is an incorrect view of history.

There are also people who think that because an enslaved person professed affection for an enslaver, therefore, the enslaver should be considered benevolent or humane or even charitable. That is also incorrect. It's perfectly possible to have affection for someone, while simultaneously being degraded and exploited by them.

- Alan
 
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I think we went far enough into the whataboutism weeds. The thread is about Davis.

Comparing slaveholder Davis to slaveholder Grant is like comparing a drug addict to someone who tried an illicit drug in college.
Or it would be comparing two presidents who actually owned slaves......Grants legacy is in part he was the last dinosaur elected president who had owned other people.

And Grant like most other slaveholders only discontinued availing himself of the practice when compelled by law, as noted he and his family continued to avail themselves the use of slave services right up to the EP.

The family in US and Julia never hid their continued use or views. So not seeing why some seem to wish to ignore or "sugar coat" their actual actions and words.
 

lelliott19

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"ordinary" field hands
In an attempt to somewhat bring this thread back around to its original topic.....I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions about slavery. That there were two kinds of enslaved people - "ordinary field hands" and "house slaves." Ordinary field hands who did nothing else? This simplified explanation does nothing to further our deeper understanding of slavery and the enslaved. At least I can say that it doesn't apply to the system utilized on deep south farms I have studied. And from what I can tell so far, not on the Jeff or Joe Davis places.

On larger places, there were no enslaved persons who were "just a field hand." Every adult enslaved person had some kind of skill - tanner, carpenter, cook, baker, seamstress, sawmill operator, miller, animal husbandry, body servant, housekeeper, weaver, dairy, carriage driver, gardener, cabinet maker, saddler, harness maker, etc. And when the time came for plowing and harvesting, everyone went to the fields. Sorry to be off topic. I just think this "field hand" thing is an oversimplification that fails to recognize the intelligence, skill, and industry of those who were enslaved.
 
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I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions about slavery. That there were two kinds of enslaved people - "ordinary field hands" and "house slaves." Ordinary field hands who did nothing else? This simplified explanation does nothing to further our deeper understanding of slavery and the enslaved. At least I can say that it doesn't apply to the system utilized on deep south farms I have studied. And from what I can tell so far, not on the Jeff or Joe Davis places.

On larger places, there were no enslaved persons who were "just a field hand." Every adult enslaved person had some kind of skill - tanner, carpenter, cook, baker, seamstress, sawmill operator, miller, animal husbandry, body servant, housekeeper, weaver, dairy, carriage driver, gardener, cabinet maker, saddler, harness maker, etc. And when the time came for plowing and harvesting, everyone went to the fields. Sorry to be off topic. I just think this "field hand" thing is an oversimplification that fails to recognize the intelligence, skill, and industry of those who were enslaved.
That seems a bit of a simplification....in large plantations not everyone went to the fields, the highest spots in the slave hierarchy would be exempt, in part why they were coveted and the top of the ladder. The smaller the scale, the more likely everyone would have to pitch in for fieldwork.
 

ForeverFree

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I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions about slavery. That there were two kinds of enslaved people - "ordinary field hands" and "house slaves." Ordinary field hands who did nothing else? This simplified explanation does nothing to further our deeper understanding of slavery and the enslaved. At least I can say that it doesn't apply to the system utilized on deep south farms I have studied. And from what I can tell so far, not on the Jeff or Joe Davis places.

On larger places, there were no enslaved persons who were "just a field hand." Every adult enslaved person had some kind of skill - tanner, carpenter, cook, baker, seamstress, sawmill operator, miller, animal husbandry, body servant, housekeeper, weaver, dairy, carriage driver, gardener, cabinet maker, saddler, harness maker, etc. And when the time came for plowing and harvesting, everyone went to the fields. Sorry to be off topic. I just think this "field hand" thing is an oversimplification that fails to recognize the intelligence, skill, and industry of those who were enslaved.

FYI - For those interested in the diversity of slavery, I highly recommend Calvin Schermerhorn's Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South. The book includes chapters on enslaved watermen, domestics, and railroad builders. It also discusses hire-out enslaved people, some of whom negotiated the terms of their rental with white business owners. I found it insightful as well as informative.

- Alan
 

lelliott19

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That seems a bit of a simplification....in large plantations not everyone went to the fields, the highest spots in the slave hierarchy would be exempt, in part why they were coveted and the top of the ladder. The smaller the scale, the more likely everyone would have to pitch in for fieldwork.
I'm sure there were a few enslaved people who might have been exempted from field work. Children, the elderly, cooks, and perhaps the woman noted as "wife's cook" - I doubt she was required in the fields. But for the most part, on the places I have looked at in depth, everyone went to the fields when it was time. I forgot to mention blacksmith and carriage/wagon maker. On larger plantations I have analyzed, the blacksmith and wagon maker often had other enslaved working under him. Same for the cabinet maker. But it seems that these men also went to the fields when it was time.
 

ForeverFree

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I'm sure there were a few enslaved people who might have been exempted from field work. Children, the elderly, cooks, and perhaps the woman noted as "wife's cook" - I doubt she was required in the fields. But for the most part, on the places I have looked at in depth, everyone went to the fields when it was time. I forgot to mention blacksmith and carriage/wagon maker. On larger plantations I have analyzed, the blacksmith and wagon maker often had other enslaved working under him. Same for the cabinet maker. But it seems that these men also went to the fields when it was time.
I don't know that what you and @archieclement are saying is that much in opposition. There certainly were plantation workers who specialized in a skill, and spent the vast majority of their time doing skilled work. But if extra bodies were needed in the field during a time-sensitive part of the crop cycle, a master, trying to manage the workload, might put a skilled worker out in the field.

Big thing is, it was the master who determined what an enslaved person would do. If he or she wanted, they could move resources around based on need, it's not like a job title prevented them from changing work assignments. Some laborers - such as cooks in the big house - might escape field work altogether, others might not. I recall a story or two where misbehaving house servants were relegated to field work.

- Alan
 
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wausaubob

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One problem that Americans have is that we don't appreciate how mercurial we are (and some don't appreciate being mercurial).

The fact that Grant went from temporarily being a slave owner to being a man who commanded slaves who were fighting slave owners... that's an American story. The fact that he made this transition mirrors, to an extent, the story of how America went from a slave society to a "free" society. More broadly, the story of how and why America has changed over time, is ultimately the story of how individual Americans have changed.

Of note is that it's not necessarily a "heroic" story, but one that is impacted by contingency and nods to self-interest. Note the contingency in Grant's story. For example, he wasn't looking to be a slave owner, it so happened that his wife's family had chattel property. Nor was he looking to abolish slavery, but when the opportunity to enlist black soldiers arose, he welcomed it. He said to Lincoln in a letter, "By arming the negro we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weaken him in the same proportion they strengthen us. I am therefore most decidedly in favor of pushing this policy (of black enlistment)."

To paraphrase CS Lewis, "judge a man not by where he is, but rather, by far he's come." Looking at Grant or Davis at any one point in time is vitally important, given the particular point in time. But looking at the total arc of their life's journey informs us in a way that views of selected moments cannot. The ways that these men did or did not change over time tells us a lot about 19th century America.

- Alan
The more time General Grant spent with men escaping slavery, with freedmen and women, and with black recruits, the more he saw their humanity. Its not odd or unusual. Contrasted with @archieclement 's assertions, he seems to have been changing his views during the entire war until by the time of funeral of President Lincoln, the honorary guard was a USCT cavalry regiment.
 
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The more time General Grant spent with men escaping slavery, with freedmen and women, and with black recruits, the more he saw their humanity. Its not odd or unusual. Contrasted with @archieclement 's assertions, he seems to have been changing his views during the entire war until by the time of funeral of President Lincoln, the honorary guard was a USCT cavalry regiment.
Actually the assertions were Grants, as he was expressing his own views (past and present 1863) in the 1863 letter, and when they started to change.
 

shooter too

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Maybe the hope they would find refuge in the Elysian Fields of the North if freed. As it turned out a forlorn hope.

So...you are saying that staying put was the better bet during the Jim Crow southern "experience"?

Please expound upon the glories and rewards they received by their remaining in Good Ol' Dixie. I am always curious and anxious to hear other views.
 

Piedone

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One problem that Americans have is that we don't appreciate how mercurial we are (and some don't appreciate being mercurial).

The fact that Grant went from temporarily being a slave owner to being a man who commanded slaves who were fighting slave owners... that's an American story. The fact that he made this transition mirrors, to an extent, the story of how America went from a slave society to a "free" society. More broadly, the story of how and why America has changed over time, is ultimately the story of how individual Americans have changed.

Of note is that it's not necessarily a "heroic" story, but one that is impacted by contingency and nods to self-interest. Note the contingency in Grant's story. For example, he wasn't looking to be a slave owner, it so happened that his wife's family had chattel property. Nor was he looking to abolish slavery, but when the opportunity to enlist black soldiers arose, he welcomed it. He said to Lincoln in a letter, "By arming the negro we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weaken him in the same proportion they strengthen us. I am therefore most decidedly in favor of pushing this policy (of black enlistment)."

To paraphrase CS Lewis, "judge a man not by where he is, but rather, by far he's come." Looking at Grant or Davis at any one point in time is vitally important, given the particular point in time. But looking at the total arc of their life's journey informs us in a way that views of selected moments cannot. The ways that these men did or did not change over time tells us a lot about 19th century America.

- Alan
I do agree wholeheartedly - the people that were able to think out of the box are the most impressive characters in human history.
 

CSA Today

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So...you are saying that staying put was the better bet during the Jim Crow southern "experience"?

Please expound upon the glories and rewards they received by their remaining in Good Ol' Dixie. I am always curious and anxious to hear other views.
They didn't have a choice but to remain in good ol' Dixie. A recommended source for Northern attitudes toward large numbers of blacks living in their midst is Leon F. Litwack's North of Slavery.
 

Rebforever

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I don't know that what you and @archieclement are saying is that much in opposition. There certainly were plantation workers who specialized in a skill, and spent the vast majority of their time doing skilled work. But if extra bodies were needed in the field during a time-sensitive part of the crop cycle, a master, trying to manage the workload, might put a skilled worker out in the field.

Big thing is, it was the master who determined what an enslaved person would do. If he or she wanted, they could move resources around based on need, it's not like a job title prevented them from changing work assignments. Some laborers - such as cooks in the big house - might escape field work altogether, others might not. I recall a story or two where misbehaving house servants were relegated to field work.

- Alan
Slaves did a beautiful job building Washington, DC.
 

ForeverFree

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They didn't have a choice but to remain in good ol' Dixie. A recommended source for Northern attitudes toward large numbers of blacks living in their midst is Leon F. Litwack's North of Slavery.
In his book North of Slavery, Leon Litwack views free black life in the North as much superior to enslaved black life in the South. This is from the book:

The position of the Negro in the antebellum North invites obvious comparison with that of the slave in the South. Indeed, many publicists and politicians in both sections repeatedly made and exploited the comparison, claiming that slaves and free Negroes shared an identical existence. Such a position, however, is as gross an oversimplification as is the traditional contrast between northern racial benevolence and southern intolerance.
For as this study suggests, important distinctions did exist between northern free Negroes and southern slaves, just as there were fundamental differences between the condition of northern white industrial workers and southern bondsmen.​
Above all, the northern Negro was a free man; he was not subject to the whims and dictates of the master or overseer; he could not be bought and sold; he could not be arbitrarily separated from his family. Although a victim of racial proscription, he could - and on several occasions did - advance his political and economic position in the ante bellum period; he could and did organize and petition, publish newspapers and tracts, even join with white sympathizers to advance his cause; in sum, he was able to carry on a variety of activities directed toward an improvement of his position.
Although subjected to angry white mobs, ridicule, and censure, he made substantial progress in some sections of the North and, at the very least, began to plague the northern conscience with the inconsistency of its antislavery pronouncements and prevailing racial practices. And although confined largely to menial employments, some Negroes did manage to accumulate property and establish thriving businesses; by 1860, northern Negroes shared with white workers the vision of rising into the middle class. Finally, on the eve of the Civil War, an increasing number of Negroes were availing themselves of educational opportunities, either in the small number f integrated schools or in the exclusive and usually inferior Negro schools.​

...Still, free Negroes enjoyed a degree of liberty and self-expression unknown in the slaveholding states. The host of black newspapers, the activities of black abolitionists, organized churches, schools, and conventions, all spoke to the differences between the North and the South. No matter how successful a black tradesmen might be in the south, he never dared raise his voice against racial oppression. Although omnipresent racism made a mockery of many of the legal rights of Northern blacks, Southern free blacks who move North generally found a measure of liberty altogether absent in the slave states.​

Litwack acknowledges that there was racism in the North/Free States. But his point is that life for enslaved people in the South differed markedly from life for free blacks in the North, and was markedly worse.

I would think that this point is not controversial, but we'll see.

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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They didn't have a choice but to remain in good ol' Dixie.

Actually, almost half of free blacks lived in the North, viz:

Preformatted:
State/Area        % of the Slave Pop    % of the Freeman Pop

Free States              0.0               46.1
DC-MD-DE                 2.3               23.5
KY-MO                    8.6                2.9
Upper South              30.6              19.7
Lower South              58.5               7.5

Total                    100.0%            99.7%*
=================================================
Union                    10.9              72.5
Confederacy              89.1              27.2

Total                    100.0%            99.7%*

* Numbers off due to rounding and small number of freemen in territories.

In the above, Lower South = SC, FL, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX; Upper South = VA, AR, NC, TN.

> So,
• 46% of free blacks (225K) lived in free states, while 18 slaves in the territories
• 25% of free blacks (129k) lived in the Border States, while 443k slaves lived there; and 23.5% of free blacks lived in MD, DE, and DC
• 27% of free blacks (129k) lived in the Deep South, while 3.5m slaves lived there

> Almost 73% of free blacks lived in what were called Union states during the Civil War.

> All of these statements are true:
• the majority of free blacks lived in the South (below the Mason-Dixon Line and Ohio River)
• the majority of free blacks lived in the North and states directly adjacent to the North (ie, the Border States)
• free blacks were a small presence in the Deep South, ie, what would become the Confederacy

> Researchers of the subject might be aware that the contiguous region of PA, MD, DE, and DC had one-third of the free black population in 1860. Places like New Orleans and Charleston get a lot of attention for their free black populations, but the mid-Atlantic was the epicenter for free-blacks, for many historical reasons that are beyond the scope of this discussion.

- Alan
 
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shooter too

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They didn't have a choice but to remain in good ol' Dixie. A recommended source for Northern attitudes toward large numbers of blacks living in their midst is Leon F. Litwack's North of Slavery.

Please, expound more upon this.

You have my toes ticklin' to hear your "further" thoughts.
 
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