Treatment of the Davis Slaves

major bill

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This thread is about the treatment of Davis’ slaves. We’ve all established that slavery is no bueno, but reading through material in this thread it’s clear that he was a far better slaveholder than most.
If, as other posters claim, that we are wrong to judge people of the 19th Century, then what would it make any difference if Davis treated his slaves kindly or if Davis treated his slaves harshly? After all we are not allowed to judge Davis. If this "not allowed to judge" rule is to be applied, then how Davis treated his slaves is merely a bit of trivia.
 

Cycom

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My apologies - then what modern morals and sensibilities are you referring to?


My argument is simply that those statements being true does not in turn make Jefferson Davis a good or honorable person.
I was responding to the following:

If the denunciation of slaveholders is a modern sensibility, then why were abolitionists so despised across the south?

As you and others have shown, it’s clear there were people then who understood slavery to be evil. My point is that applying a pure modern perspective to issues like slavery is folly. It leaves us with the thought that people associated with the institution were EVIL. No nuance or historical context just branding of people willy nilly.

Regarding your last point, sure, that doesn’t make Davis a good or honorable by itself. What it does is give us a clearer picture of the antebellum years. It shows, not a monolith, but a range of sensibilities.

interesting conversation, @Zack
 

Andersonh1

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Reminder: the topic of this thread is "The Treatment of the Davis Slaves", not slavery in the North, Faneuil Hall, black codes, or any other subject.
 

19thGeorgia

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[Thaddeus Stevens said:] "It is said the South will never submit — that we cannot conquer the rebels — that they will suffer themselves to be slaughtered, and their whole country to be laid waste. Sir, war is a grievous thing at best, and civil war more than any other ; but if they hold this language, and the means which they have suggested must be resorted to ; if their whole country must be laid waste and made a desert, in order to save this Union from destruction, so let it be. I would rather, Sir, reduce them to a condition where their whole country is to be re-peopled by a band of freemen, than to see them perpetrate the destruction of this people through our agency. I do not say it is time to resort to such means, and I do not say that the time will come, but I never fear to express my sentiments. It is not a question with me of policy, but a question of principle."
So he was willing to kill eight million (most of whom did not own slaves) so four million could be free.
Sounds like a maniac.

"[T]he adoption of the measures I advocated at the outset of the war, the arming of the negroes, the slaves of the rebels, is the only way left on earth in which these rebels can be exterminated. They will find that they must treat those States now outside of the Union as conquered provinces and settle them with new men, and drive the present rebels as exiles from this country....They have such determination, energy, and endurance, that nothing but actual extermination or exile or starvation will ever induce them to surrender to this Government." -Thaddeus Stevens, US House of Representatives, January 8, 1863
 

Zack

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So he was willing to kill eight million (most of whom did not own slaves) so four million could be free.
Sounds like a maniac.

"[T]he adoption of the measures I advocated at the outset of the war, the arming of the negroes, the slaves of the rebels, is the only way left on earth in which these rebels can be exterminated. They will find that they must treat those States now outside of the Union as conquered provinces and settle them with new men, and drive the present rebels as exiles from this country....They have such determination, energy, and endurance, that nothing but actual extermination or exile or starvation will ever induce them to surrender to this Government." -Thaddeus Stevens, US House of Representatives, January 8, 1863

I want to keep the conversation on Jeff Davis since that’s the topic of this thread, so I will simply say that’s not my point. My argument is that uncompromising views of slave holders were held in the 19th Century.

Extremity and justification of the views is a separate conversation.
 
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If, as other posters claim, that we are wrong to judge people of the 19th Century, then what would it make any difference if Davis treated his slaves kindly or if Davis treated his slaves harshly? After all we are not allowed to judge Davis. If this "not allowed to judge" rule is to be applied, then how Davis treated his slaves is merely a bit of trivia.
That's pretty much true, but the accurate trivia answer would be kindly. Honestly alot of aspects of the civil war are little more then trivia to us today.
 

Peace Society

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Treatment of slaves varied a lot. There seems to be some indication that different states provided different environments in that respect. The WPA living history project interviewed former slaves in each southern state, producing a book for each. The one for Virginia, We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard, contains more good memories than bad. The book for Alabama, Weren't No Good Times, is just the opposite. The one family history I've read for a Louisiana family showed a care for their slaves that is similar to how Mr. Davis treated his. Haven't run across the book for Mississippi yet.
 

Tom Hughes

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Mississippi
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.
Very true @lelliott19 I know that in South Caroline, for instance, a slave could be hired out to perform a service in the community. They were given tags to wear (octagonal copper tags) that had their particular skill engraved on it. I've seen "Carpenter" more than any other. I guess that was a popular skill to hire out.
 

Cycom

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If, as other posters claim, that we are wrong to judge people of the 19th Century, then what would it make any difference if Davis treated his slaves kindly or if Davis treated his slaves harshly? After all we are not allowed to judge Davis. If this "not allowed to judge" rule is to be applied, then how Davis treated his slaves is merely a bit of trivia.
You are correct. This is, in many ways, a bit of trivia. Trivia that shows that Davis, in the context of the horrible system of slavery, treated his slaves far better than other slave owners of the time.

Judge away. We all do it, myself included. But we should at least judge accordingly. We should have the intellectual honesty to say that YES slavery was awful and YES, in that awfulness Davis proved to be much less awful than a lot of other slaveholders. Both of these concepts can be held validly at the same time.
 

shooter too

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Mar 4, 2021
Judge away. We all do it, myself included. But we should at least judge accordingly. We should have the intellectual honesty to say that YES slavery was awful and YES, in that awfulness Davis proved to be much less awful than a lot of other slaveholders. Both of these concepts can be held validly at the same time.

Thank you, I shall judge as It see it now and in front of me.

Which equates to, slavery by any means is at it's basic cruelty and despicable.
 

Cycom

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Los Angeles, California
Thank you, I shall judge as It see it now and in front of me.

Which equates to, slavery by any means is at it's basic cruelty and despicable.
Everything that you said is true and valid.

I too judge as I see it now. Slavery was, is, and will always be evil. Davis, in having slaves, participated in this terrible system, as did many others. In the context of this, it’s clear that he treated them FAR better than others. It’s trivia. Nobody is trying to take this trivia to prove anything other than this.
 
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