The Slavery Question – H.E. Wood, 1900

The Slavery Question
The Baltimore Sun, Sep 1st, 1900.

Northern Slanders And MisrepresentatIons Refuted.
– H. E. Wood, 1900.

As some correspondence has been going on recently In your paper about
the institution of slavery and its supposed methods of tyranny and
oppression as practiced by the Southern people. I, as a Southerner and
the owner of slaves, born and reared In the midst of It. feel qualified
to speak with authority on the subject. One of my neighbors, born and
reared in this. Fluvanna county, Virginia, yet of English extraction,
at the beginning of hostilities between the North and South owned 1,500
slaves. In addition to these figures other members of this same family
owned hundreds of slaves in this county. I will give your readers the
methods by which these slaves were controlled: This family owning these
slaves engaged the services of the most learned, cultivated minister of
the Episcopal Church (they being of that religious creed), who every
Sunday morning preached a sermon to the white family at their place of
worship and In the afternoon he preached to the negroes of the plantation
at their chapel. Every morning during the year these negroes were assembled
at the door of their master, the overseers Included, and their master
read the Bible to them and sang and prayed with them. The beads, the
fathers of families of these negroes, were allowed enough from their
gardens, hog and poultry raising to maintain their families. This was
in addition to the allowance given them as laborers on the farm. The
homes of these slaves were carefully Inspected once a week to see that
they were kept In a healthy and comfortable condition. The maritial laws
were rigidly enforced. The same minister that preached the gospel to
them In their chapel on Sunday afternoons also united them in wedlock
and urged upon them the Importance of observing their vows. A better
provided for, happier, more contented people were nowhere to be found.

How is it with these negroes today? Scarcely one of them remains to
tell the tale. They have become, to a large extent, since the day of
the “evaporashun” of Richmond, as they called the evacuation of that
city by the Confederate authorities, a roving, riotous rabble, many
of whom have never heard the Gospel Intelligently expounded since
their freedom. There were other families of this country who owned
negro slaves, hundreds in number who treated them as the family above
referred to with the most humane consideration. Many owning a few
slaves treated them as kindly as they did their own families. Along
with this kind and considerate treatment of these negro slaves came
obedience and discipline. If violations of law and order occurred
the offenders were punished, and we, the owners of the slaves, today
have no sting of conscience. it having discharged that duty even when
called upon to use the whip to enforce law and order. One of your
correspondents, ‘The Northern Girl.” I believe It was, seemed to
regard the whip with a holy horror under some conditions namely,
It was Just and proper to use the whip on a child, but not on
the grown person. if the grown person is amenable to the law and
transgresses it I am sure the whip would teach him to obey the
law as It would the child. The Southern slave owners. In using
the whip to enforce law and order were not alone In that method
of Inflicting punishment. I have been told that offendors of the
law and white people at that in England have been tied to the rear
of carts and whipped along the public highways. Wife beaters are
still whipped In some States. It seems to be an unpardonable sin
in the estimation of some people for the Southern slave owners to
have enforced law and order among their slaves with the whip.

This feeling seems to have originated chiefly with those who really
know very little about this Institution in the Southern States. That
there was a bond of friendship and good will between the negro and his
master Is very patent. The negroes, generally speaking, were satisfied
with this condition. From the time tin first Dutch ship sailed up the
James river In August, 1619 bringing the first cargo of 20 negroes (at
that time barbarians and cannibals) and sold them to the colonists at
Jamestown. VA, till 1861, 242 years, I never heard of the murder of but
three white men by negroes In this section one In this county, one In
Cumberland county and another In Goochland county. These occurred about
60 years ago. Murders and assassinations among the negro slaves and their
masters were infrequent. The slaves honored and respected their masters.
The same feeling of respect on the part of the old slave for his former
master exists today. We of the South, after a lapse of nearly 40 years
since these slaves were freed, are satisfied we discharged our duties
toward them, and have no apology to offer anyone for having owned them,
and under the regime of slavery raised them from barbarism and cannibalism
Into the ways of civilization and Christianity. These essentials to good
and reputable citizenship should entitle the South to some reward in its
dealings with that benighted and unfortunate race. Under these circumstances
we of the South have failed to see where we owe the race, our former slaves,
anything, If Christianity and civilization were worth anything to them. At
the surrender of our armies we lost their services as laborers and their
entire value In dollars and cents. In addition to this loss of labor and
property to the Southern States we have been forced for nearly 40 years to
maintain and educate by taxation the younger generation of negroes, who are,
generally speaking, worthless, Impudent and Improvident. As it now stands;
we of the South lost everything by the institution of slavery and gained
nothing, indeed, have incurred a terrible danger from existing conditions.

Among civilized nations there was much bitter feeling toward the Southern
people in connection with slavery notably England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany,
Russia, Italy and Switzerland. These countries had representatives living in
the Immediate section where hostilities began between the States. In their
foreign homes they were prejudiced against the Institution of slavery but on
coming among us they at once became owners of slaves, and when hostilities
between the States began buckled on their armor and offered their lives as
sacrifices to maintenance and support of slavery There was no difference
between Jew and Gentile about this. They fought side by side as men never
fought before in maintaining their convictions. Had Mr. Algernon Sartoris.
and the “Northern Girl” lived in the Southern States in the days of slavery,
and seen the happiness, prosperity and contentment of the slaves, and their
masters they would bave discarded their sickly sentimentality about the
slavery business and have fallen into line, as many good, intelligent
Christian people did do and owned them and used them as we did. Many
“Northern Girls” married Southern slave owners, and at once entered upon
their duties as strict disciplinarians, not hesitating to enforce law and
order with the whip when necessary. The “Northern Girl” confesses to having
used the whip on a disobedient sister, her own kith and kin. I fail to see
why she should criticise the use of the whip on a disorderly, refractory
slave, who was virtually a child and a ward. Many of the “Northern Girls”
came hither as “school-marms” to teach the young Ideas how to shoot. It Is
to be supposed they knew something and would have spurned slavery. They did
not, however, but became wedded to it and its methods. Ever since these slaves
of ours were freed about the beginning of every national political compaign
this old slavery corpse has been resurrected by the Republican party. The
Democrats of the South and some well informed Republican negroes think it
is done for political purposes and not for any dislike our Northern friends
ever had for slavery or any love they have today for the negro.
I think we are correct in our surmises.

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