Sunday, November 6, 2016

Diary of Laura M. Towne: Monday, May 1, 1862

The little boys in the carts whip and goad, no matter how I remonstrate and order, they laughing and jeering in my face at my commands. Yesterday I saw that an ox was all in welts and the skin in places quite off. Just this minute Joe has gone out of the gate lashing a poor horse furiously at first start, and for no cause whatever. . . .

Our young men say they have to decide suddenly upon such weighty questions that they are kept anxious and overworked. They have learned to settle questions in an offhand way. Mr. Pierce, in talking with the negroes, has to alter many a half-considered thing. It is very picturesque to see him in a negro village with such unclad and oddly clad groups around him, talking, reasoning, and getting such shrewd answers too. When he sees a sulky woman he calls upon the ladies for help, and Miss Winsor or I step out and at his command get a smile on the face before we leave it. One and another woman will come up with a few eggs or a plate of berries, and stand with all the children and half-starved dogs around the carriage.

Mr. Philbrick says that, after telling each man that he should be paid exactly according to the quantity of cotton he put in, they all went to work with a will, and each man did his task per day, but that two women each did two tasks a day and were to be paid accordingly. A task is a quarter acre of hoeing or planting. These two women received, besides, a head-handkerchief as a reward.

There was a man at Captain John Tripp's who had been a coachman in the family. He said his master was kind, and then he went on to say that the masters had “been unjust to we.” “They take all our labor for their own use and get rich on it and then say we are lazy and can't take care of ourselves. That's not just, and they were not just to we, taking all our labor and giving us only two suits of clothes a year for wagers. He was a shrewd old man in other ways too, and told me, with a very demure look, of how Massa John Tripp married a poor woman, who came home and was as much of a lady as anybody — couldn't get a glass of water for herself, nor nothing.

Rupert Sargent Holland, Editor, Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne: Written from the Sea Islands of South Carolina 1862-1864, p. 30-2

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