American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime

By Ulrich Bonnell Phillips | Go to book overview

PREFACE

For twenty years I have panned the sands of the stream of Southern life and garnered their golden treasure. Many of the nuggets rewarding the search have already been displayed in their natural form;1 and this now is a coinage of the grains great and small. The metal is pure, the minting alone may be faulty. The die is the author's mind, which has been shaped as well by a varied Northern environment in manhood as by a Southern one in youth. In the making of coins and of histories, however, locality is of less moment than are native sagacity, technical training and a sense of truth and proportion. For these no warrant will bold. The product must stand or fall by its own quality.

The wide ramifications of negro slavery are sketched in these pages, but the central concern is with its rise, nature and influence in the regions of its concentration. In these the plantation régime prevailed. The characteristic American slave, indeed, was not only a negro, but a plantation workman; and for the present purpose a knowledge of the plans and requirements of plantation industry is no less vital than an understanding of human nature. While the latter is of course taken for granted, the former has been elaborated as a principal theme. Slaves were both persons and property, and as chattels they were investments. This phase has invited analysis at some length in the two chapters following those on the plantation régime.

Ante-bellum conditions were sharply different in some respects from those of colonial, times, largely because of legislation enacted in the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the first decade Of the nineteenth. For this reason the politics of that period of sharp transition are given attention herein. Otherwise the words and deeds of public men have been mostly left aside. Polemic writings also have been little used, for their fuel went so much to

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1
Ulrich B. Phillips, ed., Plantation and Frontier Documents, printed also as vols. I and II of the Documentary History of American Industrial Society ( Cleveland, Ohio, 1909), and cited in the present work as Plantation and Frontier.

-vii-

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