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found in the preceding quotations, and they are to be met with upon every page of the book; as, for instance,
“Lucy, at her bidding, would read the bible in that lonely hut, and Elspeth said, that, although somewhat deaf now she never lost a word of that low sweet, distinct voice. Garden flowers too she would often take to that hut,” &c.
JOURNAL OF A TOUR IN THE INTERIOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
Charleston, S. C. Sept. 1825. Me Editor,
A young friend of mine having lately occasion to travel through the state of South Carolina, I requested him to make for my private information such notes on his tour, as he might conceive would be useful or entertaining. Ilaving been much pleased with the manner in which he complied with my request, İconceived that his letter would furnish a valuable article for your Miscellany. Certainly, the ground over which he has travelled has been untrodden by any of our numerous ephemeral tourists, and novelty, at least, will be one recommendation for the enclose ed sketches.. But your readers, if I am not mistaken, will be also gratified, with the variety of information condensed within this small compass. Few citizens, probably, of the northern section of our country, have very adequate ideas respecting the points touched by my correspondent. The dismal state of the roads in the lower country,--the general character of that whole region,the manners of the common inhabitants,—the peculiarities in their dialect,—the condition of the rich planters,—the mode of treating slaves,—and other incidental topics, will furnish a pretty faithful picture of such things as the general reader would wish to contemplate. Should the style of the letter exhibit any marks of literary inexperience, it will be amply compensated by the unpretending simplicity with which the report has been drawn up, and the graphic freshness of the description.
Rev. and Dear Sir,
Agreeably to the engagement I made with you, I have here recorded all the observations worthy of particular attention, which my rapid journey would allow me to make. I set out
from Charleston on the 16th of April last, accompanied by a friend. The weather for several days previous had been excessively rainy, and travelling, even on horseback, was attended with danger, on account of the roads through the swamps, in many places, being filled with water, in some cases to the depth of three and four feet. This state of the roads commonly lasts for several days after the rain has ceased, when the water flows into its natural channels. At night we called at the plantation of the Hon. Judge L. whose family were at that time in the country. It is a general practice among the planters to leave the city, and retire for a few weeks to their plantations about the time of Christmas, and remain as late in the spring, as is deemed consistent with prudence ; for all who are not natives of, or accustomed to the climate of the lower country, are liable to take the country fever by remaining later than the 10th or 15th of May, which is oftener fatal than otherwise. The natives of the low country, generally speaking, are of a sickly, yellowish complexion, though instances are not few, of their having attained to great ages, preserving all the faculties in full vigour to the last. Planters never visit their plantations during the summer months, unless they' can return to a healthy spot before night. But you must not infer from this, that all the low country is unhealthy, for there are many settlements among the pine lands remarkable for their salubrity. Walterborough for instance is situated on an elevated pine ridge, and forms a very pleasant summer retreat.
We continued our journey on the 17th, raiher against our will, the rain still continuing, and of course increasing the danger of crossing the water courses. Of this fact we soon had ample proof by a disaster, which had well nigh cost me my life. The horse I rode was one of that species well known in the low country under the denomination of “ marsh tackies.” They are a small but hardy animal, capable of undergoing fatigue to a great degree. In crossing Walnut Creek, he got out of his depth (probably for the first time in his life), and plunged instead of swimming to the opposite shore, whence he ran with all the speed that the nature of the place would allow, carrying me with great force against a projecting limb of a tree, which had the effect of leaving me among the cypress knees immersed in water ; after which he kicked off the saddle and bags, and then suffered me to catch and tie him to a tree, that I might wade down the creek to recover them. By this time my friend had procured aid from a farmer in the neighbourhood, whose servant led my horse out of this miserable hole. I cannot but admire the hospitality of this man's family. He gave me a clean suit of homespun to wear, while his daughter prepared a dinner of the best she bad, and my clothes were washod and dried, saddle and bags repaired, &c. nor would they take
any compensation whatever, saying they had done nothing more than their duty.
Bad places through the swamps, though they are the worst (at Jeast I found them so), are not the only evil the traveller must contend with; there is a kind of stiff, clayey land of a reddish colour, through which many of our roads pass, and when much travelled by ox-carts, or the heavy four-horse waggons of the upper country, they are cut up to such a degree, that the horse will sink to his girths in this bog or mud, from which situation nothing short of the most violent exertion can extricate him. Oxen have been known to perish in this way, the suction of the bog being too great to be overcome by their strength. When a piece of road of this kind is to be put in order, it is effected by cutting poles of a proper length and laying them across near each other. After the same manner causeways are repaired, the ends of the poles being pinned down to prevent their floating away, when the waters are up. Every planter is liable to this tax of working on the roads, and when summoned is obliged to send out all his male slaves between certain ages. On the night of the 18th we arrived safely at Orangeburg, a neat little village about 80 miles from Charleston. In this neighbourhood, we saw the first rising ground since we had left the city ; the intervening country being perfectly level, without the appearance of any thing like stones or rocks.
For three or four miles below Orangeburg the road was entirely covered with water, and not a foot deep any where; such is the levelness of the country. The hoe seems universally to be used in the low country, as the principal instrument of agriculture. Cotton, corn, and rice, are now the great staples of the country. Indigo and tobacco are almost wholly neglected, having given place to the more profitable article, cotton. I have been informed that all over eleven or twelve cents on cotton is clear profit, and with this view some have gone so far as to sacrifice corn to cotton; preferring to purchase corn with the profits arising from the cotton. While on this subject I cannot forbear mentioning, that the high price of cotton several years ago was the immediate cause of embarrassment, and in many cases of total ruin to a great number of the planters of this state. Many to this day have not recovered from the shock. But to explain this more fully you must know, that at the period when short staple cotton was at from 30 to 34 cents per pound it yielded a profit of from 18 to 22 cts. per pound, so that raising cotton was next to coining. Under these favourable circumstances, the planters, not suspecting that a decline in price would take place, not only invested all their capital in the purchase of lands and negroes at enormous prices, but strained their credit to the highest pitch. The
jealous eyes of other nations did not long see the Southern States in this apparent prosperity, without making vigorous efforts to share their good fortune. Accordingly cotton fields were seen displaying their pods in Africa, the East Indies, and various other sections of the globe. This unlooked-for competition reduced the prices more than one half. The bonds, notes, and other obligations were now to be taken up, to the complete ruin of all those, who purchased on a credit, and with immense loss to the cash purchasers. From 15 to 17 cents is a fair price for cotton, and no well-wisher of the Southern States should even desire to see it higher, for fear of the consequences just stated.
Many of the country seats of the rich planters are elegant; the beautiful avenues of live-oak, which lead from the road to the doors of the mansions tend to give a grand and beautiful effect to the whole. The habitations of the common people are constructed of logs, and one story high. The chimneys are of the same material, but plastered with clay to prevent their taking fire. You perhaps may smile at the idea of a wooden chimney, but I believe it is more a matter of necessity than of choice; the poverty of the country in mineralogy being the cause. The houses are generally about 12 feet wide, by 24 in length; a partition in the middle divides them into two rooms. In addition to these, they have two shed rooms for the accommodation of visitors and child
Of the two apartments first spoken of, one is used as a bedroom for the heads of the family, the other is occupied as a sitting, drawing, and dining room, or, as they call it, “ The Hall.” The furniture of this is composed of about a dozen strong oaken chairs of the old school, with seats of deer or alligator skins, or hickory shavings ; a large pine table, which answers all the purposes of a sideboard, secretary, and card tables ; a spinning-wheel, and "last though not least,” a wooden clock. Mr B., a farmer, informed me that these clocks were introduced by pedlars from Connecticut, and in succeeding years they brought fresh supplies accompanied by the cases, stating that the clocks would be injured by the dust and moisture of the atmosphere ; another would pass along who “ cleaned clocks," and get a job of every man who owned one ; and, lastly, one would go the rounds* bushing the pivot-holes with brass, after which the machine was thought to be complete.
The manners of the common people of the lower country are by no means polished, neither can they be said to be rough. I did not find them a very inquisitive people, although they are all great talkers.
Their moral character seems to have undergone some change for the better within a few years. Formerly during the sitting of the court, or at a general muster, when all the men are col.
* A term used by mechanics.
lected, brawling, fighting, and drinking to excess were deemed necessary consequences; but at the present time, the two former of these barbarous practices have almost entirely died away, while it is thought that the latter is losing ground. The custom among them of drinking whiskey, prevails almost all over the state, and they never fail of offering a stranger a draught of this beverage.
On the subject of slavery I wish I had it in my power to give you a clear and distinct view, but it is only my intention to say, to the best of my knowledge, what their present situation is, and their treatment generally. Planters commonly provide for their slaves in the following manner. In the fall of the year, after the sale of their crops, each negro is furnished with a pair of comfortable blankets, a suit of plains in cold and osnaburgs in warm weather, and one pair of shoes to last him the winter. The allowance of food, which is served to them weekly, is a peck of corn one or two mackerel, sweet potatoes, pease, and small rice ; fresh meat is seldom given to them except at christmas, and in the month of July, when it is customary to kill beef enough for the whole of them. Physicians are always employed to attend the sick, and are paid a certain sum per annum for the whole, or for each individual as the case may be. As the spring approaches, they have their summer clothing turnished, and their regular tasks assigned to them for the day; these tasks are very frequently finished before 12 o'clock, and during the remainder of the day, they attend to their own private concerns, which generally consist in the cultivation of a little spot of land, that is granted to every one ; and in addition to this
, they are allowed to raise any quantity of poultry, pick moss, &c. In the winter season they are employed principally in clearing land, repairing fences, rice-dams, &c. The produce of their little pieces of land, is variously disposed of, according to the the pleasure of the owner; it is often bartered at the neighbouring shops for tobacco, pipes, whiskey, and sugar. Should a slave fail in performing his task, and not have a sufficient excuse, he is punished by whipping, though not unmercifully, as has often been represented. To this rule of course there are exceptions; but I have always observed, that where this tyranny has been exercised, it was by men who were worse than the slaves themselves.
The overseer is a white man, who attends generally to the concerns of the plantation, such as weighing the cotton, serving the provisions, harvesting the crop, and corresponding with the planter during the summer months.
The driver is a confidential negro fellow, whose business is to ride over the fields, and see that the work is faithfully done ; he also attends to the laying out of tasks.
[To be continued.]