H105, American History I

The Narrative of James Roberts (1858).

Chapter 1

I was born on the Eastern shore of Maryland, in the year of our Lord 1753, in a state of slavery....

....But, instead of freedom, I was, soon after my return, sold to William Ward, separated from my wife and children, taken to New Orleans, and sold at auction sale to Calvin Smith, a planter in Louisiana, for fifteen hundred dollars.  And now will commence the statement of the payment of my wages, for all of my fighting and suffering in the Revolutionary War for the liberty of this ungrateful, illiberal country, to me and to my race.

Calvin Smith took me home to his plantation, or, more appropriately, his slaughter-house of human beings, as will appear in this narrative.  To initiate me, as he said, into the profound mysteries of that part of the country, he ordered the overseer to give me nine-and-thirty lashes before I had done a stroke of work.  He then took from me all of my clothes which I had worn in Philadelphia, and some of my regimentals which I wished to keep as memorials of revolutionary times, and gave me instead but a bare breech-cloth, and sent me into the field to work....

Chapter 4

It is a fact, well known to all, that the mixed race in the slave States is rapidly increasing; that there are thousands now who differ nothing in complexion from the whitest European; and I set it down as true prophecy, that, in the progress of time, this mixed race will make bare their arm, and strike for their freedom.  For what I am now going to relate confirms me in the belief of this prophecy.

In the South, where I lived, there are hundreds in that one section of country, who, if you were to see the master and the son riding in a carriage together, you could not tell the one from the other.  I will instance a case:  John Gillespie and his son, Samuel Gillespie, could often be seen riding in the family carriage; Samuel driving, and the father and master sitting on the front seat by his side; and five white children and Mrs. Gillespie sitting on the back seats.  On the carriage, behind, might be seen two servants, the children of the master by a black woman, and two inside, by the same black woman and master; ten in number, five free, five slaves; all children of the same father.  Now, these children will all grow up with one common feeling for freedom,and the one class will not be enslaved by the other; for both; feeling a common parentage, will feel an equal right to liberty, and, whichever attempts to oppress the other, there will be war, for they are both of one blood.  One child will not give up to the other.  The mulatto, feeling himself degraded and outraged by his own brother, will resist him unto death, and wade in blood to obtain that liberty which, reason tells him, is as much his right to enjoy as others of his own blood-kind.  Then, in that day, Heaven will be on the side of the oppressed, and will nerve their arms with steel and vengeance, and liberty they will have, though it should be at the expense of the life of every white man who should oppose them, and the utter destruction of the Government of these United States....

Chapter 6

From fifty to sixty head of women were kept constantly for breeding.  No man was allowed to go there, save white men.  From twenty to twenty-five children a year were bred on that plantation.  As soon as they are ready for market, they are taken away and sold, as mules or other cattle.  Many a man buys his own child.  That is the cause of the rapid increase, already alluded to, of the mixed race.  The Anglo-Saxon must blame himself for all the consequences that may result, in time or eternity, from such an unnatural state of things.  I have seen brother and sister married together, and their children, some of them, as white as any person in the world.  These children, marrying among the whites, their children are white, and these have slaves, in their turn, after having been slave themselves.

On Wade Hamilton’s farm the same process went on to a great extent, each planter vieing with the other to see who could raise the greatest number of mulattoes a year for market, (as they bring a higher price than the blacks,) the same as men strive to raise the most stock of any kind, cows, sheep, horses, &c.