1860 How to Feed & Clothe Slaves (Debow’s Review-1860)

DeBow’s Review was the most widely circulated southern periodical during the mid-19th century. Before the Civil War, the magazine would recommend the “best practices” for making slavery profitable. In this collection, two issues are presented, May of 1860 and April of 1866. In this 1860 edition, under a section titled “PECULIARITIES AND DISEASES OF NEGROES” on p. 597-598 (click 2 graphics above), the author notes “In the diet and clothing, as well as in the houses of the negro, his feeble heat-generating powers should be strictly regarded….It has been before stated that the best food of this class fat bacon and pork, corn and peas, as these abound in oil which is a heat-generating element; while corn is also valuable as an element of strength and muscular growth. Besides these, negroes should be liberally supplied with garden vegetables, and with milk and molasses, occasionally, at least….What shall be done with the little “niggers” who are so prone to commence their depredations on the orchard while it is yet in the bud? I would suggest that the orchard be set some distance from the house, and that no negro, small or great, be allowed to visit it except one or two to bring supplies to the rest….Little negroes (and I might say big ones too) should never have access to a plum orchard. Plums are excellent for hogs, but unfit for negroes and children for they are sure to take them, skin, seed, pulp, and all….Finally, I repeat that the food for negroes should be cooked either by the cook for the white family, or by some other woman.”

Negroes should be well clothed, and that they should have woolen outer garments–at least in the winter season, while they should be made to wear them, and not be allowed to change them until the warm weather…Negroes are particularly exposed on going out of a warm house, early in the cold mornings of fall and winter, and more especially during the cotton-picking season, when they are subjected to the combined action of cold and wet….There is no one article of clothing, perhaps, which is more necessary to the health and comfort of field negroes, than the overcoat….The negro is roused from his slumbers at early dawn. Perhaps he has been sleeping in a close room, with his head enveloped in his blanket, and he goes directly in the cold morning air with his skin reeking with moisture. His stomach is empty, and the general languor which prevails predisposes him to chilliness, and a repulsion of fluids from the surface upon the internal organs to an extent well calculated to excite disease.”

In view of the physiological peculiarities of the negro, which tend to unfit him for the endurance of cold, no one can doubt that this exposure is a trying ordeal for him, and that it requires all the protection that clothing can give. At no time, except while sleeping, does a negro require warmth and dryness more than when resting and eating his meals in the open air, and after active labor….If negroes could be kept constantly engaged in active labor, they might work all day in the rain without the least risk, provided that they could put on dry clothing as soon as they ceased exercising.”

Also in the May 1860 edition (p. 573)…

“Free negroes in the North are generally considered a nuisance, as they have been in every community on earth, just in proportion as the race among which they lived was industrious, elevated, or virtuous….their laziness, their viciousness, their licentiousness and improvidence, have soon disgusted their best friends, and made the several communities in which they dwelt, anxious to be rid of them.”


P. 575…

“Nearly all travelers who have visited both the Northern and Southern States of America, are agreed that the condition of the free negro in the North is worse than that of the slave in the South; and many express their surprise on first observing this fact, it being so opposed to their pre-conceived notions.”


P. 576…

“In Louisiana, a negro told Olmsted that he was kept at a greater distance from white people, and more insulted on account of his color at the North than in Louisiana.”


P. 577…

“The fact is, the negroes in the North display their inherent characteristics of laziness, determined ignorance, sensuality, vice, filth, and improvidence–traits which disgust all virtuous and industrious citizens; and to charge these traits upon southern slavery, shows a total misconception of the African character, which has been improved and elevated, as we have shown, by slavery in the South.”


P. 578…

“…from the licentiousness of their (the negroes) general habits, they have invariably depreciated the value of property by their location in its neighborhood; and that from their notorious uncleanliness and filth, they have become common nuisances to the community.”


P. 581…

“…are absolutely without the power of self-control, or to resist their almost strong passions; hence the man who, under a mild, but decided master, is kind, amiable, and affectionate, exciting even the love of those with whom he comes in contact, when left to himself becomes cruel, brutal, and abandoned. It is something as a boy, who under a kind, but firm and decided mother, is obedient, good and happy, if transferred to a weak, irresolute, and indulgent aunt, becomes cross, ill-natured, violent, and discontented, simply because he can have his own way.”


And one year after the Civil War, in the April 1866 edition (P. 416)…

It is a crying evil that negroes work too little everywhere…How to make them work more is well worthy of consideration…Mr. Carlyle has most humorously shown that the laws of demand and supply have no more influence on the conduct and industrial habits of the free and improvident negroes of the West Indies than such laws have on wild horses in a summer pasture.


P. 417…

“How make him work ten hours a day, whose every present want can be supplied by laboring three hours a day? And those wants will diminish when he here…gradually returns to his natural simple savage life.


P. 419…

“That country is most prosperous, most enlightened, and most progressive, where the poor are worked hardest, and for the least wages or allowance…and where labor is cheapest, and the masses hardest worked, and worst paid, the nation is richest, most prosperous and progressive.”