Return to Port Royal Experiment
The Port Royal Experiment
Report of E. L. Pierce to Salmon P. Chase
Secretary of the Treasury
To help find information I have added bold sections. All bolded text is entirely mine.  
This important document while it must be viewed as a propaganda document since
Pierce was hunting for teachers and money, is one of the earliest studies of the Sea
Islanders. Information from this report will be echoed throughout the Civil War and
Reconstruction era.

E. L. PIERCE, GOVERNMENT AGENT,
HON.
SALMON P. CHASE,
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
BOSTON:
PUBLISHED BY R. F. WALLCUT, No. 221 WASHINGTON STBEET.
1862.

                                                             
REPORT
                                                    PORT ROYAL, February 3, 1862.

To THE HON.
SALMON P. CHASE,
Secretary of the Treasury:

DEAR SIR, ” My first communication to you was mailed on the third day after my arrival. The same
day, I mailed two letters to benevolent persons in Boston, mentioned in my previous
communications to you, asking for contributions of clothing, and for a teacher or missionary to be
sent, to be supported by the charity of those interested in the movement, to both of which
favorable answers have been received. The same day, I commenced a tour of the largest islands,
and ever since have been diligently engaged in anxious examinations of the modes of culture” the
amount and proportions of the products ” the labor required for them the life and disposition of
the laborers upon them, their estimated numbers” the treatment they have received from their
former masters, both as to the labor required of them, the provisions and clothing allowed to
them, and the discipline imposed their habits, capacities, and desires, with special reference to
their being fitted for useful citizenship and generally whatever concerned the well-being, present
and future, of the territory and its people. Visits have also been made to the communities
collected at Hilton Head and Beaufort, and conferences held with the authorities, both naval and
military, and other benevolent persons interested in the welfare of these people, and the wise and
speedy reorganization of society here. No one can be impressed more than myself with the
uncertainty of conclusions drawn from experiences and reflections gathered in so brief a period,
however industriously and wisely occupied. Nevertheless, they may be of some service to those
who have not been privileged with an equal opportunity.

Of the plantations visited, full notes have been taken of seventeen, with reference to number of
negroes in all; of field hands; amount of cotton and corn raised, and how much per acre; time and
mode of producing and distributing manure ; listing, planting, cultivating, picking and ginning
cotton; labor required of each hand; allowance of food and clothing; the capacities of the
laborers; their wishes and feelings, both as to themselves and their masters. Many of the above
points could be determined by other sources, such as persons at the North familiar with the
region, and publications. The inquiries were, however, made with the double purpose of acquiring
the information and testing the capacity of the persons inquired of. Some of the leading results of
the examination will now be submitted.

Estimate of the number of plantations open to cultivation
An estimate of the number of plantations open to cultivation, and of the persons upon the territory
protected by the forces of the United States, if only approximate to the truth, may prove
convenient in providing a proper system of administration. The following islands are thus
protected, and the estimated number of plantations upon each is given: —

Port Royal                          65                            St. Helena                              50
Ladies                                30                            Hilton Head                            16
Parry,including Horse           6                            Pinckney                                  5   
Cat                                       1                             Bull, including Barratria           2
Cane                                    1                             Danfuskie                                5
Dathaw                                 4                             Hutchinson and Fenwick         6
Coosaw                                2                                                                         195 Total
Morgan                                 2

There are several other islands thus protected, without plantations, as Otter, Pritchard, Fripp,
Hunting and Phillips. Lemon and Daw have not been explored by the agents engaged in collecting
cotton.

The populous island of North Edisto, lying in the direction of Charleston, and giving the name to
the finest cotton, is still visited by the rebels. A part near Botany Bay Island is commanded by the
guns of one of our war vessels, under which a colony of one thousand negroes sought protection,
where they have been temporarily subsisted from its stores. The number has within a few days
been stated to have increased to 2300. Among these, great destitution is said to prevail. Even to
this number, as the negroes acquire confidence in us, large additions are likely every week to be
made. The whole island can be safely farmed as soon as troops can be spared for the purpose of
occupation. But not counting the plantations of this island, the number on Port Royal, Ladies', St.
Helena, Hilton Head, and the smaller islands, may be estimated at 200 plantations.

Number of persons
In visiting the plantations, I endeavored to ascertain with substantial accuracy the number of
persons upon them, without, however, expecting to determine the precise number. On that of
Thomas Aston Coffin, at Coffin Point, St. Helena, there were 260, the largest found on any one
visited. There were 130 on that of Dr. J. W. Jenkins, 120 on that of the Eustis estate, and the
others range from 80 to 38, making an average of 81 to a plantation. These, however, may be
ranked among the best peopled plantations, and forty to each may be considered a fair average.
From these estimates, a population of 8000 negroes on the islands, now safely protected by our
forces, results.

Of the 600 at the camp at Hilton Head, about one-half should be counted with the aforesaid
plantations whence they have come. Of the 600 at Beaufort, one-third should also be reckoned
with the plantations. The other fraction in each case should be added to the 8000 in computing
the population now thrown on our protection.

The negroes on Ladies' and St. Helena Islands have quite generally remained on their respective
plantations, or if absent, but temporarily, visiting wives or relatives. The dispersion on Port Koyal
and Hilton Head Islands has been far greater, the people of the former going to Beaufort in
considerable numbers, and of the latter to the camp at Hilton Head.

Counting the negroes who have gone to Hilton Head and Beaufort from places now protected by
our forces as still attached to the plantations, and to that extent not swelling the 8000 on
plantations, but adding thereto the usual negro population of Beaufort, as also the negroes who
have fled to Beaufort and Hilton Head from places not yet occupied by our forces, and adding
also the colony at North Edisto, and we must now have thrown upon our hands, for whose present
and future we must provide, from 10,000 to 12,000 persons probably nearer the latter than the
former number. This number is rapidly increasing. This week, forty-eight escaped from a single
plantation near Grahamville, on the main land, held by the rebels, led by the driver, and after four
days of trial and peril, hidden by day and threading the waters with their boats by night, evading
the rebel pickets, joyfully entered our camp at Hilton Head. The accessions at Edisto are in larger
number, and according to the most reasonable estimates, it would only require small advances by
our troops, not involving a general engagement or even loss of life, to double the number which
would be brought within our lines.

A fact derived from the Census of 1860 may serve to illustrate the responsibility now devolving on
the Government. This County of Beaufort* had a population of slaves in proportion of 82 8/10- of
the whole, a proportion only exceeded by seven other counties in the United States, viz.: one in
South Carolina, that of Georgetown; three in Mississippi, those of Bolivar, Washington and
Issequena; and three in Louisiana, those of Madison, Tensas and Concordia.

An impression prevails that the negroes here have been less cared for than in most other rebel
districts. If this be so, and a beneficent reform shall be achieved here, the experiment may
anywhere else be hopefully attempted.

The former white population, so far as can be ascertained, are rebels, with one or two exceptions.
In January, 1861, a meeting of the planters on St. Helena Island was held, of which Thomas Aston
Coffin was chairman. A vote was passed, stating its exposed condition, and offering their slaves to
the Governor of South Carolina, to aid in building earth mounds, and calling on him for guns to
place upon them. A copy of the vote, probably in his own handwriting, and signed by Mr. Coffin,
was found in his house. (
This would be an invitation to free these slaves based on the 1st
Confiscation Act)

It is worthy of note that the negroes now within our lines are there by the invitation of no one; but
they were on the soil when our army began its occupation, and could not have been excluded,
except by violent transportation. A small proportion have come in from the main land, evading the
pickets of the enemy and our own, something easily done in an extensive country, with whose
woods and creeks they are familiar.

Cotton
The only exportable crop of this region is the long staple Sea Island cotton, raised with more
difficulty than the coarser kind, and bringing a higher price. The agents of the Treasury
Department expect to gather some 2,5-00,-00.0 pounds of ginned cotton the present year, nearly
all of which had been picked and stored before the arrival of our forces. Considerable quantities
have not been picked at all, but the crop for this season was unusually good. Potatoes and corn
are raised only for consumption on the plantations,  corn being raised at the rate of only twenty-
five bushels per acre.

Such features in plantation life as will throw light on the social questions now anxiously weighed
deserve notice.

In this region, the master, if a man of wealth, is more likely to have his main residence at Beaufort,
sometimes having none on the plantation, but having one for the driver, who is always a negro
(
driver always a Negro). He may, however, have one, and an expensive one, too, as in the
case of Dr. Jenkins, at St. Helena, and yet pass most of his time at Beaufort, or at the North. The
plantation in such cases is left almost wholly under the charge of an overseer. In some cases,
there is not even a house for an overseer, the plantation being superintended by the driver, and
being visited by the overseer living on another plantation belonging to the same owner. The
houses for the overseers are of an undesirable character. Orchards of orange or fig trees are
usually planted near them.

The field hands are generally quartered at some distance eighty or one hundred rods from the
overseer's or master's house, and are ranged in a row, sometimes in two rows, fronting each
other. They are sixteen feet by twelve, each appropriated to a family, and in some cases divided
with a partition. They numbered, on the plantations visited, from ten to twenty, and on the Coffin
plantation, they are double, numbering twenty-three double houses, intended for forty-six families.
The yards seemed to swarm with children, the negroes coupling (
coupling?) at an early age.

Meals
Except on Sundays, these people do not take their meals at a family table, but each one takes his
hominy, bread, or potatoes, sitting on the floor or a bench, and at his own time. They say their
masters never allowed them any regular time for meals. Whoever, under our new system, is
charged with their superintendence, should see that they attend more to the cleanliness of their
persons and houses, and that, as in families of white people, they take their meals together at a
table habits to which they will be more disposed when they are provided with another change of
clothing, and when better food is furnished and a proper hour assigned for meals.

Duties of the Drivers
Upon each plantation visited by me, familiar conversations were had with several laborers, more
or less, as time permitted sometimes inquiries made of them, as they collected in groups, as to
what they desired us to do with and for them, with advice as to the course of sobriety and industry
which it was for their interest to pursue under the new and strange circumstances in which they
were now placed. Inquiries as to plantation economy, the culture of crops, the implements still
remaining, the number of persons in all, and of field hands, and the rations issued, were made of
the drivers, as they are called, answering as nearly as the two different systems of labor will
permit to foremen on farms in the free States. There is one on each plantation on the largest one
visited, two. They still remained on each visited, and their names were noted. The business of the
driver was to superintend the field-hands generally, and see that their tasks were performed fully
and properly. He controlled them, subject to the master or overseer. He dealt out the rations.
Another office belonged to him. He was required by the master or overseer, whenever he saw fit,
to inflict corporal punishment upon the laborers; nor was he relieved from this office when the
subject of discipline was his wife or children. In the absence of the master or overseer, he
succeeded to much of their authority. As indicating his position of consequence, he was privileged
with four suits of clothing a year, while only two were allowed to the laborers under him. It is
evident, from some of the duties assigned to him, that he must have been a person of
considerable judgment and knowledge of plantation economy, not differing essentially from that
required of the foreman of a farm in the free States. He may be presumed to have known, in many
cases, quite as much about the matters with which he was charged as the owner of the plantation,
who often passed but a fractional part of his time upon it.

The driver, notwithstanding the dispersion of other laborers, quite generally remains on the
plantation, as already stated. He still holds the keys of the granary, dealing out the rations of
food, and with the same sense of responsibility as before. In one case, I found him in a
controversy with a laborer to whom he was refusing his peck of corn, because of absence with his
wife on another plantation when the corn was gathered, it being gathered since the arrival of our
army. The laborer protested warmly that he had helped to plant and hoe the corn, and was only
absent as charged because of sickness. The driver appealed to me, as the only white man near,
and learning from other laborers that the laborer was sick at the time of gathering, I advised the
driver to give him his peck of corn, which he did accordingly. The fact is noted as indicating the
present relation of the driver to the plantation, where he still retains something of his former
authority.

This authority is, however, very essentially diminished. The main reason is, as he will assure you,
that he has now no white man to back him. Other reasons may, however, concur. A class of
laborers are generally disposed to be jealous of one of their own number promoted to be over
them, and accordingly some negroes, evidently moved by this feeling, will tell you that the drivers
ought now to work as field hands (
drivers ought to work as field hands), and some field
hands be drivers in their place. The driver has also been required to report delinquencies to the
master or overseer, and upon their order to inflict corporal punishment. The laborers will, in some
cases, say that he has been harder than he need to have been, while he will say that he did only
what he was forced to do. The complainants who have suffered under the lash may be pardoned
for not being sufficiently charitable to him who has unwillingly inflicted it, while, on the other hand,
he has been placed in a dangerous position, where a hard nature, or self-interest, or dislike for
the victim, might have tempted him to be more cruel than his position required. The truth, in
proportions impossible for us in many cases to fix, may lie with both parties. I am, on the whole,
inclined to believe that the past position of the driver and his valuable knowledge, both of the
plantations and the laborers, when properly advised and controlled, may be made available in
securing the productiveness of the plantations and the good of the laborers. It should be added
that, in all cases, the drivers were found very ready to answer inquiries and communicate all
information, and seemed desirous that the work of the season should be commenced.

Other Laborers
There are also on the plantations other laborers, more intelligent than the average, such as the
carpenter, the plowman, the religious leader, who may be called a preacher, a watchman or a
helper, the two latter being recognized officers in the churches of these people, and the helpers
being aids to the watchman. These persons, having recognized positions among their fellows,
either by virtue of superior knowledge or devotion, when properly approached by us, may be
expected to have a beneficial influence on the more ignorant, and help to create that public
opinion in favor of good conduct which, among the humblest as among the highest, is most
useful. I saw many of very low intellectual development, but hardly any too low to be reached by
civilizing influences, either coming directly from us or mediately through their brethren. And while I
saw some who were sadly degraded, I met also others who were as fine specimens of human
nature as one can ever expect to find.

Religious Life
Beside attendance on churches on Sundays, there are evening prayer-meetings on the
plantations as often as once or twice a week, occupied with praying, singing, and exhortations. In
some cases, the leader can read a hymn, having picked up his knowledge clandestinely, either
from other negroes or from white children. Of the adults, about one-half, at least, are members of
churches, generally the Baptist, although other denominations have communicants among them.
In the Baptist Church on St. Helena Island, which I visited on the 22d January, there were a few
pews for the proportionally small number of white attendants, and the much larger space devoted
to benches for colored people. On one plantation there is a negro chapel, well adapted for the
purpose, built by the proprietor, the late Mrs. Eustis, whose memory is cherished by the negroes}
and some of whose sons are now loyal citizens of Massachusetts. I have heard among the
negroes scarcely any profane swearing not more than twice a striking contrast with my experience
among soldiers in the army.

It seemed a part of my duty to attend some of their religious meetings, and learn further about
these people what could be derived from such a source. Their exhortations to personal piety were
fervent, and, though their language was many times confused, at least to my ear, occasionally an
important instruction or a felicitous expression could be recognized. In one case, a preacher of
their own, commenting on the text, " Blessed are the meek," exhorted his brethren not to be "
stout-minded." On one plantation on Ladies' Island, where some thirty negroes were gathered in
the evening, I read passages of Scripture, and pressed on them their practical duties at the
present time with reference to the good of themselves, their children, and their people. The
passages read were the 1st and 23d Psalms; the 61st chapter of Isaiah, verses 1-4; the
Beatitudes in the 5th chapter of Matthew; the 14th chapter of John's Gospel, and the 5th chapter
of the Epistle of James. In substance, I told them that their masters had rebelled against the
Government, and we had come to put down the rebellion; that we had now met them, and wanted
to see what was best to do for them; that Mr. Lincoln, the President or Great Man at Washington,
had the whole matter in charge, and was thinking what he could do for them; that the great
trouble about doing anything for them was that their masters had always told us, and had made
many people believe, that they were lazy, and would not work unless whipped to it; that Mr.
Lincoln had sent us down here to see if it was so ; that what they did was reported to him, or to
men who would tell him; that where I came from all were free, both white and black; that we did not
sell children or separate man and wife, but all had to work; that if they were to be free, they would
have to work, and would be shut up or deprived of privileges if they did not; that this was a critical
hour with them, and if they did not behave well now and respect our agents and appear willing to
work, Mr. Lincoln would give up trying to do anything for them, and they must give up all hope for
anything better, and their children and grand-children a hundred years hence would be worse off
than they had been. I told them they must stick to their plantations and not run about and get
scattered, and assured them that what their masters had told them of our intentions to carry them
off to Cuba and sell them was a lie, and their masters knew it to be so, and we wanted them to
stay on the plantations and raise cotton, and if they behaved well, they should have wages—
small, perhaps, at first; that they should have better food, and not have their wives and children
sold off; that their children should be taught to read and write, for which they might be willing to
pay something; that by-and-by they would be as well off as the white people, and we would stand
by them against their masters ever coming back to take them. The importance of exerting a good
influence on each other, particularly on the younger- men, who were rather careless and roving,
was urged, as all would suffer in good repute from the bad deeds of a few. At Hilton Head, where I
spoke to a meeting of two hundred, and there were facts calling for the counsel, the women were
urged to keep away from the bad white men, who would ruin them. Remarks of a like character
were made familiarly on the plantations to such groups as gathered about. At the Hilton Head
meeting, a good-looking man, who had escaped from the southern part of Barnwell District, rose
and said, with much feeling, that he and many others should do all they could by good conduct to
prove what their masters said against them to be fake, and to make Mr. Lincoln think better things
of them. After the meeting closed, he desired to know if Mr. Lincoln was coming down here to see
them, and he wanted me to give Mr. Lincoln his compliments, with his name, assuring the
President that he would do all he could for him. The message was a little amusing, but it testified
to the earnestness of the simple-hearted man. He had known Dr. Brisbane, who had been
compelled some years since to leave the South because of his sympathy for slaves. The name of
Mr. Lincoln was used in addressing them, as more likely to impress them than the abstract idea of
government.

It is important to add that in no case have I attempted to excite them by insurrectionary appeals
against their former masters, feeling that such a course might increase the trouble of organizing
them into a peaceful and improving system, under a just and healthful temporary discipline; and
besides that, it is a dangerous experiment to attempt the improvement of a class of men by
appealing to their coarser nature. The better course toward making them our faithful allies, and
therefore the constant enemies of the rebels, seemed to be to place before them the good things
to be done for them and their children, and sometimes reading passages of Scripture appropriate
to their lot, without, however, note or comment, never heard before by them, or heard only when
wrested from their just interpretation ; such, for instance, as the last chapter of St. James's
Epistle, and the Glad Tidings of Isaiah : " I have come to preach deliverance to the captive." Thus
treated and thus educated, they may be hoped to become useful coadjutors, and the
unconquerable foes of the fugitive rebels.

Vices
There are some vices charged upon these people which deserve examination. Notwithstanding
their religious professions, in some cases more emotional than practical, the marriage relation, or
what answers for it, is not, in many instances, held very sacred by them. The men, it is said,
sometimes leave one wife and take another,  something likely to happen in any society where it is
permitted or not forbidden by a stern public opinion, and far more likely to happen under laws
which do not recognize marriage, and dissolve what answers for it by forced separations, dictated
by the mere pecuniary interest of others. The women, it is said, are easily persuaded by white
men, a facility readily accounted for by the power of the master over them, whose solicitation was
equivalent to a command, and against which the husband or father was powerless to protect, and
increased also by the degraded condition in which they have been placed, where they have been
apt to regard what ought to be a disgrace as a compliment, when they were approached by a
paramour of superior condition and race. Yet often the dishonor is felt, and the woman, on whose
several children her master's features are impressed, and through whose veins his blood flows,
has sadly confessed it with an instinctive blush. The grounds of this charge, so far as they may
exist, will be removed, as much as in communities of our own race, by a system which shall
recognize and enforce the marriage relation among them, protect them against the solicitations of
white men as much as law can, still more by putting them in relations were they will be inspired
with self-respect and a consciousness of their rights, and taught by a pure and plainspoken
Christianity.

In relation to the veracity of these people, so far as my relations with them have extended, they
have appeared, as a class, to intend to tell the truth. Their manner, as much as among white
men, bore instinctive evidence of this intention. Their answers to inquiries relative to the
management of the plantations have a general concurrence. They make no universal charges of
cruelty against their masters. They will say, in some cases, that their own was a very kind one, but
another one in that neighborhood was cruel. On St. Helena Island they spoke kindly of " the good
William Fripp," as they called him, and of Dr. Clarence Fripp; but they all denounced the cruelty of
Alvira Fripp, recounting his inhuman treatment of both men and women. Another concurrence is
worthy of note. On the plantations visited, it appeared from the statements of the laborers
themselves, that there were, on an average, about 133 pounds of cotton produced to the acre,
and five acres of cotton and corn cultivated to a hand, the culture of potatoes not being noted. An
article of the
American Agriculturist, published in Turner's Cotton Manual, pp. 132, 133, relative to
the culture of Sea Island Cotton, on the plantation of John H. Townsend, states that the land is
cultivated in the proportion of 7-12th cotton, 3-12ths corn, and 2-12ths potatoes—in all, less
than six acres to a hand — and the average yield of cotton per acre is 135 pounds. I did not take
the statistics of the culture of potatoes, but about five acres are planted with them on the smaller
plantations, and twenty, or even thirty, on the larger; and the average amount of land to each
hand, planted with potatoes, should be added to the five acres of cotton and corn, and thus
results not differing substantially are reached in both cases. Thus the standard publications attest
the veracity and accuracy of these laborers.

Pilot
Again, there can be no more delicate and responsible position, involving honesty and skill, than
that of pilot. For this purpose, these people are every day employed to aid our military and naval
operations in navigating these sinuous channels. They were used in the recent reconnoisance in
the direction of Savannah; and the success of the affair at Port Royal Ferry depended on the
fidelity of a pilot, William, without the aid of whom, or of one like him, it could not have been
undertaken. Further information on this point may be obtained of the proper authorities here.
These services are not, it is true, in all respects, illustrative of the quality of veracity, but they
involve kindred virtues not likely to exist without it.

Vices Continued
It is proper, however, to state that expressions are sometimes heard from persons who have not
considered these people thoughtfully, to the effect that their word is not to be trusted, and these
persons, nevertheless, do trust them, and act upon their statements. There may, however, be
some color for such expressions. These laborers, like all ignorant people, have an ill-regulated
reason, too much under the control of the imagination. Therefore, where they report the number
of soldiers, or relate facts where there is room for conjecture, they are likely to be extravagant,
and you must scrutinize their reports. Still, except among the thoroughly dishonest,  no more
numerous among them than in other races,there will be found a colorable basis for their
statements, enough to show their honest intention to speak truly.

It is true also that you will find them too willing to express feelings which will please you. This is
most natural. All races, as well as all animals, have their appropriate means of self-defence, and
where the power to use physical force to defend one's self is taken away, the weaker animal, or
man, or race, resorts to cunning and duplicity. Whatever habits of this kind may appear in these
people are directly traceable to the well-known features of their past condition, without involving
any essential proneness to deception in the race, further than may be ascribed to human nature.
Upon this point, special inquiries have been made of the Superintendent at Hilton Head, who is
brought in direct daily association with them, and whose testimony, truthful as he is, is worth far
more than that of those who have had less nice opportunities of observation, and Mr. Lee certifies
to the results here presented. Upon the question of the disposition of these people to work, there
are different reports, varied somewhat by the impression an idle or an industrious laborer,
brought into immediate relation with the witness, may have made on the mind. In conversations
with them, they uniformly answered to assurances that if free they must work, " Yes, massa, we
must work to live; that's the law "; and expressing an anxiety that the work of the plantations was
not going on. At Hilton Head, they are ready to do for Mr. Lee, the judicious Superintendent,
whatever is desired. Hard words and epithets are, however, of no use in managing them, and
other parties for whose service they are specially detailed, who do not understand or treat them
properly, find some trouble in making their labor available, as might naturally be expected. In
collecting cotton, it is sometimes, as I am told, difficult to get them together, when wanted for work.
There may be something in this, particularly among the young men. I have observed them a good
deal; and though they often do not work to much advantage,  a dozen doing sometimes what one
or two stout and well-trained Northern laborers would do, and though less must always be
expected of persons native to this soil than those bred in Northern latitudes, and under more
bracing air,  I have not been at all impressed with their general indolence. As servants, oarsmen,
and carpenters, I have seen them working faithfully and with a will. There are some peculiar
circumstances in their condition, which no one who assumes to sit in judgment upon them must
overlook. They are now, for the first time, freed from the restraint of a master, and like children
whose guardian or teacher is absent for the day, they may quite naturally enjoy an interval of
idleness. No system of labor for them, outside of the camps, has been begun, and they have had
nothing to do except to bale the cotton when bagging was furnished, and we all know that men
partially employed are, if anything, less disposed to do the little assigned them than they are to
perform the full measure which belongs to them in regular life, the virtue of the latter case being
supported by habit. At the camps, they are away from their accustomed places of labor, and have
not been so promptly paid as could be desired, and are exposed to the same circumstances
which often dispose soldiers to make as little exertion as possible. In the general chaos which
prevails, and before the inspirations of labor have been set before them by proper
superintendents and teachers who understand their disposition, and show by their conduct an
interest in their welfare, no humane or reasonable man would subject them to austere criticism, or
make the race responsible for the delinquencies of an idle person, who happened to be brought
particularly under his own observation. Not thus would we have ourselves or our own race judged;
and the judgment which we would not have meted to us, let us not measure to others.

Upon the best examination of these people, and a comparison of the evidence of trustworthy
persons, I believe that when properly organized, and with proper motives set before them, they
will, as freemen, be as industrious as any race of men are likely to be in this climate.

Property
The notions of the sacredness of property as held by these people have sometimes been the
subject of discussion here. It is reported they have taken things left in their masters' houses. It
was wise to prevent this, and even where it had been done to compel a restoration, at least of
expensive articles, lest they should be injured by speedily acquiring, without purchase, articles
above their condition. But a moment's reflection will show that it was the most natural thing for
them to do. They had been occupants of the estates; had had these things more or less in
charge, and when the former owners had left, it was easy for them to regard their title to the
abandoned property as better than that of strangers. Still, it is not true that they have, except as
to very simple articles, as soap or dishes, generally availed themselves of such property. It is also
stated that in camps where they have been destitute of clothing, they have stolen from each
other, but the Superintendents are of opinion that they would not have done this if already well
provided. Besides, those familiar with large bodies collected together, like soldiers in camp life,
also know how often these charges of mutual pilfering are made among them, often with great
injustice. It should be added, to complete the statement, that the agents who have been entrusted
with the collection of cotton have reposed confidence in the trustworthiness of the laborers,
committing property to their charge a confidence not found to have been misplaced.

Desire to be Free and Fight for Freedom
To what extent these laborers desire to be free, and to serve us still further in putting down the
rebellion, has been a subject of examination, The desire to be free has been strongly expressed,
particularly among the more intelligent and adventurous. Everyday, almost, adds a fresh tale of
escapes, both solitary and in numbers, conducted with a courage, a forecast, and a skill, worthy
of heroes. But there are other apparent features in their disposition which it would be untruthful to
conceal. Oh the plantations, I often found a disposition to evade the inquiry whether they wished
to be free or slaves; and though a preference for freedom was expressed, it was rarely in the
passionate phrases which would come from an Italian peasant. The secluded and monotonous life
of a plantation, with strict discipline and ignorance enforced by law and custom, is not favorable to
the development of the richer sentiments, though even there they find at least a stunted growth,
irrepressible as they are. The inquiry was often answered in this way: " The white man do what he
pleases with us; we are yours now, massa." One, if I understood his broken words rightly, said
that he did not care about being free, if he only had a good master. Others said they would like to
be free, but they wanted a white man for a "protector." All of proper age, when inquired of,
expressed a desire to have their children taught to read and write, and to learn themselves. On
this point, they showed more earnestness than on any other. When asked if they were willing to
fight, in case we needed them, to keep their masters from coming back, they would seem to shrink
from that, saying that "black men have been kept down so like dogs that they would run before .
white men." At the close of the first week's observation, I almost concluded that on the plantation
there was but little earnest desire for freedom, and scarcely any willingness for its sake to
encounter white men. But as showing the importance of not attempting to reach general
conclusions too hastily, another class of facts came to my notice the second week. I met then
some more intelligent, who spoke with profound earnestness of their desire to be free, and how
they had longed to see this day. Other facts, connected with the military and naval operations,
were noted. At the recent reconnaissance toward Pulaski, pilots of this class stood well under the
fire, and were not reluctant to the service. When a district of Ladies' Island was left exposed, they
voluntarily took such guns as they could procure, and stood sentries. Also at North Edisto* where
the colony is collected under the protection of our gunboats, they armed themselves and drove
back the rebel cavalry. An officer here high in command reported to me some of these facts,
which had been officially communicated to him. The suggestion may be pertinent that the persons
in question are divisible into two classes. Those who, by their occupation, have been accustomed
to independent labor, and schooled in some sort of self-reliance, are more developed in this
direction; while others, who have been bound to the routine of plantation life, and kept more
strictly under surveillance, are but little awakened. But even among these last there has been,
under the quickening inspiration of present events, a rapid development, indicating that the same
feeling is only latent.

Confidence - This is an interesting paragraph since unfortunately with Hunter's
regiment and the 2 South Carolina Hunter engaged in impressment of these people to
fill the ranks.

There is another consideration which must not be omitted. Many of these people have still but
little confidence in us, anxiously looking to see what is to be our disposition of them, It is a mistake
to suppose that, separated from the world, never having read a Northern book or newspaper
relative to them, or talked with a Northern man expressing the sentiments prevalent in his region,
they are universally and with entire confidence welcoming us as their deliverers. Here, as
everywhere else, where our army has met them, they have been assured by their masters that we
were going to carry them off to Cuba. There is probably not a rebel master, from the Potomac to
the Gulf, who has not repeatedly made this assurance to his slaves. No matter what his religious
vows may have been, no matter what his professed honor as a gentleman, he has not shrunk
from the reiteration of this falsehood. Never was there a people, as all who know them will testify,
more attached to familiar places than they. Be their home a cabin, and not even that cabin their
own, they still cling to it. The reiteration could not fail to have had some effect on a point on which
they were so sensitive. Often it must have been met with unbelief or great suspicion of its truth. It
was also balanced by the consideration that their masters would remove them into the interior,
and perhaps to a remote region, and separate their families, about as bad as being taken to
Cuba, and they felt more inclined to remain on the plantations, and take their chances with us.
They have told me that they reasoned in this way. But in many cases they fled at the approach of
our army. Then one or two bolder returning, the rest were reassured and came back. Recently,
the laborers at Parry Island, seeing some schooners approaching suspiciously, commenced
gathering their little effects rapidly together, and were about to run, when they were quieted by
some of our teachers coming, in whom they had confidence. In some cases, their distrust has
been increased by the bad conduct of some irresponsible white men, of which, for the honor of
human nature, it is not best to speak more particularly. On the whole, their confidence in us has
been greatly increased by the treatment they have received, which, in spite of many individual
cases of injury less likely to occur under the stringent orders recently issued from the naval and
military authorities, has been generally kind and humane. But the distrust which to a greater or
less extent may have existed on our arrival, renders necessary, if we would keep them faithful
allies, and not informers to the enemy, the immediate adoption of a system which shall be a
pledge of our protection and of our permanent interest in their welfare.


The manner of the laborers toward us has been kind and deferential, doing for us such good
offices as were in their power, as guides, pilots, or in more personal service, inviting us on the
plantations to lunch of hominy and milk, or potatoes, touching the hat in courtesy, and answering
politely such questions as were addressed to them. If there have been exceptions to this rule, it
was in the case of those whose bearing did not entitle them to the civility.

Passing from general phases of character or present disposition, the leading facts in relation to
the plantations and the mode of rendering them useful and determining what is best to be done,
come next in order.

The laborers on St. Helena and Ladies' Islands very generally remain on their respective
plantations. This fact, arising partially from local attachment and partially because they can thus
secure their allowance of corn, is important, as it will facilitate their reorganization. Some are
absent, temporarily visiting a wife, or relative, on another plantation, and returning periodically for
their rations. The disposition to roam, so far as it exists, mainly belongs to the younger people.
On Port Royal and Hilton Head Islands, there is a much greater dispersion, due in part to their
having been the scene of more active military movements, and in part to the taking in greater
measure on these islands of the means of subsistence from the plantations* When the work
recommences, however, there is not likely to be any indisposition to return to them.

Agriculture
The statistics with regard to the number of laborers, field hands, acres planted to cotton and corn,
are not presented as accurate statements, but only as reasonable approximations, which may be
of service.

The highest number of people on any plantation visited was on Coffin's, where there are 260.
Those on the plantation of Dr. Jenkins • number 130; on that of the Eustis estate, 120; and the
others, from 80 to 38. The average number on each is 81. The field hands range generally from
one-third to one-half of the number, the rest being house servants, old persons, and children.
About five acres of cotton and corn are planted to a hand; and to potatoes, about five acres in all
were devoted on the smaller plantations, and from twenty to thirty on the larger.

The number of pounds in a bale of ginned cotton ranges from 300 to 400—the average number
being not far from 345 pounds per bale. The average yield per acre on fifteen plantations was
about 133 pounds.

Compost
The material for compost is gathered in the periods of most leisure often in July and August, after
the cultivation of the cotton plant is ended, and before the picking has commenced. Various
materials are used, but quite generally mud and the coarse marsh grass, which abounds on the
creeks near the plantations, are employed. The manure is carted upon the land in January and
February, and left in heaps, two or three cart-loads on each task, to be spread at the time of
listing. The land, by prevailing custom, lies fallow a year. The cotton and corn are planted in
elevated rows or beds. The next step is the listing, done with the hoe, and making the bed where
the alleys were at the previous raising of the crop, and the alleys being made where the beds
were before. In this process, half the old bed is hauled into the alley on the one side, and the
other half into the alley on the other. This work is done mainly in February, being commenced
sometimes the last of January. A "task" is 105 feet square, and contains twenty-one or twenty-two
beds or rows. Each laborer is required to list a task and a half, or if the land is moist and heavy, a
task and five or seven beds, say one-fourth or three-eighths of an acre.

Planting of Cotton
The planting of cotton commences about the 20th or last of March, and of corn about the
same time or earlier. It is continued through April, and by some planters it is not begun till April.
The seeds are deposited in the beds, a foot or a foot and a half apart on light land, and two feet
apart on heavy land, and five or ten seeds left in a place. After the plant is growing, the stalks are
thinned so as to leave together two on high land and one on low or rich land. The hoeing of the
early cotton begins about the time that the planting of the late has ended. The plant is cultivated
with the hoe and plow during May, June and July, keeping the weeds down and thinning the
stalks. The picking commences the last of August. The cotton being properly dried in the sun, is
then stored in houses, ready to be ginned. The ginning, or cleaning the fiber from the seed, is
done either by gins operated by steam, or by the well-known foot-gins the latter turning out about
30 pounds of ginned cotton per day, and worked by one person, assisted by another, who picks
out the specked and yellow cotton. The steam-engine carries one or more gins, each turning out
300 pounds per day, and requiring eight or ten hands to tend the engine and gins, more or less,
according to the number of the gins. The foot gins are still more used than the gins operated by
steam, the latter being used mainly on the largest plantations, on which both kinds are sometimes
employed. I have preserved notes of the kind and number of gins used on the plantations visited,
but it is unnecessary to give them here. Both kinds can be run entirely by the laborers, and after
this year, the ginning should be done entirely here among other reasons, to avoid transportation
of the seed, which makes nearly three-fourths of the weight of the unginned cotton, and to
preserve in better condition the seed required for planting.

Allowances to Workers
The allowance of clothing to the field hands in this district has been two suits per year, one for
summer and another for winter. That of food has been mainly vegetable a peck of corn a week to
each hand, with meat only in June, when the work is hardest, and at Christmas. No meat was
allowed in June, on some plantations, while on a few, more liberal, it was dealt out occasionally as
once a fortnight, or once a month. On a few, molasses was given at intervals. Children, varying
with their ages, were allowed from two to six quarts of corn per week. The diet is more exclusively
vegetable here than almost anywhere in the rebellious regions, and in this respect should be
changed. It should be added, that there are a large quantity of oysters available for food in
proper seasons.

Besides the above rations, the laborers were allowed each to cultivate a small patch of ground,
about a quarter of an acre, for themselves, when their work for their master was done. On this,
corn and potatoes, chiefly the former, were planted. The corn was partly eaten by themselves,
thus supplying in part the deficiency in rations; but it was, to a great extent, fed to a pig, or
chickens, each hand being allowed to keep a pig and chickens or ducks, but not geese or
turkeys. With the proceeds of the pig and chickens, generally sold to the masters, and at pretty
low rates, extra clothing, coffee, sugar, and that necessary of life with these people, as they think,
tobacco, were bought.

Organizing Labors
In the report thus far, such facts in the condition of the territory now occupied by the forces of the
United States have been noted as seemed to throw light on what could be done to reorganize the
laborers, prepare them to become sober and self-supporting citizens, and secure the successful
culture of a cotton-crop, now so necessary to be contributed to the markets of the world. It will
appear from them that these people are naturally religious and simple-hearted attached to the
places where they have lived, still adhering to them both from a feeling of local attachment and
self-interest in securing the means of subsistence; that they have the knowledge and experience
requisite to do all the labor, from the preparation of the ground for planting until the cotton is
baled, ready to be exported ; that they, or the great mass of them, are disposed to labor, with
proper inducements thereto; that they lean upon white men, and desire their protection, and
could, therefore, under a wise system, be easily brought under subordination; that they are
susceptible to the higher considerations, as duty, and the love of offspring, and are not in any
way inherently vicious, their defects coming from their peculiar condition in the past or present,
and not from constitutional proneness to evil beyond what may be attributed to human nature';
that they have among them natural chiefs, either by virtue of religious leadership or superior
intelligence, who, being first addressed, may exert a healthful influence on the rest. In a word,
that, in spite of their condition, reputed to be worse here than in many other parts of the
rebellious region, there are such features in their life and character, that the opportunity is now
offered to us to make of them, partially in this generation, and fully in the next, a happy,
industrious, law-abiding, free and Christian people, if we have but the courage and patience to
accept it. If this be the better view of them and their possibilities, I will say that I have come to it
after anxious study of all peculiar circumstances in their lot and character, and after anxious
conference with reflecting minds here, who are prosecuting like inquiries, not overlooking what, to
a casual spectator, might appear otherwise, and granting what is likely enough, that there are
those among them whose characters, by reason of bad nature or treatment, are set, and not
admitting of much improvement. And I will submit further, that, in common fairness and common
charity, when, by the order of Providence, an individual or a race is committed to our care, the
better view is entitled to be first practically applied. If this one shall be accepted and crowned with
success, history will have the glad privilege of recording that this wicked and unprovoked rebellion
was not without compensations most welcome to our race.

What, then, should be the true system of administration here?
It has been proposed to lease the plantations and the people upon them. To this plan there are
two objections each conclusive. In the first place, the leading object of the parties bidding for
leases would be to obtain a large immediate revenue perhaps to make a fortune in a year or two.
The solicitations of doubtful men, offering the highest price, would impose on the leasing power a
stern duty of refusal, to which it ought not unnecessarily to be subjected. Far better a system
which shall not invite such men to harass the leasing power, or excite expectations of a speedy
fortune, to be derived from the labor of this people. Secondly: No man, not even the best of men,
charged with the duties which ought to belong to the guardians of these people, should be put in
a position where there would be such a conflict between his humanity and his self-interest his
desire, on the one hand, to benefit the laborer, and, on the other, the too often stronger desire to
reap a large revenue perhaps to restore broken fortunes in a year or two. Such a system is beset
with many of the worst vices of the slave system, with one advantage in favor of the latter, that it is
for the interest of the planter to look to permanent results. Let the history of British East India, and
of all communities where a superior race has attempted to build up speedy fortunes on the labor
of an inferior race occupying another region, be remembered, and no just man will listen to the
proposition of leasing, fraught as it is with such dangerous consequences. Personal confidence
forbids me to report the language of intense indignation which has been expressed against it here
by some occupying high places of command, as also by others who have come here for the
special purpose of promoting the welfare of these laborers. Perhaps it might yield to the treasury
a larger immediate revenue, but it would be sure to spoil the country and its people in the end.
The Government should be satisfied if the products of the territory may be made sufficient for a
year or two to pay the expenses of administration and superintendence, and the inauguration of a
beneficent system which will settle a great social question, ensure the sympathies of foreign
nations, now wielded against us, and advance the civilization of the age.

Superintendents for Each Plantation
The better course would be to appoint superintendents for each large plantation, and one for two
or three smaller combined, compensated with a good salary, say $1,000 per year, selected with
reference to peculiar qualifications, and as carefully as one would choose a guardian for his
children, clothed with an adequate power to enforce a paternal discipline, to require a proper
amount of labor, cleanliness, sobriety, and better habits of life, and generally to promote the
moral and intellectual culture of the wards, with such other inducements, if there be any, placed
before the superintendent as shall inspire him to constant efforts to prepare them for useful and
worthy citizenship. To quicken and ensure the fidelity of the superintendents, there should a
director-general or governor, who shall visit the plantations, and see that they are discharging
these duties, and, if necessary, he should be aided by others in the duty of visitation. This officer
should be invested with liberal powers over all persons within his jurisdiction, so as to protect the
blacks from each other and from white men, being required in most important cases to confer with
the military authorities in punishing offences. His proposed duties indicate that he should be a
man of the best ability and character: better if he have already, by virtue of public services, a hold
on the public confidence. Such an arrangement is submitted as preferable for the present to any
cumbersome territorial government.

The laborers themselves, no longer slaves of their former masters, or of the Government, but as
yet in large numbers unprepared for the full privileges of citizens, are to be treated with sole
reference to such preparation. No effort is to be spared to work upon their better nature and the
motives which come from it the love of wages, of offspring, and family, the desire of happiness,
and the obligations of religion. And when these fail, and fail they will, in some cases,we must not
hesitate to resort, not to the lash, for as from the department of war so also from the department
of labor, it must be banished, but to the milder and more effective punishments of deprivation of
privileges, isolation from family and society, the workhouse, or even the prison. The laborers are
to be assured at the outset that parental and conjugal relations among them are to be protected
and enforced; that children, and all others desiring, are to be taught; that they will receive wages;
and that a certain just measure of work, with reference to the ability to perform it, if not willingly
rendered, is to be required of all. The work, so far as the case admits, shall be assigned in proper
tasks, the standard being what a healthy person of average capacity can do, for which a definite
sum is to be paid. The remark may perhaps be pertinent, that, whatever may have been the case
with women or partially disabled persons, my observations, not yet sufficient to decide the point,
have not impressed me with the conviction that healthy persons, if they had been provided with
an adequate amount of food, and that animal in due proportion, could be said to have been
overworked heretofore on these islands, the main trouble having been that they have not been so
provided, and have not had the motives which smooth labor. Notwithstanding the frequent and
severe chastisements which have been employed here in exacting labor, they have failed, and
naturally enough, of their intended effects. Human beings are made up of so much more of spirit
than of muscle, that compulsory labor, enforced by physical pain, will not exceed or equal, in the
long run, voluntary labor with just inspirations; and the same law in less degree may be seen in
the difference between the value of a whipped and jaded beast, and one well disciplined and
kindly treated.

What should be the standard of wages where none have heretofore been paid, is less easy to
determine. It should be graduated with reference to the wants of the laborer and the ability of the
employer or Government; and this ability being determined by the value of the products of the
labor, and the most that should be expected being, that for a year or two the system should not
be a burden on the Treasury. Taking into consideration the cost of food and clothing, medical
attendance and extras, supposing that the laborer would require rations of pork or beef, meal,
coffee, sugar, molasses and tobacco, and that he would work 300 days in the year, he should
receive about forty cents a day in order to enable him to lay up $30 a year; and each healthy
woman could do about equally well. Three hundred days in a year is, perhaps, too high an
estimate of working days, when we consider the chances of sickness and days when, by reason
of storms and other causes, there would be no work. It is assumed that the laborer is not to pay
rent for the small house tenanted by him. This sum* when the average number of acres cultivated
by a hand, and the average yield per acre are considered with reference to market prices, or
when the expense of each laborer to his former master, the interest on his assumed value and on
the value of the land worked by him, these being the elements of what it has cost the master
before making a profit, are computed, the Government could afford to pay, leaving an ample
margin to meet the cost of the necessary implements, as well as of superintendence and
administration. The figures on which this estimate is based are at the service of the Department if
desired. It must also be borne in mind that the plantations will in the end be carried on more
scientifically and cheaply than before, the plough taking very much the place of the hoe, and
other implements being introduced to facilitate industry and increase the productive power of the
soil.

It being important to preserve all former habits which are not objectionable, the laborer should
have his patch of ground on which to raise corn or vegetables for consumption or sale.
As a part of the plan proposed, missionaries will be needed to address the religious element of a
race so emotional in their nature, exhorting to all practical virtues, and inspiring the laborers with
a religious zeal for faithful labor, the good nurture of their children, and for clean and healthful
habits. The benevolence of the Free States, now being directed hither, will gladly provide these.
The Government should, however, provide some teachers specially devoted to teaching reading,
writing and arithmetic, say some twenty-five, for the territory now occupied by our forces, and
private benevolence might even be relied on for these.

Paternal Discipline
The plan proposed is, of course, not presented as an ultimate result: far from it. It contemplates a
paternal discipline for the time being, intended for present use only, with the prospect of better
things in the future. As fast as the laborers show themselves fitted for all the privileges of citizens,
they should be dismissed from the system and allowed to follow any employment they please, and
where they please. They should have the power to acquire the fee simple of land, either with the
proceeds of their labor or as a reward of special merit; and it would be well to quicken their zeal
for good behavior by proper recognitions. I shall not follow these suggestions, as to the future,
further, contenting myself with indicating what is best to be done at once with a class of fellow-
beings now thrown on our protection, entitled to be recognized as freemen, but for whose new
condition the former occupants of the territory have diligently labored to unfit them.

But whatever is thought best to be done, should be done at once. A system ought to have been
commenced with the opening of the year. Beside that, demoralization increases with delay. The
months of January and February are the months for preparing the ground by manuring and
listing, and the months of March and April are for planting. Already, important time has passed,
and in a very few weeks it will be too late to prepare for a crop, and too late to assign useful work
to the laborers for a year to come. I implore the immediate intervention of your Department to
avert the calamities which must ensue from a further postponement.

Keeping the Military Away
There is another precaution most necessary to be taken. As much as possible, persons enlisted
in the army and navy should be kept separate from these people. The association produces an
unhealthy excitement in the latter, and there are other injurious results to both parties which it is
unnecessary to particularize. In relation to this matter, I had an interview with the Flag-Officer,
Com. Dupont, which resulted in an order that " no boats from any of the ships of the squadron
can be permitted to land anywhere but at Bay Point and Hilton Head, without a pass from the
Fleet Captain," and requiring the commanding officers of the vessels to give special attention to
all intercourse between the men under their command and the various plantations in their vicinity.
Whatever can be accomplished to that end by this humane and gallant officer, who superadds to
skill and courage in his profession the liberal views of a statesman, will not be left undone. The
suggestion should also be made that, when employment is given to this people, some means
should be taken to enable them to obtain suitable goods at fair rates, and precautions taken to
prevent the introduction of ardent spirits among them.

Mr. Frederick A. Eustis
A loyal citizen of Massachusetts, Mr. Frederick A. Eustis, has recently arrived here. He is the
devisee in a considerable amount under the will of the late Mrs. Eustis, who owned the large
estate on Ladies' Island, and also another at Pocotaligo, the latter not yet in possession of our
forces. The executors are rebels, and reside at Charleston. Mr. Eustis has as yet received no
funds by reason of the devise. There "are two other loyal devisees and some other devisees
resident in rebellious districts, and the latter are understood to have received dividends. Mr.
Eustis is a gentleman of humane and liberal views, and, accepting the present condition of things,
desires that the people on these plantations should not be distinguished from their brethren on
others, but equally admitted to their better fortunes. The circumstances of this case, though of a
personal character, may furnish a useful precedent. With grea
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Edward Pierce
Salmon Portland Chase
Secretary of Treasury
Frederick A. Eustis
Commander Dupont