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An Englishman's Travels in America
His Observations of Life and Manners in the Free and Slave States

written by "Benwell, John"
... relate to you an instance," said he, "of the manner in which this, as we white people consider it, solemn compact, is entered into amongst field-hands. When a couple wish to live together as man and wife, the male nigger mentions it to the overseer, and if there are no impediments, they have a cabin assigned to them." He described a scene of this kind, which I will endeavour to give verbatim. He said it occurred on his father's estate, some years before, and that he was standing by at the time, "although," he continued, "'tis done the same now in most instances." A negro approached where the overseer was standing, apparently, by his sidling manner, about to ask some favour, when the following colloquy ensued. Overseer.—Well, you black rascal, what do you stand grinning there for? Negro.—Please, mas'r, want Lucy for wife. Overseer.—Wife, you scoundrel, what do you want a wife for; be off with you, and mind your horses. (He was employed as a teamster on the estate.) Negro.—Oh, mas'r, I loves Lucy. Overseer.—And she loves you, I suppose. A fine taste she must have, indeed. Where are you going to live? Negro—Got room in No. 2 cabin, if mas'r please let 'um. Overseer.—Well, now listen; go along, and take her, but, you lazy dog, if you get into any scrapes, and don't work like live coals, I'll send her to the other estate (which was situated forty miles distant), and flay you alive into the bargain. The poor fellow, after thanking the overseer (not for his politeness, certainly), darted off to communicate the joyful intelligence to his affianced, making the welkin ring with his shouts. The gentleman who described this scene said that it was always the custom on his father's estate to give a gallon or two of whiskey for the attendant merry-making. After numerous stoppages, the train at length reached Charleston. The journey from Greensborough had ...

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