Browsing "Lost Cultures"

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

Antebellum Southern concepts of manners and personal honor set a very high standard in education with the logical expectation that this would result in a more enlightened society and government.  Even code duello was seen to have a “decorous influence” on manners, as it made men careful in their conduct toward each other through personal honor and accountability.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

“[The official historian of the University of Virginia noted that the bulk of pre-Civil War graduates] . . . were of “the planting class.” Analysis of their post-college careers and modes of life led him to say that they were men who “kept alive in their country homes that loyal devotion to family, that chivalrous respect for womanhood, that considered tenderness for weakness, that high recognition of the claims of hospitality, that reverence for religion, and that quick sensitiveness upon all questions of personal integrity and honor, which they had inherited from their fathers.”

The cult of manners in the Old Dominion was so intertwined with the concepts of personal honor and integrity that all appeared part of a single theme. The diary notes of a young Virginian, attending VMI, contained the following passage, inserted as a kind of conclusion to the entries for the year 1842. It was set off in quotation marks:

“Among the many branches of education, that which tends to make deep impressions of virtue ought to be a fundamental object in a well-regulated government. For depravity of manners will render ineffectual the most salutary laws; and in the midst of opulence, what other means to prevent such depravity, but only a virtuous discipline?”

In this climate of opinion, with its emphasis on manners and personal integrity, the famous “Honor System” of American academic life first appeared. The founders were two professors at the University of Virginia; George Tucker, romantic litterateur before his appointment to the chair of moral philosophy; and his relative, Henry St. George Tucker, distinguished jurist before settling at Charlottesville as a teacher of law.

Judge Tucker submitted the epochal resolution to the faculty in 1842 that, at all future written examinations, the students should certify on their honor the receiving of no improper assistance. Later, this pledge was extended to include the imparting as well as the accepting of aid.

While visiting Richmond in 1853, Frederick Law Olmsted observed the importance of the cult of manners there. He added this observation to his travel diary, “In manners, I notice that between man and man, more ceremony and form is sustained in familiar conversations than well-bred people commonly use at the North.”

(Romanticism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweiss, LSU Press, 1971, excerpt, pp. 87-88)

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

The Southern was said to the “the apotheosis of the lowbrow in manners. His speech is wrecked on a false ideal of freedom and ease; his traditions are huddled up under aggression and haste; his manners are sacrificed to a false democracy.” It was also said that it takes three generations to make a gentleman, and that he is trained in the heart as a scholar is trained in the mind. Ellen Glasgow wrote in her “Virginia” in 1913 regarding the vanishing Southern lady that “the less a Southern girl knew about life, the better prepared she was to deal with it.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

“As the shifting social scene swims before my eyes, I realize that two of the most picturesque figures of the past have almost disappeared, the Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man. There are a few survivals of the Southern Lady, but their voices are growing fainter.

The old-time Southern Lady with purring and ceremonious manners was the queen of what has been called the moonshine and magnolia era. The memory of her is like the faint perfume of old roses, a little sweet, a little melancholy, a little suggestive of decay. Her mind ran in deep groves and her manners were brocaded. The worst of it was that she had many spurious imitators who lacked her charm.

The Grand Old Man type has disappeared from village life in the South. He was an institution. He had form, background, and color. He was often a lawyer and politician, in frock coat and high hat. He was sometimes an old-line Whig of the Henry Clay school. An old-line Whig has been described by somebody as a man who wore a ruffled shirt and drank a lot of whiskey. The Grand Old Man’s more remote ancestors fought the Indians and the British; he and his more immediate relatives fought the Yankees.

He will tell over and over the story of his grandfather who was stood up by a group of Tories after King’s Mountain and threatened with death unless he gave certain information; of how his grandfather looked down the gun barrels and told them to “shoot and be damned.”

The Grand Old Man most likely had an old uniform and a sword somewhere in the house, the uniform to be buried in and the sword to hang over the fireplace. If his grandchildren today were asked about the sword, they would probably display indifference and ignorance. To them Gettysburg is little more than a name – a name they have heard too often.

But the history of that sword, lying dormant for years in their brains, will perhaps come to life in their later years and whisper in their ears its story of courage and sacrifice.

The Grand Old Man was undoubtedly a social force in his day. He was ceremonious, courteous, deliberate, positive, and a trifle pompous. If he ever posed, he was not conscious of it. He always knew to a certainty what the government should have done and what it should do. His opinions always hardened his convictions. But this stalwart and picturesque figure has faded out. If there be any of his kind left, they are today little more than museum pieces.

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, excerpt, pp. 271-272)

Old World Nationalism of the South

Henry Steele Commager and Richard Morris note below the advantages held by the new American Confederacy in 1861, the most important of which was “that the South did not have to win on the field of battle in order to achieve independence, for it could afford to lose all the battles and all the campaigns and still triumph as long as it was prepared to settle simply for independence with no demands on the Union except the elementary one that it let the Sisters depart in peace.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Old World Nationalism of the South 

“Nationalism has been a perennial theme in American historiography, but surprisingly enough historians have devoted but scant attention to the analysis of Southern nationalism. Yet the brief and tragic experiment of the Confederate States of America with nationalism provides a laboratory scarcely less interesting than that provided by the American States between 1774 and 1789.

Because historians are camp followers of victorious armies, most of them take for granted the triumph of the first American bid for nationalism and the failure of the Southern. Yet on the surface at least, the Old South of the fifties and sixties boasted more and more persuasive ingredients of national unity than had the American States in 1774.

For the South – and the Confederacy – had, among whites at least, far greater ethnic homogeneity than had the United States of the 1770s, for less than one percent of the population of the Confederate States was foreign born. It acknowledged a greater degree of religious unity than could be found in the original States – for outside Maryland and Louisiana the whole of the Southern population was not only Protestant but evangelical.

By modern standards it confessed pronounced class differences, but by its own standards it could boast that it was a classless society, for all whites could claim membership in an upper class: here was a principle of social philosophy which speedily took on the authority of a moral and a religious principle and provided the South with one of the most powerful of all the forces making for national unity – a common ideology.

Nor, for all its inferiority in population and resources, was the Confederacy without military advantages: a territory more extensive than any which had ever been conquered in the whole of modern history; interior lines of communication; a long military tradition and superior military leaders; and a not unreasonable expectation of a foreign intervention which could rescue the South as French and Dutch intervention had rescued the new United States during the Revolutionary war.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Commager/Morris, editors, Harper & Row, 1979, excerpt, pp. xi-xii)

Losing the South’s Conservative Tradition

When Southern members left Congress in early 1861, nearly all conservative restraints enforced on that body were removed and the seeds of the Gilded Age were sown. The war of 1861-1865 will be forever seen as the unnecessary crime against liberty that it was, and the ending of the second experiment in government undertaken on these shores.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Losing the South’s Conservative Tradition

“To those who fought and suffered during the long and fearful years of the War Between the States a tribute is always due. To the survivors of that momentous conflict – in which the South displayed unequaled bravery and marvelous determination – sincere reverence cannot too often be paid.

The young men and women who lived in the South after 1865 were tragic figures. They were the lost generation of the South, who led hard, bare and bitter lives, when young people of the South before and since were at play and in school.

That Tragic Era from 1865 to 1880 was a period when the Southern people were put to torture – so much so that our historians have shrunk from the unhappy task of telling us the truth. That was a black and bloody period – when brutality and despotism prevailed – a period which no American can point with pride. To the generation of Southerners who struggled in the years after the war in the sixties we owe the redemption of the South and the preservation of its society.

[The War and Reconstruction] cost the South heavily – but they also cost the nation. The South paid for theirs in an economic collapse and carpetbag domination extending over a period of nearly thirty years. But the nation also paid its price – it lost the powerful influence of the conservative Southern tradition.

In antebellum times the South had steadied the nation’s western expansion by its conservatism, but when the South was broken and destroyed, we saw a period of western expansion, of European immigration, of speculation, of graft, and of greed – unknown before in the annals of our history.

The nation after the war – especially the North and West – entered into an era of expansion, of worship for the new, of so-called progress, for which we still pay the price in our periodic overproduction. We should learn that economic wealth may be amassed, yet the fickle turns of business fortune can destroy it in a few years. Witness the economic collapse of our nation in the last few years after a period of unrivaled business growth.

The eternal national values are then those intangible contributions to national life such as the old South gave – not wealth, not progress, but those great qualities of tradition and conservatism and individuality which neither Depression nor hard times can destroy.

May the faith of the old South be ours, so that we can rebuild our State and Nation – and as we do so may we add the South’s contribution to American life not only its heritage of conservatism, of tradition and individuality, but also that spirit of silent strength in the hours of adversity – that spirit shown during the War and Reconstruction.”

(The Tragic Era, Dr. Julian S. Waterman, Dean, University of Arkansas Law School, Memorial Day speech at Fayetteville, Confederate Veteran Magazine, July, 1931, excerpt, pp. 275-277)

Keep Northern Texts Out of Southern Schools

Major-General Samuel Gibbs French, a Confederate officer born in New Jersey, stated shortly after the war that “woman is responsible for [Confederate] Memorial Day,” noting that the annual remembrance of those who died in defense of American liberty was a “pleasing duty” that the Southern woman took upon herself to perform annually. He added: “I am not unmindful, ladies, of the power you possess and can exercise in preserving the true story of the war and the memory of the Confederate soldiers. Tell the true story to your children. If you do not, their nurses will tell them [their version].”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Keep Northern Texts Out of Southern Schools

“The true cause of the War Between the States was the dignified withdrawal of the Southern States from the Union to avoid the continued breaches of that domestic tranquility guaranteed, but not consummated by the Constitution, and not the high moral purpose of the North to destroy slavery, which followed incidentally as a war measure.

As to the war itself and the result thereof, the children of the future would be astonished that a people fought so hard and so long with so little to fight for, judging from what they gather from histories now in use, prepared by writers from the North. They are utterly destitute of information as to events leading to the war. Their accounts of the numbers engaged, courage displayed, sacrifices endured, hardships encountered, and barbarity practiced upon an almost defenseless people, whose arms-bearing population was in the army, are incorrect in every way.

A people, who for four long years, fought over almost every foot of their territory, on over two thousands battlefields, with the odds of 5,864,272 enlisted men against their 600,000 enlisted men, and their coasts blockaded, and rivers filled with gunboats, with 600 vessels of war, manned by some 35,000 sailors, and who protracted the struggle until over one-half of their soldiers were dead from the casualties of war, had something to fight for.

They fought for the great principle of local self-government and the privilege of managing their own affairs, and for the protection of their homes and firesides.

The facts are that while the South has always been prominent in making history, she has left the writing of history to New England historians, whose chief defect is “lack of catholic sympathy for all the sections of the country.”

They especially treat the South as a section, almost as a foreign country, and while omitting the glaring faults of their own ancestors and their own section, they specialize the faults of the early Virginia colonists and the Southern colonists generally.

They speak of slavery as a crime for which the South is solely responsible . . . and ignore the historical fact that England and New England are as much responsible for it as their brothers of the South; that it was forced not only on New England, but on the South, by Great Britain, and in spite of the protests of Virginia and other Southern colonies.

The histories written by Northern historians in the first ten or fifteen years following the close of the war, dictated by prejudice and prompted by the evil passions of that period, (and generally used in the schools), are unfit for use, and lack all the breadth, liberality, and sympathy so essential to true history, and, although some of them have been toned down, they are not yet fair and accurate in the statement of facts.

Until a more liberal tone is indicated by Northern historians, it is best that their books be kept out of Southern schools. It is therefore important that that the Southern people be aroused and take steps to have a correct history written, a history, which will vindicate them from the one-sided indictment found in many of the histories now extant.”

(Report of the Historical Committee (excerpt), United Confederate Veterans, Gen. S.D. Lee of Mississippi, Chairman, presented at the Houston Reunion; Confederate Veteran, June 1895, excerpt, pp. 165-166)

Dec 31, 2016 - Lost Cultures, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Conservatives, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on State Government Solutions to Hard Times

State Government Solutions to Hard Times

Prior to federal intervention into State domestic affairs, governors saw their people as mostly self-reliant and able to carry themselves through hard times. Governor Max Gardner of North Carolina used State agencies and church charities to help his citizens through an economic depression and discourage dependency on government subsidies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

State Government Solutions to Hard Times

“The cries of these suffering people reached the highest government offices in Raleigh, and State leaders planned how to aid them. Governor Gardner and other leaders did not believe that State government should provide relief. They believed that relief was the responsibility of private agencies and local governments because they were closest to the people. Also, State leaders believed that able-bodied people should work for what relief they received. They thought that a dole would destroy character and turn people into beggars.

Governor Gardner did believe that the State should encourage people to help themselves. His first concern was for farmers because the prices of cotton and tobacco dropped sharply in 1929, greatly reducing farmers’ income. In December 1929, Gardner proposed his Live-at-Home program to help the farmers.

This program encouraged farmers to grow part of the $150 million of feed and foodstuffs that they normally imported from out of State for consumption on the farm. Gardner expected the program to improve the State economy and to make the farmers self-sufficient in home food production so that they could ward of starvation.

To start the program, Governor Gardner used existing State agencies. He persuaded President Eugene Clyde Brooks of NC State College to send demonstration agents among farm families to encourage gardens, canning and growing livestock feed. The governor also prevailed upon the State Department of Public Instruction to publicize Live-at-Home among schoolchildren.

For one week each year students learned about the importance of nutrition, of the cow, of the poultry, of the hog, and of the garden. Some 800,000 schoolchildren participated in a Live-at-Home essay contest. The governor presented silver loving cups to the winners, Ophelia Holley, a black girl from Bertie County, and Leroy Sossamon, a white boy from Cabarrus County. Supporting the State efforts, some eastern bankers and merchants refused credit to farmers who would not grow less cotton and tobacco, and more food.

To help establish [county] relief committees, Governor Gardner appointed a Council on Unemployment Relief in November 1930. The council created a separate relief organization for blacks. Lt. Lawrence A. Oxley, a pioneer black social worker in North Carolina provided the leadership to help blacks organize county committees, and a Statewide committee for advising the governor.

The raising of relief funds and dispensing of aid thus fell on public and private local agencies, which cooperated in their work. The most important private organization was the Community Chest, which raised money and distributed it to charitable agencies. The associated charities gave needy families food, clothing, fuel, and medical care.

The Salvation Army mainly gave vagrants hot meals and free lodging in exchange for a few chores, but it also aided needy families. The Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem treated 2650 patients in 1930, 1500 of them as charity cases. In 1932, the new Duke University Hospital reserved 250 of its 406 beds for the needy.”

(Hard Times, Beginnings of the Great Depression in North Carolina, 1929-1933, John L. Bell, NC Dept. of Cultural Resources, 1982, excerpts, pp. 43-45)

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

To Jefferson, the Revolution meant “not merely independence from British rule but also escape from the British system of government into republicanism.” He also abhorred political parties, or what he called sects,” and saw that all Americans as “federalists” – i.e., supporters of the Constitution and virtually all republicans, i.e., “believers in a republic rather than a monarchy.” And the States were the line of defense against government tendencies to consolidate power around itself.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

“On the eclipse of federalism, although not its extinction, [New England] leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing geographical division of parties, which might ensure them the next President.

The people of the north went blindfolded into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up.

To that has now succeeded a distinction, which, like that of republican and federal, or Whig and Tory, being equally intermixed through every State, threatens none of those geographical schisms, which immediately go to a separation.

The line of division now is the preservation of State rights as reserved in the Constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into consolidated government. The Tories are for strengthening the Executive and General Government; the Whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy.

Although this division excites, it is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.”

(Thomas Jefferson, to Marquis Lafayette, November 1823, Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P. Foley, editor, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900, excerpt, pp. 760)

Dec 28, 2016 - Antebellum Realities, Education, Lost Cultures, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Statesmen are Schoolboys First

Statesmen are Schoolboys First

Beginning in 1804, Dr. Moses Waddel’s Willington School in South Carolina produced great American leaders which included political giant John C. Calhoun, distinguished Charleston attorney James L. Pettigru, future US Congressman George McDuffie, future governor of Georgia George R. Gilmer, classical scholar Hugh Swinton Legare, and Augustus Baldwin Longstreet — noted preacher, editor and writer, author of ‘Georgia Scenes.” Dr. Waddel was born in Rowan County, North Carolina and licensed by the Presbytery of Hanover to preach in Virginia.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Statesmen are Schoolboys First

“Willington School, so named from a nearby settlement, got its character from its founder, Dr. Moses Waddel . . . [who] later became an outstanding educator in the South as president of the University of Georgia.

Dr. Waddel was a Presbyterian minister who first entered the educational field as a side line. He was a born educator, a veritable champion of learning in a community still emerging from the pioneer stage. It was in the year 1801 that he started his Willington School and at a time when education was not generally regarded in those parts as an essential. Most of the local farmers’ families had more practical uses for strong youngsters with sturdy arms and legs.

Despite obvious financial handicaps from the poor economy of the region, students came flocking to Dr. Waddel’s school, some at great sacrifice. In time there were two hundred and fifty students . . . Many were from poor families who somehow made provision for educating their sons.

The school consisted of a central hall, or “academy,” built of logs. About it were several other cabins, also built of logs and chinked with clay against the chill winds that blew off the river now and then in the winter season. The food was plain, mostly corn bread and bacon. Plain living, devotion to study, and high thinking formed the credo of Dr. Waddel.

[The] boys were turned loose in good weather along the river for study periods. There, scattered about under the oak and hickory trees, singly or in groups, they conned their Latin and Greek. The classics were the bases of Dr. Waddel’s curriculum, which seems to have been an innovation in educational methods for a secondary school. His formula and methods attracted interest among educators all over the country.

The routine was simple. In the early years of the school Dr. Waddel used a horn to arouse the students in the morning . . . [for] changing classes, and as a signal for shutting out lights. These were provided by pine knots rather than candles, then a rarity. [Dr. Waddel would often] step out of the central schoolroom and call the boys from their sylvan study periods with a loud “Books, books young men!” He inculcated a certain amount of self-rule and democracy by holding court every Monday morning to try offenders of the previous week. He acted as judge but the jury was made up of a panel of five students.

To this school here in the woods there came from the Long Cane section of Abbeville [South Carolina] . . . the almost equally austere John Caldwell Calhoun, a humorless sort of fellow, straight out of the rugged, God-fearing Calhoun clan of Scotch Covenanters. At nineteen he was a grown-up young man for those times. To prepare for entrance to Yale it was decided that he should go to Dr. Waddel’s school. Just after John Calhoun had left the school for Connecticut, the same neighborhood sent another promising youngster in James L. Pettigru . . . [though] His homespun clothes and rusty, rural manners were ridiculed by students from wealthier homes who sported broadcloth and fine linen.

Thus, Dr. Waddel’s school, with its emphasis on mental discipline, on the classics, and on history and philosophy, provided a cultural incubation for the politicians and statecraft to which some of its more promising students turned in after years. Its curriculum was conducive to the development of fine, flowing oratory, to the elaboration of closely drawn distinctions about the rights of the States versus the federal government. Its graduates went naturally from the law into politics.”

(The Savannah, Thomas L. Stokes, University of Georgia Press, 1951, excerpts, pp. 252- 260)

Dec 25, 2016 - Lost Cultures, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Christmas Must Proceed in 1864

Christmas Must Proceed in 1864

Christmas Must Proceed in 1864

“Varina Howell Davis, Mississippi-born wife of the Southern president declared, “That Christmas season was ushered in under the thickest clouds; every one felt the cataclysm which impended, but the rosy, expectant faces of our little children were a constant reminder that self-sacrifice must be the personal offering of each member of the family.”

Because of the expense involved in keeping them up, Mr.. Davis had recently sold her carriage and horses. A warm-spirited Confederate bought them back and sent them to her. Now she planned to dispose of one of her best satin dresses to obtain funds; with Christmas on the way, the children had high expectations, and she would use all possible makeshifts in an effort to fulfill them.

The Richmond housewives could find no currants, raisins, or other vital ingredients for old Virginia mincemeat pie. But, Mrs. Davis went on, the young considered at least one slice their right, “and the price of indigestion…a debt of honor due from them to the season’s exactions.”

Despite the war, apple trees still bore fruit; with these as a base, she and the other women of the city would utilize any other fruit that came to hand. A little cider and some salt were obtained, as was brandy, though its usual price was a hundred dollars a bottle in inflated Confederate currency.

As for eggnog, the Negro stable attendant, who brought in “the back log, our substitute for the Yule log,” said he did not know how they would “git along without no eggnog. Ef it’s only a little wineglass.” Plans progressed for a quiet home Christmas when unexpected word arrived: The orphans at the Episcopal home had been promised a tree and toys, cake and candy, plus a good prize for the best-behaved girl, and something had to be done about that.

Something was done. With Mrs. Davis’s help, a committee of women was set up and the members repaired to their children’s old toy collections to salvage dolls without eyes, monkeys that had lost their squeak, three-legged and even two-legged horses. They fixed and painted everything, plumping out rag dolls and putting new faces on them, adding fresh tails to feathered chickens and parrots.

The Davis’s invited a group of young friends on Christmas Eve to help make candle molds and string popcorn and apples for the tree; Mr. Pizzini, the confectioner, contributed simple candies. For cornucopias and other ornamentation the Davis’s guests used colored papers, bright pictures from old books, bits of silk out of trunks. All in all, the Christmas Eve of 1864 was far from unsatisfactory. When the small supply of eggnog went around, the eldest Davis boy assured his father: “Now I just know this is Christmas.”

(The Southern Christmas Book, Harnett T. Kane, David McKay Company, 1958, pp. 208-210)

 

Dec 24, 2016 - Lost Cultures, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Christmas on the Plantation

Christmas on the Plantation

Christmas on the Plantation

“No sooner was the harvest over, than preparations for Christmas began. Whole calves were barbequed, pigs roasted, while wild game and venison were hunted. For days ahead there was much cooking of plum pudding, fruit cakes, Sally White cakes, pies and all sorts of good things, (they make your mouth water to think of them). The big Yule log was brought in from the swamp the day before Christmas, where it had been soaking for weeks, the alert darkies knowing that as long as it burned in the “great house” they would stop working.

The mansion was elaborately dressed with evergreens, while branches of dried cedar dried hydrangea blooms were powdered with flour, making feathery white blossoms, as if in summer time. The holly tree was ornamented with long strings of popped corn, strung by the white and colored children.

Early Christmas morning the “Great House” was awakened by the singing of the darkies and voices calling out – “Ch’mas gif’, master, “Ch’mas gif”, mistress.” On the great tree were gifts for everyone on the plantation. In the low country of the South the Negroes dressed themselves as clowns, grotesque costumes (being known as “John Kunners”) and marched around ringing bells, as the danced, singing – “Ch’mas comes but once a year, hurrah Johnnie Kuner – give poor [Negro] one more cent, hurrah John Kunner.” With the passing of their hats, pennies were dropped by the “white folks.”

Words fail to express the Christmas dinner of the old plantation. In front of “Marster” was a roast pig (red apple in his mouth) or the largest gobbler. Innumerable were the desserts or sweet – syllabub, custard, trifle, wine jelly, cocoanut and lemon puddings, mince pies, every kind of cake, and Snow Balls especially for the children.

With the dinner, wines were served, made from the plantation scuppernong, James or Catawba grapes, or from the luscious blackberry. In the quarters was served a wonderful repast to the entire colored population, and their gayeties were shown in dancing the “double shuffle,” the “break down,” the “chicken in the bread tray,” and the “pigeon wing,” followed by the “cake walk.” Up in the Mansion the family and guests probably engaged in the Virginia Reel or other forms of dancing.

Until New Years’ Day, the festivities would continue, a party at every plantation within riding distance, each house overflowing with merriment. A plantation Christmas would not be complete without a fox hunt, for “to ride with the hounds” was one of the accomplishments necessary to the planter and his sons.

Space forbids further description of the happiness of life on an antebellum plantation in the South, but many of our Southern writers have given indelible pictures of the bond between master and slave, which was unique, will go down as an example of understanding affection. Without trying to condone the rare case of unkindness from planters toward their slaves, on the whole they were well treated and the hearts of the two races were closely knit in the old plantation system.

There was a personal interest in the heart of the planter and his family for these dusky folks who belonged to them. And they had a pride in their slaves that was reciprocated by them, who felt that their “White Folks” were better than any others.

In writing of the race problem (after the Sixties) Henry W. Grady of Georgia said: “As I recall my old plantation home, the spirit of my old Black Mammy from her home above the skies, looks down to bless me, and through the tumult of the night the sweet music of her crooning, as she held me in her arms and lead me smiling to sleep.” One writer says: “The old plantation life is gone, but in that era of the Old South were found the very finest and highest types of loyalty and of patriotism that America will ever know.”

(Plantation Life in the Old South (excerpt), Lucy London Anderson, The Southern Magazine, May 1934, page 10)

 

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