The ordinary mode of punishing the slaves is both cruel and barbarous. The masters seldom, if ever, try to govern their slaves by moral influence but by whipping, kicking, beating, starving, branding, cat-hauling, loading with irons, imprisoning, or by some other cruel mode of torturing. They often boast of having invented some new mode of torture, by which they have “tamed the rascals.” What is called a moderate flogging at the south is horribly cruel.
The masters whip for the smallest offences, such as not performing their tasks, being caught by the guard or patrol by night, or for taking any thing from the master’s yard without leave. For these, and the like crimes, the slaves are whipped thirty-nine lashes, and sometimes seventy or a hundred, on the bare back. One slave, who was under my care, was whipped, I think one hundred lashes, for getting a small handful of wood from his master’s yard without leave. I heard an overseer boasting to this same master that he gave one of the boys seventy lashes, for not doing a job of work just as he thought it ought to be done. The owner of the slave appeared to be pleased that the overseer had been so faithful. The apology they make for whipping so cruelly is, that it is to frighten the rest of the gang. The masters say, that what we call an ordinary flogging will not subdue the slaves; hence the most cruel and barbarous scourgings ever witnessed by man are daily and hourly inflicted upon the naked bodies of these miserable bondmen; not by masters and negro-drivers only, but by the constables in the common markets and jailors in their yards.
When the slaves are whipped, either in public or private, they have their hands fastened by the wrists, with a rope or cord prepared for the purpose: this being thrown over a beam, a limb of a tree, or something else, the culprit is drawn up and stretched by the arms as high as possible, without raising his feet from the ground or floor: and sometimes they are made to stand on tip-toe; then the feet are made fast to something prepared for them. In this distorted posture the monster flies at them, sometimes in great rage, with his implements of torture, and cuts on with all his might, over the shoulders, under the arms, and sometimes over the head and ears, or on parts of the body where he can inflict the greatest torment.
Occasionally the whipper, especially if his victim does not beg enough to suit him, while under the lash, will fly into a passion, uttering the most horrid oaths; while the victim of his rage is crying, at every stroke, “Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy!” The scenes exhibited at the whipping post are awfully terrific and frightful to one whose heart has not turned to stone; I never could look on but a moment. While under the lash, the bleeding victim writhes in agony, convulsed with torture. Thirty-nine lashes on the bare back, which tear the skin at almost every stroke, is what the South calls a very moderate punishment!
Many masters whip until they are tired–until the back is a gore of blood–then rest upon it: after a short cessation, get up and go at it again; and after having satiated their revenge in the blood of their victims, they sometimes leave them tied, for hours together, bleeding at every wound.– Sometimes, after being whipped, they are bathed with a brine of salt and water. Now and then a master, but more frequently a mistress who has no husband, will send them to jail a few days, giving orders to have them whipped, so many lashes, once or twice a day. Sometimes, after being whipped, some have been shut up in a dark place and deprived of food, in order to increase their torments: and I have heard of some who have, in such circumstances, died of their wounds and starvation.
On plantations, the evenings usually present scenes of horror. Those slaves against whom charges are preferred for not having performed their tasks, and for various faults, must, after work-hours at night, undergo their torments. I have often heard the sound of the lash, the curses of the whipper, and the cries of the poor negro rending the air, late in the evening, and long before day-light in the morning.
It is very common for masters to say to the overseers or drivers, “put it on to them,” “don’t spare that fellow,” “give that scoundrel one hundred lashes,” &c. Whipping the women when in delicate circumstances, as they sometimes do, without any regard to their entreaties or the entreaties of their nearest friends, is truly barbarous.
If negroes could testify, they would tell you of instances of women being whipped until they have miscarried at the whipping-post. I heard of such things at the south–they are undoubtedly facts.
Children are whipped unmercifully for the smallest offences, and that before their mothers. A large proportion of the blacks have their shoulders, backs, and arms all scarred up, and not a few of them have had their heads laid open with clubs, stones, and brick-bats, and with the butt-end of whips and canes–some have had their jaws broken, others their teeth knocked in or out; while others have had their ears cropped and the sides of their cheeks gashed out. Some of the poor creatures have lost the sight of one of their eyes by the careless blows of the whipper, or by some other violence.