SLAVE-OWNERS-L ArchivesArchiver > SLAVE-OWNERS > 2001-01 > 0980209524
Subject: [SLAVE-OWNERS] RE: Plantation Children Mortality Rate
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001 19:25:24 EST
Both of the below plantations were rice plantations:
Child Mortality in the Slave Population:
Englishwoman Frances Kemble, whose husband Pierce Butler owned a rice
plantation on the Altamaha River in Georgia, became famous for her Journal of
a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839.
In 1839 she had a conversation with nine of the female African American
slaves who worked on her plantation, Butler Island. All were still in their
childbearing years. She found that these nine women had had between them 55
children, or an average of over 6 each. Five of the children were stillborn,
12 were miscarried, and 24 had already died. In other words, out of 55
children, only 14 were still alive. As one slave explained, "I've lost a
many; they all goes so."
Gowrie Plantation, SC
Gowrie plantation was bought by Charles Manigault in 1833. Manigault has been
described as a "gentleman capitalist" and "cosmopolitan." He spoke French and
prided himself on his wealth and social status. He invested $49,500 in Gowrie
at its purchase; by 1861 the plantation was worth $266,000 – proving that it
was, in fact, a gold mine.
But Gowrie had a horrific child mortality rate Ninety percent of the children
died before they reached age 16. And this estimate doesn’t take into account
stillbirths or miscarriages. Between 1846 and 1854, there were 52 slave
births at Gowrie and 144 slave deaths, for a net loss of 92 African
Americans. In spite of this loss in "capital" (the dead slaves were worth at
least $44,000), Gowrie still managed to yield a 4% return on investment
between 1848 and 1854. And this was not unusual.
There were epidemics of measles, dysentery, and *cholera at Gowrie in 1848,
1850, 1852, 1853, and 1854. In addition, there were the chronic killers –
malaria and pleurisy. One white overseer at Gowrie complained to Manigault
that because water was "oozeing" out of the ground around the slaves' houses,
"I can't begin to get the ground dry under the houses."
Because of these conditions, mortality on Gowrie approached 50 percent. On
the day after Christmas in 1854, Louis Manigault wrote to his father:
As Lord Raglan would say to the Duke of Newcastle, so Can I to You, viz.:
that "it is now my painful duty to return You a list of the dead," and here
they are in the order in which they died. – Hester, Flora, Cain, George, Sam,
Eve, Cuffy, Will, Amos, Ellen, Rebecca, – Eleven from Cholera, and two
Children viz.: Francis and Jane not from Cholera. – In all Thirteen names no
longer on the Plantation Books."
It is telling to note Louis' attitude toward the newly dead. He does not
mourn the loss of the slaves' lives, but rather the reduction in the
plantation's labor force – and thus its value.
*Cholera is caused by the organism Cholera vibrio, which was carried to
Europe and North America from Asia in the early nineteenth century. It was
most often spread by contaminated water, but it could also be spread through
food or simply by touching one's hand to one's mouth. It was common in
crowded, unsanitary conditions – just like the ones in which most slaves were
forced to live.
Its symptoms came in a sudden, overwhelming attack. The first symptom was
dehydration, marked by vomiting and profuse diarrhea. This dramatic loss of
body fluid collapsed the tissue. Coagulated blood ceased to flow, skin turned
blue, and the heart and kidneys failed – often within just a few hours.
People who were perfectly healthy in the morning would die by nightfall. In
the time between, they suffered unspeakable agony.
Ruth in NC