January 28, 1838
I just had dinner, so I can write to you in relative peace, as it is almost nightfall. I am pleased to say that I have arrived safely at Uncle Dan's plantation. It was only the second time I had ridden a steamboat, and I must say that the experience was quite as enjoyable as the first time. It is exciting to see so much green for a change. The South is radically different from our home. Factories are scarce here, and farms are scattered all around the area. Although their industries cannot rival ours, never have I seen so many slaves in my life as I did when I set foot on southern soil. Well, that is obvious, as slavery is prohibited in the North. That may give them an edge because of the dominance of agriculture in their economy, but the slave systems are just so…unusual to me. Even though I've been here for a week, it is uncomfortable for me to see humans treated as property, even though they are slaves.
The first I saw of the slaves were the numerous field hands. Men, women, and even ten-year-old children worked in the "gang labor system". The slaves came out from their dirt-floor cabins long before I heard the cry of the rooster, and were back under their leaky roofs as soon as they heard the call for "lights out". I rarely saw a slave rest, and if I did, one of the drivers would whip them back to work, even if they had stopped out of fatigue or sickness. Even with a new coat and scarf, I couldn't stand to stay outside in the wintry weather, but the slaves had to work for endless hours with only simple, cheap, and coarse clothing. Not even a poor white would have to wear such clothing. A couple of days ago, I saw a slave try to run away. He kept crying that he needed to visit his sick sister, who worked at another plantation a few miles away. I watched in horror as he was forcibly thrown down into a ditch and left there. He was barely fourteen, and no one tried to help him. None of the slaves responded to his pleas for someone to rescue him, for fear of receiving the same punishment. When I asked Cousin Harold about it, he shrugged it off as a daily happening. I had always heard of the unjust punishment that the slaves received, but this was beyond anything I could ever have imagined.
Thank goodness that not all slaves are treated that way. After the incident, I sought for a distraction to relieve me of the ghastly experience. A clanging noise attracted me to a different part of the plantation, where I met Benny. He is slightly younger than you, and is a very kind man. Instead of field work, he does a skilled job: blacksmithing. Even though most of his wages goes to Uncle Dan's family, he gets to keep a part of the money he earns. Benny has even sold some of his services to others to earn extra money. He says that he wants to buy his freedom someday. I asked him about his family, and he told me his other goal: to find his wife and children, who were separated from him by means of an auction several years ago. I could see that he was very determined to get enough money to find them and buy their freedom as well. I felt so sorry for him, I…please, don't tell Uncle Dan about this…I gave him some extra money. If he found out, Uncle Dan would probably think that I was conspiring to set the slaves free. Ever since the infamous Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831, he's been paranoid about any slave uprisings. I'm not trying to damage his plantation – I'm only trying to help an honest man with a good cause. Is that a crime? You could almost compare it to women's rights…
I dozed off again. I must have fallen asleep right in the middle of writing my letter, and I woke up a couple of hours after midnight. My stomach was growling, so I trudged to the kitchen to find something to appease it. However, I was surprised to see one of the slaves already there. She quickly hurried to prepare something while I numbly stood there. Although she had passable clothing and looked better off, even the field slaves were asleep by then. I guess that's the setback for being a cook: getting improved living conditions, clothing, and food in exchange for longer working hours. Now that I think about it, I haven't ever seen any of the slaves that work in the house take a break. Why doesn't Uncle Dan let them…I hear a knock. Ah, it is the cook from before. She tentatively walks in and advises me to go to sleep. By now, I am writing by candlelight and my eyelids droop so much that half of my field of vision is cut off. Well, I guess that means it is time to close this letter. Don't worry, there is more to come. Tomorrow, Uncle Dan is letting me observe his cotton gins. I've always been fascinated about the invention that made many Southerners rich. I hope to learn more about the South, and maybe I can convince Cousin Harold to talk to Uncle Dan about the slaves.
Your loving daughter,
School assignment I did a long time ago. Sorry that I haven't done much. My old computer crashed last year, and I've been scrambling around for documents ever since. Oh, and that's not my real name in the letter. It's just the name of one of my friends back when I was in 5th grade, and it was similar to my PenName, so...yeah. Read and review, please.