Thursday, June 4, 2015

June 4, 1861 - W. H. Russell visits a sugar plantation on the Louisiana coast

June 4 - If an English agriculturist could see six thousand acres of the finest land in one field, unbroken by hedge or boundary, and covered with the most magnificent crops of tasseling Indian
corn and sprouting sugar-cane, as level as a billiard-table, he would surely doubt his senses. But here is literally such a sight six thousand acres, better tilled than the finest patch in all the Lothians, green as Meath pastures, which can be turned up for hundred years to come without requiring manure, of depth practically unlimited, and yielding an average profit on what is sold off it of at least 20 an acre, at the old prices and usual yield of sugar. Rising up in the midst of the verdure are the white lines of the negro cottages and the plantation offices and sugarhouses, which look like large public edifices in the distance. ...

Six thousand acres on this one estate all covered with sugar-cane, and 16,000 acres more of
Indian corn, to feed the slaves ; these were great possessions, but not less than 18,000 acres still remained, covered with brake and forest and swampy, to be reclaimed and turned into gold. As easy to persuade the owner of such wealth that slavery is indefensible as to have convinced the Norman
baron that the Saxon churl who tilled his lands ought to be his equal. ...

The silence which struck me at Governor Roman's is not broken at Mr. Burnside's ; and when the last thrill of the mocking-bird's song has died out through the grove, a stillness of Avernian profundity settles on hut, field, and river.

[Note: These passages are based on notes Russell took June 4, but appear under the date June 3 in his book.]

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