Mar 10, 2011 - Sale 2239

Sale 2239 - Lot 18

Price Realized: $ 3,600
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 5,000 - $ 7,500
PLANTER WILLIAM SMITH MOVES 160 SLAVES FROM ALABAMA TO LOUISIANA (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) SMITH, WILLIAM. Autograph Document Signed, contracting with Andrew C. Barnett, to oversee the forced migration of 160 slaves from his Alabama plantations to his Red River plantation in Louisiana. Single folio leaf, written on one side in a clear, but shaky old man's hand; docketed on the reverse. Alabama, 1839

Additional Details

a rare and important document, signed by a well-known cotton planter. William Smith (1762-1840) is considered by many historians to be the epitome of the "Simon Legree" character from Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. He was known to have literally worked his slaves to death to produce some of the largest cotton crops in the South. Smith, a lawyer, had risen from virtually nothing to exceeding wealth and power in South Carolina. Leaving that state in 1833, he established himself on several plantations at the juncture of the Red River and Cane River, in Louisiana, but spent most of his time at his other plantations in milder Huntsville. He had "sold all his South Carolina real estate, but not his slaves, and he had hundreds, from newborn infants to elderly men and women. And when he went West, they came too. Reports vary as to how many Negroes were forced to migrate to the Louisiana frontier. But it was a massive, cruel expedition, a perverse caricature of the wagon trains that carried the white settlers to freedom and opportunity in the West. . .the heat and humidity were oppressive and disease was ever-present. The muddy Red was undrinkable; the slaves had to collect rainwater when it came." (Charles Lane, The Day Freedom Died: the Colfax Massacre, The Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction, page 29.)
The contract, signed by both Smith and Barnett, states: "Mr. Andrew C. Barnett engages to go from Huntsville to my plantations on Alabama River and take charge of about 160 Negroes, big an (sic) little; of about 50 head of horses and mules; about 50 head of oxen and milk cows; 7 horse wagons; and 2 ox carts; and to be superintended their removal to my plantations on Red River. For this service of Mr. Barnett I have given him a new overcoat, am to furnish him a horse to ride, pay his traveling expenses, going and coming, and to pay him fifty dollars, besides allowing all the time of his absence to be counted in his engagement to overseer for. He is to discharge this business as speedily as he can with safety to what he has charge, and to be answerable for no accidents, unless where he may be guilty of neglect." Smith died in late Spring of 1840 and Meredith Calhoun, husband of Smith's granddaughter, took over. At the bottom of the contract is a note in Barnett's hand: "Received of Meredith Calhoun fifty-two dollars 70 cts principal & interest together with a new over coat for the performance of the above agreement, Andrew C. Barnett."