Virginia slave owner complains about the abuse of his slave


Date Written

Aug. 10, 1852

The following was written 171 years, 1 month, 23 days ago.
It was a Tuesday.

August 10, 1853

My Dear Sir,

Aaron was sent home on Sunday by Davy, who brought a note from your son, informing me that he was not in a situation to attend to his business. From what I learn from Davy, it is evident he has been more or less deranged for the last four weeks, a part of the time a raving maniac, rendering it necessary to keep him chained at times & in this condition efforts were made by the overseers to restore his reason by whipping & breaking him over the head & stamping on his head when tired & stretched out naked on the ground.

From this situation he was only relieved by a knowledge of his condition becoming known to your son, who thought it best to send him to me by Davy. On their way, he was very unmanageable, made attempts to kill Davy, & got away from him & finally succeeded in making his escape & was found roving about by some persons near Nottoway C.H. who ran him down by dogs & brought him to the C.H. [Court House], where they met with Davy, who had gone there to get a assistance in catching him.

The jailer refused to let him stay in jail on Saturday night & Davy had to bring him on the side of the C.H., tie him to a tree & set & watch him all night. I heard of his situation at court & requested our family physician to call & see him, as soon as he possibly could do so.

He is now perfectly quiet, but evidently not in his right mind, and I am totally at a loss as what may be the result of his attack. He has no clothes, nor could any of his be found when Davy started with him from the rail road. I presume it unnecessary to await any reply from you on the subject, but will supply him with such as will answer for the present.

Davy tells me that the harsh treatment he has received was not known to you, nor was your son aware of the extent to which he had been abused, tho' I perceive from your son's note, that a suspicion has been raised in his mind that Aaron might be merely feigning derangement. Davy speaks in terms of warm & grateful praise of your son's management, but makes no complaint of any of the overseers, so far as he was personally concerned. And I trust that the revelation he has made in relation to the treatment of Aaron may be considered under the circumstances as just & proper by you.

Davy & Aaron are the only two Negroes of value that I own & when I hired them to you for $10 each, less than [I] was offered by others, it was from a conviction that I was entrusting my property to the care of one in whose humanity & sense of justice I might safely confide.

Davy says that when he left, he was told by one of the overseers to bring all his clothes, as it was not probable he would be permitted to visit his wife again 'till Xmas, as there was some thoughts of carrying him over the mountains.

I have never yet heard from any person that has ever hired him any word of complaint & as much as he has been faithful & true to his hirers, as well as myself, I hold it my duty to intercede so far in his behalf, as to request you will not permit your overseers to deprive him of the opportunity of going to see his wife at reasonable intervals.

In writing the foregoing, I was only influenced by a desire to bring to your knowledge circumstances in which I am deeply interested & I do now most emphatically disclaim the slightest feeling of resentment towards yourself or your son. I shall expect to hear from you soon & in the event Aaron should soon recover from his attack of derangement, I wish to know where you wish him sent--

Very respectfully,
E. H. Baines

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