Let me make this
clear before I start on this topic. I do not in any way shape
or form agree with slavery, Slavery should not exist anywhere
in the world. Now having said that let me tell you what I am trying
especially the Highlanders and Borderers were brought up in a clan
and family group environment. While they were by no means slaves
they did recognise the chief as their head. In many ways the
power of the chief was based on how many people he could bring to
In 1746 we had the
final battle on British soil which was the Battle of Culloden and
that battle effectively ended the power of the clans. In turn
that meant that the clan chiefs no longer saw their clans people as
assets and so we hear of the Highland Clearances where they
essentially replaced their people with sheep.
That in turn led to
major emigration to places like America and a lot of these
Highlanders settled in the Southern States of America.
When I first heard of
slavery it did make me wonder if this was another attempt at
building on a kind of clan society. Trying to understand more
about this I have from time to time looked for books on slavery so I
could better understand the way things were back then. What I
was particularly interested in was the living conditions of the
slaves and how they were treated to compare this with the situation
the Highlanders found themselves at the same period in Scotland.
I have found a text:
"Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with Former Slaves Kentucky Narratives. Author: Work
I will be making this
text available for you to read however I noted quite a lot of these
narratives describe living conditions which in many ways were
actually better conditions that many Highlanders found themselves in
the same period.
There was much
starvation in the Highlands at this period and of course especially
for those that were kicked off their land that they'd held for
generations. Many accounts show that the land they had was not
sufficient to feed them and hence many of the men took themselves to
the fishing grounds to earn a living and they would send money home.
In part that is why the product called black pudding came into being
as it was simply oats mixed with a little blood from their cattle.
The English at this period commented that while they fed oats to
their horses they noted it fed the people of Scotland.
were often very basic with two room homes with the people in one
room and the livestock in the other. So life was hard for the
Highlanders. Of course in the Borders the constant raids
between England and Scotland meant the people were always having
their livestock driven off and their crops burnt. Again not
conducive to a good standard of living.
So what I find
interesting is that many slaves actually had better living
conditions than many Scots of that same period. They certainly seem
to have been reasonably well fed. And just like the chiefs of old in
Scotland the slaves were a valuable asset.
And so in many
respects I feel the slave in America was actually better treated
than many Scots who subsequently became the slave owners. This made
me think that they were merely continuing the clan system they had
come from albeit by being slave owners but in their own way chiefs
of their "clan".
mercenary about it the slave was an asset as they had a value both
in monetary terms but also as labour. In Scotland the people were in
effect free labour for the chief but once the chief no longer saw
value in looking after them they were quick to discard them. And so
the only difference was that the Scots were not a monetary asset as
they could not be sold but they had been a monetary asset when they
could be used to bear arms for the chief.
And so this is the
background of many Scots who later emigrated to America and became
slave owners. What I have been trying to find, but still
haven't, is a factual account of a Scot that was a slave owner. And
so my efforts have been to try and find accounts of slaves that tell
something of their living and working conditions so I could compare
them with how the Scots lived in Scotland.
The two books I make
available here will give you a flavour about how the slaves were
treated and how they lived and worked. I am suggesting that
you compare these accounts with how the Scots lived and worked in
Scotland prior to emigration.
Slave Narratives: A Folk
History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former
Slaves Kentucky Narratives. Author: Work Projects Administration.
Slavery in Kentucky 1792 to 1865
by Ivan E. McDougle Ph.d.
For a bit of history
on the Highland Clearances see
Gloomy Memrories and for information on a typical home see