The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Advanced Placement United States History Study Guide

Period 4: 1800-1848

A northerner’s view of southern slavery, 1821

Aurelia Hale to her sister Sarah, June 11, 1821.  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Aurelia Hale of Hartford, Connecticut, offered her impressions of southern life in this letter of June 11, 1821. Hale, then about twenty-two years old, had recently traveled to Washington County, Georgia, to serve as a schoolteacher. Writing to her sister, she declared that the “manner of living” in the South was “better than at the North.” Georgians, she wrote, “differ in every respect from the Northerners, are much more agreeable, polite, attentive, and friendly.” Hale seemed to revel in southern gentility and aspired to a similarly privileged life, writing that since moving to the South, “I now can move in the sphere I have always wished to.”

Another aspect of southern life that Hale seemed to find agreeable was slavery. At first, she wrote, “we were astonished by the number of blacks; but now they have become quite familiar to us.” Initially taken aback by slavery, she soon found it “no inconvenience at all to be waited upon. I have one and sometimes two to attend me.” Hale was pleased with the lifestyle slavery allowed her, telling her sister, “We ride in state I assure you, with blacks on all sides. One little Negro stands behind the Carriage; With a face shining like a glass bottle.” She was evidently oblivious to the human costs and horrors of the institution that enabled the “manner of living” she preferred, writing that the slaves she encountered were “To appearance as happy as if worth thousands.”

A full transcript is available.

Excerpt

When we entered Savannah we were astonished at the number of blacks; but now they have become quite familiar to us, We find it no inconvenience at all to be waited upon. I have one and sometimes two to attend me. And can find them sufficient employment.

I like their manner of living here, better than at the North they have a greater variety of dishes, and the most of them entirely different from ours. . . .

I designed to write you a long letter, but Mrs [S]ansom’s Coach is wa[i]ting for us to ride. I will leave the remainder till I return; perhaps I shall get some new ideas. We ride in state I assure you, with blacks on all sides. One little Negro stands behind the Carriage; With a face shining like a glass bottle. To appearance as happy as if worth thousands.

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