Notes and Documents
The Plantation Journal of John B. Webster,
February 17, 1858-November 5, 1859
EDITED BY MAX S. LALE AND RANDOLPH B. CAMPBELL*
NEGRO SLAVERY IN THE UNITED STATES IS A HISTORICAL PERENNIAL.
Every generation must come to grips with its legacy from the "Pe-
culiar Institution," a process that involves answering some very large
questions. How, in a nation with great liberal and Christian ideals,
could some men hold other men as property? What did the institution
mean to southern society in general, to those who did not own human
property as well as to those who did? What was it like to be a slave-
holder? What was it like to be a slave? Was slavery profitable?
In answering these questions historians have worked from widely
varying perspectives and used, it seems, virtually every imaginable
source. Recently, for example, there has been a great deal of emphasis
on slave life and culture and the slave's role in shaping his own world.
This has led to special interest in slave narratives as a historical source.,
Regardless of perspective, however, virtually every investigation, even
those focusing on slave life and culture, depends heavily on one of the
oldest and most obvious sources of information on slavery-plantation
Plantation records, especially journals recording the daily life and
labor of slaves, are a doubly fascinating source to historians in that not
all of these records have yet been discovered and utilized. Some remain
*Max S. Lale is chairman of the Harrison County Historical Commission and vice-
president of the East Texas Historical Association. Randolph B. Campbell is a professor
of history at North Texas State University.
1See, for example, John W. Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the
Antebellum South (New York, 1972); Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World
the Slaves Made (New York, 1974); and Leslie Howaid Owens, This Species of Property:
Slave Life and Culture in the Old South (New York, 1976).
2The use of plantation records is common not only to recent works such as Roll, Jor-
dan, Roll and This Speczes of Property, but also to such standard accounts of slavery as
Ulrich B. Phillips, American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and
Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Rdgime (New York, 1918), and
Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery an the Ante-Bellum South (New
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/. Accessed April 26, 2015.