IN EARLY APRIL 1891 JOSEPH JONES, A RENOWNED PHYSICIAN AND THE youngest son of Rev. Charles Colcock Jones, made a pilgrimage from his residence in New Orleans to his childhood home in Liberty County, Georgia. (1) His return was motivated in part by nostalgia. Joseph had not seen the old homestead since leaving in 1863 to serve in the Civil War. (2) His nineteen-year-old son, who accompanied him on the trip, brought a camera to capture Joseph's homecoming in a series of photographs. The snapshots, seven in all, show the places that members of the Jones family held dear--Midway Church, their plantation home at Monte Video, and patriarch Charles Colcock Jones's tomb. (3) Upon receiving copies of the photographs, Joseph's older brother, Charles Colcock Jones Jr., vowed, "I will take good care of them and they will serve to recall memories of localities consecrated by recollections most precious." (4)
The brothers shared a nostalgic affection for the places and a way of life that, from their point of view, had been marred by war. The young photographer, however, captured something more than the locales and sentiments of his father's generation. All but two of the pictures included images of African Americans. The appearance of local black residents in a white family's snapshots reminds us that these were their places too. Stepney West, Niger Fraser, and many others caught on film that day lived and worked on the Jones family's plantations both before and after emancipation. (5) Their inclusion in the family's photos, taken twenty-six years after the war's end, whisper of the longstanding connections among the Joneses, their former slaves, and the place both groups called home. (6)
Joseph's return to Liberty County also served a practical aim. For years he had refused his brother Charles's repeated requests to sell two of the family's Lowcountry plantations--Maybank and Monte Video--because Joseph believed that one day he might return there to live. (7) At age fifty-eight and in failing health, he must have felt that it was time to make a decision. His journey home, however, proved to be a harsh awakening. The old landmarks and his relationships with the men and women of his youth had changed, something that his older brother understood all too well. Joseph left Liberty and never returned.
Unlike Joseph, Charles had visited Liberty County every year since their mother's death in 1869. Usually he made the journey, first from Brooklyn, New York, and later from Augusta, Georgia, during the first week of January. He went there to protect and preserve their Monte Video home, to settle accounts with tenants on Monte Video and Maybank plantations, and to sell the lots carved from the family's third plantation, Arcadia. (8) In between these visits, Charles relied on his family's former slaves to watch over the homesite, collect rents from tenants, broker land sales, and maintain his father's burial plot. (9) In return for their efforts, the freedpeople expected and received the typical benefits of patronage, such as extra allotments of food and supplies, occasional gifts of cash and clothing, and the modest amount of prestige and protection that came from their association with a wealthy white family. (10)
The Jones family was unique because of patriarch Charles Colcock Jones Sr.'s reputation as a benevolent slaveholder and his mission to provide slaves an oral, religious education. But in other ways, the Joneses were very much like their Liberty County neighbors after the war. They lost the source of their wealth, experimented with different labor-management practices, struggled to re-establish their plantations and reap a modest profit, argued with unscrupulous white overseers, and attempted to find "suitable" buyers for their Lowcountry properties. And they, like many of their wealthy neighbors, left the area after several years of suffering poor returns from their plantations. (11)
Members of this family are unusual, however, in that their propensity for writing and preserving letters and other records has left scholars with nearly thirty years of extant postwar correspondence between members of the Jones family and black Liberty County residents, many of whom had been slaves of the Joneses. This remarkable but underutilized source of correspondence tells us why the Jones family remained connected to a handful of former slaves and discloses how members of each group used their connections to the other to further their own interests. It also illustrates how the transition to freedom forced a renegotiation of blacks' "proper place" and shows how black and white relationships to the land and to each other changed from one generation to the next. Moreover, the Jones family's well-established reputation for adhering to a paternalistic ideology and honoring aristocratic ideals makes this family uniquely suitable for an examination of how paternalism was transfigured by freedom.
The words paternalism and patronage are often used interchangeably because both prioritize face-to-face interactions over those based on impersonal, contractual relations, involve informal norms of gift-giving, couch acts of giving as expressions of benevolence, and express the relationship between benefactor and recipient as a pairing between individuals of unequal status and power. (12) Yet few historians, if any, would argue that the "web of paternalism" associated with slavery and the social relations that emerged between former masters and their former slaves after emancipation were one and the same. Most scholars agree that whereas slavery imposed a hierarchical structure within which the paternalist sought to keep bondpeople in a dependent, childlike position, freedom transformed paternalism by releasing former masters from traditional obligations, thereby taking from freedpeople what little protection they had enjoyed as slaves. (13) Freedom, however, also gave African Americans unprecedented opportunities to act as self-directed adults. Even within the most restrictive environment, blacks tested the boundaries of freedom by challenging old expectations. The very act of emancipation created an incongruence between planters' beliefs about blacks and their behavior toward blacks. Planters may have questioned whether blacks were capable of providing for themselves in freedom, but the white plantation owners lacked the authority to re-create the old paternal relations wherein they exercised sole say over the extent of blacks' autonomy.
For example, writing to his mother in the spring of 1866, Charles Colcock Jones Jr. expressed a purely paternalistic point of view when he described blacks as childlike "in intellect," stressing that "the Negro" had always been "improvident, incapable of appreciating the obligations of a contract, ignorant of the operation of any law other than the will of his master, careless of the future, and without the most distant conception of the duties of life and labor...." He concluded that it would take time and "fear of the law," in combination with "kindness and instruction," before freedpeople would fully appreciate and carry out their new duties and responsibilities. Yet eight months later, after having made concessions to freedpeople in order to secure a labor contract for 1867, Charles was perplexed and angered by what he construed as ingratitude on the part of his ex-slaves. (14) But they were not the spoiled or disgruntled children he imagined them to be. The freedpeople on his plantation had used their limited leverage to negotiate as self-directed adults.
Initially Charles, like many former slaveholders, interpreted freedpeople's behavior as either trustworthy, faithful, and honorable or irresponsible, ungrateful, and immoral, depending on how willing blacks were to honor old roles and expectations. The fact that blacks were demanding more than Charles was prepared to offer offended his paternalist sensibilities. If he had been able to sell his family's holdings in Liberty County or if there had been reliable whites to do his bidding, he might not have needed blacks to work his land or keep him informed. Had he been able to free himself from his Liberty County obligations, he might have cut all ties to Liberty's blacks, even the most trusted of his former slaves. But that was not the case. Despite any lingering paternalistic sentiments, Charles's relationship with his former retainers was shaped by circumstances beyond his control. Necessity--rather than charity or benevolence--bound Charles to the people on his land.
Likewise, it was not old habits, loyalty, or traditional obligations that convinced many of the Joneses' former slaves to remain and labor on the family's plantations for three decades. Their decision to stay rested in part on the fact that these were their plantations too. (15) Their homes were there, their kin were there, they had personal knowledge of the Joneses, and they were familiar with the local community and its workings. (16) Those blacks who had held a favored position within the Joneses' household during slavery used their connection to the family to garner personal favors. And in turn, their relationship with the Joneses served the larger black community. Former house servants and plantation foremen often acted as middlemen between local blacks and wealthy, more powerful whites.
In short, the experiences of the Joneses and their former slaves serve as a lens through which to better understand the shifting racial landscape after emancipation. (17) Although the passage from master-slave paternalism to landlord-laborer patronage was triggered by planters' loss of wealth in human chattel and blacks' need to survive as owners of their own labor, the renegotiation of black-white relationships was rooted in local customs, economic conditions, and old connections to white families. Consequently, the unraveling of paternalism was neither uniform nor complete across place. When the opportunity presented itself, blacks used their personal relationships with whites to create new safety nets of patronage, just as whites tried to maintain dominance by recreating economic incentives for "upholding traditional race etiquette." (18) This essay illustrates how patronage was negotiated and why personal knowledge of the other was key to maintaining the client-patron relationship. It begins in the turmoil of postwar Georgia.
The aftermath of the war left life unsettled in Liberty County, and the Joneses, like other planters, experimented with different labor arrangements, both over time and across plantations. Their seaside plantation, Maybank, remained idle and uncultivated for some years after 1865 because, according to Charles Colcock Jones Jr., "Yankee rascals or other plunderers [had] burned every house on the place," but the Joneses struggled to reclaim control over laborers and production at their other two Liberty County plantations, Monte Video and Arcadia. (19)
In the months immediately following emancipation, a sickly John N. Fennell, the overseer at Monte Video, tried to stifle threats of insurrection. In September 1865 he requested help from Union troops to squelch a challenge from laborers that was organized and led by the Joneses' former slave driver at Monte Video, Cato. (20) It was not the first time Cato had caused problems for the family. Nine months prior, Cato, who had been laboring on Charles's plantation in Burke County, told Union troops where sixteen mules and two horses were hidden and then, according to the overseer, promptly ran off with the mules, horses, and the wagons. Cato's actions were enough to convince Mary Jones that her longtime foreman had become "insolent, indolent, and dishonest" and was no longer welcome at Monte Video. (21)
In response to Cato's "betrayal," Mary Jones wanted Stepney West, formerly a slave driver at Arcadia plantation, to assume Cato's responsibilities at Monte Video. Although Stepney, who like Cato had been laboring at Charles's Burke County plantation at war's end, was anxious to return to Liberty County, he did not wish to manage laborers at Monte Video. His motives, however, were personal enough that he wanted to speak directly to Mary Jones. Charles assured his mother that "under the circumstances" he felt Stepney's reasons were valid. (22) Despite whatever inducements Mary might have offered, Stepney refused to live or manage laborers there.
William Quarterman, the white overseer at Arcadia, was faring little better than Fennell was at Monte Video. (23) By the end of October 1865 the laborers had abandoned the fields in search of employment opportunities elsewhere. Moreover, both overseers reported that, like their laborers, the cotton had all but disappeared. In order to reestablish production at Monte Video in 1866, Charles had to sell the furnishings from his Savannah home. With the proceeds he purchased mules, a wagon, farming utensils, and household stores and paid off all the expenses associated with the family's Liberty County properties. But Charles's exasperation with thievery, labor disputes, and growing debt prompted him to suggest to his mother that with a few exceptions it might be in their best interest "to get rid of all those who had formerly been our slaves and hire new ones." (24) He also proposed that they sell Arcadia at the earliest possible moment but doubted that he could obtain what he thought the property was worth, "fifteen dollars in gold per acre." (25) Until a buyer could be found for Arcadia, however, the family agreed to lease it to another white overseer, John Mann. (26)
Mann assumed responsibility for Arcadia in January 1866, but the Joneses' opinion of him quickly soured when he refused to enter into a written contract with Mary Jones. Despite Mann's arrogant behavior, he was permitted to remain. At year's end he returned "about a bag and a half" of cotton and "about twenty-five bushels of corn and a little rice...." (27) Charles, dissatisfied with Mann's attitude and performance and frustrated by the paucity of interested buyers for Liberty County lands, was receptive when Stepney West approached him about assuming full responsibility for Arcadia. Charles proposed that the family allow Stepney to plant the place "with some thirty hands...." Charles wrote, "If he will furnish the labor, seed, etc., he should respond to us for one-third of the crop, he and the laborers assuming all expenses." (28) He described his decision to lease Arcadia to a freedman as an "experiment in behalf of the free Negro." (29) Allowing Stepney to lease Arcadia, however, proved to be a prudent decision. Stepney's returns from Arcadia in 1867 totaled $105, an amount slightly higher than that which Daniel Broughton, the white overseer at Monte Video, made for the Joneses that same year. (30)
Daniel Broughton managed operations at Monte Video both in 1866 and 1867. The specifics of the freedpeople's contract at Monte Video for 1866 are unknown, but it is clear that Charles was frustrated by their demands to alter the 1867 contract. After making some concessions, Charles described the terms of that year's contract as "not absolutely desirable" but "the best which could be secured...." He felt that "everything considered," the final terms of the agreement were "tolerably fair, if fully carried into effect." But having to make concessions to freedpeople annoyed Charles. Exasperated, he tried persuading his mother "not to bother herself with the ingrates, but to shut up shop and make her home with her children." (31)
The labor contract for Monte Video in 1867 specified that tenants would be furnished with a house and permitted to cut and use wood for fencing, fuel, cooking, and general repairs. Mary Jones would furnish seed, plow animals, and farming utensils and would supply tenants with garden plots for their exclusive use, just as had been done under slavery. In return, men and women "must prepare, plant, cultivate, and harvest in proper manner ... one and a half acre of long-staple cotton, and one half acre of corn, each, and apiece." These crops belonged exclusively to Mary Jones. Freedpeople were also expected to "perform all labor that may be deemed necessary in splitting rails, in making fences, in repairing dams, in general repairs about the plantation, and generally in such services as may be beneficial." Near the end of the contract, as if the laborers had demanded yet one more concession, Mary Jones added, "It is further agreed that the women shall plant one half acre less [in cotton] than the men." (32)
Changes in the labor contracts reflected the shift in social relations. Initially the Joneses imposed all management decisions, but the bitter reality of postwar economics in Liberty County, coupled with a lack of interested buyers for Arcadia and the family's desire to preserve their Monte Video home, gave freedpeople leverage. Although Charles often dressed his concessions in paternalistic motives, blacks were able to exploit the family's needs, and by making themselves useful to the Joneses, they increased their autonomy and advanced their own welfare.
Lackluster profits and societal uncertainty eventually led even Mary Jones to question her reasons for remaining in Liberty. In the fall of 1867 Charles wrote to his mother, who was visiting his brother Joseph in Nashville, to say that he had "tried in vain to effect a sale" of Arcadia but that "the unsettled conditions in the county and the decline in cotton purchasers from abroad" had made it impossible to entice suitable buyers. (33) Charles concluded that "No one will wish to be there who can reside elsewhere." (34) He pleaded with her "not to entertain for a moment the idea of returning and living" in Liberty County: "So entirely have the foundations of Society been upturned, so sadly have all the characteristics of Southern Society been changed, so utterly have all the old land marks been removed that we can never again expect a return of the happiness, the joy, the independence, and the honorable life we once enjoyed." (35) By year's end, laborers at Monte Video returned "one bale of cotton and about twenty bushels of corn," and Mary Jones earned a total of ninety dollars. (36) The overseer, however, had contracted for a wage of four hundred dollars and was unwilling to share in the family's losses. Though Charles eventually forced Daniel Broughton to settle for half that amount, the unprofitable season was demoralizing to the Jones family. (37) Defeated, Mary Jones took her son's advice and left the county to live with her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Robert Mallard, in New Orleans. (38)
The failed attempts to attract a buyer for Arcadia, coupled with the fact that no one from the immediate family remained in Liberty to watch over their house and properties, required the Joneses to make a series of decisions that bound them for the next thirty-odd years to a small group of former slaves. Stepney West was asked to continue as manager of their Arcadia property and once again to return a one-third share of the product. Mary Jones requested that he also assume responsibility for caring for her husband's tomb at Midway Church. The Joneses' former house servant and carriage driver, Gilbert Lawson, was asked to serve as plantation foreman and to report on affairs at Monte Video. "Mom" Lucy, also a former house servant, and her husband, Charles Holmes, were asked to "live over at the lot and take care of the house." She would be entrusted with preparing the house for Charles Colcock Jones Jr.'s annual visits and for keeping reserve allotments of grain and supplies under lock and key. (39)
Upon leaving Monte Video, Mary Jones changed the tenant contract once again. No longer would she provide plow animals or farming utensils, although she would continue to set aside garden plots for freedpeople's exclusive use. She also expected each male laborer to "deliver 400 pounds of good, clean, well-picked and well-dried, long-staple, black seed cotton, of good quality and honest weight--and also 10 bushels of clean, shelled, winnowed, good Indian corn, of standard weight, or the equivalent of same in money at the market value of the said cotton and corn." The women were to hand over "300 pounds of long-staple, black seed cotton" and eight bushels of Indian corn, or the same in cash. Either the "first cotton and corn harvested" or the money had to be "paid before December 24, 1868." (40) None of the hands met these conditions, however. Although married couples were expected to produce a total of seven hundred pounds of cotton and eighteen bushels of corn, the most that any family returned that year was two hundred pounds of cotton and ten bushels of corn. (41)
Perhaps frustrated by their inability to directly supervise operations or maybe because they realized that their expectations of laborers were unrealistic, the Joneses made further modifications to the labor contracts for both Monte Video and Arcadia at year's end. Beginning in 1869, laborers at Monte Video were to cultivate long-staple cotton, corn, and rice. No area was to be set aside for garden plots, and freedpeople would have to either turn over a one-third share of all crops grown on the property or pay twenty dollars per adult male and twelve dollars per adult female. Older children were charged a prorated share. The contract at Arcadia was also altered. Although Stepney continued to supervise, male laborers were charged eighteen dollars per year, and females were to pay twelve dollars. In addition, restrictions within both contracts suggest that the family was increasingly concerned about trespassers and encroachments on its property. (42) Charles had already turned down a request to build a school on Arcadia land because "It would, in the present condition of things, be but an opening to complications, losses, etc., etc." (43)
Both the Jones family and the tenants welcomed aspects of the new rental arrangement. Leasing land to freedpeople for a fixed cash payment, rather than a share of the product, must have been particularly appealing to the Joneses, given that they had suffered several years of poor returns on shares and experienced a few disagreeable associations with overseers. Share-tenancy required constant monitoring in order to ensure that laborers complied with the terms of the contract. Renting for cash, however, reduced the Joneses' obligation of providing for tenants, although the family continued to keep allotments of grain and supplies on hand. (44) If workers shirked their responsibilities, they were still obliged to pay the Joneses a fixed quantity of goods or a sum of money at the end of the year. Renting for a fixed payment may have also appealed to the Joneses' tenants. They could choose what and how much they would plant or decide not to plant at all, as long as they had the money to pay their lease at year's end. (45) This gave blacks an opportunity to seek wages off the farm yet have control over what and how much they planted on the farm. The new regime presented one new challenge, however. Not having a family member present in the community made screening potential renters, collecting rents, protecting property, and staying informed all the more difficult for the Joneses. In order to insure that certain tasks were performed and that the property was protected, they would either have to risk hiring more white overseers or grant responsibility to the people they knew best--their former slaves. They chose the latter.
Stepney West helped to implement two approaches that the Joneses took while trying to earn money from their land in Liberty County. Stepney initially managed operations at Arcadia from 1867 until 1872, at which point the Joneses cut the two-thousand-acre plantation into twenty-five parcels and put the land up for sale. (46) In return for Stepney's assistance, Charles Colcock Jones Jr. gave him his pick of lots. Stepney selected a ninety-acre plot of mostly high ground for which he paid $270 over a period of three years. Stepney became the first person to own a slice of Arcadia on January 1, 1875. (47) The Joneses were following the lead of other Liberty County planters when they divided their plantation in hopes of selling unwanted land. (48) Charles explained to Joseph, who was unsure about selling Arcadia, that a typical lot varied in size from fifty to a hundred acres. (49) Once a bond for title was made, aspiring landowners had three to five years to pay off the balance. By subdividing Arcadia's two thousand acres into twenty-five lots and selling them for $3 per acre, Charles hoped to earn $6,000, nearly twice what his father had paid for the plantation. Charles warned his brother that they should sell the property "or matters will continue as they are, growing worse every year." (50) Joseph acquiesced. Finding suitable parties to purchase the lots, however, also fell to Stepney West.
During Charles's annual visits to Liberty County, one day was spent at Stepney's house meeting prospective buyers, drafting bonds for titles, collecting payments on the lots already under contract, and making out deeds to those who were completing their purchases. Stepney brokered these transactions. He was responsible for finding and screening interested buyers, collecting payments from those who could not meet with Jones, and removing troublemakers from the property. For instance, both George B. Snowden, a black schoolteacher from Augusta, Georgia, and Floyd S. Snelson, a black minister and schoolteacher with the American Missionary Association (AMA), had expressed an interest in buying Arcadia property. Stepney, however, informed Charles that he had granted the opportunity to purchase land to Snowden. Stepney felt that Snowden's offer was preferable because he wanted to buy the entire ninety-two-acre parcel, whereas Snelson wanted to contract for only ten acres. (51)
It was probably William A. Golding--who was in the process of buying seventy-five acres from the Joneses--who advised Snowden and Snelson to speak to Stepney about the property. (52) Golding knew the Jones family through their mutual involvement with Midway Congregational Church. Like his father and grandfather, he had been an active member of the church as a slave. (53) A three-term representative to the Georgia legislature after the war, he also was instrumental in establishing schools for freedpeople in Liberty County. (54) Acting on the behalf of his constituents, Golding wrote the American Missionary Association in 1870 to request that the organization send a "colored" teacher of "good moral character" and a "preacher, if possible." (55) The AMA responded by establishing its first school in the county in 1871. Floyd Snelson assumed his post as an AMA teacher and minister in 1874. The following year, Snowden, along with Snelson's brother, were also hired to teach school. (56)
Perhaps as a gesture of appreciation or maybe hoping to win influence, William Golding pledged the Arcadia property he was buying from the Joneses to the American Missionary Association. The AMA, however, could not claim rights to the property until Golding completed the purchase and received clear title. When Charles made his annual stopover at Stepney West's house in 1876, William Golding was there to meet with him. It was Golding's third and last year to pay on the property, but he only had twenty dollars of the final seventy-five-dollar payment. Not wanting to borrow money, he asked if he could have an extension. According to Golding, Jones agreed to give him another eighteen months, without any penalty of interest, to complete the purchase. (57)
When word got out that Golding had not completed the terms of the contract, Snelson was alarmed, and he hastily intervened. (58) He feared that Golding, and thus the AMA, would lose the property if Jones reneged on his oral agreement to extend the sale. Golding, however, maintained that there was no need to be in a hurry, asserting that "Jones is honest." (59) But Snelson was so convinced that a gullible Golding had acted irresponsibly that he hurried to Savannah in hopes of intercepting Jones before he returned to New York. (60) Snelson and the AMA's white Superintendent of Missions for the Savannah area, Robert F. Markham, located and met with Jones. They asked him to put this oral agreement in writing. Reportedly Jones refused, asking "Can't you trust me for that little matter?" (61) Neither Markham nor Snelson felt that they could. Snelson handed over thirty-five dollars of his own money, and Markham contributed twenty so that the contract could be executed. Jones then delivered title to the land. In Markham's official report of the incident he said, "I fear this Jones will cheat half the colored people out of all their payments." He went on to quip, "I would not trust Jones further than I would a dog with my dinner." (62)
Golding's view of the situation differed from both Snelson's and Markham's, in part because he knew Jones. Golding had used his personal relationship with Jones to ask for a favor, and Golding readily accepted the agreement at face value because to do otherwise would have been an insult. Nevertheless, Markham, a white abolitionist from the Midwest, saw Jones's behavior as a blatant example of the southern slave aristocracy's mentality. In Markham's eyes, Jones's unwillingness to put the extension in writing was little more man vulgar exploitation.
Snelson's motivations for disputing Golding's claim of an extension, rushing to Savannah, and meeting with Jones in Markham's presence probably had less to do with his distrust of a white planter than it did with his dislike of Golding. Snelson and Golding were feuding. (63) Both men wanted a say in how the AMA ran its schools and who should teach in them. Golding had learned the rudiments of literacy while a slave, whereas Snelson's formal education included training at Atlanta University. Snelson perhaps felt that Golding's lack of formal education made him particularly susceptible to Jones's influence. Or maybe he suspected that Golding was not interested in consummating the contract and titling the deed to the AMA. Either way, Snelson was no more willing to trust Golding than he was Jones. (64)
Although Jones thought that blacks needed guidance from whites and that he personally had an obligation to set an example, his decision to sell Arcadia to local residents, all of whom were black, was not a paternalistic offering. It was a prudent solution to a grim economic reality. No one had expressed an interest in buying the entire tract, so the plantation was broken into small parcels. The family sold to blacks, just as other whites in the area had done, because the freedpeople were willing buyers. Jones agreed to give Golding more time because he had made a good-faith effort to fulfill the contract, had not caused any "trouble," and because no one, black or white, was waiting in the wings to buy the lot. (65)
In short, Jones may have embraced paternalistic attitudes, but the institutional structure for invoking and enforcing those relations had been drastically altered. In the master-slave relationship, the downward movement of goods or services was limited to what masters chose to give. Masters could be beneficent or barbarous, but it was always their choice whether or not to bestow protection or provide guidance in return for their slaves' labor and loyalty. Although the patron-client relationship was far from egalitarian, it differed from paternalistic relations in that without the institutional corset of slavery white landlords had to cultivate relationships with blacks based on the principle of quid pro quo, rather than pure coercion or tradition. Freedpeople, unlike slaves, were not solely dependent on the choices and whims of a master. Despite their lower status, blacks could use the autonomy they did have to initiate services, seek specific rewards, and search out new sponsors. (66) Finding and encouraging a relationship with a benevolent patron was one way freedpeople could maneuver within the South's restrictive environment. Gilbert Lawson, the Joneses' former house servant and carriage driver, certainly understood that.
Gilbert's fidelity to the Jones family, from their point of view, was beyond question. Mary Jones had once described his conduct as noble, and Charles Colcock Jones Jr. claimed that Lawson was "a good fellow" who was "entirely obedient and trustworthy." (67) Gilbert's loyalty, whether imagined or real, was often rewarded. In January 1866 Mary Jones contracted to give Gilbert "six dollars per month, the customary allowance of corn per week, two suits of clothing, a comfortable home and land to plant for gardening purposes" in exchange for his personal services and labor around Monte Video. (68) That same month, Gilbert wrote to Charles Colcock Jones Jr. to ask that Gilbert's elderly parents also be given allowances of corn. Charles, in turn, wrote his mother, who was with Gilbert at Monte Video, to ask that Gilbert's request be granted, saying that "He has been so faithful that I am willing to do so, especially since his wages are very low." (69) Soon thereafter, Charles sent Gilbert a new suit and a watch to replace one that had been stolen by Union soldiers. Gilbert was so pleased with his clothes and watch that he pledged to "hang to" Charles "to the last." (70) In the brutal reality of postwar Liberty County, it proved to be a sound decision.
In the fall of 1866, while Mary Jones was in New York visiting her son, Charles asked Gilbert, rather than his mother's plantation overseer, to report on the crops at Arcadia and Monte Video. Gilbert visited Arcadia before responding to his former master's request. The letter, which is quoted in full, clearly shows that Gilbert took pride of ownership in Monte Video's crops and land. He refers to "Our cotton on the hill," "Our marsh cotton," and "our marsh land." His tone, although respectful, is familial. He gives news about freedpeople's health, sends "howdys," and makes a plea for a former house servant named Sue who was persuaded by an abusive husband to leave the employ of the Joneses.
Riceboro, September 5, 1866 My Dear Sir, Your letter of the 10th Inst has been reced enclosing ten dollars for which amount you will please accept my sincere thanks. It certainly was of great assistance to me and my family the time it was received. I would have answered your letter sooner but could not find out the full particulars from Arcadia plantation agreeable. As requested by you I visited Arcadia a few days ago, looked over the crops and place generally, and to the best of judgements I do not think much will be made on that place. The corn is almost a total loss. The prospect for a cotton crop was very good at first but owing to the long spell of dry weather we had I do not think the field of cotton will be much. The recent rains we have had was almost too late to be of much service. Very little rice was planted on Arcadia and what was planted I consider very inferior. The people all on that place is in very good health. They had a good deal of small pox but they are relieved of it at present and there is very little small pox in the neighborhood. As regard to Monte Video plantation everything hold its own and I have nothing of much importance to write about this place. We have made as good corn as could possibly be expected. Our pea crop is fine. The prospect for a potato crop is only tolerable good. Our cotton on the hill is very good for the chance it has had. Our marsh cotton there is nothing in the county can equal it. I think it is as fine cotton as I have ever seen grown on our marsh land. I hope if no misfortunes befalls us we will be handsomely rewarded for our industry this year as I know there is no self of people has worked as faithful as we have this year. As regards to the turkeys and deer I have an eye to them. I think there will be a good many this winter and there be a chance for a good deal of sport in the way of killing deer, turkeys, etc. Aunt Sue requested me to say to you that she was sorry she had acted so hastily in leaving your mother. She was induced to leave by her husband and she has found out that her husbands treatment to her was such that she could not live with him and she concluded to come back to Liberty County. She is now out of employment and desire to return to her old home and if your mother will take her back she will be willing to stay with her on very reasonable terms. Sam the foreman on the place wishes you to bring for him when you come a hat. Please write to me soon. I am always anxious to hear from you. Tell Miss Eva howdy. Also howdy to all the family. Let me know if your mother is with you. If she is you can tell her what I have to say about Arcadia and Monte Video, etc. Hope this will find you and family in good health as it leaves me and all the people Fanny, Sam and all the people sends howdy to all. I am your Humble Servant as Ever, Gilbert Jones [Lawson] (71)
Charles continued to correspond with Gilbert for the next nineteen years. There was a purpose to each of Charles's letters, whether it was to ask about conditions at Monte Video, to make small requests, or to give explicit instructions. His tone was always cordial, and he included warm, newsy accounts about the family. Invariably he also offered gentle but unsolicited counsel. For example, in the fall of 1868 while Mary Jones was visiting Joseph in Nashville, Charles wrote Gilbert to give instructions regarding the fall harvest. As usual Charles began his letters to Gilbert with "My Dear Gilbert" and then praised him for his service: "I felt confident that you would do your best, and would take care of everything and encourage the people to industry and honesty. You know how we have always placed our dependence in you and you have never disappointed expectation." Charles's references to others in his family were such that they included Gilbert as well. Charles wrote that "Mother expects to come home," "Mother and sister and Robert Mallard and the children are all well," and "Brother expects to move from Nashville by the last of the year," rather than using the possessive my mother or my brother. Charles ended his directive that Gilbert himself attend to the weighing and measuring of cotton and corn by asking that he "Remember the old times ... and do your best. Tell Fanny and Lucy and Charles and little Gilbert and Sam and July and Stepney and all the people howdy for me. I hope old Daddy Andrew and Mom Mary are well." (72)
For a brief period in January 1869, Gilbert left Monte Video to live in Darien, a nearby coastal town. Perhaps he was searching for more-lucrative employment opportunities, but Charles speculated that Gilbert's move would put him in moral jeopardy. Nevertheless, Charles recognized that ultimately Gilbert was now responsible for himself and that all the family could do was advise. He wrote, "Gilbert, I fear will be sadly demoralized by his residence in Darien, and if he does indulge in drink, he will not last long. He has been a willing servant and I can not bear to think of his throwing himself away in this manner.... He alone, under the changed condition of affairs, is responsible for his proper conduct and care of himself." (73) Charles had little to fear, however. Gilbert returned to Monte Video and lived there until his death some sixteen years later.
During those years Charles continued to depend on Gilbert. For instance, in the spring of 1877, when Charles was moving his family from New York to Augusta, Georgia, he asked Gilbert if he would be willing to come to Augusta for a few weeks in order to prepare the house for his family's arrival. "You are so handy about such matters that I would rather have you there than anyone else, and thus there will be money in your pocket for the services rendered." Gilbert agreed, and Charles sent him specific instructions, along with ten dollars to cover his fare to Augusta. Charles also reminded Gilbert to bring the "bow and arrows and fishing rod" that another ex-slave, Niger Fraser, had made for Charles's son Edgeworth. (74)
Gilbert was about sixty years of age in 1885. In March of that year he wrote to Charles to say that he had been sick. Charles, concerned about Gilbert's poor health, then wrote to "Mom" Lucy, whose job it was to keep the grain locked away, authorizing her to give the "cornmeal in the attic" to Gilbert. "He is to use it and take good care of it." (75) Over the next few months, Charles and his sister, Mary Mallard, sent Gilbert gifts of money. Charles tucked two dollars into a note, saying that Gilbert should "purchase something to tempt [his] appetite." Mary Mallard mailed him six dollars. Gilbert wrote back to say that "I have not words to express my gratitude to you for your bountiful gift.... And hope the Lord will continually bestow his blessing upon you for your love and kindness and tender mercies." He also took the opportunity to inform the Mallards of sad news about their former nursemaid, Tenah. Niger Fraser's wife had died while giving birth for the eleventh time. Gilbert explained that his sister-in-law Lucy was now caring for Tenah's six surviving children and that he had given Lucy half of the money the family had sent him. (76)
Gilbert died the following September. Charles wrote to Niger Fraser to say that news of Gilbert's death was very distressing. "I knew he was sick but had no reason to think he was near his end." He also asked for Niger Fraser's advice about another former slave, also named Niger, "Niger Roberts writes me that he expects to be married in January next and tells me that Fannie [Gilbert's widow] is about to move out of her house and live with her son. That will leave that house vacant. He asks me to let him have it. What have you to say about this? Is there any objection to granting his request?" (77) By 1885 Niger Fraser had been collecting rents for the Joneses for nearly sixteen years. He had say over who could or could not rent land on Monte Video and Maybank plantations and acted as the Joneses' local constable by solving disputes between tenants and keeping trespassers at bay. (78) It is Niger who poses with a group of women and children in front of a tenant cabin in a photograph from 1891. (79)
Unlike Gilbert, Niger had not been a favored house servant of the Joneses; instead he had labored primarily as a field hand. (80) The tone of the letters between Niger and Charles reflected Niger's former position outside the household in that they were less intimate and more businesslike. Although Charles was always cordial, beginning his letters with a salutation such as "Dear Niger" or the more intimate "My Dear Niger," he never shared with Niger the personal family details that he did with Gilbert. Yet, like Gilbert's, Niger's relationship with Charles was rooted in their families' shared history of living and working Monte Video land.
Before and during the Civil War, Niger's association with a household servant brought him to the attention of the Jones family. Early in 1861 he had asked Mary Mallard, Charles's sister, for permission to marry her slave Tenah. Mary was reluctant to grant Niger's request because she thought the arrangement would present an inconvenience. Although she acquiesced after Niger persisted, she showed her annoyance by refusing to attend the wedding given at her mother's Monte Video home. She did, however, indulge Tenah by giving her a "swiss muslin" dress and preparing a cake for her "faithful servant." (81) Three years later, when Robert and Mary Mallard moved to Atlanta with Tenah in tow, Niger once again used his powers of persuasion to convince Mary Jones and the Mallards that he should be allowed to join his wife. Robert Mallard secured Niger a job chopping wood and collecting bark at a steam tannery near their home. Mr. Henderson, the tannery owner, agreed to pay Mary Jones four hundred dollars per year for Niger's services, in addition to feeding and clothing him. Although he thought that his employer was a "pretty fine man," Niger complained that he was not able to make anything by selling his own time. The work at the tannery, however, was short lived. Within a few months Henderson closed the business, and Niger was allowed to seek day jobs, such as cultivating urban garden plots, in order to stay in Atlanta with his wife. (82)
After the war, the freed couple chose to remain connected to the Jones family. Tenah was paid a wage to stay in her old role within the Mallard household. Niger, however, had no such contract, and his continued presence with the Mallards was thought to be a nuisance. Mary Jones advised her daughter that she should "make 'Mr. Niger' pay like a 'gentleman' for his many privileges." (83) At the end of the year, when Tenah's contract was up, the couple decided to move back home and contract with Mary Jones to work at Monte Video. Six months later, Mary Jones reported to her daughter that "Niger has his fill of planting." (84) Niger may not have been keen on farming, but he certainly knew how to cultivate an opportunity. For example, when Gilbert left the Joneses' employ for a brief period in 1869, Niger made himself available to Charles to collect rents at Monte Video. And in the fall of 1870, Niger suggested to Charles that he would like to reestablish production at Maybank. By the following year, Niger was managing tenants and collecting rents at both Monte Video and Maybank plantations. (85)
Niger served as Charles's agent in all matters related to the two plantations. He evicted tenants and confiscated property from those who were habitually past due in their rent. He hired workers, purchased supplies, and oversaw the repairs to fences, gates, roads, bridges, and the house. And when Charles tried to restart rice production on Monte Video in the early 1880s, Niger spearheaded the operation. (86) He hired laborers to repair trunks and dikes, purchased seed and supplies, and made all the decisions about the planting, harvesting, and shipping of the rice crop. The endeavor, however, cost Charles much more than he expected, and he complained bitterly: "I do not understand your conduct in regard to this rice matter. Last year I spent nearly $300 and have received back not one cent." (87) Charles had expected 150 bags of rice to be sent to market, but only 44 were. Furthermore, the schooner carrying those bags sank. Niger, who claimed a one-third share of the crop, also claimed part of the insurance settlement. Charles, frustrated, told Niger, "Although you are largely in my debt, I have authorized Misters W. W. Gordon & Co to pay you the proceeds of insurance collected upon 12 of the 44 sacks of rice." (88) The following year proved just as catastrophic. Fire and floods ruined the rice crop in 1881.
Charles permitted Niger to live on the family's property free of charge in exchange for Niger's rent-collecting services. However, he used his relationship with Charles to extract more than rent. Niger was not shy about asking Charles for cash and specific items such as nails and cedar posts. Charles typically granted Niger's requests, albeit somewhat reluctantly. In a note written by Charles in 1885, he expressed dissatisfaction with Niger's repeated requests for money. Although Charles had recently sent twenty dollars, he enclosed five dollars more and added that "I think it is about time for you to begin paying back some of the money which I have been advancing for several years past." He then cheerfully appended, "I hope you will make a good crop this year." (89)
But the crops were not good, and profits from the sale of Arcadia land slowed to a trickle.(90) On average, the three siblings each earned about sixty-one dollars per year throughout the 1880s. Bad weather was partially to blame. The county had experienced a series of natural disasters--a hurricane and wildfires in 1881, a flood in 1885, an earthquake and floods in 1886, and extremes of wet and then dry weather in 1887. Severe weather and time had taken a toll on the family's home, too. After each visit Charles would write to his sister to lament the unfortunate state of affairs.
January 10, 1882-- ... [M]any of the Negro houses were blown down, and all of them were damaged to a greater or less extent. The rice crop was totally destroyed, and the provision crop so beaten about that the Negroes have not food for two months. What little cotton was planted was so twisted and torn that little was gathered. Under the circumstances you will not be surprised when I say that my collections were very small. I am having the Negro houses repaired and everything put in tolerable order. January 11, 1886--The entire rice crop had been swept away, and the cotton, and much of the corn rotted in the fields. The consequence of all this was that I did not collect enough to pay taxes and defray the cost of the extensive repairs which I have found it necessary to put upon the old homestead. January 9, 1888--Freshets and dry weather had ruined the small crops of the negroes [sic] and such of them as had sought employment on the new Dublin Rail road to earn their rent money and were embarrassed by the failure of the enterprise and their inability to collect a dollar for several months service rendered. There was nothing at home from which the rent in arrears could be made. Several of the best hands had been sick for months, and two of them during the entire year. Under such circumstances, as you may well understand, the collections were very small.... The visit was a sad one to me. (91)
Charles's yearly visits to Liberty were sad reminders of how the county and his old home place had changed. He told his brother after one winter trip that Liberty was "a depressed, lonely, melancholy county." Charles repeatedly asked his siblings' permission to subdivide and sell Monte Video and Maybank, as they had Arcadia. Although Mary reluctantly agreed to sell in 1880, after Charles informed her that he had been asked to sell the Maybank tract for three dollars per acre, Joseph was not willing. (92) Joseph imagined that he might return one day to live in his childhood home. He wanted to make sure that enough of Maybank remained in the family's hands to build a summer house. (93) Joseph's plea, combined with a decade of harsh weather and poor returns from rents, meant that Charles was tethered to Liberty County without hope of realizing a worthwhile profit from his efforts.
A new generation of the Jones family faced the same conundrum in the 1890s, but the younger Joneses dealt with the problem differently. After Mary Mallard's death in August 1889 and Charles's death in July 1893, the duty of tending to the family's interests in Liberty fell, not to the only surviving sibling, Joseph, but to Charles's son Edgeworth. (94) The year after Charles's death, the profits from Liberty County had declined to less than a third of what they had been in 1893, leaving barely enough to cover taxes. (95) Edgeworth, a city gentleman who never lived in Liberty County, assumed his father's chores of collecting payments and distributing shares to others within the family. Although he had visited the county a few times with his father, he knew it and its people best from his father's stories. (96) But unlike his father, Edgeworth held no nostalgic affections for the people, the place, or the old way of life there. (97) He did not have nor want a personal relationship with the custodians of the family's land. Instead, he expected the men and women of Liberty to abide by the terms of their contracts. And if they were unwilling or unable to live up to their obligations, as defined by Edgeworth, then he was prepared to turn matters over to a constable and force them into compliance.
Two months after his father's death, Edgeworth wrote letters to Stepney and Niger informing them of Charles's passing; Edgeworth stressed that he was now officially in charge. (98) He insisted that Stepney remind those who had agreed to purchase Arcadia lots to pay what they owed and warned that he would tolerate "no foolishness this year." He added, "They must come up to the mark, or I must know the reason why. I will have no more dilly-dallying. I am personally in charge of the collections now, and they must come to your house on the morning of the 1st of January 1894 prepared to pay in good money." (99) His words left no doubt that Edgeworth meant business. In a letter to Niger Fraser, Edgeworth threatened to hold him personally responsible for collecting back rents: "If the people refuse to pay their rent, counsel them to do so even if you have to resort to law. Get the money by all means. We are entitled to it. They live on our land; they must pay for the privilege. They have fiddled and fooled long enough. They must come up to the scratch now. Bear in mind what I say. I will hold you responsible if the collections are not what they should be in January." (100)
The tenor of Edgeworth's letters differed markedly from those of his father. Perhaps Edgeworth resented the prospect of having to travel to Liberty each year, as his father had done. Or maybe he thought that the responsibility of dealing with collections and taxes should rightly rest with his cousins, since his father had always advised the family to sell their holdings in Liberty. Or perhaps he believed that his father had been too soft on renters and purchasers and that returns from the Liberty County properties would have been higher had his father been more demanding. No matter the reason, there is little doubt that Edgeworth was serious about installing a new, purely capitalistic regime. He wrote to Niger a total of seven times between September 11 and December 11, 1893, and each time he emphasized what his expectations of Niger were--namely, to "squeeze every coffer you can out of the renters." (101) In one such letter he warned: "As to the rent, remember that I am coming to Monte Video myself this year, and will hold you to strict accounts. So go to work collecting, and have a good showing when I look in on you in January 1894. I want no idlers about Monte Video or Maybank. If the people refuse to pay their rent, turn them out and put in those that will. I am not satisfied with the way things are going, so look out, for I am going to have a general shaking up when I come. I will have the rent money. If I find you don't attend to your business, I may be forced to put the matter of rent collections in the hands of the Justice of the Peace." (102)
Niger extracted slightly more from renters in 1893 than he had two years before. But despite a sum of $144 from Maybank and Monte Video tenants, Edgeworth was unhappy that Niger had not been able to garner all that was due. To entice Niger to collect back rents, Edgeworth agreed to purchase him a pair of shoes. Upon returning to Augusta, Edgeworth mailed Niger the shoes and reminded him of their agreement, "Bear in mind what you said to me about collecting back rent, and also remember your promise to send, if you can, money at the end of this month. The rent must be collected and you must have the matter always before your mind." When he had received no money after two and a half weeks, Edgeworth wrote Niger again, saying that he assumed Niger had received the shoes and found them to be of service. He added, "Remember, I have great confidence in you, and you must live up to it." Another two weeks passed before Edgeworth wrote again asking why Niger had not sent him the money: "I remembered about the shoes as soon as I got home, and I think the least you can do is to bear in mind your promise to me in the matter of collecting back rent, and forwarding it to me early this month." (103)
By early March Edgeworth's frustration was evident. His letter to Niger that month lacked the usual warm greeting so typical of his father's letters. It began, instead, with a question, "Why have I not heard from you, Niger? You have taken no notice whatever of my letters, and have fulfilled none of the promises you made me when I was in Liberty. You have not even taken the trouble to say why you have failed to come up to your agreement. I am not used to that sort of treatment, and must have an account from you of what you have been doing, and why you did not send me my money last month. Remember I want no foolishness; you must answer this, and that without delay." Edgeworth wrote to Niger again in June, berating him for not doing his "duty" or "attending" to his "business in the matter of rent collecting." Edgeworth claimed that he had "been waiting faithfully" and had given Niger "all the time in the world" without receiving "a cent" in return. Edgeworth expected deference, unquestioned compliance, and gratitude from the men and women residing on his family's property. What he neither wanted nor had, however, was an intimate understanding of their situations. He felt no obligation to sympathize with strangers. (104)
Niger chose to restrict his work for the Joneses after Edgeworth began his aggressive collection efforts. Niger responded to Edgeworth's hounding by writing Joseph Jones in New Orleans. The aging freedman explained that he desired the Joneses to make some new arrangements for taking care of their Monte Video home. Since Morn Lucy's death, it had fallen to Niger to care for the home, but he felt that given his large family, he could no longer "loan so much time" to it. He thanked Joseph for the package he had sent, asked that he remember Niger's love to all, and then signed his letter "I remain as ever your true friend and servant." (105)
Joseph's death in 1896 marked the end of a long and mutually beneficial postbellum relationship between the members of the Jones family who had lived in Liberty County before the war and those African Americans who had labored there as their slaves. The younger Joneses felt saddled by their parents' legacy. They did not want personal relationships with the blacks their parents had known, nor did they have an interest in preserving the family's properties. Moreover, their disinterest in Liberty County affairs and in the people who lived there eroded the modest amounts of bargaining power that local residents had over the family. Although Niger continued to collect rents for Charles, Mary, and Joseph's descendants, the sums were meager, and as the old tenants passed away, few new ones joined the rolls. (106)
The Liberty County properties and the relationships with former slaves hung like millstones around the necks of the younger generation of the Joneses, creating tension among the cousins. In 1898 Edgeworth insisted that his cousin Charles Mallard assume responsibility for traveling to Liberty to collect rents and land payments. In a letter detailing who owed what amounts and where to reach the debtors, Edgeworth could not resist pointing out to his cousin that had the family members supported an offer in 1894 to exchange their lands in Liberty County for property in Detroit, Charles Mallard's upcoming trip to the Lowcountry would not be necessary. The real estate in Detroit had recently sold for fifty thousand dollars, whereas the family still owned Maybank, Monte Video, and 511 acres of Arcadia. It would be another twenty years before Edgeworth found a buyer for what remained of Arcadia, and even then he would sell it for three dollars per acre, just as his father had done in 1872. (107)
The patron-client relationship seems very different when viewed from the vantage points of both planters and their subordinates, rather than just from the bottom up or, as is much more often the case, from the top down. Fortunately, in the case of the Joneses and the black men who actually ran their plantations after emancipation, the sources allow us to see the negotiations and bargaining from two and sometimes more sides. Of the five central figures in these letters--Stepney West, Gilbert Lawson, Niger Fraser, Charles Jones Jr., and Edgeworth Jones--four had both emotional and financial stakes in the rural post-bellum socioeconomic system, and it would be a mistake to divide them into simple black-and-white categories of exploiter and exploited.
Although Charles's devotion to his family and his attachments to former "faithful" slaves were steeped in paternalistic motives, without the institutional scaffolding of slavery his ability to invoke paternalistic customs crumbled. He understood that freedom entitled blacks to be treated as adults, although initially he doubted that many were prepared to behave as such--that is, to respect the law and abide by contracts. But economic hardship and a bleak future for his home county forced Charles to recognize that he, too, was dependent. He needed Gilbert, Stepney, and Niger to serve as custodians of his family's legacy in Liberty so that members of the Jones family could make their lives and livelihoods elsewhere. Charles relied on the black middlemen for both information and services, while Stepney, Gilbert, and Niger depended on him to expand their range of economic opportunities and to soften financial hardships. Stepney, Gilbert, and Niger were agents in patronage, not objects of paternalism.
Stepney, for instance, refused to work for Mary Jones at Monte Video, although he did not object per se to remaining in the Joneses' service. When Stepney approached Charles about leasing Arcadia, Charles agreed, but not out of a sense of protection or affection for an old slave. Had previous overseers been successful, profits good, or land in demand, Charles would not have consented to such an unusual arrangement. He acquiesced because he had already exhausted more conventional options.
Stepney's success as a plantation manager kept him in Charles's good graces when Arcadia was subdivided. (108) Stepney was given his choice of lots, although he was not given a discount or a special arrangement for payment. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that Stepney was paid for his services as land broker. But the fact that Stepney had say over who would or would not be granted an opportunity to buy land gave him power within the local community, and his status as middleman freed Charles from having to negotiate individually with potential buyers. Compared to others within his community, Stepney had good reason to describe himself as "prosperous." (109)
Like Stepney's close ties to the family in slavery, Gilbert's connection gave him certain advantages in freedom. After emancipation he was paid a monthly wage, described by the family as meager, to remain in Mary Jones's employ. His willingness to do so was interpreted as an act of loyalty; Gilbert had earned the trust of his patrons. When Mary Jones moved from the county, Gilbert became the family's eyes and ears, reporting on crops and conditions at both Monte Video and Arcadia. Charles, in particular, depended on Gilbert for personal favors, such as watching over his family's household goods in Augusta or supervising twelve-year-old Edgeworth's use of a gun, just as Gilbert had done when Charles was a boy. Gilbert's pledge to "hang to" Charles "to the last" proved to be a sound strategy for survival in Liberty's bleak postwar economy. (110)
Niger, perhaps more than Stepney and Gilbert, understood what a patron could do for him. Unlike them, Niger had not been a trusted house servant or plantation foreman. He was a field hand who married his way into the "big house" and then used his more personal relationship within the family to help him get what he wanted. Niger excelled at making himself indispensable, as when he suggested that Charles re-establish production at Maybank and then offered to collect rents at both Maybank and Monte Video. (111) Niger reported on trespassers, foreclosed on renters in arrears, purchased supplies, sold livestock and crops, and supervised repairs to the family's Monte Video home. In exchange for his many duties, he often asked for and received small loans. Perhaps he felt entitled to them, because he rarely repaid them, yet Charles continued to "lend" him money. Niger fits no stereotype. He had the opportunity and means to buy his own farm, but he chose not to. He did not want to farm yet made his living from farmers. It is little wonder that Niger became known among locals as one of the "most successful" in his line of work. (112)
The abrupt change in the tone of the letters and of the patron-client relationships when Edgeworth replaced his deceased father illuminates the personal nature of negotiation and exchange within Charles's generation and what might be labeled as the impersonal Jim Crow capitalism of Edgeworth's. Patronage differed from the paternal system of slavery because, on the one hand, planters no longer had such an economic and ideological stake in the welfare of their workers as the slaveholders had had under slavery and, on the other, because freed-people could move and enjoyed at least some legal and political rights. The social relations of exchange within a system of patronage were rooted in personal knowledge of the other and an etiquette of reciprocity between unequal, dependent adults. Compared to a system of patronage, Jim Crow capitalism, as the tenor of Edgeworth's letters suggests, was both harsher and more strictly contractual and based not on partial black subordination, but on nearly total black powerlessness. Edgeworth treated the middlemen not as familiar dependents who needed to be cajoled and from whom one could expect useful advice, but as unruly underlings whom one advised, threatened, and dispensed with. The contractual relationship had the full force of the law, which Edgeworth constantly threatened to use. He relied on intimidation to extract what he wanted and refused to have his rights and privileges tempered by custom or sentiment. He had little, if any, emotional stake in either the people of Liberty County or his father's properties there.
Clearly, the social relations of patronage had roots in the paternalism of slavery. Yet unlike a system of paternalism, in which whites relegated blacks to a dependent, childlike position, a system of patronage permitted blacks to negotiate with whites as autonomous adults, albeit of a lower status. Blacks who successfully negotiated mutually beneficial services with whites often acted as middlemen by representing the interests of other blacks who lacked access to a patron. The degree to which black-white relationships embodied characteristics of paternalism or patronage depended in large part on local economics, politics, and customs. Hence location determined to a great extent the outcomes as blacks across the South renegotiated their "proper place" in freedom.
Liberty County, a long-staple cotton area, had a very high proportion of blacks and a history of paternalism that was epitomized by the writings and actions of Charles Colcock Jones Sr. and his children. Long settled, Liberty did not undergo any striking, positive economic change, such as industrialization or the adoption of new and lucrative crops, after the Civil War. The county was too poor to attract eager settlers who might have bid up land prices and induced families like the Joneses to sell. In short, Liberty's depressed economy and black majority constituted an environment that was ripe for a system of patronage.
Ms. HARGIS is a professor of sociology at Georgia Southern University.