Thursday, October 8, 2009

Articles: Plantation Readings

Having read over half of the letters from Paul Cameron to his father, I am astounded what the lack of communication can bring. Not that Paul was attempting to not communicate with his father, as the modern version of the phrase can mean, but that Paul and his father, Duncan, had difficulty with the mail system and sending letters back and forth. There are several references to letters not arriving in a timely fashion, as well as letters arriving en masse when they finally did arrive.
This created a few problems. Duncan apparently would have preferred Paul to rent land if at all possible, but Duncan was unable to get that message until he had already agreed to purchase a parcel of land. It also seems that news of poor health was not travelling quickly, and there were concerns over loved ones suffering from health issues.
Duncan, in the one letter in the archive, states, "I wish my [Orange] Street friends could have seen the joy and gratitude expressed by my slaves on my return home." I found this an interesting statement simply because it gives us a glimpse into Duncan's attitude that the slaves enjoyed at least seeing their master return home. I found myself wondering about this phrase. Was this part of the personal propaganda he used to rationalize slavery in 1846 as it was losing popularity with his "Orange Street friends?" Or did he truly believe that his slaves were happy to have a master? Either way, he seems to have viewed the concept of slavery in a similar way that a man who owns dogs might. How often have dog owners said to their non-dog friends, "I wish you could have seen the joy and gratitude in Sparky's eyes when I came home last night." But I digress and read too much into that phrase.
Paul also made an interesting comment about his slaves. Something to the effect of not wanting to loan out any of his slaves to the local plantation owners. Paul is also very concerned about the well-being of his slaves and is concerned in various letters that his overseer, "Lewellyn" is a little too harsh with them. He also makes remarks about the clothing of the slaves being far too thin and of too poor quality. It seems that he is genuinely concerned for their health, but again, I am reading into the letters.
When I came to reading the forum postings based on these letters where the SCIM-C method is used, I find it interesting how the strategy for reading a historical document is scaffolded. Several of the students seem to do as little as possible at first, but if you follow the thread of the students, they begin to blossom in their application of the strategy. This is particularly true in activity III, where the students begin making inferences about the materials they have read. Scaffolding SCIM-C in this way seems to give very strong results.

Now, on to examining various historical collections!

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