Reporting Slavery - The New York Tribune
Four hundred and twenty-nine slaves belonging to Pierce M. Butler, a citizen of Philadelphia, were sold by auction at Savannah on the 2nd and 3rd inst., for the total amount of $303,850. They constituted about half the number employed on two plantations, one rice and the other of cotton, and were sold to pay their master's debts.
Slaves - A lot of 436 slaves, belonging to Pierce Butler of Philadelphia, formerly the husband of Mrs. Fanny Kemble, was sold at auction in Savannah last week for the sumer of $300,205, being an average of $716 a head. They were sold, the Savannah News says, "mostly in families." The "mostly" is a distinction with a considerable difference.
"Here, gentlemen, is a young lady for you," says the black assistant, as he leads along a girl or woman. The auctioneer begins again, black assistant rolling up her sleeves; all her limbs being more or less shown by him, and examined by a gentlemen.
The next was a good plantation carpenter, rather advanced in age, but, being a mechanic, he was "a desirable investment." His wife and four little children were put on the stand with him; and the bids were made in rapid succession, until the party were knocked down at $3,200.
Opposite to the bar the poor negroes were marshaled into line; the men and boys uniformed with short sockets made of cottonade, pants of the same material, hickory shirts, black brogans, and tarpaulin hats. The women were all clad in common calicoes, and a common handkerchief tied around the head. All the slaves were labeled, a tag or card being tied to the breast of each, giving the same, age and number of the negro, as to correspond with the printed catalogue.
Then I saw with my own eyes - thus had I thrust upon me almost - two of the most detestable and horrible features of the slave system - the sale of beautiful young women to lustful male owners, and the forcible separation of parents from their offspring. These things have been grossly denied by Northern priests and Northern clergy. That they are exceptional I believe to be true; but that they are tolerated in any civilized or Christian community is a sad commentary on the humanity of the age.
I saw some 40 or 50 very fine-looking negroes and negresses, all neatly dressed, standing on a bench directly in front of a building, which I took to be a meeting or school house, walking by, a genteel-looking man stepped up and asked me if I wished to buy a likely boy or girl. Telling him I was a stranger and asking for information, he told me it was one of the slave-markets: that they stood there for examination and that he had sold 50,000 dollars worth and sent them off that morning.