The Plantation System

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Although the plantation system held a major role in the late 1800's, it did not have the amount of success some people percieved. The lack of hard work, weather, and illnesses all had a substantial tole in the ineffectiveness of the plantation system.

Plantations, for the most part, were judged by their work speed and intensity. This, however, was not always the case. Many plantations were supposed to have results in a given amount of time based on prior experience and production of particular crops. In 1856, the Canebrake Plantation of southeast Louisiana portrayed this inadequacy in its resulting outcome. According to Dr. Robert Pace in his doctoral thesis on the intensity of slave labor, the cotton crop at Canebrake was supposed to finish in less than half a year. But according to data found in journal entries, slaves at the plantation worked 265 days. Therefore, one may ask what the slave workers were doing for the remaining three months.

Weather also played a significant role in the inefficientcy of plantation systems. The inconsistent weather produced an unstable crop for a particular season in 1766. The weather played an important role not only on the crop, but on the cattle and slave workers as well. For the slave workers, housing was extremely cramped in small living quarters. It was not only small, but also cold and drafty in the winter, hot and fly-infested in the summer, and leaks violent thunderstorms shafted the structures with wind-blown rain. The lifestyle of a slave was not easy. Their abilities to work fully were hindered by the weather, which contributed to harsh working conditions, illness, and sometimes death. The unpredictable weather sometimes had a grave affect on plantation systems.

Illnesses and disease were a sad and sometimes major part of plantation systems in the Antebellum South. The health of slaves was a priority of landowners and planters. If a slave was unable to work, then it produced inefficiency as a result of the lack of labor. This was the case on many plantations, and the diet of a slave was one of the main contributors to his/her health as a worker. Corn basically made up the entire diet for slaves. Its ability as a cheap, inexpensive, and easy crop to plant made it highly pursued by slave and plantation owners. Slaves were also vunerable to various diseases attributed to their cramped living quarters. Most of these diseases were airborne or caused by physical contact. A consistent unhealthy work force is likely to produce less than average, and therefore proves the inefficiency of many plantations. (Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia - Volume 11 pg. 288-89) Because agriculture was so important, the development of the plantation system was of utmost importance. It held a major role in maintaining agriculture, but it also wasn't as successful as it planned to be.