chapter  4
25 Pages

Fortunate Slaves and Artful Masters: Labor Relations in the Rural Cape Colony During the Era of Emancipation, ca. 1825 to 1838 1

WithJohn Edwin Mason

September was a fortunate slave. He was a property owner and a family man, qualities which he shared with a sizable number of other favored slaves, but which set him apart from most slaves in the Cape colony. Many of the elements which shape the narrative of September and his family are common to the stories related about slavery at the Cape of Good Hope and many other parts of the world. To read, for instance, that a slave received a beating can hardly be surprising. Broadly speaking, by the end of the seventeenth century, the Cape economy had assumed a shape that would remain essentially unchanged until the latter part of the nineteenth. Slaves were relatively rare in the sparsely populated eastern and northeastern Cape; they were easily outnumbered by free nonwhite servants, most of whom were Khoisan. Slaves did not always look at garden plots as unalloyed blessings, for reasons besides the loss of entitlements such as clothing.