'In a Brighter, Better, More Enduring World ...'

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Charles Colcock Jones was a Georgia planter educated in the North. After finishing his schooling, he returned South to take up the family business, though somewhat reluctantly. His son Charles Colcock Jones Jr. was, at the time of this letter, a student a graduate of Princeton and a student of Harvard law. Below is a particularly beautiful letter from the father to the son:

Rev. C.C. Jones to Mr. Charles C. Jones Jr.
Maybank Plantaion
Liberty County, Georgia
Monday Morning
May 22nd, 1854

I do not think, my dear son, that anyone wrote you last week. I did not, it having been a busy week. Mother is always busy, you know, and has had company. She is remarkably well, and was never so fleshy. I must give you a sketch of her daily life.

She rises about six in the morning, or now half-past five; takes her bath, reads and is ready for family worship about seven; then breakfasts with a moderate appetite and enjoys a cup of good tea. Breakfast concluded and the cups etc., and dinner ordered, Little Jack gathers up his "weapons," as he calls them--the flower trowel, the trimming saw, the nippers and bears and two garden hoes--and follows his mistress, with her sunbonnet on and her large India-rubber-cloth working gloves, into the flower vegetable gardens. In these places she spends sometimes near two planting, pruning, etc., 

Little Jack and frequently Beck and several other little fellows and Gilbert in the bargain all kept as busy as bees sweeping, another watering, another weeding, another planting and trimming, and another carrying off the limbs and trash. Then she dismisses the forces, and they go off in separate detachments to their respective duties about the house and premises, and she takes a walk of observation and superintendence about the kitchen yard and through the orchard and lawn, accompanied by many friends she may have with her and who may be disposed to take a walk of a quiet domestic nature.

About ten her outdoor exercise is over, and she comes in, sets aside her bonnet draws off off her gloves, and refreshes herself with a basin of cool water, after which she disposes of her seamstresses and looks that the house has been well put to right and in point and in perfect order--flowerpots dressed, etc. She now devotes herself to cutting out, planning, fitting, or sewing, giving attention to the clothing department and to the condition of the furniture of chambers, curtains, towels, linens, etc. The wants of the servants' wardrobe are inquired into, and all the thousand and one cares of the family attended to.

Meanwhile the yards have been swept, the walk sanded, and Patience has her culinary world all in neat order. The two milk-white cats have had their breakfast, and are lying in each other's paws in the shade on the green grass in the flower garden; and the young dog Rex, having enjoyed his repast, has stretched himself at full length in the sun, and ever and anon rolls over and wallows and kicks his feet into the air. The old turkey hen has spread her young ones like scouts around her, and is slowly picking along the green, and the gobbler is strutting with two or three idle dames in another direction. The fowls have scattered themselves everywhere in the lot, crowing and cackling and scratching; the sheep have finished their early browse, and are lying down beneath the great hickory tree; and overhead and all around is one general concert of birds.

The glorious sunlight, the soft south wind, and the green earth and the blue heavens--Mother sees and enjoys it all; but she is too busy now to come out and take a view. If she has visitors, she is sitting at work and in conversation with them, or for an hour or two before dinner takes her book or pen in hand. But sometimes she indulges in a quiet little doze, and gets up refreshed just before we are called to dinner. This meal she usually enjoys, but is never much of an eater; enjoys her food, but in much moderation.

For an hour or two after dinner she retires, and about the middle of the afternoon makes her appearance dressed for the evening. Then she is full of her uniform cheerfulness, and attracts everybody to her--husband, children, servants, visitors, old and young. The sea breeze is blowing sweetly. Our friends have driven over; the horses have been taken from the carriage, and the drivers have gone to pay their calls in the servants' quarters. The chairs are set out in the piazza, and here we spend a social hour and take tea. Our friends take leave, and then we have family worship. Sometimes they unite with us before they go. We all retire now to our study or rooms, and when the business of the day is over, then Mother enjoys the quiet, and loves to sit up reading and writing and conversing. She says this is the pleasantest part of the day to her.

You will recognize all this as very natural--what you have seen many times. Surely our hearts should be full of gratitude to God for all his unnumbered and undeserved favors to us as a family. May we all through riches of grace be saved in a brighter, better, and more enduring world that this! . . . All in the house--Mother, Brother, Sister, Aunt Susan, and Cousin Laura--send much love. I hear Mary Sharpe and Laura singing at the piano, and your brother talking to Mother. He is all the time quite busy. The Lord be with and bless you, my dear son!

Your ever affectionate father,

C. C. Jones.

Colcok Sr. is particularly intelligent, and I've learned a lot about the slave-holding mind reading his letters to and from his family. They are assembled in the massive The Children of Pride, a book I am, ever so slowly, absorbing. Colcock Sr. is also a vivid, engagingly descriptive writer. 

As always, let us take it as resolved that slavery was horrible. Repeating this truism, however, is beside the point. The aim here is to see the world from the view of the slave-holder. But remember--none of this is mandatory. This is not homework. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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