I wanted to get into the vibrant conversation that AGR and Brian are having over Brian's provocatively titled post, "many slaves were paid overtime." I must say that I find it somewhat odd to think about being paid "overtime" when you're not paid for regular time. And I think that focusing on the fact that some enslaved people received "extra" wages for skilled work or for work beyond what was "required," may run the risk of distracting us from the brutality that lay at the heart -- and very near the surface -- of American slavery. There may not have been a whole lot of overtime work, since much research suggests that slaves were worked to the limits of their endurance. Those who talk about slavery should not lose sight of the fact that slaves worked for free and -- as AGR has eloquently shown -- the vast majority (approaching 100%, I suppose) were subjected to all sorts of other horrific crimes.
Without getting involved in the important question of how often this practice took place, a question of social and labor history that is outside of my area of expertise -- I have a few points on the "payment" for extra work. First off, this appears in the fictional literature about slavery. For instance, doesn't George Harris make money he hopes to use to purchase his freedom and that of Eliza and little Harry in Uncle Tom's Cabin? That's my recollection; it's been too long since I read Uncle Tom's Cabin. Second, as I talked about in a paper a few years back on North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Thomas Ruffin, there was some recognition by the legal system that slaves should be allowed to keep the (very modest) sums they earned by doing "extra" work. In the 1845 case Waddill v. Martin, 38 N.C. (3 Ired. Eq.) 562 (1845), Ruffin excluded slaves' property from a claim against an estate. The executor in Waddill had not collected the slaves' property and a co-executor charged that he should have. Ruffin thought the executor's exclusion of slaves' property appropriate, for several reasons. First, no one had previously collected “the little crops of cotton, corn, potatoes, ground peas and the like, made by slaves by permission of their deceased owners.” Second, it was desirable to allow the slaves to keep such little property.
(I'm now noticing Ruffin's language about the "prudent" master and need to go back and see how much this may be related to the prudent person standard in trust law. I'm also now seeing the "compelled" aspect, which suggests that the payment for extra work wasn't so much payment for extra work. It was, more likely, essentially required work that was done to supplement otherwise food/clothing that had been "provided" the enslaved worker.) And let's not get carried away here in thinking this is about protecting slaves -- I think one implication here is that the slaves' "property" doesn't need to be collected as part of the estate, but it could be. I'll spare everyone my lecture on how the probate system frequently destroyed enslaved families. Third, turning now to the advice given to slaveowners on how to behave as "Christian" owners, one allusion to this appears here, where the author talks of slaves being "coaxed or bribed." But also of much interest to me is is concern in this essay about just how much enslaved people were worked constantly.
Fourth -- and this is where I am maybe coming at the AGR-Sawyers discussion obliquely -- I think such practices show the penetration of a capitalist mindset among slave-owners. The incentive of the market was used to get enslaved people to do more work than they might otherwise do, or maybe to do it more effectively. The plantation became a marketplace. By way of background, many proslavery southerners attempted to justify slavery as something that was a solution to the problems of the market -- as something that protected enslaved people from the harsh treatment that free workers suffered in the industrial cities of the North and Europe. (Hence the illustration for this post, the frontispiece of a book on the harsh life of free workers, which one of my key subjects, Thomas R.R. Cobb, referred to in his An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery.) That of course was pure hockum, but that was their argument. Much to say about this if anyone's interested in this. It's been a debate that has engaged that slavery literature for several decades now. I think the idea of "paying" slaves for more work was yet another way that the slavery and the market were connected. There are a lot of other, more important ways that slavery and capitalism were connected, but I think this is yet another example of those connections. (I have a lot more to say about the relationship between capitalism and slavery; I wrote some about this about a year ago.)