American Accounting AssociationAnnual MeetingAnaheim CA August 6, 2008Task Control and The Carolinas’ Tidal Rice Culture of the 1840s Louis J. Stewart PhD CPA Howard University
Research Question • My paper seeks to analyze the control systems and practices of US antebellum slave plantations from a broader social and organizational perspective. • My paper focuses upon the management and task control systems that were utilized on 19th century rice plantations found on the costal regions of North and South Carolina to organize and motivate their work force of enslaved Africans.
A Contingency Theory Perspective on Organizational Controls • Organizational control structures are contingent upon: • Organizational environments • Institutional environments • Laws and political institutions • Language and customs • Technical environments • Product and factor markets • Information and production technology • Organizational goals & objectives
Organizational Control Structures Management & Task Controls • Management control systems consist of: • A corporate culture • Control activities • Compensation and incentives • Task control activities consist of: • Task specification • Programming • Quality control • An organization's management control practices are applied through its task control system.
Primary Prior LiteratureThe Task Labor System of Organization • The task labor system initially evolved on the Carolinas rice plantations early in the eighteenth century (Littlefield,1981). • The nature of rice cultivation and its productivity incentives for field hands favored the task labor system over the preexistent gang system (Morgan, 1982 & Carney, 2001). • Improved labor productivity and economies of supervision costs also favored the task labor system on the Carolinas rice plantations in the nineteenth century (Fogel and Engerman,1974).
Primary Empirical Resources • Fredrick Law Olmsted’s contemporary observations of Mr. X’s rice plantations in the 1850s (Olmsted, 1860) • Records of Ante Bellum Southern Plantations • Others
Technical Environmental Factors • Geographic and climatic suitability of the tidal flow method of rice production to the Carolinas • Accessible supply of West African farm laborers familiar with tidal rice agricultural methods • Reliable access to lucrative Northern European export markets
Institutional Environmental Factors The (South Carolina) Negro Law of 1740 • The African American slave was • Legally defined as the property of his or her master with • No civil, social, or political rights or capacity whatever • An absolute duty of obedience to their master • Explicitly forbidden to • Travel or congregate without permission of their master • Learn to read or write • These laws were aggressively enforced by local law enforcement authorities, well organized local militia as well as gangs of private slave catchers.
Institutional Environmental FactorsMaroon Communities • Maroon communities, formed by runaway slaves, were common in South Carolina due to geography and other factors. • The tidal swamp climate was rich and fertile. • Slave catchers could not operate effectively in the swamps. • Individual slaves could run away with reasonable prospects of success.
Corporate Culture of the Lowcountry Rice Plantations • The gentleman planter believed that he was ordained for a life of wealth, leisure, and political leadership. • The planters’ paternalistic concerns extended beyond agricultural and commercial matters to include the regulation of all aspects of their slaves’ lives. • Ironically, many slaves developed a sense of ownership of these plantations that were created by the skills and labors of their ancestors.
Management Control SystemA Hierarchical Organizational Structure • The overseer – the absentee planter’s CEO • Provides owners with periodic reporting • Cultivation and harvest activities • Health & mortality status of the slaves • The overseer was relied primarily on the drivers to implement tidal rice agricultural methods • The drivers – enslaved black men hired for their managerial skills, and practical knowledge of the intricacies of farming • Typically invested with their powers publicly amid great pomp and circumstance by their masters • Measured out each field slave’s daily task • Excuse each slave upon the satisfactory completion of the day’s labor • Discipline those slaves who fail to meet their daily task • Help keep order after hours in the “negro settlements”
Distribution of Occupations among SlavesLaurel Hill and Hagley Plantations, 1854
Lowcountry field hands labored under the task labor system. The field hands are organized into gangs of 20. The field hands were classified into one of four categories according to their physical capacity “quarter – hands, half – hands, three quarter – hands, & full hands” Each morning each gang’s driver will measure out each slave’s task for the day according to their physical capacity. When the slave completed the work to the driver's satisfaction, he or she could use the remaining hours of the day for their own purposes. cultivate their own garden crops and livestock These crops and livestock could be sold for cash Task Control in The Rice Fields
The work of domestic slaves on large plantations was extremely diverse. Cooks and kitchen workers Domestic servants Child care workers Working in the "big house“ offered many tangible rewards Better food Better clothing Better shelter Easier duties However, the domestic slave Faced ill defined job duties Was more tightly supervised by the plantation’s master and his family Faced an unending demand for services Was more exposed to sexual exploitation Task Control: Working in The Big House
Task Control: Artisans & Mechanics • Each plantation had a corps of artisans: • Carpenters who built the trunks and maintained the houses and fences • Blacksmiths who did the iron works • Coopers who made the barrels to contain the rice • Skilled slaves often worked under near autonomous conditions and were often allowed to travel off the plantation for the profit of their owners
A Model of Task Control for 19th Century Carolinas Tidal Rice Slave Plantations
Lowcountry rice plantations provided planters with great wealth & prestige. Most planters exercised management control via their overseers and drivers. The plantation’s task control system relied on individual task standards, physical measurements of output, & performance feedback Individual output quotas reinforced by corporal punishment, the reward of free time and the promise of cash income helped to motivate enslaved black agricultural workers. The opportunity to perform work outside the field and the ability to obtain limited social privileges encouraged the acquiescence of many slaves to a dehumanizing regime. Conclusions