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Historical Document
William Byrd's diary

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William Byrd II was born in Virginia in 1674. At age seven he left for England, where he received a quality education. He returned to Virginia after learning of his father's death. Despite having a general disdain for any type of business -- a view shared by many of his acquaintances back in England, Byrd now had the responsibility of managing his inherited plantation. It was among the scores of large and profitable slave labor camps -- privately owned and sanctioned by the government -- which had sprung into existance in the southern colonies during the preceding generation.

Although intelligent and known for his keen wit, Byrd was arrogant, dominant, and insensitive. In Byrd's view, African Americas were property, and he treated his slaves as such. Lacking the least bit of compassion, he even went so far as to play cruel games on his servants, merely for entertainment. His attitudes are evident in his journals, one of which was later published as The Secret Diaries of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712.

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