As a general rule, the larger the body of negroes on a plantation or estate, the more completely are they treated as mere property, and in accordance with a policy calculated to insure the largest pecuniary returns [profits]…. It may be true, that among the wealthier slave-owners there is oftener a humane disposition, a better judgment, and a greater ability to deal with their dependents indulgently and bountifully, but the effects of this disposition are chiefly felt, even on those plantations where the proprietor resides permanently, among the slaves employed about the house and stables, and perhaps a few old favourites in the quarters. It is more than balanced by the difficulty of acquiring a personal interest in the units of a large body of slaves, and an acquaintance with the individual characteristics of each. The treatment of the mass must be reduced to a system, the ruling idea of which will be, to enable one man to force into the same channel of labour the muscles of a large number of men of various and often conflicting wills.
Slave marriages were illegal in southern states, and slave couples were frequently separated by slaveowners through sale. Blassingame grants that slaveowners did have control over slave marriages. They encouraged monogamous relationships to "make it easier to discipline their slaves. ... A black man, they reasoned, who loved his wife and his children was less likely to be rebellious or to run away than would a 'single' slave."  Blassingame notes that when a slave couple resided on the same plantation, the husband witnessed the whipping and raping of his wife and the sale of his children. He remarks, "Nothing demonstrated his powerlessness as much as the slave's inability to prevent the forcible sale of his wife and children."