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American Negro Slavery
Business Aspects of Slavery
by Phillips, Ulrich Bonnell

An expert accountant has well defined the property of a master in his slave as an annuity extending throughout the slave's working life and amounting to the annual surplus which the labor of the slave produced over and above the cost of his maintenance.[1] Before any profit accrued to the master in any year, however, various deductions had to be subtracted from this surplus. These included interest on the slave's cost, regardless of whether he had been reared by his owner or had been bought for a price; amortization of the capital investment; insurance against the slave's premature death or disability and against his escape from service; insurance also for his support when incapacitated whether by illness, accident or old age; taxes; and wages of superintendence. None of these charges would any sound method of accounting permit the master to escape.
[Footnote 1: Arthur H. Gibson, Human Economics (London, 1909), p. 202. The substance of the present paragraph and the three following ones is mostly in close accord with Gibson's analysis.]
The maintenance of the slave at the full rate required for the preservation of lusty physique was essential. The master could not reduce it below that standard without impairing his property as well as lessening its immediate return; and as a rule he could shift none of the charge to other shoulders, for the public would grant his workmen no dole from its charity funds. On the other hand, he was often induced to raise the scale above the minimum standard in order to increase the zeal and efficiency of his corps. In any case, medical attendance and the like was necessarily included in the cost of maintenance.

The capital investment in a slave reared by his master would include charges for the insurance of the child's mother at the time of his birth and for her deficit of routine work before and afterward; the food, clothing, nurse's care and incidentals furnished in childhood; the surplus of supplies over earnings in the period of youth while the slave was not fully earning his own keep and his overhead charges; compound interest on all of these until the slave reached adolescence or early manhood; and a proportion of similar charges on behalf of other children in his original group who had died in youth. In his teens the slave's earnings would gradually increase until they covered all his current charges, including the cost of supervision; and shortly before the age of twenty he would perhaps begin to yield a net return to the owner.

A slave's highest rate of earning would be reached of course when his physical maturity and his training became complete, and would normally continue until his bodily powers began to flag. This period would extend in the case of male field hands from perhaps twenty-five to possibly fifty years of age, and in the case of artizans from say thirty to fifty-five years. The maximum valuation of the slave as property, however, would come earlier, at the point when the investment in his production was first complete and when his maximum earnings were about to begin; and his value would thereafter decline, first slowly and then more swiftly with every passing year, in anticipation of the decline and final cessation of his earning power. Thus the ratio between the capital value of a slave and his annual net earnings, far from remaining constant, would steadily recede from the beginning to the end of his working life. At the age of twenty it might well be as ten to one; at the age of fifty it would probably not exceed four to one; at sixty-five it might be less than a parity.

In the buying and selling of nearly all non-human commodities the cost of production, or of reproduction, bears a definite relation to the market price, in that it fixes a limit below which owners will not continue to produce and sell. In the case of slaves, however, the cost of rearing had no practical bearing upon the market price, for the reason that the owners could not, or at least did not, increase or diminish the production at will.[2] It has been said by various anti-slavery spokesmen that many slaveowners systematically bred slaves for the market. They have adduced no shred of supporting evidence however; and although the present writer has long been alert for such data he has found but a single concrete item in the premises. This one came, curiously enough, from colonial Massachusetts, where John Josslyn recorded in 1636: "Mr. Maverick's negro woman came to my chamber window and in her own country language and tune sang very loud and shril. Going out to her, she used a great deal of respect towards me, and willingly would have expressed her grief in English. But I apprehended it by her countenance and deportment, whereupon I repaired to my host to learn of him the cause, for that I understood before that she had been a queen in her own countrey, and observed a very humble and dutiful garb used towards her by another negro who was her maid. Mr. Maverick was desirous to have a breed of negroes, and therefore seeing she would not yield to perswasions to company with a negro young man he had in his house, he commanded him, will'd she nill'd she to go to bed to her--which was no sooner done than she kickt him out again. This she took in high disdain beyond her slavery, and this was the cause of her grief."[3]
[Footnote 2: This is at variance with Gibson's thesis which, professedly dealing always in pure hypothesis, assumes a state of "perfect" slavery in which breeding is controlled on precisely the same basis as in the case of cattle.]

[Footnote 3: John Josslyn, "Account of two Voyages to New England," in the Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, XXIII, 231.]
As for the ante-bellum South, the available plantation instructions, journals and correspondence contain no hint of such a practice. Jesse Burton Harrison, a Virginian in touch with planters' conversation and himself hostile to slavery,[4] went so far as to write, "It may be that there is a small section of Virginia (perhaps we could indicate it) where the theory of population is studied with reference to the yearly income from the sale of slaves," but he went no further; and this, be it noted, is not clearly to hint anything further than that the owners of multiplying slaves reckoned their own gains from the unstimulated increase. If pressure were commonly applied James H. Hammond would not merely have inserted the characteristic provision in his schedule of rewards: "For every infant thirteen months old and in sound health that has been properly attended to, the mother shall receive a muslin or calico frock."[5] A planter here and there may have exerted a control of matings in the interest of industrial and commercial eugenics, but it is extremely doubtful that any appreciable number of masters attempted any direct hastening of slave increase. The whole tone of the community was hostile to such a practice. Masters were in fact glad enough to leave the slaves to their own inclinations in all regards so long as the day's work was not obstructed and good order was undisturbed. They had of course everywhere and at all times an interest in the multiplication of their slaves as well as the increase of their industrial aptitudes. Thus William Lee wrote in 1778 concerning his plantation in Virginia: "I wish particular attention may be paid to rearing young negroes, and taking care of those grown up, that the number may be increased as much as possible; also putting several of the most promising and ingenious lads apprentices to different trades, such as carpenters, coopers, wheelwrights, sawyers, shipwrights, bricklayers, plasterers, shoemakers and blacksmiths; some women should also be taught to weave."[6]
[Footnote 4: Review of the Slave Question (Richmond, 1833), p. 17.]

[Footnote 5: See above, p. 272.]

[Footnote 6: W.C. Ford, ed., Letters of William Lee (Brooklyn, 1891), II, 363, 364.]
But even if masters had stimulated breeding on occasion, that would have created but a partial and one-sided relationship between cost of production and market price. To make the connection complete it would have been requisite for them to check slave breeding when prices were low; and even the abolitionists, it seems, made no assertion to that effect. No, the market might decline indefinitely without putting an appreciable check upon the birth rate; and the master had virtually no choice but to rear every child in his possession. The cost of production, therefore, could not serve as a nether limit for slave prices at any time.

An upper limit to the price range was normally fixed by the reckoning of a slave's prospective earnings above the cost of his maintenance. The slave may here be likened to a mine operated by a corporation leasing the property. The slave's claim to his maintenance represents the prior claim of the land-owner to his rent; the master's claim to the annual surplus represents the equity of the stockholders in the corporation. But the ore will some day be exhausted and the dividends cease. Purchasers of the stock should accordingly consider amortization and pay only such price as will be covered by the discounted value of the prospective dividends during the life of the mine. The price of the output fluctuates, however, and the rate of any year's earnings can only be conjectured. Precise reckoning is therefore impracticable, and the stock will rise and fall in the market in response to the play of conjectures as to the present value of the total future earnings applicable to dividends. So also a planter entering the slave market might have reckoned in advance the prospect of working life which a slave of given age would have, and the average earnings above maintenance which might be expected from his labor. By discounting each of those annual returns at the prevailing rate of interest to determine their present values, and adding up the resulting sums, he would ascertain the price which his business prospects would justify him in paying. Having bought a slave at such a price, an equally thoroughgoing caution would have led him to take out a life, health and accident insurance policy on the slave; but even then he must personally have borne the risk of the slave's running away. In practice the lives of a few slaves engaged in steamboat operation and other hazardous pursuits were insured,[7] but the total number of policies taken on their lives, except as regards marine insurance in the coasting slave trade, was very small. The planters as a rule carried their own risks, and they generally dispensed with actuarial reckonings in determining their bids for slaves. About 1850 a rule of thumb was current that a prime hand was worth a hundred dollars for every cent in the current price of a pound of cotton. In general, however, the prospective purchaser merely "reckoned" in the Southern sense of conjecturing, at what price he could employ an added slave with probable advantage, and made his bid accordingly.
[Footnote 7: J.C. Nott, in J.B.D. DeBow, ed., Industrial Resources of the Southern and Western States (New Orleans, 1852), II, 299; F.L. Hoffman, in The South in the Building of the Nation (Richmond, Va. [1909]), 638-655. DeBow's Review, X, 241, contains an advertisement of a company offering life and accident insurance on slaves.
A typical policy is preserved in the MSS. division of the Library of Congress. It was issued Dec. 31, 1851, by the Louisville agent of the Mutual Benefit Fire and Life Insurance Company of Louisiana, to T.P. Linthicum of Bairdstown, Ky., insuring for $650 each the lives of Jack, 26 years old and Alexander, 31 years old, for one year, at the rates of 2 and 2-1/2 per cent, respectively, plus one per cent, for permission to employ the slaves on steamboats during the first half of the period. They were employed as waiters. Jack died Nov. 20, and the insurance was duly paid.]

A slave's market price was affected by sex, age, physique, mental quality, industrial training, temper, defects and vices, so far as each of these could be ascertained. The laws of most of the states presumed a seller's warrant of health at the time of sale, unless expressly withheld, and in Louisiana this warrant extended to mental and moral soundness. The period in which the buyer might apply for redress, however, was limited to a few months, and the verdicts of juries were uncertain. On the whole, therefore, if the buyer were unacquainted with the slave's previous career and with his attitude toward the transfer of possession, he necessarily incurred considerable risk in making each purchase. But in general the taking of reasonable precautions would cause the loss through unsuspected vices in one case to be offset by gains through unexpected virtues in another.

The scale and the trend of slave prices are essential features of the régime which most economists have ignored and for which the rest have had too little data. For colonial times the quotations are scant. An historian of the French West Indies, however, has ascertained from the archives that whereas the prices ranged perhaps as low as 200 francs for imported Africans there at the middle of the seventeenth century, they rose to 450 francs by the year 1700 and continued in a strong and steady advance thereafter, except in war times, until the very eve of the French Revolution. Typical prices for prime field hands in San Domingo were 650 francs in 1716, 800 in 1728, 1,160 in 1750, 1,400 in 1755, 1,180 in 1764, 1,600 in 1769, 1,860 in 1772, 1,740 in 1777, and 2,200 francs in 1785.[8]
[Footnote 8: Lucien Peytraud, L'Esclavage aux Antilles Françaises avant 1789 (Paris, 1897), pp. 122-127.]
In the British West Indies it is apparent from occasional documents that the trend was similar. A memorial from Barbados in 1689, for example, recited that in earlier years the planters had been supplied with Africans at £7 sterling per head, of which forty shillings covered the Guinea cost and £5 paid the freightage; but now since the establishment of the Royal African company, "we buy negroes at the price of an engrossed commodity, the common rate of a good negro on shipboard being twenty pound. And we are forced to scramble for them in so shameful a manner that one of the great burdens of our lives is the going to buy negroes. But we must have them; we cannot be without them."[9] The overthrow of the monopoly, however, brought no relief. In 1766 the price of new negroes in the West Indies ranged at about £26;[10] and in 1788-1790 from £41 to £49. At this time the value of a prime field hand, reared in the islands, was reported to be twice as great as that of an imported African.[11]
[Footnote 9: Groans of the Plantations (1679), p. 5, quoted in W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce (Cambridge, 1892), II, 278, note.]

[Footnote 10: Abridgement of the Evidence taken before a Committee of the whole House: The Slave Trade, no. 2 (London, 1790), p. 37.]

[Footnote 11: "An Old Member of Parliament," Doubts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (London, 1790), p. 72, quoting Dr. Adair's evidence in the Privy Council Report, part 3, Antigua appendix no. II].
In Virginia the rise was proportionate. In 1671 a planter wrote of his purchase of a negro for £26. 10s and said he supposed the price was the highest ever paid in those parts; but a few years afterward a lot of four men brought £30 a head, two women the same rate, and two more women £25 apiece; and before the end of the seventeenth century men were being appraised at £40.[12] An official report from the colony in 1708 noted a great increase of the slave supply in recent years, but observed that the prices had nevertheless risen.[13] In 1754 George Washington paid £52 for a man and nearly as much for a woman; in 1764 he bought a lot at £57 a head; in 1768 he bought two mulattoes at £50 and £61.15s respectively, a negro for £66.10s, another at public vendue for £72, and a girl for £49.10s. Finally in 1772 he bought five males, one of whom cost £50, another £65, a third £75, and the remaining two £90 each;[14] and in the same year he was offered £80 for a slave named Will Shagg whom his overseer described as an incorrigible runaway.[15]
[Footnote 12: P.A. Bruce, Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, II, 88-92.]

[Footnote 13: North Carolina Colonial Records, I, 693.]

[Footnote 14: W.C. Ford, George Washington (Paris and New York, 1900), I, 125-127; Washington as an Employer and Importer of Labor (Brooklyn, 1889).]

[Footnote 15: S.M. Hamilton, ed., Letters to Washington. IV, 127.]
Scattered items which might be cited from still other colonies make the evidence conclusive that there was a general and substantially continuous rise throughout colonial times. The advances which occurred in the principal British West India islands and in Virginia, indeed, were a consequence of advances elsewhere, for by the middle of the eighteenth century all of these colonies were already passing the zenith of their prosperity, whereas South Carolina, Georgia, San Domingo and Brazil, as well as minor new British tropical settlements, were in course of rapid plantation expansion. Prices in the several communities tended of course to be equalized partly by a slender intercolonial slave trade but mainly by the Guineamen's practice of carrying their wares to the highest of the many competing markets.

The war for American independence, bringing hard times, depressed all property values, those of slaves included. But the return of peace brought prompt inflation in response to exaggerated anticipations of prosperity to follow. Wade Hampton, for example, wrote to his brother from Jacksonborough in the South Carolina lowlands, January 30, 1782: "All attempts to purchase negroes have been fruitless, owing to the flattering state of our affairs in this quarter."[16] The sequel was sharply disappointing. The indigo industry was virtually dead, and rice prices, like those of tobacco, did not maintain their expected levels. The financial experience was described in 1786 by Henry Pendleton, a judge on the South Carolina bench, in words which doubtless would have been similarly justified in various other states: "No sooner had we recovered and restored the country to peace and order than a rage for running into debt became epidemical.... A happy speculation was almost every man's object and pursuit.... What a load of debt was in a short time contracted in the purchase of British superfluities, and of lands and slaves for which no price was too high if credit for the purchase was to be obtained!... How small a pittance of the produce of the years 1783, '4, '5, altho' amounting to upwards of 400,000 sterling a year on an average, hath been applied toward lessening old burdens!... What then was the consequence? The merchants were driven to the exportation of gold and silver, which so rapidly followed; ... a diminution of the value of the capital as well as the annual produce of estates in consequence of the fallen price; ... the recovery of new debts as well as old in effect suspended, while the numerous bankruptcies which have happened in Europe amongst the merchants trading to America, the reproach of which is cast upon us, have proclaimed to all the trading nations to guard against our laws and policy, and even against our moral principles."[17]
[Footnote 16: MS. among the Gibbes papers In the capitol at Columbia, S.C.]

[Footnote 17: Charleston Morning Post, Dec. 13, 1786 quoted in the American Historical Review, XIV, 537, 538]
The depression continued with increasing severity into the following decade, when it appears that many of the planters in the Charleston district were saved from ruin only by the wages happily drawn from the Santee Canal Company in payment for the work of their slaves in the canal construction gangs.[18] The conditions and prospects in Virginia at the same time are suggested by a remark of George Washington in 1794 on slave investments: "I shall be happily mistaken if they are not found to be a very troublesome species of property ere many years have passed over our heads."[19]
[Footnote 18: Samuel DuBose, "Reminiscences of St. Stephen's Parish," in T.G. Thomas, ed., History of the Huguenots in South Carolina (New York, 1887), pp. 66-68.]

[Footnote 19: New York Public Library Bulletin, II, 15. This letter has been quoted at greater length at the beginning of chapter VIII above.]
Prices in this period were so commonly stated in currency of uncertain depreciation that a definite schedule by years may not safely be made. It is clear, however, that the range in 1783 was little lower than it had been on the eve of the war, while in 1795 it was hardly more than half as high. For the first time in American history, in a period of peace, there was a heavy and disquieting fall in slave prices. This was an earnest of conditions in the nineteenth century when advances and declines alternated. From about 1795 onward the stability of the currency and the increasing abundance of authentic data permit the fluctuations of prices to be measured and their causes and effects to be studied with some assurance.

The materials extant comprise occasional travellers' notes, fairly numerous newspaper items, and quite voluminous manuscript collections of appraisals and bills of sale, all of which require cautious discrimination in their analysis.[20] The appraisals fall mainly into two groups: the valuation of estates in probate, and those for the purpose of public compensation to the owners of slaves legally condemned for capital crimes. The former were oftentimes purely perfunctory, and they are generally serviceable only as aids in ascertaining the ratios of value between slaves of the diverse ages and sexes. The appraisals of criminals, however, since they prescribed actual payments on the basis of the market value each slave would have had if his crime had not been committed, may be assumed under such laws as Virginia maintained in the premises to be fairly accurate. A file of more than a thousand such appraisals, with vouchers of payment attached, which is preserved among the Virginia archives in the State Library at Richmond, is particularly copious in regard to prices as well as in regard to crimes and punishments.
[Footnote 20: The difficulties to be encountered in ascertaining the values at any time and place are exemplified in the documents pertaining to slave prices in the various states in the year 1815, printed in the American Historical Review, XIX, 813-838. In the gleaning of slave prices I have been actively assisted by Professor R.P. Brooks of the University of Georgia and Miss Lillie Richardson of New Orleans.]
The bills of sale recording actual market transactions remain as the chief and central source of information upon prices. Some thousands of these, originating in the city of Charleston, are preserved in a single file among the state archives of South Carolina at Columbia; other thousands are scattered through the myriad miscellaneous notarial records in the court house at New Orleans; many smaller accumulations are to be found in county court houses far and wide, particularly in the cotton belt; and considerable numbers are in private possession, along with plantation journals and letters which sometimes contain similar data.

Now these documents more often than otherwise record the sale of slaves in groups. One of the considerations involved was that a gang already organized would save its purchaser time and trouble in establishing a new plantation as a going concern, and therefore would probably bring a higher gross price than if its members were sold singly. Another motive was that of keeping slave families together, which served doubly in comporting with scruples of conscience and inducing to the greater contentment of slaves in their new employ. The documents of the time demonstrate repeatedly the appreciation of equanimity as affecting value. But group sales give slight information upon individual prices; and even the bills of individual sale yield much less than a statistician could wish. The sex is always presumable from the slave's name, the color is usually stated or implied, and occasionally deleterious proclivities are specified, as of a confirmed drunkard or a persistent runaway; but specifications of age, strength and talents are very often, one and all, omitted. The problem is how may these bare quotations of price be utilized. To strike an average of all prices in any year at any place would be fruitless, since an even distribution of slave grades cannot be assumed when quotations are not in great volume: the prices of young children are rarely ascertainable from the bills, since they were hardly ever sold separately; the prices of women likewise are too seldom segregated from those of their children to permit anything to be established beyond a ratio to some ascertained standard; and the prices of artizans varied too greatly with their skill to permit definite schedules of them. The only market grade, in fact, for which basic price tabulations can be made with any confidence is that of young male prime field hands, for these alone may usually be discriminated even when ages and qualities are not specified. The method here is to select in the group of bills for any time and place such maximum quotations for males as occur with any notable degree of frequency. Artizans, foremen and the like are thereby generally excluded by the infrequency of their sales, while the middle-aged, the old and the defective are eliminated by leaving aside the quotations of lower range. The more scattering bills in which ages and crafts are given will then serve, when supplemented from probate appraisals, to establish valuation ratios between these able-bodied unskilled young men and the several other classes of slaves. Thus, artizans often brought twice as much as field hands of similar ages, prime women generally brought three-fourths or four-fifths as much as prime men; boys and girls entering their teens, and men and women entering their fifties, brought about half of prime prices for their sexes; and infants were generally appraised at about a tenth or an eighth of prime. The average price for slaves of all ages and both sexes, furthermore, was generally about one-half of the price for male prime field hands. The fluctuation of prime prices, therefore, measures the rise and fall of slave values in general.

The accompanying chart will show the fluctuations of the average prices of prime field hands (unskilled young men) in Virginia, at Charleston, in middle Georgia, and at New Orleans, a£ well as the contemporary range of average prices for cotton of middling grade in the chief American market, that of New York. The range for prime slaves, it will be seen, rose from about $300 and $400 a head in the upper and lower South respectively in 1795 to a range of from $400 to $600 in 1803, in consequence of the initial impulse of cotton and sugar production and of the contemporary prohibition of the African slave trade by the several states. At those levels prices remained virtually fixed, in most markets, for nearly a decade as an effect of South Carolina's reopening of her ports and of the hampering of export commerce by the Napoleonic war. The latter factor prevented even the congressional stoppage of the foreign slave trade in 1808 from exerting any strong effect upon slave prices for the time being except in the sugar district. The next general movement was in fact a downward one of about $100 a head caused by the War of 1812. At the return of peace the prices leaped with parallel perpendicularity in all the markets from $400-$500 in 1814 to twice that range in 1818, only to be upset by the world-wide panic of the following year and to descend to levels of $400 to $600 in 1823. Then came a new rise in the cotton and sugar districts responding to a heightened price of their staples, but for once not evoking a sympathetic movement in the other markets. A small decline then ensuing gave place to a soaring movement at New Orleans, in response to the great stimulus which the protective tariff of 1828 gave to sugar production. The other markets began in the early thirties to make up for the tardiness of their rise; and as a feature of the general inflation of property values then prevalent everywhere, slave prices rose to an apex in 1837 of $1,300 in the purchasing markets and $1,100 in Virginia. The general panic of 1837 began promptly to send them down; and though they advanced in 1839 as a consequence of a speculative bolstering of the cotton market that year, they fell all the faster upon the collapse of that project, finding new levels of rest only at a range of $500-$700. A final advance then set in at the middle of the forties which continued until the highest levels on record were attained on the eve of secession and war. [Illustration: PRICES OF SLAVES AND OF COTTON.]

There are thus in the slave price diagram for the nineteenth century a plateau, with a local peak rising from its level in the sugar district, and three solid peaks--all of them separated by intervening valleys, and all corresponding more or less to the elevations and depressions in the cotton range. The plateau, 1803-1812, was prevented from producing a peak in the eastern markets by the South Carolina repeal of the slave trade prohibition and by the European imbroglio. The first common peak, 1818, and its ensuing trough came promptly upon the establishment of the characteristic régime of the ante-bellum period, in which the African reservoir could no longer be drawn upon to mitigate labor shortages and restrain the speculative enhancement of slave prices. The trough of the 'twenties was deeper and broader in the upper and eastern South than elsewhere partly because the panic of 1819 had brought a specially severe financial collapse there from the wrecking of mushroom canal projects and the like.[21] It is remarkable that so wide a spread of rates in the several districts prevailed for so long a period as here appears. The statistics may of course be somewhat at fault, but there is reason for confidence that their margin of error is not great enough to vitiate them.
[Footnote 21: E. g., The Papers of Archibald D. Murphey (North Carolina Historical Commission Publications, Raleigh, 1914), I, 93ff]
The next peak, 1837-1839, was in most respects like the preceding one, and the drop was quite as sudden and even more severe. The distresses of the time in the district where they were the most intense were described in a diary of 1840 by a North Carolinian, who had journeyed southwestward in the hope of collecting payment for certain debts, but whose personal chagrin was promptly eclipsed by the spectacle of general disaster. "Speculation," said he, "has been making poor men rich and rich men princes." But now "a revulsion has taken place. Mississippi is ruined. Her rich men are poor, and her poor men beggars.... We have seen hard times in North Carolina, hard times in the east, hard times everywhere; but Mississippi exceeds them all.... Lands ... that once commanded from thirty to fifty dollars per acre may now be bought for three or five dollars, and that with considerable improvements, while many have been sold at sheriff's sales at fifty cents that were considered worth ten to twenty dollars. The people, too, are running their negroes to Texas and to Alabama, and leaving their real estate and perishable property to be sold, or rather sacrificed.... So great is the panic and so dreadful the distress that there are a great many farms prepared to receive crops, and some of them actually planted, and yet deserted, not a human being to be found upon them. I had prepared myself to see hard times here, but unlike most cases, the actual condition of affairs is much worse than the report."[22]
[Footnote 22: W.H. Wills, "Diary," in the Southern History Association Publications, VIII (Washington, 1904), 35.]
The fall of Mississippi slaves continued, accompanying that of cotton and even anticipating it in the later phase of the movement, until extreme depths were reached in the middle forties, though at New Orleans and in the Georgia uplands the decline was arrested in 1842 at a level of about $700. The sugar planters began prospering from the better prices established for their staple by the tariff of that year, and were able to pay more than panic prices for slaves; but as has been noted in an earlier chapter, suspicion of fraud in the cases of slaves offered from Mississippi militated against their purchase. A sugar planter would be willing to pay considerably more for a neighbor's negro than for one who had come down the river and who might shortly be seized on a creditor's attachment.

At the middle of the forties, with a rising cotton market, there began a strong and sustained advance, persisting throughout the fifties and carrying slave prices to unexampled heights. By 1856 the phenomenon was receiving comment in the newspapers far and wide. In the early months of that year the Republican of St. Louis reported field hand sales in Pike County, Missouri, at from $1,215 to $1,642; the Herald of Lake Providence, Louisiana, recorded the auction of General L.C. Folk's slaves at which "negro men ranged from $1,500 to $1,635, women and girls from $1,250 to $1,550, children in proportion--all cash" and concluded: "Such a sale, we venture to say, has never been equaled in the state of Louisiana." In Virginia, likewise, the Richmond Despatch in January told of the sale of an estate in Halifax County at which "among other enormous prices, one man brought $1,410 and another $1,425, and both were sold again privately the same day at advances of $50. They were ordinary field hands, not considered no. I. in any respect." In April the Lynchburg Virginian reported the sale of men in the auction of a large estate at from $1,120 to $2,110, with most of the prices ranging midway between; and in August the Richmond Despatch noted that instead of the customary summer dullness in the demand for slaves, it was unprecedentedly vigorous, with men's prices ranging from $1,200 to $1,500.[23]

The Southern Banner of Athens, Georgia, said as early as January, 1855: "Everybody except the owners of slaves must feel and know that the price of slave labor and slave property at the South is at present too high when compared with the prices of everything else. There must ere long be a change; and ... we advise parties interested to 'stand from under!'"[24] But the market belied the apprehensions. A neighboring journal noted at the beginning of 1858, that in the face of the current panic, slave prices as indicated in newspapers from all quarters of the South held up astonishingly. "This argues a confidence on the part of the planters that there is a good time coming. Well," the editor concluded with a hint of his own persistent doubts, "we trust they may not be deceived in their calculations."[25]

The market continued deaf to the Cassandra school. When in March, 1859, Pierce Butler's half of the slaves from the plantations which his quondam wife made notorious were auctioned to defray his debts, bidders who gathered from near and far offered prices which yielded an average rate of $708 per head for the 429 slaves of all ages.[26] And in January and February the still greater auction at Albany, Georgia, of the estate of Joseph Bond, lately deceased, yielded $2,850 for one of the men, about $1,900 as an average for such prime field hands as were sold separately, and a price of $958.64 as a general average for the 497 slaves of all ages and conditions.[27] Sales at similar prices were at about the same time reported from various other quarters.[28]
[Footnote 23: These items were reprinted in George M. Weston, Who are and who may be Slaves in the U.S. [1856].]

[Footnote 24: Southern Banner, Jan. 11, 1855, endorsing an editorial of similar tone in the New York Express.]

[Footnote 25: Southern Watchman (Athens, Ga.), Jan. 21, 1858.]

[Footnote 26: What Became of the Slaves on a Georgia Plantation Auction Sale of Slaves at Savannah, March 2d and 3d, 1859. A Sequel to Mrs. Kemble's Journal [1863]. This appears to have been a reprint of an article in the New York Tribune. The slaves were sold in family parcels comprising from two to seven persons each.]

[Footnote 27: MS. record in the Ordinary's office at Macon, Ga. Probate Returns, vol. 9, pp. 2-7.]

[Footnote 28: Edward Ingle, Southern Sidelights (New York [1896]), p. 294. note.]
Editorial warnings were now more vociferous than before. The Federal Union of Milledgeville said for example: "There is a perfect fever raging in Georgia now on the subject of buying negroes.... Men are borrowing money at exorbitant rates of interest to buy negroes at exorbitant prices. The speculation will not sustain the speculators, and in a short time we shall see many negroes and much land offered under the sheriff's hammer, with few buyers for cash; and then this kind of property will descend to its real value. The old rule of pricing a negro by the price of cotton by the pound--that is to say, if cotton is worth twelve cents a negro man is worth $1,200.00, if at fifteen cents then $1,500.00--does not seem to be regarded. Negroes are 25 per cent. higher now with cotton at ten and one half cents than they were two or three years ago when it was worth fifteen and sixteen cents. Men are demented upon the subject. A reverse will surely come."[29]
[Footnote 29: Federal Union (Milledgeville, Ga.), Jan. 17, 1860, reprinted with endorsement in the Southern Banner (Athens, Ga.), Jan. 26, 1860, and reprinted in Plantation and Frontier, II, 73, 74.]
The fever was likewise raging in the western South,[30] and it persisted until the end of 1860. Indeed the peak of this price movement was evidently cut off by the intervention of war. How great an altitude it might have reached, and what shape its downward slope would have taken had peace continued, it is idle to conjecture. But that a crash must have come is beyond a reasonable doubt.
[Footnote 30: Prices at Lebanon, Tenn., and Franklin, Ky., are given in Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, XI, 774 (Dec., 1859).]
The Charleston Mercury[31] attributed the advance of slave prices in the fifties mainly to the demand of the railroads for labor. This was borne out in some degree by the transactions of the railroad companies whose headquarters were in that city. The president of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad Company, endorsing the arguments which had been advanced by a writer in DeBows Review,[32] recommended in his first annual report, 1855, an extensive purchase of slaves for the company's construction gangs, reckoning that at the price of $1,000, with interest at 7 per cent. and life insurance at 2-1/2 per cent. the annual charge would be little more than half the current cost in wages at $180. The yearly cost of maintenance and superintendence, reckoned at $20 for clothing, $15 for corn, molasses and tobacco, $1 for physician's fees, $10 for overseer's wages and $15 for tools and repairs, he said, would be the same whether the slaves were hired or bought.[33] How largely the company adopted its president's plan is not known. For the older and stronger South Carolina Railroad Company, however, whose lines extended from Charleston to Augusta, Columbia and Camden, detailed records in the premises are available. This company was created in 1843 by the merging of two earlier corporations, one of which already possessed eleven slaves. In February, 1845, the new company bought three more slaves, two of which cost $400 apiece and the third $686. At the end of the next year the superintendent reported: "After hands for many years in the company's service have acquired the knowledge and skill necessary to make them valuable, the company are either compelled to submit to higher rates of wages imposed or to pass others at a lower rate of compensation through the same apprenticeship, with all the hazard of a strike, in their turn, by the owners."[34] The directors, after studying the problem thus presented, launched upon a somewhat extensive slave-purchasing programme, buying one in 1848 and seven in 1849 at uniform prices of $900; one in 1851 at $800 thirty-seven in 1852, all but two of which were procured in a single purchase from J.C. Sproull and Company, at prices from $512.50 to $1,004.50, but mostly ranging near $900; and twenty-eight more at various times between 1853 and 1859, at prices rising to $1,500. Finally, when two or three years of war had put all property, of however precarious a nature, at a premium over Confederate currency, the company bought another slave in August, 1863, for $2,050, and thirty-two more in 1864 at prices ranging from $2,450 to $6,005.[35] All of these slaves were males. No ages or trades are specified in the available records, and no statement of the advantages actually experienced in owning rather than hiring slaves.
[Footnote 31: Reprinted in William Chambers, American Slavery and Colour (London, 1857), P. 207.]

[Footnote 32: DeBow's Review, XVII, 76-82.]

[Footnote 33: Ibid., XVIII, 404-406.]

[Footnote 34: U.B. Phillips, Transportation in the Eastern Cotton Belt (New York, 1908), p. 205.]

[Footnote 35: South Carolina Railroad Company Reports for 1860 and 1865.]
The Brandon Bank, at Brandon, Mississippi, which was virtually identical with the Mississippi and Alabama Railroad Company, bought prior to 1839, $159,000 worth of slaves for railroad employment, but it presumably lost them shortly after that year when the bank and the railroad together went bankrupt.[36] The state of Georgia had bought about 190 slaves in and before 1830 for employment in river and road improvements, but it sold them in 1834,[37] and when in the late 'forties and the 'fifties it built and operated the Western and Atlantic Railroad it made no repetition of the earlier experiment. In the 'fifties, indeed, the South Carolina Railroad Company was almost unique in its policy of buying slaves for railroad purposes.
[Footnote 36: Niles' Register, LVI, 130 (April 27, 1839).]

[Footnote 37: U.B. Phillips, Transportation in the Eastern Cotton Belt, pp. 114, 115; W.C. Dawson, Compilation of Georgia Laws, p. 399; O.H. Prince, Digest of the Laws of Georgia, p. 742.]
The most cogent reason against such a policy was not that the owned slaves increased the current charges, but that their purchase involved the diversion of capital in a way which none but abnormal circumstances could justify. In the year 1846 when the superintendent of the South Carolina company made his recommendation, slave prices were abnormally low and cotton prices were leaping in such wise as to make probable a strong advance in the labor market. By 1855, however, the price of slaves had nearly doubled, and by 1860 it was clearly inordinate. The special occasion for a company to divert its funds or increase its capital obligations had accordingly vanished, and sound policy would have suggested the sale of slaves on hand rather than the purchase of more. The state of Louisiana, indeed, sold in 1860[38] the force of nearly a hundred slave men which it had used on river improvements long enough for many of its members to have grown old in the service.[39]
[Footnote 38: Board of Public Works Report for 1860 (Baton Rouge, 1861), p. 7.]

[Footnote 39: State Engineer's Report for 1856 (New Orleans, 1857), p. 7.]
Manufacturing companies here and there bought slaves to man their works, but in so doing added seriously to the risks of their business. A news item of 1849 reported that an outbreak of cholera at the Hillman Iron Works near Clarksville, Tenn., had brought the death of four or five slaves and the removal of the remainder from the vicinity until the epidemic should have passed.[40] A more normal episode of mere financial failure was that which wrecked the Nesbitt Manufacturing Company whose plant was located on Broad River in South Carolina. To complete its works and begin operations this company procured a loan of some $92,000 in 1837 from the Bank of the State of South Carolina on the security of the land and buildings and a hundred slaves owned by the company. After several years of operation during which the purchase of additional slaves raised the number to 194, twenty-seven of whom were mechanics, the company admitted its insolvency. When the mortgage was foreclosed in 1845 the bank bought in virtually the whole property to save its investment, and operated the works for several years until a new company, with a manager imported from Sweden, was floated to take the concern off its hands.[41]
[Footnote 40: New Orleans Delta, Mch. 10, 1849.]

[Footnote 41: Report of the Special Joint Committee appointed to examine the Bank of the State of South Carolina (Charleston, 1849); Report of the President and Directors of the Bank of the State of South Carolina, November, 1850 (Columbia, 1850).]
Most of the cotton mills depended wholly upon white labor, though a few made experiments with slave staffs. One of these was in operation in Maury County, Tennessee, in 1827,[42] and another near Pensacola, Florida, twenty years afterward. Except for their foremen, each of these was run by slave operatives exclusively; and in the latter case, at least, all the slaves were owned by the company. These comprised in 1847 some forty boys and girls, who were all fed, and apparently well fed, at the company's table.[43] The career of these enterprises is not ascertainable. A better known case is that of the Saluda Factory, near Columbia, South Carolina. When J. Graves came from New England in 1848 to assume the management of this mill he found several negroes among the operatives, all of whom were on hire. His first impulse was to replace all the negroes with whites; but before this was accomplished the newcomer was quite converted by their "activity and promptness," and he recommended that the number of black operatives be increased instead of diminished. "They are easily trained to habits of industry and patient endurance," he said, "and by the concentration of all their faculties ... their imitative faculties become cultivated to a very high degree, their muscles become trained and obedient to the will, so that whatever they see done they are quick in learning to do."[44] The company was impelled by Graves' enthusiasm to resort to slave labor exclusively, partly on hire from their owners and partly by purchase. At the height of this régime, in 1851, the slave operatives numbered 158.[45] But whether from the incapacity of the negroes as mill hands or from the accumulation of debt through the purchase of slaves, the company was forced into liquidation at the close of the following year.[46]
[Footnote 42: Georgia Courier (Augusta, Ga.), Apr. 24, 1828, reprinted in Plantation and Frontier, II, 258.]

[Footnote 43: DeBow's Review, IV, 256.]

[Footnote 44: Letter of J. Graves, May 15, 1849, in the Augusta, Ga., Chronicle, June 1, 1849. Cf. also J.B. D Debow, Industrial Resources of the Southern and Western States (New Orleans, 1852), II, 339.]

[Footnote 45: DeBow's Review, XI, 319, 320.]

[Footnote 46: Augusta Chronicle, Jan. 5, 1853.]
Corporations had reason at all times, in fact, to prefer free laborers over slaves even on hire, for in so doing they escaped liabilities for injuries by fellow servants. When a firm of contractors, for example, advertised in 1833 for five hundred laborers at $15 per month to work on the Muscle Shoals canal in northern Alabama, it deemed it necessary to say that in cases of accidents to slaves it would assume financial responsibility "for any injury or damage that may hereafter happen in the process of blasting rock or of the caving of banks."[47] Free laborers, on the other hand, carried their own risks. Except when some planter would take a contract for grading in his locality, to be done under his own supervision in the spare time of his gang, slaves were generally called for in canal and railroad work only when the supply of free labor was inadequate.
[Footnote 47: Reprinted in E.S. Abdy, Journal of a Residence in the United States (London, 1835), II, 109.]
Slaveowners, on the other hand, were equally reluctant to hire their slaves to such corporations or contractors except in times of special depression, for construction camps from their lack of sanitation, discipline, domesticity and stability were at the opposite pole from plantations as places of slave residence. High wages were no adequate compensation for the liability to contagious and other diseases, demoralization, and the checking of the birth rate by the separation of husbands and wives. The higher the valuation of slave property, the greater would be the strength of these considerations.

Slaves were a somewhat precarious property under all circumstances. Losses were incurred not only through disease[48] and flight but also through sudden death in manifold ways, and through theft. A few items will furnish illustration. An early Charleston newspaper printed the following: "On the ninth instant Mr. Edward North at Pon Pon sent a sensible negro fellow to Moon's Ferry for a jug of rum, which is about two miles from his house; and he drank to that excess in the path that he died within six or seven hours."[49] From the Eutaws in the same state a correspondent wrote in 1798 of a gin-house disaster: "I yesterday went over to Mr. Henry Middleton's plantation to view the dreadful effects of a flash of lightning which the day before fell on his machine house in which were about twenty negro men, fourteen of which were killed immediately."[50] In 1828 the following appeared in a newspaper at New Orleans: "Yesterday towards one o'clock P.M., as one of the ferry boats was crossing the river with sixteen slaves on board belonging to General Wade Hampton, with their baggage, a few rods distant from the shore these negroes, being frightened by the motion of the boat, all threw themselves on the same side, which caused the boat to fill; and notwithstanding the prompt assistance afforded, four or five of these unfortunates perished."[51] In 1839 William Lowndes Yancey, who was then a planter in South Carolina, lost his whole gang through the poisoning of a spring on his place, and was thereby bankrupted.[52] About 1858 certain bandits in western Louisiana abducted two slaves from the home of the Widow Bernard on Bayou Vermilion. After the lapse of several months they were discovered in the possession of one Apcher, who was tried for the theft but acquitted. The slaves when restored to their mistress were put in the kitchen, bound together by their hands. But while the family was at dinner the two ran from the house and drowned themselves in the bayou. The narrator of the episode attributed the impulse for suicide to the taste for vagabondage and the hatred for work which the negroes had acquired from the bandit.[53]
[Footnote 48: For the effect of epidemics see above, pp. 300, 301.]

[Footnote 49: South Carolina Gazette, Feb. 12 to 19, 1741.]

[Footnote 50: Carolina Gazette (Charleston), Feb. 4, 1798, supplement.]

[Footnote 51: Louisiana Courier, Mch. 3, 1828.]

[Footnote 52: J.W. DuBose, Life of W.L. Yancey (Birmingham, Ala., 1892), p. 39.]

[Footnote 53: Alexandra Barbe, Histoire des Comités de Vigilance aux Attakapas] (Louisiana, 1861), pp. 182-185.
The governor of South Carolina reported the convictions of five white men for the crime of slave stealing in the one year;[54] and in the penitentiary lists of the several states the designation of slave stealers was fairly frequent, in spite of the fact that the death penalty was generally prescribed for the crime. One method of their operation was described in a Georgia newspaper item of 1828 which related that two wagoners upon meeting a slave upon the road persuaded him to lend a hand in shifting their load. When the negro entered the wagon they overpowered him and drove on. When they camped for the night they bound him to the wheel; but while they slept he cut his thongs and returned to his master.[55] The greatest activities in this line, however, were doubtless those of the Murrell gang of desperadoes operating throughout the southwest in the early thirties with a shrewd scheme for victimizing both whites and blacks. They would conspire with a slave, promising him his freedom or some other reward if he would run off with them and suffer himself to be sold to some unwary purchaser and then escape to join them again.[56] Sometimes they repeated this process over and over again with the same slave until a threat of exposure from him led to his being silenced by murder. In the same period a smaller gang with John Washburn as its leading spirit and with Natchez as informal headquarters, was busy at burglary, highway and flatboat robbery, pocket picking and slave stealing.[57] In 1846 a prisoner under arrest at Cheraw, South Carolina, professed to reveal a new conspiracy for slave stealing with ramifications from Virginia to Texas; but the details appear not to have been published.[58]
[Footnote 54: H.M. Henry, The Police Control of the Slave in South Carolina [1914], pp. 110-112.]

[Footnote 55: The Athenian (Athens, Ga.), Aug. 19, 1828.]

[Footnote 56: H.R. Howard, compiler, The History of Virgil A. Stewart and his Adventure in capturing and exposing the great "Western Land Pirate" and his Gang (New York, 1836), pp. 63-68, 104, et passim. The truth of these accounts of slave stealings is vouched for in a letter to the editor of the New Orleans Bulletin, reprinted in the Federal Union (Milledgeville, Ga.), Nov. 5, 1835.]

[Footnote 57: The manifold felonies of the gang were described by Washburn in a dying confession after his conviction for a murder at Cincinnati. Natchez Courier, reprinted in the Louisiana Courier (New Orleans), Feb. 28, 1837. Other reports of the theft of slaves appear in the Charleston Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Nov. 2, 1786; Southern Banner (Athens, Ga.), July 19, 1834, advertisement; Federal Union (Milledgeville, Ga.), July 18, 1835; and the following New Orleans journals: Louisiana Gazette, Apr. 1 and Sept. 10, 1819; Mercantile Advertiser, Sept 29, 1831; Bee, Dec. 14, 1841; Mch. 10, 1845, and Aug. 1 and Nov. 11, 1848; Louisiana Courier, Mch. 29 and Sept. 18, 1840; Picayune, Aug. 21, 1845.]

[Footnote 58: New Orleans Commercial Times, Aug. 26, 1846.]
Certain hostile critics of slavery asserted that in one district or another masters made reckonings favorable to such driving of slaves at their work as would bring premature death. Thus Fanny Kemble wrote in 1838, when on the Georgia coast: "In Louisiana ... the humane calculation was not only made but openly and unhesitatingly avowed that the planters found it upon the whole their most profitable plan to work off (kill with labour) their whole number of slaves about once in seven years, and renew the whole stock."[59] The English traveler Featherstonhaugh likewise wrote of Louisiana in 1844, when he had come as close to it as East Tennessee, that "the duration of life for a sugar mill hand does not exceed seven years."[60] William Goodell supported a similar assertion of his own in 1853 by a series of citations. The first of these was to Theodore Weld as authority, that "Professor Wright" had been told at New York by Dr. Deming of Ashland, Ohio, a story that Mr. Dickinson of Pittsburg had been told by Southern planters and slave dealers on an Ohio River steamboat. The tale thus vouched for contained the assertion that sugar planters found that by the excessive driving of slaves day and night in the grinding season they could so increase their output that "they could afford to sacrifice one set of hands in seven years," and "that this horrible system was now practised to a considerable extent." The second citation was likewise to Weld for a statement by Mr. Samuel Blackwell of Jersey City, whose testimonial lay in the fact of his membership in the Presbyterian church, that while on a tour in Louisiana "the planters generally declared to him that they were obliged so to overwork their slaves during the sugar-making season (from eight to ten weeks) as to use them up in seven or eight years." The third was to the Rev. Mr. Reed of London who after a tour in Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky in 1834 published the following: "I was told, confidentially, from excellent authority, that recently at a meeting of planters in South Carolina the question was seriously discussed whether the slave is more profitable to the owner if well fed, well clothed and worked lightly, or if made the most of at once and exhausted in some eight years. The decision was in favor of the last alternative"[61] An anonymous writer in 1857 repeated this last item without indication of its date or authority but with a shortening of the period of exhaustion to "some four or five years."[62]
[Footnote 59: Frances A. Kemble, Journal (New York, 1863), p. 28.]

[Footnote 60: G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Excursion Through the Slave States (London, 1844), I, 120. Though Featherstonhaugh afterward visited New Orleans his book does not recur to this topic.]

[Footnote 61: William Goodell, The American Slave Code in Theory and Practise (New York, 1853), pp. 79-81, citing Theodore Weld, Slavery as it is, p 39, and Mattheson, Visit to the American Churches, II, 173.]

[Footnote 62: The Suppressed Book about Slavery! Prepared for publication in 1857, never published until the present time (New York, 1864), p. 211.]
These assertions, which have been accepted by some historians as valid, prompt a series of reflections. In the first place, anyone who has had experience with negro labor may reasonably be skeptical when told that healthy, well fed negroes, whether slave or free, can by any routine insistence of the employer be driven beyond the point at which fatigue begins to be injurious. In the second place, plantation work as a rule had the limitation of daylight hours; in plowing, mules which could not be hurried set the pace; in hoeing, haste would imperil the plants by enhancing the proportion of misdirected strokes; and in the harvest of tobacco, rice and cotton much perseverance but little strain was involved. The sugar harvest alone called for heavy exertion and for night work in the mill. But common report in that regard emphasized the sturdy sleekness as well as the joviality of the negroes in the grinding season;[63] and even if exhaustion had been characteristic instead, the brevity of the period would have prevented any serious debilitating effect before the coming of the more leisurely schedule after harvest. In fact many neighboring Creole and Acadian farmers, fishermen and the like were customarily enlisted on wages as plantation recruits in the months of stress.[64] The sugar district furthermore was the one plantation area within easy reach of a considerable city whence a seasonal supply of extra hands might be had to save the regular forces from injury. The fact that a planter, as reported by Sir Charles Lyell, failed to get a hundred recruits one year in the midst of the grinding season[65] does not weaken this consideration. It may well have been that his neighbors had forestalled him in the wage-labor market, or that the remaining Germans and Irish in the city refused to take the places of their fellows who were on strike. It is well established that sugar planters had systematic recourse to immigrant labor for ditching and other severe work.[66] It is incredible that they ignored the same recourse if at any time the requirements of their crop threatened injury to their property in slaves. The recommendation of the old Roman, Varro, that freemen be employed in harvesting to save the slaves[67] would apply with no more effect, in case of need, to the pressing of oil and wine than to the grinding of sugar-cane. Two months' wages to a Creole, a "'Cajun" or an Irishman would be cheap as the price of a slave's continued vigor, even when slave prices were low. On the whole, however, the stress of the grinding was not usually as great as has been fancied. Some of the regular hands in fact were occasionally spared from the harvest at its height and set to plow and plant for the next year's crop.[68]
[Footnote 63: E. g., Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, p. 668.]

[Footnote 64: DeBow's Review, XI, 606.]

[Footnote 65: See above, p. 337.]

[Footnote 66: See above, pp. 301, 302.]

[Footnote 67: Varro, De Re Rustica, I, XVII, 2.]

[Footnote 68: E. g., items for November, 1849, in the plantation diary of Dr. John P.R. Stone, of Iberville Parish, Louisiana. For the use of this document, the MS. of which is in the possession of Mr. John Stone Ware, White-Castle, La., I am indebted to Mr. V. Alton Moody, of the University of Michigan, now Lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force in France.]
The further question arises: how could a master who set himself to work a slave to death in seven years make sure on the one hand that the demise would not be precipitated within a few months instead, and on the other that the consequence would not be merely the slave's incapacitation instead of his death? In the one case a serious loss would be incurred at once; in the other the stoppage of the slave's maintenance, which would be the only conceivable source of gain in the premises, would not have been effected, but the planter would merely have an invalid on his hands instead of a worker. Still further, the slaves had recourses of their own, even aside from appeals for legal redress. They might shoot or stab the oppressor, burn his house, or run away, or resort to any of a dozen other forms of sabotage. These possibilities the masters knew as well as the slaves. Mere passive resistance, however, in cases where even that was needed, would generally prove effective enough.

Finally, if all the foregoing arguments be dismissed as fallacious, there still remains the factor of slave prices as a deterrent in certain periods. If when slaves were cheap and their produce dear it might be feasible and profitable to exhaust the one to increase the other, the opportunity would surely vanish when the price relations were reversed. The trend of the markets was very strong in that direction. Thus at the beginning of the nineteenth century a prime field hand in the upland cotton belt had the value of about 1,500 pounds of middling cotton; by 1810 this value had risen to 4,500 pounds; by 1820 to 5,500; by 1830 to 6,000; by 1840 to 8,300; from 1843 to 1853 it was currently about 10,000; and in 1860 it reached about 16,000 pounds. Comparison of slave values as measured in the several other staples would show quite similar trends, though these great appreciations were accompanied by no remotely proportionate increase of the slaves' industrial capacities. The figures tell their own tale of the mounting preposterousness of any calculated exhaustion of the human chattels.

The tradition in anti-slavery circles was however too strong to die. Various travelers touring the South, keen for corroborative evidence but finding none, still nursed the belief that a further search would bring reward. It was like the rainbow's end, always beyond the horizon. Thus the two Englishmen, Marshall Hall and William H. Russell, after scrutinizing many Southern localities and finding no slave exhaustion, asserted that it prevailed either in a district or in a type of establishment which they had not examined. Hall, who traveled far in the Southern states and then merely touched at Havana on his way home, wrote: "In the United States the life of the slave has been cherished and his offspring promoted. In Cuba the lives of the slaves have been 'used up' by excessive labour, and increase in number disregarded. It is said, indeed, that the slave-life did not extend beyond eight or ten years."[69] Russell recorded his surprise at finding that the Louisiana planters made no reckoning whatever of the cost of their slaves' labor, that Irish gangs nevertheless did the ditching, and that the slave children of from nine to eleven years were at play, "exempted from that cruel fate which befalls poor children of their age in the mining and manufacturing districts of England"; and then upon glimpsing the homesteads of some Creole small proprietors, he wrote: "It is among these men that, at times, slavery assumes its harshest aspect, and that slaves are exposed to the severest labor."[70] Johann Schoepf on the other hand while travelling many years before on the Atlantic seaboard had written: "They who have the largest droves [of slaves] keep them the worst, let them run naked mostly or in rags, and accustom them as much as possible to hunger, but exact of them steady work."[71] That no concrete observations were adduced in any of these premises is evidence enough, under the circumstances, that the charges were empty.
[Footnote 69: Marshall Hall, The Two-fold Slavery of the United States (London, 1854), p. 154.]

[Footnote 70: W.H. Russell, My Diary North and South (Boston, 1863), pp. 274, 278.]

[Footnote 71: Johann David Schoepf, Travels in the Confederation, A.J. Morrisson, tr. (Philadelphia, 1911), II, 147. But see ibid., pp. 94, 116, for observations of a general air of indolence among whites and blacks alike.]
The capital value of the slaves was an increasingly powerful insurance of their lives and their health. In four days of June, 1836, Thomas Glover of Lowndes County, Alabama, incurred a debt of $35 which he duly paid, for three visits with mileage and prescriptions by Dr. Salley to his "wench Rina";[72] and in the winter of 1858 Nathan Truitt of Troup County, Georgia, had medical attendance rendered to a slave child of his to the amount of $130.50.[73] These are mere chance items in the multitude which constantly recur in probate records. Business prudence required expenditure with almost a lavish hand when endangered property was to be saved. The same consideration applied when famines occurred, as in Alabama in 1828[74] and 1855.[75] Poverty-stricken freemen might perish, but slaveowners could use the slaves themselves as security for credits to buy food at famine prices to feed them.[76] As Olmsted said, comparing famine effects in the South and in Ireland, "the slaves suffered no physical want--the peasant starved."[77] The higher the price of slaves, the more stringent the pressure upon the masters to safeguard them from disease, injury and risk of every sort.
[Footnote 72: MS. receipt in private possession.]

[Footnote 73: MS. probate records at LaGrange, Ga.]

[Footnote 74: Charleston, City Gazette, May 28, 1828.]

[Footnote 75: Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, pp. 707, 708, quoting contemporary newspapers.]

[Footnote 76: Cf. D.D. Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens, p. 429.]

[Footnote 77: Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, p. 244.]
Although this phase of the advancing valuation gave no occasion for regret, other phases brought a spread of dismay and apprehension. In an essay of 1859 Edmund Ruffin analyzed the effects in Virginia. In the last fifteen years, he said, the value of slaves had been doubled, solely because of the demand from the lower South. The Virginians affected fell into three classes. The first were those who had slaves to be sold, whether through pressure of debt or in the legal division of estates or in the rare event of liquidating a surplus of labor. These would receive advantage from high prices. The second were those who wishing neither to buy nor sell slaves desired merely to keep their estates intact. These were, of course, unaffected by the fluctuations. The third were the great number of enterprising planters and farmers who desired to increase the scale of their industrial operations and who would buy slaves if conditions were propitious but were debarred therefrom by the immoderate prices. When these men stood aside in the bidding the manual force and the earning power of the commonwealth were depleted. The smaller volume of labor then remaining must be more thinly applied; land values must needs decline; and the shrewdest employers must join the southward movement. The draining of the slaves, he continued, would bring compensation in an inflow of white settlers only when the removal of slave labor had become virtually complete and had brought in consequence the most extreme prostration of land prices and of the incomes of the still remaining remnant of the original population. The exporting of labor, at whatever price it might be sold, he likened to a farmer's conversion of his plow teams into cash instead of using them in his work. According to these views, he concluded, "the highest prices yet obtained from the foreign purchasers of our slaves have never left a profit to the state or produced pecuniary benefit to general interests. And even if prices should continue to increase, as there is good reason to expect and to dread, until they reach $2000 or more for the best laborers, or $1200 for the general average of ages and sexes, these prices, though necessarily operating to remove every slave from Virginia, will still cause loss to agricultural and general interests in every particular sale, and finally render the state a desert and a ruin."[78]
[Footnote 78: Edmund Ruffin, "The Effects of High Prices of Slaves," in DeBow's Review, XXVI, 647-657 (June, 1859).]
At Charleston a similar plaint was voiced by L.W. Spratt. In early years when the African trade was open and slaves were cheap, said he, in the Carolina lowlands "enterprise found a profitable field, and necessarily therefore the fortunes of the country bloomed and brightened. But when the fertilizing stream of labor was cut off, when the opening West had no further supply to meet its requisitions, it made demands upon the accumulations of the seaboard. The limited amount became a prize to be contended for. Land in the interior offered itself at less than one dollar an acre. Land on the seaboard had been raised to fifty dollars per acre, and labor, forced to elect between them, took the cheaper. The heirs who came to an estate, or the men of capital who retired from business, sought a location in the West. Lands on the seaboard were forced to seek for purchasers; purchasers came to the seaboard to seek for slaves. Their prices were elevated to their value not upon the seaboard where lands were capital but in the interior where the interest upon the cost of labor was the only charge upon production. Labor therefore ceased to be profitable in the one place as it became profitable in the other. Estates which were wealth to their original proprietors became a charge to the descendants who endeavored to maintain them. Neglect soon came to the relief of unprofitable care; decay followed neglect. Mansions became tenantless and roofless. Trees spring in their deserted halls and wave their branches through dismantled windows. Drains filled up; the swamps returned. Parish churches in imposing styles of architecture and once attended by a goodly company in costly equipages, are now abandoned. Lands which had ready sale at fifty dollars per acre now sell for less than five dollars; and over all these structures of wealth, with their offices of art, and over these scenes of festivity and devotion, there now hangs the pall of an unalterable gloom."[79] In a later essay the same writer dealt with developments in the 'fifties in more sober phrases which are corroborated by the census returns. Within the decade, he said, as many as ten thousand slaves had been drawn from Charleston by the attractive prices of the west, and the towns of the interior had suffered losses in the same way. The slaves had been taken in large numbers from all manufacturing employments, and were now being sold by thousands each year from the rice fields. "They are as yet retained by cotton and the culture incident to cotton; but as almost every negro offered in our markets is bid for by the West, the drain is likely to continue." In the towns alone was the loss offset in any degree by an inflow of immigration.[80]
[Footnote 79: L.W. Spratt, The Foreign Slave Trade, the source of political power, of material progress, of social integrity and of social emancipation to the South (Charleston, 1858), pp. 7, 8.]

[Footnote 80: L.W. Spratt, "Letter to John Perkins of Louisiana," in the Charleston Mercury, Feb. 13, 1861.]
A similar trend as to slaves but with a sharply contrasting effect upon prosperity was described by Gratz Brown as prevailing in Missouri. The slave population, said he, is in process of rapid decline except in a dozen central counties along the Missouri River. "Hemp is the only staple here left that will pay for investment in negroes," and that can hardly hold them against the call of the cotton belt. Already the planters of the upland counties are beginning to send their slaves to southerly markets in response to the prices there offered. In most parts of Missouri, he continued, slavery could not be said to exist as a system. It accordingly served, not as an appreciable industrial agency, but only as a deterrent hampering the progress of immigration. Brown therefore advocated the complete extirpation of the institution as a means of giving great impetus to the state's prosperity.[81]
[Footnote 81: B. Gratz Brown, Speech in the Missouri Legislature, February 12, 1857 on gradual emancipation in Missouri (St. Louis, 1857).]
These accounts are colored by the pro-slavery views of Ruffin and Spratt and the opposite predilections of Brown. It is clear nevertheless that the net industrial effects of the exportation of slaves were strikingly diverse in the several regions. In Missouri, and in Delaware also, where plantations had never been dominant and where negroes were few, the loss of slaves was more than counterbalanced by the gain of freemen; in some portions of Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky the replacement of the one by the other was at so evenly compensating a rate that the volume of industry was not affected; but in other parts of those states and in the rural districts of the rice coast the depletion of slaves was not in any appreciable measure offset by immigration. This applies also to the older portions of the eastern cotton belt.

Throughout the northern and eastern South doubts had often been expressed that slave labor was worth its price. Thus Philip Fithian recorded in his Virginia diary in 1774 a conversation with Mrs. Robert Carter in which she expressed an opinion, endorsed by Fithian, "that if in Mr. Carter's or in any gentleman's estate all the negroes should be sold and the money put to interest in safe hands, and let the land which the negroes now work lie wholly uncultivated, the bare interest of the price of the negroes would be a much greater yearly income than what is now received from their working the lands, making no allowance at all for the trouble and risk of the masters as to crops and negroes."[82] In 1824 John Randolph said: "It is notorious that the profits of slave labor have been for a long time on the decrease, and that on a fair average it scarcely reimburses the expense of the slave," and concluded by prophesying that a continuance of the tendency would bring it about "in case the slave shall not elope from his master, that his master will run away from him."[83] In 1818 William Elliott of Beaufort, South Carolina, had written that in the sea-island cotton industry for a decade past the high valuations of lands and slaves had been wholly unjustified. On the one hand, said he, the return on investments was extremely small; on the other, it was almost impossible to relieve an embarrassed estate by the sale of a part, for the reduction of the scale of operations would cause a more than proportionate reduction of income.[84]
[Footnote 82: Philip V. Fithian, Journal and Letters (Princeton, 1900), p. 145.]

[Footnote 83: H.A. Garland, Life of John Randolph (New York 1851), II, 215.]

[Footnote 84: Southern Agriculturist, I, 151-163.]
The remorseless advance of slave prices as measured in their produce tended to spread the adverse conditions noted by Elliott into all parts of the South; and by the close of the 'fifties it is fairly certain that no slaveholders but those few whose plantations lay in the most advantageous parts of the cotton and sugar districts and whose managerial ability was exceptionally great were earning anything beyond what would cover their maintenance and carrying charges.

Achille Loria has repeatedly expressed the generalization that slaves have been systematically overvalued wherever the institution has prevailed, and he has attempted to explain the phenomenon by reference to an economic law of his own formulation that capitalists always and everywhere exploit labor by devices peculiarly adapted to each régime in turn. His latest argument in the premises is as follows: Man, who is by nature dispersively individualistic, is brought into industrial coordination only by coercion. Isolated labor if on exceptionally fertile soil or if equipped with specially efficient apparatus or if supernormal in energy may produce a surplus income, but ordinarily it can earn no more than a bare subsistence. Associative labor yields so much greater returns that masters of one sort or another emerge in every progressive society to replace dispersion with concentration and to engross most of the accruing enhancement of produce to themselves as captains of industry. This "persistent and continuous coercion, compelling them to labour in conformity to a unitary plan or in accordance with a concentrating design" is commonly in its earlier form slavery, and slaveholders are thus the first possessors of capital. As capitalists they become perpetually concerned with excluding the laborers from the proprietorship of land and the other means of production. So long as land is relatively abundant this can be accomplished only by keeping labor enslaved, and enslavement cannot be maintained unless the slaves are prevented from buying their freedom. This prevention is procured by the heightening of slave prices at such a rate as to keep the cost of freedom always greater than the generality of the slaves can pay with their own accumulated savings or peculia. Slave prices in fact, whether in ancient Rome or in modern America, advanced disproportionately to the advantage which the owners could derive from the ownership. "This shows that an element of speculation enters into the valuation of the slave, or that there is a hypervaluation of the slave. This is the central phenomenon of slavery; and it is to this far more than to the indolence of slave labour that is due the low productivity of slave states, the permanently unstable equilibrium of the slaveholding enterprise, and its inevitable ruin." The decline of earnings and of slave prices promotes a more drastic oppression, as in Roman Sicily, to reduce the slave's peculium and continue the prevention of his self-purchase. When this device is about to fail of its purpose the masters may foil the intention of the slaves by changing them into serfs, attaching the lands to the laborers as an additional thing to be purchased as a condition of freedom. The value of the man may now be permitted to fall to its natural level. Finally, when the growth of population has made land so dear that common laborers in freedom cannot save enough to buy farms, the occasion for slavery and serfdom lapses. Laborers may now be freed to become a wage-earning proletariat, to take their own risks. An automatic coercion replaces the systematic; the labor stimulus is intensified, but the stress of the employer is diminished. The laborer does not escape from coercion, but merely exchanges one of its forms for another.[85]
[Footnote 85: Achille Loria, The Economic Synthesis, M. Eden Paul tr. (London, 1914), PP. 23-26, 91-99.]
Now Loria falls into various fallacies in other parts of his book, as when he says that southern lands are generally more fertile than northern and holds that alone, to the exclusion of climate and racial qualities, responsible for the greater prevalence of slavery ancient and modern in southerly latitudes; or when he follows Cairnes in asserting that upon the American slave plantations "the only form of culture practised was spade culture, merely agglomerating upon a single area of land a number of isolated laborers"; or when he contends that either slavery or serfdom since based on force and fraud "destroys the possibility of fiduciary credit by cancelling the conditions [of trust and confidence] which alone can foster it." [86] Such errors disturb one's faith. In the presentation of his main argument, furthermore, he not only exaggerates the cleavage between capitalists and laborers, the class consciousness of the two groups and the rationality of capitalistic purpose, but he falls into calamitous ambiguity and confusion. The central phenomenon of slavery, says he, is speculation or the overvaluation of the slave. He thereupon assumes that speculation always means overvaluation, ignoring its downward possibility, and he accounts for the asserted universal and continuously increasing overvaluation by reference to the desire of masters to prevent slaves from buying their freedom. Here he ignores essential historic facts. In American law a slave's peculium had no recognition; and the proportion of slaves, furthermore, who showed any firm disposition to accumulate savings for the purpose of buying their freedom was very small. Where such efforts were made, however, they were likely to be aided by the masters through facilities for cash earnings, price concessions and honest accounting of instalments, notwithstanding the lack of legal requirements in the premises. Loria's explanation of the "central phenomenon" is therefore hardly tenable.
[Footnote 86: Ibid., pp. 26, 190, 260.]
A far sounder basic doctrine is that of the accountant Gibson, recited at the beginning of this chapter, that the valuation of a slave is theoretically determined by the reckoning of his prospective earnings above the cost of his maintenance. In the actual Southern régime, however, this was interfered with by several influences. For one thing, the successful proprietors of small plantations could afford to buy additional slaves at somewhat more than the price reckoned on per capita earnings, because the advance of their establishments towards the scale of maximum efficiency would reduce the proportionate cost of administration. Again, the scale of slaveholdings was in some degree a measure of social rank, and men were accordingly tempted by uneconomic motives to increase their trains of retainers. Both of these considerations stimulated the bidding. On the other hand conventional morality deterred many proprietors from selling slaves except under special stress, and thereby diminished the offers in the market. If the combination of these factors is not adequate as an explanation, there remain the spirit of inflation characteristic of a new country and the common desire for tangible investments of a popularly sanctioned sort. All staple producers were engaged in a venturesome business. Crops were highly uncertain, and staple prices even more so. The variability of earnings inured men to the taking of risks and spurred them to borrow money and buy more of both lands and slaves even at inflated prices in the hope of striking it rich with a few years' crops. On the other hand when profits actually accrued, there was nothing available as a rule more tempting than slaves as investments. Corporation securities were few and unseasoned; lands were liable to wear out and were painfully slow in liquidation; but slaves were a self-perpetuating stock whose ownership was a badge of dignity, whose management was generally esteemed a pleasurable responsibility, whose labor would yield an income, and whose value could be realized in cash with fair promptitude in time of need. No calculated overvaluation by proprietors for the sake of keeping the slaves enslaved need be invented. Loria's thesis is a work of supererogation.

But whatever may be the true explanation it is clear that slave prices did rise to immoderate heights, that speculation was kept rife, and that in virtually every phase, after the industrial occupation of each area had been accomplished, the maintenance of the institution was a clog upon material progress. The economic virtues of slavery lay wholly in its making labor mobile, regular and secure. These qualities accorded remarkably, so far as they went, with the requirements of the plantation system on the one hand and the needs of the generality of the negroes on the other. Its vices were more numerous, and in part more subtle.

The North was annually acquiring thousands of immigrants who came at their own expense, who worked zealously for wages payable from current earnings, and who possessed all the inventive and progressive potentialities of European peoples. But aspiring captains of industry at the South could as a rule procure labor only by remitting round sums in money or credit which depleted their working capital and for which were obtained slaves fit only for plantation routine, negroes of whom little initiative could be expected and little contribution to the community's welfare beyond their mere muscular exertions. The negroes were procured in the first instance mainly because white laborers were not to be had; afterward when whites might otherwise have been available the established conditions repelled them. The continued avoidance of the South by the great mass of incoming Europeans in post-bellum decades has now made it clear that it was the negro character of the slaves rather than the slave status of the negroes which was chiefly responsible. The racial antipathy felt by the alien whites, along with their cultural repugnance and economic apprehensions, intrenched the negroes permanently in the situation. The most fertile Southern areas when once converted into black belts tended, and still tend as strongly as ever, to be tilled only by inert negroes, the majority of whom are as yet perhaps less efficient in freedom than their forbears were as slaves.

The drain of funds involved in the purchase of slaves was impressive to contemporaries. Thus Governor Spotswood wrote from Virginia to the British authorities in 1711 explaining his assent to a £5 tax upon the importation of slaves. The members of the legislature, said he, "urged what is really true, that the country is already ruined by the great number of negros imported of late years, that it will be impossible for them in many years to discharge the debts already contracted for the purchase of those negroes if fresh supplys be still poured upon them while their tobacco continues so little valuable, but that the people will run more and more in debt."[87] And in 1769 a Charleston correspondent wrote to a Boston journal: "A calculation having been made of the amount of purchase money of slaves effected here the present year, it is computed at £270,000 sterling, which sum will by that means be drained off from this province."[88]
[Footnote 87: Virginia Historical Society Collections, I, 52.]

[Footnote 88: Boston Chronicle, Mch. 27, 1769.]
An unfortunate fixation of capital was likewise remarked. Thus Sir Charles Lyell noted at Columbus, Georgia, in 1846 that Northern settlers were "struck with the difficulty experienced in raising money here by small shares for the building of mills. 'Why,' say they, 'should all our cotton make so long a journey to the North, to be manufactured there, and come back to us at so high a price? It is because all spare cash is sunk here in purchasing negroes.'" And again at another stage of his tour: "That slave labour is more expensive than free is an opinion which is certainly gaining ground in the higher parts of Alabama, and is now professed openly by some Northerners who have settled there. One of them said to me, 'Half the population of the South is employed in seeing that the other half do their work, and they who do work accomplish half what they might do under a better system.' 'We cannot,' said another,[89] 'raise capital enough for new cotton factories because all our savings go to buy negroes, or as has lately happened, to feed them when the crop is deficient."
[Footnote 89: Sir Charles Lyell, Second Visit to the United States (London, 1850), II, 35, 84, 85.]
The planters, who were the principal Southern capitalists, trod in a vicious circle. They bought lands and slaves wherewith to grow cotton, and with the proceeds ever bought more slaves to make more cotton; and oftentimes they borrowed heavily on their lands and slaves as collateral in order to enlarge their scale of production the more speedily. When slave prices rose the possessors of those in the cotton belt seldom took profit from the advance, for it was a rare planter who would voluntarily sell his operating force. When crops failed or prices fell, however, the loans might be called, the mortgages foreclosed, and the property sold out at panic levels. Thus while the slaves had a guarantee of their sustenance, their proprietors, themselves the guarantors, had a guarantee of nothing. By virtue, or more properly by vice, of the heavy capitalization of the control of labor which was a cardinal feature of the ante-bellum régime, they were involved in excessive financial risks.

The slavery system has often been said to have put so great a stigma on manual labor as to have paralyzed the physical energies of the Southern white population. This is a great exaggeration; and yet it is true that the system militated in quite positive degree against the productivity of the several white classes. Among the well-to-do it promoted leisure by giving rise to an abnormally large number of men and women who whether actually or nominally performing managerial functions, did little to bring sweat to their brows. The proportion of white collars to overalls and of muslin frocks to kitchen aprons was greater than in any other Anglo-Saxon community of equal income. The contrast so often drawn between Southern gentility and Northern thrift had a concrete basis in fact. At the other extreme the enervation of the poor whites, while mainly due to malaria and hookworm, had as a contributing cause the limitation upon their wage-earning opportunity which the slavery system imposed. Upon the middle class and the yeomanry, which were far more numerous and substantial[90] than has been commonly realized, the slavery system exerted an economic influence by limiting the availability of capital and by offering the temptation of an unsound application of earnings. When a prospering farmer, for example, wanted help for himself in his fields or for his wife indoors, the habit of the community prompted him to buy or hire slaves at a greater cost than free labor would normally have required.[91] The high price of slaves, furthermore, prevented many a capable manager from exercising his talents by debarring him from the acquisition of labor and the other means of large-scale production.
[Footnote 90: D.R. Hundley, Social Relations in our Southern States (New York, 1860), pp. 91-100, 193-303; John M. Aughey, The Iron Furnace, or Slavery and Secession (Philadelphia, 1863), p. 231.]

[Footnote 91: F.L. Olmsted, Journey through Texas, p. 513.]
Finally, the force of custom, together with the routine efficiency of slave labor itself, caused the South to spoil the market for its distinctive crops by producing greater quantities than the world would buy at remunerative prices. To this the solicitude of the masters for the health of their slaves contributed. The harvesting of wheat, for example, as a Virginian planter observed in a letter to his neighbor James Madison, in the days when harvesting machinery was unknown, required exertion much more severe than the tobacco routine, and was accordingly, as he put it, "by no means so conducive to the health of our negroes, upon whose increase (miserabile dictu!) our principal profit depends."[92] The same letter also said: "Where there is negro slavery there will be laziness, carelessness and wastefulness. Nor is it possible to prevent them. Severity increases the evil, and humanity does not lessen it."
[Footnote 92: Francis Corbin to James Madison, Oct. 10, 1819, in the Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, XLIII, 263.]
On the whole, the question whether negro labor in slavery was more or less productive than free negro labor would have been is not the crux of the matter. The influence of the slaveholding régime upon the whites themselves made it inevitable that the South should accumulate real wealth more slowly than the contemporary North. The planters and their neighbors were in the grip of circumstance. The higher the price of slaves the greater was the absorption of capital in their purchase, the blacker grew the black belts, the more intense was the concentration of wealth and talent in plantation industry, the more complete was the crystallization of industrial society. Were there any remedies available? Certain politicians masquerading as economists advocated the territorial expansion of the régime as a means of relief. Their argument, however, would not stand analysis. On one hand virtually all the territory on the continent climatically available for the staples was by the middle of the nineteenth century already incorporated into slaveholding states; on the other hand, had new areas been available the chief effects of their exploitation would have been to heighten the prices of slaves and lower the prices of crops. Actual expansion had in fact been too rapid for the best interests of society, for it had kept the population too sparse to permit a proper development of schools and the agencies of communications.

With a view to increase the power of the South to expand, and for other purposes mainly political, a group of agitators in the 'fifties raised a vehement contention in favor of reopening the African slave trade in full volume. This, if accomplished, would have lowered the cost of labor, but its increase of the crops would have depressed staple prices in still greater degree; its unsettling of the slave market would have hurt vested interests; and its infusion of a horde of savage Africans would have set back the progress of the negroes already on hand and have magnified permanently the problems of racial adjustment.

The prohibition of the interstate slave trade was another project for modifying the situation. It was mooted in the main by politicians alien to the régime. If accomplished it would have wrought a sharp differentiation in the conditions within the several groups of Southern states. An analogy may be seen in the British possessions in tropical America, where, following the stoppage of the intercolonial slave trade in 1807, a royal commission found that the average slave prices as gathered from sale records between 1822 and 1830 varied from a range in the old and stagnant colonies of £27 4s. 11-3/4d. in Bermuda, £29 18s. 9-3/4d. in the Bahamas, £47 1s. in Barbados and £44 15s. 2-1/4d. in Jamaica, to £105 4s., £114 11s. and £120 4s. 7-1/2d respectively in the new and buoyant settlements of Trinidad, Guiana and British Honduras.[93] If the interstate transfer had been stopped, the Virginia, Maryland and Carolina slave markets would have been glutted while the markets of every southwestern state were swept bare. Slave prices in the former would have fallen to such levels that masters would have eventually resorted to manumission in self-defence, while in the latter all existing checks to the inflation of prices would have been removed and all the evils consequent upon the capitalization of labor intensified.
[Footnote 93: Accounts and Papers [of the British Government], 1837-1838, vol. 48, [p. 329].]
Another conceivable plan would have been to replace slavery at large by serfdom. This would have attached the negroes to whatever lands they chanced to occupy at the time of the legislation. By force of necessity it would have checked the depletion of soils; but by preventing territorial transfer it would have robbed the negroes and their masters of all advantages afforded by the virginity of unoccupied lands. Serfdom could hardly be seriously considered by the citizens of a new and sparsely settled country such as the South then was.

Finally the conversion of slaves into freemen by a sweeping emancipation was a project which met little endorsement except among those who ignored the racial and cultural complications. Financially it would work drastic change in private fortunes, though the transfer of ownership from the masters to the laborers themselves need not necessarily have great effect for the time being upon the actual wealth of the community as a whole. Emancipation would most probably, however, break down the plantation system by making the labor supply unstable, and fill the country partly with peasant farmers and partly with an unattached and floating negro population. Exceptional negroes and mulattoes would be sure to thrive upon their new opportunities, but the generality of the blacks could be counted upon to relax into a greater slackness than they had previously been permitted to indulge in. The apprehension of industrial paralysis, however, appears to have been a smaller factor than the fear of social chaos as a deterrent in the minds of the Southern whites from thoughts of abolition.

The slaveholding régime kept money scarce, population sparse and land values accordingly low; it restricted the opportunities of many men of both races, and it kept many of the natural resources of the Southern country neglected. But it kept the main body of labor controlled, provisioned and mobile. Above all it maintained order and a notable degree of harmony in a community where confusion worse confounded would not have been far to seek. Plantation slavery had in strictly business aspects at least as many drawbacks as it had attractions. But in the large it was less a business than a life; it made fewer fortunes than it made men.


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