In Illinois, for example, while the trade in slaves was prohibited, it was legal to bring slaves from Kentucky into Illinois and use them there, as long as the slaves left Illinois one day per year they were "visiting". The emancipation of slaves in the North led to the growth in the population of Northern free blacks, from several hundred in the s to nearly 50, by There was legal agitation against slavery in the 13 Colonies starting in by lawyer Benjamin Kent , whose cases were recorded by one of his understudies John Adams.
Kent represented numerous slaves in their attempts to gain their freedom. He handled the case of a slave Pompey suing his master. Throughout the first half of the 19th century, abolitionism, a movement to end slavery, grew in strength; most abolitionist societies and supporters were in the North. They worked to raise awareness about the evils of slavery, and to build support for abolition. This struggle took place amid strong support for slavery among white Southerners, who profited greatly from the system of enslaved labor.
But slavery was entwined with the national economy; for instance, the banking, shipping and manufacturing industries of New York City all had strong economic interests in slavery, as did similar industries in other major port cities in the North. The northern textile mills in New York and New England processed Southern cotton and manufactured clothes to outfit slaves.
By half of New York City's exports were related to cotton. Slaveholders began to refer to slavery as the " peculiar institution " to differentiate it from other examples of forced labor. They justified it as less cruel than the free labor of the North. The principal organized bodies to advocate abolition and anti-slavery reforms in the north were the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and the New York Manumission Society.
Before the s the antislavery groups called for gradual emancipation. In the early part of the 19th century, other organizations were founded to take action on the future of black Americans. Some advocated removing free black people from the United States to places where they would enjoy greater freedom; some endorsed colonization in Africa, while others advocated emigration.
But, by this time, most black Americans were native-born and did not want to emigrate; rather, they wanted full rights in the United States, where their people had lived and worked for generations. Many white people considered this preferable to emancipation in the United States. Henry Clay , one of the founders and a prominent slaveholder politician from Kentucky, said that blacks faced. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off.
After , abolitionist and newspaper publisher William Lloyd Garrison promoted emancipation, characterizing slaveholding as a personal sin. He demanded that slaveowners repent and start the process of emancipation. His position increased defensiveness on the part of some southerners, who noted the long history of slavery among many cultures.
A few abolitionists, such as John Brown , favored the use of armed force to foment uprisings among the slaves, as he attempted to do at Harper's Ferry. Most abolitionists tried to raise public support to change laws and to challenge slave laws. Abolitionists were active on the lecture circuit in the North, and often featured escaped slaves in their presentations. The eloquent Frederick Douglass became an important abolitionist leader after escaping from slavery.
Harriet Beecher Stowe 's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was an international bestseller and aroused popular sentiment against slavery. It also provoked the publication of numerous anti-Tom novels by Southerners in the years before the American Civil War. While under the Constitution, Congress could not prohibit the import slave trade until , the third Congress regulated it in the Slave Trade Act of , which prohibited shipbuilding and outfitting for the trade.
Subsequent acts in and sought to discourage the trade by limiting investment in import trading and prohibiting importation into states that had abolished slavery, which most in the North had by that time. However, illegal importation of African slaves smuggling was common. After Great Britain and the United States outlawed the international slave trade in , British slave trade suppression activities began in through diplomatic efforts and formation of the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron.
From , they were assisted by forces from the United States Navy. With the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of , the relationship with Britain was formalized, and the two countries jointly ran the Blockade of Africa with their navies. Although Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware were slave states, the latter two already had a high proportion of free blacks by the outbreak of war. Following the Revolution, the three legislatures made manumission easier, allowed by deed or will.
Quaker and Methodist ministers particularly urged slaveholders to free their slaves. The number and proportion of freed slaves in these states rose dramatically until More than half of the number of free blacks in the United States were concentrated in the Upper South. The proportion of free blacks among the black population in the Upper South rose from less than one percent in to more than 10 percent by In the US as a whole, by the number of free blacks reached ,, or South Carolina made manumission more difficult, requiring legislative approval of every instance of manumission.
Several Southern ststes required manumitted slaves to leave the state within 30 days. The growing international demand for cotton led many plantation owners further west in search of suitable land. In addition, the invention of the cotton gin in enabled profitable processing of short-staple cotton, which could readily be grown in the uplands.
The invention revolutionized the cotton industry by increasing fifty-fold the quantity of cotton that could be processed in a day. At the end of the War of , fewer than , bales of cotton were produced nationally. By the amount of cotton produced had increased to , bales, and by it had reached 4,, There was an explosive growth of cotton cultivation throughout the Deep South and greatly increased demand for slave labor to support it.
Most of the slaves sold from the Upper South were from Maryland , Virginia , and the Carolinas , where changes in agriculture decreased the need for their labor and the demand for slaves. Before , primary destinations for the slaves who were sold were Kentucky and Tennessee , but after Georgia , Alabama , Mississippi , Louisiana and Texas of the Deep South received the most slaves. This is where cotton became king. By , the domestic slave trade had become a major economic activity in the United States; it lasted until the s.
By the slave population in the United States had reached 4 million. The historian Ira Berlin called this forced migration of slaves the "Second Middle Passage", because it reproduced many of the same horrors as the Middle Passage the name given to the transportation of slaves from Africa to North America. These sales of slaves broke up many families and caused much hardship. Characterizing it as the "central event" in the life of a slave between the American Revolution and the Civil War, Berlin wrote that whether slaves were directly uprooted or lived in fear that they or their families would be involuntarily moved, "the massive deportation traumatized black people, both slave and free.
Added to the earlier colonists combining slaves from different tribes, many ethnic Africans lost their knowledge of varying tribal origins in Africa. Most were descended from families who had been in the United States for many generations. In the s, almost , slaves were transported, with Alabama and Mississippi receiving , each. During each decade between and , at least , slaves were moved from their state of origin.
In the final decade before the Civil War, , were moved. Slave traders transported two-thirds of the slaves who moved west. Slave traders had little interest in purchasing or transporting intact slave families; in the early years, planters demanded only the young male slaves needed for heavy labor. Later, in the interest of creating a "self-reproducing labor force", planters purchased nearly equal numbers of men and women. Berlin wrote:. The internal slave trade became the largest enterprise in the South outside the plantation itself, and probably the most advanced in its employment of modern transportation, finance, and publicity.
The slave trade industry developed its own unique language, with terms such as "prime hands, bucks, breeding wenches, and "fancy girls" coming into common use.
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The expansion of the interstate slave trade contributed to the "economic revival of once depressed seaboard states" as demand accelerated the value of slaves who were subject to sale. Some traders moved their "chattels" by sea, with Norfolk to New Orleans being the most common route, but most slaves were forced to walk overland.
Others were shipped downriver from such markets as Louisville on the Ohio River, and Natchez on the Mississippi. Traders created regular migration routes served by a network of slave pens, yards, and warehouses needed as temporary housing for the slaves. In addition, other vendors provided clothes, food, and supplies for slaves. As the trek advanced, some slaves were sold and new ones purchased. Berlin concluded, "In all, the slave trade, with its hubs and regional centers, its spurs and circuits, reached into every cranny of southern society. Few southerners, black or white, were untouched.
Once the trip ended, slaves faced a life on the frontier significantly different from most labor in the Upper South. Clearing trees and starting crops on virgin fields was harsh and backbreaking work. A combination of inadequate nutrition, bad water, and exhaustion from both the journey and the work weakened the newly arrived slaves and produced casualties. New plantations were located at rivers' edges for ease of transportation and travel. Mosquitoes and other environmental challenges spread disease, which took the lives of many slaves.
They had acquired only limited immunities to lowland diseases in their previous homes. The death rate was so high that, in the first few years of hewing a plantation out of the wilderness, some planters preferred whenever possible to use rented slaves rather than their own. The harsh conditions on the frontier increased slave resistance and led owners and overseers to rely on violence for control.
Many of the slaves were new to cotton fields and unaccustomed to the "sunrise-to-sunset gang labor" required by their new life. Slaves were driven much harder than when they had been in growing tobacco or wheat back east. Slaves had less time and opportunity to improve the quality of their lives by raising their own livestock or tending vegetable gardens, for either their own consumption or trade, as they could in the east.
In Louisiana , French colonists had established sugar cane plantations and exported sugar as the chief commodity crop. After the Louisiana Purchase in , Americans entered the state and joined the sugar cultivation. Between and , planters bought slaves from the North and the number of slaves increased from less than 10, to more than 42, Planters preferred young males, who represented two-thirds of the slave purchases. Dealing with sugar cane was even more physically demanding than growing cotton. The largely young, unmarried male slave force made the reliance on violence by the owners "especially savage".
New Orleans became nationally important as a slave market and port, as slaves were shipped from there upriver by steamboat to plantations on the Mississippi River; it also sold slaves who had been shipped downriver from markets such as Louisville.
By , it had the largest slave market in North America. It became the wealthiest and the fourth-largest city in the nation, based chiefly on the slave trade and associated businesses. Slave traders were men of low reputation, even in the South. In the presidential election, candidate Andrew Jackson was strongly criticized by opponents as a slave trader who transacted in slaves in defiance of modern standards or morality.
The treatment of slaves in the United States varied widely depending on conditions, times and places. The power relationships of slavery corrupted many whites who had authority over slaves, with children showing their own cruelty. Masters and overseers resorted to physical punishments to impose their wills. Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, branding and imprisonment. Punishment was most often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but sometimes abuse was carried out to re-assert the dominance of the master or overseer of the slave.
William Wells Brown , who escaped to freedom, reported that on one plantation, slave men were required to pick 80 pounds per day of cotton, while women were required to pick 70 pounds; if any slave failed in his or her quota, they were subject to whip lashes for each pound they were short. The whipping post stood next to the cotton scales. Historian Lawrence M. Friedman wrote: "Ten Southern codes made it a crime to mistreat a slave.
According to Adalberto Aguirre, there were 1, slaves executed in the U. Although most slaves had lives that were very restricted in terms of their movements and agency, exceptions existed to virtually every generalization; for instance, there were also slaves who had considerable freedom in their daily lives: slaves allowed to rent out their labor and who might live independently of their master in cities, slaves who employed white workers, and slave doctors who treated upper-class white patients. Slaveholders published articles in southern agricultural journals to share best practices in treatment and management of slaves; they intended to show that their system was better than the living conditions of northern industrial workers.
Medical care for slaves was limited in terms of the medical knowledge available to anyone. It was generally provided by other slaves or by slaveholders' family members. Many slaves possessed medical skills needed to tend to each other, and used folk remedies brought from Africa. They also developed new remedies based on American plants and herbs.
According to Andrew Fede, a master could be held criminally liable for killing a slave only if the slave he killed was "completely submissive and under the master's absolute control". Because of the power relationships at work, slave women in the United States were at high risk for rape and sexual abuse.
Others carried psychological and physical scars from the attacks. Both Mary Chesnut and Fanny Kemble , wives of planters, wrote about this issue in the antebellum South in the decades before the Civil War. Sometimes planters used mixed-race slaves as house servants or favored artisans because they were their children or other relatives. While slaves' living conditions were poor by modern standards, Robert Fogel argued that all workers, free or slave, during the first half of the 19th century were subject to hardship.
To help regulate the relationship between slave and owner, including legal support for keeping the slave as property, states established slave codes , most based on laws existing since the colonial era. The code for the District of Columbia defined a slave as "a human being, who is by law deprived of his or her liberty for life, and is the property of another". While each state had its own slave code, many concepts were shared throughout the slave states. This prohibition was unique to American slavery, believed to reduce slaves forming aspirations that could lead to escape or rebellion.
In Alabama, slaves were not allowed to leave their master's premises without written consent or passes. This was a common requirement in other states as well, and locally run patrols known to slaves as pater rollers often checked the passes of slaves who appeared to be away from their plantations. In Alabama slaves were prohibited from trading goods among themselves.
In Virginia, a slave was not permitted to drink in public within one mile of his master or during public gatherings. Slaves were not permitted to carry firearms in any of the slave states. Slaves were generally prohibited by law from associating in groups, with the exception of worship services a reason why the Black church is such a notable institution in black communities today. Following Nat Turner 's rebellion in , which raised white fears throughout the South, some states also prohibited or restricted religious gatherings of slaves, or required that they be officiated by white men.
Planters feared that group meetings would facilitate communication among slaves that could lead to rebellion. In Ohio, an emancipated slave was prohibited from returning to the state in which he or she had been enslaved. Other northern states discouraged the settling of free blacks within their boundaries. Fearing the influence of free blacks, Virginia and other southern states passed laws to require blacks who had been freed to leave the state within a year or sometimes less time unless granted a stay by an act of the legislature.
The United States Constitution , adopted in , prevented Congress from completely banning the importation of slaves until , although Congress regulated it in the Slave Trade Act of , and in subsequent Acts in and By contrast, the states of Georgia and South Carolina reopened their trade due to demand by their upland planters, who were developing new cotton plantations: Georgia from until December 31, , and South Carolina from In that period, Charleston traders imported about 75, slaves, more than were brought to South Carolina in the 75 years before the Revolution.
By January 1, , when Congress banned further imports , South Carolina was the only state that still allowed importation of slaves. Congress allowed continued trade only in slaves who were descendants of those currently in the United States. In addition, US citizens could participate financially in the international slave trade and the outfitting of ships for that trade. The domestic slave trade became extremely profitable as demand rose with the expansion of cultivation in the Deep South for cotton and sugar cane crops.
Slavery in the United States became, more or less, self-sustaining by natural increase among the current slaves and their descendants. Despite the ban, slave imports continued through smugglers bringing in slaves past the U. After that, "it is unlikely that more than 10, [slaves] were successfully landed in the United States.
During the War of , British Royal Navy commanders of the blockading fleet, based at the Bermuda dockyard , were instructed to offer freedom to defecting American slaves, as the Crown had during the Revolutionary War. Thousands of escaped slaves went over to the Crown with their families. The freedmen fought for Britain throughout the Atlantic campaign, including the attack on Washington D. Seven hundred of these ex-marines were granted land they reportedly organised themselves in villages along the lines of their military companies.
Descendants have established the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum and website. Slaveholders, primarily in the South, had considerable "loss of property" as thousands of slaves escaped to British lines or ships for freedom, despite the difficulties. The Americans protested that Britain's failure to return all slaves violated the Treaty of Ghent.
Prior to the American Revolution, masters and revivalists spread Christianity to slave communities, supported by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. In the First Great Awakening of the midth century, Baptists and Methodists from New England preached a message against slavery, encouraged masters to free their slaves, converted both slaves and free blacks, and gave them active roles in new congregations. Over the decades and with the growth of slavery throughout the South, Baptist and Methodist ministers gradually changed their messages to accommodate the institution. After , white Southerners argued for the compatibility of Christianity and slavery, with a multitude of both Old and New Testament citations.
In the s and s, the issue of accepting slavery split the nation's largest religious denominations the Methodist , Baptist and Presbyterian churches into separate Northern and Southern organizations see Methodist Episcopal Church, South , Southern Baptist Convention , and Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. Southern slaves generally attended their masters' white churches, where they often outnumbered the white congregants. They were usually permitted to sit only in the back or in the balcony.
They listened to white preachers, who emphasized the obligation of slaves to keep in their place, and acknowledged the slave's identity as both person and property. This included masters having self-control, not disciplining under anger, not threatening, and ultimately fostering Christianity among their slaves by example. Slaves also created their own religious observances, meeting alone without the supervision of their white masters or ministers. The larger plantations with groups of slaves numbering twenty, or more, tended to be centers of nighttime meetings of one or several plantation slave populations.
African Americans developed a theology related to Biblical stories having the most meaning for them, including the hope for deliverance from slavery by their own Exodus. One lasting influence of these secret congregations is the African-American spiritual. According to Herbert Aptheker, "there were few phases of ante-bellum Southern life and history that were not in some way influenced by the fear of, or the actual outbreak of, militant concerted slave action. Historians in the 20th century identified to slave uprisings in U. In , Nat Turner , a literate slave who claimed to have spiritual visions , organized a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia ; it was sometimes called the Southampton Insurrection.
Turner and his followers killed nearly 60 white inhabitants, mostly women and children. Many of the men in the area were attending a religious event in North Carolina. In a frenzy of fear and retaliation, the militia killed more than slaves who had not been involved in the rebellion. Planters whipped hundreds of innocent slaves to ensure resistance was quelled. This rebellion prompted Virginia and other slave states to pass more restrictions on slaves and free people of color, controlling their movement and requiring more white supervision of gatherings.
In North Carolina withdrew the franchise for free people of color, and they lost their vote. See also : Anti-literacy law. Across the South, white legislatures enacted harsh new laws to curtail the already limited rights of African Americans. Virginia prohibited blacks, free or slave, from practicing preaching, prohibited blacks from owning firearms, and forbade anyone to teach slaves or free blacks how to read. Any justice may issue his warrant to any office or other person, requiring him to enter any place where such assemblage may be, and seize any negro therein; and he, or any other justice, may order such negro to be punished with stripes.
Unlike in the South, slave owners in Utah were required to send their slaves to school. Eli Whitney 's invention of the cotton gin in , made processing of short-staple cotton profitable, and it was cultivated throughout the South to satisfy US and international demand. New York introduced gradual emancipation in completed in Pennsylvania abolished slavery during the War for Independence. Some economists and historians [ who? They do not fully account for the government costs necessary to maintain the institution, nor for human suffering. The transition from indentured servants to slaves is cited to show that slaves offered greater profits to their owners.
Indentured servants became more costly with the increase in the demand of skilled labor in England. In the decades preceding the civil war, the United States experienced a rapid natural increase of black population. Baptist and Sven Beckert , have posited that slavery was integral in the development of American capitalism.
Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman , in their book Time on the Cross , argued that the rate of return of slavery at the market price was close to 10 percent, a number close to investment in other assets. Fogel's work, Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery , elaborated on the moral indictment of slavery which ultimately led to its abolition. Scholars disagree on how to quantify efficiency of slavery. In Time on the Cross , Fogel and Engerman equate efficiency to total factor productivity TFP —the output per average unit of input on a farm.
Slave Society and Culture
Under the Gang System, groups of slaves perform synchronized tasks under the constant vigilance of an overseer. Each group was like a part of a machine. If perceived to be working below his capacity, a slave could be punished. Fogel argues that this kind of negative enforcement was not frequent and that slaves and free laborers had similar quality of life; however, there is controversy on this last point.
David in The study found that 72 percent of economists and 65 percent of economic historians would generally agree that "Slave agriculture was efficient compared with free agriculture. Economies of scale, effective management, and intensive utilization of labor and capital made southern slave agriculture considerably more efficient than nonslave southern farming. On the other hand, 58 percent of economic historians and 42 percent of economists disagreed with Fogel and Engerman's "proposition that the material not psychological conditions of the lives of slaves compared favorably with those of free industrial workers in the decades before the Civil War".
Controlling for inflation, prices of slaves rose dramatically in the six decades prior to Civil War, reflecting demand due to commodity cotton, as well as use of slaves in shipping and industry. Although the prices of slaves relative to indentured servants declined, both got more expensive. Cotton production was rising and relied on the use of slaves to yield high profits. Fogel and Engeman initially argued that if the Civil War had not happened, the slave prices would have increased even more, an average of more than 50 percent by Prices reflected the characteristics of the slave—such factors as sex, age, nature, and height were all taken into account to determine the price of a slave.
Over the life-cycle, the price of enslaved women was higher than their male counterparts up to puberty age, as they would likely bear children and produce more slaves, in addition to serving as laborers.
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Men around the age of 25 were the most valued, as they were at the highest level of productivity and still had a considerable life-span. If slaves had a history of fights or escapes, their price was lowered reflecting what planters believed was risk of repeating such behavior. Slave traders and buyers would examine a slave's back for whipping scars—a large number of injuries would be seen as evidence of laziness or rebelliousness, rather than the previous master's brutality, and would lower the slave's price.
The conditions of the market led to shocks in the supply and demand of slaves, which in turn changed prices. For instance, slaves became more expensive after the decrease in supply caused by the ban on importation of slaves in The market for the products of their work also affected slaves' economic value: demand for slaves fell with the price of cotton in Anticipation of changes also had a huge influence on prices.
While slavery brought profits in the short run, discussion continues on the economic benefits of slavery in the long-run. In , a random anonymous survey of members of the Economic History Association found that out of the 40 propositions about American economic history that were surveyed, the propositions most disputed by economic historians and economists were those surrounding the postbellum economy of the American South. The only exception was the proposition initially put forward by historian Gavin Wright  that the "modern period of the South's economic convergence to the level of the North only began in earnest when the institutional foundations of the southern regional labor market were undermined, largely by federal farm and labor legislation dating from the s.
There was little public investment in railroads or other infrastructure. Wright argues that agricultural technology was far more developed in the South, representing an economic advantage of the South over the North of the United States. In Democracy in America , Alexis de Tocqueville noted that "the colonies in which there were no slaves became more populous and more rich than those in which slavery flourished.
Lindert and Jeffrey G. By , per capita income in the South was well behind the Northeast and the national average. Note: This is also true of contemporary incomes in the United States in the early 21st century. Robinson call "a reversal of fortune". He notes that slave societies reflected similar economic trends in those and other parts of the world, suggesting that the trend Lindert and Williamson identify may have continued until the American Civil War :.
Both in Brazil and in the United States—the countries with the two largest slave populations in the Western Hemisphere—the end of slavery found the regions in which slaves had been concentrated poorer than other regions of these same countries. For the United States, a case could be made that this was due to the Civil War, which did so much damage to the South, but no such explanation would apply to Brazil, which fought no Civil War over this issue.
Although slavery in Europe died out before it was abolished in the Western Hemisphere, as late as slavery had not yet died out all across the continent when Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that it still existed in some eastern regions. But, even then, Eastern Europe was much poorer than Western Europe. The slavery of North Africa and the Middle East, over the centuries, took more slaves from sub-Saharan Africa than the Western Hemisphere did… But these remained largely poor countries until the discovery and extraction of their vast oil deposits.
Sowell also notes in Ethnic America: A History , citing historians Clement Eaton and Eugene Genovese , that three-quarters of Southern white families owned no slaves at all. In short, even though some individual slaveowners grew rich and some family fortunes were founded on the exploitation of slaves, that is very different from saying that the whole society, or even its non-slave population as a whole, was more economically advanced than it would have been in the absence of slavery.
What this means is that, whether employed as domestic servants or producing crops or other goods, millions suffered exploitation and dehumanization for no higher purpose than the Scholar Adrienne Davis articulates how the economics of slavery also can be defined as a sexual economy, specifically focusing on how black women were expected to perform physical, sexual, and reproductive labor to provide a consistent enslaved workforce and increase the profits of white slavers.
She is also drawing attention to black women's labor being needed to maintain the aristocracy of a white ruling class, due to the intimate nature of reproduction and its potential for producing more enslaved peoples. Due to the institution of partus sequitur ventrem , black women's wombs became the site where slavery was developed and transferred,  meaning that black women were not only used for their physical labor, but for their sexual and reproductive labor as well. This articulation by Davis illustrates how black women's reproductive capacity was commodified under slavery, and that an analysis of the economic structures of slavery requires an acknowledgment of how pivotal black women's sexuality was in maintaining slavery's economic power.
This ungendering black women received under slavery contributed to the systemic dehumanization experienced by enslaved black women, as they were unable to receive the expectations or experiences of either gender within the white binary. Black women's physical labor was gendered as masculine under slavery when they were needed to yield more profit, but their reproductive capacities and sexual labor was equally as important in maintaining white power over black communities and perpetuating an enslaved workforce.
Because of the three-fifths compromise in the U. Constitution, in which slaves counted in the calculation of how many representatives a state had in Congress though only three-fifths as much as a free person , the planter class had long held power in Congress out of proportion to the total number of free people in the US population as a whole. In , Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act , which required law enforcement and citizens of free states to cooperate in the capture and return of slaves.
This met with considerable overt and covert resistance in free states and cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Some white northerners helped hide former slaves from their former owners or helped them reach freedom in Canada. As part of the Compromise of , Congress abolished the domestic slave trade though not the legality of slavery in the District of Columbia.
After , Republicans argued that the Slave Power , especially the pro-slavery Democratic Party , controlled two of the three branches of the Federal government. The abolitionists, realizing that the total elimination of slavery was, as an immediate goal, unrealistic, had worked to prevent expansion of slavery into the new states formed out of the Western territories.
The Missouri Compromise , the Compromise of , and the Bleeding Kansas crisis dealt with whether new states would be slave or free, or how that was to be decided. Both sides were anxious about effects of these decisions on the balance of power in the Senate. After the passage of the Kansas—Nebraska Act in , border fighting broke out in Kansas Territory , where the question of whether it would be admitted to the Union as a slave or free state was left to the inhabitants. Migrants from free and slave states moved into the territory to prepare for the vote on slavery. Abolitionist John Brown was active in the fighting in "Bleeding Kansas," but so too were many white Southerners who opposed abolition.
Abraham Lincoln's and the Republicans' political platform in was to stop slavery's expansion. Historian James McPherson says that in a famous speech in , Lincoln said American republicanism can be purified by restricting the further expansion of slavery as the first step to putting it on the road to 'ultimate extinction.
When he won the presidency they left the Union to escape the 'ultimate extinction' of slavery. With the development of slave and free states after the American Revolution, and far-flung commercial and military activities, new situations arose in which slaves might be taken by masters into free states. Most free states not only prohibited slavery, but ruled that slaves brought and kept there illegally could be freed. Such cases were sometimes known as transit cases. Dred Scott and his wife Harriet Scott each sued for freedom in St. Louis after the death of their master, based on their having been held in a free territory the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase from which slavery was excluded under the terms of the Missouri Compromise.
Later the two cases were combined under Dred Scott's name. Scott filed suit for freedom in and went through two state trials, the first denying and the second granting freedom to the couple and, by extension, their two daughters, who had also been held illegally in free territories. For 28 years, Missouri state precedent had generally respected laws of neighboring free states and territories, ruling for freedom in such transit cases where slaves had been held illegally in free territory. But in the Dred Scott case, the State Supreme Court ruled against the slaves, saying that "times were not what they once were".
After Scott and his team appealed the case to the U. Taney , in a sweeping decision, denied Scott his freedom. The decision , decided 7—2, held that a slave did not become free when taken into a free state; Congress could not bar slavery from a territory; and people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants, could never be citizens and thus had no status to bring suit in a U. I think slavery developed here primarily because of the ignorance of the blacks. They first came over here as indentured servants, as did the whites. But because of their background and lack of education, they just sort of slid into slavery.
I grew up in the Deep South, and I am familiar with such ideas, shared by many whites in Mr. I do not believe that black people were responsible for their own enslavement, or that African-Americans should be grateful for slavery because they are better off than West Africans, or that a black man was author of the slave system. But I recognize the melody, and let the song pass. Kenneth Thomson brings out some daguerreotypes of the Franklins and others in his family tree.
The pictures are beautiful. The people in them are well-dressed. They give the impression of perfect manners. To get rid of their attitudes. Ben Key was a slave to Isaac Franklin at Fairvue. He was born in in Virginia. Franklin probably bought him there and brought him to Tennessee in the early s. For reasons unknown, Franklin did not send Key through the burning gates of the Slave Trail, but made him stay in Tennessee. At Fairvue, Key found a partner in a woman named Hannah. Their children included a son named Jack Key, who was freed at the end of the Civil War, at age Florence Hall Blair, born and raised in Nashville, is 73, a retired nurse.
She lives 25 miles from Gallatin, in a pretty brick, ranch-style house with white shutters. After 15 years at various Tennessee hospitals, and after 15 years selling makeup for Mary Kay Cosmetics and driving a pink Cadillac, because she moved a ton of mascara , she now occupies herself with family history. A lot of black people, she said, do not want to know about their ancestry. You see the names. Some names in the lists are familiar. You find them repeatedly. He was a minister. It must be in the genes, because I have a brother who is a minister, and a cousin who is a minister, and another relative.
And in Gallatin there is a church named after one of the Key family preachers. And that includes about Isaac Franklin. I think Franklin was a cruel individual, but he was human. His humanity was not always visible, but it was there. Time kind of mellows you out. The older I get, the more tolerant I become. It was like that. He did it, but it is what it is. If you carry hatred or strong dislike for people, all you are doing is hurting yourself. She laughs, surprisingly. Oh, no. Now I have five adult children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
I am married to a man with four children. Put them all together, we are like a big sports team. On holidays it is something, we have to rent a community center. As autumn gathered in , the caravan that John Armfield handed over left Tennessee, bound for Natchez. Records of that part of the journey do not survive, nor do records about the individual slaves in the coffle. Like other Franklin gangs, the probably got on flatboats in the Cumberland River and floated three days down to the Ohio River, and then drifted down another day to reach the Mississippi.
A flatboat could float down the Mississippi to Natchez in two weeks. There—and this is conjecture, based on what happened to other gangs—half of the big gang might have been sold. As for the other half, they were probably herded onto steamboats and churned miles south to New Orleans, where Isaac Franklin or one of his agents sold them, one or three or five at a time.
And then they were gone—out to plantations in northern Louisiana, or central Mississippi, or southern Alabama. In Knoxville, in October , Waller readied his gang of 20 or more for the second half of their journey. He expected another month on the road.
It would turn out to be four. On Tuesday, October 19, the troop headed southwest, Waller leading from his horse and his friend James Taliaferro bringing up the rear, both men armed. No steamboats for this group. Waller was pinching pennies. In Virginia, the coffles marched from town to town. But here, they were marching through wilderness. But during the 50 years coffles were sent on the Slave Trail, the road most taken was the Natchez Trace.
The Natchez people first carved the footpath some years before and used it until about , when they were massacred and dispersed, at which point white travelers took possession of their highway. The Natchez Trace Parkway, with asphalt flat like silk, now follows the old route. Remnants of the original Trace remain out in the woods, yards from the breakdown lane, mostly untouched. Starting in Nashville I drive down the parkway. Overland coffles would have used the road that molders off in the trees.
These were stores and taverns with places to sleep in the back. Gangs of slaves were welcome if they slept in the field, far from business. Their drivers paid good money for food. Waller reached Mississippi by that November. At the village of Benton a week before Christmas , Waller huddled with his gang in a ferocious storm. Although today is Sunday my hands are engaged in repairing the road to enable us to pass on.
I put the car on the shoulder and walk into the woods to find the real Natchez Trace. It is easily stumbled into. And it really is a trace, the faint line of what used to be a wagon road. The cut is about 12 feet wide, with shallow ditches on each side. Spindly pine and oaks away off the roadbed, a third-growth woods. Cobwebs to the face, bugs buzzing, overhanging branches to duck. On the ground, a carpet of mud, and leaves beneath it, and dirt under the leaves. The path the slaves took is beautiful. Nearly enclosed by green curtains of limbs, it feels like a tunnel. I squish through the mud, sweating, pulling off spiders, slapping mosquitoes and horseflies.
The fireflies come out in the dwindling dusk. And as night closes, the crickets start their scraping in the trees. A sudden, loud drone from every direction, the natural music of Mississippi. It was typical on the Slave Trail: People like Waller marched a coffle and sold one or two people along the way to pay the travel bills. Sarah and Indian, the mother and daughter, wanted to be sold together. The three sisters, Sarah Ann, Louisa and Lucy, also wanted to be sold together, which was not likely to happen, and they knew it.
When cotton retailed high in New York, slaveholders in Mississippi bought people. When cotton went low, they did not. In winter , cotton was down. Buyers by the hundreds crammed the viewing rooms of dealers in Natchez and the auction halls of brokers in New Orleans. There was one place en route, however, with a small slave market—Aberdeen, Mississippi. Waller decided to try to sell one or two people there. Waller dragged his gang northwest, four days and 80 miles, to Oxford, but found no buyers.
Thomas Dabney was an acquaintance from Virginia who had moved to Raymond, on the Natchez Trace, 12 years earlier and doubled his already thick riches as a cotton planter. Today as then, Raymond, Mississippi, is a crossroads, population 2, A magnificent Greek Revival courthouse stands next to a one-room barbershop with a corrugated metal front. Pretense and bluster rub shoulders with the plain and dejected. The old railroad station, a wooden building with deep eaves, is a used-record store. Near a school playground in the middle of Raymond, I find the Dabney family graveyard, surrounded by an iron fence.
Dabney has taken Henry and is security for the balance—the three sisters to one man. Waller himself was a little defensive about this people-selling business. As far as I am concerned I have had pain enough on the subject without being censured in this quarter.
Natchez, pearl of the state, stands on a bluff above the Mississippi. Beautiful houses, an antique village, a large tourist trade. But the tourist money is fairly recent. Just outside town, the Trace comes to an end at a shabby intersection. This is Forks of the Road, the Y-shaped junction formed by St. Franklin once ran the biggest operation at Forks of the Road, moving hundreds of people every month. But by the time Waller arrived, Franklin was gone. After he died, in , his body was shipped from Louisiana to Fairvue in a whiskey barrel.
Today at the Forks there is a muffler shop and, next to it, a gutter-and-awn-ing business. Across the street, five historical markers stand on a naked lawn. No buildings on that half-acre. In Raymond, thanks to Thomas Dabney, Waller had gotten in touch with a slave seller named James Ware, a year-old with Virginia roots. Waller knew his family. At the Forks, Waller found a poke salad of low wooden buildings, long and narrow, each housing a dealer, each with a porch and a dirt yard in front.
The yards were parade grounds that worked like showrooms. Slaves for sale wore a uniform of sorts. The display was weirdly silent. They were sorted by sex and size and made to stand in sequence. Men on one side, in order of height and weight, women on the other. This sorting arrangement meant that it was more likely children would be sold from their parents. At the Forks, there were no auctions, only haggling. Buyers looked at the people, took them inside, made them undress, studied their teeth, told them to dance, asked them about their work, and, most important, looked at their backs.
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The inspection of the back made or broke the deal. Many people had scars from whipping. After examining the people on display, a buyer would talk to a seller and negotiate. It was like buying a car today. The man in the South who has done the most to call attention to the Slave Trail was born in Natchez in His parents named him Clifton M.
During the black power years of the s he renamed himself Ser Seshsh Ab Heter. Machines did not replace human hands until the s. Boxley is He is bearded white and gray, and half bald. He is direct, assertive and arresting, with a full baritone voice. He does not make small talk. He carries a poster, 4 by 6 feet, in the back of his red Nissan truck.
He lives alone in a five-room cottage in a black section of town, away from the camera-ready center of Natchez. The tan clapboard house—folding chairs and a hammock in the front yard, cinder blocks and planks for front steps—overflows inside with books, LPs, folk art, old newspapers, knickknacks, clothes in piles and unidentifiable hoards of objects. In a front room, a parallel—dozens of photos of the slave factories of Ghana and Sierra Leone, where captives were held before being sent to the Americas.
Boxley left Natchez in , at age He spent 35 years in California as an activist, as a teacher, as a foot soldier in anti-poverty programs. He came home to Natchez in and discovered Forks of the Road. The site is empty but for the five markers, paid for by the City of Natchez. They say there were no feelings here. He tells the back story. Some had cholera, and these enslaved people died. Franklin disposed of their bodies in a bayou down the road. They were discovered, and it caused a panic. The city government passed an ordinance that banned all long-distance dealers selling people within the city limits.
So they relocated here, at this junction, a few feet outside the city line. Across the street was another set of buildings and dealers. You have Robert H. Elam operating in the site over there. By this place was abuzz with long-distance traders. Since , a proposal to incorporate the site into the National Park Service has been creeping toward approval. An act of Congress is needed. The public recognition for Forks of the Road is for the ancestors who cannot speak for themselves. I ask him to play a debating game. Can you tell it in a way that is not going to injure my sensitivity?
It is the humanity of our ancestors denied that I am interested in. This story is your story as well as an African-American story. In fact, it is more your story than it is mine. I work for the government, I go to church, have two kids, and I say this story is too painful. Can you put it aside? Boxley lets less than a second pass. The only reason your black behind is here at all is because somebody survived that deal. The only reason why we are in America is because our ancestors were force-brought in chains to help build the country.
The way you transcend the hurt and pain is to face the situation, experience it and cleanse yourself, to allow the humanity of our ancestors and their suffering to wash through you and settle into your spirit. A hundred yards from Forks of the Road, there is a low brick bridge across a narrow creek. It is 12 feet wide, 25 feet long and covered with kudzu, buried beneath mud and brush. William Waller left for New Orleans during the second week of January , taking an hour steamboat ride.
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Among them were the field hand Nelson, plus his wife; a man called Piney Woods Dick and another nicknamed Runaway Boots. Waller had never been to such a big city. He had heard bad things about New Orleans, expected to be frightened by it, and was. During the 50 years of the Slave Trail, perhaps half a million people born in the United States were sold in New Orleans, more than all the Africans brought to the country during two centuries of the Middle Passage across the Atlantic.
New Orleans, the biggest slave market in the country, had about 50 people-selling companies in the s. Some whites went to the slave auctions for entertainment. Today in New Orleans, the number of monuments, markers and historic sites that refer in some way to the domestic slave trade is quite small. I make a first estimate: zero. But what it says is wrong.
Greenwald stands in front of two beige livery coats hanging behind a pane of glass. The two livery coats, big-buttoned and long-tailed, were worn by an enslaved carriage driver and a doorman. As she talks and points out objects, I notice something I had never seen during many visits to this archive: black people. The House of Burgesses 3. Witchcraft in Salem 4. The Ideas of Benjamin Franklin 5.
Life in the Plantation South 6. A New African-American Culture 7. The Treaty of Paris and Its Impact 9. The Intolerable Acts The Declaration of Independence Yorktown and the Treaty of Paris When Does the Revolution End? The Age of Atlantic Revolutions The Economic Crisis of the s Constitution Through Compromise The Antifederalists' Victory in Defeat Native American Resilience and Violence in the West The Life and Times of John Adams Jeffersonian America: A Second Revolution? Gabriel's Rebellion: Another View of Virginia in Claiming Victory from Defeat Early National Arts and Cultural Independence Jacksonian Democracy and Modern America Jackson vs.
Irish and German Immigration Transcendentalism, An American Philosophy The Southern Argument for Slavery Gold in California The Compromise of Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner The South Secedes Strengths and Weaknesses: North vs. The Road to Appomattox The Assassination of the President Rebuilding the Old Order The New Tycoons: John D. The New Tycoons: J. Politics of the Gilded Age Labor vs. Eugene V. Debs and American Socialism Artistic and Literary Trends