[Please note: I provide the document below because a) it is already a document of public record, b) it provides a window into our country's past on a topic of enormous significance and c) it contains insights that are chillingly still relevant today as well as the perspective of the U.S. government at the time just following the Civil War. As Mark Twain was reputed to have said, "History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes." I mostly refrain from comment, but there are a few places where I interject in comments clearly marked with brackets [ ] and I welcome yours. -ASC]
RESOURCES AND INDUSTRIAL CONDITION OF THE SOUTHERN STATES.BY DANIEL R. GOODLOE, OF NORTH CAROLINA.
The attempt of the slaveholding States to throw off their allegiance to the Constitution of the Union has been properly designated a rebellion; while the failure of the effort has been attended by consequences which can only be characterized as a revolution, more complete and radical, as it affects themselves, than any of which history furnishes a record. This revolution is in every point of view unique. It was not intended or contemplated by the authors of the rebellion, but has resulted from their abortive enterprise. It is two-fold in its nature—political and social. The oligarchy which has so long ruled the country is, for the time being, stripped of all power, and its members are suing for pardon at the hands of the national Executive. As a powerful class, bound together by common interests, it is forever dissolved by the destruction of slavery. The passions which inspired it in the past will cling to the individuals composing it; but they must cease to have a great common bond of fellowship, and they can no longer be united in a common purpose.
But it is the radical and compulsory change in the social system which distinguishes the southern from all other revolutions, ancient and modern, and which has caused a temporary paralysis of industry.
The whole structure of southern society, was founded on slavery. It was the one great controlling interest. The institution was a curse to the country. It retarded industry and enterprise by an unnecessary absorption of capital. It gave all to agriculture, and left nothing for commerce and manufactures; but in the actual condition of things, slaves constituted the most valuable property of the southern people. Land was always dull of sale; town lots and other property were never in great demand; manufacturing and mechanical investments were rarely safe; but negro property was always available. Slaves were portable, and could be sold at a large profit by their transfer from the old and worn-out plantations of Virginia and the Carolinas to the fertile cotton fields of the southwest. Generations had been educated in the employment of slave labor, with all its attendant circumstances; and the sudden destruction of the system produces a derangement and disorganization of industry not unlike that which would follow an instantaneous transfer of the population of the city to the country, or of the country to the city. The people must learn new methods of conducting their farms and households, and must become habituated to the idea that their late slaves are freemen, before the south can resume its former prosperity.
|States||Square miles||No. of acres||Population to square mile|
|District of Columbia||60||38,400|
|States||Square miles||No. of acres||Population to square mile|
|Add border States||138,905||88,899,200|
|District of Columbia||60,764||11,131||3,185||75,080|
|Total border States||2,985,188||131,134||445,347||3,561,669|
|Years||Real estate||Personal estate||Total||Estimated or true value|
|DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA|
|States||Canals (miles of)||Railroads (miles of)||Slack-water navigation (miles of)|
|District of Columbia||8||6||-----|
|States||Canals (miles of)||Railroads (miles of)||Slack-water navigation (miles of)|
|States||Tobacco||Cane-sugar||Hemp||Peas and beans||Cotton|
|Pounds||Hhds. (Hogsheads)||Tons||Bushels||Bales of 400 lbs.|
|Dist. of Columbia||15,200||---------||----------||3,749||--------|
|States||Horses||Asses and mules||Milch cows||Working oxen||Other cattle||Sheep||Swine||Value of livestock|
|Dist. of Columbia||641||122||639||69||198||40||1,099||109,640|
|Horses||Asses and mules||Milch cows||Working oxen||Other cattle||Sheep||Swine||Value of livestock|
It will be seen that the southern States possessed more asses and mules, more cattle, and more swine in 1860 than the northern; and that the value of live stock in the south was greater, according to the estimates of the census-takers. This latter fact will strike most minds with surprise, and, in view of the general superiority of northern animals, it can scarcely be credited. As it regards the greater numbers of southern live stock, however, there can be no doubt, and the fact is one of great interest, as illustrative of the resources of that section. The batter crop of the northern States excels that of the south in the proportion of five to one, while the cheese crop of the country, amounting to 103,663,927 pounds, is almost entirely northern.
|States and District of Columbia||Number of establishments||Capital invested||Cost of raw material||Number of Male hands employed||Number of Female hands employed||Annual cost of labor||Annual value of products|
|Dist. of Columbia||429||2,905,865||2,884,185||2,653||495||1,139,154||5,412,102|
|Number of establishments||Capital invested||Cost of raw material||Number of Male hands employed||Number of Female hands employed||Annual cost of labor||Annual value of products|
|States||3-<10 acres||10-<20 ac.||20-<50 ac.||50-<100 ac.||100-<500 ac.||500-<1000 ac.||1000+ acres|
|District of Columbia||25||36||71||42||57||2||1|
|Free States.||Average number of acres to each farm||Slave States||Average number of acres to each farm|
|New Hampshire||116||123||North Carolina||369||316|
|New Jersey||115||108||South Carolina||541||488|
|Number of farms.||Acres of land improved||Acres of land unimproved.|
It will be seen that in all the new States where there was public land to be had, the increase in the quantity of “unimproved” is, having reference to the number of farmers, out of all proportion to the addition of “improved” land.
|Number of farms.||Acres of land improved.||Acres of land unimproved.|
|Number of farms.||Acres of land improved.||Acres of land unimproved.|
The reader will remark that, both in the number of farms and in the number of acres of improved land at each of the periods, the northern States are largely in the ascendant. Also, that the ratio of increase in both these respects is generally on the side of the north. But in the columns containing the number of acres of unimproved lands the reverse is true. In 1850 the unimproved land appertaining to the southern farms was two and one-third times greater in quantity than similar lands belonging to the northern farms; and in 1860 the disparity was still greater. These facts illustrate the tendency of slavery to exhaust the soil by unskilful husbandry, and thus to make necessary new acquisitions. A large proportion of the “unimproved” lands in the south are, in fact, worn out fields which have been abandoned, as commons. This is particularly true of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.
A careful examination of the above tables will demonstrate that the smaller proportion of “unimproved” land belonging to northern farms, compared with those of the south, cannot be explained by the existence of a larger population in the one section than the other. For if States like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, be compared with the States of the northwest, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, where land is equally abundant, the same characteristic difference will be found to exist; and it can alone be accounted for by the presence of slavery in one section, and its absence from the other.
EFFECTS OF SLAVERY ON POPULATION.
The foregoing facts suggest further inquiry into: the nature of slavery, as a system of organized labor. It is apparent that the institution tends to retard the growth of population by immigration, if it has not the same effect upon the natural increase; that it obstructs the accumulation of wealth, and is especially incompatible with the development of commercial and manufacturing industry. The following tables, showing the populations, respectively, of the free and slave States, in 1790 and 1860, with their ratios of increase between those periods, are full of instruction on these points.
|States.||1790.||1860.||Ratio of increase||Settled|
|States||1790||1860||Ratio of increase||Ratio calculated from census|
|Years||New England exports||New England imports||New York exports||New York imports||Pennsylvania exports||Pennsylvania imports|
The tables in Hazard’s work, from which the foregoing figures are taken, are complete for the entire series of years; but these extracts will convey a sufficiently accurate idea of the whole.The following is made up in like manner from the complete tables of Hazard:
|Years.||Virginia and Maryland exports||Virginia and Maryland imports||Carolina exports||Carolina imports||Georgia exports||Georgia imports|
The reader will remark that the exports and imports of the southern colonies exceeded those of the northern during the greater part of the long period embraced in the tables. The following figures from Hazard’s work, showing the shipping owned by the States north and south during the first thirty years under the Constitution, will leave no doubt of the fact already stated, that the commerce of the southern colonies was carried on by the mother country, or by their northern neighbors.
|Years||Massachusetts||N. Hampshire||Connecticut||Rhode Island||New York||New Jersey||Pennsylvania|
|Years||Delaware||Maryland||Virginia||North Carolina||South Carolina||Georgia|
This remarkable disparity between northern and southern shipping, which has been growing wider and wider ever since, like the disparity in manufacturing enterprise, demonstrates the essentially colonial character of countries in which slavery prevails. The south has always produced the articles most in demand in foreign markets, and yet it has never had anything deserving the name of commerce. Its great staple furnishes the most important item of European and northern commerce and manufacture, while next to none of it is manufactured on the soil which produces it, and as small a proportion is shipped abroad in southern ships.The following tables are taken from the report of the Secretary of the Treasury on commerce and navigation tor the year 1860, and will further illustrate this truth:
VALUE OF EXPORTS
|VALUE OF TOTAL EXPORTS||Value of imports|
|American produce||Foreign produce||American and foreign|
|District of Columbia||4,413||----------||4,413||8,278|
|Total commerce of the U. States||373,189,274||26,933,022||400,122,296||362,166,254|
|Deduct southern commerce||208,806,220||1,795,857||210,602,077||40,585,285|
It is seen that a majority of the domestic exports was sent out from the southern States, while nine-tenths of the foreign goods exported or reshipped were sent out from northern ports.
Of imports, the share of the south was as 40 to 321, or about one-ninth of the whole. This fact shows that a very small portion of southern commerce was in southern hands. The cotton, tobacco, and other raw products were necessarily shipped from the nearest southern ports, but the ships belonged to northern or foreign merchants. No better evidence could be desired of the unmercantile character of the southern people than is furnished by this table. A people with the slightest genius for commerce would, on the basis of such vast exports, import for the whole country; and the great mass of trade, instead of being far to the north, ought to be at Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, and New Orleans; but the maintenance of slavery doomed the south to a colonial condition, and it is as idle to talk of the commerce of the slaveholding States as of that of the West India islands. Like those islands, the south has been the great producer of the objects of commerce; but the commerce has at all times been in other hands.
This fact is more fully demonstrated by the following table from the same official report:
|Tons and 95ths.|
|District of Columbia||45,230.88|
|Total tonnage of the United States||5,353,868 42|
|Deduct southern tonnage||1,022,242.72|
|Leaves northern tonnage||4,331,625.70|
It is a singular fact that the institution of slavery, which has been the most absorbing topic of discussion among politicians and moralists in two hemispheres during the greater part of the present century, has awakened so little inquiry among political economists. Of the hundreds of treatises on that science which the age has produced, there is, perhaps, not one which has devoted to slavery more than a brief chapter, in which, with rare unanimity, none but the most obvious evils of the system are pointed out. No attempt has been made by this class of authors to analyze and define the functions of capital invested in slavery, nor to show that there exists any difference between this and other modes of investment. Yet this is the great economical problem, aside from which slavery involves only a question of conscience and morals. Although slavery has been destroyed in this country, and there remains not a shadow of reason to apprehend that it can ever be revived, this problem is eminently worthy of solution. If it can be demonstrated that the whole capital invested in slaves was useless to the south as an agency of production, the southern people, if they will receive the truth, will the more readily acquiesce in what seems to have been a providential dispensation. Their prejudices and passions may continue to blind them to the moral wrong of slavery, but they may yield to the conviction that the institution is inconsistent and at war with the eternal laws of political economy. If they can be clearly convinced on this point they will eventually become reconciled to the irreversible decree which has destroyed their cherished social, order.
If it be conceded by the laws that the men of property may buy and sell the poor as slaves, it may or may not be advantageous for the individual to invest his capital in that species of property. In all standard works upon political economy, the institution of slavery has been considered from this narrow point of view, and, for the most part, they concur in maintaining the negative, that under all circumstances it is less advantageous to employ slave than free labor. The folly of this notion is demonstrated by the fact that throughout the entire south there was no instance of a large plantation cultivated by hired free labor. Wherever agriculture was sufficiently profitable to induce large investments of capital the labor of slaves was preferred, and it was only the small farms in the south which were worked by free labor, generally by that of the owner and his sons. The universal preference given to slave labor in agricultural enterprises was due to several causes. In the first place; it was on hand, and from generation to generation the habit of cultivating the earth by servile labor had become invincible. The slaves could not be employed conveniently and extensively in other pursuits, which require more intelligence, and which make it necessary to collect them together in dangerously large numbers; and there was, besides, little demand for slave labor except on the plantations. The imperious manners of the slaveholders, who were the great capitalists of the south, were little suited to the direction of free labor. It was felt, and not without reason, that freemen would revolt and abandon the fields at the most critical periods of the crops rather than submit to the tyrannical driving process which was applied to slaves, and which was regarded as essential by those who had never witnessed anything else. The very existence of slavery had thus produced a condition of things, and generated manners and habits, which made it more profitable to employ slaves than free laborers. The few sickly manufacturing enterprises which had begun to spring up in the southern States, and to employ free labor, were, for the most part, under the management of northern men, or, at any rate, of men reared in those parts of the south where here were few slaves.
The habit of giving the preference to slave labor by the planters has in another way operated to the prejudice of free labor. It has caused the poor white population to grow up in idleness, to feel that labor is degrading, and to be incapable, from disuse, of continuous labor. Slave labor thus justified the preference given to it by its tendency to degrade free labor and to render the free laborer worthless. Reasoning from the premises accepted by the entire school of political economists, therefore, it is safe to say that the slaveholders had the advantage of the argument, at least so far as slaveholding countries are concerned. Admit the existence of slavery, once introduce the system, and it will generate an atmosphere in which free labor will not thrive. The whole experience of southern men is to the effect that slaves were at all times, up to the commencement of the rebellion, the most valuable property in the south. They were always in demand at increasing prices, and the demand was always growing greater. Lands were soon worn out and abandoned, railroads and other stocks might prove worthless, but it was always safe to invest in slaves. Pigs and cattle were worth only a few cents per pound, negroes readily commanded almost as many dollars. The mere mention of these notorious facts is sufficient to refute the assumption that the individual could always more safely employ free than slave labor.
The economical evil of slavery lies deeper. It is not that individuals or capitalists may not make money out of it, but that society, in the aggregate, cannot make money out of it. It permits and encourages an unnecessary investment of capital, and a diversion of capital from employments which would be gainful to the community at large, to one which is simply gainful to one class of society at the expense of another. At a moderate estimate, the value of the slaves of the south to their owners, in December, 1860, when South Carolina commenced the work of abolition by making war upon the general government, was $3,000,000,000. The title of the owners has been destroyed, and the negroes, formerly slaves, have come into possession of it. There has simply been a transfer of title from one class of owners to another, but nothing valuable has been destroyed. The strong arms and the skilled labor still exist, and new incitements to industry have been added to four millions of the southern population who, hitherto, were only impelled by the fear of punishment. It is as if a grand assize had been held, and a verdict and judgment had been given against the wrongful possessor. Only the title has been transferred; but no property has been destroyed. If the slave was worth a thousand dollars to his master, he is now worth a thousand dollars to himself. He may throw it away in dissipation and folly as his master often did; or he may employ it in the procurement of a home for himself and his family, in the education of his children, in surrounding them with comforts, and in raising himself and them in the scale of being. These are the ultimate uses of money, and they are worth as much to the negro as they were to his former master.
There has doubtless been a waste of property, and a loss of time and the fruits of industry, in the process of abolishing slavery by war; but this has nothing to do with the point at issue. In asserting that capital invested in slaves is unproductive, and that the liberation of the slaves is only a transfer of title, without a destruction of property, it is assumed that the change is made peaceably, and without disorganizing industry. The object is to show what the country lost by the admission of slavery, and what it will eventually gain by abolishing the institution; and not that the process of abolition has been unattended with loss. Besides the direct waste of war, in the destruction of houses, fences, and furniture, and the means of subsistence, there is also great loss in the disruption of society, in the failure to plant and cultivate, and to follow other industrial pursuits as usual in times of peace. All this is fully conceded; but: it is still true that the three thousand millions of property invested in slaves has not been destroyed. There has been only a transfer of title, as there would be in consequence of the verdict of a jury in a suit at law for an estate.
Supposing, therefore, that the transition from slavery to freedom had been made peaceably and without any disorganization or paralysis of industry, and it is plain that the south would now possess every resource-of wealth and production that it had while four hundred thousand white people claimed four millions of negroes as property. If the States or the general government desired to raise a direct tax upon real and personal property and polls, there would be the same resources on which to impose it. The emancipated negroes can pay as much tax for themselves as their former masters could have paid on them as property, and the land and other property would be no less valuable in consequence of an augmentation of the number of persons endowed with the capacity to hold property. In like manner the power of the States for defence or aggression would not be lessened by emancipation, as the late civil war has so fully demonstrated. It is well known, and came at length to be recognized by the whole south, that the existence of slavery, by making a third of the population enemies of their country was the great hindrance to success. If the negroes had been freemen, and had been inspired by the common desire for separation from the north, the conflict would undoubtedly have been far more stubborn, and it would be hazardous to say that the result would have been in that case what it is now. A nation, therefore, which has lost none of its resources of revenue, and which has increased by one-third the number of its arms-bearing population, cannot be said to have lost anything valuable in consequence of the abolition of slavery.
That slavery causes an unnecessary and therefore unproductive investment of capital may be made palpable by a familiar illustration: Suppose two farms, of one hundred acres of land each, are to be cultivated respectively with free and with slave labor, and that in each the soil and whatever is necessary to its cultivation is owned by the farmers, whom I suppose to be neighbors, and engaged in the same branch of agriculture; their lands adjoin, and are equally valuable; they employ the same number of cattle and horses, they must lay out equal sums for utensils, and they must lay in the same quantity of provisions. They also employ the same number of laborers—suppose ten, each. In all other respects their investments are equal, but as it regards labor a wide discrepancy exists. He who employs his poor neighbors to labor for him need have no capital for that purpose, as, at the worst, they will work for a share in the crop, on condition of being fed and clothed during the year, or they will wait till harvest for their pay, which can then be raised by the sale of the crop. If labor should be in considerable demand, and laborers should require monthly wages, the farmer owning the soil, and all that pertains to his farm, could borrow, from time to time, sums to pay wages; but, with the employer of slaves, the case is quite different. After keeping pace in investments with his free-labor hiring neighbor in all things else, he must have, in addition, a capital equal to the value of ten able-bodied slaves, which, at the beginning of the civil war, and for several years prior thereto, he must have paid for at the rate of fifteen hundred dollars each, or fifteen thousand dollars for the ten. The hundred acres of land, supposing it to have been of the best quality would have been worth’ perhaps twenty dollars per acre, or two thousand for the entire farm. His cattle and horses, and his utensils of husbandry, may have required an outlay of two thousand dollars. Food and clothing for himself and slaves, and provender for horses and cattle, one thousand. In all, his capital would amount to twenty thousand dollars, of which just three-fourths consists of the unnecessary and therefore unproductive investments in human beings as property. This fifteen thousand dollars of capital would be wholly dispensed with by the use of free labor, and with but a very trifling addition to the other items of expense. The cost of land, of horses and cattle, of farming utensils, and of food for the animals, would be the same. The food of the free laborers would cost as much as the food and clothing and the doctor’s bills of the slaves. In all these items the expenses or capital invested in the two cases are parallel. As above stated, there is no absolute necessity for paying wages in advance; but to make the comparison perfectly fair and free from criticism, let it be supposed that the employer of free labor is under the necessity of having on hand a cash capital for this purpose sufficient to pay monthly wages during the nine or ten months in which the crop is planted, tilled, and gathered. One thousand dollars would be sufficient for this purpose, and the accounts of expenses incurred would stand thus:
|Free labor||Slave labor|
|100 acres of land, at $20 per acre||$2,000||$2,000|
|Value of cattle, horses, and farming tools||2,000||2,000|
|Food and clothing of farmer, food of free laborers, and provender for horses, cattle, &c||1,000|
|Food and clothing for farmer and his slaves, doctor’s bills for latter, and provender for horses, cattle, &c||1,000|
|Value of 10 slaves, at $1,500 each||15,000|
|Fund for paying wages to free laborers||1,000|
The reader will reflect that the suppositions here made as to the several items of capital need not be strictly correct, in order to establish the principle involved. The cost of land and of other articles may be more or less, but the great fact is made palpable that the capital invested in slaves is not necessary in the production of the cotton crop, and that it has nothing to do with production.
It will be asked, if all this is true, why did not southern men cultivate cotton and tobacco with free labor? If, with a capital of six thousand dollars, a man could make as much cotton or tobacco by the employment of free labor as another could make with slave labor, on a capital of twenty thousand dollars, why was not free labor thus used in preference? The facts and considerations above stated will explain the motives of convenience which caused the preference to be given to slave over free labor, and the profit on the excess of capital employed by the slaveholder was made up to him by appropriating the wages due to the laborers. The free-labor farmer is under the necessity of dividing his profits with the men employed by him to make the crop. The slaveholder fed and clothed his slaves in the coarsest and cheapest way. Of this fact there is official evidence furnished in a report of the Secretary of the Treasury, made under the administration of President Polk, when every department of the general government was in pro-slavery hands. Circulars containing two series of questions were addressed to leading planters, as well as manufacturers and merchants, asking for statements of the amounts of capital invested by them respectively their profits, the number of laborers employed, the cost of feeding and clothing slaves, and the wages paid to free laborers, &c. The response came from every part of the cotton and sugar regions that the cost of feeding and clothing a slave was thirty dollars per annum—fifteen dollars for food, and fifteen dollars for clothing per annum; children half price. The profits per hand to the master varied from $150 to near $500. In the free States wages for farm laborers ranged from $8 to $12 per month, with board in each case. Toward the close of the career of slavery, there was probably an increase in the cost of feeding and clothing slaves, and if the champions of the institution are tc be relied on, the disposition to feed and clothe better increased with the value of the slaves. The profits of the two farmers arising from the sale of the crop may be stated, taking the above suppositions, and further assuming that a bale of cotton is made for each acre of land, and that the cotton is worth ten cents per pound, as follows:
|Free labor.||Slave labor.|
|Product in each case, 100 bales, worth||$4,000||$4,000|
|Deduct annual expenses as follows: for food and clothing of farmer, food of ten free laborers, and provender for horses and cattle, &c||$1,000|
|Deduct wages of ten free laborers, at $12 per month||1,440|
|Deduct food and clothing of farmer and ten slaves, and doctors bills of latter||1,000|
|Net profits, free labor||1,560|
It will be remarked that the difference in the net profits of the two farmers is just equal to the wages paid by the free-labor farmer to his laborers. This sum $1,440 is 93 per cent. upon the capital invested in the slaves. In each case the aggregate wealth of society is equally increased, while in the one case six thousand dollars make the product, and in the other twenty thousand.
It must be obvious, upon reflection, that what is here found to be true of single individuals, is true of the aggregate number of farmers and planters. There were about 5,000,000 bales of cotton produced in 1859, as reported in the census of 1860. In point of fact, there was much inferior soil in cultivation, and a large proportion of women and children were employed. But it is the universal testimony of planters that a good acre will make a bale of 400 pounds of picked cotton, and that a good “hand” will cultivate ten acres. It is, therefore, for the sake of illustration, safe to take the supposition above, and to assume that the 5,000,000 bales were grown upon 5,000,000 acres, by 400,000 able-bodied men, with corresponding investments as to land and other things, and it still remains clear that the investment in slaves is superfluous. The five hundred thousand laborers were worth $750,000,000, which sum is of itself nearly three times larger than was essential to the production of the cotton crop. We have seen above that $20,000, with slave labor, produced no more than $6,000 with free labor, and at the same ratios one thousand millions were employed to accomplish what three hundred millions would have done.In like manner all the slaves of the south involved a corresponding amount of unproductive investment. They numbered nearly four millions, of all ages and both sexes, and were said by southern men to be worth from three to four thousand millions of dollars. This vast property was not a gift to the southern people; it was an accumulation, and constituted, in fact, nearly or quite half the wealth of the south. In the planting States slaves were greatly more valuable than all other property, real and personal, as will be seen by the following comparative tables:
|Real property in 1860||Personal property in 1860||Real property in 1860||Personal property in 1860|
|South Carolina||129,772,684||359,546,444||New York||1,069,658,080||320,806,558|
It is quite apparent to any one familiar with the condition of the country at large, that these tables are not to be relied on as furnishing an accurate idea of the relative wealth of different States—for instance, Ohio is made to appear far more wealthy than her older, more populous, and larger neighbor Pennsylvania. The little State of Connecticut is placed ahead of Illinois, and Georgia is ranked higher than South Carolina in personal property, although the latter outnumbered the former in slaves by many thousands. These facts only show that the States have adopted different standards of valuation. Some assess property at its true value, others assess at one-half or two-thirds, and hence these incongruities. In another table of the census reports there is an effort made to equalize the principle of valuation, but upon what data is not stated. The tables above will answer my present purpose, which is to show the relative value of real and personal estate in the several States. It is seen that in the free States the real estate exceeds in value the personal in every instance— sometimes in the proportion of three to one, and that aggregately the former is two and a half times the latter. In the slave States the aggregate personal estate is more than two-fold greater than the real, while in some States it is two and a half times greater, thus reversing the proportions as they exist in free communities. This immense excess of personal over real estate consists of the property in slaves, which I have shown above to be utterly useless to the community at large as a productive agency.
I have already cited a report made by the Hon. Robert J. Walker, in 1845, while Secretary of the Treasury, upon the subject of capital employed in the various industrial pursuits. Having shown that capital invested in slaves is unproductive when the pursuit is agriculture, I will now undertake to demonstrate in like manner that it is equally so in manufactures; and as I am less familiar with such investments, and less capable of supplying illustrations by supposing cases, I will take the actual facts, with the names of parties as furnished by the official report.
In response to one of Mr. Walker’s circulars Mr. Samuel Bachelor, on the part of the York Cotton Manufacturing Company at Saco, Maine, stated that the company (this was in 1845) had a capital invested in grounds, buildings, and machinery, amounting to $550,000. Their business capital annually invested in the purchase of raw material, &c., and in the payment of wages, amounted to $450,000 The whole, therefore, amounted to one million dollars ($1,000,000.) But this is. rather an over-statement as it regards wages, if, as I suppose, it includes the whole amount paid during the year. In agriculture it is necessary to labor for three-fourths of the year before the laborer can be repaid out, of the product of his toil. But in manufactures this is not the case, except, perhaps, in a few instances. In manufacturing establishments money is coming in daily, and it cannot be necessary to lay up a fund at the beginning of the year to pay wages until the close. The business capital, both to buy the material of manufacture and to pay wages, would be coming and going all the while; and perhaps of the $450,000 thus expended during the year not more than fifty thousand need be on hand at one time. So that, instead of a million, the York Manufacturing Company probably did not at any one time have more than seven or eight hundred thousand dollars engaged in every stage of the manufacture, from the raw material to the unsold fabric. The number of men employed in the establishment was 200; the number of women 900 to 1,200. Suppose the average number to have been, of both sexes, only 1,200. Now to carry on such an establishment with slave labor it would be necessary to own this number of slaves who were in the prime of life; and their average value, even at that day, could not have been less than $700, and: their aggregate value $840,000. It is clear, therefore, that cotton manufacturing with slave labor would involve an investment two-fold greater than with free labor.
In the manufacture of tobacco, cigars, and snuff the proportion of labor to capital seems to be greater than in that of cotton. At least, such is true of the case furnished by Mr. Walker’s report. Mr. Enoch Hughes was engaged in the manufacture of tobacco, snuff, and cigars. He stated his capital was $30,000, of which $20,000 was permanent, and $10,000 was used in the purchase of material and the payment of labor. He employed one hundred persons, mostly females. One hundred slaves of similar ages would be worth $700 each, or $70,000 in the aggregate. Add to this merely the $20,000 permanently invested by Mr. Hughes, and leaving nothing for the purchase of materials, and the sum total is $90,000, or just three times. the capital employed where free labor is used.
In the manufacture of iron the same principle finds illustration. The Eagle Furnace at Buffalo, New York, according to the statement of Mr. Calvin J. Mill, the manager or proprietor, had a permanent capital of $50,000, of which $35,000 was invested in buildings and machinery, and $15,000 was business capital, though in the course of the year $30,000 was spent for materials, and $15,000 paid out as wages. This illustrates the correctness of my remarks above, that a small business capital on hand, together with the daily receipts of a manufacturing establishment, will dispense with the necessity of keeping on hand the whole disbursement of the year. The Eagle Furnace employed eighty men, skilled laborers, who in those times of low wages and gold received one dollar and a half per day. Slaves equally skilful, even then, would have been worth $1,200 each, or $96,000 for the eighty. Add this sum to the fifty thousand dollars of permanent capital invested by the Eagle Furnace Company, and the amount is $146,000, which would be necessary to carry on an iron furnace with slave labor, or three times more than is necessary with free labor.
I have all along assumed, in the above reasoning, that it would be practicable to employ slaves in manufacturing. This is not true, except in a very limited way. In the first place, it was always the policy of the upholders of slavery to keep the negroes in ignorance, and to offer them no incentive to labor, or to acquire skill. This policy would be a great hindrance to anything like excellence in the arts. But aside from this consideration, it would be dangerous to bring slaves together in great numbers; so that the idea of building up a great manufacturing city composed of slaves, would be repellant to every slaveholding instinct if it were practicable. Such an aggregation of slaves would be fruitful of plots and insurrections, and it would be necessary to maintain an army ready to suppress revolt. Such a thing might have been practicable in an age when the idea of personal liberty was unknown; but in our day, when it is the aspiration of every human being in christendom, [it's not capitalized in the original document, folks, so I left it alone. -ASC] it will not do to allow slaves to measure their power with that of their masters.
“In the wealth of mankind nothing is included which does not of itself answer some purpose of utility or pleasure, To an individual anything is wealth which, though useless in itself, enables him to claim from others a part of their stock of things, useful or pleasant. Take, for instance, a mortgage of a thousand pounds on a landed estate; this is wealth to the person to whom it brings in a revenue, and who could perhaps sell it in the market for the full amount of the debt. But it is not wealth to the country; if the engagement were annulled the country would be neither poorer nor richer; the mortgagee would have lost a thousand pounds, and the owner of the land would have gained it. Speaking nationally, the mortgage was not itself wealth, but merely gave A a claim to a portion of the wealth of B. It was wealth to A, and wealth which he could transfer to a third person; but what he so transferred was in fact a joint ownership to the extent of a thousand pounds in the land of which B was nominally the sole proprieter. The position of fund-holders or owners of the public debt of a country is similar: they are mortgagees on the general wealth of the country. The cancelling of the debt would be no destruction of wealth, but a transfer of it; a wrongful abstraction of wealth from certain members of the community for the profit of the government, or of the tax-payers. Funded property, therefore, cannot be counted as part of the national wealth. This is not always borne in mind by the dealers in statistical calculations. For example, in estimates of the gross income of the country, founded on the proceeds of the income tax, incomes derived from the funds are not always excluded, though the tax-payers are assessed on their whole nominal income without being permitted to deduct from it the portion levied from them in taxation to form the income of the fund-holder. In this calculation, therefore, one portion of the general income of the country is counted twice over, and the aggregate amount made to appear greater than it is by about thirty millions.”
In like manner the title of a slaveholder is in the nature of a mortgage or lien upon the labor of the country taken by force, without consideration—not given for value received. The destruction of the title, to apply the language of Mr. Mill, “would be no destruction of wealth, but a transfer of it.” In this instance, however, there is no “wrongful abstraction of wealth from certain members of the community for the profit of others. On the contrary, the abolition of slavery is the restoration of a right which has been unjustly withheld.
It may be shown how other, articles which ordinarily cost nothing may be made, under peculiar circumstances, property to individuals, though they can never be counted as part of the national wealth. A man may live in a dark and close room, where artificial light would become necessary in broad day-time, and where a sufficient supply of air could only be obtained by an expensive machinery. In such a case, if there were any necessity for his residence in such a place, these poor substitutes for the clear light of the sun, and the pure air which surrounds his prison-house, would acquire value which he might transfer by sale to another man in like circumstances; but such property cannot have any general value, nor can it constitute any part of the national wealth. So, the slaveholder invests his capital in something which he could have the use of without owning it as property. He buys a rational being, whose incentives to labor for the sake of wages are stronger than the compulsory authority of a master. There exists a necessity for owning the domestic animals, in order to make their services available. They have no artificial wants, no aspirations or desires beyond those which nature has provided for in their instincts; they are never to wear clothing nor to acquire education; they would never be able to build them houses nor store them with provisions for winter, and it is only as the property of a rational being that they can be made more comfortable and happy. They cannot of themselves cultivate the earth, nor gather up its fruits for periods of scarcity; their only resource, and their only labor if left to themselves, would be to eat what the bounty of nature spreads before them. But with man in his lowest estate the reverse is true. His desires, and hopes, and aspirations for knowledge, for wealth and power, are illimitable. He is without the instincts which would enable him to live, but reason prompts him to labor and to save; and under favorable conditions the habits of laboring and saving become second nature, if, indeed, they may not be said to be natural. To own him as property is to stifle all the nobler impulses, and, as far as may be, to turn him into a mere beast of burden, without aspiration for higher life and without a stimulant to improvement. It is therefore worse than useless to enslave a human being, and the nation which tolerates the institution in its bosom is as unreasonable as the man who should consent to have a hand bound to his body, and thus to pass through life.
Capital invested in slaves could be considered no part of the national wealth, because it was unnecessary. It was three thousand millions laid out in the purchase of something which was at command without being called property. It was profitable to the slaveholders to the extent of the pecuniary injury inflicted upon the slaves. As the political economists would say, its function was to distribute wealth, not to produce it; and, as we have seen, the distribution, while it was unjust, could in no possible way add anything to the resources of the country.
Thus far I have attempted to demonstrate the proposition that slavery involves a wholly unproductive investment of capital, and that its abolition was merely the destruction of title-deeds; while whatever there was of value in the south during the existence of slavery still remains, or at least would have remained if the institution had been put out of the way without war and bloodshed. I now propose to show what the south has gained with reference to its future progress.
Capital invested in slaves being unproductive, the introduction of slavery into a State diverts the energies of the people from its improvement. This peculiarity belongs to no other species of unproductive capital. Slavery dispenses with, and introduces a substitute for, free citizens by supplying the demand for labor; and yet it has been demonstrated above that the substitute requires several times more capital to furnish it than is necessary to obtain a supply of free labor. Thus, taking the supposition above, if the free-soil farmer wishes to double the area of his farm and the amount of his product, he can do so with an additional capital of six thousand dollars; whereas the slaveholder, whose cultivation and product are only equal to the other, must accumulate twenty thousand dollars in order to make an equal addition to his crop. Or, if the additional capital be brought in by emigration from the older States, six thousand with free labor would do the work of twenty thousand with slave labor; and if we suppose equal sums invested in each of these modes, say in a free and in a slave State, the free-labor investment would cultivate above three times the number of acres, and produce three times as much cotton as the slave-labor investment. In the latter case, also, the twenty thousand dollars would take with it above thirty freemen to till the three hundred acres, while the slave culture would bring to the State only ten more slaves. Here, then, is the secret of the rapid increase of northern population by immigration in comparison with southern, The accumulation of capital in the free States induces European labor to flock to our shores. The accumulation of capital in the south only stimulated slave-breeding.
The slave population of the south in 1860 amounted to 3,953,760. They have been acquired like other property—like the stocks of cattle and horses— by the joint operation of industry and capital. They were valued at three thousand million dollars. Had slavery never existed in the south, this value— and, as I have shown, a much greater value—would have taken a different shape. It would now appear in the form of improved lands, better and more numerous houses, fences, barns, workshops, railroads, and other internal improvements. Large and flourishing towns and cities would exist where small and poor ones, or none at all, exist now. There would have been ten-fold more commerce and manufactures; and in the place of four million slaves, there would have been three times as many intelligent, industrious, and patriotic freemen. Virginia, but for slavery, would be to-day, as she was in 1790, the most populous State in the Union, as well as the most wealthy and powerful.
The absorption of capital in this unproductive form of slavery was the great pecuniary curse of the south. It was not that the south had uselessly invested in the beginning half its wealth, for time would have overcome that loss; but the great evil consisted in the perpetually recurring and increasing misapplication of capital. Slavery had become the great interest of the south. It swallowed everything. Of every accumulation of capital, the majority was sure to assume that form. There was no recovery, no regeneration, but in the destruction of the system. It had been better if the institution had been peacefully abolished; but as that was not practicable, it is well for the south, in a pecuniary point of view, that it is overthrown by violence, and not without great destruction of other property. Henceforth there will be no more of the unproductive investment of capital in human beings, and every dollar from which a revenue is to be drawn will contribute something to the national wealth. The slaveholders have never been understood by the people of the north in one respect. They have been made to bear the economical reproach which properly belonged to slavery itself. They have been regarded as idle, prodigal, and thriftless; whereas they are, as a class, energetic, sagacious, and thrifty. They made money and grew rich, while their system of slavery was inflicting the deepest injury upon the country. Now that slavery is overthrown [except in prison. Don't believe me? Read the Constitution's 13th Amendment. -ASC], they will exert their energies in methods promotive of the general as well as of their own particular welfare.
In further illustration of the advantages which the abolition of slavery has conferred upon the south, I will endeavor to show the direct effect of that measure upon the value of land.
There is a special and peculiar value attaching to those southern lands which produce cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar. The first of these articles, which is the greatest object of the commerce of nations, can nowhere else be grown so abundantly and of such good quality as in the south. The tobacco of that region enjoys, also, the preference in the markets of the world over the products of other countries; while rice and sugar are, as regards the United States, peculiar to the south. The lands of the northern States enjoy no such monopoly of productions. Whatever is grown in the free States, grows nearly as well in the south and quite as well in Europe. Here, then, is an advantage which southern lands enjoy, and which, under favorable circumstances, would make them the most valuable of any in the Union. Nothing but the presence of slavery has made them cheap in comparison with northern lands, How this effect is produced by slavery I proceed to show.
The value of a slave to his master is the difference between what he produces
and what he consumes. If the slave could live without food and clothing, or if
he could work as well for his master while finding himself in these necessaries,
his value would be increased to the extent of their cost. As things are, the
master must plant almost as many acres in corn and potatoes as in cotton, in
order to provide for the wants of his slaves. The more the slave eats and drinks
and wears, the less is the net value of his labor to his master. The supply of
his wants affords no market for the products of his master’s farm; but, on the
contrary, those wants constitute a necessary burden, and it is just as much the
interest of the master to economize the food and clothing of his slaves as of
himself and family. The slave is a charge to the master and to the land he
tills, to the extent of his food and clothing. This necessity of feeding and clothing that portion of the slave population which is engaged in agriculture, therefore, so far from enhancing, must diminish the value of land. But the reverse of this is true with reference to the free laborer. He is under the necessity of feeding and clothing himself, and consequently, so far from being a charge upon the landlord, he furnishes a market for the products of the soil, and enhances
its value. It is universally true that slaves are a burden to their masters to the
extent of their food and clothing, however much the value of their labor may
exceed the expense of maintenance. But in the exceptional cases in which
slaves are not engaged in agriculture, nor belong to planters and farmers, their
wants, which must be supplied by purchase from the agriculturists, do enhance
the value of the necessaries of life, and add to the value of land. But the aggregate number of such cases was small in comparison with the great body of
the slave population; one in a hundred of the whole would probably cover the
entire number of slaves who were thus owned and employed.
[Seems Amazon, Walmart and the like, read the above paragraph with particular keenness. The above paragraph seems to imply that more intense poverty can be achieved among the working people, by removing the title of "slave" and substituting an "every person for themself" expectation, the 1% accumulate an even-greater portion of the wealth, while the poorest are even worse off than slaves. "Clever." -ASC]
The proposition here laid down, that the necessity of feeding slaves is a burden to the soil, while the wants of the free laborer add to its value, will become evident by considering, first, that whatever the free laborer eats he pays for; and, secondly, that if he ate nothing, if he were a sort of machine, endowed with the power of labor, and with a desire for pecuniary wages, the farmer could pay no part of them in kind. Instead of paying one-half the wages in board, as is now the case, all must be settled up in money. There would be less demand on the soil for its products, and the land would be less valuable. If the merchant, the mechanic, and the professional man could live in society without food, it is evident that the farmer could not employ their services. It is their wants which make the market for the products of the soil, and if they had no wants but money the farmer could neither sell anything nor pay anything. Their wants hold out an inducement to the cultivation and improvement of the soil, and give it its salable value. But the free laborer pays no less than the merchant, the mechanic, or the lawyer for what he consumes of the farmer’s crop. He receives not a peck of corn, a pig, nor a meal of victuals which he does not as fairly pay for with his labor as the doctor, the lawyer, the mechanic, or the merchant with their money. In fact they, too, are often paid, like the laborer, in the produce of the farmer, and the supply of their wants is no more conducive to agricultural improvement, nor no more calculated to enhance the value of land, than is the payment in kind of the free laborer. It is, of course, not the interest of the farmer to pay wages; but since he must pay them to the free laborer, it is to his advantage that the laborer, in common with the community at large, is a consumer of the products of the soil. This necessity of the laborer enables the farmer to pay him in kind to the extent of nearly or quite half his wages, and if the laborer has a family, in a greater proportion. In like manner it is against the farmer’s interest to pay for the services of the physician or lawyer, but such expenses must be incurred. Physicians and lawyers are necessary, and they must be paid, and they are in that way a necessary evil, a drawback upon the resources of the farmer; but as consumers of the products of the soil their presence:is beneficial to: him, and raises, the demand for, and the price of, everything he sends to market. The same is true of the merchant and the mechanic. The payment of their bills is contrary to the farmer’s interest; but, as consumers, their presence adds to the value of his land by enhancing the price of its products. And in what, particular differs the case of the common laborer? He is under no more. necessity to work without wages than the lawyer or the physician, the merchant or the tradesman, and he equally pays for what he consumes. The only shadow of difference between his pay and that of others is the circumstance that it suits his convenience to be paid in kind, as to part of his wages, more uniformly than is the case of other consumers of the farmer’s products. The slaveholder has paid for the labor of the slave in his purchase, and it is his interest to pay no more ih the shape of provisions than will sustain life and strength; but with the employer of free labor the reverse is true. He wishes to pay as large a portion of the wages as possible directly out of the crop, and feels that he has found a market for his products to that extent. The slave lives at the expense of his master, and, of course, what he consumes can hold out no inducement to improve the soil, but, on the contrary, must retard improvement. The free laborer lives at his own expense, and, therefore, what he and his family consume must promote improvement.
It may be proper to notice what may seem to be an exception to this principle in the case of slaves reared for market. Here the planter is remunerated for his outlay of food and clothing by the sale of the negro, as he is remunerated for the grain and hay he feeds to the hogs and cattle he raises for market; and it may be said with some plausibility that if raising hogs and cattle for market tends to enhance the value of lands, why may not the rearing of slaves? The inquiry only serves to bring out another radical incompatibility of slavery with the essential laws of political economy, which result from the nature of things. A community which raises hogs and cattle for market thereby acquires the means of supporting a larger population. It sells to distant communities commodities of which it has more than it can consume at home, and thus acquires the means of purchasing from them articles not produced within its own limits. This has been the chief occupation of the people of the northwestern States for thirty years past. They have grown rich, powerful, and populous by feeding grain to hogs and cattle. They have thus been able indirectly to find a market for the products of the soil, which the grain itself could not have found to the same extent, and the result has been a rapid increase in population, and a corresponding increase in the value of land. The facility of producing grain and grass in the northwest, and of raising stock for market, has been the real cause of the wonderful progress of those States. Emigrants have flocked to them from all the older States of the Union, from Ireland, from Germany, and from almost every part of Europe, in order to engage in their profitable agriculture and grazing, and to live on the fat of the land. Eastern Virginia, on the other hand, entered at about the same period of time upon rearing slaves for the southwestern market. Such may not have been the deliberate purpose of her people, but circumstances forced-them into the practice, and with what result? The census tables show that there has scarcely been any increase of population for forty years, and the reason is obvious—she could only make money in the occupation of slave-breeding by depopulating her territory. In proportion to her exports of slaves has been her depopulation; and if she is not now reduced to half the number of people she contained at the beginning of the trade, it is because, her white population was not wholly given up to this one pursuit, and because the market has not been greater than her means of supplying it. If there had been none but slaveholders among the white population, and if these had owned a good stock of slaves to begin with, and a market equal to the power of supply, the ruin of the State would have been complete. But the census shows that there were 86,468 farms in Virginia in 1860, and only 52,128 slaveholders. It is also shown by the census report that of the 52,128 slaveholders considerably more than half of them owned but five slaves each and under; many thousands owned but one slave each. The effect of slave-breeding upon a community, therefore, has not had a fair test in Virginia. The prices of tobacco and flour, which have made these articles profitable crops, have also tended to mitigate the consequences of negro-breeding. In 1859, for instance, Virginia produced 124,000,000 pounds of tobacco and 13,000,000 bushels of wheat, either of which crops was more valuable than the negro crop, so that the energies of the people were divided between these ordinary occupations of agriculture and the peculiar one of slave-breeding for the southern market.
As in other cases, the capital invested in slave-breeding has been a source of profit to the owner, while it has been worse than wasted to society at large. Virginia was depopulated and impoverished by the trade, while her slaveholders were growing rich.
In view, therefore, of these facts, I see no reason for modifying the proposition, that what the slave consumes can hold out no inducement to the improvement of the soil or increase its value. If he could live without eating and wearing, his value would be enhanced by the whole cost of keeping him.
If I have succeeded in making these propositions clear to the mind of the reader, it will be conceded that the abolition of slavery in the southern States has relieved the landed interest of the necessity of supporting four million people, the supply of whose wants was a burden to the soil; and at the same time it has enhanced the value of lands, by opening a market for the products of the soil in the wants of four million people, who must pay for what they consume. [My emphasis. So many thoughts... Is the author just trying to appeal to those who aren't moved by the basic immorality of slavery? Why does this sound so familiar to discussions on mainstream media today, where human rights are discussed in terms of what "really matters" (the benefits to the wealthiest few in a pseudo-capitalistic system)? It was the southern "landed interest" (the richest plantation owners) that started the Civil War in the first place)! -ASC] The necessity of feeding and clothing the slaves was a drawback upon the improvement of the land, and was to be deducted from the profits which their labor yielded to their masters. The abolition of the system, by bringing into existence an equal number of freemen, who are under the necessity of maintaining themselves, is an encouragement to improvement, and must cause an appreciation in the value of land. Thus, the free population of the south, in 1860, was, in round numbers, eight millions; the slave population four millions; and, consequently, the inducement to improve the soil was made up of these circumstances, viz: the profitableness of growing cotton, tobacco, and other articles for foreign and northern markets, together with the domestic market which the wants of eight millions of free people create, diminished by the necessary wants of four million slaves. The difference in favor of improvement was, therefore, only four millions, and the southern lands not engaged in the production of foreign exports would have been equally valuable if the entire population had been only four millions, instead of twelve. But the abolition of slavery has removed the necessity of feeding four millions of slaves, which was a burden upon the soil, and at the same time it has converted the emancipated blacks into profitable consumers of the products of the land. The abolition of slavery has had the same effect upon the value of southern lands, and will hold out the same encouragement to their improvement which would be produced by the introduction of eight millions of emigrants from Europe, or from the north. The effect of this change will become manifest whenever society and business in the southern States shall recover from the temporary paralysis which the terrible civil war has caused.
There must be another important benefit to the landed interest, arising from the transformation of four million slaves into freemen. It increases the number of buyers of land. During the existence of slavery there were but eight and one-third millions of people in the south capable of owning land. The overthrow of the institution has added four millions more; and thus, since the price or value of any article is dependent upon the number of bidders for it, there will necessarily be an appreciation of land, as the result of emancipation. That the value of land depends upon the number of its free population who consume its products, and who desire to become its owners, is illustrated in the example of England, as compared with one of our western States. That country is proverbial for its wealth. The accumulated wealth of the people in the shape of houses and personal property is vast; but the land itself, without reference to the buildings upon it, commands what appear to us fabulous prices. The yearly rental is generally greater than the fee-simple value of American lands; and it is within the bounds of moderation to say that the difference is ten to one in favor of English lands. The landed estate in Illinois, for instance, though greater in extent and more fertile than that of England, has not one-tenth the value of the latter. The reason is, that England has twenty millions of inhabitants, and Illinois but two millions. If the circumstances were reversed; if eighteen millions of the English people were to be transplanted to Illinois, with only the means of subsistence for a year, their presence and their wants would at once give something like a ten-fold value to land in that State, while the abandoned lands of the British island would at once fall in proportion to the demand for their products. This principle is illustrated, also, by the high price of even very poor lands in the vicinity of cities, in comparison with the fertile soils of the rural districts.
|States||Area in sq. miles||Population in 1790||Population to square mile||Population in 1860||Population to square mile||Absolute increase of population to sq. mile|
1790 to 1860
|1850 to 1860|
|Ohio||39,964||(1800) 45,365||1.13||2,399,502||58.54||(1800 to 1860) 57.40||8.99|
|Kentucky||37,680||(1800) 220,955||5.86||1,155,684||30.67||(1800 to 1860) 24.81||4.60|
|Illinois||55,405||(1810) 12,282||.22||1,711,951||30.90||(1810 to 1860) 30.68||15.54|
|Missouri||67,380||(1810) 20,845||.31||1,182,012||17.54||(1810 to 1860) 17.23||7.43|
It would have been fair to have omitted Maine from the comparison, as an offset to Western Virginia, since the latter has always partaken more of the character of a free than a slaveholding community. But the contrast is. sufficiently striking as it stands. The remarkable fact is developed by the table that Massachusetts and Connecticut contained very nearly twice as many inhabitants to the square mile, in 1790, as Virginia contained in 1860, while Rhode Island was more than twice as populous at the former period as Virginia was at the latter, This important difference should always be kept in view in making comparisons between the free and the slave States. There should be something like equality in the conditions at the starting point. It is certainly remarkable that, with a dense population to begin with, in 1790, these free States have gained in far higher ratio to the square mile than Virginia, with its sparse population. Thus, Massachusetts gained 109.28 to the square mile in the 70 years following 1790, Rhode Island gained 80.79 during the same period, and Connecticut 45.50; while Virginia, with her ample domain, her fertile soil her valuable mines, and her fine rivers and harbors, only gained 13.83.
In the other comparisons in the table, the slave States contained the larger populations at the beginning of the periods, with larger territories, (except as between Ohio and Kentucky, where the advantage is small in favor of the free State,) and equal fertility of soil. At the end of the period, these fresh and fertile slave States appear dwarfed by the side of their northern sisters, in all the elements of civilization. Between New York and North Carolina no one now would think of instituting comparisons, as it regards population, wealth, or any other indication of progress; yet, in 1790 the latter was the most populous State of the two. Between Ohio and Kentucky, and between Illinois and Missouri, the comparisons are particularly appropriate. The two former States lie contiguous, and are only separated by the Ohio river. Kentucky has the advantage of climate, and is quite equal to Ohio in soil, as well as in facilities for the transportation of commodities to market. Kentucky also had the start of Ohio in point of time, and contained, in the year 1800, just five times as many inhabitants, as can be seen by the tables. In 1860 Ohio contained more than twice as many inhabitants as Kentucky, all free and educated, while two hundred thousand inhabitants of the latter were ignorant negro slaves. Illinois, also, is contiguous to her slave- holding sister, Missouri, and is separated from her by the Mississippi river. In climate, soil, and productions they are very much alike, and in natural facilities of river navigation Missouri has the advantage. The latter State had, also, the advantages of an earlier settlement, and in 1810 contained nearly two-fold the population of Illinois, Yet, as in all the other comparisons, the race was overwhelmingly in favor of freedom, These illustrations can leave no doubt on any rational mind that slavery tends to retard the increase of population.
CONDITION OF THE FREE NEGROES.WILL THE FREEDMEN WORK?
I have no occasion to enter into the discussion of the question whether the emancipated blacks will work as well as they did when slaves, or as well as white freemen. They may, or they may not; but the truth is indisputable that the capital invested in them while slaves was unproductive to society, and only tended to enrich one class of individuals at the expense of another. If it be true that the negroes will not work so well as formerly, the fact only goes to make the first introduction of slavery into the country the more deplorable; but it in no respect shakes the immutable truth that to make merchandise of human beings is to absorb the resources of the people in a manner wholly unnecessary, and therefore unproductive; and it would still follow, that if slavery had never existed, the places of the slaves would now be occupied by a three or four fold greater number of intelligent and industrious free laborers, while the three thousand millions of capital which was unprofitably invested in the slaves, three fold multiplied in amount, would have assumed the form of improved agriculture, more and better houses, more and larger towns and cities, more manufactories, and more commerce.
But I by no means assent to the truth of the proposition, that the freedmen will not work as well under the incitements of ambition and self-interest as they did under the fear of punishment. The free negroes of the free States in past years, though laboring under a mountain of unjust prejudice and proscription, though excluded by statute from the more honorable professions, and by mob violence from many of the humbler, have never been more a burden to society, in proportion to numbers, than have white people. Even in the south, where the tyranny of law and the tyranny of custom have been more severe than in the free States, the free negroes managed to live, and in many cases to accumulate property. I have for many years believed that a fallacy has existed in the reports of the census, by which it is made to appear that the free negroes, north and south, are increasing in numbers at a rate less than half that of other classes. The fallacy is not in the compilers of the census, but in the original collection of the statistics. In other words, there has been a strong temptation on the part of the nearly white mulattoes to pass themselves off for white persons. In all the southern, as well as the northern States, there was, either by statute, or by judicial decision, a limit beyond which a person of African descent ceased to be placed in that category. This was generally the third or fourth remove from the original black ancestor, so that if a man had less than that proportion of the African in him, he was in law regarded as a white man, and could sit on juries and vote; and there are many eminent instances among this class of families who have risen to social, as well as political distinction in the south. This fact is well understood in all the older southern States. When the mulatto family or individual has arrived at the doubtful confine which separates the two races by a mere shade of coloring, prudence dictates emigration to some distant part of the country, where the genealogy of the family is unknown, The enterprising novus homo has grown rich and taken social rank, it may be, with the best, and at length, when, after years of prosperity and honor, a breath of scandal, like the poisonous simoon, reaches the neighborhood, that the genealogical tree has been grafted upon an African stalk, it is too late to shake it from its firm base. It is dangerous even to allude to the sinister fact, and may involve a duel. The gossips may whisper in secret corners, but the rich and powerful man maintains his place in society. In the ten thousand instances where no great success attends the career of the new man, his origin is perhaps never discovered by the new friends and acquaintances he has made in his new place of abode. And after all, the prejudice against the blood of the African is more conventional than inherent in each individual composing society. No man will knowingly accept counterfeit money, by which he is to lose; but it is a discreditable fact that the world is not over scrupulous about accepting doubtful coin or bills, provided they are current. And so with the social world, as it regards genealogies. It is known at the south, and I suppose in the free States, that certain families have the taint of African blood in their veins; but they are rich and respectable, have married into good families, perhaps filled high offices in church or State, and have thus the stamp of current coin. They are accordingly received at par value, whether at the ballot-box or at the social board, and no questions asked.
There were other causes during the continuance of slavery for the slow increase of the free negro population of the south, during the last twenty years. These were, first, “unfriendly legislation,” by which they were compelled or powerfully urged to leave that portion of the Union for the north, or for foreign countries; and, in the second place, it is a well-attested fact that many were reduced to slavery by fraud and violence. It became a branch of the negro trade to kidnap and run off free negroes from the older States, where they were numerous, to the southwest, where their labor was in demand. A brave and true-hearted Marylander assures me that he, with his father, had at various times rescued twenty-three free negroes from the clutches of the negro traders on the Chesapeake bay, and many well-attested cases of the kind are on record, It would be a miracle if any race should flourish under such oppressions.
The following facts from the census, showing the decline of the free negroes in Louisiana, can only be explained in one or all of the ways here described. The free negro population of that State reached its maximum of 25,502 in the year 1840; in 1850 there were but 17,462, and in 1860 the number was 18,547. Now it cannot be pretended that the climate of Louisiana is less congenial to the negro than to the white man, nor that the means of living are not as much within the reach of that class in that State as in other parts of the south. The rapid decline of the free negroes, therefore, can only be explained in one or all of the three ways I have pointed out. They must have been in part driven off by cruelty, and enslaved, while others were passing rapidly by the process of “miscegenation” into the ranks of the white people. From what is known of the state of society in Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans, where the majority of the free negroes resided, there is much reason to believe that the decline in their numbers is due rather to the bleaching process than to the stern cruelty which would expel, exterminate or enslave them; although these latter causes of the decline of that unfortunate class were in operation.
The reader will remark that nearly a million more bushels of Indian corn was produced in 1865 than in 1859; that there was a gain of above two million bushels of oats, and a small gain in the quantity of potatoes, (common.) These excesses of production with free labor will very nearly offset the loss on the crops of tobacco, wheat, and rye; and, taken in connexion with the fact above stated in regard to the enlistment of thousands of laborers in the military service, the crop in 1865 must be regarded as the larger of the two.
Kentucky and Missouri were during the past year in a state of civil commotion bordering at times upon civil war. Thousands of negroes and white men were under arms, and, as regards Kentucky, as many thousands of both races were fugitives, the whites in the more southern States, and the blacks in the northern States. These well-known facts fully account for the falling off in the crops.
It is apparent from the above table that the crop of 1865, raised amid civil strife, is more than two-thirds that of 1859. The corn crops are in the ratio of five to seven, while the hay crop produced last year excels the other by one- fourth in amount. The hay crop is next in value and importance in Missouri to Indian corn, and exceeds the tobacco crop three-fold.
There was much complaint throughout the south that the negroes would not work immediately upon the termination of the war and the enforcement of emancipation. But no fact can be clearer than that the indisposition to work on the part of the negroes was caused by the inability to pay on the part of the whites. They were not willing to work without wages, and in the general disruption of society which existed some months after the surrender of the rebel forces, there was, in fact, but little work to do. Only partial crops had been planted during the last throes of the confederacy, in March, April, and May, and when peace came it was too late to put in larger ones. That thousands should be idle under such circumstances was to be expected, and it is an undeniable fact that there was quite as much idleness among the whites as among the blacks. But in spite of much bad feeling and occasional disorders, there is a general disposition among all classes to resume habits of regular labor. There are still to be found groups of helpless women and children who need the support of the government. They have been driven from their homes, in many cases by their former owners, (as they say,) because their husbands and brothers have left; and they have been abandoned by their husbands, if they ever had any. That they are unable to support their children and themselves in the present disordered state of southern society is not to be wondered at, nor does the fact furnish a sufficient reason for condemning the whole race as idle and worthless. According to the reports of the Freedmen’s Bureau, as many of the white people as blacks of the south need government aid, and receive daily or weekly grants of rations.
It would be a most surprising fact if four millions of people suddenly released from centuries of bondage should not indulge in a protracted holiday, and the wonder is that the negroes have demeaned themselves with so much moderation. The fact would not be creditable to them if they failed to show their appreciation of the boon of freedom by a degree of noisy demonstration, accompanied by idleness for a brief season. To remain at home and pursue ordinary occupations with stolid indifference at such a time, they must, have been less or more than human. But the idleness exhibited by the negroes has, for the most part, been inevitable in consequence of the lack of remunerative employment. No rational man could expect them all to go to work quietly for their former masters without a prospect of fair wages, yet, in point of fact, thousands have done so, and there is abundant reason for believing that, as a class, the negroes will become an industrious, thrifty, and law-abiding people, eminently docile, and emulous of improvement.
[Amendment XIII (1865)
"Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." -The Constitution of the United States of America.