The Slave Trade
Henry Charles Carey
How Slavery Grew and is Maintained in the United States.
The first attempt at manufacturing any species of cloth in the North American provinces produced a resolution on the part of the House of Commons, [1710,] that the erecting of manufactories in the colonies had a tendency to lessen their dependence on Great Britain. Soon afterward complaints were made to Parliament that the colonists were establishing manufactories for themselves, and the House of Commons ordered the Board of Trade to report on the subject, which was done at great length. In 1732, the exportation of hats from province to province was prohibited, and the number of apprentices to be taken by hatters was limited. In 1750 the erection of any mill or other engine for splitting or rolling iron was prohibited; but pig iron was allowed to be imported into England duty free, that it might there be manufactured and sent back again. At a later period, Lord Chatham declared that he would not permit the colonists to make even a hobnail for themselves and his views were then and subsequently carried into effect by the absolute prohibition in 1765 of the export of artisans, in 1781 of woollen machinery, in 1782 of cotton machinery and artificers in cotton, in 1785 of iron and steel-making machinery and workmen in those departments of trade, and in 1799 by the prohibition of the export of colliers, lest other countries should acquire the art of mining coal.
The tendency of the system has thus uniformly been
I. To prevent the application of labour elsewhere than in England to any pursuit but that of agriculture, and thus to deprive the weaker portion of society the women and children of any employment but in the field.
II. To compel whole populations to produce the same commodities, and thus to deprive them of the power to make exchanges among themselves.
III. To compel them, therefore, to export to England all their produce in its rudest forms, at great cost of transportation.
IV. To deprive them of all power of returning to the land the manure yielded by its products, and thus to compel them to exhaust their land.
V. To deprive them of the power of associating together for the building of towns, the establishment of schools, the making of roads, or the defence of their rights.
VI. To compel them, with every step in the process of exhausting the land, to increase their distances from each other and from market.
VII. To compel the waste of all labour that could not be employed in the field.
VIII. To compel the waste of all the vast variety of things almost valueless in themselves, but which acquire value as men are enabled to work in combination with each other.
IX. To prevent increase in the value of land and in the demand for the labour of man; and,
X. To prevent advance toward civilization and freedom.
That such were the tendencies of the system was seen by the people of the colonies. It is well known and understood, said Franklin, in 1771, that whenever a manufacture is established which employs a number of hands, it raises the value of lands in the neighbouring country all around it, partly by the greater demand near at hand for the produce of the land, and partly from the plenty of money drawn by the manufactures to that part of the country. It seems, therefore, he continued, the interest of all our farmers and owners of lands, to encourage our young manufactures in preference to foreign ones imported among us from distant countries. Such was the almost universal feeling of the country, and to the restriction on the power to apply labour was due, in a great degree, the Revolution.
The power to compel the colonists to make all their exchanges abroad gave to the merchants of England, and to the government, the same power of taxation that we see to have been so freely exercised in regard to sugar. In a paper published in 1750, in the London General Advertiser, it was stated that Virginia then exported 50,000 hhds. of tobacco, producing £550,000, of which the ship-owner, the underwriter, the commission merchant, and the government took £450,000, leaving to be divided between the land-owner and labourer only £100,000, or about eighteen percent, which is less even than the proportion stated by Gee, in his work of that date. Under such circumstances the planter could accumulate little capital to aid him in the improvement of his cultivation.
The Revolution came, and thenceforward there existed no legal impediments to the establishment of home markets by aid of which the farmer might be enabled to lessen the cost of transporting his produce to market, and his manure from market, thus giving to his land some of those advantages of situation which elsewhere add so largely to its value. The prohibitory laws had, however, had the effect of preventing the gradual growth of the mechanic arts, and Virginia had no towns of any note, while to the same circumstances was due the fact that England was prepared to put down all attempts at competition with her in the manufacture of cloth, or of iron. The territory of the former embraced forty millions of acres, and her widely scattered population amounted to little more than 600,000. At the North, some descriptions of manufacture had grown slowly up, and the mechanics were much more numerous, and towns had gradually grown to be very small cities; the consequence of which was that the farmer there, backed by the artisan, always his ally, was more able to protect himself against the trader, who represented the foreign manufacturer. Everywhere, however, the growth of manufactures was slow, and everywhere, consequently, the farmer was seen exhausting his land in growing wheat, tobacco, and other commodities, to be sent to distant markets, from which no manure could be returned. With the exhaustion of the land its owners became, of course, impoverished, and there arose a necessity for the removal of the people who cultivated it, to new lands, to be in turn exhausted. In the North, the labourer thus circumstanced, removed himself. In the South, he had to be removed. Sometimes the planter abandoned his land and travelled forth with all his people, but more frequently he found himself compelled to part with some of his slaves to others; and thus has the domestic slave trade grown by aid of the exhaustive process to which the land and its owner have been subjected.
The reader may obtain some idea of the extent of the exhaustion that has taken place, by a perusal of the following extracts from an address to the Agricultural Society of Albemarle County, Virginia, by one of the best authorities of the State, the Hon. Andrew Stevenson, late Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Minister to England.
Looking to what is the real situation of things, the speaker asks
Is there an intelligent and impartial man who can cast his eyes over the State and not be impressed with the truth, deplorable as it is afflicting, that the produce of most of our lands is not only small in proportion to the extent in cultivation, but that the lands themselves have been gradually sinking and becoming worse, under a most defective and ruinous system of cultivation? The truth is, he continues, we must all feel and know that the spirit of agricultural improvement has been suffered to languish too long in Virginia, and that it is now reaching a point, in the descending scale, from which, if it is not revived, and that very speedily, our State must continue not only third or fourth in population, as she now is, but consent to take her station among her smaller sisters of the Union.
The cause of this unhappy state of things he regards as being to be found in a disregard of scientific knowledge and a deep-rooted attachment to old habits of cultivation, together with the practice of hard cropping and injudicious rotation of crops, leading them to cultivate more land than they can manure, or than they have means of improving; and the consequences are found in the fact that in all the country east of the Blue Ridge, the average product of wheat does not come up to seven bushels to the acre, four of which are required to restore the seed and defray the cost of cultivation, leaving to the land-owner for his own services and those of a hundred acres of land, three hundred bushels, worth, at present prices, probably two hundred and seventy dollars! Even this, however, is not as bad an exhibit as is produced in reference to another populous district of more than a hundred miles in length that between Lynchburg and Richmond in which the product is estimated at not exceeding six bushels to the acre! Under such circumstances, we can scarcely be surprised to learn from the speaker that the people of his great State, where meadows abound and marl exists in unlimited quantity, import potatoes from the poor States of the North, and are compelled to be dependent upon them for hay and butter, the importers of which realize fortunes, while the farmers around them are everywhere exhausting their land and obtaining smaller crops in each successive year.
Why is this so? Why should Virginia import potatoes and hay, cheese and butter? An acre of potatoes may be made to yield four hundred bushels, and meadows yield hay by tons, and yet her people raise wheat, of which they obtain six or seven bushels to the acre, and corn, of which they obtain fifteen or twenty, and with the produce of these they buy butter and cheese, pork and potatoes, which yield to the producer five dollars where they get one and import many of these things too, from States in which manufacturing populations abound, and in which all these commodities should, in the natural course of things, be higher in price than in Virginia, where all, even when employed, are engaged in the cultivation of the soil. The answer to these questions is to be found in the fact that the farmers and planters of the State can make no manure. They raise wheat and corn, which they send elsewhere to be consumed; and the people among whom it is consumed put the refuse on their own lands, and thus are enabled to raise crops that count by tons, which they then exchange with the producers of the wheat produced on land that yields six bushels to the acre.
How many of our people, continues the speaker, do we see disposing of their lands at ruinous prices, and relinquishing their birthplaces and friends, to settle themselves in the West; and many not so much from choice as from actual inability to support their families and rear and educate their children out of the produce of their exhausted lands once fertile, but rendered barren and unproductive by a ruinous system of cultivation.
And how greatly is this distress heightened, in witnessing, as we often do, the successions and reverses of this struggle between going and staying, on the part of many emigrants. And how many are there, who after removing, remain only a few years and then return to seize again upon a portion of their native land, and die where they were born. How strangely does it remind us of the poor shipwrecked mariner, who, touching in the midst of the storm the shore, lays hold of it, but is borne seaward by the receding wave; but struggling back, torn and lacerate, he grasps again the rock, with bleeding hands, and still clings to it, as a last and forlorn hope. Nor is this to be wondered at. Perhaps it was the home of his childhood the habitation of his fathers for past generations the soil upon which had been expended the savings and nourishment, the energies and virtues of a long lifethe sweat of the living, and the ashes of the dead.
Oh! how hard to break such ties as these.
This is no gloomy picture of the imagination; but a faithful representation of what most of us know and feel to be true. Who is it that has not had some acquaintance or neighbour some friend, perhaps some relative, forced into this current of emigration, and obliged from necessity, in the evening, probably, of a long life, to abandon his State and friends, and the home of his fathers and childhood, to seek a precarious subsistence in the supposed El Dorados of the West?
This is a terrible picture, and yet it is but the index to one still worse that must follow in its train. Well does the hon. speaker say that
There is another evil attending this continual drain of our population to the West, next in importance to the actual loss of the population itself, and that is, its tendency to continue and enlarge our wretched system of cultivation.
The moment some persons feel assured that for present gain they can exhaust the fertility of their lands in the old States, and then abandon them for those in the West, which, being rich, require neither the aid of science nor art, the natural tendency is at once to give over all efforts at improvement themselves, and kill their land as quickly as possible then sell it for what it will bring or abandon it as a waste. And such will be found to be the case with too many of the emigrants from the lowlands of Virginia.
Another distinguished Virginian, Mr. Ruffin, in urging an effort to restore the lands that have been exhausted, and to bring into activity the rich ones that have never been drained, estimates the advantages to be derived by Lower Virginia alone at $500,000,000. The strength, physical, intellectual, and moral, as well as the revenue of the commonwealth, will, he says,
Soon derive new and great increase from the growing improvements of that one and the smallest of the great divisions of her territory, which was the poorest by natural constitution still more, the poorest by long exhausting tillageits best population gone or going away, and the remaining portion sinking into apathy and degradation, and having no hope left except that which was almost universally entertained of fleeing from the ruined country and renewing the like work of destruction on the fertile lands of the far West.
If we look farther South, we find the same state of affairs. North Carolina abounds in rich lands, undrained and uncultivated, and coal and iron ore abound. Her area is greater than that of Ireland, and yet her population is but 868,000; and it has increased only 130,000 in twenty years, and, from 1830 to 1840; the increase was only 16,000. In South Carolina, men have been everywhere doing precisely what has been described in reference to Virginia; and yet the State has, says Governor Seabrook, in his address to the State Agricultural Society, millions of uncleared acres of unsurpassed fertility, which seem to solicit a trial of their powers from the people of the plantation States. *** In her borders, he continues, there is scarcely a vegetable product essential to the human race that cannot be furnished. Marl and lime abound, millions of acres of rich meadow-land remain in a state of nature, and the seashore parishes, he adds, possess unfailing supplies of salt mud, salt grass, and shell-lime. So great, nevertheless, was the tendency to the abandonment of the land, that in the ten years from 1830 to 1840 the white population increased but 1000 and the black but 12,000, whereas the natural increase would have given 150,000!
Allowing Virginia, at the close of the Revolution, 600,000 people, she should now have, at the usual rate of increase, and excluding all allowance for immigration, 4,000,000, or one to every ten acres; and no one at all familiar with the vast advantages of the state can doubt her capability of supporting more than thrice that number. Nevertheless, the total number in 1850 was but 1,424,000, and the increase in twenty years had been but 200,000, when it should have been 1,200,000. If the reader desire to know what has become of all these people, he may find most of them among the millions now inhabiting Alabama and Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas; and if he would know why they are now there to be found, the answer to the question may be given in the words They borrowed from the earth, and they did not repay, and therefore she expelled them. It has been said, and truly said, that the nation which commences by exporting food will end by exporting men.
When men come together and combine their efforts, they are enabled to bring into activity all the vast and various powers of the earth; and the more they come together, the greater is the value of land, the greater the demand, for labour, the higher its price, and the greater the freedom of man. When, on the contrary, they separate from each other, the greater is the tendency to a decline in the value of land, the less is the value of labour, and the less the freedom of man. Such being the case, if we desire to ascertain the ultimate cause of the existence of the domestic slave trade, it would seem to be necessary only to ascertain the cause of the exhaustion of the land. The reason usually assigned for this will be found in the following passage, extracted from one of the English journals of the day;
The mode of agriculture usually coincident with the employment of slave labour is essentially exhaustive, and adapted therefore only to the virgin-richness of a newly-colonized soil. The slave can plant, and dig, and hoe: he works rudely and lazily with rude tools: and his unwilling feet tread the same path of enforced labour day after day. But slave labour is not adapted to the operations of scientific agriculture, which restores its richness to a wornout soil; and it is found to be a fact that the planters of the Northern slave States, as, e.g., Virginia, gradually desert the old seats of civilization, and advance further and further into the yet untilled country. Tobacco was the great staple of Virginian produce for many years after that beautiful province was colonized by Englishmen. It has exhausted the soil; grain crops have succeeded, and been found hardly less exhaustive; and emigration of both white and coloured population to the West and South has taken place to a very large extent. The result may be told in the words of an American witness: That part of Virginia which lies upon tide waters presents an aspect of universal decay. Its population diminishes, and it sinks day by day into a lower depth of exhaustion and poverty. The country between tide waters and the Blue Ridge is fast passing into the same condition. Mount Vernon is a desert waste; Monticello is little better, and the same circumstances which have desolated the lands of Washington and Jefferson have impoverished every planter in the State. Hardly any have escaped, save the owners of the rich bottom lands along James River, the fertility of which it seems difficult utterly to destroy. Now a Virginia planter stands in much the same relation to his plantation as an absentee Irish landlord to his estate; the care of the land is in each case handed over to a middleman, who is anxious to screw out of it as large a return of produce or rent as possible; and pecuniary embarrassment is in both cases the result. But as long as every pound of cotton grown on the Mississippi and the Red River finds eager customers in Liverpool, the price of slaves in those districts cannot fail to keep up. In many cases the planter of the Northern slave States emigrates to a region where he can employ his capital of thews and sinews more profitably than at home. In many others, he turns his plantation into an establishment for slave breeding, and sells his rising stock for labour in the cottonfield. Prospective Review Nov. 1852.
Unhappily, however, for this reasoning precisely the same exhaustion is visible in the Northern States, as the reader may see by a perusal of the statements on this subject given by Professor Johnson, in his Notes on North America, of which the following is a specimen:
Exhaustion has diminished the produce of the land, formerly the great staple of the country. When the wheat fell off, barley, which at first yielded fifty or sixty bushels, was raised year after year, till the land fell away from this, and became full of weeds. Vol. i. 259.
Rotation of crops cannot take place at a distance from market. The exhaustive character of the system is well shown in the following extract:
In the State of New York there are some twelve million acres of improved land, which includes all meadows and enclosed pastures. This area employs about five hundred thousand labourers, being an average of twenty-four acres to the hand. At this ratio, the number of acres of improved land in the United States is one hundred, and twenty millions. But New York is an old and more densely populated State than an average in the Union; and probably twenty-five acres per head is a juster estimate for the whole country. At this rate, the aggregate is one hundred and twenty-five millions. Of these improved lands, it is confidently believed that at least four-fifths are now suffering deterioration in a greater or less degree.
The fertility of some, particularly in the planting States, is passing rapidly away; in others, the progress of exhaustion is so slow as hardly to be observed by the cultivators themselves. To keep within the truth, the annual income from the soil may be said to be diminished ten cents an acre on one hundred million acres, or four-fifths of the whole.
This loss of income is ten millions of dollars, and equal to sinking a capital of one hundred and sixty-six million six hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars a year, paying six percent annual interest. That improved farming lands may justly be regarded as capital, and a fair investment when paying six percent interest, and perfectly safe, no one will deny. This deterioration is not unavoidable, for thousands of skilful farmers have taken fields, poor in point of natural productiveness, and, instead of diminishing their fertility, have added ten cents an acre to their annual income, over and above all expenses. If this wise and improving system of rotation tillage and husbandry were universally adopted, or applied to the one hundred million acres now being exhausted, it would be equivalent to creating each year an additional capital of one hundred and sixty-six millions six hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars, and placing it in permanent real estate, where it would pay six percent annual interest. For all practical purposes, the difference between the two systems is three hundred, and thirty-three millions three hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars a year to the country.
Eight million acres [in the State of New York] are in the hands of three hundred thousand persons, who still adhere to the colonial practice of extracting from the virgin soil all it will yield, so long as it will pay expenses to crop it, and then leave it in a thin, poor pasture for a term of years. Some of these impoverished farms, which seventy-five years ago produced from twenty to thirty bushels of wheat, on an average, per acre, now yield only from five to eight bushels. In an exceedingly interesting work entitled American Husbandry, published in London in 1775, and written by an American, the following remarks may be found on page 98, vol. i.: Wheat, in many parts of the province, (New York,) yields a larger produce than is common in England. Upon good lands about Albany, where the climate is the coldest in the country, they sow two bushels and better upon an acre, and reap from twenty to forty; the latter quantity, however, is not often had, but from twenty to thirty are common; and with such bad husbandry as would not yield the like in England, and much less in Scotland. This is owing to the richness and freshness of the land.
According to the State census of 1845, Albany county now produces only seven and a half bushels of wheat per acre, although its farmers are on tide water and near the capital of the State, with a good home market, and possess every facility for procuring the most valuable fertilizers. Dutchess county, also on the Hudson River, produces an average of only five bushels per acre; Columbia, six bushels; Rensselaer, eight; Westchester, seven; which is higher than the average of soils that once gave a return larger than the wheat lands of England even with bad husbandry.
Fully to renovate the eight million acres of partially exhausted lands in the State of New York, will cost at least an average of twelve dollars and a half per acre, or an aggregate of one hundred millions of dollars. It is not an easy task to replace all the bone-earth, potash, sulphur, magnesia, and organized nitrogen in mould consumed in a field which has been unwisely cultivated fifty or seventy-five years. Phosphorus is not an abundant mineral anywhere, and his sub-soil is about the only resource of the husbandman after his surface-soil has lost most of its phosphates. The three hundred thousand persons that cultivate these eight million acres of impoverished soils annually produce less by twenty-five dollars each than they would if the land had not been injured.
The aggregate of this loss to the State and the world is seven million five hundred thousand dollars per annum, or more than seven percent interest on what it would cost to renovate the deteriorated soils. There is no possible escape from this oppressive tax on labour of seven million five hundred thousand dollars, but to improve the land, or run off and leave it. Patent Office Report, 1849.
It is not slavery that produces exhaustion of the soil, but exhaustion of the soil that causes slavery to continue. The people of England rose from slavery to freedom as the land was improved and rendered productive, and as larger numbers of men were enabled to obtain subsistence from the same surface; and it was precisely as the land thus acquired value that they became free. Such, too, has been the case with every people that has been enabled to return to the land the manure yielded by its products, because of their having a market at home. On the contrary, there is no country in the world, in which men have been deprived, of the power to improve their land, in which slavery has not been maintained, to be aggravated in intensity as the land became more and more exhausted, as we see to have been the case in the West Indies. It is to this perpetual separation from each other that is due the poverty and weakness of the South. At the close of the Revolution, the now slave States contained probably 1,600,000 people, and those States contained about 120,000,000 of acres, giving an average of about eighty acres to each. In 1850, the population had grown to 8,500,000, scattered over more than 300,000,000 of acres, giving about forty acres to each. The consequence of this dispersion is that the productive power is very small, as is here seen in an estimate for 1850, taken from a Southern journal of high reputation:
Cotton................105,600,000 Tobacco............... 15,000,000 Rice.................. 3,000,000 Naval stores.......... 2,000,000 Sugar................. 12,396,150 Hemp.................. 695,840 138,691,990 If we now add for food an equal amount, and this is certainly much in excess of the truth ......... 138,691,990 And for all other products ............. 22,616,020 We obtain .................. $300,000,000
as the total production of eight millions and a half of people, or about $35 per head. The total production of the Union in 1850 cannot have been short of 2500 millions; and if we deduct from that sum the above quantity, we shall have remaining 2150 millions as the product of fourteen millions and a half of Northern people, or more than four times as much per head. The difference is caused by the fact that at the North artisans have placed themselves near to the farmer, and towns and cities have grown up, and exchanges are made more readily, and the farmer is not to the same extent obliged to exhaust his land, and dispersion therefore goes on more slowly; and there is, in many of the States, an extensive demand for those commodities of which the earth yields largely, such as potatoes, cabbages, turnips, &c. &c. With each step in the process of coming together at the North, men tend to become more free; whereas the dispersion of the South produces everywhere the trade in slaves of which the world complains, and which would soon cease to exist if the artisan could be brought to take his place by the side of the producer of food and cotton. Why he cannot do so may he found in the words of a recent speech of Mr. Cardwell, member of Parliament from Liverpool, congratulating the people of England on the fact that free trade had so greatly damaged the cotton manufacture of this country, that the domestic consumption was declining from year to year. In this is to be found the secret of the domestic slave trade of the South, and its weakness, now so manifest. The artisan has been everywhere the ally of the farmer, and the South has been unable to form that alliance, the consequences of which are seen in the fact that it is always exporting men and raw materials, and exhausting its soil and itself: and the greater the tendency to exhaustion, the greater is the pro-slavery feeling. That such should be the case is most natural. The man who exhausts his land attaches to it but little value, and he abandons it, but he attaches much value to the slave whom he can carry away with him. The pro-slavery feeling made its appearance first in the period between 1830 and 1840. Up to 1832, there had existed a great tendency in Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky toward freedom, but that disappeared; and the reason why it did so may be seen in the greatly increased tendency to the abandonment of the older tobacco and cotton growing States, as here shown:
Total Population: 1820. 1830. 1840. 1850. Virginia..... 1,065,379 1,211,405 1,239,797 1,424,863 South Carolina ... 502,741 581,185 594,398 668,247 Ratio of increase: Virginia ...... 13.6 2.3 15.2 South Carolina ... 15.6 2.3 12.4
With the increase in the export of slaves to the South, the negro population declined in its ratio of increase, whereas it has grown with the growth of the power of the slave to remain at home, as is here shown:
1820. 1830. 1840. 1850. Total black population: 1,779,885 2,328,642 2,873,703 3,591,000 Ratio of increase ..... 30 30.8 24 25
We see thus that the more the black population can remain at home, the more rapidly they increase; and the reason why such is the case is, that at home they are among their own people, by whom they have been known from infancy, and are of course better fed and clothed, more tenderly treated, and more lightly worked, with far greater tendency toward freedom. It would thence appear that if we desire to bring about the freedom of the negro, we must endeavour to arrest the domestic slave trade, and enable the slave and his master to remain at home; and to do this we must look to the causes of the difference in the extent of the trade in the periods above referred to. Doing this, we shall find that from 1820 to 1830 there was a decided tendency toward bringing the artisan to the side of the ploughman; whereas from 1833 to 1840 the tendency was very strong in the opposite direction, and so continued until 1842, at which time a change took place, and continued until near the close of the decennial period, when our present revenue system came fully into operation. The artisan has now ceased to come to the side of the planter. Throughout the country cotton and woollen mills and furnaces and foundries have been closed, and women and children who were engaged in performing the lighter labour of converting cotton into cloth are now being sold for the heavier labour of the cotton-field, as is shown by the following advertisement, now but a few weeks old:
SALE OF NEGROES. The negroes belonging to the Saluda Manufacturing Company were sold yesterday for one-fourth cash, the balance in one and two years, with interest, and averaged $599. Boys from 16 to 25 brought $900 to $1000. Columbia, (S.C.) Banner, Dec. 31, 1852.
As a necessary consequence of this, the domestic slave trade is now largely increasing, as is shown by the following extract from a recent journal:
The emigration to the southern portion of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, during the past fall, has been unusually large, and the tide which flows daily through our streets indicates that the volume abates but little, if any. On the opposite bank of the river are encamped nearly fifty wagons, with probably not less than two hundred and fifty souls. Each night, for a fortnight, there have been, on an average, not less than twenty-five wagons encamped there; and notwithstanding two hand ferry-boats have been constantly plying between the shores, the hourly accession to the number makes the diminution scarcely perceptible. Little Rock. (Ark.) Gazette, Dec. 3, 1852.
Had the member for Liverpool been aware that a decline in the tendency toward bringing the cotton-mill to the cotton-field was accompanied by increased exhaustion of the land, increased impoverishment, and increased inability to bring into action the rich soils of the older States, and that with each such step there arose an increased necessity for the expulsion of the people of those States, accompanied by an increased sacrifice of life resulting from the domestic slave trade, he would certainly have hesitated before congratulating Parliament on an occurrence so hostile to the progress of freedom.
That the export of negroes, with its accompanying violation of the rights of parents and children, and with its natural tendency toward a total forgetfulness of the sanctity of the marriage tie, has its origin in the exhaustion of the land, there can be no doubt and that that, in its turn, has its origin in the necessity for a dependence on distant markets, is quite as free from doubt. The man who must go to a distance with his products cannot raise potatoes, turnips, or hay. He must raise the less bulky articles, wheat or cotton and he must take from his land all the elements of which wheat or cotton is composed, and then abandon it. In addition to this, he must stake all his chances of success in his years cultivation on a single crop; and what are the effects of this is seen in the following paragraph in relation to the wheat cultivation of Virginia in the last season:
Never did I know in this State such a destruction of the wheat crop; I have just returned from Albemarle, one of the best counties. The joint-worm, a new enemy of three years known existence there, has injured every crop, and destroyed many in that and other counties both sides and along the Blue Ridge. I saw many fields that would not yield more than seed, and not a few from which not one peck per acre could be calculated upon. I saw more than one field without a head. The most fortunate calculate upon a half crop only. Corn is backward on the lower James River, embracing my own farm. I have heard today from my manager that the caterpillar has made its appearance, and must in the late wheat do serious damage.
That State is not permitted to do any thing but grow wheat and tobacco, both of which she must export, and the larger the export the smaller are the returns, under the system of unlimited competition for the sale of raw products, and limited competition for the purchase of manufactured ones, which it is the object of British policy to establish. Not only is Virginia limited in the application of her labour, but she is also greatly limited in the extent of her market, because of the unequal distribution of the proceeds of the sales of her products. The pound of tobacco for which the consumer pays 6s. ($1.44,) yields him less than six cents, the whole difference being absorbed by the people who stand between him and the consumer, and who contribute nothing toward the production of his commodity.
Now, it is quite clear that if the consumer and he stood face to face with each other, he would receive all that was paid, and that while the one bought at lower prices, the other would sell at higher ones, and both would grow rich. The difficulty with him is that not only is his land exhausted, but he receives but a very small portion of the price paid for its products, and thus is he, like the labourer of Jamaica, exhausted by reason of the heavy taxation to which he is subjected for the support of foreign merchants and foreign governments. As a consequence of all this his land has little value, and he finds himself becoming poorer from year to year, and each year he has to sell a negro for the payment of the tax on his tobacco and his wheat to which he is thus subjected, until he has at length to go himself. If the reader desire to study the working of this system of taxation, he cannot do better than read the first chapter of Uncle Toms Cabin, containing the negotiation between Haley and Mr. Shelby for the transfer of Uncle Tom, resulting in the loss of his life in the wilds of Arkansas.
The more the necessity for exhausting land and for selling negroes, the cheaper, however, will be wheat and cotton. Uncle Tom might have remained at home had the powers of the land been maintained and had Virginia been enabled to avail herself of her vast resources in coal, iron ore, water-power, &c.; but as she could not do this, he had to go to Arkansas to raise cotton: and the larger the domestic slave trade, the greater must be the decline in the price of that great staple of the South. At no period was that trade so large as in that from 1830 to 1840, and the effects are seen in the following comparative prices of cotton:
Crops, 1831 and 1832, average 10-½. 1841 and 1842, average 7.
The export of negroes declined between 1842 and 1850, and the consequence is that cotton has since maintained its price. With the closing of Southern mills the slave trade, is now again growing rapidly, and the consequences will be seen in a large decline in the price of that important product of Southern labour and land.
The reader will now observe that it was in the period from 1830 to 1840 that the tendency to emancipation disappeared that it was in that period were passed various laws adverse to the education of negroes that it was in that period there was the greatest enlargement of the domestic slave trade and the greatest decline in the price of cotton. Having remarked these things, and having satisfied himself that they, each and all, have their origin in the fact that the planter is compelled to depend on foreign markets and therefore to exhaust his land, he will be enabled to judge of the accuracy of the view contained in the following sentence:
The price of a negro on Red River varies with the price of cotton in Liverpool, and whatever tends to lower the value of the staple here, not only confers an inestimable advantage on our own manufacturing population, but renders slave labour less profitable, and therefore less permanent in Alabama. Prospective Review, No. xxxii. 512.
It would be fortunate if philanthropy and pecuniary profit could thus be made to work together, but such unhappily is not the case. When men are enabled to come nearer to each other and combine their efforts, and towns arise, land acquires great value and gradually becomes divided, and with each step in this direction the negro loses his importance in the eye of his owner. When, however, men are forced to abandon the land they have exhausted, it becomes consolidated, and the moveable chattel acquires importance in the eyes of his emigrant owner. At death, the land cannot, under these circumstances, be divided, and therefore the negroes must; and hence it is that such advertisements as the following are a necessary consequence of the system that looks to cheap wheat, cheap sugar, and cheap cotton.
HIGH PRICE OF NEGROES. We extract the following from the Lancaster (S.C.) Ledger of the 5th January last:
We attended the sale of negroes belonging to the estate of the late S. Beekman, on the 22d of last month, and were somewhat astonished at the high price paid for negroes.
Negro men brought from $800 to $1000, the greater number at or near the latter price. One (a blacksmith) brought $1425.
We learn from the Winsboro Register, that on Monday, the 3d inst., a large sale of negroes was made by the Commissioner in Equity for Fairfield district, principally the property of James Gibson, deceased. The negroes were only tolerably likely, and averaged about $620 each. The sales were made on a credit of twelve months. Charleston (S.C.) Courier.
The more the planter is forced to depend upon tobacco the lower will be its price abroad, and the more he must exhaust his land. The more rapid the exhaustion the more must be the tendency to emigrate. The more the necessity for depending exclusively on wheat, the greater the necessity for making a market for it by raising slaves for sale: and in several of the older Southern States the planter now makes nothing but what results from the increase of stock.
Of all the exporters of food England is the largest, said a distinguished English merchant, in a speech delivered some years since. In some parts of that country it is manufactured into iron, and in others into cloth, in order that it may travel cheaply, and this is quite in accordance with the advice of Adam Smith. With a view, however, to prevent other nations from following in the course so strongly urged upon them by that great man, labour has been cheapened, and men and women, boys and girls, have been accustomed to work together in the same mine, and often in a state of entire nudity; while other, women and children have been compelled to work for fourteen or sixteen hours a day for six days in the week, and for small wages, in the mill or workshop and this has been done in accordance with the advice of Mr. Huskisson, who, from his place in Parliament, told his countrymen that in order to give capital a fair remuneration, labour must be kept down that is, the labourer must be deprived of the power to determine for himself for whom he would work, or what should be his reward. It was needed, as was then declared by another of the most eminent statesmen of Britain, that the manufactures of all other nations should be strangled in their infancy, and such has from that day to the present been the object of British policy. Hence it is that England is now so great an exporter of food manufactured into cloth and iron. The people of Massachusetts manufacture their grain into fish, cloth, and various other commodities, with a view to enable it cheaply to travel to market. Those of Illinois, unable to convert their corn into coal or iron, find themselves obliged to manufacture it into pork. The Virginian would manufacture his corn and his wheat into cloth, or into coal and iron, if he could; but this he cannot do, although close to the producer of cotton, and occupying a land abounding in all the raw materials of which machinery is composed; and having, too, abundant labour power that runs to waste. Why he cannot do it is that England follows the advice of Mr. Huskisson, and cheapens labour with a view to prevent other nations from following the advice of Adam Smith. The whole energies of the State are therefore given to the raising of tobacco and corn, both of which must go abroad, and as the latter cannot travel profitably in its rude state, it requires to be manufactured, and the only branch of manufacture permitted to the Virginian is that of negroes, and hence it is that their export is so large, and that cotton is so cheap.
Widely different would be the course of things could he be permitted to employ a reasonable portion of his people in the development of the vast resources of the State opening mines, erecting furnaces, smelting iron, making machinery, and building mills. Fewer persons would then raise corn and more would be employed in consuming it, and the price at home would then rise to a level with that in the distant market, and thus would the land acquire value, while the cost of raising negroes would be increased. Towns would then grow up, and exchanges would be made on the spot, and thus would the planter be enabled to manure his land. Labour would become more productive, and there would be more commodities to be given in exchange for labour; and the more rapid the increase in the amount of production the greater would be the tendency toward enabling the labourer to determine for whom he would work and what should be his reward. Population would then rapidly increase, and land would become divided, and the little black cultivator of cabbages and potatoes would be seen taking the place of the poor white owner of large bodies of exhausted land, and thus would the negro tend toward freedom as his master became enriched. Nothing of this kind is, however, likely to take place so long as the Virginian shall continue of the opinion that the way to wealth lies in the direction of taking every thing from the land and returning nothing to it nor, perhaps, so long as the people of England shall continue in the determination that there shall be but one workshop in the world, and carry that determination into effect by keeping labour down, in accordance with the advice of Mr. Huskisson.
The tendency to the abandonment of the older States is now probably greater than it has ever been, because their people have ceased to build mills or furnaces, and every thing looks to a yet more perfect exhaustion of the soil. The more they abandon the land the greater is the anxiety to make loans in England for the purpose of building roads; and the more numerous the loans the more rapid is the flight, and the greater the number of negroes brought to market.
A North Carolina paper informs its readers that
The trading spirit is fully up. A few days since Mr. D.W. Bullock sold to Messrs. Wm. Norfleet, Robert Norfleet, and John S. Dancy, plantation and 18 negroes for $30,000. Mr. R.R. Bridges to Wm.F. Dancy, 6 acres near town for $600. At a sale in Wilson, we also understand, negro men with no extra qualifications sold as high as $1225. Tarborough Southerner.
A South Carolina editor informs his readers that
At public auction on Thursday, Thomas Ryan & Son sold fifteen likely negroes for $10,365, or an average of $691. Three boys, aged about seventeen, brought the following sums, viz. $1065, $1035, $1010, and two at $1000 making an average of $1022. Capers Heyward sold a gang of 109 negroes in families. Two or three families averaged from $1000 to $1100 for each individual; and the entire sale averaged $550. C.G. Whitney sold two likely female house servants one at $1000, the other at $1190. Charleston Courier.
Limited, as the people of the old States are more and more becoming, to the raising of stock as the sole source of profit, need we be surprised to see the pro-slavery feeling gaining ground from day to day, as is here shown to be the case?
REMOVAL OF FREE PERSONS OF COLOUR FROM VIRGINIA. A bill has been reported in the Virginia House of Delegates which provides for the appointment of overseers, who are to be required to hire out, at public auction, all free persons of colour, to the highest bidder, and to pay into the State Treasury the sums accruing from such hire. The sums are to be devoted in future to sending free persons of colour beyond the limits of the State. At the expiration of five years, all free persons of colour remaining in the State are to be sold into slavery to the highest bidder, at public auction, the proceeds of such sales to be paid into the public treasury, provided that said free persons of colour shall be allowed the privilege of becoming the slaves of any free white person whom they may select, on the payment by such person of a fair price.
Twenty years since, Virginia was preparing for the emancipation of the slave. Now, she is preparing for the enslavement of the free. If the reader would know the cause of this great change, he may find it in the fact that man has everywhere become less free as land has become less valuable.
Upon whom, now, must rest the responsibility for such a state of things as is here exhibited? Upon the planter? He exercises no volition. He is surrounded by coal and iron ore, but the attempt to convert them into iron has almost invariably been followed by ruin. He has vast powers of nature ready to obey his will, yet dare he not purchase a spindle or a loom to enable him to bring into use his now waste labour power, for such attempts at bringing the consumer to the side of the producer have almost invariably ended in the impoverishment of the projector, and the sale and dispersion of his labourers. He is compelled to conform his operations to the policy which looks to having but one workshop for the world; and instead of civilizing his negroes by bringing them to work in combination, he must barbarize them by dispersion. A creature of necessity, he cannot be held responsible; but the responsibility must, and will, rest on those who produce that necessity.
The less the power of association in the Northern slave States, the more rapid must be the growth of the domestic slave trade, the greater must be the decline in the price of wheat, cotton, and sugar, the greater must be the tendency to the passage of men like Uncle Tom, and of women and children too, from the light labour of the North to the severe labour of the South and South-west but, the greater, as we are told, must be the prosperity of the people of England. It is unfortunate for the world that a country exercising so much influence should have adopted a policy so adverse to the civilization and the freedom not only of the negro race, but of mankind at large. There seems, however, little probability of a change. Seeking to make of herself a great workshop, she necessarily desires that all the rest of the world should be one great farm, to be cultivated by men, women, and children, denied all other means of employment. This, of course, forbids association, which diminishes as land becomes exhausted. The absence of association forbids the existence of schools or workshops, books or instruction, and men become barbarized, when, under a different system, they might and would become civilized. The tendency to freedom passes away, as we see to have been the case in the last twenty years but in place of freedom, and as a compensation for the horrors of Jamaica and of the domestic slave trade, the great workshop of the world is supplied with cheap grain, cheap tobacco, cheap sugar, and cheap cotton.
Were Adam Smith alive, he might, and probably would, take some trouble to inform his countrymen that a system which looked to the exhaustion of the land of other countries, and the enslavement of their population, was a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind; but since his day the doctrines of the Wealth of Nations have been discarded, and its author would find himself now addressing hearers more unwilling than were even the men for whom he wrote eighty years since. At that time the imaginary discovery had not been made that men always commenced on the rich soils, and passed, as population and wealth increased, to poorer ones; and the Malthusian law of population was yet unthought of. Now, however, whatever tends to limit the growth of population is, we are told, to be regarded as a great good; and as the domestic slave trade accomplishes that object at the same time that it furnishes cheap cotton, it can scarcely be expected that there will be any change; and yet, unless a change be somewhere made, abroad or at home, we must perforce submit to the continuance of the existing system, which precludes education, almost eschews matrimony, separates husbands and wives, parents and children, and sends the women to the labours of the field.
The following case illustrates in a very striking manner the value that is given to things that must be wasted among an exclusively agricultural population, and it is but one of thousands that might be adduced:
WHAT OLD BONES AND BITS OF SKIN MAY BE GOOD FOR. How to get a penny-worth of beauty out of old bones and bits of skin, is a problem which the French gelatine makers have solved very prettily. Does the reader remember some gorgeous sheets of colored gelatine in the French department of the Great Exhibition? We owed them to the slaughter-houses of Paris. These establishments are so well organized and conducted, that all the refuse is carefully preserved, to be applied to any purposes for which it may be deemed fitting. Very pure gelatine is made from the waste fragments of skin, bone, tendon, ligature, and gelatinous tissue of the animals slaughtered in the Parisian abbatoirs, and thin sheets of this gelatine are made to receive very rich and beautiful colors. As a gelatinous liquid, when melted, it is used in the dressing of woven stuffs, and in the clarification of wine; and as a solid, it is cut into threads for the ornamental uses of the confectioner, or made into very thin white sheets of papier glace, for copying, drawing, or applied to the making of artificial flowers, or used as a substitute for paper, on which gold printing may be executed. In good sooth, when an ox has given us our beef, and our leather, and our tallow, his career of usefulness is by no means ended; we can get a penny out of him as long as there is a scrap of his substance above ground Household Words.
2 The superficial area of the State is 64,000 square miles, being greater than that of England, and double that of Ireland.
3 Despotism in America, 127.
4 De Bows Commercial Review, new series, vol. ii. 137.
5 The tobacco grower has the mortification of seeing his tobacco, bought from him at sixpence in bond, charged three shillings duty, and therefore costing the broker but 3s. 6d. and selling in the shops of London at ten, twelve, and sixteen shillings. (Urquharts Turkey, 194.) The same writer informs his readers that the tobacco dealers were greatly alarmed when it was proposed that the duty should be reduced, because then everybody with £10 capital could set up a shop. The slave who works in the tobacco-field is among the largest taxpayers for the maintenance of foreign traders and foreign governments.