Antebellum Compensated Emancipation in USA

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
In 1844 a Quaker (Mendenhall) asked Henry Clay to explain why the Senator did not free his slaves. Clay answered by asking Mendenhall if he would pay Clay $15,000, which is what the slaves were worth. Supposing Mendenhall paid Clay the $15,000, the Senator added that Mendenhall would also need to provide the ex-slaves adequate farmland in a free state so that they may earn a living. There were costs associated with emancipation that the abolitionist apparently ignored, presumably because he would not have to pay them.

During the thirty years from 1830 to 1860 when abolitionists gained strength, did any propose compensated emancipation in the USA? While I am aware that Lincoln made several such proposals during his presidency and that Great Britain ended slavery with compensated emancipation in 1833, did America's antebellum abolitionists make any such proposals? I am also aware that Congressman Lincoln made such a proposal in 1849 for the slaves in the Columbia District, but I am not familiar with any others in the 1830-1860 period.
 
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ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
I don't have time to research this, but my understanding is that the northern states abolished slavery without using compensated emancipation. Maybe some people thought that the southern states could do what the northern states did.

Wiki talks about the end of slavery in NY:

During the American Revolutionary War, the British troops occupied New York City in 1776. The Crown promised freedom to slaves who left rebel masters, and thousands moved to the city for refuge with the British. By 1780, 10,000 black people lived in New York. Many were slaves who had escaped from their slaveholders in both northern and southern colonies. After the war, the British evacuated about 3,000 slaves from New York, taking most of them to resettle as free people in Nova Scotia, where they are known as Black Loyalists.​
When Vermont asserted its independence from both New York and New Hampshire, it abolished slavery within its territory. After the American Revolution, the New York Manumission Society was founded in 1785 to work for the abolition of slavery and to aid free blacks. The state passed a 1799 law for gradual abolition; after that date, children born to slave mothers were required to work for the mother's master as indentured servants into their late twenties.​
The last slaves were freed on July 4, 1827. Some younger black New Yorkers born to slave mothers continued to serve as indentured servants into their 20s.​

One of the NY slaves who gained her freedom was a woman named Isabella. Her story is told in Daniel Walker Howe's book What Hath God Wrought:

In 1815, Isabella, a slave girl of about 17 living in Ulster County, New York, married Thomas, an older man who belonged to, as she did, the Dumont family. Over the next 11 years Isabella bore Thomas five children... New York had recognized the legality of marriages between slaves in 1809, meaning that now the couple and their children could not be sold apart from each other.​
The state of New York adopted a program of gradual emancipation, decreeing that slaves born after July 4, 1799 should become free (at age 28 for males, age 25 for females)... Isabella, having been born before the cut off date, would remain in slavery for the rest of her life. But in 1817, the New York legislature sped up the emancipation process and decreed that on July 4, 1827, all remaining slaves, when ever born, should become free.​
Masters would receive no financial compensation from the state but did have one more decade to exploit their chattel's unpaid labor. Shortly before the final emancipation took effect, Isabella's five year old son was sold away from her, south to Alabama. This constituted a violation of New York law; the newly free Isabella took the remarkable step of suing for and obtaining the boys return, an act that set a pattern for her lifetime of resolute opposition to injustice.​

Isabella would later change her name to Sojourner Truth.

- Alan
 
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Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
I don't have time to research this, but my understanding is that the northern states abolished slavery without using compensated emancipation.

They did not need compensation because they typically sold their slaves to states farther South. That's how the "sold down the river" expression originated.

Maybe some people thought that the southern states could do what the northern states did.

On the eve of the Civil War the border states, and even Virginia, were selling slaves to the cotton states. Ultimately the process would become a game of musical chairs. Without additional slave states there would be no new buyers once the cotton states were full, which was then the case in South Carolina.
 

ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
They did not need compensation because they typically sold their slaves to states farther South. That's how the "sold down the river" expression originated.

There were folks who sold northern enslaved people down south, which was why NY made it illegal. Surely a lot of people broke the law, although I don't know if it was typical. But it was the official policy (in NY at least) was that families shouldn't be broken up, as it was the policy to have gradual emancipation. I don't know that the law was written with the expectation that people would typically break it.

- Alan
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
typically sold their slaves to states farther South


Yes, Alan already questioned this but it seemed squirrely to me too. Implication here seems to me to be that unless greased in the palm, NY would never have been induced to abolish slavery.

Without additional slave states there would be no new buyers once the cotton states were full, which was then the case in South Carolina.

What does this even mean? When were the cotton states ' full '?
 

joegotts1

Private
Joined
Dec 12, 2018
There were folks who sold northern enslaved people down south, which was why NY made it illegal. Surely a lot of people broke the law, although I don't know if it was typical. But it was the official policy (in NY at least) was that families shouldn't be broken up, as it was the policy to have gradual emancipation. I don't know that the law was written with the expectation that people would typically break it.

- Alan
I have been reading the back and forth on the "slavery issue" for months and years on end, ad nauseam. Irrespective of the EXACT percentage, 26% or 31% or one-third of Southern families who owned slaves, the reality and truth of the matter is simply that as many as two-thirds, or more, of Southern families did not own slaves, and to suggest that any more than a mere handful of them were fighting for something (slavery) that was not even a part of their very own family existence is preposterous, ludicrous, and perhaps the biggest myth ever purported to be true, for reasons and purposes that have no basis in historical fact, but surely sound politically correct for those who otherwise need to feel good about themselves when discussing the CW, that was complicated and certainly tragic for BOTH sides. Yes, the issue of slavery is part of any discussion, but only a small part out of many parts.
 

ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
I have been reading the back and forth on the "slavery issue" for months and years on end, ad nauseam. Irrespective of the EXACT percentage, 26% or 31% or one-third of Southern families who owned slaves, the reality and truth of the matter is simply that as many as two-thirds, or more, of Southern families did not own slaves, and to suggest that any more than a mere handful of them were fighting for something (slavery) that was not even a part of their very own family existence is preposterous, ludicrous, and perhaps the biggest myth ever purported to be true, for reasons and purposes that have no basis in historical fact, but surely sound politically correct for those who otherwise need to feel good about themselves when discussing the CW, that was complicated and certainly tragic for BOTH sides. Yes, the issue of slavery is part of any discussion, but only a small part out of many parts.

That's off-topic. I think the goal here is to discuss compensated emancipation policy in the antebellum era.

There are many many threads here on the subject you mention. I invite you to browse the forum, find a thread of interest, and have at it. Or, make a new thread of your own, keeping in mind that this issue has received extensive coverage. But of course there's nothing wrong with you adding your voice to the subject.

- Alan
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
There were folks who sold northern enslaved people down south, which was why NY made it illegal. Surely a lot of people broke the law, although I don't know if it was typical. But it was the official policy (in NY at least) was that families shouldn't be broken up, as it was the policy to have gradual emancipation. I don't know that the law was written with the expectation that people would typically break it.

- Alan

When New York passed its gradual emancipation law in July 1799 less than 4% of the state's population were slaves. Seven years (for men) and four years (for women) before it became effective (1824 - 1827) less than 1% of the state's population were slaves.

In contrast, when Henry Clay made his remarks mentioned in the OP, 23% of Kentucky's population were slaves.

That's a big difference.

Nonetheless, I appreciate your response and would welcome information pertaining to any serious compensated-emancipation proposals in the USA from 1830-1860.

Sources: One and Two
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Lets look at NY, 1885 Bill:

Who exactly would be emancipated and who left enslaved? What responsibilities would the state assume for freed slaves incapable of caring for themselves? What intermediary periods of "apprenticeship" might be required of those freed? What responsibility would masters assume for the moral and civic training of those freed? How if all, assembly's final version followed the principle established by gradual emancipations edicts in other states: it would emancipate all slave children born after 1785 but indenture them to their former masters until they became adults (age twenty two for women and twenty five for men). The bill thus partially compensated owners by guaranteeing them many years of continued service and set forth a period during which black youth could receive the moral and civic education thought necessary to make them productive members of society. As a concession to the still vigorous opponents of black freedom who feared the specter of former slaves participation equally with whites in civic life, the bill also restricted the rights of African Americans. pp122

Then in 1817, New York enacted a second momentous piece of abolition legislation, stipulating that enslaved African Americans born before July 4, 1789--the portion of the slave population neglected by the 1799 law--would become free on July 4, 1827. By establishing a precise date on which the last slaves in New York would be free, the law effectively abolished slavery in New York. It also accelerated the work of the 1799 law by shortening the period of apprenticeship required of African Americans emancipated under the 1799 law, to twenty-one years for both men and women. Since Children born to slave mothers on the eve of July 4, 1827 could be apprenticed to the age of twenty-one. African Americans would remain unfree until 1848. pp131 Slavery in New York by New-York Historical Society.

So in NY emancipation took over 60 years. Slave owners kept children until 21. Took a generation of children away from their mothers. Recon where the Slave mothers went? So, they got full use of their Slaves. Also were relieved of any responsibility after emancipation for the old who couldn't work etc.
 

Y2KBYTZ

Cadet
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
I don't have time to research this, but my understanding is that the northern states abolished slavery without using compensated emancipation. Maybe some people thought that the southern states could do what the northern states did.

Wiki talks about the end of slavery in NY:

During the American Revolutionary War, the British troops occupied New York City in 1776. The Crown promised freedom to slaves who left rebel masters, and thousands moved to the city for refuge with the British. By 1780, 10,000 black people lived in New York. Many were slaves who had escaped from their slaveholders in both northern and southern colonies. After the war, the British evacuated about 3,000 slaves from New York, taking most of them to resettle as free people in Nova Scotia, where they are known as Black Loyalists.​
When Vermont asserted its independence from both New York and New Hampshire, it abolished slavery within its territory. After the American Revolution, the New York Manumission Society was founded in 1785 to work for the abolition of slavery and to aid free blacks. The state passed a 1799 law for gradual abolition; after that date, children born to slave mothers were required to work for the mother's master as indentured servants into their late twenties.​
The last slaves were freed on July 4, 1827. Some younger black New Yorkers born to slave mothers continued to serve as indentured servants into their 20s.​

One of the NY slaves who gained her freedom was a woman named Isabella. Her story is told in Daniel Walker Howe's book What Hath God Wrought:

In 1815, Isabella, a slave girl of about 17 living in Ulster County, New York, married Thomas, an older man who belonged to, as she did, the Dumont family. Over the next 11 years Isabella bore Thomas five children... New York had recognized the legality of marriages between slaves in 1809, meaning that now the couple and their children could not be sold apart from each other.​
The state of New York adopted a program of gradual emancipation, decreeing that slaves born after July 4, 1799 should become free (at age 28 for males, age 25 for females)... Isabella, having been born before the cut off date, would remain in slavery for the rest of her life. But in 1817, the New York legislature sped up the emancipation process and decreed that on July 4, 1827, all remaining slaves, when ever born, should become free.​
Masters would receive no financial compensation from the state but did have one more decade to exploit their chattel's unpaid labor. Shortly before the final emancipation took effect, Isabella's five year old son was sold away from her, south to Alabama. This constituted a violation of New York law; the newly free Isabella took the remarkable step of suing for and obtaining the boys return, an act that set a pattern for her lifetime of resolute opposition to injustice.​

Isabella would later change her name to Sojourner Truth.

- Alan
Bravo! What a beautiful name for a such a strong woman. I hope her family celebrates her willingness to be so bold in such times.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I hope her family celebrates her willingness to be so bold in such times

We all celebrate Sojourner. " I did not run away. I walked away by daylight. " Her most famous speech you could read daily and never stop wanting to read it all over again.

" Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
"

She did though, a lot more.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
I read a reference to a experimental program in Missouri late in the war, but havent ever seen the law/legislation, but its often hard to find outdated no longer in effect law/legislation.

But it was that if a Missouri slave enlisted, the bounty would go to the slaveowner to compensate for the slave becoming emancipated.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Compensated emancipation was offered before and during the Civil War. All attempts at such were turned down by the slaveholding South.

All one has to do is type in "Compensated Emancipation" in one's search engine to read about them.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Compensated emancipation


Term gives me the willies anyway. Compensated emancipation. Ouch. It was more $ v. human beings. You've witnessed how these discussions have gone UB. OH the loss to the ubiquitous bottom line, OH how plantations would take a financial hit. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that carrying actual humans on their books in the form of value per was ( no other way to put it ) repulsive in the first place. Makes me queasy.

Merrium Webster;
1 : to be equivalent to : Her virtues compensate her faults, counterbalance.

2 : to make an appropriate and usually counterbalancing payment to compensate the victims for their loss

3a : to provide with means of counteracting variation compensate a magnetic needle
b : to neutralize the effect of (variations)
 
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