Slavery and the Early American Economy

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ole

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I remember reading that in one year (and I don't remember where I read it or when, so don't ask), there were fewer than 900 escaped slaves who had not been recovered. So I think the panic over thousand's of escaping slaves is overstating whatever fears the slave owners had.

Escaping must have been a terrifying decision. The odds were great that you couldn't and, in failing, conditions would not be pleasant thereafter.
 

brass napoleon

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I remember reading that in one year (and I don't remember where I read it or when, so don't ask), there were fewer than 900 escaped slaves who had not been recovered. So I think the panic over thousand's of escaping slaves is overstating whatever fears the slave owners had.
The 1850 U.S. census showed 1011 slaves had escaped during the prior 12 months, and the 1860 census cut that number down to 803. (Source) How accurate those numbers are, and how many of those slaves ever made it out of the Southern states, is another question. Nevertheless, when you add these numbers up over the decades, it would certainly go into the tens of thousands. But even that is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of slaves.

Escaping must have been a terrifying decision. The odds were great that you couldn't and, in failing, conditions would not be pleasant thereafter.
Absolutely. On top of that was the complete unknown of where you were going to, or how you were going to get there, plus leaving behind all your family and friends, probably forever. The fact that so many did make it is really quite amazing.
 

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The 1850 U.S. census showed 1011 slaves had escaped during the prior 12 months, and the 1860 census cut that number down to 803. (Source) How accurate those numbers are, and how many of those slaves ever made it out of the Southern states, is another question. Nevertheless, when you add these numbers up over the decades, it would certainly go into the tens of thousands. But even that is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of slaves.
I compared the numbers in the NY Times article with the 1850 and 1860 Census reports. There were a few entries that were off, but I put together a spreadsheet with the corrections I could find. There seems to be a discrepancy in the number of unreturned escaped slaves in 1850. The Census says there were 1101, but adding up the numbers for each state comes up with 1102. Obviously one state has one fewer escaped slave than reported in the Times, but we don't know which one at this time. The 1860 numbers look good.

Looking at the Border States:
upload_2015-4-21_23-8-36.png
upload_2015-4-21_23-8-46.png
upload_2015-4-21_23-8-58.png

upload_2015-4-21_23-6-11.png
upload_2015-4-21_23-6-57.png
upload_2015-4-21_23-7-14.png


While it's true more slaves escaped from the border states, the difference wasn't that great.

For the Upper and Lower South:

upload_2015-4-21_23-10-31.png
upload_2015-4-21_23-11-16.png
upload_2015-4-21_23-11-33.png


I don't see much effect of escaped fugitive slaves on slavery with the possible exception of Delaware, but slave births outpace slave deaths and escaped fugitives combined.
 

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leftyhunter

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I compared the numbers in the NY Times article with the 1850 and 1860 Census reports. There were a few entries that were off, but I put together a spreadsheet with the corrections I could find. There seems to be a discrepancy in the number of unreturned escaped slaves in 1850. The Census says there were 1101, but adding up the numbers for each state comes up with 1102. Obviously one state has one fewer escaped slave than reported in the Times, but we don't know which one at this time. The 1860 numbers look good.

Looking at the Border States:
View attachment 65402View attachment 65403View attachment 65404
View attachment 65396View attachment 65397View attachment 65398

While it's true more slaves escaped from the border states, the difference wasn't that great.

For the Upper and Lower South:

View attachment 65405View attachment 65407View attachment 65408

I don't see much effect of escaped fugitive slaves on slavery with the possible exception of Delaware, but slave births outpace slave deaths and escaped fugitives combined.
I will have to do more research but we do know that the slave owners where concerned enough about slave escapes to force congress to pass the FSA. One can argue and I would have to look up the quotes that the slave owners saw the writing on the wall. If slavery can not expand and the free state population s decided to give more and more refuge to escaped slaves then slavery dies.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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The 1850 U.S. census showed 1011 slaves had escaped during the prior 12 months, and the 1860 census cut that number down to 803. (Source) How accurate those numbers are, and how many of those slaves ever made it out of the Southern states, is another question. Nevertheless, when you add these numbers up over the decades, it would certainly go into the tens of thousands. But even that is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of slaves.



Absolutely. On top of that was the complete unknown of where you were going to, or how you were going to get there, plus leaving behind all your family and friends, probably forever. The fact that so many did make it is really quite amazing.
Do you agree with the premise that once Lincoln is elected slave owners knew that in the long and maybe even the short term their slaves would be able to find refuge in the North and therefore slaver would be doomed? Did not the slave owners know that lincoln was not going to abolish slavery if they remained in the Union but just contain slavery to the states that already had it?
Leftyhunter
 
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major bill

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It appears that the escape of slaves had very little impact on the growth of the slave population.
 

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My hypothesis is that manumissions would have more impact on slave populations in Delaware and Maryland than escaped fugitives.
 

jgoodguy

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I compared the numbers in the NY Times article with the 1850 and 1860 Census reports. There were a few entries that were off, but I put together a spreadsheet with the corrections I could find. There seems to be a discrepancy in the number of unreturned escaped slaves in 1850. The Census says there were 1101, but adding up the numbers for each state comes up with 1102. Obviously one state has one fewer escaped slave than reported in the Times, but we don't know which one at this time. The 1860 numbers look good.

Looking at the Border States:
View attachment 65402View attachment 65403View attachment 65404
View attachment 65396View attachment 65397View attachment 65398

While it's true more slaves escaped from the border states, the difference wasn't that great.

For the Upper and Lower South:

View attachment 65405View attachment 65407View attachment 65408

I don't see much effect of escaped fugitive slaves on slavery with the possible exception of Delaware, but slave births outpace slave deaths and escaped fugitives combined.
More on the effect of escaped slaves.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Symbolic Gesture or Rational Guarantee
Freehling stands as almost the sole exception among historians to this universal denigration of the fugitive-slave problem's practical significance. In his Road to Disunion (1990), which highlights the differences and disagreements among antebellum Southerners, Freehling contends that runaways were a very serious matter for one group of slaveholders: those in the border slave states. Their vulnerability contributed both to a retreat of the peculiar institution toward the deeper South and to a crucial special interest prepared to demand better free-state compliance with the Constitution's fugitive-slave provision.

Like Freehling, we take issue with the standard symbolic interpretation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Our argument has two components, one economic, one political. Building on Hummel (2001), our economic analysis demonstrates, more strongly than even Freehling suggests, that the southern demand for this measure reflected rational concerns about runaways. For two reasons, the relevant set of slaves considering the problem of runaways is not all slaves as historians have assumed. First, because the old, the young, mothers, and the infirm were unlikely to run, we should consider prime age males – the most valuable slaves. Second, slaves in the deep South had hundreds of miles to run to freedom, whereas those in the border states much shorter distances to run.

We show that the probability of a prime age male from the border states running is quite significant – sufficiently high as to imply a hefty discount in a slave’s value. Traditional historians’ observation about an order of 1000 runaways in a year against three million slaves in 1850 yields a trivial percentage of runaways – about .03 percent. In contrast, the probability that a prime age male in Delaware ran in a given year was on the order of 5 percent, 250 times larger.
[\QUOTE]
Runaway slaves constituted another major problem, about which Southerners complained constantly. John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger (1999, p. 282) have estimated that total runaways exceeded 50,000 annually. This large number, however, includes short-term absences and unsuccessful attempts, as well as successful escapes to the free states or beyond. Franklin and Schweninger acknowledge that "most runaways remained out only a few weeks or months." The U.S. Censuses for 1850 and 1860, therefore, provide probably the most accurate glimpse at the problem of permanent runaways and--as several authors indicate (Hummel 2001, pp. 268-71; Gara 1961, p. 38, and 1964, p. 230, n. 4)--a lower bound on its magnitude. This source ([U.S. Census Office, 1860 Census], p. 338) indicates a minimum of about a thousand slaves fled per year: or more precisely, 1,011 in 1850 and 803 in 1860.

At first glance, these numbers seem small. The total U.S. slave population in 1850 was 3.2 million, meaning only 0.03 percent permanently escaped, while in 1860 slaves numbered nearly 4 million, with only 0.02 percent fleeing north. Slaveholders would tend to discount the value of any slave by a premium proportionate to the probability of losing their property. The higher the probability, the lower the price of the slave, other things equal. As a rough approximation (Hummel, 2001, pp. 406-11), if the annual risk of permanent escape remained constant at p, and the annual interest rate was 10 percent, then a slave's price will fall from PV0, its value with no risk of running away, to PVp, as in formula (1):
(1) PVp = (1 - p) PV0 (.10)/(.10 + p).

Table 1 illustrates how changes in this probability affect the price of a prime male hand whose value was $1,200 without any risk of permanent flight (p = 0). If only one out of every ten thousand prime hands ran away permanently (p = 0.0001, or 0.01 percent), the impact on average price would have been negligible. PVp would have fallen by merely $1. Raise the probability to one out of thousand (p = 0.001), and now average price will fall by $13, or a little over 1 percent. Assuming that one out of every hundred hands permanently ran off each year (p = 0.01), the effect becomes quite significant. PVp falls to $1,080, or by 10 percent. When the annual probability went up to one out of twenty (p = 0.05), the price would have dropped to $760, or by 37 percent. And if the probability ever reached one of ten (p = 0.10), the value of all remaining male hands would have plummeted by over half to $540.
 
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brass napoleon

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Do you agree with the premise that once Lincoln is elected slave owners knew that in the long and maybe even the short term their slaves would be able to find refuge in the North and therefore slaver would be doomed?
I think escaped slaves were a serious threat to the South, but not along the direct economic lines that Southern leaders suggested. Economically speaking, I think runaways had a significant impact in some areas, but the overall economic impact on slavery itself was small (but not negligible).

I think the much bigger impact is what some of those runaways did when they got to the North. People like Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and Lewis Clarke, who began lecturing, writing books, publishing newspapers - telling their stories and proving to the whole world that the Southern argument that blacks were meant to be enslaved and that slavery was good for them was a blatant lie. I think an argument could be made that the escaped slaves did more for the anti-slavery cause than all the white abolitionists combined.

I think the real underlying goal of the Fugitive Slave Law was to drive these people out of the country - and it had some success along those lines. It didn't silence them, however.

Did not the slave owners know that lincoln was not going to abolish slavery if they remained in the Union but just contain slavery to the states that already had it?
Leftyhunter
Yes, they knew that, but they also believed, like Lincoln, that the containment of slavery would put it "on the course of ultimate extinction".
 

jgoodguy

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I think escaped slaves were a serious threat to the South, but not along the direct economic lines that Southern leaders suggested. Economically speaking, I think runaways had a significant impact in some areas, but the overall economic impact on slavery itself was small (but not negligible).

I think the much bigger impact is what some of those runaways did when they got to the North. People like Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and Lewis Clarke, who began lecturing, writing books, publishing newspapers - telling their stories and proving to the whole world that the Southern argument that blacks were meant to be enslaved and that slavery was good for them was a blatant lie. I think an argument could be made that the escaped slaves did more for the anti-slavery cause than all the white abolitionists combined.

I think the real underlying goal of the Fugitive Slave Law was to drive these people out of the country - and it had some success along those lines. It didn't silence them, however.



Yes, they knew that, but they also believed, like Lincoln, that the containment of slavery would put it "on the course of ultimate extinction".

IMHO it was political. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Symbolic Gesture or Rational Guarantee and other references suggest that escaped slaves diminished slavery at the periphery eventually forcing slave owners to sell their slaves and or move Southward creating free States threatening the political balance and ever more driving slavery to the point where it could be drowned in a washtub.
 

wilber6150

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IMHO it was political. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Symbolic Gesture or Rational Guarantee and other references suggest that escaped slaves diminished slavery at the periphery eventually forcing slave owners to sell their slaves and or move Southward creating free States threatening the political balance and ever more driving slavery to the point where it could be drowned in a washtub.
I think you are correct becaude oddly enough,that was rational of John Browns original plan, the border states were the weak point in slavery and the more slaves sold into the deeper South the tighter the ring of free states would be....
 
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brass napoleon

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IMHO it was political. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Symbolic Gesture or Rational Guarantee and other references suggest that escaped slaves diminished slavery at the periphery eventually forcing slave owners to sell their slaves and or move Southward creating free States threatening the political balance and ever more driving slavery to the point where it could be drowned in a washtub.
Yes, I think that's part of it too. I also think it was to some extent a "poison pill" thrown into the Compromise of 1850, to appease Southern secessionists like Jefferson Davis, and give them an excuse to secede at a later date if Northerners failed to uphold this deliberately provocative law.
 

brass napoleon

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I think you are correct becaude oddly enough,that was rational of John Browns original plan, the border states were the weak point in slavery and the more slaves sold into the deeper South the tighter the ring of free states would be....
... and exacerbated even further by the Republican policy of stopping the westward expansion of slavery, thus hemming them in, until in Robert Toombs' words: "like the scorpion surrounded with fire, they will make it sting itself to death."
 

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More on the effect of escaped slaves.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Symbolic Gesture or Rational Guarantee
Let's look at male slaves in one state: Delaware.

Here are the population of male slaves in Delaware in the 1850 and 1860 Census by age and focusing on prime ages:

upload_2015-4-22_13-35-30.png


Keep in mind the number of fugitives in Delaware fell from 26 in 1850 to 12 in 1860. If we assume 80% of the fugitives were male, that would give us about 21 in 1850 and about 10 in 1860, rounding up in both cases. Assuming an approximate linear decrease per year, that's just a little bit more than 1 per year decrease, so let's assume the following:
1850-51: 20
1851-52: 19
1852-53: 18
1853-54: 17
1854-55: 16
1855-56: 15
1856-57: 14
1857-58: 13
1858-59: 12
1859-60: 10
Total: 154

There were about 20 slave deaths per year, so if we assume 80% of those deaths were older than the prime age, and 50% of the remaining were either female or under prime age, that gives us 2 deaths per year in the prime age group, or 20 deaths total.

Adding 367+154-20= 501, or very close to the prime age males in 1850.

At first glance, that would seem to back up the article's contention, in my opinion. What do you all think?
 
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leftyhunter

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Let's look at male slaves in one state: Delaware.

Here are the population of male slaves in Delaware in the 1850 and 1860 Census by age and focusing on prime ages:

View attachment 65455

Keep in mind the number of fugitives in Delaware fell from 26 in 1850 to 12 in 1860. If we assume 80% of the fugitives were male, that would give us about 21 in 1850 and about 10 in 1860, rounding up in both cases. Assuming an approximate linear decrease per year, that's just a little bit more than 1 per year decrease, so let's assume the following:
1850-51: 20
1851-52: 19
1852-53: 18
1853-54: 17
1854-55: 16
1855-56: 15
1856-57: 14
1857-58: 13
1858-59: 12
1859-60: 10
Total: 154

There were about 20 slave deaths per year, so if we assume 80% of those deaths were older than the prime age, and 50% of the remaining were either female or under prime age, that gives us 2 deaths per year in the prime age group, or 20 deaths total.

Adding 367+154-20= 501, or very close to the prime age males in 1850.

At first glance, that would seem to back up the article's contention, in my opinion. What do you all think?
I would argue Freeling is correct in the long term slaves would run away from the border states and thus slavery would end in the border states which would make them free states and now slaves from the middle South would flee to the border states creating a snowball effect against slavery. Has Jgoodguys post shows the numbers may be misleading in terms of under counting escaped slaves. If escaped slaves was such a minute percentage of the total slave poplulation then why where the slave owners so insistent about the enforcement of the FSA?
Slavery was on the decline in the border states and has shown in Mo what would happen if more anti-slavery immigrants settle in the slave states? Not that the Majority of German immigrants supported the underground railroad but that could be a possibility.
The election of Lincoln was a wake up call that the majority of Americans wanted to at least contain slavery. With the border states (KY not so much) moving away from a slave based economy it was just a matter of time before these states would become free states. Wiki has some sources on this on their article about the border states.
If escaped slaves was such a small problem then why where the slave owners so upset about Lincoln being elected? They must of seen the writing on the wall. No?
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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Let's look at male slaves in one state: Delaware.

Here are the population of male slaves in Delaware in the 1850 and 1860 Census by age and focusing on prime ages:

View attachment 65455

Keep in mind the number of fugitives in Delaware fell from 26 in 1850 to 12 in 1860. If we assume 80% of the fugitives were male, that would give us about 21 in 1850 and about 10 in 1860, rounding up in both cases. Assuming an approximate linear decrease per year, that's just a little bit more than 1 per year decrease, so let's assume the following:
1850-51: 20
1851-52: 19
1852-53: 18
1853-54: 17
1854-55: 16
1855-56: 15
1856-57: 14
1857-58: 13
1858-59: 12
1859-60: 10
Total: 154

There were about 20 slave deaths per year, so if we assume 80% of those deaths were older than the prime age, and 50% of the remaining were either female or under prime age, that gives us 2 deaths per year in the prime age group, or 20 deaths total.

Adding 367+154-20= 501, or very close to the prime age males in 1850.

At first glance, that would seem to back up the article's contention, in my opinion. What do you all think?
Would it not be true that in order for the institution of slavery to survive it must always expand and all states must allow slavery or at least a national police force that will capture escaped slaves. Slave owners pushed the US to seize a large portion of mexico to expand slavery, tried to seize Nicaragua via fillabusters, push President Buchanan to offer the King of spain 45 million dollars for Cuba, and convert Kn to a slave state. Was not Toombs right when he said if slavery is contained it will die?
Leftyhunter
 

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I would argue Freeling is correct in the long term slaves would run away from the border states and thus slavery would end in the border states which would make them free states and now slaves from the middle South would flee to the border states creating a snowball effect against slavery. Has Jgoodguys post shows the numbers may be misleading in terms of under counting escaped slaves. If escaped slaves was such a minute percentage of the total slave poplulation then why where the slave owners so insistent about the enforcement of the FSA?
Slavery was on the decline in the border states and has shown in Mo what would happen if more anti-slavery immigrants settle in the slave states? Not that the Majority of German immigrants supported the underground railroad but that could be a possibility.
The election of Lincoln was a wake up call that the majority of Americans wanted to at least contain slavery. With the border states (KY not so much) moving away from a slave based economy it was just a matter of time before these states would become free states. Wiki has some sources on this on their article about the border states.
If escaped slaves was such a small problem then why where the slave owners so upset about Lincoln being elected? They must of seen the writing on the wall. No?
Leftyhunter
The numbers come from the US Census, and Freehling's numbers are unsourced. The linked article explains the motivation behind the FSA enforcement.

Slavery was on the increase in Missouri and Kentucky, two border states.

The Declarations of Causes list a number of different complaints regarding Lincoln, not just the FSL, which Lincoln had pledged himself to enforce. Here's the slave population growth from 1790-1850.

upload_2015-4-22_23-36-1.png


Source: US Census of 1850

In 1860, Kentucky's slave population increased to 225,483 and Missouri's slave population increased to 114,931. Slavery was going strong in those two border states, definitely not on the decline.
 
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cash

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Would it not be true that in order for the institution of slavery to survive it must always expand and all states must allow slavery or at least a national police force that will capture escaped slaves. Slave owners pushed the US to seize a large portion of mexico to expand slavery, tried to seize Nicaragua via fillabusters, push President Buchanan to offer the King of spain 45 million dollars for Cuba, and convert Kn to a slave state. Was not Toombs right when he said if slavery is contained it will die?
Leftyhunter
It was felt at the time that slavery had to expand to survive. That doesn't mean it was true.
 

leftyhunter

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It was felt at the time that slavery had to expand to survive. That doesn't mean it was true.
Perhaps but then again their is logic that slavery must expand to survive especially if the slave states are bordered by people willing to give the escaped slaves refuge.
Leftyhunter
 
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