Was Slavery Dying in 1860?

wausaubob

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The 1st Amendment, free immigration, and railroad development in the Midwest and Pacific West, were all anti-slavery policies. The weight of economic growth in the US would have put unrelenting pressure on slavery.
Secession does not solve the problem, it only makes the Confederacy like a northern Brazil. The British continue to suppress the slave trade, and they eventually find correct alternatives to American cotton. The alternatives could be as simple as silk, linen and wool. They could be Egyptian of Indian cotton. It may be more complex as in encouraging one or more states in North America to convert to free tenancy to grow cotton for the world market.
 

wausaubob

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If one aggregates the situation in the 15 slave states and ignores the rest of the world, slavery looks OK. But if one recognizes that slavery in Brazil had been isolated from Africa in approximately 1856, that Britain was turning toward the Cuban slave trade, that and the US was starting to enforce its laws against the international slave trade, then the stage is set for a sell off southward, towards Texas and Louisiana.
The two places that have no natural geographical barrier preventing flight by the enslaved are Missouri and Maryland. Slavery is already fading there, because it is difficult to manage. Railroads are multiplying in the northern states, which leads to cheaper means to disperse fugitive slaves.
The Republicans do not quite have a majority in Congress in 1861, unless the Southern Democrats leave their seats. But on the other hand, its difficult to see how the national Democrats are going to automatically reunify to support slavery. And it probably would not matter once the 1863 reapportionment occurs.
If you accept the secessionists' view that slavery in the United States can survive as an isolated state, with Britain against the expansion of slavery, with a fast growing United States as its rival, its OK, and slavery then is fine.
However the balance of power in the United States Senate is shifting rapidly towards Republicans and free soil Democrats.
If there had not been a secession crisis in 1861, by the centennial year, the northern areas were overwhelmingly powerful.
 

wausaubob

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Internationally, time was on the side of Britain and the end of the slave trade.
Within the US time was on the side of the section that encouraged immigration and the section that was allowed to count its workers as full people.
The south could secede, and they are still using a labor system which is not favored by the world's naval power, and they are still adjacent to an emerging industrial power.
 

wausaubob

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See page 62. The price of cotton fell in 1858, 1859 and 1860. https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/14956/RickyDaleCalhoun2012.pdf?sequence=1
The price of cotton recovered in 1861, due to uncertainty about future supply.
The price of slaves and price of cotton could not diverge for very long, before like the 21st century housing market bubble, the reality of earnings potential collapsed the price of coerced labor.
The fact the US economy was also recovering, meant that cities and railroads would be competing for capital, and inching interest rates upwards.
 

wausaubob

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Slavery was not dying, but it was not keeping up. In a democratic country, it was fast becoming a minority interest. Demand for cotton was determined by exogenous factors in the world economy. The super productive soils of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas were already squeezing the price down, and land in Texas was plentiful and cheap.
Meanwhile death rates in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi remained elevated. See page 16. https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/population/1860a-02.pdf?#
 

wausaubob

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The cotton was losing influence in the national government. It was also losing influence in the Democratic party.
The economic basis of cotton was weakening and the New York outfitters were going to start charging a risk premium.
The potential solution, secession, was not going to make the world demand for cotton grow faster, and was not going to restart voluntary immigration to the south.
The actual Civil War demonstrates that the reverse was true. The US was going to rapidly decrease slavery and then abolish it within its boundaries. International immigration was probably going to be reinvigorated, and the white population of the south was going to drain away to the west.
 

wausaubob

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Cotton production and slavery were growing and expanding. But the population of states like Illinois and Wisconsin was growing at an explosive rate. Many industries in the north had experience per decade growth of 80-100% between 1850-1860.
 

major bill

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I remain unconvinced that slavery was dieing out in 1860. I also have doubts that slavery ends before the 1900s. I understand that no one can be certain when the US might have ended chattel slavery but can see it slowly being phased out sometime in the mid to late 1900s. Much would depend upon if the argiculal industry had an incentive to engage in mechanization at the same pace they did because of free labor.

The second part of this is how effectively slave owners could use slaves in other industries. This is difficult to predict but important in the consideration about slavery during out in 1860. If slave labor could turn out large profits in other industries, then slavery may well have grown in the second half of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century.
 

wausaubob

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If the 3/5ths compromise remains in effect, the deep south will rapidly lose political influence in the House and in the Presidential election.
Their influence in the Senate remains strong, until Missouri and Maryland abolish slavery by state action.
If Lincoln is President, slavery would be abolished in DC, the Fugitive Slave Act would be heavily modified, the US would cooperate with Britain in suppressing the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and western development would accelerate.
Slavery could not survive those changes in a united country.
If the two regions separate, by 1876 the US most likely has overwhelming financial and industrial strength. Some type event on the western boundary between the two countries would be the provocation for war.
 

Dead Parrott

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All of which seems to argue that the Southern leadership, determined to hold on to slavery as long as possible, would have been better off NOT going to war.

All civilized European powers - the so called "Civilized World" - were moving in anti-slavery directions leading up to 1860.

By staying in the Union, they have at least a chance of forcing continued delays and compromises, and eventually possibly even getting gradual and compensated emancipation, with an official Second-Class citizen type apartheid society.

By going to war, they were banking on the growingly anti-slavery Civilized World supporting them. Bad move.

Slavery WAS dying around 1860 - just not in the United States.
 

Rhea Cole

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The census figures 1850-1860 tell an interesting tale. Slavery was simply shrinking away in the upper south. Some counties show 40% reductions over the decade. Chattel slavery coupled with commodity production was no longer a paying proposition. If it weren't for the sale of surplus labor southward, many border State Farm's would have gone under. The raising & sale of human beings is all that kept them solvent. Witness the mess R.E. Lee's father in law left him.
The best documented & most sobering example of what happen under voluntary emancipation is from New York. When the leaves were freed after the revolution, the implementation was long, slow & convoluted. You can google the New York experience, it is extremely well documented. Absent the Civil War the United States would have entered the 20th Century with millions of enslaved people. Ecuador freed their indigenous population from peonage, i.e., Debt slavery, in the 1970's. There is no reason to think we would have done anything differently. Ye gods, what a thought!
 

Dead Parrott

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The census figures 1850-1860 tell an interesting tale. Slavery was simply shrinking away in the upper south. Some counties show 40% reductions over the decade. Chattel slavery coupled with commodity production was no longer a paying proposition. If it weren't for the sale of surplus labor southward, many border State Farm's would have gone under. The raising & sale of human beings is all that kept them solvent. Witness the mess R.E. Lee's father in law left him.
The best documented & most sobering example of what happen under voluntary emancipation is from New York. When the leaves were freed after the revolution, the implementation was long, slow & convoluted. You can google the New York experience, it is extremely well documented. Absent the Civil War the United States would have entered the 20th Century with millions of enslaved people. Ecuador freed their indigenous population from peonage, i.e., Debt slavery, in the 1970's. There is no reason to think we would have done anything differently. Ye gods, what a thought!

It would have indeed been a very different USA - lacking the violent bloodshed of the 1860's, but (as you show) dragging out the process and the pain. I believe an apartheid type of second class citizenship may well have been a result. Shudder!
 

wausaubob

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Slavery in the south was caught between three forces, the international price of raw cotton was falling in Liverpool and Manchester.
1600042871828.png

https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bit...ckyDaleCalhoun2012.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y See p. 62.
On the other hand, bank earnings were about to nudge upwards as the US economy recovered from the 1857 panic.
See page 167.https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/6786207.pdf
On the other hand, demographic conditions for the enslaved population were poor in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, so ordinary supply and demand conditions in New Orleans were favorable for the brokers of slave labor. Something had to give. Cotton could not go down, while the price of slave labor went up, and new investment opportunities opened up in the north and west.
 

wausaubob

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Although the price of slave labor in New Orleans continued a general rise from 1845 until 1859,
1600043385291.png

Its probable that what was going to resolve the contradiction was that the price of slaves was going to slide, and border state owners were going to sell off their slaves while they still get something for the property.
 

wausaubob

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These writers examined a scholarly paper which said the election of Abraham Lincoln, followed by events which demonstrated that Maryland, w. Virginia and Missouri were not going to secede, and Kentucky was reluctant to do so, demonstrated to slave owners that slavery was not a safe financial investment. https://psmag.com/economics/financial-meltdown-new-orleans-slave-market-69910 However the don't cite whether the paper said supply was up, or demand was down, or whether there was just not much money changing hands in New Orleans after the secessionist winter. The later seems most likely, as the New Orleans bankers were very conservative, and kept a low ratio of bank notes to reserves and low inventories of loans, as revealed in the 1860 census.
 

Irishdragoon

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I note that from 1850 to 1860, while the white population increased by 31% and the enslaved increased by 23%, free non-whites only increased by 10%. This also demonstrates a lack of a transition to free labor or a dying out of slavery.

It is interesting that between 1790 and 1800, the free non-white population increased by 90%. The Revolutionary generation clearly saw slavery as a precarious institution. Their grandsons did not.
I think the cotton gin made slavery less precarious because it made cotton more profitable. Interesting post revolution numbers.
 
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Think it in part goes to how one defines dying.....

in 1850 3.2 million slaves out of 23.2 million-13.7 %

In 1860 4 million out of 31.4 million-12.6%, so in numbers the slave population wasn't matching the influx of immigrants.

However the price of slaves is increasing during the period, showing the demand for slaves is still there.....one could speculate a slave shortage in relation to demand is driving the prices. So the demand isn't decreasing at all.
 

Irishdragoon

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Places not directly connected to the cotton economy, in Kentucky, Missouri and elsewhere, were experiencing the same problems that the rest of the United States was facing.
Good post, but, although not as lucrative as cotton, tobacco in KY and hemp (for ropes) in MO made slavery viable in those two states.
 

wausaubob

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Good post, but, although not as lucrative as cotton, tobacco in KY and hemp (for ropes) in MO made slavery viable in those two states.
True, but they were both niche markets. The main US economy in 1860 functioned on Indian corn, which had diverse uses, and pork, which could smoked or salted. On both sides of the Ohio River farmers could compete in those markets with slaves or without slaves.
Slavery was a very useful way to control underemployed labor, which was critical during harvest season for cotton. Without slavery, that labor would start drifting north and west looking for full time employment and higher wages.
 

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