American Negro Slavery
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips

Part 4 out of 10

and bade fair to meet the whole demand ere long.[43] The reduction of
protective tariff rates, coming simultaneously with a rise of cotton
prices, then checked the spread of the sugar industry, and the substitution
of steam engines for horse power in grinding the cane caused some
consolidation of estates. In 1842 accordingly, when the slaves numbered
50,740 and the sugar crop filled 140,000 hogsheads, the plantations were
but 668.[44] The raising of the tariff anew in that year increased the
plantations to 762 in 1845 and they reached their maximum number of 1,536
in 1849, when more than half of their mills were driven by steam[45] and
their slaves numbered probably somewhat more than a hundred thousand of
all ages.[46] Thereafter the recovery of the cotton market from the severe
depression of the early 'forties caused a strong advance in slave prices
which again checked the sugar spread, while the introduction of vacuum pans
and other improvements in apparatus[47] promoted further consolidations.
The number of estates accordingly diminished to 1,298 in 1859, on 987 of
which the mills were steam driven, and on 52 of which the extraction and
evaporation of the sugar was done by one sort or another of the newly
invented devices. The gross number of slaves in the sugar parishes was
nearly doubled between 1830 and 1850, but in the final ante-bellum decade
it advanced only at about the rate of natural increase.[48] The sugar
output advanced to 200,000 hogsheads in 1844 and to 450,000 in 1853. Bad
seasons then reduced it to 74,000 in 1856; and the previous maximum was not
equaled in the remaining ante-bellum years.[49] The liability of the
crop to damage from drought and early frost, and to destruction from the
outpouring of the Mississippi through crevasses in the levees, explains the
fluctuations in the yield. Outside of Louisiana the industry took no grip
except on the Brazos River in Texas, where in 1858 thirty-seven plantations
produced about six thousand hogsheads.[50]

[Footnote 42: _DeBow's Review_, I, 55.]

[Footnote 43: V. Debouchel, _Histoire de la Louisiane_ (New Orleans, 1851),
pp. 151 ff.]

[Footnote 44: E.J. Forstall, _Agricultural Productions of Louisiana_ (New
Orleans, 1845).]

[Footnote 45: P.A. Champonier, _Statement of the Sugar Crop Made in
Louisiana_ (New Orleans, annual, 1848-1859).]

[Footnote 46: DeBow, in the _Compendium of the Seventh Census_, p. 94,
estimated the sugar plantation slaves at 150,000; but this is clearly an

[Footnote 47: Some of these are described by Judah P. Benjamin in _DeBow's
Review_, II, 322-345.]

[Footnote 48: _I. e_. from 150,000 to 180,000.]

[Footnote 49: The crop of 1853, indeed, was not exceeded until near the
close of the nineteenth century.]

[Footnote 50: P.A. Champonier, _Statement of the Sugar Crop ... in
1858-1859_, p. 40.]

In Louisiana in the banner year 1853, with perfect weather and no
crevasses, each of some 50,000 able-bodied field hands cultivated, besides
the incidental food crops, about five acres of cane on the average and
produced about nine hogsheads of sugar and three hundred gallons of
molasses per head. On certain specially favored estates, indeed, the
product reached as much as fifteen hogsheads per hand[51]. In the total of
1407 fully equipped plantations 103 made less than one hundred hogsheads
each, while forty produced a thousand hogsheads or more. That year's
output, however, was nearly twice the size of the average crop in the
period. A dozen or more proprietors owned two or more estates each, some of
which were on the largest scale, while at the other extreme several dozen
farmers who had no mills of their own sent cane from their few acres to be
worked up in the spare time of some obliging neighbor's mill. In general
the bulk of the crop was made on plantations with cane fields ranging from
rather more than a hundred to somewhat less than a thousand acres, and with
each acre producing in an ordinary year somewhat more than a hogshead of

[Footnote 51: _DeBow's Review_, XIV, 199, 200.]

Until about 1850 the sugar district as well as the cotton belt was calling
for labor from whatever source it might be had; but whereas the uplands had
work for people of both races and all conditions, the demand of the delta
lands, to which the sugar crop was confined, was almost wholly for negro
slaves. The only notable increase in the rural white population of the
district came through the fecundity of the small-farming Acadians who had
little to do with sugar culture.



The flow of population into the distant interior followed the lines of
least resistance and greatest opportunity. In the earlier decades these lay
chiefly in the Virginia latitudes. The Indians there were yielding, the
mountains afforded passes thither, and the climate permitted the familiar
tobacco industry. The Shenandoah Valley had been occupied mainly by
Scotch-Irish and German small farmers from Pennsylvania; but the glowing
reports, which the long hunters brought and the land speculators spread
from beyond the further mountains, made Virginians to the manner born
resolve to compete with the men of the backwoods for a share of the
Kentucky lands. During and after the war for independence they threaded
the gorges, some with slaves but most without. Here and there one found a
mountain glade so fertile that he made it his permanent home, while his
fellows pushed on to the greater promised land. Some of these emerging upon
a country of low and uniform hills, closely packed and rounded like the
backs of well-fed pigs crowding to the trough, staked out their claims, set
up their cabins, deadened their trees, and planted wheat. Others went on
to the gently rolling country about Lexington, let the luxuriant native
bluegrass wean them from thoughts of tobacco, and became breeders of horses
for evermore. A few, settling on the southerly edge of the bluegrass,
mainly in and about Garrard County, raised hemp on a plantation scale. The
rest, resisting all these allurements, pressed on still further to the
pennyroyal country where tobacco would have no rival. While thousands made
the whole journey overland, still more made use of the Ohio River for
the later stages. The adjutant at Fort Harmar counted in seven months of
1786-1787, 177 boats descending the Ohio, carrying 2,689 persons, 1,333
horses, 766 cattle, 102 wagons and one phaeton, while still others passed
by night uncounted.[1] The family establishments in Kentucky were always
on a smaller scale, on an average, than those in Virginia. Yet the people
migrating to the more fertile districts tended to maintain and even to
heighten the spirit of gentility and the pride of type which they carried
as part of their heritage. The laws erected by the community were favorable
to the slaveholding regime; but after the first decades of the migration
period, the superior attractions of the more southerly latitudes for
plantation industry checked Kentucky's receipt of slaves.

[Footnote 1: _Massachusetts Centinel_ (Boston), July 21, 1787.]

The wilderness between the Ohio and the Great Lakes, meanwhile, was
attracting Virginia and Carolina emigrants as well as those from the
northerly states. The soil there was excellent, and some districts were
suited to tobacco culture. The Ordinance of 1787, however, though it was
not strictly enforced, made slaveholdings north of the Ohio negligible from
any but an antiquarian point of view.

The settlement of Tennessee was parallel, though subsequent, to that of the
Shenandoah and Kentucky. The eastern intramontane valley, broad and fertile
but unsuited to the staple crops, gave homes to thousands of small farmers,
while the Nashville basin drew planters of both tobacco and cotton, and the
counties along the western and southern borders of the state made cotton
their one staple. The scale of slaveholdings in middle and western
Tennessee, while superior to that in Kentucky, was never so great as those
which prevailed in Virginia and the lower South.

Missouri, whose adaptation to the southern staples was much poorer, came
to be colonized in due time partly by planters from Kentucky but mostly
by farmers from many quarters, including after the first decades a large
number of Germans, some of whom entered through the eastern ports and
others through New Orleans.

This great central region as a whole acquired an agricultural regime
blending the features of the two national extremes. The staples were
prominent but never quite paramount. Corn and wheat, cattle and hogs were
produced regularly nearly everywhere, not on a mere home consumption basis,
but for sale in the cotton belt and abroad. This diversification caused
the region to wane in the esteem of the migrating planters as soon as the
Alabama-Mississippi country was opened for settlement.

Preliminaries of the movement into the Gulf region had begun as early as
1768, when a resident of Pensacola noted that a group of Virginians had
been prospecting thereabouts with such favorable results that five of them
had applied for a large grant of lands, pledging themselves to bring in a
hundred slaves and a large number of cattle.[2] In 1777 William Bartram met
a group of migrants journeying from Georgia to settle on the lower course
of the Alabama River;[3] and in 1785 a citizen of Augusta wrote that "a
vast number" of the upland settlers were removing toward the Mississippi in
consequence of the relinquishment of Natchez by the Spaniards.[4] But these
were merely forerunners. Alabama in particular, which comprises for the
most part the basin draining into Mobile Bay, could have no safe market
for its produce until Spain was dispossessed of the outlet. The taking
of Mobile by the United States as an episode of the war of 1812, and the
simultaneous breaking of the Indian strength, removed the obstacles. The
influx then rose to immense proportions. The roads and rivers became
thronged, and the federal agents began to sell homesteads on a scale which
made the "land office business" proverbial.[5]

[Footnote 2: Boston, Mass, _Chronicle_, Aug. 1-7, 1768.]

[Footnote 3: William Bartram, _Travels_ (London, 1792), p. 441.]

[Footnote 4: _South Carolina Gazette_, May 26, 1785.]

[Footnote 5: C.F. Emerick, "The Credit System and the Public Domain,"
in the Vanderbilt University _Southern History Publications_, no. 3
(Nashville, Tenn., 1899).]

The Alabama-Mississippi population rose from 40,000 in round numbers in
1810 to 200,000 in 1820, 445,000 in 1830, 965,000 in 1840, 1,377,000 in
1850, and 1,660,000 in 1860, while the proportion of slaves advanced from
forty to forty-seven per cent. In the same period the tide flowed on into
the cotton lands of Arkansas and Louisiana and eventually into Texas.
Florida alone of the newer southern areas was left in relative neglect
by reason of the barrenness of her soil. The states and territories from
Alabama and Tennessee westward increased their proportion of the whole
country's cotton output from one-sixteenth in 1811 to one-third in 1820,
one-half before 1830, nearly two-thirds in 1840, and quite three-fourths in
1860; and all this was in spite of continued and substantial enlargements
of the eastern output.

In the western cotton belt the lands most highly esteemed in the
ante-bellum period lay in two main areas, both of which had soils far more
fertile and lasting than any in the interior of the Atlantic states. One of
these formed a crescent across south-central Alabama, with its western horn
reaching up the Tombigbee River into northeastern Mississippi. Its soil of
loose black loam was partly forested, partly open, and densely matted with
grass and weeds except where limestone cropped out on the hill crests and
where prodigious cane brakes choked the valleys. The area was locally
known as the prairies or the black belt.[6] The process of opening it for
settlement was begun by Andrew Jackson's defeat of the Creeks in 1814 but
was not completed until some twenty years afterward. The other and greater
tract extended along both sides of the Mississippi River from northern
Tennessee and Arkansas to the mouth of the Red River. It comprised the
broad alluvial bottoms, together with occasional hill districts of rich
loam, especially notable among the latter of which were those lying about
Natchez and Vicksburg. The southern end of this area was made available
first, and the hills preceded the delta in popularity for cotton culture.
It was not until the middle thirties that the broadest expanse of the
bottoms, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, began to receive its great influx.
The rest of the western cotton belt had soils varying through much the same
range as those of Georgia and the Carolinas. Except in the bottoms, where
the planters themselves did most of the pioneering, the choicer lands of
the whole district were entered by a pellmell throng of great planters,
lesser planters and small farmers, with the farmers usually a little in
the lead and the planters ready to buy them out of specially rich lands.
Farmers refusing to sell might by their own thrift shortly rise into the
planter class; or if they sold their homesteads at high prices they might
buy slaves with the proceeds and remove to become planters in still newer

[Footnote 6: This use of the term "black belt" is not to be confused with
the other and more general application of it to such areas in the South at
large as have a majority of negroes in their population.]

The process was that which had already been exemplified abundantly in the
eastern cotton belt. A family arriving perhaps in the early spring with a
few implements and a small supply of food and seed, would build in a few
days a cabin of rough logs with an earthen floor and a roof of bark or of
riven clapboards. To clear a field they would girdle the larger trees and
clear away the underbrush. Corn planted in April would furnish roasting
ears in three months and ripe grain in six weeks more. Game was plenty;
lightwood was a substitute for candles; and housewifely skill furnished
homespun garments. Shelter, food and clothing and possibly a small cotton
crop or other surplus were thus had the first year. Some rested with this;
but the more thrifty would soon replace their cabins with hewn log or frame
houses, plant kitchen gardens and watermelon patches, set out orchards and
increase the cotton acreage. The further earnings of a year or two would
supply window glass, table ware, coffee, tea and sugar, a stock of poultry,
a few hogs and even perhaps a slave or two. The pioneer hardships decreased
and the homely comforts grew with every passing year of thrift. But the
orchard yield of stuff for the still, and the cotton field's furnishing
the wherewithal to buy more slaves, brought temptations. Distilleries and
slaves, a contemporary said, were blessings or curses according as they
were used or abused; for drunkenness and idleness were the gates of the
road to retrogression.[7]

[Footnote 7: David Ramsay _History of South Carolina_, II, pp. 246 ff.]

The pathetic hardships which some of the poorer migrants underwent in their
labors to reach the western opportunity are exemplified in a local item
from an Augusta newspaper in 1819: "Passed through this place from
Greenville District [South Carolina] bound for Chatahouchie, a man and his
wife, his son and his wife, with a cart but no horse. The man had a belt
over his shoulders and he drew in the shafts; the son worked by traces tied
to the end of the shafts and assisted his father to draw the cart; the
son's wife rode in the cart, and the old woman was walking, carrying
a rifle, and driving a cow."[8] This example, while extreme, was not

[Footnote 8: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Sept. 24, 1819, reprinted in
_Plantation and Frontier_, II, 196.]

[Footnote 9: _Niles' Register_, XX, 320.]

The call of the west was carried in promoters' publications,[10] in
private letters, in newspaper reports, and by word of mouth. A typical
communication was sent home in 1817 by a Marylander who had moved to
Louisiana: "In your states a planter with ten negroes with difficulty
supports a family genteelly; here well managed they would be a fortune to
him. With you the seasons are so irregular your crops often fail; here the
crops are certain, and want of the necessaries of life never for a moment
causes the heart to ache--abundance spreads the table of the poor man, and
contentment smiles on every countenance."[11] Other accounts told glowingly
of quick fortunes made and to be made by getting lands cheaply in the early
stages of settlement and selling them at greatly enhanced prices when the
tide of migration arrived in force.[12] Such ebullient expressions were
taken at face value by thousands of the unwary; and other thousands of the
more cautious followed in the trek when personal inquiries had reinforced
the tug of the west. The larger planters generally removed only after
somewhat thorough investigation and after procuring more or less
acquiescence from their slaves; the smaller planters and farmers, with
lighter stake in their homes and better opportunity to sell them, with
lighter impedimenta for the journey, with less to lose by misadventure,
and with poorer facilities for inquiry, responded more readily to the

[Footnote 10: _E. g_., the Washington, Ky., _Mirror_, Sept. 30, 1797.]

[Footnote 11: _Niles' Register_, XIII, 38.]

[Footnote 12: _E. g., Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), March 11, 1836.]

The fever of migration produced in some of the people an unconquerable
restlessness. An extraordinary illustration of this is given in the career
of Gideon Lincecum as written by himself. In 1802, when Gideon was ten
years old, his father, after farming successfully for some years in the
Georgia uplands was lured by letters from relatives in Tennessee to sell
out and remove thither. Taking the roundabout road through the Carolinas to
avoid the Cherokee country, he set forth with a wagon and four horses to
carry a bed, four chests, four white and four negro children, and his
mother who was eighty-eight years old. When but a few days on the road an
illness of the old woman caused a halt, whereupon Lincecum rented a nearby
farm and spent a year on a cotton crop. The journey was then resumed, but
barely had the Savannah River been crossed when another farm was rented and
another crop begun. Next year they returned to Georgia and worked a farm
near Athens. Then they set out again for Tennessee; but on the road in
South Carolina the wreck of the wagon and its ancient occupant gave
abundant excuse for the purchase of a farm there. After another crop,
successful as usual, the family moved back to Georgia and cropped still
another farm. Young Gideon now attended school until his father moved
again, this time southward, for a crop near Eatonton. Gideon then left his
father after a quarrel and spent several years as a clerk in stores here
and there, as a county tax collector and as a farmer, and began to read
medicine in odd moments. He now married, about the beginning of the year
1815, and rejoined his father who was about to cross the Indian country to
settle in Alabama. But they had barely begun this journey when the father,
while tipsy, bought a farm on the Georgia frontier, where the two families
settled and Gideon interspersed deer hunting with his medical reading. Next
spring the cavalcade crossed the five hundred miles of wilderness in six
weeks, and reached the log cabin village of Tuscaloosa, where Gideon built
a house. But provisions were excessively dear, and his hospitality to other
land seekers from Georgia soon consumed his savings. He began whipsawing
lumber, but after disablement from a gunpowder explosion he found lighter
employment in keeping a billiard room. He then set out westward again,
breaking a road for his wagon as he went. Upon reaching the Tombigbee River
he built a clapboard house in five days, cleared land from its canebrake,
planted corn with a sharpened stick, and in spite of ravages from bears and
raccoons gathered a hundred and fifty bushels from six acres. When the town
of Columbus, Mississippi, was founded nearby in 1819 he sawed boards to
build a house on speculation. From this he was diverted to the Indian
trade, bartering whiskey, cloth and miscellaneous goods for peltries. He
then became a justice of the peace and school commissioner at Columbus,
surveyed and sold town lots on public account, and built two school houses
with the proceeds. He then moved up the river to engage anew in the Indian
trade with a partner who soon proved a drunkard. He and his wife there
took a fever which after baffling the physicians was cured by his own
prescription. He then moved to Cotton Gin Port to take charge of a store,
but was invalided for three years by a sunstroke. Gradually recovering,
he lived in the woods on light diet until the thought occurred to him of
carrying a company of Choctaw ball players on a tour of the United States.
The tour was made, but the receipts barely covered expenses. Then in 1830,
Lincecum set himself up as a physician at Columbus. No sooner had he built
up a practice, however, than he became dissatisfied with allopathy and
went to study herb remedies among the Indians; and thereafter he practiced
botanic medicine. In 1834 he went as surgeon with an exploring party to
Texas and found that country so attractive that after some years further
at Columbus he spent the rest of his long life in Texas as a planter,
physician and student of natural history. He died there in 1873 at the age
of eighty years.[13]

[Footnote 13: F.L. Riley, ed., "The Autobiography of Gideon Lincecum," in
the Mississippi Historical Society _Publications_, VIII, 443-519.]

The descriptions and advice which prospectors in the west sent home are
exemplified in a letter of F.X. Martin, written in New Orleans in 1911,
to a friend in eastern North Carolina. The lands, he said, were the most
remunerative in the whole country; a planter near Natchez was earning $270
per hand each year. The Opelousas and Attakapas districts for sugar,
and the Red River bottoms for cotton, he thought, offered the best
opportunities because of the cheapness of their lands. As to the journey
from North Carolina, he advised that the start be made about the first of
September and the course be laid through Knoxville to Nashville. Traveling
thence through the Indian country, safety would be assured by a junction
with other migrants. Speed would be greater on horseback, but the route was
feasible for vehicles, and a traveler would find a tent and a keg of
water conducive to his comfort. The Indians, who were generally short of
provisions in spring and summer, would have supplies to spare in autumn;
and the prevailing dryness of that season would make the streams and swamps
in the path less formidable. An alternative route lay through Georgia;
but its saving of distance was offset by the greater expanse of Indian
territory to be crossed, the roughness of the road and the frequency of
rivers. The viewing of the delta country, he thought, would require three
or four months of inspection before a choice of location could safely be

[Footnote 14: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 197-200.]

The procedure of planters embarking upon long distance migration may be
gathered from the letters which General Leonard Covington of Calvert
County, Maryland, wrote to his brother and friends who had preceded him to
the Natchez district. In August, 1808, finding a prospect of selling
his Maryland lands, he formed a project of carrying his sixty slaves to
Mississippi and hiring out some of them there until a new plantation should
be ready for routine operation. He further contemplated taking with him ten
or fifteen families of non-slaveholding whites who were eager to migrate
under his guidance and wished employment by him for a season while they
cast about for farms of their own. Covington accordingly sent inquiries as
to the prevailing rates of hire and the customary feeding and treatment of
slaves. He asked whether they were commonly worked only from "sun to sun,"
and explained his thought by saying, "It is possible that so much labor
may be required of hirelings and so little regard may be had for their
constitutions as to render them in a few years not only unprofitable but
expensive." He asked further whether the slaves there were contented,
whether they as universally took wives and husbands and as easily reared
children as in Maryland, whether cotton was of more certain yield and
sale than tobacco, what was the cost of clearing land and erecting rough
buildings, what the abundance and quality of fruit, and what the nature of
the climate.

The replies he received were quite satisfactory, but a failure to sell part
of his Maryland lands caused him to leave twenty-six of his slaves in the
east. The rest he sent forward with a neighbor's gang. Three white men were
in charge, but one of the negroes escaped at Pittsburg and was apparently
not recaptured. Covington after detention by the delicacy of his wife's
health and by duties in the military service of the United States, set
out at the beginning of October, 1809, with his wife and five children,
a neighbor named Waters and his family, several other white persons, and
eleven slaves. He described his outfit as "the damnedest cavalcade that
ever man was burdened with; not less than seven horses compose my troop;
they convey a close carriage (Jersey stage), a gig and horse cart, so
that my family are transported with comfort and convenience, though at
considerable expense. All these odd matters and contrivances I design to
take with me to Mississippi if possible. Mr. Waters will also take down
his waggon and team." Upon learning that the Ohio was in low water he
contemplated journeying by land as far as Louisville; but he embarked at
Wheeling instead, and after tedious dragging "through shoals, sandbars and
ripples" he reached Cincinnati late in November. When the last letter on
the journey was written he was on the point of embarking afresh on a
boat so crowded, that in spite of his desire to carry a large stock of
provisions he could find room for but a few hundredweight of pork and a few
barrels of flour. He apparently reached his destination at the end of the
year and established a plantation with part of his negroes, leaving the
rest on hire. The approach of the war of 1812 brought distress; cotton was
low, bacon was high, and the sale of a slave or two was required in making
ends meet. Covington himself was now ordered by the Department of War to
take the field in command of dragoons, and in 1813 was killed in a battle
beyond the Canadian border. The fate of his family and plantation does not
appear in the records.[15]

[Footnote 15: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 201-208.]

A more successful migration was that of Col. Thomas S. Dabney in 1835.
After spending the years of his early manhood on his ancestral tide-water
estate, Elmington, in Gloucester County, Virginia, he was prompted to
remove by the prospective needs of his rapidly growing family. The justice
of his anticipations appears from the fact that his second wife bore him
eventually sixteen children, ten of whom survived her. After a land-looking
tour through Alabama and Louisiana, Dabney chose a tract in Hinds County,
Mississippi, some forty miles east of Vicksburg, where he bought the
property of several farmers as the beginning of a plantation which finally
engrossed some four thousand acres. Returning to Virginia, he was given a
great farewell dinner at Richmond, at which Governor Tyler presided and
many speakers congratulated Mississippi upon her gain of such a citizen
at Virginia's expense.[16] Several relatives and neighbors resolved to
accompany him in the migration. His brother-in-law, Charles Hill, took
charge of the carriages and the white families, while Dabney himself had
the care of the wagons and the many scores of negroes. The journey was
accomplished without mishap in two months of perfect autumn weather. Upon
arriving at the new location most of the log houses were found in ruins
from a recent hurricane; but new shelters were quickly provided, and in a
few months the great plantation, with its force of two hundred slaves, was
in routine operation. In the following years Dabney made it a practice to
clear about a hundred acres of new ground annually. The land, rich and
rolling, was so varied in its qualities and requirements that a general
failure of crops was never experienced--the bottoms would thrive in dry
seasons, the hill crops in wet, and moderation in rainfall would prosper
them all. The small farmers who continued to dwell nearby included Dabney
at first in their rustic social functions; but when he carried twenty of
his slaves to a house-raising and kept his own hands gloved while directing
their work, the beneficiary and his fellows were less grateful for the
service than offended at the undemocratic manner of its rendering. When
Dabney, furthermore, made no return calls for assistance, the restraint was
increased. The rich might patronize the poor in the stratified society
of old Virginia; in young Mississippi such patronage was an unpleasant
suggestion that stratification was beginning.[17] With the passage of years
and the continued influx of planters ready to buy their lands at good
prices, such fanners as did not thrive tended to vacate the richer soils.
The Natchez-Vicksburg district became largely consolidated into great
plantations,[18] and the tract extending thence to Tuscaloosa, as likewise
the district about Montgomery, Alabama, became occupied mostly by smaller
plantations on a scale of a dozen or two slaves each,[19] while the
non-slaveholders drifted to the southward pine-barrens or the western or
northwestern frontiers.

[Footnote 16: _Richmond Enquirer_, Sept. 22, 1835, reprinted in Susan D.
Smedes, _Memorials of a Southern Planter_ (2d. ed., Baltimore, 1888), pp.

[Footnote 17: Smedes, _Memorials of a Southern Planter_, pp. 42-68.]

[Footnote 18: F.L. Olmsted, _A Journey in the Back Country_ (New York,
1860), pp. 20, 28]

[Footnote 19: _Ibid_., pp. 160, 161; Robert Russell, _North America_
(Edinburgh, 1857), p. 207.]

The caravans of migrating planters were occasionally described by travelers
in the period. Basil Hall wrote of one which he overtook in South Carolina
in 1828: "It ... did not consist of above thirty persons in all, of whom
five-and-twenty at least were slaves. The women and children were stowed
away in wagons, moving slowly up a steep, sandy hill; but the curtains
being let down we could see nothing of them except an occasional glance of
an eye, or a row of teeth as white as snow. In the rear of all came a light
covered vehicle, with the master and mistress of the party. Along the
roadside, scattered at intervals, we observed the male slaves trudging in
front. At the top of all, against the sky line, two men walked together,
apparently hand in hand pacing along very sociably. There was something,
however, in their attitude, which seemed unusual and constrained. When
we came nearer, accordingly, we discovered that this couple were bolted
together by a short chain or bar riveted to broad iron clasps secured in
like manner round the wrists. 'What have you been doing, my boys,' said our
coachman in passing, 'to entitle you to these ruffles?' 'Oh, sir,' cried
one of them quite gaily, 'they are the best things in the world to travel
with.' The other man said nothing. I stopped the carriage and asked one of
the slave drivers why these men were chained, and how they came to take the
matter so differently. The answer explained the mystery. One of them, it
appeared, was married, but his wife belonged to a neighboring planter, not
to his master. When the general move was made the proprieter of the female
not choosing to part with her, she was necessarily left behind. The
wretched husband was therefore shackled to a young unmarried man who
having no such tie to draw him back might be more safely trusted on the

[Footnote 20: Basil Hall, _Travels in North America_ (Edinburgh, 1829),
III, 128, 129. _See also_ for similar scenes, Adam Hodgson, _Letters from
North America_ (London, 1854), I, 113.]

Timothy Flint wrote after observing many of these caravans: "The slaves
generally seem fond of their masters, and as much delighted and interested
in their migration as their masters. It is to me a very pleasing and
patriarchal sight."[21] But Edwin L. Godkin, who in his transit of a
Mississippi swamp in 1856 saw a company in distress, used the episode as a
peg on which to hang an anti-slavery sentiment: "I fell in with an emigrant
party on their way to Texas. Their mules had sunk in the mud, ... the
wagons were already embedded as far as the axles. The women of the party,
lightly clad in cotton, had walked for miles, knee-deep in water, through
the brake, exposed to the pitiless pelting of the storm, and were now
crouching forlorn and woebegone under the shelter of a tree.... The men
were making feeble attempts to light a fire.... 'Colonel,' said one of them
as I rode past, 'this is the gate of hell, ain't it?' ... The hardships the
negroes go through who are attached to one of these emigrant parties baffle
description.... They trudge on foot all day through mud and thicket without
rest or respite.... Thousands of miles are traversed by these weary
wayfarers without their knowing or caring why, urged on by the whip and in
the full assurance that no change of place can bring any change to them....
Hard work, coarse food, merciless floggings, are all that await them, and
all that they can look to. I have never passed them, staggering along in
the rear of the wagons at the close of a long day's march, the weakest
furthest in the rear, the strongest already utterly spent, without
wondering how Christendom, which eight centuries ago rose in arms for a
sentiment, can look so calmly on at so foul and monstrous a wrong as this
American slavery."[22] If instead of crossing the Mississippi bottoms and
ascribing to slavery the hardships he observed, Godkin had been crossing
the Nevada desert that year and had come upon, as many others did, a train
of emigrants with its oxen dead, its women and children perishing
of thirst, and its men with despairing eyes turned still toward the
gold-fields of California, would he have inveighed against freedom as the
cause? Between Flint's impression of pleasure and Godkin's of gloom no
choice need be made, for either description was often exemplified. In
general the slaves took the fatigues and the diversions of the route merely
as the day's work and the day's play.

[Footnote 21: Timothy Flint, _History and Geography of the Western States_
(Cincinnati, 1828), p. 11.]

[Footnote 22: Letter of E.L. Godkin to the _London News_, reprinted in the
_North American Review_, CLXXXV (1907), 46, 47.]

Many planters whose points of departure and of destination were accessible
to deep water made their transit by sea. Thus on the brig _Calypso_ sailing
from Norfolk to New Orleans in April, 1819, Benjamin Ballard and Samuel T.
Barnes, both of Halifax County, North Carolina, carrying 30 and 196 slaves
respectively, wrote on the margins of their manifests, the one "The owner
of these slaves is moving to the parish of St. Landry near Opelousas where
he has purchased land and intends settling, and is not a dealer in human
flesh," the other, "The owner of these slaves is moving to Louisiana to
settle, and is not a dealer in human flesh." On the same voyage Augustin
Pugh of the adjoining Bertie County carried seventy slaves whose manifest,
though it bears no such asseveration, gives evidence that they likewise
were not a trader's lot; for some of the negroes were sixty years old, and
there were as many children as adults in the parcel. Lots of such sizes
as these were of course exceptional. In the packages of manifests now
preserved in the Library of Congress the lists of from one to a dozen
slaves outnumbered those of fifty or more by perhaps a hundred fold.

The western cotton belt not only had a greater expanse and richer lands
than the eastern, but its cotton tended to have a longer fiber, ranging,
particularly in the district of the "bends" of the Mississippi north of
Vicksburg, as much as an inch and a quarter in length and commanding a
premium in the market. Its far reaching waterways, furthermore, made
freighting easy and permitted the planters to devote themselves the more
fully to their staple. The people in the main made their own food supplies;
yet the market demand of the western cotton belt and the sugar bowl for
grain and meat contributed much toward the calling of the northwestern
settlements into prosperous existence.[23]

[Footnote 23: G.S. Callender in the _Quarterly Journal of Economics_, XVII,

This thriving of the West, however, was largely at the expense of the older
plantation states.[24] In 1813 John Randolph wrote: "The whole country
watered by the rivers which fall into the Chesapeake is in a state of
paralysis...The distress is general and heavy, and I do not see how the
people can pay their taxes." And again: "In a few years more, those of us
who are alive will move off to Kaintuck or the Massissippi, where corn can
be had for sixpence a bushel and pork for a penny a pound. I do not wonder
at the rage for emigration. What do the bulk of the people get here that
they cannot have there for one fifth the labor in the western country?"
Next year, after a visit to his birthplace, he exclaimed: "What a spectacle
does our lower country present! Deserted and dismantled country-houses once
the seats of cheerfulness and plenty, and the temples of the Most High
ruinous and desolate, 'frowning in portentous silence upon the land,'" And
in 1819 he wrote from Richmond: "You have no conception of the gloom and
distress that pervade this place. There has been nothing like it since 1785
when from the same causes (paper money and a general peace) there was a
general depression of everything."[25]

[Footnote 24: Edmund Quincy, _Life of Josiah Quincy_ (Boston, 1869), p.

[Footnote 25: H.A. Garland, _Life of John Randolph_ (Philadelphia, 1851),
II, 15; I, 2; II, 105.]

The extreme depression passed, but the conditions prompting emigration were
persistent and widespread. News items from here and there continued for
decades to tell of movement in large volume from Tide-water and Piedmont,
from the tobacco states and the eastern cotton-belt, and even from Alabama
in its turn, for destinations as distant and divergent as Michigan,
Missouri and Texas. The communities which suffered cast about for both
solace and remedy. An editor in the South Carolina uplands remarked at the
beginning of 1833 that if emigration should continue at the rate of the
past year the state would become a wilderness; but he noted with grim
satisfaction that it was chiefly the "fire-eaters" that were moving
out.[26] In 1836 another South Carolinian wrote: "The spirit of emigration
is still rife in our community. From this cause we have lost many, and we
are destined, we fear, to lose more, of our worthiest citizens." Though
efforts to check it were commonly thought futile, he addressed himself to
suasion. The movement, said he, is a mistaken one; South Carolina planters
should let well enough alone. The West is without doubt the place for
wealth, but prosperity is a trial to character. In the West money is
everything. Its pursuit, accompanied as it is by baneful speculation,
lawlessness, gambling, sabbath-breaking, brawls and violence, prevents
moral attainment and mental cultivation. Substantial people should stay in
South Carolina to preserve their pristine purity, hospitality, freedom of
thought, fearlessness and nobility.[27]

[Footnote 26: Sumterville, S.C., _Whig_, Jan. 5, 1833.]

[Footnote 27: "The Spirit of Emigration," signed "A South Carolinian," in
the _Southern Literary Journal_, II, 259-262 (June, 1836).]

An Alabama spokesman rejoiced in the manual industry of the white people in
his state, and said if the negroes were only thinned off it would become a
great and prosperous commonwealth.[28] But another Alabamian, A.B. Meek,
found reason to eulogize both emigration and slavery. He said the
roughness of manners prevalent in the haphazard western aggregation of
New Englanders, Virginians, Carolinians and Georgians would prove but
a temporary phase. Slavery would be of benefit through its tendency to
stratify society, ennoble the upper classes, and give even the poorer
whites a stimulating pride of race. "In a few years," said he, "owing to
the operation of this institution upon our unparalleled natural advantages,
we shall be the richest people beneath the bend of the rainbow; and then
the arts and the sciences, which always follow in the train of wealth, will
flourish to an extent hitherto unknown on this side of the Atlantic." [29]

[Footnote 28: Portland, Ala., _Evening Advertiser_, April 12, 1833.]

[Footnote 29: _Southern Ladies' Book_ (Macon, Ga.), April, 1840.]

As a practical measure to relieve the stress of the older districts a
beginning was made in seed selection, manuring and crop rotation to
enhance the harvests; horses were largely replaced by mules, whose earlier
maturity, greater hardihood and longer lives made their use more economical
for plow and wagon work;[30] the straight furrows of earlier times gave
place in the Piedmont to curving ones which followed the hill contours
and when supplemented with occasional grass balks and ditches checked the
scouring of the rains and conserved in some degree the thin soils of the
region; a few textile factories were built to better the local market for
cotton and lower the cost of cloth as well as to yield profits to their
proprietors; the home production of grain and meat supplies was in some
measure increased; and river and highway improvements and railroad
construction were undertaken to lessen the expenses of distant
marketing.[31] Some of these recourses were promptly adopted in the newer
settlements also; and others proved of little avail for the time being. The
net effect of the betterments, however, was an appreciable offsetting
of the western advantage; and this, when added to the love of home, the
disrelish of primitive travel and pioneer life, and the dread of the costs
and risks involved in removal, dissuaded multitudes from the project of
migration. The actual depopulation of the Atlantic states was less than the
plaints of the time would suggest. The volume of emigration was undoubtedly
great, and few newcomers came in to fill the gaps. But the birth rate alone
in those generations of ample families more than replaced the losses year
by year in most localities. The sense of loss was in general the product
not of actual depletion but of disappointment in the expectation of

[Footnote 30: H.T. Cook, _The Life and Legacy of David R. Williams_ (New
York, 1916), pp. 166-168.]

[Footnote 31: U.B. Phillips, _History of Transportation in the Eastern
Cotton Belt to 1860_.]

The non-slaveholding backwoodsmen formed the vanguard of settlement on
each frontier in turn; the small slaveholders followed on their heels and
crowded each fertile district until the men who lived by hunting as well as
by farming had to push further westward; finally the larger planters with
their crowded carriages, their lumbering wagons and their trudging slaves
arrived to consolidate the fields of such earlier settlers as would sell.
It often seemed to the wayfarer that all the world was on the move. But in
the districts of durable soil thousands of men, clinging to their homes,
repelled every attack of the western fever.



In the New England town of Plymouth in November, 1729, a certain Thompson
Phillips who was about to sail for Jamaica exchanged a half interest in his
one-legged negro man for a similar share in Isaac Lathrop's negro boy who
was to sail with Phillips and be sold on the voyage. Lathrop was meanwhile
to teach the man the trade of cordwaining, and was to resell his share
to Phillips at the end of a year at a price of L40 sterling.[1] This
transaction, which was duly concluded in the following year, suggests the
existence of a trade in slaves on a small scale from north to south in
colonial times. Another item in the same connection is an advertisement in
the _Boston Gazette_ of August 17, 1761, offering for sale young slaves
just from Africa and proposing to take in exchange "any negro men, strong
and hearty though not of the best moral character, which are proper
subjects of transportation";[2] and a third instance appears in a letter of
James Habersham of Georgia in 1764 telling of his purchase of a parcel
of negroes at New York for work on his rice plantation.[3] That the
disestablishment of slavery in the North during and after the American
Revolution enhanced the exportation of negroes was recited in a Vermont
statute of 1787,[4] and is shown by occasional items in Southern archives.
One of these is the registry at Savannah of a bill of sale made at New
London in 1787 for a mulatto boy "as a servant for the term of ten years
only, at the expiration of which time he is to be free."[5] Another is a
report from an official at Norfolk to the Governor of Virginia, in 1795,
relating that the captain of a sloop from Boston with three negroes on
board pleaded ignorance of the Virginia law against the bringing in of

[Footnote 1: Massachusetts Historical Society _Proceedings_, XXIV, 335,

[Footnote 2: Reprinted in Joshua Coffin, _An Account of Some of the
Principal Slave Insurrections_ (New York, 1860), p. 15.]

[Footnote 3: "The Letters of James Habersham," in the Georgia Historical
Society _Collections_, VI, 22, 23.]

[Footnote 4: _New England Register_, XXIX, 248, citing Vermont _Statutes_,
1787, p. 105.]

[Footnote 5: U.B. Phillips, "Racial Problems, Adjustments and Disturbances
in the Ante-bellum South," in _The South in the Building of the Nation_,
IV, 218.]

[Footnote 6: _Calendar of Virginia State Papers_, VIII, 255.]

The federal census returns show that from 1790 onward the decline in the
number of slaves in the Northern states was more than counterbalanced by
the increase of their free negroes. This means either that the selling of
slaves to the southward was very slight, or that the statistical effect
of it was canceled by the northward flight of fugitive slaves and the
migration of negroes legally free. There seems to be no evidence that the
traffic across Mason and Dixon's line was ever of large dimensions, the
following curious item from a New Orleans newspaper in 1818 to the contrary
notwithstanding: "Jersey negroes appear to be peculiarly adapted to this
market--especially those that bear the mark of Judge Van Winkle, as it is
understood that they offer the best opportunity for speculation. We have
the right to calculate on large importations in future, from the success
which hitherto attended the sale."[7]

[Footnote 7: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Aug. 22, 1818, quoting the New
Orleans _Chronicle_, July 14, 1818.]

The internal trade at the South began to be noticeable about the end of the
eighteenth century. A man at Knoxville, Tennessee, in December, 1795, sent
notice to a correspondent in Kentucky that he was about to set out with
slaves for delivery as agreed upon, and would carry additional ones on
speculation; and he concluded by saying "I intend carrying on the business
extensively."[8] In 1797 La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt met a "drove of
negroes" about one hundred in number,[9] whose owner had abandoned the
planting business in the South Carolina uplands and was apparently carrying
them to Charleston for sale. In 1799 there was discovered in the Georgia
treasury a shortage of some ten thousand dollars which a contemporary news
item explained as follows: Mr. Sims, a member of the legislature, having
borrowed the money from the treasurer, entrusted it to a certain Speers for
the purchase of slaves in Virginia. "Speers accordingly went and purchased
a considerable number of negroes; and on his way returning to this state
the negroes rose and cut the throats of Speers and another man who
accompanied him. The slaves fled, and about ten of them, I think, were
killed. In consequence of this misfortune Mr. Sims was rendered unable to
raise the money at the time the legislature met."[10] Another transaction
achieved record because of a literary effusion which it prompted. Charles
Mott Lide of South Carolina, having inherited a fortune, went to Virginia
early in 1802 to buy slaves, and began to establish a sea-island cotton
plantation in Georgia. But misfortune in other investments forced him next
year to sell his land, slaves and crops to two immigrants from the Bahama
Islands. Thereupon, wrote he, "I composed the following valedictory, which
breathes something of the tenderness of Ossian."[11] Callous history is not
concerned in the farewell to his "sweet asylum," but only in the fact that
he bought slaves in Virginia and carried them to Georgia. A grand jury
at Alexandria presented as a grievance in 1802, "the practice of persons
coming from distant parts of the United States into this district for the
purpose of purchasing slaves."[12] Such fugitive items as these make up the
whole record of the trade in its early years, and indeed constitute the
main body of data upon its career from first to last.

[Footnote 8: Unsigned MS. draft in the Wisconsin Historical Society, Draper
collection, printed in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 55, 56.]

[Footnote 9: La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, _Travels in the United States_, p.

[Footnote 10: Charleston, S.C., _City Gazette_, Dec. 21, 1799.]

[Footnote 11: Alexander Gregg, _History of the Old Cheraws_ (New York,
1877), pp. 480-482.]

[Footnote 12: Quoted in a speech in Congress in 1829, _Register of
Debates_, V, 177.]

As soon as the African trade was closed, the interstate traffic began to
assume the aspect of a regular business though for some years it not only
continued to be of small scale but was oftentimes merely incidental in
character. That is to say, migrating planters and farmers would in some
cases carry extra slaves bought with a view to reselling them at western
prices and applying the proceeds toward the expense of their new
homesteads. The following advertisement by William Rochel at Natchez in
1810 gives an example of this: "I have upwards of twenty likely Virginia
born slaves now in a flat bottomed boat lying in the river at Natchez, for
sale cheaper than has been sold here in years.[13] Part of said negroes
I wish to barter for a small farm. My boat may be known by a large cane
standing on deck."

[Footnote 13: Natchez, Miss., _Weekly Chronicle_, April 2, 1810.]

The heyday of the trade fell in the piping times of peace and migration
from 1815 to 1860. Its greatest activity was just prior to the panic of
1837, for thereafter the flow was held somewhat in check, first by the
hard times in the cotton belt and then by an agricultural renaissance in
Virginia. A Richmond newspaper reported in the fall of 1836 that estimates
by intelligent men placed Virginia's export in the preceding year at
120,000 slaves, of whom at least two thirds had been carried by emigrating
owners, and the rest by dealers.[14] This was probably an exaggeration
for even the greatest year of the exodus. What the common volume of the
commercial transport was can hardly be ascertained from the available data.

[Footnote 14: _Niles' Register_, LI, 83 (Oct. 8, 1836), quoting the
_Virginia Times_.]

The slave trade was partly systematic, partly casual. For local sales every
public auctioneer handled slaves along with other property, and in each
city there were brokers buying them to sell again or handling them on
commission. One of these at New Orleans in 1854 was Thomas Foster who
advertised that he would pay the highest prices for sound negroes as
well as sell those whom merchants or private citizens might consign him.
Expecting to receive negroes throughout the season, he said, he would have
a constant stock of mechanics, domestics and field hands; and in addition
he would house as many as three hundred slaves at a time, for such as
were importing them from other states.[16] Similarly Clark and Grubb, of
Whitehall Street in Atlanta, when advertising their business as wholesale
grocers, commission merchants and negro brokers, announced that they kept
slaves of all classes constantly on hand and were paying the highest market
prices for all that might be offered.[16] At Nashville, William L. Boyd,
Jr., and R.W. Porter advertised as rival slave dealers in 1854;[17] and in
the directory of that city for 1860 E.S. Hawkins, G.H. Hitchings, and Webb,
Merrill and Company were also listed in this traffic. At St. Louis in 1859
Corbin Thompson and Bernard M. Lynch were the principal slave dealers. The
rates of the latter, according to his placard, were 37-1/2 cents per day
for board and 2-1/2 per cent, commission on sales; and all slaves entrusted
to his care were to be held at their owners' risk.[18]

[Footnote 15: _Southern Business Directory_ (Charleston, 1854), I, 163.]

[Footnote 16: Atlanta _Intelligencer_, Mch. 7, 1860.]

[Footnote 17: _Southern Business Directory_, II, 131.]

[Footnote 18: H.A. Trexler, _Slavery in Missouri, 1804-1865_ (Baltimore,
1914), p. 49.]

On the other hand a rural owner disposed to sell a slave locally would
commonly pass the word round among his neighbors or publish a notice in the
county newspaper. To this would sometimes be appended a statement that the
slave was not to be sent out of the state, or that no dealers need apply.
The following is one of many such Maryland items: "Will be sold for cash or
good paper, a negro woman, 22 years old, and her two female children. She
is sold for want of employment, and will not be sent out of the state.
Apply to the editor."[19] In some cases, whether rural or urban, the slave
was sent about to find his or her purchaser. In the city of Washington
in 1854, for example, a woman, whose husband had been sold South, was
furnished with the following document: "The bearer, Mary Jane, and her two
daughters, are for sale. They are sold for no earthly fault whatever. She
is one of the most ladylike and trustworthy servants I ever knew. She is
a first rate parlour servant; can arrange and set out a dinner or party
supper with as much taste as the most of white ladies. She is a pretty good
mantua maker; can cut out and make vests and pantaloons and roundabouts
and joseys for little boys in a first rate manner. Her daughters' ages are
eleven and thirteen years, brought up exclusively as house servants. The
eldest can sew neatly, both can knit stockings; and all are accustomed to
all kinds of house work. They would not be sold to speculators or traders
for any price whatever." The price for the three was fixed at $1800, but a
memorandum stated that a purchaser taking the daughters at $1000 might have
the mother on a month's trial. The girls were duly bought by Dr. Edward
Maynard, who we may hope took the mother also at the end of the stipulated
month.[20] In the cities a few slaves were sold by lottery. One Boulmay,
for example, advertised at New Orleans in 1819 that he would sell fifty
tickets at twenty dollars each, the lucky drawer to receive his girl
Amelia, thirteen years old.[21]

[Footnote 19: Charleston, Md., _Telegraph_, Nov. 7, 1828.]

[Footnote 20: MSS. in the New York Public Library, MSS. division, filed
under "slavery."]

[Footnote 21: _Louisiana Courier_ (New Orleans), Aug. 17, 1819.]

The long distance trade, though open to any who would engage in it, appears
to have been conducted mainly by firms plying it steadily. Each of these
would have an assembling headquarters with field agents collecting slaves
for it, one or more vessels perhaps for the coastwise traffic, and a
selling agency at one of the centers of slave demand. The methods followed
by some of the purchasing agents, and the local esteem in which they were
held, may be gathered by an item written in 1818 at Winchester in the
Shenandoah Valley: "Several wretches, whose hearts must be as black as the
skins of the unfortunate beings who constitute their inhuman traffic, have
for several days been impudently prowling about the streets of this place
with labels on their hats exhibiting in conspicuous characters the words
'Cash for negroes,'"[22] That this repugnance was genuine enough to cause
local sellers to make large concessions in price in order to keep faithful
servants out of the hands of the long-distance traders is evidenced by
the following report in 1824 from Hillsborough on the eastern shore of
Maryland: "Slaves in this county, and I believe generally on this shore,
have always had two prices, viz. a neighbourhood or domestic and a foreign
or Southern price. The domestic price has generally been about a third less
than the foreign, and sometimes the difference amounts to one half."[23]

[Footnote 22: _Virginia Northwestern Gazette_, Aug. 15, 1818.]

[Footnote 23: _American Historical Review_, XIX, 818.]

The slaves of whom their masters were most eager to be rid were the
indolent, the unruly, and those under suspicion. A Creole settler at Mobile
wrote in 1748, for example, to a friend living on the Mississippi: "I am
sending you l'Eveille and his wife, whom I beg you to sell for me at the
best price to be had. If however they will not bring 1,500 francs each,
please keep them on your land and make them work. What makes me sell them
is that l'Eveille is accused of being the head of a plot of some thirty
Mobile slaves to run away. He stoutly denies this; but since there is
rarely smoke without fire I think it well to take the precaution."[24] The
converse of this is a laconic advertisement at Charleston in 1800:
"Wanted to purchase one or two negro men whose characters will not be
required."[25] It is probable that offers were not lacking in response.

[Footnote 24: MS. in private possession, here translated from the French.]

[Footnote 25: Charleston _City Gazette_, Jan. 8, 1800.]

Some of the slaves dealt in were actually convicted felons sold by the
states in which their crimes had been committed. The purchasers of these
were generally required to give bond to transport them beyond the limits
of the United States; but some of the traders broke their pledges on the
chance that their breaches would not be discovered. One of these, a certain
W.H. Williams, when found offering his outlawed merchandize of twenty-four
convict slaves at New Orleans in 1841, was prosecuted and convicted. His
penalty included the forfeiture of the twenty-four slaves, a fine of $500
to the state of Louisiana for each of the felons introduced, and the
forfeiture to the state of Virginia of his bond in the amount of $1,000 per
slave. The total was reckoned at $48,000.[26]

[Footnote 26: _Niles' Register_, LX, 189, quoting the New Orleans
_Picayune_, May 2, 1841.]

The slaves whom the dealers preferred to buy for distant sale were "likely
negroes from ten to thirty years old."[27] Faithfulness and skill in
husbandry were of minor importance, for the trader could give little proof
of them to his patrons. Demonstrable talents in artisanry would of course
enhance a man's value; and unusual good looks on the part of a young woman
might stimulate the bidding of men interested in concubinage. Episodes of
the latter sort were occasionally reported; but in at least one instance
inquiry on the spot showed that sex was not involved. This was the case of
the girl Sarah, who was sold to the highest bidder on the auction block in
the rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel at New Orleans in 1841 at a price of
eight thousand dollars. The onlookers were set agog, but a newspaper man
promptly found that the sale had been made as a mere form in the course of
litigation and that the bidding bore no relation to the money which was to
change hands.[28] Among the thousands of bills of sale which the present
writer has scanned, in every quarter of the South, many have borne record
of exceptional prices for men, mostly artisans and "drivers"; but the few
women who brought unusually high prices were described in virtually every
case as fine seamstresses, parlor maids, laundresses, hotel cooks, and
the like. Another indication against the multiplicity of purchases for
concubinage is that the great majority of the women listed in these records
were bought in family groups. Concubinage itself was fairly frequent,
particularly in southern Louisiana; but no frequency of purchases for it as
a predominant purpose can be demonstrated from authentic records.

[Footnote 27: Advertisement in the _Western Carolinian_ (Salisbury, N. C),
July 12, 1834.]

[Footnote 28: New Orleans _Bee_, Oct. 16, 1841.]

Some of the dealers used public jails, taverns and warehouses for the
assembling of their slaves, while others had stockades of their own. That
of Franklin and Armfield at Alexandria, managed by the junior member of
the firm, was described by a visitor in July, 1835. In addition to a brick
residence and office, it comprised two courts, for the men and women
respectively, each with whitewashed walls, padlocked gates, cleanly
barracks and eating sheds, and a hospital which at this time had no
occupants. In the men's yards "the slaves, fifty or sixty in number, were
standing or moving about in groups, some amusing themselves with rude
sports, and others engaged in conversation which was often interrupted
by loud laughter in all the varied tones peculiar to negroes." They were
mostly young men, but comprised a few boys of from ten to fifteen years
old. In the women's yard the ages ranged similarly, and but one woman had a
young child. The slaves were neatly dressed in clothes from a tailor shop
within the walls, and additional clothing was already stored ready to be
sent with the coffle and issued to its members at the end of the southward
journey. In a yard behind the stockade there were wagons and tents made
ready for the departure. Shipments were commonly made by the firm once
every two months in a vessel for New Orleans, but the present lot was to
march overland. Whether by land or sea, the destination was Natchez, where
the senior partner managed the selling end of the business. Armfield
himself was "a man of fine personal appearance, and of engaging and
graceful manners"; and his firm was said to have gained the confidence of
all the countryside by its honorable dealings and by its resolute efforts
to discourage kidnapping. It was said to be highly esteemed even among the

[Footnote 29: E.A. Andrews, _Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade in the
United States_ (Boston, 1836), pp. 135, 143, 150.]

Soon afterward this traveler made a short voyage on the Potomac with a
trader of a much more vulgar type who was carrying about fifty slaves,
mostly women with their children, to Fredericksburg and thence across the
Carolinas. Overland, the trader said, he was accustomed to cover some
twenty-five miles a day, with the able-bodied slaves on foot and the
children in wagons. The former he had found could cover these marches,
after the first few days, without much fatigue. His firm, he continued, had
formerly sent most of its slaves by sea, but one of the vessels carrying
them had been driven to Bermuda, where all the negroes had escaped to land
and obtained their freedom under the British flag.[30]

[Footnote 30: _Ibid_., pp. 145-149.]

The scale of the coasting transit of slaves may be ascertained from the
ship manifests made under the requirements of the congressional act of
1808 and now preserved in large numbers in the manuscripts division of the
Library of Congress. Its volume appears to have ranged commonly, between
1815 and 1860, at from two to five thousand slaves a year. Several score of
these, or perhaps a few hundred, annually were carried as body servants by
their owners when making visits whether to southern cities or to New York
or Philadelphia. Of the rest about half were sent or carried without intent
of sale. Thus in 1831 James L. Pettigru and Langdon Cheves sent from
Charleston to Savannah 85 and 64 slaves respectively of ages ranging from
ninety and seventy years to infancy, with obvious purpose to develop newly
acquired plantations in Georgia. Most of the non-commercial shipments,
however, were in lots of from one to a dozen slaves each. The traders'
lots, on the other hand, which were commonly of considerable dimensions,
may be somewhat safely distinguished by the range of the negroes' ages,
with heavy preponderance of those between ten and thirty years, and by the
recurrence of shippers' and consignees' names. The Chesapeake ports were
the chief points of departure, and New Orleans the great port of entry.
Thus in 1819 Abner Robinson at Baltimore shipped a cargo of 99 slaves to
William Kenner and Co. at New Orleans, whereas by 1832 Robinson had himself
removed to the latter place and was receiving shipments from Henry King
at Norfolk. In the latter year Franklin and Armfield sent from Alexandria
_via_ New Orleans to Isaac Franklin at Natchez three cargoes of 109, 117
and 134 slaves, mainly of course within the traders' ages; R.C. Ballard and
Co. sent batches from Norfolk to Franklin at Natchez and to John Hogan and
Co. at New Orleans; and William T. Foster, associated with William Rollins
who was master of the brig _Ajax_, consigned numerous parcels to various
New Orleans correspondents. About 1850 the chief shippers were Joseph
Donovan of Baltimore, B.M. and M.L. Campbell of the same place, David
Currie of Richmond and G.W. Apperson of Norfolk, each of whom sent each
year several shipments of several score slaves to New Orleans. The
principal recipients there were Thomas Boudar, John Hogan, W.F. Talbott,
Buchanan, Carroll and Co., Masi and Bourk, and Sherman Johnson. The outward
manifests from New Orleans show in turn a large maritime distribution from
that port, mainly to Galveston and Matagorda Bay. The chief bulk of this
was obviously migrant, not commercial; but a considerable dependence of all
the smaller Gulf ports and even of Montgomery upon the New Orleans labor
market is indicated by occasional manifests bulking heavily in the traders'
ages. In 1850 and thereabouts, it is curious to note, there were manifests
for perhaps a hundred slaves a year bound for Chagres _en route_ for San
Francisco. They were for the most part young men carried singly, and were
obviously intended to share their masters' adventures in the California
gold fields.

Many slaves carried by sea were covered by marine insurance. Among a number
of policies issued by the Louisiana Insurance Company to William Kenner and
Company was one dated February 18, 1822, on slaves in transit in the brig
_Fame_. It was made out on a printed form of the standard type for the
marine insurance of goods, with the words "on goods" stricken out and "on
slaves" inserted. The risks, specified as assumed in the printed form were
those "of the sea, men of war, fire, enemies, pirates, rovers, thieves,
jettison, letters of mart and counter-mart, surprisals, taking at sea,
arrests, restraints and detainments of all kings, princes or people of what
nation, condition or quality soever, barratry of the master and mariners,
and all other perils, losses and misfortunes that have or shall come to the
hurt, detriment or damage of the said goods or merchandize, or any part
thereof." In manuscript was added: "This insurance is declared to be made
on one hundred slaves, valued at $40,000 and warranted by the insured to be
free from insurrection, elopement, suicide and natural death." The premium
was one and a quarter per cent, of the forty thousand dollars.[31] That
the insurers were not always free from serious risk is indicated by a New
Orleans news item in 1818 relating that two local insurance companies
had recently lost more than forty thousand dollars in consequence of the
robbery of seventy-two slaves out of a vessel from the Chesapeake by a
piratical boat off the Berry Islands.[32]

[Footnote 31: Original in private possession.]

[Footnote 32: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Sept. 23, 1818, quoting the
_Orleans Gazette_.]

Overland coffles were occasionally encountered and described by travelers.
Featherstonhaugh overtook one at daybreak one morning in southwestern
Virginia bound through the Tennessee Valley and wrote of it as follows: "It
was a camp of negro slave drivers, just packing up to start. They had about
three hundred slaves with them, who had bivouacked the preceding night
in chains in the woods. These they were conducting to Natchez on the
Mississippi River to work upon the sugar plantations in Louisiana. It
resembled one of the coffles spoken of by Mungo Park, except that they had
a caravan of nine wagons and single-horse carriages for the purpose of
conducting the white people and any of the blacks that should fall lame....
The female slaves, some of them sitting on logs of wood, while others were
standing, and a great many little black children, were warming themselves
at the fire of the bivouac. In front of them all, and prepared for the
march, stood in double files about two hundred men slaves, manacled and
chained to each other." The writer went on to ejaculate upon the horror of
"white men with liberty and equality in their mouths," driving black men
"to perish in the sugar mills of Louisiana, where the duration of life for
a sugar mill hand does not exceed seven years."[33] Sir Charles Lyell,
who was less disposed to moralize or to repeat slanders of the Louisiana
regime, wrote upon reaching the outskirts of Columbus, Georgia, in January,
1846: "The first sight we saw there was a long line of negroes, men, women
and boys, well dressed and very merry, talking and laughing, who stopped to
look at our coach. On inquiry we were told that it was a gang of slaves,
probably from Virginia, going to the market to be sold."[34] Whether this
laughing company wore shackles the writer failed to say.

[Footnote 33: G.W. Featherstonhaugh, _Excursion through the Slave States_
(London, 1844), I, 120.]

[Footnote 34: Sir Charles Lyell, _A Second Visit to the United States_ (New
York, 1849), II, 35.]

Some of the slaves in the coffles were peddled to planters and townsmen
along the route; the rest were carried to the main distributing centers and
there either kept in stock for sale at fixed prices to such customers as
might apply, or sold at auction. Oftentimes a family group divided for sale
was reunited by purchase. Johann Schoepf observed a prompt consummation of
the sort when a cooper being auctioned continually called to the bidders
that whoever should buy him must buy his son also, an injunction to which
his purchaser duly conformed.[35] Both hardness of heart and shortness
of sight would have been involved in the neglect of so ready a means of
promoting the workman's equanimity; and the good nature of the competing
bidders doubtless made the second purchase easy. More commonly the sellers
offered the slaves in family groups outright. By whatever method the sales
were made, the slaves of both sexes were subjected to such examination of
teeth and limbs as might be desired.[36] Those on the block oftentimes
praised their own strength and talents, for it was a matter of pride to
fetch high prices. On the other hand if a slave should bear a grudge
against his seller, or should hope to be bought only by someone who would
expect but light service, he might pretend a disability though he had it
not. The purchasers were commonly too shrewd to be deceived in either way;
yet they necessarily took risks in every purchase they made. If horse
trading is notoriously fertile in deception, slave trading gave opportunity
for it in as much greater degree as human nature is more complex and
uncertain than equine and harder to fathom from surface indications.

[Footnote 35: Johann David Schoepf, _Travels in the Confederation,
1783-1784_, A.J. Morrison tr. (Philadelphia, 1911), I, 148.]

[Footnote 36: The proceedings at typical slave auctions are narrated by
Basil Hall, _Travels in North America_ (Edinburgh, 1829), III, 143-145; and
by William Chambers, _Things as they are in America_ (2d edition, London,
1857), pp. 273-284.]

There was also some risk of loss from defects of title. The negroes offered
might prove to be kidnapped freemen, or stolen slaves, or to have been
illegally sold by their former owners in defraud of mortgagees. The last
of these considerations was particularly disquieting in times of financial
stress, for suspicion of wholesale frauds then became rife. At the
beginning of 1840, for example, the offerings of slaves from Mississippi in
large numbers and at bargain prices in the New Orleans market prompted a
local editor to warn the citizens against buying cheap slaves who might
shortly be seized by the federal marshal at the suit of citizens in other
states. A few days afterward the same journal printed in its local news the
following: "Many slaves were put up this day at the St. Louis exchange. Few
if any were sold. It is very difficult now to find persons willing to buy
slaves from Mississippi or Alabama on account of the fears entertained that
such property may be already mortgaged to the banks of the above named
states. Our moneyed men and speculators are now wide awake. It will take a
pretty cunning child to cheat them."[37]

[Footnote 37: _Louisiana Courier_, Feb. 12 and 15, 1840.]

The disesteem in which the slavetraders were held was so great and general
in the Southern community as to produce a social ostracism. The prevailing
sentiment was expressed, with perhaps a little exaggeration, by D.R.
Hundley of Alabama in his analysis of Southern social types: "Preeminent in
villainy and a greedy love of filthy lucre stands the hard-hearted negro
trader.... Some of them, we do not doubt, are conscientious men, but the
number is few. Although honest and honorable when they first go into the
business, the natural result of their calling seems to corrupt them; for
they usually have to deal with the most refractory and brutal of the slave
population, since good and honest slaves are rarely permitted to fall into
the unscrupulous clutches of the speculator.... [He] is outwardly a coarse,
ill-bred person, provincial in speech and manners, with a cross-looking
phiz, a whiskey-tinctured nose, cold hard-looking eyes, a dirty
tobacco-stained mouth, and shabby dress.... He is not troubled evidently
with a conscience, for although he habitually separates parent from child,
brother from sister, and husband from wife, he is yet one of the jolliest
dogs alive, and never evinces the least sign of remorse.... Almost every
sentence he utters is accompanied by an oath.... Nearly nine tenths of the
slaves he buys and sells are vicious ones sold for crimes and misdemeanors,
or otherwise diseased ones sold because of their worthlessness as property.
These he purchases for about one half what healthy and honest slaves would
cost him; but he sells them as both honest and healthy, mark you! So soon
as he has completed his 'gang' he dresses them up in good clothes, makes
them comb their kinky heads into some appearance of neatness, rubs oil on
their dusky faces to give them a sleek healthy color, gives them a dram
occasionally to make them sprightly, and teaches each one the part he or
she has to play; and then he sets out for the extreme South.... At every
village of importance he sojourns for a day or two, each day ranging his
'gang' in a line on the most busy street, and whenever a customer makes his
appearance the oily speculator button-holes him immediately and begins to
descant in the most highfalutin fashion upon the virtuous lot of darkeys he
has for sale. Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom was not a circumstance to any one of
the dozens he points out. So honest! so truthful! so dear to the hearts
of their former masters and mistresses! Ah! Messrs. stock-brokers of Wall
Street--you who are wont to cry up your rotten railroad, mining, steamboat
and other worthless stocks[38]--for ingenious lying you should take lessons
from the Southern negro trader!" Some of the itinerant traders were said,
however, and probably with truth, to have had silent partners among the
most substantial capitalists in the Southern cities.[39]

[Footnote 38: D.R. Hundley, _Social Relations in our Southern States_ (New
York, 1860), pp. 139-142.]

[Footnote 39: _Ibid_., p.145.]

The social stigma upon slave dealing doubtless enhanced the profits of the
traders by diminishing the competition. The difference in the scales of
prices prevailing at any time in the cheapest and the dearest local markets
was hardly ever less than thirty per cent. From such a margin, however,
there had to be deducted not only the cost of feeding, clothing,
sheltering, guarding and transporting the slaves for the several months
commonly elapsing between purchase and sale in the trade, but also
allowances for such loss as might occur in transit by death, illness,
accident or escape. At some periods, furthermore, slave prices fell so
rapidly that the prospect of profit for the speculator vanished. At
Columbus, Georgia, in December, 1844, for example, it was reported that a
coffle from North Carolina had been marched back for want of buyers.[40]
But losses of this sort were more than offset in the long run by the upward
trend of prices which was in effect throughout the most of the ante-bellum
period. The Southern planters sometimes cut into the business of the
traders by going to the border states to buy and bring home in person the
slaves they needed.[41] The building of railways speeded the journeys and
correspondingly reduced the costs. The Central of Georgia Railroad
improved its service in 1858 by instituting a negro sleeping car [42]--an
accommodation which apparently no railroad has furnished in the post-bellum

[Footnote 40: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Dec. 31, 1844.]

[Footnote 41: Andrews, _Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade_, p.171.]

While the traders were held in common contempt, the incidents and effects
of their traffic were viewed with mixed emotions. Its employment of
shackles was excused only on the ground of necessary precaution. Its
breaking up of families was generally deplored, although it was apologized
for by thick-and-thin champions of everything Southern with arguments that
negro domestic ties were weak at best and that the separations were no more
frequent than those suffered by free laborers at the North under the stress
of economic necessity. Its drain of money from the districts importing the
slaves was regretted as a financial disadvantage. On the other hand, the
citizens of the exporting states were disposed to rejoice doubly at being
saved from loss by the depreciation of property on their hands [43] and at
seeing the negro element in their population begin to dwindle;[44] but even
these considerations were in some degree offset, in Virginia at least,
by thoughts that the shrinkage of the blacks was not enough to lessen
materially the problem of racial adjustments, that it was prime young
workmen and women rather than culls who were being sold South, that white
immigration was not filling their gaps, and that accordingly land prices
were falling as slave prices rose.[45]

[Footnote 42: Central of Georgia Railroad Company _Report_ for 1859.]

[Footnote 43: _National Intelligencer_ (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 19, 1833.]

[Footnote 44: R.R. Howison, _History of Virginia_ (Richmond, Va.,
1846-1848), II. 519, 520.]

[Footnote 45: Edmund Ruffin, "The Effects of High Prices of Slaves," in
_DeBow's Review_, XXVI, 647-657 (June, 1859).]

Delaware alone among the states below Mason and Dixon's line appears to
have made serious effort to restrict the outgoing trade in slaves; but all
the states from Maryland and Kentucky to Louisiana legislated from time to
time for the prohibition of the inward trade.[46] The enforcement of these
laws was called for by citizen after citizen in the public press, as
demanded by "every principle of justice, humanity, policy and interest,"
and particularly on the ground that if the border states were drained of
slaves they would be transferred from the pro-slavery to the anti-slavery
group in politics.[47] The state laws could not constitutionally debar
traders from the right of transit, and as a rule they did not prohibit
citizens from bringing in slaves for their own use. These two apertures,
together with the passiveness of the public, made the legislative obstacles
of no effect whatever. As to the neighborhood trade within each community,
no prohibition was attempted anywhere in the South.

[Footnote 46: These acts are summarized in W.H. Collins, _Domestic Slave
Trade_, chap. 7.]

[Footnote 47: _Louisiana Gazette_, Feb. 25, 1818 and Jan. 29, 1823;
_Louisiana Courier_, Jan. 13, 1831; _Georgia Journal_ (Milledgeville, Ga.),
Dec. 4, 1821, reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 67-70; _Federal
Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Feb. 6, 1847.]

On the whole, instead of hampering migration, as serfdom would have done,
the institution of slavery made the negro population much more responsive
to new industrial opportunity than if it had been free. The long distance
slave trade found its principal function in augmenting the westward
movement. No persuasion of the ignorant and inert was required; the fiat of
one master set them on the road, and the fiat of another set them to new
tasks. The local branch of the trade had its main use in transferring labor
from impoverished employers to those with better means, from passive owners
to active, and from persons with whom relations might be strained to
others whom the negroes might find more congenial. That this last was not
negligible is suggested by a series of letters in 1860 from William Capers,
overseer on a Savannah River rice plantation, to Charles Manigault his
employer, concerning a slave foreman or "driver" named John. In the first
of these letters, August 5, Capers expressed pleasure at learning that
John, who had in previous years been his lieutenant on another estate, was
for sale. He wrote: "Buy him by all means. There is but few negroes
more competent than he is, and he was not a drunkard when under my
management.... In speaking with John he does not answer like a smart negro,
but he is quite so. You had better say to him who is to manage him on
Savannah." A week later Capers wrote: "John arrived safe and handed me
yours of the 9th inst. I congratulate you on the purchase of said negro.
He says he is quite satisfied to be here and will do as he has always done
'during the time I have managed him.' No drink will be offered him. All
on my part will be done to bring John all right." Finally, on October 15,
Capers reported: "I have found John as good a driver as when I left him on
Santee. Bad management was the cause of his being sold, and [I] am glad you
have been the fortunate man to get him."[48]

[Footnote 48: _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 337, 338.]

Leaving aside for the present, as topics falling more fitly under the
economics of slavery, the questions of the market breeding of slaves in the
border states and the working of them to death in the lower South, as well
as the subject of inflations and depressions in slave prices, it remains
to mention the chief defect of the slave trade as an agency for the
distribution of labor. This lay in the fact that it dealt only in lifetime
service. Employers, it is true, might buy slaves for temporary employment
and sell them when the need for their labor was ended; but the fluctuations
of slave prices and of the local opportunity to sell those on hand would
involve such persons in slave trading risks on a scale eclipsing that of
their industrial earnings. The fact that slave hiring prevailed extensively
in all the Southern towns demonstrates the eagerness of short term
employers to avoid the toils of speculation.



It would be hard to overestimate the predominance of the special crops in
the industry and interest of the Southern community. For good or ill they
have shaped its development from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
Each characteristic area had its own staple, and those districts which had
none were scorned by all typical Southern men. The several areas expanded
and contracted in response to fluctuations in the relative prices of their
products. Thus when cotton was exceptionally high in the early 'twenties
many Virginians discarded tobacco in its favor for a few years,[1] and on
the Louisiana lands from Baton Rouge to Alexandria, the planters from time
to time changed from sugar to cotton and back again.[2] There were local
variations also in scale and intensity; but in general the system in each
area tended to be steady and fairly uniform. The methods in the several
staples, furthermore, while necessarily differing in their details, were so
similar in their emphasis upon routine that each reinforced the influence
of the others in shaping the industrial organization of the South as a

[Footnote 1: _Richmond Compiler_, Nov. 25, 1825, and _Alexandria Gazette_,
Feb. 11, 1826, quoted in the _Charleston City Gazette_, Dec. 1, 1825 and
Feb. 20, 1826; _The American Farmer_ (Baltimore, Dec. 29, 1825), VII, 299.]

[Footnote 2: _Hunt's Merchant's Magazine_, IX, 149.]

At the height of the plantation system's career, from 1815 to 1860, indigo
production was a thing of the past; hemp was of negligible importance;
tobacco was losing in the east what it gained in the west; rice and
sea-island cotton were stationary; but sugar was growing in local
intensity, and upland cotton was "king" of a rapidly expanding realm.
The culture of sugar, tobacco and rice has been described in preceding
chapters; that of the fleecy staple requires our present attention.

The outstanding features of the landscape on a short-staple cotton
plantation were the gin house and its attendant baling press. The former
was commonly a weatherboarded structure some forty feet square, raised
about eight feet from the ground by wooden pillars. In the middle of the
space on the ground level, a great upright hub bore an iron-cogged pinion
and was pierced by a long horizontal beam some three feet from the ground.
Draught animals hitched to the ends of this and driven in a circular path
would revolve the hub and furnish power for transmission by cogs and belts
to the gin on the floor above. At the front of the house were a stair and a
platform for unloading seed cotton from the wagons; inside there were bins
for storage, as well as a space for operating the gin; and in the rear a
lean-to room extending to the ground level received the flying lint and let
it settle on the floor. The press, a skeleton structure nearby, had in the
center a stout wooden box whose interior length and width determined the
height and thickness of the bales but whose depth was more than twice as
great as the intended bale's width. The floor, the ends and the upper
halves of the sides of the box were built rigidly, but the lower sides were
hinged at the bottom, and the lid was a block sliding up and down according
as a great screw from above was turned to left or right. The screw,
sometimes of cast iron but preferably of wood as being less liable to break
under strain without warning, worked through a block mortised into a timber
frame above the box, and at its upper end it supported two gaunt beams
which sloped downward and outward to a horse path encircling the whole.
A cupola roof was generally built on the revolving apex to give a slight
shelter to the apparatus; and in some cases a second roof, with the screw
penetrating its peak, was built near enough the ground to escape the whirl
of the arms. When the contents of the lint room were sufficient for a bale,
a strip of bagging was laid upon the floor of the press and another was
attached to the face of the raised lid; the sides of the press were then
made fast, and the box was filled with cotton. The draught animals at the
beam ends were then driven round the path until the descent of the lid
packed the lint firmly; whereupon the sides were lowered, the edges of the
bagging drawn into place, ropes were passed through transverse slots in
the lid and floor and tied round the bale in its bagging, the pressure
was released, and the bale was ready for market. Between 1820 and 1860
improvements in the apparatus promoted an increase in the average weight
of the bales from 250 to 400 pounds; while in still more recent times the
replacement of horse power by steam and the substitution of iron ties for
rope have caused the average bale to be yet another hundredweight heavier.
The only other distinctive equipment for cotton harvesting comprised cloth
bags with shoulder straps, and baskets of three or four bushels capacity
woven of white-oak splits to contain the contents of the pickers' bags
until carried to the gin house to be weighed at the day's end.

Whether on a one-horse farm or a hundred-hand plantation, the essentials in
cotton growing were the same. In an average year a given force of laborers
could plant and cultivate about twice as much cotton as it could pick. The
acreage to be seeded in the staple was accordingly fixed by a calculation
of the harvesting capacity, and enough more land was put into other crops
to fill out the spare time of the hands in spring and summer. To this
effect it was customary to plant in corn, which required less than half as
much work, an acreage at least equal to that in cotton, and to devote the
remaining energy to sweet potatoes, peanuts, cow peas and small grain. In
1820 the usual crop in middle Georgia for each full hand was reported at
six acres of cotton and eight of corn;[3] but in the following decades
during which mules were advantageously substituted for horses and oxen,
and the implements of tillage were improved and the harvesters grew more
expert, the annual stint was increased to ten acres in cotton and ten in

[Footnote 3: _The American Farmer_ (Baltimore), II, 359.]

At the Christmas holiday when the old year's harvest was nearly or quite
completed, well managed plantations had their preliminaries for the new
crop already in progress. The winter months were devoted to burning
canebrakes, clearing underbrush and rolling logs in the new grounds,
splitting rails and mending fences, cleaning ditches, spreading manure,
knocking down the old cotton and corn stalks, and breaking the soil of the
fields to be planted. Some planters broke the fields completely each year
and then laid off new rows. Others merely "listed" the fields by first
running a furrow with a shovel plow where each cotton or corn row was to be
and filling it with a single furrow of a turn plow from either side; then
when planting time approached they would break out the remaining balks with
plows, turning the soil to the lists and broadening them into rounded plant
beds. This latter plan was advocated as giving a firm seed bed while making
the field clean of all grass at the planting. The spacing of the cotton
rows varied from three to five feet according to the richness of the soil.
The policy was to put them at such distance that the plants when full grown
would lightly interlace their branches across the middles.

In March the corn fields were commonly planted, not so much because this
forehandedness was better for the crop as for the sake of freeing the
choicer month of April for the more important planting of cotton. In this
operation a narrow plow lightly opened the crests of the beds; cotton seed
were drilled somewhat thickly therein; and a shallow covering of earth was
given by means of a concave board on a plow stock, or by a harrow, a roller
or a small shallow plow.

Within two or three weeks, as soon as the young plants had put forth three
or four leaves, thinning and cultivation was begun. Hoe hands, under
orders to chop carefully, stirred the crust along the rows and reduced the
seedlings to a "double stand," leaving only two plants to grow at each
interval of twelve or eighteen inches. The plows then followed, stirring
the soil somewhat deeply near the rows. In another fortnight the hoes gave
another chopping, cutting down the weaker of each pair of plants, thus
reducing the crop to a "single stand"; and where plants were missing they
planted fresh seed to fill the gaps. The plows followed again, with broad
wings to their shares, to break the crust and kill the grass throughout the
middles. Similar alternations of chipping and plowing then ensued until
near the end of July, each cultivation shallower than the last in order
that the roots of the cotton should not be cut.[4]

[Footnote 4: Cotton Culture is described by M.W. Philips in the _American
Agriculturist_, II (New York, 1843), 51, 81, 117, 149; by various writers
in J.A. Turner, ed., _The Cotton Planter's Manual_ (New York, 1856), chap.
I; Harry Hammond, _The Cotton Plant_ (U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Experiment Station, _Bulletin_ 33, 1896); and in the U.S. Census, 1880,
vols. V and VI.]

When the blossoms were giving place to bolls in midsummer, "lay-by time"
was at hand. Cultivation was ended, and the labor was diverted to other
tasks until in late August or early September the harvest began. The
corn, which had been worked at spare times previously, now had its blades
stripped and bundled for fodder; the roads were mended, the gin house and
press put in order, the premises in general cleaned up, and perhaps a few
spare days given to recreation.

The cotton bolls ripened and opened in series, those near the center of the
plant first, then the outer ones on the lower branches, and finally the
top crop. If subjected unduly to wind and rain the cotton, drooping in the
bolls, would be blown to the ground or tangled with dead leaves or stained
with mildew. It was expedient accordingly to send the pickers through the
fields as early and as often as there was crop enough open to reward the

Four or five compartments held the contents of each boll; from sixty to
eighty bolls were required to yield a pound in the seed; and three or four
pounds of seed cotton furnished one pound of lint. When a boll was wide
open a deft picker could empty all of its compartments by one snatch of
the fingers; and a specially skilled one could keep both hands flying
independently, and still exercise the small degree of care necessary to
keep the lint fairly free from the trash of the brittle dead calyxes. As
to the day's work, a Georgia planter wrote in 1830: "A hand will pick or
gather sixty to a hundred pounds of cotton in the seed, with ease, per day.
I have heard of some hands gathering a hundred and twenty pounds in a day.
The hands on a plantation ought to average sixty-five pounds," [5] But
actual records in the following decades made these early pickers appear
very inept. On Levin Covington's plantation near Natchez in 1844, in a
typical week of October, Bill averaged 220 pounds a day, Dred 205 pounds,
Aggy 215, and Delia 185; and on Saturday of that week all the twenty-eight
men and boys together picked an average of 160 pounds, and all the eighteen
women and girls an average of 125.[6] But these were dwarfed in turn by the
pickings on J.W. Fowler's Prairie plantation, Coahoma County, Mississippi,
at the close of the ante-bellum period. In the week of September 12 to 17,
1859, Sandy, Carver and Gilmore each averaged about three hundred pounds a
day, and twelve other men and five women ranged above two hundred, while
the whole gang of fifty-one men and women, boys and girls average 157
pounds each.[7]

[Footnote 5: _American Farmer_, II, 359.]

[Footnote 6: MS. in the Mississippi Department of History and Archives,
Jackson, Miss.]

[Footnote 7: MS. in the possession of W.H. Stovall, Stovall, Miss.]

The picking required more perseverance than strength. Dexterity was at a
premium, but the labors of the slow, the youthful and the aged were all
called into requisition. When the fields were white with their fleece and
each day might bring a storm to stop the harvesting, every boll picked
might well be a boll saved from destruction. Even the blacksmith was called
from his forge and the farmer's children from school to bend their backs in
the cotton rows. The women and children picked steadily unless rains drove
them in; the men picked as constantly except when the crop was fairly under
control and some other task, such as breaking in the corn, called the whole
gang for a day to another field or when the gin house crew had to clear the
bins by working up their contents to make room for more seed cotton.

In the Piedmont where the yield was lighter the harvest was generally ended
by December; but in the western belt, particularly when rains interrupted
the work, it often extended far into the new year. Lucien Minor, for
example, wrote when traveling through the plantations of northern Alabama,
near Huntsville, in December, 1823: "These fields are still white with
cotton, which frequently remains unpicked until March or April, when the
ground is wanted to plant the next crop."[8] Planters occasionally noted in
their journals that for want of pickers the top crop was lost.

[Footnote 8: _Atlantic Monthly_, XXVI, 175.]

As to the yield, an adage was current, that cotton would promise more and
do less and promise less and do more than any other green thing that grew.
The plants in the earlier stages were very delicate. Rough stirring of the
clods would kill them; excess of rain or drought would be likewise fatal;
and a choking growth of grass would altogether devastate the field.
Improvement of conditions would bring quick recuperation to the surviving
stalks, which upon attaining their full growth became quite hardy; but
undue moisture would then cause a shedding of the bolls, and the first
frost of autumn would stop the further fruiting. The plants, furthermore,
were liable to many diseases and insect ravages. In infancy cut-worms might
sever the stalks at the base, and lice might sap the vitality; in the full
flush of blooming luxuriance, wilt and rust, the latter particularly on
older lands, might blight the leaves, or caterpillars in huge armies reduce
them to skeletons and blast the prospect; and even when the fruit was
formed, boll-worms might consume the substance within, or dry-rot prevent
the top crop from ripening. The ante-bellum planters, however, were exempt
from the Mexican boll-weevil, the great pest of the cotton belt in the
twentieth century.

While every planter had his fat years and lean, and the yield of the belt
as a whole alternated between bumper crops and short ones, the industry was
in general of such profit as to maintain a continued expansion of its area
and a never ending though sometimes hesitating increase of its product. The
crop rose from eighty-five million pounds in 1810 to twice as much in 1820;
it doubled again by 1830 and more than doubled once more by 1840. Extremely
low prices for the staple in the early 'forties and again in 1849 prompted
a campaign for crop reduction; and in that decade the increase was only
from 830,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 pounds. But the return of good prices in
the 'fifties caused a fresh and huge enlargement to 2,300,000,000 pounds in
the final census year of the ante-bellum period. While this was little more
than one fourth as great as the crops of sixteen million bales in 1912 and
1915, it was justly reckoned in its time, at home and abroad, a prodigious
output. All the rest of the world then produced barely one third as much.
The cotton sent abroad made up nearly two thirds of the value of the gross
export trade of the United States, while the tobacco export had hardly a
tenth of the cotton's worth. In competition with all the other staples,
cotton engaged the services of some three fourths of all the country's
plantation labor, in addition to the labor of many thousands of white
farmers and their families.

The production and sale of the staple engrossed no less of the people's
thought than of their work. A traveler who made a zig-zag journey from
Charleston to St. Louis in the early months of 1827, found cotton "a
plague." At Charleston, said he, the wharves were stacked and the stores
and ships packed with the bales, and the four daily papers and all
the patrons of the hotel were "teeming with cotton." At Augusta the
thoroughfares were thronged with groaning wagons, the warehouses were
glutted, the open places were stacked, and the steamboats and barges hidden
by their loads. On the road beyond, migrating planters and slaves bound
for the west, "'where the cotton land is not worn out,'" met cotton-laden
wagons townward bound, whereupon the price of the staple was the chief
theme of roadside conversation. Occasionally a wag would have his jest. The
traveler reported a tilt between two wagoners: "'What's cotton in Augusta?'
says the one with a load.... 'It's cotton,' says the other. 'I know that,'
says the first, 'but what is it?' 'Why,' says the other, 'I tell you it's
cotton. Cotton is cotton in Augusta and everywhere else that I ever heard
of,' 'I know that as well as you,' says the first, 'but what does cotton
bring in Augusta?' 'Why, it brings nothing there, but everybody brings
cotton,'" Whereupon the baffled inquirer appropriately relieved his
feelings and drove on. At his crossing of the Oconee River the traveler saw
pole-boats laden with bales twelve tiers high; at Milledgeville and Macon
cotton was the absorbing theme; in the newly opened lands beyond he "found
cotton land speculators thicker than locusts in Egypt"; in the neighborhood
of Montgomery cotton fields adjoined one another in a solid stretch for
fourteen miles along the road; Montgomery was congested beyond the capacity
of the boats; and journeying thence to Mobile he "met and overtook nearly
one hundred cotton waggons travelling over a road so bad that a state
prisoner could hardly walk through it to make his escape." As to Mobile, it
was "a receptacle monstrous for the article. Look which way you will you
see it, and see it moving; keel boats, steamboats, ships, brigs, schooners,
wharves, stores, and press-houses, all appeared to be full; and I believe
that in the three days I was there, boarding with about one hundred cotton
factors, cotton merchants and cotton planters, I must have heard the word
cotton pronounced more than three thousand times." New Orleans had a
similar glut.

On the journey up the Mississippi the plaint heard by this traveler from
fellow passengers who lived at Natchitoches, was that they could not get
enough boats to bring the cotton down the Red. The descending steamers and
barges on the great river itself were half of them heavy laden with cotton
and at the head of navigation on the Tennessee, in northwestern Alabama,
bales enough were waiting to fill a dozen boats. "The Tennesseeans," said
he, "think that no state is of any account but their own; Kentucky, they
say, would be if it could grow cotton, but as it is, it is good for
nothing. They count on forty or fifty thousand bales going from Nashville
this season; that is, if they can get boats to carry it all." The fleet
on the Cumberland River was doing its utmost, to the discomfort of the
passengers; and it was not until the traveler boarded a steamer for
St. Louis at the middle of March, that he escaped the plague which had
surrounded him for seventy days and seventy nights. This boat, at last,
"had not a bale of cotton on board, nor did I hear it named more than twice
in thirty-six hours...I had a pretty tolerable night's sleep, though I
dreamed of cotton."[9]

[Footnote 9: _Georgia Courier_ (Augusta, Ga.), Oct. 11, 1827, reprinted in
_Plantation and Frontier_, I, 283-289.]

This obsession was not without its undertone of disquiet. Foresighted men
were apprehensive lest the one-crop system bring distress to the cotton
belt as it had to Virginia. As early as 1818 a few newspaper editors[10]
began to decry the regime; and one of them in 1821 rejoiced in a widespread
prevalence of rot in the crop of the preceding year as a blessing, in that
it staved off the rapidly nearing time when the staple's price would fall
below the cost of production.[11] A marked rise of the price to above
twenty cents a pound at the middle of the decade, however, silenced these
prophets until a severe decline in the later twenties prompted the sons of
Jeremiah to raise their voices again, and the political crisis procured
them a partial hearing. Politicians were advocating the home production
of cloth and foodstuffs as a demonstration against the protective tariff,
while the economists pleaded for diversification for the sake of permanent
prosperity, regardless of tariff rates. One of them wrote in 1827: "That we
have cultivated cotton, cotton, cotton and bought everything else, has long
been our opprobrium. It is time that we should be aroused by some means or
other to see that such a course of conduct will inevitably terminate in
our ultimate poverty and ruin. Let us manufacture, because it is our best
policy. Let us go more on provision crops and less on cotton, because we
have had everything about us poor and impoverished long enough.... We have
good land, unlimited water powers, capital in plenty, and a patriotism
which is running over in some places. If the tariff drives us to this,
we say, let the name be sacred in all future generations."[12] Next year
William Ellison of the South Carolina uplands welcomed even the low price
of cotton as a lever[13] which might pry the planters out of the cotton rut
and shift them into industries less exhausting to the soil.

[Footnote 10: Augusta _Chronicle_, Dec. 23, 1818.]

[Footnote 11: _Georgia Journal_ (Milledgeville), June 5, 1821.]

[Footnote 12: _Georgia Courier_ (Augusta), June 21, 1827.]

[Footnote 13: _Southern Agriculturist_, II, 13.]

But in the breast of the lowlander, William Elliott, the depression of the
cotton market produced merely a querulous complaint that the Virginians, by
rushing into the industry several years before when the prices were high,
had spoiled the market. Each region, said he, ought to devote itself to
the staples best suited to its climate and soil; this was the basis of
profitable commerce. The proper policy for Virginia and most of North
Carolina was to give all their labor spared from tobacco to the growing of
corn which South Carolina would gladly buy of them if undisturbed in her
peaceful concentration upon cotton.[14] The advance of cotton prices
throughout most of the thirties suspended the discussion, and the regime
went on virtually unchanged. As an evidence of the specialization of the
Piedmont in cotton, it was reported in 1836 that in the town of Columbia
alone the purchases of bacon during the preceding year had amounted to
three and a half million pounds.[15]

[Footnote 14: _Southern Agriculturist_, I, 61.]

[Footnote 15: _Niles' Register_, LI, 46.]

The world-wide panic of 1837 began to send prices down, and the specially
intense cotton crisis of 1839 broke the market so thoroughly that for five
years afterward the producers had to take from five to seven cents a pound
for their crops. Planters by thousands were bankrupted, most numerously in
the inflated southwest; and thoughtful men everywhere set themselves afresh
to study the means of salvation. Edmund Ruffin, the Virginian enthusiast
for fertilizers, was employed by the authority of the South Carolina
legislature to make an agricultural survey of that state with a view to
recommending improvements. Private citizens made experiments on their
estates; and the newspapers and the multiplying agricultural journals
published their reports and advice. Most prominent among the cotton belt
planters who labored in the cause of reform were ex-Governor James H.
Hammond of South Carolina, Jethro V. Jones of Georgia, Dr. N.B. Cloud of
Alabama, and Dr. Martin W. Philips of Mississippi. Of these, Hammond was
chiefly concerned in swamp drainage, hillside terracing, forage increase,
and livestock improvement; Jones was a promoter of the breeding of improved
strains of cotton; Cloud was a specialist in fertilizing; and Philips was
an all-round experimenter and propagandist. Hammond and Philips, who were
both spurred to experiments by financial stress, have left voluminous
records in print and manuscript. Their careers illustrate the handicaps
under which innovators labored.

Hammond's estate[16] lay on the Carolina side of the Savannah River, some
sixteen miles below Augusta. Impressed by the depletion of his upland
soils, he made a journey in 1838 through southwestern Georgia and the
adjacent portion of Florida in search of a new location; but finding land
prices inflated, he returned without making a purchase,[17] and for the
time being sought relief at home through the improvement of his methods. He
wrote in 1841: "I have tried almost all systems, and unlike most planters
do not like what is old. I hardly know anything old in corn or cotton
planting but what is wrong." His particular enthusiasm now was for plow
cultivation as against the hoe. The best planter within his acquaintance,
he said, was Major Twiggs, on the opposite bank of the Savannah, who ran
thirty-four plows with but fourteen hoes. Hammond's own plowmen were now
nearly as numerous as his full hoe hands, and his crops were on a scale of
twenty acres of cotton, ten of corn and two of oats to the plow. He was
fertilizing each year a third of his corn acreage with cotton seed, and a
twentieth of his cotton with barnyard manure; and he was making a surplus
of thirty or forty bushels of corn per hand for sale.[18] This would
perhaps have contented him in normal times, but the severe depression of
cotton prices drove him to new prognostications and plans. His confidence
in the staple was destroyed, he said, and he expected the next crop
to break the market forever and force virtually everyone east of the
Chattahoochee to abandon the culture. "Here and there," he continued, "a
plantation may be found; but to plant an acre that will not yield three
hundred pounds net will be folly. I cannot make more than sixty dollars
clear to the hand on my whole plantation at seven cents...The western
plantations have got fairly under way; Texas is coming in, and the game is
up with us." He intended to change his own activities in the main to the
raising of cattle and hogs; and he thought also of sending part of his
slaves to Louisiana or Texas, with a view to removing thither himself after
a few years if the project should prove successful.[19] In an address of
the same year before the Agricultural Society of South Carolina, he
advised those to emigrate who intended to continue producing cotton,
and recommended for those who would stay in the Piedmont a diversified
husbandry including tobacco but with main emphasis upon cereals and
livestock.[20] Again at the end of 1849, he voiced similar views at the
first annual fair of the South Carolina Institute. The first phase of the
cotton industry, said he, had now passed; and the price henceforward would
be fixed by the cost of production, and would yield no great profits even
in the most fertile areas. The rich expanses of the Southwest, he thought,
could meet the whole world's demand at a cost of less than five cents a
pound, for the planters there could produce two thousand pounds of lint
per hand while those in the Piedmont could not exceed an average of twelve
hundred pounds. This margin of difference would deprive the slaves of their
value in South Carolina and cause their owners to send them West, unless
the local system of industry should be successfully revolutionized.
The remedies he proposed were the fertilization of the soil, the
diversification of crops, the promotion of commerce, and the large
development of cotton manufacturing.[21]

[Footnote 16: Described in 1846 in the _American Agriculturist_, VI, 113,

[Footnote 17: MS. diary, April 13 to May 14, 1838, in Hammond papers,
Library of Congress.]

[Footnote 18: Letters of Hammond to William Gilmore Simms, Jan. 27 and Mch.
9, 1841. Hammond's MS. drafts are in the Library of Congress.]

[Footnote 19: Letter to Isaac W. Hayne, Jan. 21, 1841.]

[Footnote 20: MS. oration in the Library of Congress.]

[Footnote 21: James H. Hammond, _An Address delivered before the South
Carolina Institute, at the first annual Fair, on the 20th November, 1849_
(Charleston. 1849).]

Hammond found that not only the public but his own sons also, with the
exception of Harry, were cool toward his advice and example; and he himself
yielded to the temptation of the higher cotton prices in the 'fifties, and
while not losing interest in cattle and small grain made cotton and corn
his chief reliance. He appears to have salved his conscience in this
relapse by devoting part of his income to the reclamation of a great marsh
on his estate. He operated two plantations, the one at his home, "Silver
Bluff," the other, "Cathwood," near by. The field force on the former
comprised in 1850 sixteen plow hands, thirty-four full hoe hands, six
three-quarter hands, two half hands and a water boy, the whole rated at
fifty-five full hands. At Cathwood the force, similarly grouped, was rated
at seventy-one hands; but at either place the force was commonly subject to
a deduction of some ten per cent, of its rated strength, on the score of
the loss of time by the "breeders and suckers" among the women. In addition
to their field strength and the children, of whom no reckoning was made in
the schedule of employments, the two plantations together had five stable
men, two carpenters, a miller and job worker, a keeper of the boat landing,
three nurses and two overseers' cooks; and also thirty-five ditchers in the
reclamation work.

At Silver Bluff, the 385 acres in cotton were expected to yield 330 bales
of 400 pounds each; the 400 acres in corn had an expectation of 9850
bushels; and 10 acres of rice, 200 bushels. At Cathwood the plantings and
expectations were 370 acres in cotton to yield 280 bales, 280 in corn to
yield 5000 bushels, 15 in wheat to yield 100 bushels, 11 in rye to yield
50, and 2 in rice to yield 50. In financial results, after earning in 1848
only $4334.91, which met barely half of his plantation and family expenses
for the year, his crop sales from 1849 to 1853 ranged from seven to twenty
thousand dollars annually in cotton and from one and a half to two and
a half thousand dollars in corn. His gross earnings in these five years
averaged $16,217.76, while his plantation expenses averaged $5393.87, and
his family outlay $6392.67, leaving an average "clear gain per annum," as
he called it, of $4431.10. The accounting, however, included no reckoning
of interest on the investment or of anything else but money income and
outgo. In 1859 Hammond put upon the market his 5500 acres of uplands with
their buildings, livestock, implements and feed supplies, together with 140
slaves including 70 full hands. His purpose, it may be surmised, was to
confine his further operations to his river bottoms.[22]

[Footnote 22: Hammond MSS., Library of Congress.]

Philips, whom a dearth of patients drove early from the practice of
medicine, established in the 'thirties a plantation which he named Log
Hall, in Hinds County, Mississippi. After narrowly escaping the loss of his
lands and slaves in 1840 through his endorsement of other men's notes,
he launched into experimental farming and agricultural publication. He
procured various fancy breeds of cattle and hogs, only to have most of
them die on his hands. He introduced new sorts of grasses and unfamiliar
vegetables and field crops, rarely with success. Meanwhile, however, he
gained wide reputation through his many writings in the periodicals, and in
the 'fifties he turned this to some advantage in raising fancy strains
of cotton and selling their seed. His frequent attendance at fairs and
conventions and his devotion to his experiments and to his pen caused
him to rely too heavily upon overseers in the routine conduct of his
plantation. In consequence one or more slaves occasionally took to the
woods; the whole force was frequently in bad health; and his women, though
remarkably fecund, lost most of their children in infancy. In some degree
Philips justified the prevalent scorn of planters for "book farming."[23]

[Footnote 23: M.W. Phillips, "Diary," F.L. Riley, ed., in the Mississippi
Historical Society _Publications_, X, 305-481; letters of Philips in the
_American Agriculturist, DeBow's Review_, etc., and in J.A. Turner, ed.,
_The Cotton Planter's Manual_, pp. 98-123.]

The newspapers and farm journals everywhere printed arguments in the
'forties in behalf of crop diversification, and _DeBow's Review_, founded
in 1846, joined in the campaign; but the force of habit, the dearth of
marketable substitutes and the charms of speculation conspired to make all
efforts of but temporary avail. The belt was as much absorbed in cotton in
the 'fifties as it had ever been before.

Meanwhile considerable improvement had been achieved in cotton methods.
Mules, mainly bred in Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, largely replaced
the less effective horses and oxen; the introduction of horizontal plowing
with occasional balks and hillside ditches, checked the washing of the
Piedmont soils; the use of fertilizers became fairly common; and cotton
seed was better selected. These last items of manures and seed were the
subject of special campaigns. The former was begun as early as 1808 by the
Virginian John Taylor of Caroline in his "Arator" essays, and was furthered
by the publications of Edmund Ruffin and many others. But an adequate
available source of fertilizers long remained a problem without solution.
Taylor stressed the virtues of dung and rotation; but the dearth of forage
hampered the keeping of large stocks of cattle, and soiling crops were
thought commonly to yield too little benefit for the expense in labor.
Ruffin had great enthusiasm for the marl or phosphate rock of the Carolina
coast; but until the introduction in much later decades of a treatment by
sulphuric acid this was too little soluble to be really worth while as a
plant food. Lime was also praised; but there were no local sources of it in
the districts where it was most needed.

Cotton seed, in fact, proved to be the only new fertilizer generally
available in moderate abundance prior to the building of the railroads. In
early years the seed lay about the gins as refuse until it became a public
nuisance. To abate it the village authorities of Sparta, Georgia, for
example, adopted in 1807 an ordinance "that the owner of each and every
cotton machine within the limits of said town shall remove before the first
day of May in each year all seed and damaged cotton that may be about such
machines, or dispose of such seed or cotton so as to prevent its unhealthy
putrefaction."[24] Soon after this a planter in St. Stephen's Parish,
South Carolina, wrote: "We find from experience our cotton seed one of the
strongest manures we make use of for our Indian corn; a pint of fresh seed
put around or in the corn hole makes the corn produce wonderfully",[25]
but it was not until the lapse of another decade or two that such practice
became widespread. In the thirties Harriet Martineau and J.S. Buckingham
noted that in Alabama the seed was being strewn as manure on a large
scale.[26] As an improvement of method the seed was now being given in many
cases a preliminary rotting in compost heaps, with a consequent speeding of
its availability as plant food;[27] and cotton seed rose to such esteem as
a fertilizer for general purposes that many planters rated it to be worth
from sixteen to twenty-five cents a bushel of twenty-five pounds.[28] As
early as 1830, furthermore a beginning was made in extracting cottonseed
oil for use both in painting and illumination, and also in utilizing the
by-product of cottonseed meal as a cattle feed.[29] By the 'fifties the oil
was coming to be an unheralded substitute for olive oil in table use; but
the improvements which later decades were to introduce in its extraction
and refining were necessary for the raising of the manufacture to the scale
of a substantial industry.

[Footnote 24: _Farmer's Gazette_ (Sparta, Ga.), Jan. 31, 1807.]

[Footnote 25: Letter of John Palmer. Dec. 3, 1808, to David Ramsay. MS. in
the Charleston Library.]

[Footnote 26: Harriet Martineau, _Retrospect of Western Travel_, (London,
1838), I, 218; I.S. Buckingham, _The Slave States of America_ (London,
1842), I, 257.]

[Footnote 27: D.R. Williams of South Carolina described his own practice to
this effect in an essay of 1825 contributed to the _American Farmer_ and
reprinted in H.T. Cook, _The Life and Legacy of David R. Williams_ (New
York, 1916), pp. 226, 227.]

[Footnote 28: J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, p. 99; Robert
Russell, _North America_, p. 269.]

[Footnote 29: _Southern Agriculturist_, II, 563; _American Farmer_, II, 98;
H.T. Cook, _Life and Legacy of David R. Williams_, pp. 197-209.]

The importation of fertilizers began with guano. This material, the dried
droppings of countless birds, was discovered in the early 'forties on
islands off the coast of Peru;[30] and it promptly rose to such high esteem
in England that, according to an American news item, Lloyd's listed for
1845 not less than a thousand British vessels as having sailed in search of
guano cargoes. The use of it in the United States began about that year;
and nowhere was its reception more eager than in the upland cotton belt.
Its price was about fifty dollars a ton in the seaports. To stimulate the
use of fertilizers, the Central of Georgia Railroad Company announced
in 1858 that it would carry all manures for any distance on its line in
carload lots at a flat rate of two dollars per ton; and the connecting
roads concurred in this policy. In consequence the Central of Georgia
carried nearly two thousand tons of guano in 1859, and more than nine
thousand tons in 1860, besides lesser quantities of lime, salt and bone
dust. The superintendent reported that while the rate failed to cover the
cost of transportation, the effect in increasing the amount of cotton to be
freighted, and in checking emigration, fully compensated the road.[31] A
contributor to the _North American Review_ in January, 1861, wrote: "The
use of guano is increasing. The average return for each pound used in the
cotton field is estimated to be a pound and a half of cotton; and the
planter who could raise but three bales to the hand on twelve acres of
exhausted soil has in some instances by this appliance realized ten bales
from the same force and area. In North Carolina guano is reported to
accelerate the growth of the plant, and this encourages the culture on
the northern border of the cotton-field, where early frosts have proved

[Footnote 30: _American Agriculturist_, III, 283.]

[Footnote 31: Central of Georgia Railroad Company _Reports_, 1858-1860.]

Widespread interest in agricultural improvement was reported by _DeBow's
Review_ in the 'fifties, taking the form partly of local and general


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