George Melville Weston.

The progress of slavery in the United States online

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851, by


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The design of this volume, as indicated by its title, is to describe
the past progress of slavery in the United States, and to consider the
circumstances which will probably control its movement hereafter.
The economy, morals, and eflfects of slavery, are discussed only inci-
dentally, and so far as such discussion was unavoidable ; it having
been the main purpose of the author to deal with the progress of
slavery as a matter of fact, accomplished in the past, and to be dis-
cerned in the future by the aid of such lights as experience and
reason may afford.

In the discussion in this volume of the increase of slaves between
1840 and 1850, the census of 1850 is assumed to be correct. If it
did not considerably exaggerate the number of slaves, the increase
since 1850 must have been small, and especially if the census of
Georgia and Alabama in 1855 is to be relied upon. The number of
slaves given by this comparison is as follows :

1850. 1S55.

Georgia 381,682 389,237

Alabama 342,844 374,784

It is not possible that the increase in Georgia, during this period,
was really less than in Virginia and Kentucky.

The augmentation of the number of slaves in many of the States
may be calculated from year to year, from the annual enumerations
of certain descriptions of slaves for the purposes of taxation. On the
basis of comparisons of this kind, with even large allowances for
deficiencies in the census of 1855 in Georgia and Alabama, the pre-
diction may be ventured, that the census of 18G0, if honestly taken,
will show either a very low rate of increase of slaves between 1850
and 18G0, or a serious exaggeration of their number in 1850.

In so much of this work as relates to the laws of population, it has
not been the ambition of the author to develop any new theory. The
admirable sagacity of Dr. Franklin exhausted that subject more than
a century ago. The ideas of his little tract upon population have
been since expanded into volumes, but no substantial addition has


been thereby made to the stock of human kno'tvledge. In the present
"work, nothing is attempted beyond the application of familiar and
well-established principles to the questions connected "with the expan-
sion of the negro race ; questions not obscure in themselves, but
"which have been made so, only because the vast interests depending
upon slavery have been able to command the aid of ingenious soph-
istry and of cunningly-devised misrepresentation.

It is oue of the objects of the present vrork to sho"w that the past
multiplication of slaves in the United States, instead of having been
an unavoidable calamity, was the foreseen and intended result of that
territorial expansion of slavery, which has been dictated by the inter-
ests of those who breed slaves ; that the further multiplication of the
evil may be checked, and finally prevented, by fixing its external
limits ; and that to fix such limits will be beneficial, rather than
injurious, to the Southern States.

Another object of the present work is, to submit some considera-
tions, which may be weighed in deciding the direction of so much
of the emigration from the free States, as may be controlled for the
purpose of extending free institutions. The contest in Kansas has
shown how great the power of a free emigration is ; it will, of course,
augment as population advances ; and it is of vital moment that it
should be brought to bear upon the right points.

Unless the acquisition of Cuba shall precipitate a struggle for the
possession of that island, it is the opinion of the author, of the sound-
ness of which the reader must judge, that free emigration to warmer
climates should be directed to the Southwest, immediately to ^lis-
souri and Kansas, but soon to Arkansas, with a view to the Indian
territory behind Arkansas, to Xew Mexico, and to Northern Texas ;
and that, when slavery is surrounded upon its southwestern frontier,
it will be time enough, and until then utterly useless, for any purpose
of extinguishing it, to invade it in Virginia and Kentucky.

That peculiar combination of warmth and moisture required in the
production of cotton, is found in large portions of Arkansas, which
are now entirely unoccupied, and in the Indian Territory beyond
it. The overwhelming preponderance of the white race in Northern
Texas, in Arkansas, except immediately on the i\Iississippi and Red
River bottoms, in Southwestern Missouri, and in Kansas, renders it
easy to exclude the negro slave from this admirable and extensive
cotton region. Free labor is therefore invited to enter upon the
cultivation of a great staple of commerce, the profits of which have
been so long monopolized by slavery. The production of cotton, now
at length made possible for the free agriculturists of the United
States, will prove a mine of wealth in their efficient and thrifty


Washington, D. C, August^ 1857.



Comparative statements of the advance of the free and slave
States in population. Gain of the free States steady, but not
rapid. Comparative statements of the advance of the free and
slave States in area. Causes of the superior success and
aptitude of the slave States in acquiring territory. Slavery
as yet firmly maintained in the northern tier of slave States.
The political power of the slave States still formidable 1


Considerations rendering it probable that slavery will cease to
exist in Missouri. Connection between slavery and the prices
of land. Missouri at present more inviting to the free emi-
grant than Virginia. Commanding position of Missouri 10


^'Considerations rendering it probable that the emigration from
the free States, hitherto moving westward, may hereafter tend
southward, to Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. Accumu-
lated power of the population of the free States. No apology
for slavery in the northern slave States. The right of emigra-
tion between the States 25


Slave society stationary. Impossibility of improvement of the
non-slaveholding whites. Tendency of slavery to expel the
white race. Example of South Carolina. Slavery predomi-
nant in some portions of Virginia, and freedom in others.
Non-slaveholding whites in slave countries have no capacity
to become artisans and build up towns. Slaveholders will
never give up slavery 39




Comparative growth of Northern and Southern Maryland. Te-
nacity of slavery in the southern counties. Advantageous
position of Maryland. Descriptions of Eastern and Western
Shores. Slaveholders take the best soils. Baltimore not
likely to move actively for the abolition of slavery. The
growth of the city of Washington favorable to the removal of
slavery from the southern counties of Maryland 54


Increase of slaves in the several decades since 1810. Number of
slaves in Texas in 1840. Increase of slaves less rapid in the
extreme South. Number of slaves enlarges with the area
over which they are spread. Why the number of slaves has
gained by natural increase in the United States, and not else-
where in America 72


The Ordinance of 1T87 firmly maintained by subsequent Con-
gresses. Slavery in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mis-
sissippi, never within the control of Congress. Slavery ob-
tained a footing in Missouri and Arkansas contrary to the
intention of Congress. The Missouri Compromise was in fact
no compromise, but a clear victory of the slaveholders 91


Emigration does not diminish population. Opinions of Dr. Mal-
thus. Dr. Franklin, and the Earl of Selkirk. Illustrations.
Nearly a million slaves of Virginia stock existing out of Vir-
ginia in 1850, who would not have existed anywhere but for
the domestic slave trade. Free negroes increase slowly, if at
all. The Northern States cannot be invaded by negroes 106


The argument for slavery, as being necessary for the multiplica-
tion of negroes. Carrying slaves into new regions not favor-
able to their personal comfort, but the contrary. Cruelties of
the domestic slave trade 128




The introduction of slaves into the States of the extreme South,
to some extent legislated against by them, and always op-
posed by many of their citizens. Slave trading disreputat)le
at the South. The suppression of the domestic slave trade .
would find supporters in all the Southern States. Inter-
colonial slave trade prohibited by Great Britain in 1824 141


America settled during the first three centuries chiefly by negroes.
European immigration inconsiderable until recently. The
probability of the further territorial expansion of slavery in
the United States considered. The high price of slaves an
impediment to this expansion. Within its present limits,
slavery will not be crowded for a long time 153


Slavery will be maintained, so long as it is profitable. The state-
ment that abolition commenced in 1835, and has retarded
emancipation, shown to be untrue. Change in Southern views
attributable to increased profits of slavery. Opinions of Gov-
ernor Hammond. The discussion of slavery necessary, until
the fate of the Territories is decided 175


Review of Debates in Virginia in 1832. Abolition not seriously
proposed. The alarm which then existed, in reference to
outlets for slaves, since removed. Eastern Virginia opposed
to any action. Views of Hon. C. J. Faulkner and others as
to slavery. Emancipation in Virginia will be long postponed,
unless the domestic slave trade is prohibited 192


The extension of slavery profitable to the slave-breeding States,
but* injurious to the other Southern States. The acquisition
of Cuba injurious to all the Southern States. Political power
the sole object of extending slavery. The agitation of slavery
with a view to party ascendency. The South has not gained
by agitation 206



Different views of the manner in which slavery may be extin-
guished. Slave labor immediately cheap, under certain cir-
cumstances, but ruinous as a system. The Southern States
have grown poorer by it. Mr. Tarver's description of the
results of cotton-growing. Free labor will encroach upon
slavery, because really more efficient and profitable 220


The decline of slavery will not be the decline of the South, but
will benefit the South. The evils apprehended at the South,
from the shutting up of slavery, are imaginary. Slaves will
not multiply beyond the demand for them, and the fall in
their price will be insensible. The slave-breeding States
alone interested in the extension of slavery. The question
of race connected with the question of slavei-v 235


The Union of the States is only endangered by thai discontent of
the slave States, which results from the impoverishing effects
of slavery. Slavery itself, and not the agitation of it, origi-
nates the feeling of disunion. Nullification first aimed against
tariffs. The mischief will be abated, as the area of slavery
is diminished. Political quietude the ordinary result of
slavery 247


The population of Cuba. Actual number of slaves ; misrepresent-
ations corrected. Tendency of slavery in Cuba to disappear
by increase of whites, the mortality of slaves, and emancipa-
tion under Spanish laws. Classification of agricultural pur-
suits. Character and increase of the Monteros, or yeomanry.
Example of Porto Rico. Climate of Cuba. Salubrity. Adapt-
ation to white labor. Possible changes in the methods of
sugar culture. Resources and desirability of the island. If
annexed to the Union, the free laborers of the United States
will assert their right to it 258




Comparative statements of the advance of the free and slave States in
population. Grain of the free States steady, but not rapid. Com-
parative statements of the advance of the free and slave States in
area. Causes of the superior success and aptitude of the slave
States in acquiring territory. Slavery as yet firmly maintained in
the northern tier of slave States. The political power of the slave
States still formidable.

Ill 1790, the inhabited portion of the territory of
the United States was divided as follows, between
the free and slave States :

Free States.


Slave States.


Connecticut -

- 4,674

Delaware - -


Maine - - -

- 31,766

Georgia - -• -



- 7,800

Kentucky - -


iN'ew Hampshire

- 9,280

Maryland - -


ITew York

- 47,000

Ils'orth Carolina


I^ew Jersey -

- 8,320

South Carolina


Pennsylvania -

- 46,000

Tennessee - -


Ehode Island -

- 1,306

Virginia - - -


Vermont - -

- 10,212



In some of the States designated as free in this
classification, a little remnant of slavery still lingered


in 1790, but was condemned by public opinion,
formed no considerable part of their industrial in-
terests, and soon ceased to have even a nominal

It is probable, that at the commencement, and
even at the close, of the Eevolutionary War, the area
occupied by the slaveholding portion of the United
States did not much exceed that occupied by the
non-slaveholding portion. The slaveholding popu-
lation extended itself to Kentucky and Tennessee
subsequently to the Declaration of American Inde-
pendence, and at that epoch the greater portion of
Georgia was uninhabited.

In 1790, the population of the free States was as
follows :

"Wliites 1,900,976

Free blacks 27,112

Slaves 40,364

Their total population was therefore 1,968,452, or
eleven persons and eight-tenths to each square mile.
In 1790, the population of the slave States was as
follows :

Whites 1,271,488

Free blacks 32,354

Slaves 657,533

Their total population was therefore 1,961,375,
or six persons and six-tenths to each square mile.

In 1850, the total population of the free States had
increased to 13,526,302, divided as follows:

Whites 13,330,650

Free blacks 195,416

Slaves - - 236


In 1850, the total population of the slave States
had increased to 9,651,500, divided as follows:

Whites - 6,222,418

Free blacks 228,728

Slaves 3,200,361

The following table will show the per centage of
increase at each census after 1790, of the different
classes of population, and of the aggregate population
in the free and slave States :

Free States.

1800. ISIO. 1S20. 1S30. I&IO. 1S50.

Whites 36.85 40.43 37.70 36.67 39.10 39.42

Blacks 23.01 27.19 15.43 15.65 21.80 14.28

Aggregate 36.38 40.02 37.14 36.13 38.73 39.03

Slate States.

1800. 1810. 16-20. 1530. 1840. 1S50.

Whites 33.94 29.70 28.20 29.35 26.54 34.26

Free blacks... 89.27 76.79 24.92 34.62 18.40 10.49

Slaves 30.09 35.67 30.57 32.12 23.98 28.97

Total blacks.. 33.11 38.52 30.04 32.23 23.51 27.40

Aggregate 33.65 32.79 28.82 30.46 25.41 31.73

The addition of population to either class of
States, by the acquisition of foreign territory, has
been inconsiderable. Major Stoddard, in his sketch-
es of Louisiana, computes the population of lower
Louisiana at 41,700 whites, 38,800 slaves, and 2,500
free blacks, and of upper Louisiana at 9,020 whites,
and 1,320 slaves, at the date of the cession of that
country to the United States. This is much higher
than the Spanish official estimates of the population
of Louisiana and Florida in 1801, which amounted
to only 49,474. The United States census of Louis-
iana, in 1810, exhibited a total population of only

76,556. The total population of Florida, as it
appears for the first time in the census of 1830,
was only 34,730, and of this number the largest por-
tion had emigrated thither from the United States.
The population of Texas, at the period of its annex-
ation to the American Union, consisted mainly of
persons born in the United States, or of the descend-
ants of such persons. The native Mexican popula-
tion acquired with Texas, is about equal to the same
class of population acquired with California.

While it appears that the population of the free
States has gained steadily upon the population of
the slave States, during the period of sixty years,
from 1790 to 1850, it appears also that the gain has
not been either large, or increasing. It was less in
the last decade than in the preceding decade. It
may prove, during the current decade, to fall far
shoii; of the views of those who believe that the
numbers of the free States are swelling with resist-
less rapidity beyond the numbers of the slave States.
Undoubtedly, the growth of Virginia and the Caro-
linas is slow, but it is not so slow as it was thirty
years ago. Undoubtedly, the IsTorthwest is swelling
its population at a prodigious rate, but so also is the
Southwest. The political weight of the slave States
in the American Confederacy, measured by numbers,
has diminished during two generations, but only
gradually, and almost imperceptibly, and is still
great and formidable. The increase of numbers in
those States, viewed as a whole, although less than
in the free States, has been rapid and uninterrupted.
Their population is three times that of all the States
at the epoch of American Independence ; and it is

not wonderful, looking to their absolute numbers,
their prospective increase, the extent and magnifi-
cence of the territory which they occupy, and the
mas:nitude of their industrial resources, that a con-
sciousness of power should incite them to schemes
of further aggrandizement and more extended ambi-

It may be presumed that the natural increase of
the white population of the slave States, being
almost exclusively agricultural, is greater than the
increase of the population of the free States, a large
and augmenting proportion of which reside in cities.
Indeed, without assuming this to be so, it will be
difficult to understand why the relative gain of the
free States has been so little, considering that they
receive the great bulk of the foreign immigration,
and considering, also, that the balance of the move-
ment of population between the free and slave States
has always been largely in favor of the former.

The census of 1850 found 609,371 persons living
in the free States, who were born in the slave States,
and only 206,638 persons living in the slave States,
who were born in the free States. The same census
found 1,866,397 persons of foreign birth living in the
free States, and only 378,205 persons of foreign birth
living in the slave States.

It is apparent that the superior increase of white
population in the free States is not so exclusively
attributable to foreign immigration as it is frequently
said to be. It was less during the decade from 1840
to 1850 than at any time during the last half cen-
tury, and yet the foreign immigration between 1840
and 1850 was vastly larger than ever before. From

1800 to 1810, witli an inconsiderable foreign immi-
gration, the ^Yhite population of the free States
gained upon that of the slave States more rapidly
than in any other decade, with a single exception.
If the free States are able to possess themselves
of territories within the genial latitudes, so as to add
the attractions of climate to those of their institu-
tions, their accessions of numbers from the slave
States will continue to constitute an important
element of their increase.

Turning now from a consideration of the advance
of population, to the consideration of the territorial
progress made by the free and slave States since
1790, it will be found that the relative position of
the latter has been well sustained. Occupying
295,965 square miles of territory in 1790, they occu-
pied in 1850, including Texas, 851,508 square miles,
and excluding Texas, 614,004 square miles. In the
same space of time, the territory of the free States
liad expanded from 166,358 square miles, to 612,597
square miles, including California, and to 456,617
square miles, excluding California. The slaveholding
population had founded flourishing States west of the
Mississippi, before the free population had reached
that river. ^Missouri had been several years admitted
into the Union, while Iowa remained wholly unoc-
cupied. On the Gulf of Mexico, the slaveholding
population, a generation ago, overleaping the bound-
aries of the Confederacy, had passed the Sabine,
and was advancing upon the Rio Grande. To vast
accessions beyond the exterior limits of its occupancy
in 1790, it had, within those limits, possessed itselt
of the immense Territories once held by independent

Indian nations in the States of J^orth Carolina, Ten-
nessee, and Georgia. In trutli, the genius, the apt-
itudes, and the habits of a slaveholding people, all
point to territorial expansion. In free communi-
ties, and especially in modern times, there is a
tendency to the gro^vth of cities and to density of
population, so that increase of numbers does not
necessarily require an increase of the space occupied.
In the Southern States, confined to agriculture by
negro slavery, space must be enlarged with numbers,
and indeed in a greater ratio, because agriculture,
as conducted under that system, continually requires
new soils by exhausting old ones. The people of
Virginia and the Carolinas would have been forced
to emigration, had their population remained station-
ary. Under the double pressure of increasing pop-
ulation and diminishing resources, their people have
been driven forth in vast and unprecedented num-

"With an equal emigration, the slave-State popula-
tion would spread over twice as much new territory
as the fr^e-State population. In 1850, the slave
States contained eleven persons and three-tenths to
the square mile, while the free States contained
twenty-one persons and nine-tenths to the square

It is sometimes said that freedom is quick and
nimble in its movements, while slavery is heavy and
cumbersome ; that the free laborer will outstrip the
slaveholder in the race for new lands ; and that if the
territories of the Union are thrown open to unem-
barrassed competition, the free States will win at
least that proportion which is due to their numbers.


This may be a pleasing delusion, but it is a very slial-
low one. In free communities, property becomes
fixed in edifices, in machinery, and in improvements
of the soil. In slave communities, there is scarcely
any property except slaves, and they are easily
movable. The freeman embellishes his home ; the
slaveholder finds nothing to bind him to soils which
he has exhausted. Freedom is enterprising, but not
migratory, as slavery is. It is not in the nature of
slavery to become attached to place. It is nomadic.
The slaveholder leaves his impoverished fields with
as little reluctance as the ancient Scythian aban-
doned cropped pastures for fresh ones, and slaves
are moved as readily as flocks and herds. Whether
or not slavery be aggressive and ambitious, it is,
beyond peradventure, restless, movable, and ever
ready to enlarge its borders. So far, in the history
of this country, the slave States have maintained
that superiority in extent of territory over the free
States, which they possessed when our Government
was organized. This superiority they will probably
retain during a long period of time, if w^ exclude
from view our Pacific possessions, which formed no
part of our original system, and whose permanent
attachment to it is neither certain, nor essential.

Advancing in population, if not so rapidly as
the free States, nevertheless, at a rate of progress
without precedent in any other age, or country;
advancing in territorial enlargement even more

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Online LibraryGeorge Melville WestonThe progress of slavery in the United States → online text (page 1 of 21)