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HOME > Biographical > Harriet Beecher Stowe > CHAPTER IV. THE SLAVE-TRADE.
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What is it that constitutes the vital force of the institution of slavery in this country? Slavery, being an unnatural and unhealthful condition of society, being a most wasteful and impoverishing mode of cultivating the soil, would speedily run itself out in a community, and become so unprofitable as to fall into disuse, were it not kept alive by some unnatural process.

What has that process been in America? Why has that healing course of nature which cured this awful wound in all the northern states stopped short on Mason & Dixon’s line? In Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky, slave labor long ago impoverished the soil almost beyond recovery, and became entirely unprofitable. In all these states it is well known that the question of emancipation has been urgently presented. It has been discussed in legislatures, and Southern men have poured forth on the institution of slavery such anathemas as only Southern men can pour forth. All that has ever been said of it at the North has been said in four-fold thunders in these Southern discussions. The State of Kentucky once came within one vote, in her legislature, of taking measures for gradual emancipation. The State of Virginia has come almost equally near, and Maryland has long been waiting at the door. There was a time when no one doubted that all these states would soon be free states; and what is now the reason that they are not? Why are these discussions now silenced, and why does this noble determination now retrograde? The answer is in a word. It is the extension of slave territory, the opening of a great southern slave-market, and the organization of a great internal slave-trade, that has arrested the progress of emancipation.

While these states were beginning to look upon the slave as one who might possibly yet become a man, while they meditated giving to him and his wife and children the inestimable blessings of liberty, this great southern slave-mart was opened. It began by the addition of Missouri as slave territory, and the votes of two Northern men were those which decided this great question. Then, by the assent and concurrence of Northern men, came in all the immense acquisition of slave territory which now opens so boundless a market to tempt the avarice and cupidity of the northern slave-raising states.

This acquisition of territory has deferred perhaps for indefinite ages the emancipation of a race. It has condemned to sorrow and 144heart-breaking separation, to groans and wailings, hundreds of thousands of slave families; it has built, through all the Southern States, slave-warehouses, with all their ghastly furnishings of gags, and thumb-screws, and cowhides; it has organized unnumbered slave-coffles, clanking their chains and filing in mournful march through this land of liberty.

This accession of slave territory hardened the heart of the master. It changed what was before, in comparison, a kindly relation, into the most horrible and inhuman of trades.

The planter whose slaves had grown up around him, and whom he had learned to look upon almost as men and women, saw on every sable forehead now nothing but its market value. This man was a thousand dollars, and this eight hundred. The black baby in its mother’s arms was a hundred-dollar bill, and nothing more. All those nobler traits of mind and heart which should have made the slave a brother became only so many stamps on his merchandise. Is the slave intelligent?—Good! that raises his price two hundred dollars. Is he conscientious and faithful?—Good! stamp it down in his certificate; it’s worth two hundred dollars more. Is he religious? Does that Holy Spirit of God, whose name we mention with reverence and fear, make that despised form His temple?—Let that also be put down in the estimate of his market value, and the gift of the Holy Ghost shall be sold for money. Is he a minister of God?—Nevertheless, he has his price in the market. From the church and from the communion-table the Christian brother and sister are taken to make up the slave-coffle. And woman, with her tenderness, her gentleness, her beauty,—woman, to whom mixed blood of the black and the white have given graces perilous for a slave,—what is her accursed lot, in this dreadful commerce?—The next few chapters will disclose facts on this subject which ought to wring the heart of every Christian mother, if, indeed, she be worthy of that holiest name.

But we will not deal in assertions merely. We have stated the thing to be proved; let us show the facts which prove it.

The existence of this fearful traffic is known to many,—the particulars and dreadful extent of it realized but by few.

Let us enter a little more particularly on them. The slave-exporting states are Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri. These are slave-raising states, and the others are slave-consuming states. We have shown, in the preceding chapters, the kind of advertisements which are usual in those states; but, as we wish to produce on the minds of our readers something of the impression which has been produced on our own mind by their multiplicity and abundance, we shall add a few more here. For the State of Virginia, see all the following:

Kanawha Republican, Oct. 20, 1852, Charleston, Va. At the head—Liberty, with a banner, “Drapeau sans Tache.”

The subscriber wishes to purchase a few young NEGROES, from 12 to 25 years of age, for which the highest market price will be paid in cash. A few lines addressed to him through the Post Office, Kanawha C. H., or a personal application, will be promptly attended to.
Jas. L. Ficklin.
Oct. 20, ‘53.—3t

Alexandria Gazette, Oct. 28th:

I wish to purchase immediately, for the South, any number of NEGROES, from 10 to 30 years of age, for which I will pay the very highest cash price. All communications promptly attended to.
Joseph Bruin.
West End, Alexandria, Va., Oct. 26.—tf

Lynchburg Virginian, Nov. 18:

The subscriber, having located in Lynchburg, is giving the highest cash prices for negroes, between the ages of 10 and 30 years. Those having negroes for sale may find it to their interest to call on him at the Washington Hotel, Lynchburg, or address him by letter.

All communications will receive prompt attention.
J. B. McLendon.
Nov. 5.—dly

Rockingham Register, Nov. 13:

I wish to purchase a number of NEGROES of both sexes and all ages, for the Southern market, for which I will pay the highest cash prices. Letters addressed to me at Winchester, Virginia, will be promptly attended to.
H. J. McDaniel, Agent for Wm. Crow.
Nov. 24, 1846.—tf

Richmond Whig, Nov. 16:
D. M. Pulliam. Hector Davis.

The subscribers continue to sell Negroes, at their office, on Wall-street. From their experience in the business, they can safely insure the highest prices for all negroes intrusted to their care. They will make sales of negroes in estates, and would say to Commissioners, Executors and Administrators, that they will make their sales on favorable terms. They are prepared to board and lodge negroes comfortably at 25 cents per day.

Those who wish to sell slaves in Buckingham and the adjacent counties in Virginia, by application to Anderson D. Abraham, Sr., or his son, Anderson D. Abraham, Jr., they will find sale, at the highest cash prices, for one hundred and fifty to two hundred slaves. One or the other of the above parties will be found, for the next eight months, at their residence in the aforesaid county and state. Address Anderson D. Abraham, Sr., Maysville Post Office, White Oak Grove, Buckingham County, Va.

Winchester Republican, June 29, 1852:

The subscriber having located himself in Winchester, Va., wishes to purchase a large number of SLAVES of both sexes, for which he will give the highest price in cash. Persons wishing to dispose of Slaves will find it to their advantage to give him a call before selling.

All communications addressed to him at the Taylor Hotel, Winchester, Va., will meet with prompt attention.
Elijah McDowel,
Agent for B. M. & Wm. L. Campbell, of Baltimore.
Dec. 27, 1851.—ly

For Maryland:

Port Tobacco Times, Oct., ‘52:

The subscriber is permanently located at Middleville, Charles County (immediately on the road from Port Tobacco to Allen’s Fresh), where he will be pleased to buy any Slaves that are for sale. The extreme value will be given at all times, and liberal commissions paid for information leading to a purchase. Apply personally, or by letter addressed to Allen’s Fresh, Charles County.
John G. Campbell.
Middleville, April 14, 1852.

Cambridge (Md.) Democrat, October 27, 1852:

I wish to inform the slave-holders of Dorchester and the adjacent counties that I am again in the market. Persons having negroes that are slaves for life to dispose of will find it to their interest to see me before they sell, as I am determined to pay the highest prices in cash that the Southern market will justify. I can be found at A. Hall’s Hotel, in Easton, where I will remain until the first day of July next. Communications addressed to me at Easton, or information given to Wm. Bell, in Cambridge, will meet with prompt attention.

I will be at John Bradshaw’s Hotel, in Cambridge, every Monday.
Wm. Harker.
Oct. 6, 1852.—3m

The Westminster Carroltonian, Oct. 22, 1852:

The undersigned wishes to purchase 25 LIKELY YOUNG NEGROES, for which the highest cash prices will be paid. All communications addressed to me in Baltimore will be punctually attended to.
Lewis Winters.
Jan. 2.—tf

For Tennessee the following:

Nashville True Whig, Oct. 20th, ‘52:

21 likely Negroes, of different ages.
Oct. 6.
A. A. McLean, Gen. Agent.

I want to purchase, immediately, a Negro man, Carpenter, and will give a good price.
Oct. 6.
A. A. McLean, Gen. Agent

Nashville Gazette, October 22:

SEVERAL likely girls from 10 to 18 years old, a woman 24, a very valuable woman 25 years old, with three very likely children.
Williams & Glover
A. B. U.
Oct. 16th, 1852.

I want to purchase Twenty-five LIKELY NEGROES, between the ages of 18 and 25 years, male and female, for which I will pay the highest price IN CASH.
A. A. McLean,
Cherry Street.
Oct. 20.

The Memphis Daily Eagle and Enquirer:

We will pay the highest cash price for all good negroes offered. We invite all those having negroes for sale to call on us at our mart, opposite the lower steamboat landing. We will also have a large lot of Virginia negroes for sale in the Fall. We have as safe a jail as any in the country, where we can keep negroes safe for those that wish them kept.
Bolton, Dickins & Co.
je 13—d & w

A good bargain will be given in about 400 acres of Land; 200 acres are in a fine state of cultivation, fronting the Railroad about ten miles from Memphis. Together with 18 or 20 likely negroes, consisting of men, women, boys and girls. Good time will be given on a portion of the purchase money.
J. M. Provine.
Oct. 17.—1m.

Clarksville Chronicle, Dec. 3, 1852:

We wish to hire 25 good Steam Boat hands for the New Orleans and Louisville trade. We will pay very full prices for the Season, commencing about the 15th November.
McClure & Crozier, Agents
S. B. Bellpoor
Sept. 10th, 1852.—1m


The Daily St. Louis Times, October 14, 1852:

On Chesnut, between Sixth and Seventh streets, near the city jail, will pay the highest price in cash for all good negroes offered. There are also other buyers to be found in the office very anxious to purchase, who will pay the highest prices given in cash.

Negroes boarded at the lowest rates.

jy 15—6m.

BLAKELY and McAFEE having dissolved co-partnership by mutual consent, the subscriber will at all times pay the highest cash prices for negroes of every description. Will also attend to the sale of negroes on commission, having a jail and yard fitted up expressly for boarding them.

? Negroes for sale at all times.
3 A. B. McAfee, 93 Olive street.

Having just returned from Kentucky, I wish to purchase, as soon as possible, one hundred likely negroes, consisting of men, women, boys and girls, for which I will pay at all times from fifty to one hundred dollars on the head more money than any other trading man in the city of St. Louis, or the State of Missouri. I can at all times be found at Barnum’s City Hotel, St. Louis, Mo.
je12d&wly. John Mattingly.

From another St. Louis paper:

I will pay at all times the highest price in cash for all good negroes offered. I am buying for the Memphis and Louisiana markets, and can afford to pay, and will pay, as high as any trading man in this State. All those having negroes to sell will do well to give me a call at No. 210, corner of Sixth and Wash streets, St Louis, Mo.
Thos. Dickins,
of the firm of Bolton, Dickins & Co.

Having just returned from Kentucky, I wish to purchase one hundred likely Negroes, consisting of men and women, boys and girls, for which I will pay in cash from fifty to one hundred dollars more than any other trading man in the city of St. Louis or the State of Missouri. I can at all times be found at Barnum’s City Hotel, St. Louis, Mo.
je14d&wly John Mattingly.

No. 104 Locust street, St. Louis, Missouri,

Is prepared to pay the highest prices in cash for good and likely negroes, or will furnish boarding for others, in comfortable quarters and under secure fastenings. He will also attend to the sale and purchase of negroes on commission.

? Negroes for sale at all times.

We ask you, Christian reader, we beg you to think, what sort of scenes are going on in Virginia under these advertisements? You see that they are carefully worded so as to take only the young people; and they are only a specimen of the standing, season advertisements which are among the most common things in the Virginia papers. A succeeding chapter will open to the reader the interior of these slave-prisons, and show him something of the daily incidents of this kind of trade. Now let us look at the corresponding advertisements in the southern states. The coffles made up in Virginia and other states are thus announced in the southern market.

From the Natchez (Mississippi) Free Trader, Nov. 20:

The undersigned have just arrived, direct from Richmond, Va., with a large and likely lot of Negroes, consisting of Field Hands, House Servants, Seamstresses, Cooks, Washers and Ironers, a first-rate brick mason, and other mechanics, which they now offer for sale at the Forks of the Road, near Natchez (Miss.), on the most accommodating terms.

They will continue to receive fresh supplies from Richmond, Va., during the season, and will be able to furnish to any order any description of Negroes sold in Richmond.

Persons wishing to purchase would do well to give us a call before purchasing elsewhere.
Matthews, Branton & Co.
To The Public.

Robert S. Adams & Moses J. Wicks have this day associated themselves under the name and style of Adams & Wicks, for the purpose of buying and selling Negroes, in the city of Aberdeen, and elsewhere. They have an Agent who has been purchasing Negroes for them in the Old States for the last two months. One of the firm, Robert S. Adams, leaves this day for North Carolina and Virginia, and will buy a large number of negroes for this market. They will keep at their depot in Aberdeen, during the coming fall and winter, a large lot of choice Negroes, which they will sell low for cash, or for bills on Mobile.
Robert S. Adams,
Moses J. Wicks.
Aberdeen, Miss., May 7th, 1852.

Fresh arrivals weekly.—Having established ourselves at the Forks of the Road, near Natchez, for a term of years, we have now on hand, and intend to keep throughout the entire year, a large and well-selected stock of Negroes, consisting of field-hands, house servants, mechanics, cooks, seamstresses, washers, ironers, etc., which we can sell and will sell as low or lower than any other house here or in New Orleans.

Persons wishing to purchase would do well to call on us before making purchases elsewhere, as 147our regular arrivals will keep us supplied with a good and general assortment. Our terms are liberal. Give us a call.
Griffin & Pullum.
Natchez, Oct. 16, 1852. 6m

I have just returned to my stand, at the Forks of the Road, with fifty likely young NEGROES for sale.
R. H. Elam.
Sept. 22

The undersigned would respectfully state to the public that he has leased the stand in the Forks of the Road, near Natchez, for a term of years, and that he intends to keep a large lot of NEGROES on hand during the year. He will sell as low, or lower, than any other trader at this place or in New Orleans.

He has just arrived from Virginia, with a very likely lot of field men and women and house servants, three cooks, a carpenter and a fine buggy horse, and a saddle-horse and carryall. Call and see.
Thos. G. James.

Daily Orleanian, Oct. 19, 1852:
No. 159 Gravier Street.

Constantly on hand, bought and sold on commission, at most reasonable prices.—Field hands, cooks, washers and ironers, and general house servants. City reference given, if required.
Oct 14
No. 68, rue Baronne.

Wm. F. Tannehill & Co. ont constamment en mains un assortiment complet d’ESCLAVES bien choisis A VENDRE. Aussi, vente et achat d’esclaves par commission.

Nous avons actuellement en mains un grand nombre de NEGRES à louer aux mois, parmi lesquels se trouvent des jeunes garcons, domestiques de maison, cuisinières, blanchisseuses et repasseuses, nourices, etc.
Wright, Williams & Co.
Williams, Phillips & Co.
Moses Greenwood.
Moon, Titus & Co.
S. O. Nelson & Co.
E. W. Diggs. 3ms

New Orleans Daily Crescent, Oct. 21, 1852:

James White, No. 73 Baronne street, New Orleans, will give strict attention to receiving, boarding and selling SLAVES consigned to him. He will also buy and sell on commission. References: Messrs. Robson & Allen, McRea, Coffman & Co., Pregram, Bryan & Co.
Sep. 23

Fifteen or twenty good Negro Men wanted to go on a Plantation. The best of wages will be given until the first of January, 1853.

Apply to
Thomas G. Mackey & Co.,
5 Canal street, corner of Magazine, up stairs.
Sep 11

From another number of the Mississippi Free Trader is taken the following:

The undersigned would respectfully state to the public that he has a lot of about forty-five now on hand, having this day received a lot of twenty-five direct from Virginia, two or three good cooks, a carriage driver, a good house boy, a fiddler, a fine seamstress and a likely lot of field men and women; all of whom he will sell at a small profit. He wishes to close out and go on to Virginia after a lot for the fall trade. Call and see.
Thomas G. James.

The slave-raising business of the northern states has been variously alluded to and recognized, both in the business statistics of the states, and occasionally in the speeches of patriotic men, who have justly mourned over it as a degradation to their country. In 1841, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society addressed to the executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society some inquiries on the internal American slave-trade.

A labored investigation was made at that time, the results of which were published in London; and from that volume are made the following extracts:

The Virginia Times (a weekly newspaper, published at Wheeling, Virginia) estimates, in 1836, the number of slaves exported for sale from that state alone, during “the twelve months preceding,” at forty thousand, the aggregate value of whom is computed at twenty-four millions of dollars.

Allowing for Virginia one-half of the whole exportation during the period in question, and we have the appalling sum total of eighty thousand slaves exported in a single year from the breeding states. We cannot decide with certainty what proportion of the above number was furnished by each of the breeding states, but Maryland ranks next to Virginia in point of numbers, North Carolina follows Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, then Tennessee and Delaware.

The Natchez (Mississippi) Courier says “that the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, imported two hundred and fifty thousand slaves from the more northern states in the year 1836.”

This seems absolutely incredible, but it probably includes all the slaves introduced by the immigration of their masters. The following, from the Virginia Times, confirms this supposition. In the same paragraph which is referred to under the second query, it is said:

“We have heard intelligent men estimate the number of slaves exported from Virginia, within the last twelve months, at a hundred and twenty thousand, each slave averaging at least six hundred dollars, making an aggregate of seventy-two million dollars. Of the number of slaves exported, not more than one-third have been sold; the others having been carried by their masters, who have removed.”

Assuming one-third to be the proportion of the 148sold, there are more than eighty thousand imported for sale into the four States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. Supposing one-half of eighty thousand to be sold into the other buying states,—S. Carolina, Georgia, and the territory of Florida,—and we are brought to the conclusion that more than a hundred and twenty thousand slaves were, for some years previous to the great pecuniary pressure in 1837, exported from the breeding to the consuming states.

The Baltimore American gives the following from a Mississippi paper of 1837:

“The report made by the committee of the citizens of Mobile, appointed at their meeting held on the 1st instant; on the subject of the existing pecuniary pressure, states that so large has been the return of slave labor, that purchases by Alabama of that species of property from other states, since 1833, have amounted to about ten million dollars annually.”

“Dealing in slaves,” says the Baltimore (Maryland) Register of 1829, “has become a large business; establishments are made in several places in Maryland and Virginia, at which they are sold like cattle. These places of deposit are strongly built, and well supplied with iron thumb-screws and gags, and ornamented with cowskins and other whips, oftentimes bloody.”

Professor Dew, now President of the University of William and Mary, in Virginia, in his review of the debate in the Virginia legislature in 1831–2, says (p. 120):

“A full equivalent being left in the place of the slave (the purchase-money), this emigration becomes an advantage to the state, and does not check the black population as much as at first view we might imagine; because it furnishes every inducement to the master to attend to the negroes, to encourage breeding, and to cause the greatest number possible to be raised.” Again: “Virginia is, in fact, a negro-raising state for the other states.”

Mr. Goode, of Virginia, in his speech before the Virginia legislature, in January, 1832, said:

“The superior usefulness of the slaves in the South will constitute an effectual demand, which will remove them from our limits. We shall send them from our state, because it will be our interest to do so. But gentlemen are alarmed lest the markets of other states be closed against the introduction of our slaves. Sir, the demand for slave labor must increase,” &c.

In the debates of the Virginia Convention, in 1829, Judge Upshur said:

“The value of slaves as an article of property depends much on the state of the market abroad. In this view, it is the value of land abroad, and not of land here, which furnishes the ratio. Nothing is more fluctuating than the value of slaves. A late law of Louisiana reduced their value twenty-five per cent. in two hours after its passage was known. If it should be our lot, as I trust it will be, to acquire the country of Texas, their price will rise again.”

Hon. Philip Doddridge, of Virginia, in his speech in the Virginia Convention, in 1829 (Debates p. 89), said:

“The acquisition of Texas will greatly enhance the value of the property in question (Virginia slaves).”

Rev. Dr. Graham, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, at a Colonization meeting held at that place in the fall of 1837, said:

“There were nearly seven thousand slaves offered in New Orleans market, last winter. From Virginia alone six thousand were annually sent to the South, and from Virginia and North Carolina there had gone to the South, in the last twenty years, THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND SLAVES.”

Hon. Henry Clay, of Kentucky, in his speech before the Colonization So............
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