Published in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 15 vols., editor-in-chief, Edwin R. A. Seligman (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1930-1935, Reissued 1937.)
Transcribed by Andrew Chrucky, March 23, 2004.
Dedicated to my friend William Borchert.
Primitive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bernhard J. Stern Ancient . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Linn Westermann Mediaeval . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Melvin M. Knight Modern General . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary Wilhelmine Williams United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ulrich B. Phillips Bibliography
Primitive. Although nowhere in primitive societies have human beings been subject to the gross exploitation characteristic of slavery among culturally advanced peoples, there has existed in many regions the ownership of persons outside of family relations whereby the owners control the lives of their slaves, often sanction their use in ritual sacrifice and frequently subject them to compulsory labor. Such slavery has been a characteristic aspect of native African life except for the area south of the Zambesi. It is unknown among the primitive peoples of Australia; it has been confined to a few islands in Oceania; while it has been a general feature of the social organization of the Malay Archipelago. Absent with one possible exception in central Asia and Siberia, it has prevailed among a considerable number of aboriginal tribes of Indo-China and of India. In North America it developed only along the Pacific coast from Bering Strait to the northern boundary of California, and it appears to have had but a scattered distribution in Central and South America.
There are wide variations in the behavior sanctioned in the relations between master and slaves and in the privileges accorded the latter in. primitive societies; these differences depend largely on the general economic, political and religious setting in which the institution functions. Custom usually deters the owners from depriving their slaves of all rights and from treating them with extreme cruelty; in many primitive communities the life of the slaves differs but little from that of the freemen. Debtor slaves are almost invariably treated with more consideration than are foreign slaves obtained by capture and trade. It is frequently difficult, particularly in Africa, where an extremely diversified range of attitudes toward slaves prevails, to distinguish with any precision between such categories as slaves, serfs, subjects, submerged classes and low castes.
The incidence of compulsory labor in slavery is determined largely by the nature of the economic pursuits and the degree of cultural development. In primitive nomadic hunting tribes, which are small, barely self-subsisting units whose members are closely related by birth and marriage, the development of such slavery is precluded by the scarcity of food, the lack of regularity of labor and of differentiation in occupational functions other than that between the sexes, and the absence of numbers adequate to maintain regulative powers which would make possible repression and coercion. Contrary to the theory that the practise of appropriating the services of slaves was derived from the analogous appropriation of the labor of domesticated animals, and that therefore slavery originated and was a characteristic institution among pastoral peoples, the fact is that it was actually rare among them because of the low demand for labor. The practise has been current only among the flourishing pastoral tribes in northwest and northeast Africa and among a few tribes in the Caucasus and Arabia, while the pastoral nomads of Siberia, central Asia, India and south Africa have not had slaves. On the other hand, slavery has developed most markedly among agricultural tribes where habitation is settled, where there is a demand for labor coupled with a relatively plentiful food supply and flourishing trade. Such conditions, however, have not always given rise to slavery.
The distinctive nature of slavery in primitive societies may best be clarified by illustrations of its functioning in different areas. The non-agricultural tribes on the northwest coast of America which had developed the institution lived in settled communities in relatively large numbers and derived their abundant food supply from salmon fishing in addition to hunting. Captives, who in other parts of North America where the social life was more democratic became equals of the tribal members through marriage and adoption, were in this region permitted to mate only with one another, and their descendants usually remained slaves. Although they often participated in other economic activities, they were as a rule compelled to perform menial tasks and to function for the most part as bearers of burdens. Their social and political status was generally lowly and they were commonly excluded from active participation in ceremonial functions. Slaves were sometimes traded or given away as gifts; the master could kill them at will just as he could destroy other property as a means of displaying his wealth. Among the Kwakiutl there are accounts of the killing of slaves to provide food for the members of the cannibal society; and among the Tlingit slaves were killed and buried under the house posts when a new house was being erected.
This widespread use of captives to provide for ceremonial needs has been pronounced in some of the head hunting districts of Melanesia. In contrast to their inferior status on the northwest coast of America, these captives, who are characterized by many writers as slaves, have not been subject to the attitude of derogation ordinarily associated with the institution of slavery, nor have they been taken or maintained for purposes of compulsory service. They might marry the women of their captors, perform important religious functions and even rise to positions of importance in political life. They have, however, been regarded as "heads" which might be utilized when needed to satisfy immediate ceremonial purposes. They thus may be considered property of the captors subject to their will and may be designated slaves in this sense.
In Africa the indigenous primitive institution of slavery was conditioned by the impact of the world slave traffic, as is shown by the fact that intertribal trade in kidnaped slaves has been developed most extensively in areas where there were slave raids for the European market. Besides the purchase of men and women from other villages with the express purpose of enslaving them and the subjugation of prisoners of war or persons received as a form of tribute from a defeated foreign power, the practise of voluntary and involuntary servitude as security for debt subject to redemption appears to have been developed more extensively in Africa than elsewhere. In certain localities persons enslaved as punishment for crime might also as a rule be redeemed.
Bernhaed J. Stern
Ancient. Slavery existed as a constant factor in the social and economic life of the Near East and Europe throughout the entire period of ancient history, differing greatly in intensity and effects according to time and place. Its validity as a system of labor was never seriously questioned. No attempt to abolish it was made by any ancient government. Nor did any ancient religious body, even Christianity, challenge the right of its believers to own slaves. Greek political philosophy discussed the institution of slavery, but only as to whether it was a condition grounded in natural law or made by man. Ancient slavery differed fundamentally from modern slavery in that the problem of race entered into it but slightly and only in theoretical discussion. Because of its essential differences as a social institution and the differences in the attitude toward it the subject cannot be approached successfully from the abolitionistic-moralistic point of view of the nineteenth century. To the ancient mind slavery was a fixed and accepted element of life, and no moral problem was involved.
That slavery already was established as a recognized institution in the Sumerian culture of the Babylonian area in the fourth millennium B.C. may be confidently assumed from the fragments of Sumerian legislation upon slaves which date from the first half of the third millennium. The old Sumerian ideograph for slave means "male of foreign land," indicating that the source of slavery was war and its prisoners. The Sumerian legislation which is now extant includes the requirement of mere restitution of a slave or payment of a definite sum by one who harbors a runaway slave, the possibility of protest by the slave against his own sale and the enforcement of sale in case a slave protests his master's rights over him. The numerous paragraphs dealing with slaves in the Code of Hammurabi about 2100 B.C. reflect a more sophisticated economic life based upon a more general use of money as interest bearing capital and a social system far more self-conscious and stringent in its social classifications. The treatment of slaves was much harsher than under the old patriarchal master and slave relation characteristic of the previous Sumerian period. The chief sources of slavery were captivity in war, purchase abroad, bondage as a result of unpaid debts (sale of wife and children to meet unfulfilled obligations) and inheritance of slave status from slave parents. No convincing estimate can be made of the relative numbers of the free and the slave, but it is certain that the number of freeholds and the use of free labor in agriculture were always striking elements in Babylonian life. A tendency to exaggerate slave numbers may be checked by the observation that about 517 B.C., in the neo-Babylonian period, the head of the banking house of Egibi Sons left only ninety-six slaves when he died. This may be regarded as the upper limit owned by the richest individuals as opposed to the royal households and wealthy temple organizations. The Hammurabi legislation granted rights to slaves in considerable degree: the right of intermarriage with free women, the right to engage in business and to acquire property, and protection of slave concubines when they had given birth to children. But these protective rights looked to the slave as property and economic asset rather than as human being. The danger of generalization may be illustrated by the fact that the Hittite Code, applying to Asia Minor and northern Syria in the late second millennium, in contrast with the Hammurabi Code, regarded the slave as human being rather than as chattel. Under the Babylonian conditions, which are in general applicable to the Semitic world of that time, release from slavery might occur by manumission, by adoption of the slave and by self-purchase. The Hebrew legislation added to these methods release of a slave of Hebrew origin after six years of service and manumission because of maltreatment leading to permanent injury, the last provision applying to foreign born slaves as well as to those of Hebrew birth. Economic conditions prevailing in Palestine suggest that the use of slaves in that area was on a more restricted scale than in Babylonia.
In Egypt under the pharaohs slavery certainly existed from the earliest dynastic period, the number of slaves probably increasing during the period of the empire (c. 1600 - c. 1000 B.C.). But royal ownership of the agricultural land in the Nile valley, combined with a teeming and industrious population under strict regimentation by the state, produced an economic situation which was unsuitable to the development of slavery upon a comprehensive and significant scale. Throughout the entire history of Egypt in antiquity -- under its native rulers, under the Macedonian Ptolemies and under Roman imperial rule -- agricultural slavery never was able to find a strong foothold. The numbers of captives recorded as resulting from the raids of Thutmose III (1501-1447 B.C.) and from his many campaigns into Syria are surprisingly meager: from Nubia 134 and 36 in two different years; from Syria a total of 8000. Debtor bondage existed until abrogated by Pharaoh Bocchoris (Bakenranef, about 718 -- 712 B.C.). The reasons for this action are unknown; but it may be regarded as another proof of the comparative insignificance of slavery as an economic force in that country.
The origins of slavery in the Greek area are not ascertainable. In the period from about 1200 to 800 B.C., as depicted in the Homeric poems, slave owning was fully recognized as an element in private ownership of property. It was also the expected fate of captives in war. The largest number of slaves accorded to the household organizations of the most powerful chieftains was fifty. Despite casual raiding, which included slaves in the booty taken, there was as yet no organized slave traffic. No word for slave dealer appears in Homer. Women slaves were used in household services, with the customary accompaniment of concubinage, and in the household industry of weaving. Males appear in small numbers in agriculture but not in the handicrafts, which then supplied strictly local markets. The entire picture is one of a society using slaves only in limited degree. Treatment by the masters was notably kind. Conversely the attitude of the slaves was one of trust and loyalty, even of marked affection.
In the period from 800 to 600 B.C. three events, in their conjunction and interplay, created the set of conditions which became typical of the city-states of the Greek world and later of the urbanized culture of the Roman Empire. These were: widespread colonization of the Black Sea and Mediterranean coasts by Greeks; invention of coinage in the precious metals; and the development of handicraft industries centering in large towns, with the possibility of sale of the hand factory output throughout the extensive market of the Mediterranean coast and its hinterlands. During the sixth century and much more strongly in the fifth and fourth centuries these conditions gave an increasing impetus to the demand for slaves and shifted the emphasis and importance of slave employment in the progressive parts of the Greek world from household and agricultural services to the handicrafts. In those states which were based upon a system of helotage, such as Sparta and Thessaly, and in the backward states of western Greece the old type of limited and simple slavery remained unchanged. A law passed by Solon at Athens in 594 B.C. abolished the right of mortgage for debt of the person of the debtor or his wife or of the persons of his children. This law, copied widely although not universally in the Greek world of independent city-states, removed the least important of the sources of slave supply. The constant warfare among the Greek city-states was the most fruitful source of slaves, with purchase from the peripheral non-Greek peoples and kidnaping and sale by organized piracy as additional methods of meeting the demand. Despite the enormous figures given by ancient writers for the slave population at Athens in the fourth century B.C. it is improbable that the slaves in that city-state, which offers one of the outstanding examples of slave employment in the handicrafts, ever reached a total of one half of the free population. Authentic contemporary evidence regarding labor employed in the building of the temple of Erectheus at Athens in the fifth century gives the following proportion of free men and slaves: Athenian citizens 20; free aliens (metics) 35; slaves 16. The ratio of slaves employed was in this instance 22.5 percent. The six hundred slaves owned by the Athenian Hipponicus and the thousand slaves of the rich Athenian general Nicias, both living in 430 B.C., must be regarded as exceptional. The method employed by these two wealthy slave owners of using their slaves as capital investment, leasing them out to those who operated the silver mines at Laurium or to owners of small handicraft shops, is typical. The figures given above suffice to emphasize the importance of slaves in the industrial labor market in those parts of the Greek and Roman world which adopted the Greek industrial system. The view that ancient society was based upon slavery is, however, quite incorrect as a generalization. According to the Greek laws the slave was a property, hence a legal object. He could be sold or mortgaged or his services leased. He was also, however, regarded as a legal subject -- a man as well as a thing. At Athens capable slaves might under given authority carry on business in behalf of their owners or engage in commerce independently, with the right to make binding contracts. In commercial trials slaves customarily testified without use of the bastinado. In general slave status was not regarded in the Greek city-states as degrading, nor was the social and legal treatment of the slave particularly harsh, The road out of slavery into freedom, through manumission as a reward granted for faithful service, or through self-purchase, was as easy as the many hazards of life which led into it. There were many slaves who "lived apart," with a social life of their own, paying to their owners a definite amount of their earnings. Slaves were admitted to participation in the popular Orphic mysteries and to social clubs, which also included free members. Instances are known in which these clubs helped to make up by loan the sum required for the purchase of freedom for a slave member. Because of the exclusive nature of ancient Greek citizenship and its essential implication that military service was both an obligation and a right of the privileged citizen class, slaves were not permitted as a rule to take part as combatants in war on land or as oarsmen on battleships. When crises and dire necessity required such use of slaves, it was always regarded as remarkable; and the general principle of exclusive citizen right in this respect was maintained by granting freedom to the slaves who were enrolled for service. This general rule applies throughout Greek and Roman history. There is no question that Greek political philosophy of the fourth century B.C. (Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle) adopted a derogatory and contemptuous attitude toward manual labor, exemplified by the use of the term "banausic trades"; but there is little evidence that this contempt was due to the widespread use of slaves. It is more probably explained by considerations of the compulsory military service resting upon citizens and the lowering of physical fitness brought about by manual toil (Xenophon) or upon the theory of pettiness of spirit, unbefitting the ideal citizen, which is engendered by trade haggling (Plato).
A new type of slavery was introduced in antiquity by the Carthaginians and by the Romans after their conquest of the peninsular section of Italy in 272 B.C. It was characterized by the use of slave gangs on a large scale in agricultural production and in ranching. In Roman Italy from 200 B.C. to the time of Augustus Caesar its methods were brutal and its results brutalizing. In north Africa the merchant nobility of Carthage owned many slaves, some employed in household service, others in industry, notably in naval construction; but their large plantations also were worked by slaves, the trade in slaves being a part of their active commerce in the western Mediterranean.
The little that is known of slavery in the early Roman Republic indicates that it was of the mild type characteristic of household and small farm employment on a limited scale. The change in slave conditions occurred through a combination of circumstances. The Roman state in its conquest of Italy in the fourth century B.C. customarily retained some part of the conquered territory as state domain. This public domain was rented, preferably in large holdings, to wealthy men among the Roman citizens and Italian allies. Out of this system grew the great latifundia of a thousand acres or more which became typical of Etruria and of southern Italy in the second century B.C. The long period of the Carthaginian wars (264-241 and 218-201 B.C.) called into the naval and land campaigns a large element of the able bodied small farmers of Italy, both of the citizen classes and of the Italian allies. To meet the dearth of available native farm labor caused by military service the owners and renters of large estates made use of the captives taken in the constant wars of the third and second centuries and sold as slaves. In 262 B.C. after the capture of Acragas (Agrigentum) in Sicily 25,000 prisoners were sold; after the recapture of Tarentum in Italy in 209 B.C. 30,000 persons were sold. When the Roman state in the second century was advancing into Macedon, Greece and Asia Minor and extending its sway over Spain, the numbers of slaves placed upon the market increased. In 167 B.C. by order of the Roman Senate 150,000 persons were taken in the towns of Epirus in one day. At the end of the second century the island of Delos became a veritable slave market, in which 10,000 slaves might change hands in a single day. Both demand and supply grew. Under the bitter exploitation and general mismanagement of the provinces by Rome in the period from 110 to 67 B.C. organized piracy upon a large scale throve upon kidnaping and the sale of its victims to meet the demand of the west for slaves. The heartlessness of this western system of plantation and ranch slavery is fully borne out by the record of uprisings, from the intermittent outbreaks of rural slaves in Sicily and Italy in 200 B.C. to the final dangerous revolt of the slaves of Italy led by the Thracian Spartacus in 73-71 B.C.
The organization of the Roman Empire brought an end to the period of the exploitation of the provinces and established within the boundaries of the empire the pax romana. The endless supply of cheap slaves through the sale of war captives dwindled; and with the decrease in slave supply there came a gradual return to tenantry and leasing on the share system. Coincident with this change appears the encouragement of slave marriages in the west and the rearing of house born slaves (vernae) with its humanizing influence upon the master's behavior.
The growth of a new public attitude toward the slave class in the west, reflected in a series of legislative enactments by the Roman emperors, is part of a general spiritual change, the sources of which are difficult to trace. Neither stoicism nor Christianity was a primary or direct agency in the application of the new spirit to slavery, since both fully accepted it as a working economic and social institution. Believing that there would be no spiritual differentiation between bond and free, both stoic and Christian were indifferent to slavery although advocating humane treatment for slaves, in the one case as members of the fraternity of mankind, in the other as children of God.
Although statistical proof is out of the question, it may be assumed that the effects of slavery upon population numbers in antiquity were consistently counter to increase. The problem of its reaction upon public morals and standards of living cannot be solved by a general condemnation of slavery per se. The slave system of antiquity was a part of a general labor system. Except for the two hundred year period of western plantation slavery, free and slave labor customarily worked side by side with little actual differentiation in respect to wages or treatment.
William Linn Westermann
Mediaeval. In western Europe, the Byzantine Empire and the Moslem lands mediaeval slavery took its cue from the later and more humane codes and practises to which the ancient world returned after the decline of the gang slavery of the Roman plantations. For centuries after Valentinian's edict of 377 A.D. forbidding the sale of rural servi separately from the land it is difficult in many cases to distinguish the condition of these people from that of the coloni. The word slave, a variant of Slav, gradually came into use from about the eighth century because of the number of captives from Slavic tribes. Dealers also bought Germans and Gallo-Romans, Verdun being one of the great centers of the trade with the Mediterranean.
In a letter of about 600 freeing two church slaves Pope Gregory the Great repeated the ancient belief that manumission was a good act. Centuries before the Christian era the Jews had been warned (Jeremiah XXXIV: 8-16) of the Lord's displeasure because they enslaved their own people, a point specifically recalled by another famous manumission document of the twelfth century from the Abbey of Saint-Pere at Chartres. The third Levantine "book religion," Moslemism, was to be equally clear as to the piety of releasing those of its own faith from bondage. Gregory's remark that nature had created men free in the beginning and the jus gentium had substituted slavery (quos ab initio natura liberos protulit et jus gentium jugo substituit servitutis) was good pagan philosophy, to be repeated almost word for word by Rousseau in the eighteenth century; but this part of Pope Gregory's statement must be read in its theological context. The redemption from bondage provided by Christ's sacrifice was for the benefit of those who embraced Christianity, and even in these cases manumission was not the right of the slave but a pious and commendable act on the part of the master. There was a growing agitation against the sale of Christians, especially abroad and most especially to Jews, Saracens and barbarians. But slavery itself continued to exist in every Christian country throughout the Middle Ages and the church made no attempt to abolish it. Indeed it did not free its own slaves. For generations the German clergy connived at the export of Slavonic people by Jewish merchants to Moslem countries.
Slavery and the slave trade declined materially and generally in western Europe for at least four centuries from about 900 to 1300. The supply of "barbarian" and "infidel" captives decreased. Serfdom was better adapted to the crude and non-commercial agriculture of central and northern Europe. Even house slavery must have been reduced through manumission and the substitution of dues and corvees from half free peasants. In Mediterranean Europe the colonate became standardized as serfdom rather than slavery, under the influence of Lombards and Normans during the period before these Germans became thoroughly Latinized and began to revive Roman jurisprudence. Slavery was also ill adapted to the commercial and industrial life of the Italian towns, furnishers of the vast transalpine regions, at a time when European civilization was rapidly expanding to the limits of the continent.
It is hard to date the definite increase in slavery toward the end of the European Middle Ages. Refugees and captives multiplied with the new Asiatic invasions of eastern Europe and the Near East which began in earnest in the thirteenth century. Venetian and Genoese slave traders bought Circassians, Armenians, Syrians, Bulgarians and Serbs from the Turks, for sale principally in the Mediterranean countries. The Spanish advance against the Moors provided many captives. House slaves were in demand in the Mediterranean trading towns after these became large and wealthy. Part of this market was supplied with Sudanese, brought across the Sahara to the Barbary ports. This trade had been large for centuries, but the bulk of it always went to Moslem countries. The Portuguese reached the Guinea coast in the fifteenth century and began to divert this ancient traffic to the sea near its source. The military successes of the Ottoman Turks aided the revival of slavery. Standard accounts assert that at least fifty thousand people were sold as slaves after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is common but hardly permissible to classify the Moslemized and privileged Janissaries as slaves on the grounds that they were obtained by levies of Christian children for three centuries after about 1326 and were not allowed to marry until 1566.
The late mediaeval combination of rising national spirit with religious militancy and intolerance made for increased numbers of captives. In 1452 Pope Nicholas V empowered the king of Portugal to despoil and sell into slavery all Moslems, heathen and other foes of Christ. A hundred Moorish slaves sent to Pope Innocent VIII in 1488 by Ferdinand the Catholic were distributed among the cardinals and other notables. Baptized Jews who associated with the unconverted were liable to enslavement. This was also the penalty for a variety of crimes, including conspiracy, high treason, wife abduction, soothsaying, inability to restore stolen property and the sale of arms to Moslems during the offensive wars called crusades. "Foes of Christ" was sometimes broadly interpreted. Pope Gregory XI excommunicated the Florentines in 1376, ordering their enslavement wherever found. Women slaves were sold cheap in Rome after the fall of Capua in 1501.
Being valuable, slaves secured their freedom for valuable considerations or out of the piety of masters, which might be stimulated by the hope of reward in another world. The church slave admitted to holy orders might have to purchase the privilege or have it purchased for him by his fellow villagers. If he left the church or married, he could be reclaimed as a slave. As in ancient manumissions it was common to continue certain rights and obligations. For example, the church generally excluded the freed slaves of private masters from holy orders until evidence was produced that no obsequium remained, especially the right to reclaim the freedman for testifying against his former master or showing him disrespect. Too much independence on the part of ordained former church slaves could be guarded against by the threat of return to their former condition. A church slave freed to become a private person generally had to see that his former bond service was rendered. Sometimes he paid a stiff sum, in annual instalments or all at once. He could not buy property from relatives still in the church or summon anybody to court within the chapter except by its consent. If a freeman married the daughter of a church slave, he generally became a slave himself together with the children of the marriage; but he might avoid this by payments during his lifetime and the surrender of his property to the church at his death. Slave marriages were not generally solemnized by the clergy unless the master consented, for such a ceremony might be presented as evidence of freedom.
It is often asserted at the present time that private slaves were better off than church slaves, largely on the ground that the former had a better chance at manumission. Whether this is suitable evidence depends upon the point of view. The bishop or other administrator within a perpetual institution was not as free as the private master to follow any natural lenience at the expense of property rights in special cases. Sometimes a bishop was forbidden to free church slaves without payment from private funds and the freedmen were required to give evidence of their new status to one or more successors to the bishop conferring freedom. As a rule children of unions between freeman and slave took the status of the mother, but there were many exceptions, as in England. Since slavery was chiefly a personal and household relationship after the rise of feudalism and serfdom, it seems safe to assume that both the best and the worst conditions were to be found under private masters.
Slavery in the Moslem world had few special characteristics. Household slaves rather than field slaves were the rule. Because of the organization of family and household eunuchs were much more common in oriental societies. Emasculation was increasingly discouraged in Christian Europe and forbidden in some states but not entirely abolished. Like Christianity, Islam tolerated slavery and encouraged the enslavement of enemies; but the freeing of a Moslem slave was regarded as a pious act. Debt slavery and the sale of children into slavery by destitute parents were less common and more distinctly against the law than in Christendom. Prisoners of war and descendants of people already captives made up the bulk of the slave population. Young female slaves were often the concubines of their masters, with a special and stable situation in the family if sons were born. A slave could be freed by will, even by a clearly expressed verbal will. As in Christendom, he could be liberated by a contract to meet precise and regular payments. Such a contract might be almost the exact equivalent of the Roman peculium arrangement, save that the unfree Moslem could enter into a contract under which he could not be sold if he lived up to its terms during the period in which he was earning the price of his freedom. To forgive him part of this price was a pious and meritorious act. As in Rome or in mediaeval Christendom, manumission generally made a person merely a freedman for the time being, owing obligations similar to the obsequium. Moslem slavery during the European Middle Ages is not to be judged by the slave trade. The terrible journey across the Sahara was probably not as bad as the "middle passage" of later times. Organized Barbary corsair activities, by renegades originally of many nations and faiths, belong mostly to modern times; and the hope of tribute was responsible for many of the worst features. The most hideous aspect of the trade in Sudanese was probably the making of eunuchs. The operation was performed in the Sudan before the caravan trip, and about one out of ten survived. Once these valuable slaves had reached the Mediterranean, they were generally well treated. Of course the eunuch is a familiar figure in the history of the ancient Near East, of the Roman and Byzantine empires and even of Christian western Europe -- the practise he represents was not originally Moslem in any sense.
The tendency to ignore the widespread existence of slavery in the Middle Ages may be attributed largely to the obsession of many philosophers and historians that history records a reasonably consistent advance from unfreedom to freedom. This explains the uncritical rejoicings over the rise of serfdom. On the whole slavery has been associated with higher types of economic organization than serfdom and probably with social conditions at least as civilized and humanitarian.
Melvin M, Knight
General. Although throughout the modern period various earlier types of domestic and patriarchal slavery have persisted in many regions of the world, the most significant and dynamic development of the institution has taken place in connection with the establishment and spread of the plantation economy in the Americas and with the transportation and sale of African Negroes. Around the middle of the fifteenth century the traffic in slaves from the interior of Africa, which since the rise of the Moslem power had been monopolized by overland Arab traders, began to be diverted by the Portuguese sea captains of Prince Henry the Navigator. In the course of their voyages of exploration along the west African coast they returned, first with Moorish captives and after 1444, the date of the first shipload of Senegalese blacks to arrive in Portugal, with Negro slaves from the various native tribes which they encountered. The development of this new oversea, as opposed to overland, trade in African Negroes was stimulated by the fact that slaves were in demand in Portugal as domestics and stevedores and to a far greater degree as agricultural laborers, especially in the southern sections of the country, where the wars against the Moors had helped to deplete the population. Furthermore, as Portuguese dominions expanded into the East Indies and South America, natives of these regions were sent in considerable numbers as slaves to the home country and to different parts of the empire. By the middle of the sixteenth century the inhabitants of the Algarve were largely Ethiopian, and even as far north as Lisbon blacks outnumbered whites. There was no marked color line, and the blood of the two races mingled freely, resulting eventually in Negroid physical characteristics in the Portuguese nation. African slaves were being sold in Spain soon after their introduction into Portugal, and although they apparently were not used to any extent in agriculture, the institution was soon established. Even the pious Queen Isabella favored it as offering salvation to the bondmen through contact with Christianity.
It was the discovery of America, however, which opened the new era in the history of slavery. In every colony sooner or later the essential prerequisite of prosperity became the capacity to furnish some commodity or commodities which people elsewhere would buy at a price greater than the costs of production and delivery. Staple products for sale in Europe were found in tobacco, rice, indigo, cotton and sugar cane, products which invited large scale production, by the use of gang labor, for the sake of large scale earnings. Wage labor was seldom available, for where there is opportunity to work for oneself few are willing to go into the employ of others, and it became necessary to resort to unfree labor.
Slavery in the Hispanic colonies of the New World was at first limited to the aborigines and was resorted to by Columbus. Although in the subsequent period, under the influence of the clergy, slavery as a formal institution was generally frowned on by the authorities in Spain, natives were forced to work in fields and mines under the oppressive forms of serfdom known as repartimiento and encomienda (see NATIVE POLICY, section on Latin America). Long before the close of the colonial era most of the natives of the West Indies had been wiped out by harsh treatment or by European diseases. The aborigines were deprived of their liberty on the ground that otherwise they would flee to the forests and mountains and could not be taught the "true faith." Recognizing this difficulty, the Spanish sovereigns permitted the colonists to force the Indians to work; but they stipulated that the laborers must be treated humanely, paid for their labor and taught the Christian gospel. The royal mandates were, however, largely ignored, in spite of the efforts of Bartolome de Las Casas and other members of the clergy to protect the Indians. Moreover on the pretext of suppressing rebellion or cannibalism extensive slave raids were undertaken first against neighboring islands in the West Indies and along the continental coasts and then, throughout the colonial era and to some degree even in the following century, in the frontier regions of the colonies on the mainland. Chattel slavery thus became common and supplied skilled craftsmen as well as domestic and agricultural workers.
Indian slavery began in Brazil with captives taken by the Portuguese on the coasts in their conflicts with the aborigines. Before long slave hunting had become an important and lucrative occupation, especially in the south and west, where the mameluke inhabitants of the captaincy of Sao Paulo raided the Jesuit missions and carried off their aboriginal inhabitants, largely Guaranis. The Paulistas sold their captives for the most part in the coastal settlements, where they were used on the sugar and cotton plantations. The Indians of the lower Amazon basin were likewise enslaved on a large scale and forced to work in the tobacco plantations of Para. Early roused by the high mortality of the natives under their oppressive taskmasters, the Jesuits became their champions at the Portuguese court and sought constantly to protect them. Although various royal decrees were issued to govern their treatment and to place them under the care of a council of missions, the greed of the white plantation owners and the remoteness from the scene of the royal officials prevented any considerable improvement in the lot of the native bondmen.
With the passage of time, however, Indian slavery proper was reduced to a position of relative insignificance through the large scale introduction of Negroes. The first Africans were landed in the New World about the year 1510, before Las Casas began seriously to champion the aborigines. His subsequent suggestion, which he later regretted, that blacks be brought in in sufficient numbers to save the natives from slavery, unquestionably accelerated importations from Africa. Furthermore it was found that Negroes made far better bondmen than did the wild aborigines, who were restive in captivity and died in greater numbers under the hardships it imposed. The arrangement also suited the needs of the royal hacienda, which taxed importations of Negroes while it derived tribute from many of the theoretically free Indians. The large scale importations into Brazil were the result of similar considerations.
Most of the African slaves were used as domestic servants, agricultural laborers and stevedores or in other unskilled occupations; but many expert craftsmen were found among them. The work to which they were put was determined in part by the ethnographic group from which the slaves had been drawn. Those from the Slave Coast tribes were commonly good natured and docile and were in demand as field hands. The Koromantes of the Gold Coast, who were noted for faithfulness, were desirable as servants. The Senegalese, the most intelligent of all of the slave types, were sought for high class domestic work and also for training in the crafts. The natives of the Congo and Angola, on the other hand, because of their dulness of wits, were used largely for gang labor.
Although they were introduced into all the colonies, the Negroes apparently did not thrive in the highlands, and the aborigines generally continued to toil in the mines and to share in the coarser work connected with the trades. But in the sugar growing West Indies and the Spanish Main black slavery became established on a large scale; and after many of the islands and neighboring areas passed into French, English or Dutch control the blacks continued to increase, forming a large majority of the population in several of the islands. In Brazil they were in especial demand in the northern plantations, where by the close of the seventeenth century they outnumbered the whites twenty to one. The opening of the mines in the eighteenth century brought large numbers farther south, a movement which continued with the growth of the coffee plantations in the late colonial era and the independent period.
It was not until the eighteenth century, when plantation production had spread into many areas, that the Atlantic slave trade became the most profitable branch of maritime activity. The trade with Brazil was in the hands of Portuguese or Brazilians throughout the period of the traffic; but the Spanish Indies were supplied by foreigners who were granted special concessions (see ASIENTO). The Dutch, French and English organized private slave trading companies and carved out spheres of influence on the African coast. In the eighteenth century the British, endowed with the asiento privilege, held the primacy in the trade. From the latter Liverpool drew its first great prosperity, and in this prosperity every part of western Europe and America shared.
The typical voyage of the slave traders was triangular. The first leg was from the home port to Guinea with a cargo of trade goods, including a heavy supply of rum if the ship had sailed from New England. On the coast of Africa this cargo was bartered for blacks, brought by their fellows from the interior to the coast. If the supply was abundant, the Negroes were thrust as thick as they could lie between the decks of the vessels or upon shelving. The second leg, the "middle passage," was the transatlantic run, which although it was swift, thanks to the trade wind, was wretched enough for the befouled and bewildered victims. At American destinations they were either sold by sundry quick devices or put into stockades to be retailed on demand. The ship was then laden with sugar and molasses or with rice or tobacco for the third leg homeward, bearing money or bills of exchange to make up the difference between the proceeds of the slave sales and the purchase price of the cargo of plantation produce.
Of the millions of blacks who crossed the sea by far the greater number were sold in the West Indies and Brazil. This may be attributed not merely to the larger scale on which the tropical plantations operated and to the absence of competing white labor but also to the heavy mortality, particularly among the young.
In Africa the Negroes were taken from ten thousand hamlets; in America they were sold helter skelter among ten thousand purchasers. Their native languages were generally of no use; their crafts and creeds were primitive (although there were some Moslems) and of no service. Under coercion, whether harsh or mild, they had to learn a new technique of labor and the rudiments of the master's language. They were forced at least to compromise with his requirements as to conduct and in certain of the colonies were under some pressure to embrace his religion. Some resisted and were destroyed. In Brazil suicides, usually by drowning, were common. Another refuge for the unhappy and discouraged was flight; escape was most successful on the continents, where there were vast hinterlands, jungles and forests. Runaways in Brazil at times escaped capture through strong organization. During the war of the Brazilians to expel the Dutch in the seventeenth century slaves from the Pernambuco region deserted their masters in great numbers and set up communities in the jungle. One of these, the confederation of Palmares, numbering 8000 to 10,000 inhabitants, resisted conquest for nearly a half century. The great majority of slaves acquiesced in their condition in a perfunctory manner, but a substantial number even of imported Negroes became affectionate, loyal and painstaking servants. Those who were born in America, having no tribal memories to lament, were likely to offer less resistance to the system into which they were bred; and with each new generation acceptance became more and more a matter of course.
The system, however, continued always to chafe many of the slaves. Although in the Hispanic parts of America slave revolts seem to have been of rare occurrence and little feared, in the French, English and Dutch possessions as in the United States the white element lived in almost constant dread of servile uprisings. This difference is probably to be explained by the fact that on the whole the position of the slaves was much less unhappy and hopeless in Spanish America and in Brazil than in other parts of the New World. Whereas in the British possessions the Anglican church was as a rule wholly indifferent to their spiritual needs and the Moravian and Methodist missionaries began to work among them only in the eighteenth century, in the Roman Catholic countries the black man was regarded as an object of salvation. The clergy were the best friends of the helpless slave; they made efforts to have infants baptized and encouraged marriage among the adults, although masters generally preferred the customary loose unions, since the marriage tie of the Roman church was a handicap when slaves were to be sold. In Brazil and -- presumably to a lesser extent -- in Spanish America the slaves met for evening prayers with the master's family. Perhaps of equal influence in the Hispanic colonies was the absence of distinct racial prejudice, which permitted the free Negro to rise high in the social scale and prevented opposition to manumission or even laws prohibiting it, such as existed in many parts of the southern United States. By precept and example many of the Roman clergy encouraged voluntary manumission, as did also law and custom. Faithful nurses were often freed when their charges no longer needed them. In Brazil slave mothers at times asked white persons to serve as sponsors for their infants at baptism, and granting of this request carried with it a tacit promise to see that the child was liberated. In Brazil likewise law or custom stipulated that a slave woman who had borne ten children should be manumitted. Throughout Hispanic America, if a slave could furnish his master with his legal purchase price, the master was bound to accept the money and give him his certificate of liberation. Money for purchasing freedom was as a rule earned during the rest days, which generally included most of Sunday as well as the saints' days and other holy days.
In the Portuguese, Spanish and French colonies the autocratic system of government served to lessen local control over legislation regarding slaves and their treatment. In the British possessions, on the other hand, the slave codes during most of the period were entirely of local origin and manifested a marked tendency to variation and to change, particularly after the abolitionist agitation had begun to attract attention to their harshness. Like the codes in the United States, the legislation everywhere aimed to benefit the white master and to restrain the bondman. The codes were rather laxly enforced, however, especially in the Hispanic sections, and the slaves really fared better than the laws permitted. In the Portuguese and Spanish colonies the public authorities cooperated in disciplining and restraining incorrigible blacks, employing for this purpose the slave whipping post and the slave jail. But nowhere was serious precaution taken to protect the bondman from his master; for, as in the United States, the assumption was that the property rights of the master in the slave would save the latter from serious harm. Consequently slaves were at times subjected to ferocious cruelty and even met death at the hands of white men.
Everywhere mingling of blood between slave women and white men was common. The children took the unfree status of the mother but in many cases were manumitted by the father. Apparently the only serious effort to prevent such relationships was that of Louis XIV, who decreed freedom for the mother as well as her half breed child in cases where the guilty master was unmarried. In the French colonies this decree resulted chiefly in the rise of a class of mulatto freedmen, who by reason of their education and wealth aroused the jealousy of the whites. The resulting race prejudice helps to explain the fact that the slaves in the French colonies (especially Saint-Domingue) fared worse than those in the Hispanic regions, despite the Catholicism of the French and the code noir of Louis XIV (1685). As in the United States, slave quarters in the other regions of the New World were commonly huts grouped at the rear of the master's residence. Their food consisted mostly of starches, such as maize or farina; but on the plantations Negroes were given bits of land on which they could raise chickens and pigs, fruits and vegetables. The favorite amusements were dancing, singing and playing on primitive musical instruments of African origin.
In lands of European culture the movement against slavery, which began in the eighteenth century in an attack upon the slave trade, was largely the result of the rising spirit of democracy and the recognition that the inherent evils of the system (see PLANTATION) affected the slaveholding element as well as the bondmen. The French Revolution was unquestionably the most important single factor making for abolition. Directly to it may be attributed the uprising in Saint-Domingue, which resulted in the establishment of the black Republic of Haiti; it was responsible also, but somewhat more indirectly, for abolition in most of the Spanish American republics, In the Brazilian Empire, next to the United States the largest occidental slaveholding country, the great dependence of the coffee planters upon slave labor was the chief cause for the prolongation of the institution, and the most potent single impulse toward abolition came from the Civil War and emancipation in the United States. The law of 1888, decreeing the total elimination of slavery, was the immediate cause of the downfall of the empire in the following year.
The antislavery movement turned its attention also to the various forms of slavery which had persisted in the Moslem countries, in the Orient and among the more primitive peoples, Although the predominance of a domestic and patriarchal type of slavery has made the system relatively mild in these areas, they have nevertheless proved particularly resistant to western moral and religious codes. An outstanding target of the reformers has been the east African and Red Sea trade, which remained after the Atlantic trade was checked and survives in a limited degree today. The leaders of the movement came to the conclusion that they could abolish the slave trade only by introducing Christianity and western civilization into Africa and by destroying the market through doing away with slavery itself. Such ideas provided an important pretext for the partition of Africa. In the abolition of slavery the British have been especially active; remembering, however, the disorganization caused by compulsory emancipation in the West Indies, they have been content with abolishing the legal status and in this respect have been followed by the other nations. In India this step was taken in 1843 and slavery began to disappear in the period after 1857, when railroad building supplied an outlet for labor.
Action on an international scale against slavery dates from the early period of the attack on the Atlantic slave trade. The Brussels Act of 1890, in which eighteen states participated, furnished the decisive move in the outlawry of such traffic. The convention of Saint-Germain of 1919 pledged its signatories to endeavor to secure the complete suppression of slavery in all its forms, including forced labor, pseudo-adoption, forced concubinage and debt slavery, and of the slave trade by land and sea. In 1926 another convention, prepared under the auspices of the League of Nations, bound the signatories to suppress the slave trade and to bring about complete abolition as soon as possible. This convention was ratified by thirty-eight states. In 1932 it was assumed by the League of Nations Committee of Experts on Slavery that legal recognition existed only in central Asia and Tibet (although authoritative information was lacking), Arabia and Abyssinia; in the last named state the trade has been prohibited and freedom upon the death of the master and for children born after a certain date has been decreed.
Antislavery propagandists estimate the number of slaves existing today as at least 5,000,000. In China the purchase and ownership of children, particularly of young girls, for household service is still common under the guise of adoption. In Abyssinia perhaps one fifth of the population consists of slaves, and there are also numerous serfs. The institution there is ancient, the life of the Christian church is bound up with it, and the large Moslem population likewise supports it. In some cases the slaves work in agriculture, especially on the lands of the powerful chiefs in the south and southwest, but in the main they are domestics. Upon these slaves public officials, and even common soldiers, rely for their economic support and social prestige. The supply is recruited by raids upon the non-Abyssinian populations, even into neighboring territories. Suppression is difficult because of the limited power of the emperor. In Arabia similar conditions prevail. Among the aborigines in Liberia domestic slavery, especially of women, is widespread. Although the government has outlawed slavery, it has countenanced the African custom of pledging persons, usuallychildren, for the debt of a relative. The pledge is salable. The Americo-Liberians have taken such pawns. High officials have been accused of forcibly shipping natives to the plantations of Fernando Po, and the practise is said to be scarcely distinguishable from the slave trade. The Portuguese have been charged with similar action with respect to shipments from Angola to Sao Thome and Principe.
Mary Wilhelmine Williams
United States. In the North American colonies enslavement of Indian captives was sometimes resorted to, but they proved to be unwilling servants, prone to flee to their tribes if not to kill their masters. As a means of removing them to a safer distance from their tribes Indian slaves were frequently shipped to distant colonies, as, for example, from New England to the West Indies; but on the whole Indians played a minor role in the establishment of slavery. Indentured white servants from the British Isles and Europe were for some decades the main source of slave labor in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania; but as experience revealed the superior adaptability and cheapness of Negro slaves, they were gradually replaced in all the plantation colonies. In these respects the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were experimental; it was not until the eighteenth that the slave trade became the most profitable branch of maritime activity.
From the first intrusion of the blacks into a community the whites had assumed, whether by custom or by law, the functions of authority. At the time when the first parcel of slaves was imported into Virginia in 1619, there was no statute concerning Negroes, and for several decades the situation remained unchanged. Gradually, however, by a slow succession of laws, which served also as a model for neighboring colonies, the presence of slaves was recognized and a code elaborated to define their status both as persons and as property. Meanwhile Barbados, the oldest English colony in the tropical belt, evolved a more stringent code, which was copied by South Carolina and other Anglo-American jurisdictions in the sugar and cotton latitudes. In the Spanish and French colonies, including Louisiana, the codes were milder than in the neighboring English colonies, having been decreed by distant monarchs free from pressures arising out of local circumstances. The dominant purpose, however, even in the Spanish and French colonies was the promotion of the prosperity and the safeguarding of the security of the white population.
In early Virginia the enslavement of the blacks had been rationalized on the grounds of their paganism. But race quickly replaced religion as the basis of differentiation, and the law prescribed that every Negro be presumed to be a slave unless he could individually show title to freedom, By analogy with livestock the children born in the colony took the status of their mothers. This bracketed virtually all the mulattoes and quadroons along with the blacks in the slave category and the Negro caste.
As the ratios of colored to white began shortly to increase in the plantation colonies and sporadic insurrections began to break out, the laws of police were repeatedly stiffened with a view to providing complete restraint of slaves at every turn. They were forbidden to possess arms or drums, to travel the highways or be out of their premises at night without written passes or white escort, to congregate for any purpose in the absence of whites or to resist any white person's exercise of authority. For a routine of surveillance the citizens were embodied into patrols to traverse their countrysides periodically by night. These laws, passed in anticipation of emergency, involved slaveholders and other citizens in heavier duties than as a rule they were willing to discharge. In normal times of quiet and confidence, the control was much more casual and easy going than the statutes would imply. In the colonies northward of Maryland, where the growing season was too short for the plantation system to flourish and where only a small number of Negroes had been imported for domestic and incidental service, the slave codes were much less elaborate and the social concern with any race problem was less acute. In these colonies the status of the Negroes might be changed with little disturbance to the prevailing order.
In the movement for American independence the doctrine that all men are entitled to liberty was not merely used as a campaign cry but was incorporated into the bills of rights which several states, including Massachusetts, attached to their first constitutions. Shortly afterwards this clause was declared by the Massachusetts judiciary to invalidate slave property. By 1804 all the other northern states had disestablished slavery by statutes which prescribed freedom, upon their attaining specified adult ages, for children born thereafter. In Maryland and Virginia similar proposals were defeated by the prevailing fear that industrial paralysis and social chaos would ensue. Farther southward no citizen of prominence made antislavery proposals of any sort. The main concrete result of liberal preachments in the South was a large number of private manumissions by qualm ridden proprietors.
The French Revolution, following fairly close upon the American, was more thoroughly committed to the inherent rights of man; and in due time the Jacobins applied their ideology to the slave situation existing in the French colonies. When in Santo Domingo (soon renamed Haiti) the white colonists resisted the enfranchisement of the colored population, the mulattoes and blacks, acting separately, rebelled and drove out such of the whites as they did not massacre. Eventually the blacks conquered the mulattoes as well and established a barbaric independent government. These occurrences around the end of the eighteenth century helped to produce a conservative reaction in the United States, where in the meantime Whitney's invention of the cotton gin had opened the way to a vast extension of the plantation area.
In the federal constitution, although the word slavery was avoided, the institution was recognized and to a certain degree safeguarded. Slaves, at a three-fifths ratio, were to be included in reckoning the apportionment of congressional representation among the states; interstate recovery of runaway slaves was not to be prevented by state laws; and Congress was not to prohibit slave importations prior to 1808. As this deadline drew near Congress, with little intersectional dissension, forbade further imports. At the same time Parliament prohibited slave trading under the British flag; and thereafter both the British and American governments took the lead in establishing an international outlawry of ths maritime slave trade. Among the American states meanwhile slave imports had been permitted only by Georgia until 1798 and by South Carolina after 1803.
The rapid opening of the western cotton belt after 1815 created a great regional demand for plantation labor, which could be supplied only from the older slave states. Many migrating proprietors took their own slaves to the new country, and many prospering settlers bought recruits in the market. A long distance domestic slave trade was rapidly developed, with Virginia as the chief area of supply and New Orleans as the main center of distribution. Slave prices, which had been relatively stable as long as Africa was available as a reservoir of recruits, now became subject to sharp inflation and depression. The pivotal market category of slaves was that of prime field hands. These were able bodied men between eighteen and thirty years of age, on the threshold of maximum earnings for a maximum span of years. A newborn male pickaninny was a palpable addition to his master's assets, rating at about one tenth of prime for his period and region. Given a healthy and robust body, the slave's value grew with every year of his childhood and youth, not because of the investment represented by his food and clothing but because of the approach of the time when the value of his service would probably exceed the cost of his maintenance. If he were given special training as an artisan, a butler or a foreman, he was capable of attaining a higher value than if he became a mere field hand; and his attainment of maximum rating would be deferred until perhaps his middle twenties, when his training would be virtually complete. After the age of thirty in the case of field hands -- or perhaps thirty-five in the case of specialists -- the value of the slave would begin to decline, slowly at first, then more swiftly, then more slowly again. In his early fifties he would be worth about one half of prime; in his middle sixties he might rate at zero or less, because of the probability that his future labor would not compensate for the cost of his maintenance until death. Girls and women at the several ages usually brought about three fourths of the price paid for boys and men. A fertile woman usually commanded no higher price than a barren one, since the prospective increment of pickaninnies was offset by the loss of the woman's service during pregnancy and suckling and by the possible loss of either mother or infant during childbirth.
For industrial purposes the primary category was "full hands." These comprised all men in full physique and such women as were able to do standard service, whether in the plow gang or in the hoe gang. Other women along with boys and elderly men might have a fractional rating as three-fourths, one-half or one-fourth hands. Thus a three-fourths woman and her one-fourth child might be set to "chop" a cotton furrow, leapfrogging one another to keep abreast of the gang without undue fatigue. Any slave might continue to rate as a full hand for many years after ceasing to be prime.
There are just enough records extant to permit the plotting of the accompanying chart (reprinted from Phillips, Ulrich B., Life and Labor in the Old South, Little, Brown & Co., Boston 1929, p. 177), which exhibits the course of prime field hand prices in four markets during the six decades of the nineteenth century.
The number of slaves sold in any year seems to have been only 1 or 2 or possibly 5 percent of the gross, in contrast with a stock exchange regime in which it is not unknown for the whole share capital of a company to be turned over in a single day. In the chart of the slave price curves the peaks are usually sharp and simultaneous and are separated by fairly broad troughs. This suggests that the price tended to remain on industrial rather than speculative levels, except for brief periods of special enthusiasm. The crash which came just after 1860 is fully explained by the fact that the very basis of slave property was on the point of being destroyed; but the downward course in this instance was obscured statistically by the plunge of Confederate currency at that time.
A good many slaves were hired out by the year. On such a basis able bodied men were in special demand by tobacco factories, ironworks and railroad builders. The wages current, which were additional to the cost of food, clothing, shelter and medication, ranged parallel to those of free labor. These wages bore a fairly definite relation to the capital values. In fact capital values depended mainly upon potential wage rates. In Virginia the price of a prime field hand tended to be about eight years' purchase of his labor and in Louisiana about six years' purchase. This did not imply an expectation of death in six or eight years' time but was due in part to the familiar economic practise of discounting probable future earnings, together with the chances of truancy, crippling or illness as well as of death.
As a rule the variation of slave prices as between the lowest and highest markets amounted to some 20 percent. This created an opportunity for the long distance traders, who moved their merchandise by diverse routes. From the Chesapeake to New Orleans they moved their charges mostly by ocean highway around Florida. After crossing the mountains, usually from the Potomac, they used river boats on the Ohio and Mississippi to Memphis, Vicksburg and thereabouts. From Virginia to Georgia, Alabama or eastern Mississippi there would be a trudge of a coffle overland, with perhaps a bit of peddling along the way. In the 1850's the Central Georgia Railroad operated a sleeping car for Negroes -- a facility which it has not afforded since. Recruits for Texas went mainly by sailing lanes from New Orleans or Mobile or around Florida. Whatever their destination, slaves flowed by much the same channels as the free migrants and as a rule in their company. The destination had to be reached in good order if a profit were to be made, and sale had to be fairly quick in order to guard against excessive board bills and to keep the trader's capital fluid. For local dealings any merchant might act on commission, although his services were not indispensable, as buyers and sellers often negotiated without an intermediary. Sometimes in fact a slave mediated in his own behalf, bearing a written authority to find a purchaser for himself. The results of this traffic included some anguish of dislocation, personal and regional, and some improvement in the adjustment of labor to management and local resources.
Migrating slaveholders often took pains to register the fact that they were moving to a new plantation and were not "dealers in human flesh." But the slave traders traveling by the same ship would exert virtually the same effect upon the statistics. Migrant proprietor and traveling dealer together succeeded during the course of a lifetime or two in transferring a multitude of slaves from one region to another, from one staple to another; and in particular they created the western cotton belt. In this region there were large tracts, perennially fertile and contrasting sharply with the lean and eroding Atlantic slope: the limestone lands of Alabama alluvium and loess along the Father of Waters and limestone again, in Texas. If the Negroes had been a free peasantry, they might have trekked west in the course of generations; as slaves they went in droves in quick response to new opportunity seen by their masters. No effort of will was required of them, merely obedience.
To this extent slavery was conducive to efficiency, as may be shown by the prodigious increase of the cotton output from a few thousand pounds in 1790 to four million bales of four hundred pounds weight in 1859. As is evident from the chart, this increase produced gyrations in the cotton price. By the 1820's the price depression brought severe hardship to the eastern belt, provoking nullification of the tariff by South Carolina in 1832 in an effort to discover a means of relief. In the early 1840's a serious collapse put the price below the presumable cost of production in any region; and in the 1850's recovery reached but a moderate level. Nevertheless, by the middle of the century cotton -- together with the other young staple, sugar -- had come to employ and maintain more than three fourths of all the slaves engaged in field work within the United States.
About an equal number of white farmers and their wives and children were likewise engaged in cotton production, for this industry gave no pronounced advantage to units large or small. Its processes were simple; its routine was long but light; and its yield, man for man and mule for mule, was probably not very different whether produced by whites or blacks. The Negroes, being on plantations, as a rule tilled the best acres. These had been bought with the money or credit derived from cotton production by slave labor; and this labor, as already noted, had in itself involved a considerable outlay. The soil exhaustion so often blamed on the plantation technique was in reality due to the terrain, the soil texture, the character of the rainfall and a frontier economy, not to the plantation system or to slavery. The blacks, under supervision, probably spread many more bushels of barnyard manure than the whites of the period, and they strewed many tons of guano at forty to fifty dollars per ton. The planters put much plant food into the ground; the runoff of the rains took most of it down the hill, down the creek, "beyond recovery by any process of law." The farmers' hills likewise eroded but were seldom replenished. The net earning per bale tended at all times to be small, A farmer's crop, which seldom could exceed five bales, yielded a very lean livelihood. The planter's fifty to five hundred permitted ease and elegance, provided only his costs were kept within firm control.
The ratio of brain to brawn required in successful cotton growing could be supplied by the general run of planters, Some of them were eager students of seed strains, crop rotation and even of correct stance and movement in manual processes. Nor did they neglect to investigate the complex tasks of human management. Some of them put their experiments and observations into print; some made record in their diaries; and some communicated the fruits of their inquiries by letter or in copious conversation. Many planters of course were not systematic students of anything; nearly all farmers, equally of course, could be systematic students of nothing. With backs bent over the plow by day, they would hardly make record of results by night. There were no government bureaus to conduct experiments and comparisons. The planters alone could or did initiate improvements in method.
The tone in which the immense authority of the master was voiced might range from gruff to gracious. The slave's response might be cringing or resolute, aggrieved or nonchalant, quick or slow. In a tense moment a humorous remark might send a guffaw through the gang and relax the master's brow. Whereupon the foreman might break into a ballad chant, "Did tom tit sot on de top fence rayull," and the gang would join in with a six or eight-line refrain which, might deal with anything in creation and had to be interlarded with a wealth of impromptu rigmarole. The tempo would be as fast as the gang would stand, its hoes rising and falling to the cadence; or again as slow as the master would tolerate. The foreman would chant "He wiggled, he sassy he 'itty bitty tayull," and again the gang would give refrain. The tomtit would cut many another caper, until: "In de cose of time he died an' went to heyull" -- beyond resurrection -- at least until another day. Now his pappy and his mammy, his uncle and his auntie would go their several ways from a crossroads and find adventures many. Finally 'possum an' 'coon, old reliables, might take the stage their wonders to perform. To stave off the untimely death of the protagonist any member of the gang might intervene with a special episode, giving notice of its conclusion with a line of inarticulate ululation. The master would long since have gone elsewhere on business or pleasure. At length the foreman would shout; "Wawtah boyee, heist yo heels! De brudderin' an' sisterin' is gitt'n' dreffle dry," or upon hearing a bell or bugle from the steading: "Ladees an' ge'men, de time have came to pahtake of de good Lawd's provid'n'," viz. corn pone and bacon, turnip greens and pot liquor.
The slave was not often likely to suffer hurt. Overseers, '' the cowhide fraternity'' as one planter called them, tended to err on the side of severity; the masters themselves perhaps on that of lenity. Most plantations probably did not have overseers. The fear of punishment was a minimum stimulus as was known by all men. Many masters endeavored to replace or supplement it with a sense of loyalty, a pride of performance, a hope of reward. The degrees of success and failure were varied.
The violation of a slave woman was not a breach of the law but a mere trespass upon her master's property. She and her man could not legally marry. Marriage was a contract concerned mostly with the bequeathing of property; and slaves could hold no property and could make no contract. Some of the matings no doubt were dictated and were not always the worse for that. A few men were permitted to take wives on other plantations -- "abroad wives," for short. Children in such a case were considered as their mother's offspring, the property of her master. The father and his master had no duties toward them or claims upon them. Some planters were quite averse to this practise, since it meant a traveler Saturday night, an absentee Sunday, a weary workman Monday and an unmated buck the rest of the week. A plantation had no bachelor bunk house; a large pickaninny crop was a necessity if the laborers were to be properly replaced through the years to come. In the main sex relations were normally peaceful.
But the actual conditions of life on the plantation, which served as a rule to mitigate the letter of the slavery law, could hardly be known in England or the North. As a result a very different impression as to the nature of slavery prevailed among northerners and Englishmen, In the 1790's Wilberforce, Clarkson and Brougham began an agitation for the reform and eventual eradication of slavery m the British dominions. This bore fruit in a partially compensated emancipation by act of Parliament in 1833. Some of the British pamphlets, anticipating nearly everything ever said for abolition, procured American reprintings in the 1820's but barely produced a ripple. Meanwhile the struggle over Missouri's admission to the union had produced the beginnings of a portentous regional contest for power. In 1830 Garrison began his attacks on slavery. Some quick tempered southerners retorted with equal heat. A sprinkling of easterly zealots echoed Garrison. C. G. Finney, a revivalist preacher, and T. D. Weld, a systematic organizer, spread abolition through the Congregational churches of New York and Ohio. In Virginia Nat Turner, a slave preacher, led in 1831 an uprising which massacred some sixty victims. With one accord the slave states reenforced their laws by forbidding any person to teach the Negroes to read or to write.
A chain of antislavery societies began to bombard Congress with petitions regarding certain details of slavery. The two houses, to prevent the utter clogging of congressional business, adopted rules diverting these petitions and providing that they be handled much as all petitions are handled in our time. J. Q. Adams became "Old Man Eloquent" In defense of the "sacred right of petition," which was never really endangered. After some years of hot altercation the rules were discontinued. The mass of antislavery petitions thereupon shrank to small dimensions, and the great question of the territories took the right of way. This was never a valid question, inasmuch as the three and one half or four million slaves could not colonize either Utah or Kansas. Not only were the climates and crops of these territories antagonistic to slavery, but the migrations of all the whites of the north and the hordes pouring in from Europe foredoomed the institution in these regions.
A few southerners -- James G. Birney, the Grimke sisters and Moncure Conway -- were converted by the transcendental preaching and, moving north, joined in the propaganda, although they had little to say that was distinctive. Eventually H. R. Helper, a North Carolinian who had gone to California in the gold stampede and afterwards moved to the north, issued his The Impending Crisis of the South (New York 1857), packed, as he said, with figures of arithmetic and rhetoric. He compared the regions as to wealth and production, and found the South wanting. In the per capita production of wheat, oats, rye, Indian corn and Irish potatoes he found free labor strongly superior to slave, whereupon he said, "Dare they ever think of cotton again?" He did not, nor of tobacco, rice, sugar or sweet potatoes. These would have proved his error. The Republican party endorsed the book and issued a group of his chapters as a campaign document.
In general the South became increasingly hostile to both abolition and free soil. In 1833 Professor Dew examined on behalf of Virginia the several plans offered from any quarter for discarding the "peculiar institution" and found them all unfeasible. His weighty pamphlet persuaded a multitude that nothing should be done. Alert defense of "southern rights" became the watchword everywhere, engendering a disposition to take up every challenge and to fight on. every field.
On the celebrated seventh of March Webster urged the North not to insist upon reenacting a decree of the Almighty concerning New Mexico and Utah, and his advice prevailed. At the same time a more stringent law was enacted for the interstate rendition of fugitive slaves. Thereupon Webster was vituperated and most of the northern states enacted "personal liberty laws" to paralyze the federal statute. Vermont's law proclaimed the liberty of every person in that state and penalized any assertion that another was a slave.
Lincoln declared that the nation could not endure half slave and half free; that it must become all one or all the other. This was in part election rhetoric. There was no economic possibility of the extension of slavery through the North. Even in Kansas, after the great struggle over the principle, the census of 1860 enumerated a slave population of two persons. The nation had endured as it was for seventy years; the slaves were now diminishing sharply in relative ratio. There was no proposal that slavery be legitimated in any free state nor the slightest prospect of success if it were proposed. The North could wait and benefit by the trend of statistics with an eventual prospect of being able to crush the South on occasion with only half an effort. The South could not wait. If it were to strike for independence, the stroke must be made quickly.
There were naturally some wild rationalizations; that slavery, far from being an unmitigated evil, was a positive good for both races; that it was sanctioned throughout the Scriptures as well as embedded in the constitution beyond the possibility of removal. Finally George Fitzhugh, casting about in the middle 1850's for some novel theory, said that slavery was the equivalent of Marxian socialism in that it distributed the goods of life (i.e. among the slaves) not according to capacity but according to need. In fact he commended slavery to the world at large, likening a plantation to one of Fourier's phalanxes. All this meant little. What did have meaning was that the South was resolving, as a pamphleteer of 1860 put it, that "The South alone, should govern the South. And African slavery should be controlled by those only, who are friendly to it." The purpose at hand was highly conservative -- social security to the nth degree. The procedure followed led soon to its defeat.
In war time neither belligerent found much use for the Negroes. As had been foretold in the South, they did not rise in insurrection but remained peaceful and incommunicado on the plantations. Tradition says that very many were obsequious and solicitous to the end -- faithful friends with perhaps a special care for the family silver when Sherman's "bummers" came. There is no ground for doubting the truth, of such reports. The Confederate authorities impressed some for work on fortifications. The government, when about to collapse, took steps leading to the use of slaves among its armed forces. It was then too late for anything to come of this experiment. When a Federal force invaded a district, many slaves stole away to get freedom, whatever that might mean. Some thousands were set spading the mud, trying to dig a canal just beyond the range of the guns at Vicksburg. Other thousands, men, women and children, became camp followers. Many were recruited in two military units. Charles Francis Adams II records a low appraisal upon the performance of these units. Their presence put the Confederates into a perfect rage for slaughter, thus neutralizing the effect of the increment of force.
The regime championed by the planters and their neighbors was overthrown and the system shattered by its victorious enemies. Slavery's overthrow in the United States was also its knell throughout the Americas.
Ulrich B. Phillips
See: Serfdom; Peonage; Indenture; Forced Labor; Feudalism; Peasantry; Manorial System; Plantation; Latifundia; Colonate; Village Community; Landed Estates; Asiento; Colonies; Empire; Native Policy; Negro Problem; Race Conflict; Status; Social Discrimination; Emancipation; Abolition; Humanitarianism.
Nieboer, H. J., Slavery as an Industrial System (2nd ed. The Hague 1910); Gibson, Arthur H., Human Economics (London 1909) p. 177-241; Saco, Jose Antonio, Historia de la esclavitud, 7 vols. (Paris, Barcelona and Havana 1875-1932); Ingram, J. K., A History of Slavery and Serfdom (London 1895); Hobhouse, L. T., Morals in Evolution (4th ed. London 1923) pt. i, ch. vii; Westermarck, Edward, The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, 2 vols. (2nd ed. London 1912-17), expecially vol. i, ch. xxvii; Letourneau, C., L'evolution de l'esclavage (Paris 1897). The Journal of Negro History, published quarterly in Washington since 1916, contains articles dealing with the history of slavery in all parts of the world.
Nieboer, H. J., Slavery as an Industrial System (2nd ed. The Hague 1910); Hobhouse, L. T., Morals in Evolution (4th ed. London 1923) pt. i, ch. vii; Westermarck, E., The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, 2 vols. (2nd ed. London 1912-17) vol. i, ch. xxvii; Sumner, W. G., Folkways (Boston 1907) ch. vi; Sumner, W. G., and Keller, A. G., The Science of Society, 4 vols. (New Haven 1927) vol. i, ch. x, and vol. iv, p. 75-90; Letourneau, C., L'evolution de l'esclavage (Paris 1897); Rivers, W. H. R., Psychology and Ethnology, ed. by G. Elliot Smith (London 1926) p. 291-98; Henshaw, H. W., "Slavery" in United States, Bureau of American Ethnology, Handbook of American Indians, North of Mexico, ed. by F. W. Hodge, Bulletin no. 30, 2 vols. (1907-10) vol. ii, p. 597-600; Macleod, W. C., "Debtor and Chattel Slavery in Aboriginal North America," and " Economic Aspects of Indigenous American Slavery" in American Anthropologist, n.s., vol. xxvii (1925) 370-80, and vol. xxx (1928) 632-50; Rattray, R. S., Ashanti Law and Constitution (Oxford 1929) chs. v-vi; Dundas, C, "Native Laws of Some Bantu Tribes of East Africa" in Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Journal, vol. li (1921) 217-78.
Wallon, Henri Alexandra, Histoire de l'esclavage dans l'antiquite, 3 vols. (and ed. Paris 1879); Meyer, Eduard, " Die Sklaverei im Altertum" in his Kleine Schriften, 2 vols. (2nd ed. Halle 1924) vol. i, p. 169-212; Weber, Max, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte (Tubingen 1924), tr. by F. K. Knight as General Economic History (New York 1927), especially p. 125-30; Wiedemann, Alfred, Das alte Ägypten (Heidelberg 1920), especially p. 69-70; Meissner, Bruno, Babylonien und Assyrien, 2 vols. (Heidelberg 1920-25), especially vol. i, p. 162-71, 371-87; Mendelsohn, Isaac, Legal Aspects of Slavery in Babylonia, Assyria and Palestine (Williamsport, Pa. 1932); Glotz, Gustave, Le travail dans la Grece ancienne (Paris 1920), tr. by M. R. Dobie as Ancient Greece at Work (London 1926); Sargent, R. L., The Size of the Slave Population at Athens during the Fifth and Fourth Centuries before Christ, University of Illinois, Studies in the Social Sciences, vol. xii, no. 3 (Urbana, 111. 1924); Frank, Tenney, An Economic History of Rome, Johns Hopkins University, Semicentennial Publications (2nd ed. Baltimore 1927), especially chs. xii, xvii, and An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, vol. i- (Baltimore 1933- ); Louis, Paul, Le travail dans le monde romain (Paris 1912), tr. by E, B. F. Wareing as Ancient Rome at Work (London 1927); Heitland, W. E,, Agricola (Cambridge, Eng. 1921); Barrow, R. H., Slavery in the Roman Empire (London 1928); Buckland, W. W., The Roman Law of Slavery (Cambridge, Eng. 1908); Ciccotti, Ettore, Il tramonto delta schiavitu net mondo antico (Turin 1899); Friedlander, Ludwig, Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms, 4 vols. (10th ed. by Georg Wissowa, Leipsic 1921-23), tr, from 7th ed, by L. A, Magnus and J. H. Freese as Roman Life and Manners under the Early Empire, 4 vols. (London 1908-13) vol. ii, p. 218-21; Rostovtzeff, M. I., The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire (Oxford 1926).
Pijper, F., " The Christian Church and Slavery in the Middle Ages" in American Historical Review, vol. xiv (1908-09) 675-95, with bibliography; Lea, H. C, Studies in Church History (2nd ed. Philadelphia 1883), especially p. 549-76; Dopsch, Alfons, Die Wirtschaftsentwicklung der Karolingerzeit vornehmlich in Deutschland, 2 vols. (2nd ed. Weimar 1921-22} vol. ii, sects. 8-9, 11-12; Thompson, J. W., Feudal Germany (Chicago 1928), especially chs. ix, xii-xiii, and An Economic and Social History of the Middle Ages (300-1300) (New York 1928); Bovill, E. W., Caravans of the Old Sahara; an Introduction to the History of the Western Sudan (London 1933), especially ch. xxii; Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Maurice, Les institutions musulmanes (Paris 1921) p. 126-28; Roberts, R., Das Familien-, Sklaven- und Erbrecht im Qoran, Leipziger semitische Studien, vol. ii, no. 6 (Leipsic 1908); Dozy, R. P. A., Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne, 3 vols. (new ed. by E. Levj-Provencal, Leyden 1932), tr. by F. G. Stokes, I vol. (London 1913) p. 215-41; Langer, Otto, Sklaverei in Europa wahrend der letzten Jahrhunderte des Mittelalters (Bautzen 1891); Burckhardt, J. C, Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (15th ed. by W. W. Goetz, Leipsic 1926), tr, by S. G. C. Middlemore (London 1929) p. 292.
Scelle, Georges, La traite nigriere aux Indes de Castille, 2 vols. (Paris 1906); Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America, ed. by Elizabeth Donnan, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Publication no. 409, vols, i-iii (Washington 1930-32); Almeida, Fortunato de, Historia de Portugal, 6 vols, (Coimbra 1922-29) vol. iii, p. 213-39, vol. v, p. 128-57; Alcala y Henke, Agustin, La esclavitud de los negros en la America espanola (Madrid 1919); Phillips, U. B., American Negro Slavery (New York 1918); Pitman, Frank W., " Slavery on British West India Plantations in the Eighteenth Century" in Journal of Negro History, vol. xi (1926) 584-668; Peytraud, Lucien, L'esdavage aux Antilles francaises avant 1789 (Paris 1897); Aimes, H. H. S., A History of Slavery in Cuba, 1511 to 1868 (New York 1907); Ortiz Fernandez, Fernando, Hampa afro-cubana: los negros esclavos (Havana 1916); Williams, Mary W., "The Treatment of Negro Slaves in the Brazilian Empire; a Comparison with the United States of America" in Journal of Negro History, vol. xv (1930) 315-36; Martin, P. A., " Slavery and Abolition in Brazil" in Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. xiii (1933) 151-96; Deherain, H., "L'esclavage au Cap de Bonne-Esperance aux XVII et XVIII siecles" in Journal des savants, n.s., vol. v (1907) 488-503; Macmillan W. M., The Cape Colour Question; a Historical Survey (London 1927) p. 65-82; Balfour, E. G., "Slave" in his Cyclopaedia of India, vol. iii (3rd ed. London 1885) p. 672-77; Harris, John H., A Century of Emancipation (London 1933); Simon, Kathleen H., Slavery (London 1929); Lindley, M. F., The Acquisition and Government of Backward Territory in International Law (London 1926) ch. xxxviii; Parker, Edward H., "Chinese Slavery" in New Century Review, vol. iii (1898) 10--19; Williams, E. T., " The Abolition of Slavery in the Chinese Empire" in American Journal of International Law, vol. iv (1910) 794-805; Worcestor, Dean C, The Philippines Past and Present (new ed. by R. Hayden, New York 1930) p. 58-66, 509-43; Noel-Buxton, E., "Slavery in Abyssinia" in International Affairs, vol. xi (1932) 512-20; International Commission of Inquiry into the Existence of Slavery and Forced Labor in the Republic of Liberia, Communication by the Government of Liberia Dated December 15th, 1930, League of Nations, Publication 1930, vi.B.6 (Geneva 1930), and Report, United States, Department of State, Publication no. 147 (Washington 1931).
For UNITED STATES:
Lauber, A. W., Indian Slavery in Colonial Times (New York 1913); Phillips, U. B., American Negro Slavery (New York 1918), and Life and Labor in the Old South (Boston 1929); Dodd, W. E., The Days of the Cotton Kingdom, Chronicles of America series, vol. xiii (New Haven 1926); Hart, A. B., Slavery and Abolition (New York 1906); Channing, Edward, A History of the United States, 7 vols. (New York 1905-32) vol. ii, ch. xiii, vol. v, ch. v, and vol. vi, chs. iv and xvii; Gaines, F. P., The Southern Plantation, Columbia University, Studies in English and Comparative Literature (New York 1924); Jernegan, M. W., Laboring and Dependent Classes in Colonial America, 1607-1783, Social Service Monographs, no, 17 (Chicago 1931); Spero, Sterling D., and Harris, A. L., The Black Worker (New York 1931) pt. i; Bancroft, Frederic, Slave-Trading in the Old South (Baltimore 1931); Hurd, J. C, The Law of Freedom and Bondage in the United States, 2 vols. (Boston 1858-62); Cott, T. R. R., An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America (Philadelphia 1858); Judicial Cases concerning American Slavery and the Negro, ed. by H. H. T. Catterall, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Publication no. 374, 3 vols. (Washington 1926-32); Calhoun, Arthur W., A Social History of the American Family, 3 vols. (Cleveland 1917-19) vol. i, and vol. ii, chs. xi-xii; Woodson, C. G., The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (New York 1915); Sweet, William W., The Story of Religions in America (New York 1930) ch. xviii; McDougall, M. G., Fugitive Slaves (1619-1865), Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women, Fay House Monographs, no. 3 (Boston 1891); Macy, Jesse, The Anti-Slavery Crusade, Chronicles of America series, vol. xxviii (New Haven 1919); Locke, Mary S., Anti-Slavery in America, Radciiffe College Monographs, no. xi (Boston 1901); Barnes, G. H., The Anti-Slavery Impulse, 1830-1844, American Historical Association, Publications (limited ed. New York 1933); Russel, Robert R., Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism, 1840-1861, University of Illinois, Studies in the Social Sciences, vol. xi, nos. i-ii (Urbana 1924). See also the various monographs on slavery or its aspects in the several states.