Colin Barry

Slavery (CMC, Wednesday, Week 3)


Feudalism (socialism) or unbridled capitalism?
-- Is American capitalism indelibly rooted in tragic inhumanity?
-- Or was slavery mostly a social phenomenon that probably even hurt economic progress? Heat map of slave ownership in the U.S. in mid-19th century is, to this day, a mirror image of the most impoverished areas of the country.

Demographics of slavery
-- Existed in the north, but one-third of southern population in 1860 was slave.
-- Most slaves (esp before 1810) transported to Brazil and Caribbean, not U.S.
-- "Gone with the Wind"-style plantations were the exception. Mostly smaller-scale operations; only 385K slaveowners of 8.3M whites in slave states (~4.5%).
-- In economic terms, labor treated as a capital good. Market price for slaves (before puberty, girls worth more; after puberty, boys worth more); some of the roots of accrual accounting are in keeping track of slaves.
-- White life expectancy in America (1850): 40 years. Slave life expectancy (1850): 36 years. Life expectancy in Italy (1885): 35 years. Life expectancy in NYC/Boston/Philadelphia (1830): 24 years. ==>> slaves as assets, value in maximizing productive lifespan

Northern economic impact:
Largest slave port in the country at turn of 19th century: Newport, RI
Northern shipping and textile manufacturing => dependent on slavery for cheap cotton