This Day (Do I Hear 20, Do I Hear 15 Edition)

On this day in 1864, the Confederate Congress changed the requirement of the so-called Twenty-Slave Law so that owners of  just fifteen, rather than twenty, able-bodied slaves were exempted from being drafted into the army. It also required planters with exempted overseers to deliver one hundred pounds of bacon or its equivalent for every slave to the government and to sell his or her surplus to the government or to soldiers’ families at government prices. This, my friends, was Big Government in action.
On this day several decades earlier, in 1812, a broadside was printed advertising the sale of slaves “Before the door of the Eagle Tavern” in Richmond. The dealer was well-off enough to have commissioned artwork for the poster, and the slaves were skilled, working as carpenters, brick moulders, and tanners. Our friends at the Library of Virginia explain the significance of this:

To avoid competition with enslaved laborers who were the mainstay of the southern workforce, many European immigrants to the United States during the antebellum period settled in the North. Between 1810 and 1820, a “prime field hand” sold for about $400. By the 1830s, that increased to $600 in Virginia, and $1,100 in Louisiana. Between 1810 and 1820, scholars estimate that 45,000 enslaved people were sold away from Virginia. As many as 300,000 enslaved African Americans were sold through Richmond to points in the lower South by the 1860s.

IMAGE: Broadside courtesy of the Library of Virginia


2 thoughts

  1. I think the war had something to do with the Confederacy’s “Big Government”. There’s irony there, but also a lot of common sense.

  2. One of the most unreported truths about slavery was that men like Lee raised slaves — taking the children from the mother like calves from a mother cow — and shipped them to men like Jefferson Davis.
    Only, the children and young people were not “shipped” they were force marched, often in chains. This cattle drive of children was so discpicable that few people would do it. So who ended up doing such work?
    Men like Nathan Bedford Forrest.
    But once the Deep South had all the slaves they wanted — in fact, many areas had too many and were terrified of slave rebellion –the South was like a cancer patient, with a growth it could no longer live with. As slave prices dropped, slave owners produced more, not less, to make up for lost revenue.
    Therefore the SPREAD of slavery became a life and death issue. Who said so? The Southern leaders said so. “EXPAND OR PERISH” screamed Robert Toombs — he was talking about slavery, expand or perish.
    The governor of Florida wrote in official documents that “just stopping the spread of slavery is like burning us slowly to death”.
    Until we teach – and learn — this basic truth, our country will never understand the reason for the Civil War. You can’t understand Jefferson Davis unless you understand his basic goal was to spread slavery. You can’t understand Lincoln unless you realize he was trying to kill slavery by keeping in contained — he often refered to slavery as a cancer, and he was right.
    And the Southern leaders KNEW he was right. They said it too, over and over and over, in different terms.


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