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