Monday, April 26, 2021

The Men Who Turned Slavery Into Big Business — Joshua D. Rothman

The domestic slave trade was no sideshow in our history, and slave traders were not bit players on the stage. On the contrary, the trade and its operators were pervasive in American life before the Civil War. They played vital roles in shaping the demographic, political, and economic contours of a growing nation, and we ought not fool ourselves into thinking we have left that past behind. In truth, we still live in the world that Franklin and Armfield’s profits helped build, and with the enduring inequalities that they and their industry entrenched....
The Atlantic
The Men Who Turned Slavery Into Big Business
Joshua D. Rothman | professor and chair for the department of history at the University of Alabama

1 comment:

Ahmed Fares said...

re: slave economics and the economic incidence of slavery

Ask a historian, or a political scientist, or a politician the question, “Who benefited from North American slavery?” and the answer you will probably get is, “The slaveholders, of course.” The slaveholders got to work their slaves hard, pay them little, sell what they made for healthy prices, and get rich. We economists have a different view. Consider North American slaves growing cotton in the nineteenth century. Those slaveholders who owned slaves when it became clear that Cotton would be King—that the British industrial revolution was producing an extraordinary demand for this stuff and that Eli Whitney’s cotton gin meant that it could be produced cheaply—profited immensely as the prices of the slaves they owned rose. But slaveholders who bought their slaves later on and entered the cotton-growing business probably profited little if any more than they would have had they invested their money in transatlantic commerce or New England factories or Midwestern land speculation: with the supply of slaves fixed, the excess profits produced—I won’t say earned—by driving your slaves hard were already incorporated in the prices you paid for slaves. And there is another group who benefited mightily from North American slavery: consumers of machine-made cotton textiles, from peasants in Belgium able for the first time to buy a rug to London carters to Midwestern pioneers who found basic clothing the only cheap part of equipping a covered wagon. —Brad DeLong