28 February 2013

The Price Of Freedom

When Parliament outlawed slavery in the Britain empire in 1833 (it banned the slave trade in 1807), it did so via the sovereign perogative of eminent domain. 

The Crown paid 46,000 British nationals whose slaves were emanicapted in that year a total of 20 million pounds sterling for their slaves (an average of about 434 pounds per slaveholder).  This  would be about $9,222,000,000 current U.S. dollars in all, which was about 40% of the annual budget of the British government at the time. The payment averaged $200,126 per slaveholder.  Compensation payments were on the order of eight to twenty pounds sterling per slave (i.e. about $4,150 to $9,222 per slave).  Thus, about 1 million to 2 million slaves in the British empire were emancipated in 1833 and the average British slaveholder owned somewhere on the order of 200 and 400 slaves (mostly on plantations).

Below the jump are more details and a review of the comparable American experience.

Many, and perhaps most, of the slaves held by these Britons were on Caribbean possessions of the British empire, in Mauritius and in South Africa (which actually abolished slavery 32 years before the United States did, although it maintained an apartheid system of de jure discrimination against blacks and colored South African nationals into the 1980s).   

Many descendants of these slaveholders have been prominent figures of the 20th and 21st centuries (e.g. George Orwell and Britain's current prime minister) in part due to the advantages that they received from taxes collected from non-slaveholding Britons to pay off its slaveholders.

Emancipation in the United States

By comparison, the Emancipation Proclaimation signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 (150 years ago), freed 3.1 million to 4 million slaves in ten slave states without making compensation awards.  Slaves in five other states were not covered by the Empancipation proclaimation, but were freed not later than 1865 when the 13th Amendment was adopted by the Reconstruction Congress and ratified by the states that did not participate in the Confederacy.
The Proclamation applied in only ten states that were still in rebellion in 1863, and thus did not cover the nearly 500,000 slaves in the slave-holding border states (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland or Delaware) which were Union states — those slaves were freed by separate state and federal actions. The state of Tennessee had already mostly returned to Union control, so it was not named and was exempted. Virginia was named, but exemptions were specified for the 48 counties then in the process of forming the new state of West Virginia, and seven additional counties and two cities in the Union-controlled Tidewater region.Also specifically exempted were New Orleans and 13 named parishes of Louisiana, all of which were also already mostly under Federal control at the time of the Proclamation. These exemptions left unemancipated an additional 300,000 slaves.
Compensation was paid by state governments (and by the federal government in the District of Columbia to slaveholders) in some but not all of the states that that were not subject to the Empancipation Proclaimation, and also by some states that had abolished slavery prior to the Emancipation (mostly in Northern states that had few slaves).  Slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia with compensation to the owners of the emancipated slaves on April 16, 1862.
The emancipation plan relied on a three-person Emancipation Commission to distribute the allotted funding. In order to receive compensation, former slaveholders were required to provide written evidence of their ownership, as well as state their loyalty to the Union. Most of the petitioners were white, but some blacks also filed for compensation, having once bought their family members away from other owners. In the end, almost all of the $1 million appropriated in the act had been spent. As a result of the act's passage, 3,185 slaves were freed.
The compensation paid was about $318 per slave in 1862 dollars which is about $6,500 per slaves in 2013 dollars, an amount comparable to the compensation paid by Britain in 1833.   Supplemental legislation in 1862 allowed a freed slave to request the compensation for himself if his former owner had not applied to the federal government for compensation (which despite the substantial sum involved might have been impolitic at a time when the federal government was fighting a bloody civil war that was increasingly about slavery and broke many long standing understandings regarding individual rights in times of war.

In most of the North, the emancipation came much earlier and involved much smaller numbers of people - there were not quite 50,000 free blacks in the North in 1810.
Between 1777 and 1804, anti-slavery laws or constitutions were passed in every state north of the Ohio River and the Mason-Dixon Line. By 1810, 75 percent of all blacks in the North were free. By 1840, virtually all blacks in the North were free. Vermont's 1777 constitution made no allowance for slavery. In Massachusetts, slavery was successfully challenged in court in 1783 in a freedom suit by Quock Walker as being in contradiction to the state's new constitution of 1780 providing for equality of men. Free blacks were subject to racial segregation in the North and it took decades for some states to extend the franchise to them. However most northern states passed legislation for gradual abolition. As a result of this gradualist approach New York did not free its last slaves until 1829, Rhode Island had 5 slaves still listed in the 1840 census, Pennsylvania's last slaves were freed in 1847, Connecticut did not completely abolish slavery until 1848, and slavery was not completely lifted in New Hampshire and New Jersey until the nationwide emancipation in 1865.
Although Virginia, Maryland and Delaware were slave states . . . . The number and proportion of free blacks in the states rose dramatically until 1810. More than half of the number of free blacks in the United States were concentrated in the Upper South. The proportion of free blacks among the black population in the Upper South rose from less than one percent in 1792 to more than 10 percent by 1810. In Delaware, nearly 75 percent of blacks were free by 1810.  In the US as a whole, by 1810 the number of free blacks reached 186,446, or 13.5 percent of all blacks. After that period, few were freed, as the development of cotton plantations featuring short-staple cotton in the Deep South drove up the internal demand for slaves in the domestic slave trade.

What if the United States had followed the British model?

In 1860, there were about 22,100,000 people living in the Union states (all but 400,000 of whom were slaves, about 2% of its overall population, of whom 340,000 were in Kentucky and Missouri) and 9,100,00 living in states that would become a part of the Confederate States of America (about 3,500,000 of whom were slaves, about 38% of its overall population).  In the lowlands deep South including the Mississippi River valley, the percentage of the population that consisted of slaves was much greater.

There were abou 394,000 slave holders in the United States in 1860.  Only 8% of all US families owned slaves in 1860, but in the South, 33% of families owned slaves.
The distribution of slaves among holders was very unequal: holders of 200 or more slaves, constituting less than 1% of all US slaveholders (fewer than 4,000 persons, 1 in 7,000 free persons, or 0.015% of the population) held an estimated 20–30% of all slaves (800,000 to 1,200,000 slaves). Nineteen holders of 500 or more slaves have been identified. The largest slaveholder was Joshua John Ward, of Georgetown, South Carolina, who in 1850 held 1,092 slaves, and whose heirs in 1860 held 1,130 or 1,131 slaves.
The Union fielded about 2,100,000 soldiers (about 9.7% of its free population and about 20% of its free male population of all ages), while the Confederacy fielded about 1,064,000 soldiers (about 19% of its free population and about 38% of its free male population of all ages).  About half of the Confederate Army in Viriginia in 1861 came from slaveholding families and (per Wikipedia on Slavery in the United States) and more "enlistees rented land from, sold crops to, or worked for slaveholders."

If the United States had followed the British model of having the national government use its emininent domain powers, instead of freeing most slaves via the Empancipation Proclaimation and the 13th Amendment without compensation to slave owners, the transfer from the U.S. government to the American South would have been about $1.4 billion dollars sometime in the 1860s, which would be about $30 billion current 2013 U.S. dollars at a time when the nation was far less affluent, in addition, of course, to avoiding the immense cost in blood, treasure, forfeiture as a result of the dishonor of Confederate public debts, and property destruction involved in the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

The battles in the Civil War were fought almost entirely in the territory of the Confederate States and the Border States.  Confederate armies never made it further into the North from Virginia than Maryland, never managed to get its armies across the Ohio River, and its skirmishes to the west of the Mississippi River were almost entirely South of the Mason-Dixon line.  Union Armies and Civil War battles destroyed a large share of all useful property in vast swaths of the CSA's territory, while very little property, by comparison was destroyed by acts of war in the North.  Wikipedia sums up some of those costs as follows:
The war produced about 1,030,000 casualties (3% of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease, and 50,000 civilians. Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker believes the number of soldier deaths was approximately 750,000, 20% higher than traditionally estimated, and possibly as high as 850,000. . . . Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and 18% in the South. About 56,000 soldiers died in prisons during the Civil War. An estimated 60,000 men lost limbs in the war. [One in thirteen Civil War veterans were amputees.]  
The war destroyed much of the wealth that had existed in the South. All accumulated investment in Confederate bonds was forfeit. Income per person in the South dropped to less than 40% than that of the North, a condition which lasted until well into the 20th century. Southern influence in the US federal government, previously considerable, was greatly diminished until the latter half of the 20th century.
An effective Union naval blockade captured about 95% of the exports from the Confederate states during the war.  In the aftermath of the Civil War, Britain paid the U.S. $15 million in 1871 as reparations for the role it paid in aiding Confederate smugglers in conflicts with the Union Navy. 

In the short run, the war destroyed almost all 8,800 miles of Confederate railroads while the Union added about 7,300 miles to its existing 21,800 miles of railroad.  The war also destroyed almost all of the South's manufacturing plants, and almost all of its cotton production, and almost all of its exports (70% of the total for the nation before the war).  The demise of international trade with the U.S. for a while after the Civil War wasn't good for national tax collections either, of course.  Prior to the Civil War, the dominant source of federal tax income came from import tariffs - the Civil War was the event that forced the U.S. to expand its tax base and professionalize its much expanded federal political institutions and federal bureaucracy (long before the New Deal expanded it further).

If the United States had taken the British course of action (and under the United States Constitution adopted in 1789 it could not have done so without full Confederate state cooperation), the South would have had many decades of elevated prosperity and kept its social class hierarchies in place, instead of having spend a century or so in greatly reduced circumstances and seeing its plantation slaveholding aristocracy obliterated economically.

Each Confederate State that left the Union used its then existing representative democratic process (although it did not enfranchise slaves, women, or some people who did not own real property) to approve their departure from the Union by large supermajorities (although the democratic process related to succession was rather muddier in some border states and West Virginia where ad hoc local provisional governments in regions that disagreed with their state as a whole bucked decisions made at the state level on succcession).

Confederate voters and politicians collectively made a massive miscalculation regarding how Presidnet Lincoln and the rump Union Congress that they left behind would react to succession and what the costs of their decision would be for them.  Surely, they would not have done so had they in 20-20 hindsight been permitted to know what their decision would cost them and they were instead offered a British style federal government financed mass emancipation with compensation to slaveowners.  Surely, the cost of a British style compensated emancipation program would have been cheaper for the Union states as well than the Civil War proved to be in 20-20 hindsight.

The War That Never Ends

In some ways, the fallout of the Civil War still isn't over.

Succession, while not a serious political option at this point, is still the subject of Petitions and political rhetoric from Southern conservatives (who like to call the Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression" and argue that it was really about state's rights rather than slavery, contrary to the rhetoric of Southern political leaders at the time), even today.

The single largest factions within the major political parties in the United States is still between native white Southerners (almost all of them voting as a block in federal elections) who align themselves with the Republican party (ironically, the anti-slavey party of Lincoln during that came into being as a consequence of the pre-Civil War and Reconstruction slavery issue) in federal elections, and a coalition of a large share of whites not born in the South and a vastly disproportionate share of non-whites in the United States, who align themselves with the Democratic party (which was the dominant party of white Southern Conservatives for roughly a century after the Civil War and remained in some Southern states in state and local elections into the 21st century) or candidates who caucus with Democrats, in federal elections. 

Nuances have developed since then.  Mormons in the Western United States (whose ancestors mostly trace their origins to New England migrants a couple of decades before the Civil War), and conservative Catholics whose ancestors mostly migrated from Ireland and Southern Europe after the Civil War in the late 1800s and early 1900s, have been added to the Republican coalition.

A closely divided U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in an Alabama case over whether Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires governments in states with a history of discrimination in elections as of the 1960s (mostly in the former Confederate States) to receive preapproval of the U.S. government's Justice Department before modifying their election laws and proceedures.

Four Justices clearly favor holding this provision of the Voting Rights Act (which reenacted unanimously by Congress during the administration of George W. Bush for twenty-five years) unconstitutional, four Justices clearly favor upholding the law as the U.S. Supreme Court did just a few years ago. They noted that Alabama, by any measure, remains one of the worst offenders in the nation when it comes to racial discrimination in election administration. Justice Kennedy, as usual, will be the critical swing vote in the case.

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