African History to 1875 Fall 1997


Plantation agriculture in Southeast USA


Copyright 1997 by Jim Jones
All rights reserved
                     THE DECISION TO BECOME A PLANTER
There were many ways for someone with capital to invest in the
nineteenth century industrial economy.  Since the Americas' main
role in the Triangular Trade was to provide raw materials for
European manufacturers, it is not surprising that men (and some
women) like Zephaniah Kingsley invested their capital in the
large-scale production of agricultural raw materials.

Planters could view their plantation in one of two ways--as a
home, or merely as an investment.  At the risk of making an over-
generalization, planters on the Caribbean Islands were more
likely to view their stays as temporary than planters in the
Carolinas.  In part, this was due to the nature of royal
administration in each colony.  The consequence was that fewer
planters brought their (white) families to live with them in the
Caribbean.

Planters with families were more fearful of slave resistance, so
they preferred to buy slaves that were already "broken in." 
Caribbean planters had fewer reservations, so they were more
likely to trade directly to Africa for "wild" slaves (bozolas, in
Schafer's KINGSLEY).  Carolina traders bought "tamed"  slaves at
Caribbean ports.  Kingsley was typical of a Carolina trader
because he bought his slaves at Caribbean ports, notably Havana.

                               SLAVE PRICES
Robert Williams Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman completed an
economic study of American slavery in TIME ON THE CROSS: THE
ECOMONICS OF AMERICAN NEGRO SLAVERY (1974).  The following data
(from pages 73-74) compares average slave prices and wages in the
Deep South for the years 1830-1860:

Period          Hire     Price     Average annual
                                   rate of return
1830-1835        127       948     12%
1836-1840                          
1840-1845        143       722     18.5%
1846-1850        168       926     17%
1851-1855        167      1240     12%
1856-1860      196.5      1658     10.3%

The figures for 1840-1850 show what happens when the price of
slaves dropped--it became cheaper to buy a slave than to hire
one.  The only drawback was that it required more up-front
capital to buy a slave, so not everyone could do that.

Anna's price in Havana in 1806 would have been difficlt to
calculate from these prices.  There are several variables to
consider.  1806 was the year before several nations outlawed the
slave trade, and a year in which planters were trying to
stockpile slaves.  Demand was up, and perhaps prices were as
well, although Schafer's book reports that Zephaniah Kingsley
planted "Sea Island cotton." (1)  According to Donnan (pp513-
515), that many more slave ships arrived at Charleston in 1806
than in 1805.

As a young female, Anna would have been worth less than an adult
with farming experience, but as an attractive female, her price
was probably higher than average.

Prices in Havana were certainly lower than they were in the Deep
South, because transportation costs from the coast of Africa were
lower.  It is possible that Caribbean planters marked up the
price of their slaves to cover "training costs."  

                      CROPS PRODUCED BY THE KINGSLEYS
At Laurel Grove, Zepheniah Kingsley's workers farmed 200 acres of
Sea Island cotton.  They also had 760 Mandarin orange trees and a
2000-foot hedge of other edible orange trees.  They also grew
potatoes, beans and corn to feed the plantation's population.  In
1812, after she became free, Anna Kingsley established her own
farm at Mandarin, on five acres with 12 slaves.  She raised corn,
poultry and "farm animals," and at one point had 50 bushels per
slave stashed in her storage area.  How much corn was a bushel?

At Fort George Island in 1814, they planted corn, beans, potatoes
and cotton--the same as they had done at Laurel Grove.  At
Mayorasgo de Koka after 1837, they grew sugar, cotton, citrus,
corn and vegetables.

Anna moved near her daughter, Mary, and her husband John Sammis,
sometime before 1860.  They lived on a plantation located along
the St. Johns River at Point St. Isabel (downtown Jacksonville). 
They had 700 acres of Sea Island cotton, plus rice, cattle and
sheep, vegetable and fruit gardens, figs, grapes and other
fruits.  They also had a sawmill, a brickyard, and a sugar mill.

Analysis: In every case but Anna's first farm at "Mandarin,"
there were crops for both consumption on the plantation and for
sale outside the plantation.  Exports gave the plantation a way
to pay for luxuries and convenienes, but it required steady
transportation.  Fortunately, Zephaniah Kingsley owned ships, so
he ould guarantee transport to other markets, and he maintained a
network of personal connections which provided market information
and personal introductions to buyers (remember the Muslim
merchants in West Africa).

                        RELIGION AND ACCULTURATION
Compared to slaves in Latin America, American slaves retained
relatively little of their African culture because slave imports
ended much earlier (no reinforcement of African culture by
newcomers), and southern churches were much more active at
prosyletizing Africans than the Latin American Catholic Church. 
In large part, this was because the Latin American Church was so
closely connected to the state that it had little room for
independent action of any sort.

Latin American clergy were more likely to take part in the slave
trade than their North American counterparts.  Even those clergy
who wanted to condemn the slave trade in Latin America faced the
growing influence of colonial planters, who complained to the
state that priests' sermons might foment slave rebellion.  "By
the nineteenth century, Catholic humanism had lost its battle
with colonial materialism."  Catholic priests preached obedience
to slaves, and one claimed that "confession is the antidote to
slave insurrection."

Many Africans had little trouble adopting Christianity because it
preached many of the same beliefs that were central to African
religions--supreme being, creation myths, priest-healers, moral
and ethical systems.  Christianity's "life after death" was also
attractive because it offered the promise that they would someday
regain contact with their ancestors.  A Baptist missionary to the
Yoruba of Nigeria in 1853 observed that they had words for
monotheistic god, sin, guilt, sacrifice, intercession,
repentance, faith, pardon, adoption; and they believed in heaven
and hell.

Muslim slaves had even more points of identification with
Christianity, since they were used to a religion based on a
written text, some of which was the same as that of Christianity
(Old Testament).  An American minister reported in 1842 that
Muslim Africans called God Allah, and Jesus Mohammed.  Acording
to them, "the religion is the same, but different countries have
different names."

Most southern churches had to come to terms with slavery, and
only the southern Quaker churches objected to it publicly.  As a
result of the egalitarian notions of the American Revolutionary
War and the Great Awakening, there was widespread abolitionist
sentiment in southern churches between 1789 and the late 1820s. 
There is plenty of evidence that some southern planters were
uneasy about owning slaves and made every effort to educate and
manumit them.  During the 1820s, one group of white southerners
(American Colonization Society) arranged to transport freed
slaves back to a colony on the West African coast in what became
the independent country of Liberia.  (Slave owners feared that
the sight of free blacks would incite slaves to revolt).

By the 1830s, in response to growing abolitionist pressures,
southern churches had become more pro-slavery.  Clergymen and
even congregations owned slaves, and in 1836, most churches
adopted the doctrine of the Hopewell Presbytery, "Slavery is a
political institution, with which the church has nothing to do,
except to inculcate the duties of Master and Slave, and to use
lawful, spiritual means to have all, both bond and free, to
become one in Christ by faith."

Typical sermons admonished slaves to be obedient, not to steal,
and to remember that "what faults you are guilty of towards your
masters and mistresses, are faults done against God himself, who
hath set your masters and mistreses over you in His own stead,
and expects that you will do for them just as you would do for
Him."

                           ATTITUDES TOWARDS SEX
African and European attitudes towards sex and procreation were
very different in the early nineteenth century.  Although
different African cultures had different ideas about premarital
sex, all saw sex as a sacred act that was essential to
procreation, which in turn maintained the familiy lineage.  On
the other hand, African societies almost always forbade
extramarital sex.  Because they valued children so highly, they
did not understand the European concept of celibacy nor how they
could conceive of sex as sinful or dirty.

As an African became Americanized, s/he lost the understanding of
the religious aspect of sex, but never acquired the European idea
that it was sinful.

                   ZEPHANIAH KINGSLEY AND MISCEGENATION
When a white man pursued a slave woman, there was nothing she,
her family, her friends or her husband could do about it.  White
owners offered slave women a choice of a gift for yielding
willingly, or a flogging for resistance.  The problem was
especially bad when the man was a bachelor--instead of marrying,
a white bachelor might rely on relationships with a succession of
female slaves.  There are enough court cases to document the fact
that white women also had affairs with black male slaves.

Slave traders often took advantage of the women in their charge,
and Moses Roper, author of A NARRATIVE OF THE ADVENTURES AND
ESCAPE OF MOSES ROPER FROM AMERICAN SLAVERY (London, 1840),
mentioned how a man for whom he had once worked always took
advantage of the most beautiful black women that he purchased.

Some white men sought more substantial relationships with black
women.  Some purchased women for their concubines, fell in love,
and then treated her as a wife.  When the white man was already
married to a white woman, the relationship with a black woman
caused problems.  Often, a white man was forced to sell the black
woman to remove her from the reach of the vengeful white wife. 
For instance, when Moses Roper (mentioned on the previous page)
was born, the white wife of his father tried to kill him when she
found out who his father was.  His father had to sell him and his
mother in order to protect them.

                        SLAVERY IN FLORIDA IN 1860
This is a small extract from large tables for the slaves states
in 1850 and 1860,(2) showing demographic figures and the number
of pastors and churches.  I include only those figures for
Florida.

Item                      1850      1860    Change
White population        47,203    77,747    30,544
Slave population        89,310    61,745   -27,565
Free negroes               932       932         0
Clergymen                   83       159        76
Churches                   177       319       142
Church capacity         44,960    68,990    24,030
Total population       137,445   139,492       247

                                 QUESTIONS
Was Zephaniah Kingsley's purchase of Anna Kingsley, newly arrived
from Africa, an exception?  Was he smitten at first sight by this
"African beauty" so that he altered his usual pattern of slave
buying?

Did Zephaniah Kingsley view his Florida plantation at Laurel
Grove as a home or an investment? 

                                   NOTES
(1) According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, "Sea Island Cotton"
was the variety grown in the USA before 1840, when upland cotton
came into use.  Sea Island was valued for its silky fibers, but
was extremely susceptiple to damage from boll weevils.

(2) Blassingame, Appendix III, 344-345, based on US Census
figures.