African History to 1875 Fall 1997
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.