How Many People Were Slaves In The North vs. The South?

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As part of the current discussion of the use of the Concrete Flag to express one’s Free Asshatitute, in particular in relation to a volunteer firefighter who stuck one of the flags on the fire truck turing the Independence Day Parade in a small community in Outstate Minnesota, I saw someone state that there were more slaves in the North than in the South.

Specifically, the individual, commenting on a the flag story on a local news site, said:
Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 6.21.48 PM

Now, this particular joker was trying to say that there were lots of white people who “may as well have been slaves” in the North, or words to that effect. That is of course absurd because while there might have been (and later in history certainly was) a lot of exploitation of workers and poor and such, nobody was being owned, bred, treated like animals with the full force of the law, etc. Anyway, I found others making similar claims and claims and apparently some folks actually think that slavery was widespread in both the North and South.

Here are the data from the 1860 US Census, the census that measures the distribution of slaves at the start of the Civil War.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 6.17.04 PM

And I made a pie chart just for fun:

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 6.17.18 PM

So now you know.

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62 thoughts on “How Many People Were Slaves In The North vs. The South?

  1. Darn, gotta launch my pixel magnifier…

    Still can’t see it, even in super-zoom mode.

    It’s only 233,000 to 1. About the same ratio as non-functioning to functioning neurons in the cranium of your new commenter, so I can’t why there’s a problem…

  2. “It that the authentic number, or is it “corrected” for the 3/5 factor?”

    They’re the authentic numbers. The census is used to determine how many people live in which states in the US. The 3/5 rule was applied to slaves counted by the census.

    As far as white slaves go, the reference is to indentured servitude, not simply “exploitation of workers or the poor” as Greg puts it. Rather than go into it here, I’ll link to a very good article (it was not slavery, not by far, but it wasn’t simply exploitation of free workers, either):

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/liam-hogan/‘irish-slaves’-convenient-myth

  3. Keeping alive the South’s proud heritage following the Civil War… Some things will make you angry. Some things will make you weep. Descriptions of spectacle lynchings will make you want to vomit.

    See also:
    Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror
    “Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation.”
    http://www.eji.org/lynchinginamerica/

    “…we found that most terror lynchings can best be understood as having the features of one or more of the following: (1) lynchings that resulted from a wildly distorted fear of interracial sex; (2) lynchings in response to casual social transgressions; (3) lynchings based on allegations of serious violent crime; (4) public spectacle lynchings; (5) lynchings that escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African American community; and (6) lynchings of sharecroppers, ministers, and community leaders who resisted mistreatment, which were most common between 1915 and 1940.”

  4. One should probably distinguish slave states (or parts of states) that stayed with the Union
    Maryland – 87,189
    West Virginia – 18,371 (from the wikipedia article which claims derivation from census data)
    Delaware – 1,798
    Kentucky – 225,483
    Missouri – 114,931

    However the total slave population was close to 4 million and a single state, Georgia with 462,198 slaves, had more than the entire Union.

  5. Suggest you read Chris Hedges new book, Wages of Rebellion.

    Not only does he cover slave history, he also covers current history and what we’ve all become – slave to the corporate state.

    This book should be required reading for all Americans.

  6. Greg:

    “Dhogaza, maybe. Maybe not. But there really wasn’t much if that still going on in 1860.”

    Well, no, the practice of shipping off criminals as indentured servants to the Colonies died off after there were no Colonies in the new United States. Also the ability of poor members of society to pay for their personal transport by agreeing to a term of limited service after arrival died off. After the Revolution, England shipped them – at least those forcibly transported – to Oz, where many died under a corrupt Army administration (read “The Fatal Shore”).

    But it is the indentured servant reality that led to the “whites in slavery in the North” myth (“lie”), and they definitely were not “free” as we understand it. Obviously, anyone transported to the Colonies (either as part of a criminal sentence or voluntarily) by the time of the Revolutionary War would’ve been dead by 1860 (adults were transported, 1860 – 1775 = 85 years so any survivor would have been older than 103) so there is no relevance to the Union at the time of secession.

  7. The old saw that the industrialized North had factory workers in worse-than-slavery was first trotted out before the Civil War. Abe Lincoln had then and still has the best answer to it, which was to observe that, he had never seen any factory workers interested in switching places with the slaves.

  8. It is important to remember that the real issue for the South was devaluation of their capital, not the potential loss of productivity from the slaves. Not the case for indentured workers.

    The etymology is capital–>chattel–>cattle.

    Reminds one of the coal and oil companies, or vice-versa.

  9. As long as people think facts are something you have a choice to believe, we will see racist apologia like the comment that triggered this post. People lack the moral courage to confront the truth.

    Northern states banned slavery during the ante bellum era. Organized northern resistance to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act and the dominating electoral sweep by Republicans in 1860 highlight the strength of anti-slavery sentiment in the North by that time.

    Southern politicians certainly believed the North was anti-slavery because they committed treason and launched a war in reaction.

  10. Erp: “…a single state, Georgia with 462,198 slaves, had more than the entire Union.”

    Which is stunning, given that Georgia banned slavery in its early years as a colony. George Whitefield, one of the founders of Methodism, helped lobby for its introduction. Though from my readings, it likely would have happened without his help, the major driver being investment returns.

  11. Thanks for this thread, Greg.

    In the years leading up to the North/South schism over slavery, the Sunflower State suffered most. Wrenched by a series of violent conflicts, it became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

    One of the heroes of the time was the abolitionist Captain John Brown. He led a raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia, was captured, convicted of treason, and hanged. The Civil War probably would have happened without this event, but it certainly contributed to the tensions that tore the nation apart. Union soldiers took up the song John Brown’s Body as a marching song. Readers will no doubt recognize the tune as another song that’s better known today.

  12. I spent many a summer in the general vicinity of John Brown’s grave. (He was from New York).

  13. It sounds to me like he’s conflating indentured servants with slaves. Indentured servitude was a much used method of getting to the new World for persons who could not afford passage. A lot of those ended up in Northern states. The Southern states prefered to own them lock stock and barrel rather than allowing themselves to work off their freedom.

  14. Whoops should have read all he comments before making one – I see indentured servants has been covered

  15. On the 4th I witnessed an interesting interaction between an older man – Korean War Marine Veteran – and a younger guy, maybe late 20s to early 30s, outside the bagel/coffee shop I hit in the morning.
    The younger guy had just parked his truck and was getting out. He had the U.S. flag and the Confederate Battle flag both flying from the bed of his truck.
    Veteran: Why are you flying that Confederate flag?
    Guy: To honor the heroes who fought under it.
    Veteran: You know they were fighting for traitors who fought for the right to keep people as slaves?
    Guy: They weren’t traitors.

    That is what it comes down to, isn’t it: this flag symbolizes the position of a group of traitors to the United States. Apparently the modern right only views that concept (being a traitor) as a slur against people of the wrong color.

  16. They weren’t traitors — *to their own cause*.

    Which illustrates the “Only My View Matters” way of thinking that characterizes this group.

    Which of course, makes it easy to rationalize enslaving people then and dehumanizing their descendants today.

  17. “They weren’t traitors — *to their own cause*”

    Okay, I have to admit I’m unsure what you mean here, but in my defense: I got clipped by a car today while I was on a bike ride and I’m a little woozy still. If you mean they were true to their own ideals of wanting slavery to continue for their own benefit – yes. If you mean they weren’t traitors to the United States, which is what the veteran (and I) meant, I’m not following you.

  18. Let’s look at it this way. Let us tear down the pyramids of Egypt becuase they were built by Hebrew slaves and are offensive to Jews.

    Seem what is wrong with that picture? Silly is it not?

    dealing with this flag … ditto.

    I live in the south and grew up here. That flag is a symbol, not of slavery, to me, but as a symbol of defiance to comply with federal orders given by hypocrites and wealthy business men who were conducting the same practices they were scolding southerners for doing.

    If you people were really against slavery you would be over in Africa protesting islamic front groups who sell little girls as sex slaves. All i hear from the left is dead silence on the issue. Yet they want a flag of defiance and independence and sovereignty torn down in places they do not even live anyway. makes alot of sense to me.

    They can tear down that flag all they want at the state house, but people will still fly them on their trucks, houses, facebook pages, bedrooms, etc. So why make all the fuss over something that may never die anyway?

  19. Yes, “they were true to their own ideals of wanting slavery to continue for their own benefit”.

    I.e., they are mentally unable (or just unwilling) to see themselves as part of a larger group whose laws & values trump their own personal wishes — if they wish to live as part of that larger group (i.e., the United States).

    In 1861, they did at least realize that they would need to secede from the U.S. to remain consistent — an act of treason, making them traitors (in the context of the exchange between the veteran & the young man, who were living in, and considering themselves members of, the same U.S.).

    Today, as the young man illustrates, they can’t even make the connection and demonstrate this inconsistency — due to the prevalence of the “me me me” mentality I alluded to.

    I hope you’re doing okay after your encounter! (Did the driver stop to render aid & exchange insurance, etc.?)

  20. You have to admit that even the the south gave up for reasons unknown, it still took four years of war to make them consider surrender and even then many did not want to surrender. The confederate army was not too bright. They fought well. They were sorely outnumber. The north had more men, better weapons, and a better supply train. Yet it still took them years to defeat the confederates.

    If I had been in charge I would have dispersed the soldiers into groups of 10 and marked the calender for a certain day. Those soldeirs would have went into 1 county of each northern state and on that one day, light fire to every forest, every crop, every university, and every bank they could lay eyes on. have several hundred thouand fires going in a 24 hour period. Their forces and manpower would be overwhelmed. derail every train, and shoot every yankee officer they found on sight without warning while the chaos ensued. Being outnumbered and outgunned, a gorilla warfare style operation should have been number one priority. Cost the enemy so much money they cannot afford to keep fighting. Given brutal meciless gorilla tactics and numbering in the hundeds of thousands, the confederacy could have held their own quite easily. But, they they were gentlemen and played nice. And that’s what you get when you play nice with the enemy. You lose.

    I feel later we may all be coverting to islam for this same reason.

  21. Ah, I see. Sorry if my question sounded rude.

    I’m quite stiff and have a good bit of road rash on my right hip, upper thigh, and right arm. Nothing broken on me or the bike. Will need a new helmet, as my head whacked the ground. No head injury. And no, the driver did not stop. Clipped me with his right mirror and kept going. Have a really good bruise on my left shoulder.

  22. No, I didn’t take it that way. Thanks for asking.

    Sorry to hear you got so banged up — and that the guy never stopped.

    Better the helmet being trashed than what was inside it! (That’s the purpose they serve. I had a motorcycle helmet do me the same favor when I was young & foolish… So I know about the bruises & road rash, too.)

  23. Ralph,

    First of all the pyramids were not built by Hebrew slaves. You just go down hill from there only to end up with some drivel about Islam. Why don’t you take a little time to organize your thoughts, think things through, and come back with a coherent comment?

  24. @ Dean, sorry to hear that. I cracked my Bell helmet a few years ago after getting knocked over by a city bus that kept going. Broke a bone in my hand, and sprained my shoulder, too.
    @ Indentured Servants, After the Proclamation of 1625, some 300,000 Irish were transported as bonded laborers to Barbados, Guiana, Antigua, Monserrat, even to plantations along the Amazon. They were not slaves, but they were worked hard and treated very harshly, all the more so because they were supposed to be released after four to seven years.

  25. Ralph:

    “I live in the south and grew up here. That flag is a symbol, not of slavery, to me, but as a symbol of defiance to comply with federal orders given by hypocrites and wealthy business men who were conducting the same practices they were scolding southerners for doing.”

    The Southern states began seceeding before Lincoln became President. There were no federal orders to defy. They essentially seceeded because they didn’t like who was elected President because they feared he *might* take action against slavery at some point in the future. That action most likely to be to restrict slavery to the current slave states. One of the South’s biggest complaints was that they weren’t allowed to export their “peculiar institution” to all states. They were in *favor* of draconian federal orders (laws) that would force all states to allow slavery. So much for the “states rights” crap.

    The leaders, at least, were traitors.

    You also don’t understand when guerilla warfare works. A campaign such as you suggest wouldn’t have a chance, southerners planted as future guerillas would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb. If their accent hadn’t given them away, the high rate of illiteracy would’ve …

  26. “I feel later we may all be coverting to islam for this same reason.”

    Right, because what you think would have tipped the scales in the Civil War are going on here.

    Oh wait, they aren’t. What could have prompted you to say such a stupid thing?

  27. Ralph:

    “I feel later we may all be coverting to islam for this same reason.”

    You’d probably feel right at home with the ISIS types …

  28. It is an interesting theory that Iron Age people (the early Israelites, or Hebrews) went back in time to the Bronze Age to be slaves and build the pyramids.

    Dean, sorry to hear, hope you feel less banged up very soon!

  29. dhogaza #29,

    Yes, exactly. It was never about growing cotton, but about selling slaves. And if the territories came into the Union as “free” states, where was the market?

    Which refutes the other phony mythology about the Confederacy just wanting to be left alone. They were obviously looking to impose their will by force of arms; had they actually defeated the Union they would have insisted on territorial concessions. Otherwise, they would be in the same situation, with an increasing population of big, bad, darkies ready to rise up and take their women.

    Kind of like now, when you think about it.

  30. The South was largely a plantation economy, while the North was an industrial worker economy, like England. Both wanted to expand Westward, and the battle was over whether the small farmers, ranchers and free agent hands of the frontier would made to follow one or the other system. As it happened, the North defeated the South and then secured the West from any claims by remaining native American tribes.

  31. Ralph Henderson: Being outnumbered and outgunned, a gorilla warfare style operation should have been number one priority.

    You mean “guerrilla warfare”. Sort of like Mosby’s Raiders on a grand scale. It’s commonly used when a local population is invaded by a superior force (superior in numbers and/or weaponry). I don’t see how it would have helped the Confederacy because (a) their guerrillas would have been on unfamiliar territory (the minor flaw) and (b) they would not have had the support of the people in the northern states (the show-stopper.)

  32. Zebra:

    “Yes, exactly. It was never about growing cotton, but about selling slaves. And if the territories came into the Union as “free” states, where was the market?”

    Cotton made it worse, though. It brought great wealth to some of the planters, and was of such great importance to English industry that the South was confident that England would support them (and that support was close to coming at times, in particular regarding breaking the Union’s naval blockade). If it weren’t for King Cotton, the southern states may not have been as eager to secede. Unlike tobacco, there wasn’t large-scale competition for the South’s cotton in the 1850s and at the time of secession. Unfortunately for the South, England fixed that problem by greatly expanding production of Egyptian cotton, greatly reducing the economic pressure to recognize the South’s independence etc.

  33. dhogaza,

    Yes, the hope of European intervention was a significant factor.

    Still, when I try to imagine an “alternative history” where the Confederacy remained as an isolated entity within an expanded Union, or achieved independence but was isolated with respect to the slave trade, I can’t. Well, I could, but I have enough nightmares already, given how things turned out.

  34. @ralph henderson

    You forget one other aspect of the stars and bars; it’s the flag of failure. Your side lost. Feel free to re-secede if you’d like though. You’ll have my full support.

  35. The Confederate Flag at War (but not the Civil War):

    “But like many discussions of American conservativism, this account misses the role endless war played in sustaining domestic racism. Starting around 1898, well before it became an icon of redneck backlash, the Confederate Battle Flag served for half a century as an important pennant in the expanding American empire and a symbol of national unification, not polarization.”
    http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/07/07/confederate-flag-war-not-civil-war

    It helps you do your job if you can gin up generalized hatred for the people you want to kill.

  36. Re Ralph Henderson

    The way to defeat a guerrilla war is to exterminate the population within which the guerrillas hide. Thus, had I been in Lincoln’s shoes and was facing a guerrilla war, I would have ordered my generals to exterminate the white population of the Southern States. No population, no place for the guerrillas to hide.

    Actually, it’s too bad that Lincoln didn’t have access to nuclear weapons and a delivery system. A half dozen 5 megaton bombs would have ended the Civil War before it began.

  37. But colnago80 nuking the confederate states would have left them as vast uninhabitable wastelands. Oh wait, they already were.

  38. I like the thesis that Southern American slavery was a byproduct
    of certain strains of malaria.

    If you look at the population distribution of blacks in the pre war period they are concentrated below the line where certain strains of malaria flourished that blacks could survive and whites could not. It’s one reason Haiti and (Jamaica are black and poor).

    Even within the southern states the black populations by census are concentrated in swampy malaria infested land. They do not inhabit the highlands of those regions.

    Simply put those blacks in the census survived diseases and multiplied and were therefore desirable labour. In the North there were plenty of slaves up until various stats emancipated, but they were not needed because whites could generally survive the climate and were racially conscious enough to not want black competition for factory and menial work.

  39. dhogah,

    Had the Confederates broken away they would have invaded Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, Venezuela and formed a Golden Circle in the Caribs…

  40. What I find funny about this debate is the black nationalists who moan about oppressive whites. God forbid a vast region of whites living in a distinctive climate zone make a bid for independence from another white group. Shock horror.

    Very well then African Nationalists, move your 45 millions to Florida and Georgia and declare independence. You can have these two states no questions asked.

  41. Director, Wow, I never realized that Chicago, NYC, et al, actually have no citizens of African ancestry… And you’ve provided the explanation as to why.

    You also explain why southern Mexico, Venezuela, et al have no inhabitants of European descent — another thing we were unaware of.

    But mostly, it’s great to learn from you that those in the U.S. South were not, as you put it, “racially conscious” and that they are not burdened by harmful thoughts of “black competition”.

    You are amazing. (But not for the reasons you think you are.)

  42. Plenty of Union supporters were so because they didn’t want the black population spreading. Lincoln himself had clear white supremacist views. Many unionists thought they might even repatriate blacks to Africa. Their views were a mishmash of racist, supremacist, communistic, capitalist, liberal and evangelical confusions.

    Anyway, I’d give Farakhan, Jackson and Sharpton their black ethnostate. Florida and Georgia are worth trillions. Just to see the back of the shakedown. See how they manage, plenty of good ports, good soil, good beaches, good climate, first class infrastructure. I’m happy to have their bluff called.

  43. Brainstorms,

    In the film Gangs of New York there is a Conscription Riot.

    The film glosses over the real causes of that anti-Unionist riot. Irish migrants in the 10,000s attacked blacks living in New York. The white urban industrial workforce absolutely despised the black competition for jobs and they also felt that sacrificing their lives for Slaves was absurd.

  44. “Director, Wow, I never realized that Chicago, NYC, et al, actually have no citizens of African ancestry… And you’ve provided the explanation as to why.”

    Slavery existed in these areas until there was emancipation at various times but slavery was never economically efficient in cooler climates where grain and corn were the crop. The slaves in those areas would have been household servants. The black populations in northern cities were never significant until the great migration when sharecropper blacks migrated up.
    “You also explain why southern Mexico, Venezuela, et al have no inhabitants of European descent — another thing we were unaware of.”

    The slavers in the south had more cultural and blood ties to the planters in the Carib and Gulf than they did to Yankees. Judah P Benjamin for example. A Jewish family of slavers VP of the CSA and property in the islands.
    “But mostly, it’s great to learn from you that those in the U.S. South were not, as you put it, “racially conscious” and that they are not burdened by harmful thoughts of “black competition”.”

    Most southerners were painfully aware of how dangerous a freed population of black would be. Especially the southerners who were in competition with planters.
    You are amazing. (But not for the reasons you think you are.)

  45. Director,

    Is there a point to this resentful ramble that’s in any way related to the original post? Or did you just come here to cry in your beer, presumably over the fall of the old south?

  46. Any chance the incredibly stupid and racist director is the incredibly stupid and racist see noevo under a different name?

  47. Isn’t it amazing that whenever racists open their mouths to expound on their self-justifications that they invariably end up demonstrating their own inferiority in comparison to the race they’re trying to denigrate?

  48. Someone from the Wichita area who uses the nym “Director”? That’s suggestive — but not enough so that I’m willing to complete the thought.

  49. I’ve never owned slaves. What self justification would I be engaging in? Where did point out any inferiority? My point was a scientific based observation that the Mason-Dixon Line follows the contour of the northern limit of Vivax Malaria. Above the line European strains of malaria were manifest, below that line Vivax, essentially an African malaria dominated. It killed whites em masse leaving blacks alive. Gradually that means black populations (well adapted to the disease) would thrive, even if oppressed by slavery the numbers jumped from 500,000 imported to around 4,000,000 by the 1860s. That’s a thriving population by any standard.

    Slavery is a feature of world history going back to the first farmers. It only ended because of automation and industrialization. It’s not a moral question in that broader cultural context.

    Do your commenters have any sense of economic history?

  50. It’s also amazing how racists believe any personal obeservation they make no matter how worthless, constitutes science.

  51. zebra:
    “It is important to remember that the real issue for the South was devaluation of their capital, not the potential loss of productivity from the slaves. Not the case for indentured workers.”

    This is a very important observation, and it reminds me of the release not too long ago of some of Thomas Jefferson’s private correspondance, in particular a letter he wrote to George Washington. This letter so horrified Washington that he was inspired to free the handful of slaves he owned; basically, Jefferson had realized how profitable his slaves were, not merely in terms of their productivity but in “their increase” (his words).

    The divide between North and South over slavery goes back much further than the Civil War, and indeed, the profit of selling the children of one’s slaves was a very big deal in the south.

    Of course, although Minnesota quite explicitly fought *against* the Confederacy, making it particularly odious and historically ignorant to fly that flag in a Minnesota parade, it cannot be said that our state had no part in the sad legacy of slavery. Visit Fort Snelling, which presently is restored and maintained to its frontier condition, and today you can visit the tiny basement dwelling where Dred Scott lived for a little while. Yes, *that* Dred Scott. Slavery was illegal here even then, but nobody protested his owners importing him and his wife and renting them out for a profit, even though they were being held on government property.

  52. Brainstorm says, “In 1861, they did at least realize that they would need to secede from the U.S. to remain consistent — an act of treason, making them traitors”

    Please explain how the South did not have the right at the time to secede, therefore, making the action treasonous.

  53. How? Because the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that they had no such right. (See https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/74/700/ for your edification.)

    This makes flying or displaying the Confederate flag equal to flying or displaying the Nazi flag: Both are flags represent (human rights-violating) entities that took up arms against the United States in acts of war. Shameful (regardless of how jazzed your are over the childish excitement of rebellious behavior).

    That those who made up the Confederate States formed and pledged allegiance to “a government hostile to the United States, and in affiliation with a hostile confederation, waging war upon the United States,” yet were still American citizens, makes them traitorous in having done so.

    Q.E.D. You may now take down and burn your Stars & Bars.

  54. Who cares? People from other countries hate America, so who cares about a civil war happening where it shouldn’t have happen in the first place. You know a place that European colonies slaughter millions to live on and OWNED land that shouldn’t have been fought over, but instead shared.

  55. To further broaden the discussion one should include the facts of how the slaves got to the US in the first place and from what region were the Slaving ships owned. In addition, what flag flew over those ships. Hint: They werent from the South and it wasnt a Confederate flag. We know the ships and what families owned them. Finally, what percentage of Confederates were fighting to keep slaves.

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