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Old 06-05-2014, 12:10 AM
 
Location: Jewel Lake (Sagle) Idaho
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I don't want this to spin into a debate over the morality (immorality) of slavery, it is abhorrent. I am in no way justifying it. But, in 1860 America it was also the law of the land. Slaves were legally property of their owners. They were also very expensive property-on the order of $1000-$2000 in 1860 dollars, or about $30,000 in today's dollars according to a one site (I welcome corrections if someone has more accurate values). Efforts to "free" slaves not only threatened the economy of half the country, but amounted to the seizure of a massive amount of property without compensation. That alone is sufficient to create violent resistance.

Slavery was a "dying" institution by that time. It was declining in most states, both with more states going "free" and fewer people owning slaves. The massive infusion of legal immigrants around this time meant that more labor was available, and ultimately at less cost. Cheap hired help didn't have to be provided food, shelter or other care. And if they were hurt or died, the employer wasn't out the investment in a slave.

My question-had the Federal government agreed to compensate the owners the fair market value of the slaves and purchased them from their owners, would the majority of slave owners agree to sell them? Could this have happened without widespread violence? Would by far the bloodiest, costliest event in American history been avoided?

Would it have been a bit expensive? Sure. But far less so than the cost of a civil war, both in terms of dollars, to say nothing about lives. Did more than 600,000 people die because our government chose to "steal" property without properly compensating the owners?
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Old 06-05-2014, 12:54 AM
 
Location: Windsor, Ontario, Canada
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Would slavery still have been abolished? Because if it wasn't, then I don't see the point.
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Old 06-05-2014, 01:35 AM
 
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The total value of the slaves exceeded the federal budget.


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Old 06-05-2014, 04:08 AM
 
10,685 posts, read 11,547,354 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toyman at Jewel Lake View Post
My question-had the Federal government agreed to compensate the owners the fair market value of the slaves and purchased them from their owners, would the majority of slave owners agree to sell them? Could this have happened without widespread violence? Would by far the bloodiest, costliest event in American history been avoided?
I have heard a similar question about the Vietnam war. We could have brought the country into the first world for what we spent on the war.

As you should know, the Civil War was as much about limits on the federal government vs state governments as it was about slavery. I don't think the majority of slave owners would have agree to sell the slaves. It is only from our vantage point that it was a dying institution. For people steeped in that life, it was very much alive.

About half of the urban population in the confederacy was in New Orleans in 1860
168,675 New Orleans city, LA *.............
40,522 Charleston city, SC................
22,292 Savannah city, GA..................
18,266 Petersburg city, VA................
14,620 Norfolk city, VA...................
14,083 Wheeling city, VA *................
12,652 Alexandria city, VA................
12,493 Augusta city, GA...................
9,621 Columbus city, GA..................
9,554 Atlanta city, GA...................
9,552 Wilmington town, NC................
332,330


These cities were dwarfed by the five major urban centers in the North
New York city, NY *................ 813,669
Philadelphia city, PA *............ 565,529
Brooklyn city, NY *................ 266,661
Baltimore city, MD................. 212,418
Boston city, MA *.................. 177,840

The question is if the south were free, how long would they have survived?
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Old 06-05-2014, 04:53 AM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
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"Unlike any other slave society, the U.S. had a high and sustained natural increase in the slave population for a more than a century and a half."

Slavery was certainly not a 'dying' institution in 1860. Political decisions like the Kansas-Nebraska act and judicial cases like the Dred Scott decision showed the potential to increase slavery's reach well beyond the south. Then there is the micro-opposition you would get from individual slave owners: giving up slaves for fair market value didn't make sense as an investment because of all the future benefits you would be losing - unless you closed up shop, you were facing considerable costs for the labor needed to run your operation, costs that could chew up any profits they might make being compensated for their slaves.

So, no, I don't believe slave owners would have agreed to a buyout, nor do I believe politics would have ended slavery any time soon - too many people who voted, both north and south, benefited from the practice.
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Old 06-05-2014, 05:07 AM
 
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The plantation owners would of had to find another way to accumulate wealth. As one owner put it , " people bought slaves to plant more cotton and planted more cotton to buy more slaves." The biggest stumbling block was what to do with slaves once they were free and the plantation system was ended. Slavery was a type of " economic infrastructure " to deal with a large lower class. The war was a fight to preserve this way of accumulating wealth and this infrastructure until something better could replace them. At the time of the Civil War nothing was on the horizon .

Last edited by thriftylefty; 06-05-2014 at 05:17 AM..
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Old 06-05-2014, 05:50 AM
 
Location: Somewhere below Mason/Dixon
8,084 posts, read 8,594,224 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toyman at Jewel Lake View Post
I don't want this to spin into a debate over the morality (immorality) of slavery, it is abhorrent. I am in no way justifying it. But, in 1860 America it was also the law of the land. Slaves were legally property of their owners. They were also very expensive property-on the order of $1000-$2000 in 1860 dollars, or about $30,000 in today's dollars according to a one site (I welcome corrections if someone has more accurate values). Efforts to "free" slaves not only threatened the economy of half the country, but amounted to the seizure of a massive amount of property without compensation. That alone is sufficient to create violent resistance.

Slavery was a "dying" institution by that time. It was declining in most states, both with more states going "free" and fewer people owning slaves. The massive infusion of legal immigrants around this time meant that more labor was available, and ultimately at less cost. Cheap hired help didn't have to be provided food, shelter or other care. And if they were hurt or died, the employer wasn't out the investment in a slave.

My question-had the Federal government agreed to compensate the owners the fair market value of the slaves and purchased them from their owners, would the majority of slave owners agree to sell them? Could this have happened without widespread violence? Would by far the bloodiest, costliest event in American history been avoided?

Would it have been a bit expensive? Sure. But far less so than the cost of a civil war, both in terms of dollars, to say nothing about lives. Did more than 600,000 people die because our government chose to "steal" property without properly compensating the owners?
.
I have often wondered if the war could have been avoided this way, without violating the 10th amendment in the process. Federal government became way to powerful because of the northern victory. The confederate view of small government and states rights is constitutionally correct. It is a shame that slavery triggered the civil war, as it taints the confederate cause. The violation of the constitution severely taints the northern cause. If I could go back to 1859 and make a proposal it would be this.

1. The US government would offer fair market value for slaves in states which agree to permanently outlaw slavery.
2. This would be funded by the selling of federal land in the west.
3. States who do not agree will not be forced, but the offer will stand indefinitely, allowing public pressure time to work. It would be a matter of a few decades before most, if not all states agree to the terms.
4. Freed slaves would have several choices, 1. passage back to Africa 2. given homestead land in the west (separate area from that being sold to fund program) 3. Remain in the state in which they were enslaved, labor would still be needed and the freed slave could continue to earn a living just as he had in the past, but as a free man.
5. Slaves choosing to remain in the US after their freedom would be citizens immediately, given the right to vote, and all rights of citizenship.
6. States agreeing to the buyout will also provide education for freed slave children, giving them the skills necessary for success.
7. After all states have accepted the offer, a federal amendment would be added forbidding slavery for all time.

I know people will say, "that would never have worked", or "we did not have the money". I would say however that the war cost far more than this plan would have cost. I would also say the southern states would have considered this offer, as it offered a way out without economic disaster. This offer also preserves southern rights, and it gives the north an end to slavery. Even many southerners disliked slavery, but it had become an economic trap we could not escape. What would have made many antislavery advocates unhappy would be the reality that not all states would agree to this quickly. States less dependent on slavery like Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland would have agreed sooner, while slavery in deep south areas like Mississippi and Louisiana would have lingered for decades. However even those states would have been forced to agree at some point, as they would be the only ones left, making them quite isolated. It would be a gradual process that could take 20-40 years, but it avoids a bloody war that cost 600k lives and the equivalent to billions, if not trillions of dollars in cost and damage to this nation. The political damage the war did to our nation is still with us today in the "red state, blue state" divide that looks a lot like the divide between slave and free state America of the 1860 era. I think that reality makes it well worth while to have tried this before the first shot was fired.
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Old 06-05-2014, 05:57 AM
 
Location: Central Nebraska
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The idea didn't go very far at the time. There was Slavery and there was Abolition. Most people today are not aware of a compromise called Emancipation beyond supposing it was just another name for Abolition. Abolition was the immediate end of Slavery. Emancipation was the idea of preparing the slaves for freedom and gradually giving them more freedom allowing them to become accustomed to it. They might be taught to read and write and how to handle money and allowed greater freedom of travel, given a few more acres of their own and greater responsibility for meeting their own needs. A number of Southerners favored this approach, and Abraham Lincoln supposed each Confederate state would come up with its own program of Emancipation as a condition for re-admission.

The idea that slave owners should have been compensated for their loss recieved far more attention after the war than it ever got before the war.

There were other issues besides Slavery. The North wanted to expand west to the Pacific (accomplished) and north into Canada (bared by Great Britain). The South wanted to expand south into Latin America--and actually tried to take over Nicaragua. The tax system favored the North and stuck the South with most of the bill. Finally, Southerners found Northeasterners to be rude and obnoxious. It should be noted, however, that people in what we now call the Midwest saw most issues much the same way Southerners did except for Slavery. There was a Copperhead movement that sought to have what we now call the Midwest seceed--but they never came even close to success.

So the war was about Slavery and you ask if the war could have been avoided simply by compensating slave owners for their slaves. I doubt it, because it would have recieved a great deal of consideration in the decade or so leading up to the war. It recieved no consideration until after the war.
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Old 06-05-2014, 06:03 AM
 
14,042 posts, read 20,256,568 times
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It indeed was proposed by Lincoln in the early stages of the war. Bonds would have been issued to compensate slave owners for the loss - up to $500m I think. The southern states would not accept the deal and/or it failed to gain further consideration in congress.
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:28 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Western Massachusetts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chirack View Post
The total value of the slaves exceeded the federal budget.


The cost of war also exceeded the federal budget. I wonder how they compared?
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