Welcome to City-Data.com Forum!
U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > History
 [Register]
Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Closed Thread Start New Thread
 
Old 06-12-2022, 03:40 PM
 
2 posts, read 6,817 times
Reputation: 45

Advertisements

Conventional wisdom is free labor is cheaper than paid labor, but that doesn't take into account the variables.

How much would it have cost to pay poor whites and free blacks to work the fields?

Probably not much more than the equivalent of minimum wage today, as it was unskilled labor.

Or perhaps even less than that, as there were fewer monthly bills back then. You didn't have to pay for utilities, cell phone and cable bills, car payments, gas or maintenance or many types of insurance.

So with free labor, a plantation owner has to start paying that meager salary up front, where they don't have to pay the slave, so to speak.

But look what they do have to pay:

First, buying the slave in the first place.

A slave who was a young man in his prime, with experience as a field hand, sold for about what a luxury car would today. Skilled slaves even more.

Whereas a plantation owner didn't have to drop the equivalent of 50 to 100K up front to bring on a new free laborer.

Then there's the cost of feeding, housing, clothing and providing medical care for slaves. In a way, that was like a necessary "benefits package" so to speak, and the plantation owner wouldn't have to provide those things for paid day laborers, because they don't live there.

Given these standards of care were subpar, you could say the same thing about inmates today, and yet in most states it still costs over 30K a year to house an inmate.

And that's what slaves were in a sense, inmates to the institution of slavery, confined to their masters property.

Then there was the cost of hiring and paying overseers on large plantations to ensure slaves didn't make a run for it.

That wouldn't be necessary if plantation owners were using free men and paying them. Because then those men are allowed to leave at any time. If they dont want to be there, they don't have to be.

So how long does a free person have to work for wages before it hits that break even point where the master has spent more than the cost of buying the slave and the cost of supporting them to date?

Hard to say, but probably many, many years and maybe never.

It's not like field slaves had the longest life expectancy, and the older they get, the slower they work, so there are those factors too.

Buy a slave who is 20, and he won't be worth nearly as much as you paid if you sell him when he's 40. And that's IF he lives that long.

Again, masters had an odd tendency to neglect their valuable "investment."

Whereas a free person who isn't as fast as he used to be, you can just fire him and hire someone else. There's no net loss there, you just change from paying Bob to paying Jim.

As it turns out, there was no free labor, just slave labor. And slaves were anything but cheap.

Would any of these factors hastened slavery's demise naturally?

Last edited by Trevor Laramie; 06-12-2022 at 03:53 PM..

 
Old 06-12-2022, 04:10 PM
 
3,560 posts, read 1,655,583 times
Reputation: 6116
Low wage worker bees just slaves that you dont have to provide housing and food. Or even land for them to grow/build their own. So yea guess slavery was probably already on its way out. Especially if the South started to seriously industrialize. Plantation slave system doesnt work out well in sweatshop type factory environment. You have to feed and house them or they die. Whereas if you pay them crumbs and force them to find their own housing and food.... plus open immigration flood gates so if they die off, you have fresh crop of suckers thinking streets here are paved with gold.
 
Old 06-12-2022, 05:14 PM
 
Location: The Triad
34,092 posts, read 83,010,632 times
Reputation: 43666
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trevor Laramie View Post
If the civil war had not happened ...
But it did. And mostly because it had to.

Any number of reasonable and equitable options to end slavery DID exist.
Just 2 decades before the Brits "bought out" their slave-holding Colonists (Caribbean etc)
It was messy but still a very clear and recent example of what could be done.

No, slavery did NOT make good business sense ... and they knew that.
The leaders of the South didn't want their fantasy of life to end.

They tried expanding slavery into the new territories to no avail (exc Texas*)...
and were willing to have a war over the issue ... more like a Hail Mary play.
They still haven't surrendered.


* When Mexico (which did NOT allow slavery) was still running the joint ...
the newly arriving southern slave holders escaping poor soil and bad market conditions...
compelled their slaves to sign false documents about freedom.
Zachary Taylor put an end to that in '46. By then there were already 30,000 slaves in Texas.

Last edited by MrRational; 06-12-2022 at 05:39 PM..
 
Old 06-12-2022, 05:47 PM
 
13,460 posts, read 4,297,780 times
Reputation: 5393
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrRational View Post

* When Mexico (which did NOT allow slavery) was still running the joint ...
the slave holders compelled their slaves to sign false documents about freedom.
Zachary Taylor put an end to that in '46. By then there were 30,000 slaves in Texas.
Funny, since the Aztecs and Mayans practiced slavery for centuries and the Spaniards practiced slavery before and longer than the Americans.


What Mexico didn't do after taking over from from Spain was allow massive black slaves (they had plenty of Natives) but allow native slavery that still has issues today in Mexico.
Slavery in Colonial Mexico was quite different from that in the American South. The bulk of those enslaved remained on the land where they were born. There was no large scale buying and selling of Indian slaves. It was call Encomienda system.

Back to the question, it would have ended but 2 to 3 decades later and replaced by a new order of cheap labor.
 
Old 06-12-2022, 08:45 PM
bu2
 
24,107 posts, read 14,899,793 times
Reputation: 12952
Mechanization would have gradually replaced it.

It probably wasn't especially economical in 1860, but they had so much tied up in the "asset." its why Madison and Jefferson couldn't bring themselves to free their slaves even though they opposed slavery. It was the loss of that value of the slave.
 
Old 06-13-2022, 03:46 AM
 
Location: The Triad
34,092 posts, read 83,010,632 times
Reputation: 43666
Quote:
Originally Posted by SanJuanStar View Post
..it would have ended but 2 to 3 decades later and replaced by a new order of cheap labor.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bu2 View Post
Mechanization would have gradually replaced it.
Simultaneous to the war and into the 20th C the US was importing MILLIONS of Europeans:
labor for the ever rising -mostly North & East- industrial jobs and farmers for western expansion.
Plus the Chinese on the West coast - mostly for railroad work.
 
Old 06-13-2022, 07:33 AM
 
Location: USA
1,719 posts, read 732,477 times
Reputation: 2190
I would imagine, and hope, that the late 19th c. - early 20th c. boll weevil decimation of cotton industry in the South would have put a massive dent into the hideous institution of slavery.
 
Old 06-13-2022, 08:57 AM
 
8,420 posts, read 7,422,672 times
Reputation: 8769
The unique form of chattel slavery that originated in the British colonies began around 1650-1670, well before cotton was a cash crop. Ergo, chattel slavery just needed a cash crop, not specifically cotton. At first, that cash crop was tobacco. Towards the American Revolution, the cash crops also included indigo for dyes and food shipped to the Caribbean sugar colonies.

Some of the Founding Fathers actively sought to continue the practice of slavery. They successfully obtained the Fugitive Slave Clause and the clauses that temporarily protected the importation of slaves in the Constitution of the United States. These same forces also worked to enact the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, four years after the federal government first convened.

The end of King Cotton would not necessarily have meant an end to slavery in the United States. IMO, Southern plantation culture would have simply found another economic model that perpetuated the practice. Point of fact, the Southern economic leaders successfully terminated reconstruction and brought forth a changed system that relied on share-cropping, segregation, and Jim Crow laws to perpetuate their culture.
 
Old 06-13-2022, 09:03 AM
 
Location: USA
1,719 posts, read 732,477 times
Reputation: 2190
Quote:
Originally Posted by djmilf View Post
The unique form of chattel slavery that originated in the British colonies began around 1650-1670, well before cotton was a cash crop. Ergo, chattel slavery just needed a cash crop, not specifically cotton. At first, that cash crop was tobacco. Towards the American Revolution, the cash crops also included indigo for dyes and food shipped to the Caribbean sugar colonies.

Some of the Founding Fathers actively sought to continue the practice of slavery. They successfully obtained the Fugitive Slave Clause and the clauses that temporarily protected the importation of slaves in the Constitution of the United States. These same forces also worked to enact the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, four years after the federal government first convened.

The end of King Cotton would not necessarily have meant an end to slavery in the United States. IMO, Southern plantation culture would have simply found another economic model that perpetuated the practice. Point of fact, the Southern economic leaders successfully terminated reconstruction and brought forth a changed system that relied on share-cropping, segregation, and Jim Crow laws to perpetuate their culture.
I agree with what you say. I'd just hope for even a dent in slavery then. Even one person counts.

And now, this planet has more slavery than ever before, world-wide. There's just no end to it. Humankind continues to cruelly exploit and profit through the misery of others.
 
Old 06-13-2022, 11:56 AM
Status: "119 N/A" (set 27 days ago)
 
12,964 posts, read 13,684,417 times
Reputation: 9695
I believe it was Mary Boykin Chestnut who said the plantation system was only run for the benefit of the slaves. Some economist proved that free labor was more economical. One of the arguments was that the plantation system was only kept in place so that wealthy southerners could maintain their lifestyle and there was not a feasible plan for what to do with 4 million Africans in the south. So in effect the plantation system was no longer a capitalist institution but a social institution. The war happened because it the plantation system was defined as immoral by some and others though it was bad for the economic growth of the country as a whole.
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.



All times are GMT -6.

© 2005-2024, Advameg, Inc. · Please obey Forum Rules · Terms of Use and Privacy Policy · Bug Bounty

City-Data.com - Contact Us - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 - Top