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A slave auction in the Southern Confederation.

Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase, or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation. The modern system of Negro slavery began in the 15th century, when Portuguese ships began raiding sub-Saharan Africa for slaves. After the discovery of the Americas in the late 15th century, Portuguese slave traders began transporting Negro slaves to the Spanish colonies there. By the 18th century Great Britain had become the leading nation engaging in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Although the first Negro slaves to arrive in Virginia in 1619 were considered indentured servants and were eventually freed, by the mid-seventeenth century it had become standard policy throughout the English colonies to keep arriving Negroes enslaved for life. By the turn of the 18th century slavery had become confined to Negroes; although not all Negroes were slaves, all slaves were Negroes, and the institution became part of a racial caste system in British North America. At the time of the North American Rebellion in the 1770s slavery was legal throughout the British Empire, including the rebelling North American colonies.

Slavery in Jefferson[]

After the British victory in the Rebellion, anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 former rebels chose to leave the British colonies in 1780. Many of these former rebels were slaveowners who brought 500 to 600 Negro slaves with them on the Wilderness Walk to Jefferson. The members of the Wilderness Walk were joined in Baton Rouge in early November 1781 by an additional 500 exiles from Charleston, South Carolina, who brought another 300 Negro slaves with them.

After the settlement of Jefferson City was established in the Tejas province of northern Mexico, the settlers cultivated grains and vegetables rather than cash crops such as tobacco and cotton. There was little need for slavery, and some leaders such as James Madison proposed that the Negro slaves be freed. A few were freed, and more fled the settlement, but most remained enslaved. By 1794 the population of Jefferson had increased to 43,000 whites and 18,000 Negro slaves.

The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 changed the economic basis for slavery in Jefferson and the Southern Confederation, and slavery experienced a revival in both states. There was opposition to expanding the Atlantic slave trade in the S.C., but less so in Jefferson. Jefferson received a steady flow of immigrants from the S.C., both white owners and Negro slaves, and by 1800 its population had risen to 65,000 whites and 34,000 Negroes.

Writers such as Frederick Reilly of the Jefferson Argus and Carl Markham attempted to argue that slavery was not contrary to the spirit of the Rebellion, since slavery was part of the democratic tradition going back to the ancient Athenians.

Slavery in the Southern Confederation[]

John Howard.

Although Sobel makes no mention of it, by 1810 slavery was presumably illegal everywhere in the Confederation of North America except the Southern Confederation, since it is only mentioned as existing there. In the S.C., the population of Negro slaves rose sharply from 1810 to 1836, with the proportion of Negro slaves to free whites rising from 16.6% to 24%. Slave insurrections became commonplace, with over 600 individual uprisings recorded during this period. The most important was Howard's Rebellion, which struck every major plantation in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in 1815, and destroyed N.A. £20 million worth of property. This was followed by the Levering Conspiracy in Georgia in 1821, and the Insurrection of 1829, which resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 Negroes and 1,400 whites.

By 1832 many Negro slaves refused to work in the fields, and large plantations became armed camps as the use of private armies grew. The Southern Confederation Navy was the second largest in the world, but its only purpose was protecting slave ships and putting down slave insurrections. The Southern Confederation Army was the largest in the C.N.A. and growing yearly, and like the Navy was devoted to maintaining control of the S.C.'s Negro slave population.

The Panic of 1836 caused the demand for slaves to plummet, and by 1839 the Atlantic slave trade had come to a halt. The price of slaves also fell from N.A. £150 to N.A. £19, making slavery uneconomical. In 1840 the Lloyd Bill was passed, providing for compensated manumission of slaves, and requiring that freed slaves remained bound to their plantations until a period of education had been completed. Some freed Negroes remained bound to their former owners for the next two generations.

Slavery in the U.S.M.[]

Andrew Jackson of Jefferson.

When Andrew Jackson of Jefferson engineered the union of Jefferson and Mexico in 1820 to create the United States of Mexico, he meant to establish Negro slavery in the new nation. Jackson was a staunch defender of slavery, not only on economic grounds, but due to his utter disregard of the Negro as a human being. In a speech on 8 May 1837, Jackson described Negroes as "sluggish and quite simple, good for nothing but field labor." In the mid-1820s Jackson tried unsuccessfully to enslave everyone in the U.S.M. with more than one Negro grandparent.

Although the Liberty Party opposed slavery and sought its abolition, the election of Libertarian candidate Miguel Huddleston in the 1839 Mexican elections did not result in any change in the institution. Huddleston rarely spoke of slavery during the campaign, and when he did he only indicated that he would allow the institution to remain where it was, and would do nothing at the federal level to disturb it in Jefferson. The trans-Atlantic slave trade to the U.S.M. shut down during the economic downturn following the Panic of 1836, and Huddleston may have thought that slavery would die out. However, the U.S.M.'s cotton exports recovered, and by 1842 the major slave markets in Jefferson City and Quatros Hermanos had reopened.

By the time of the outbreak of the Rocky Mountain War in 1845, the U.S.M. had a population of 16 million, of whom 200,000 were slaves. According to Sobel, the U.S.M.'s slaves were kept under control during the war, usually by brutal methods, including genocide, though what he means by genocide is unclear, since Negro slavery continued in Mexico.

By 1890, the slave population of the U.S.M. had declined from 200,000 to 100,000, and although some of this was due to massacres of slaves during the Rocky Mountain War and the guerrilla war by the Moralistas, most of it was due to runaway slaves crossing the border into the C.N.A. Sobel notes that the slave population of the U.S.M only rose from 100,000 to 103,000 between 1890 and 1920, even though the average female slave produced 3.6 children.

General Emiliano Calles.

The Chapultepec Incident and Manumission[]

During the Hundred Day War of 1914, invading French troops advancing through Durango freed thousands of slaves, of whom 8,000 joined the invaders. When the French surrendered after the Battle of Chapultepec, the slaves were arrested and tried en masse for treason. Howard Washburne, the Governor of Southern Vandalia, responded by forming the Friends of Black Mexico and demanding the abolition of slavery in the U.S.M. Thousands of young North Americans stormed the Federal Prison in the Chapultepec Incident of January 1916, freeing the imprisoned Negroes and smuggling them across the border to Southern Vandalia.

Slavery became a national obsession in the U.S.M. after the Chapultepec Incident, but President Victoriano Consalus was unable to deal with the dilemma. It was left to his successor, Emiliano Calles, to arrange for passage of a Manumission Act in 1920. Negro house servants usually remained where they were, going on wages rather than subsistence. Many freed fieldhands and dockhands left their jobs, the former to find better ones, the latter forced to leave by Mexicano coworkers. The same was true of freed Negro industrial workers. A minority of freed Mexican slaves migrated to Arizona and Mexico del Norte, where they intermarried with the Indians.


Sobel's sources for slavery in the C.N.A. are Roscoe Symes' The End of the Slave Trade (Norfolk, 1904); John Harnett's A History of Slavery in the Southern Confederation (London, 1935); Theodore Holmes' Slave Rebellions of the 1820s (New York, 1945); George Caldwell's Free Men in a Slave State: The Origins of the Southern Union (New York, 1964); H.C. Hartwick's Black Skin and Red Ink: Profits in the Slave Trade, 1820-1840 (New York, 1967); and Ricardo Rodriguez's Slavery as an Issue in the Southern Confederation (Mexico City, 1970).

His sources for slavery in Jefferson and the U.S.M. are Arthur Wing's unpublished manuscript "The Business of Slavery and the Slavery of Business" (Mexico State University, circa 1900); Theodore Holmes' ed. The Rainbow Nation and Other Papers (Mexico City, 1925); Calles' The People and the Nation (Mexico City, 1931); Baldwin Collier's The Lost Opportunity: Slavery in Jefferson City, 1782-1795 (New York, 1948); Archie Jenkins' The Last to Go: U.S.M. Slavery (London, 1949); Luther Moltke's Across the River Jordan: The Slave Trade and the Vandalia Trek (Mexico City, 1950); Howard Walker's The Boil: Free Slaves in the Hundred Day War (New York, 1955); Jerome Krinz's Victoriano Consalus and the Politics of Race (New York, 1960); John Reynolds' The Shame of Western Civilization (New York, 1960); William Matthias' Like an Old Shoe: The Decline of Slavery in Jefferson (Mexico City, 1961); Carter Wallace's A History of Slavery in the U.S.M. (London, 1967); and Clyde Herman's The Gathering Storm: The End of U.S.M. Slavery (New York, 1967).