Monday, June 17, 2013

The Emancipation Threat and Slave Market Prices in Kentucky

The above short article ran in the February 25, 1864, edition of the Henderson, Kentucky, Weekly Reporter. A couple of things mentioned in it caught my attention.

First, I was intrigued by how the article referred to the slave trader. The post-Civil War Lost Cause myth of the local slave trader as a community pariah does not seem to hold form here. Although not much information or hints are given in this brief mention, it does refer to him in a respectful manner with a prefix "Mr." If the newspaper wanted show disdain for this man it could have simply used his name minus the title or a denigrating adjective.

The second thing that made me take pause was the mentioned implication that President Lincoln would be issuing a sequel to the Emancipation Proclamation; this one apparently applicable to the border states. This measure, of course, was mere rumor, as the bond people of the loyal slave states were freed only by state law (Maryland and Missouri) or by the 13th Amendment (Kentucky and Delaware), both of which came much later than the spring of 1864.

Primary sources prove that commercial and personal slave sales continued to happen in Kentucky well in 1865, albeit at depressed prices. What surprises me somewhat is that people made purchases late into and after the war. To those of us in the present, hindsight helps us see that the peculiar institution's death was assured, but to those at the time it was not so certain. Evidence such as the above, and others like bills of sale, vividly show there were those that were willing to take a chance on getting some cheap labor. And, definitely there were those in Kentucky that believed their late and post war purchases would be in a sense be insured to some degree with governmental compensation, being that the state remained loyal to the Union. That, of course, proved to be a lost gamble.

1 comment:

  1. I always found it telling that slave traders were labelled as outsiders and maligned; many whites said a similar thing during lynching---that it was outside agitators and nobody local would ever doing anything like that:) I've also seen slave sales continuing late in the war in the state of maryland.