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1. From: J. Douglas Deal [mailto:deal@Oswego.EDU] Just a couple of thoughts on slaves as property or people. First of all, the either/or formulation gets us nowhere. We must begin with the generalization that slaves were viewed by the owning class as *people who are property* and then go on to acknowledge that what this meant in practice could vary enormously across different slave societies and societies with slaves. Whatever the laws might have said, everyday life for masters and slaves was suffused with issues of rewards and punishments, privileges and responsibilities, labor and leisure, and the social relations and moral codes peculiar to the time. Second, while emancipation was certainly discussed in some circles as a question of property rights (the taking of that property and elimination of those rights raising the corollary issue of compensation), it was viewed in much more complex--one is tempted to say "human"--ways in the varied contexts (mostly wartime) in which it arose. The role of slaves and ex-slaves (and their allies) in the whole process of emancipation guaranteed that it would, in practice, entail moral as well as economic calculations and claims. It is not presentism to ask why slaves themselves were not compensated upon emancipation. Compensation in land--"forty acres of tillable ground"--was not only considered, it was actually implemented by General Sherman's Special Field Order 15 early in 1865. This happened after Sherman and Secretary of War Stanton met with twenty black ministers and community leaders in Savannah in January to discover what the newly emancipated slaves of the low country wanted most. President Johnson ended this experiment later the same year--a political decision with obvious moral facets. I would agree with Reece, Forsyth, and Meredith that it is difficult, maybe impossible, to analyze emancipation exclusively as a question involving the disposition of the property of slave owners. It was a human drama of epic proportions. To Reece's list of suggested readings, I would add the rich volumes of Ira Berlin et al., eds., Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation 1861-1867 and the shorter distillations such as the volume Free At Last, which contains a newspaper "transcript" of the Savannah meeting mentioned above. Douglas Deal Professor of History and Chair of History Department State University of New York at Oswego Oswego, NY 13126 firstname.lastname@example.org (315)-312-5632 2. From: clayton@CLAYTONCRAMER.COM >From: Paul Finkelman [mailto:email@example.com] > >As a few others have noted, even without emancipation, the South was >much poorer after the war; death and injury eliminated hundreds of >thousands of productive people from the economy; war destroyed >buildings, farms, bridges, railroads, horses (used for agriculture), >mules, cows, etc. All of this wealth disappeared. Then there is the >issue of "money" -- all the Confederate currency had no value. >Whatever it was worth before April 1865, it was worth nothing >afterwards; as were bonds that people owned. All of this, and more, >left the South poor. The book _Black Masters_ points to the example of one black slave holding family that went from great wealth to near poverty because of this: their slaves were freed; their land was worth far less because of emancipation; and the patriarch had invested heavily in Confederate war bonds apparently as an act of solidarity with his fellow (but white) slave holders; those bonds were now worthless. Obviously, the family lost heavily from the war, having presumably transferred wealth from other financial instruments into Confederate war bonds, causing a transfer of wealth from themselves to those who sold goods or services to the Confederate governments. This was, however, only a transfer of wealth, as opposed to the physical destruction of property and livestock. >I write this not to take a position on reparations or the claims of >white masters (as Meredith seems to imply that those who disagree with >him might be taking a position in defense of former masters.) I simply >think it should be clear that the ending of slavery destroyed wealth >and capital. I almost agree, and Professor Finkelman makes a good point about the fact that freedmen could not mortgage themselves, unlike their masters. But what about personal loans? When I borrow money on my signature, I am, effectively, mortgaging my myself by promising to pay back a loan. I don't know much about the state of postbellum finance, but was not a sharecropping contract, in a sense, a form of personal loan? Clayton E. Cramer firstname.lastname@example.org 3. From: rodhay@GOLDEN.NET There are two issues which are being conflated. The cost of the emancipation and the cost of the war. Slaves were productive assets to the southern economy. If the amount of labour which was available to the southern economy was reduced, this would be a cost. But also, if the economic institutions which replaced slavery were more or less productive then the efficiency of the use of that labour would change. This could be a cost or benefit depending upon the answer to the productivity question. The destruction of physical capital, the loss of value of paper assets, etc., should be considered as the cost of the war. Rod Hay University of Guelph 4. From: Kouroo@BROWN.EDU I suppose I can rest my case -- the accuracy of my analysis has been demonstrated by Paul Finkelman, Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tulsa College of Law. He writes that my posting: >confuses historical analysis with modern sensibilities and questions of >morality; it further confuses economic analysis with what we might all >moral analysis. > >Surely, before the Civil War slaves were "property." They were bought, >sold, exchanged, taxed, and in every other way we can describe >property, treated like property. (For some circumstances they were also >treated by like people but that is not terribly relevant here.) As long >as slaves were treated as property, then determining the "cost" of the >Civil War >-- or of "uncompensated emancipation" -- must start from the premise >(however unpleasant) that the United States -- and especially the 15 >southern states -- considered slaves (not blacks) to be property. Nothing could be more clear than that Professor Finkelman is here and now privileging the attitudes of those 19th-Century white masters over the attitudes of those 19th-Century servants of color in precisely the same manner that during the 19th Century those attitudes of the white masters were privileged over the attitudes of those servants of color. If there is such a thing as "presentism," in which attitudes of the present are illicitly backposted into a previous era to which they do not apply, contaminating our thinking, then surely there is also such a thing as "pastism" of which Professor Finkelman is revealing that he is himself guilty, in which we are illicitly bringing attitudes of the past forward, so that they may continue to lay a dead hand upon our spirits, contaminating our thinking. He demonstrates the accuracy of my analysis. In tabulations of the economic losses due to the American civil strife of the 1860s, Professor Finkelman is allowing no accounting of what the slaves lost when they were freed without compensation, although very clearly they were entitled to this equity. They had, all their lives to that point, been taken from: their entire labor had been taken, under duress and force, by slavemasters, almost entirely without compensation, and almost entirely without any provision for education or for illness and old age. Professor Finkelman alleges that this was *not* a massive overhanging debt, *not* a debt that now falls squarely within the rubric of our discussion, "Economic Effect of Uncompensated Emancipation in the American South." And why not? --because he is privileging the attitudes of the debtors over the attitudes of those to whom this debt was owed. The white people did not consider themselves indebted, and therefore in his mind they were not indebted, and why not? --because, perhaps, for Professor Finkelman, it is only the attitudes of white people that matter? We asked Willie Sutton (1901-1980) why he robbed banks. Evidently we though it to be relevant, what a bank robber thought about where money ought to be kept! However, as we notice, Willie was a white man, and as we notice, the attitudes of white men matter. If Willie had been a black man and a former slave, would Professor Finkleman be willing to ask him whether anyone owed him anything? Over the course of the antebellum years, in various of the states of the American south, more and more restrictions had been laid in the path of manumission. White slavemasters were simply not allowed, under the existing law, to sluff off slaves, or to abandon them when they were no longer useful. Typically, a law of manumission in a Southern state that still allowed manumission would specify that when a slave was manumitted, the manumitter must bestow upon the manumitee the tools of the trade in which he or she was skilled. Thus, for instance, a black blacksmith being manumitted was entitled to all the tools of the trade of blacksmithing which he had been practicing, etc. This was an obligation and was treated exactly as a debt. At the end of the Civil War, however, such legalities were ignored. The former slaves were simply abandoned into freedom. As Professor Finkelman accurately points out, this was morally wrong and moral wrongs are for us an irrelevancy. I would point out, however, that this talk about moral wrong is a red herring: ignoring this liability was both illegal (it seems in some states to have been in direct violation of existing laws of manumission, written by white legislators) and economically damaging (in interfering with the former slave's ability to continue to do productive work and to contribute to the general economy).