PCC The Growth of Slavery & the Change in Slave Population Discussion

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Background

This lesson focuses on the growth of slavery in the period 1790-1820. In the American Constitution, the Founders specified that an accurate count of the number of citizens in the country had to be made every 10 years. This was to ensure that the number of congressional districts kept up with population growth and, thus, the House of Representatives would truly represent all citizens. Generally, white men of a certain age with some property were able to vote in these congressional districts and in their states, yet congressional representation was based on the total number of all people, including women, children, slaves, and indentured servants.

In the case of slaves, including them in the census count was a problem, as they were considered property rather than human beings; yet the southern states feared a loss of legislative power if slaves were not included in the count. The Founders, therefore, crafted a compromise in the Constitution to appease slave states: the new republic would count all slaves but only include three-fifths of their number when formulating congressional districts.

The official census bureau was not founded until 1840; before then, marshals of the state courts were supposed to conduct a census every 10 years, a much less accurate process than the one later conducted by the federal government. In fact, the 1800 census was particularly poorly done and presents problems when we do a decade-by-decade comparison. Therefore, this exercise will measure the growth of slavery using these two data points — 1790 and 1820.

Source

For this activity, Source and Analyze the Evidence sections are combined. Please continue to Analyze the Evidence.

Analyze the Evidence

Questions

According to Winterer, as the US gained territory in the early Southwest (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, etc.), slaves began to be sold from the old slave states of Virginia and Maryland to the new slave states in these territories. What was the percentage population of slaves to total population in the states in 1790 compared to the percentage population in 1820?

Instructions: Fill out the white boxes in the chart below using these calculation instructions.

First, note that some of the states did not report census figures for slaves or total population in a year, so you will not be able to do the calculations in grayed out boxes. Please complete the calculations in the white boxes. In the first column of white boxes (1790) and the second column (1820), you will make the same calculation: the percentage of the state’s population that was slave. Let us take Connecticut as an example.

In 1790 in Connecticut, there were 2,764 slaves out of a total population of 237,946. To determine the percentage of slaves, divide the slave population by the total population using this formula. You will note that the slave population was very small at 1.16%.

2,764 ÷ 237,946 = .0116 × 100 = 1.16%

Do the same formula for 1820 in Connecticut. While the total population of Connecticut grew in 30 years, the slave population reduced dramatically to .008% of the total.

25 ÷ 297,675 = .00000839 × 100 = .008%

Now we are going to calculate the percent change in column 3, which will tell us how much Connecticut’s slave population shrank in 30 years. We will be using only the slave figures to make this calculation. Take Connecticut’s slave population in 1820 (25) and subtract it from the slave population in 1790 (2,764), and you will get a negative number of -2,739. Then you will divide the negative number by the population of slaves in 1790, which gets you the negative figure of -.99, which you multiply by 100 to create a negative percentage of -99%. The percent change of -99% indicates not only that slavery in Connecticut declined over 30 years but that it plummeted and was close to disappearing.

25 – 2,764 = -2,739 ÷ 2,764 = -.99 × 100 = -99%

Finally, in the last row make the same three calculations on the US population.

Percent Change in Slavery in the North and the South, 1790-1820

Population in 1790

Population in 1820

State /Territory

Total

Slave

% of Slave

Total

Slave

% of Slave

Slave % Change,1790 v. 1820

Alabama

309,527

117,549

Connecticut

237,946

2,764

297,675

25

Delaware

59,094

8,887

76,748

3,292

District of Columbia

39,834

6,119

Georgia

82,548

29,264

516,823

217,531

Indiana

343,031

3

Illinois

157,445

747

Kentucky

73,677

12,430

687,917

165,213

Louisiana

215,739

109,588

Maine

96,540

0

399,437

6

Massachusetts

378,787

0

610,408

4

Maryland

319,728

103,036

447,040

102,994

Mississippi

136,621

65,659

Missouri

140,455

25,091

New Hampshire

141,885

158

269,328

5

New Jersey

184,139

11,423

320,823

2,254

New York

340,120

4,654

1,918,608

76

North Carolina

393,751

100,572

737,987

245,601

Ohio

935,884

6

Pennsylvania

434,373

3,737

1,348,233

403

Rhode Island

68,825

948

97,199

14

South Carolina

249,073

107,094

581,185

315,401

Tennessee

681,903

141,603

Vermont

85,539

16

280,657

0

Virginia

747,610

292,627

1,211,405

469,757

Southwest Territory

35,691

3,417

Arkansas Territory

30,388

4,576

Florida Territory

34,730

15,501

Michigan Territory

31,639

32

Totals

3,929,326

681,027

12,858,669

2,009,050

Using the information gained from the chart, answer these two questions. How did the change in slave population over 30 years in Virginia and Maryland compare to the slave population of Deep South states like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina? Do these statistics support Winterer’s argument?

Compare the slave populations of the Southern states with the New England States, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. What seems to be happening to slavery in the North and the South?

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