The AbductioM of Free )Vegroes
a#d Slaves i rexas
EARL W. FORNELL
N Texas during the 1850's, the demand for slave labor often
forced the prevailing selling price for Negroes as high as
$1500 for men and $1250 for women. Since a "likely" Negro
could be hired out for $250 to $300 per season,' many non-
planters acquired slaves merely as an income investment. In four
to five years, even the most expensive Negro would, by his own
labor, pay for his original purchase price. When a Negro was
hired out, the cost of his upkeep was transferred to the person
employing the Negro.
The high selling price of slaves sometimes inspired acquisitive
persons to kidnap or otherwise secure control over sea-faring free
Negroes, who might unwittingly present themselves as tempting
prizes in 'Texas seaports. Titles to these acquisitions were usually
obtained by fraud or by collusion between dealers and justices
of the peace. The latter procedure rested upon a semblance of
legality, since a Negro charged with a real or an alleged crime
could be sold into slavery in lieu of a fine, as punishment or
merely to pay for the cost of his maintenance during a jail term.
Once the Negro had passed the line from freedom into even tem-
porary slavery, his permanent status in such slavery was almost a
certainty. In instances where an apparent title was not obtainable,
the acquired Negroes could be hired out to persons who would
not ask embarrassing questions as to the actual ownership of the
Captain Thomas Chubb, a Galveston shipmaster who later
gained fame as the commander of the Confederate steamer Royal
*This article is a continuation of Dr. Fornell's study of the Texas Gulf Coast
cotton expansion and the slave trade in the 1850's. The first part, "Texans and
Filibusters in the 1850's," appeared in the April, 1956, number of the Quarterly,
and the second part, "Agitation in Texas for Reopening the Slave Trade," ap-
peared in the October, 1956, number.
1Houston Telegraph, January 21, 1859.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/. Accessed May 28, 2015.