The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 33, July 1929 - April, 1930 Page: 111
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The Natural Limits of Slavery Expansion
to be relied upon when extra or seasonal labor was required.17
Though it is impossible to say how far this practice would
have gone in substituting free-negro labor for slave labor, it
would inevitably have accustomed increasing numbers of employ-
ers to the use of free negroes and have weakened by so much
the economic interest in slavery. The cost of rearing a slave
to the working age was considerable, and it is well within the
probabilities that, in an era of over-stocked plantations and low
cotton prices, the planter would have found that he was rearing
slaves, as well as growing cotton, at a loss. New codes for the
control of the free negroes might easily, in the course of time,
have removed the greatest objection on the part of the non-slave-
owners to emancipation.
In summary and conclusion: it seems evident that slavery had
about reached its zenith by 1860 and must shortly have begun
to decline, for the economic forces which had carried it into the
region west of the Mississippi had about reached their maximum
effectiveness. It could not go forward in any direction and it
was losing ground along its northern border. A cumbersome
and expensive system, it could show profits only as long as it
could find plenty of rich land to cultivate and the world would
take the product of its crude labor at a good price. It had
reached its limits in both profits and lands. The free farmers
in the North who dreaded its further spread had nothing to fear.
Even those who wished it destroyed had only to wait a little
while-perhaps a generation, probably less. It was summarily
destroyed at a frightful cost to the whole country and one-third
of the nation was impoverished for forty years. One is tempted
at this point to reflections upon what has long passed for states-'
manship on both sides of that long dead issue. But I have not the
heart to indulge them.
1I am indebted to Professor A. O. Craven, of the University of Chi-
cago, for calling my attention to this development; but he should not
be held responsible for my conclusions. For evidence of the use of free
negroes on one plantation, see J. S. Bassett (ed.), "The Westover Jour-
nal of John A. Seldon", Smith College Studies in History (Northampton,
1921), VI, 270, 296-98, 316. For a more general account of the use
of free negroes in Virginia, see John H. Russell, The Free Negro in Vir-
ginia, 1619-1866 (Baltimore, 1913), 146-55.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 33, July 1929 - April, 1930, periodical, 1930; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101090/m1/125/: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.