The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945 Page: 599
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led to exhaustion of the soil. When this ground became
worthless, or failed to produce as expected, its owner picked
up and moved west in the traditional Horace Greeley fashion,
taking with him his slave labor. With the growing struggle
in national politics against the extension of slavery in the
territories, the migrant planters became something akin to
desperate. If slavery was ruled out of the territories, how,
then, were they to maintain their economic structure and
standard of living as before? Cheap labor would be a thing
unknown. It was, therefore, vital to these planters that no
territorial limitation of slavery be allowed; but with the
election of Lincoln, the certainty of national legislation
inimical to their "peculiar institution" drove the Southern
planters to secession as their only means of survival.
While Professor Bagley deserves credit for his interesting
account and painstaking research in records, which were, as
he says, scanty, he nevertheless seems to have overlooked an
important source on the subject of slavery expansion. The
late Charles W. Ramsdell in "The Natural Limits of Slavery Ex-
pansion" (Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XVI, 151-171),
points out that slavery had already reached its natural limits
by the time of most of the agitation on this matter. New
Mexico was an arid, unproductive region, and the fact that
the emigration of slaves to that state was almost non-existent
serves to illustrate the fact that the westward march of the
South's labor economy was blocked by the Sierra Madres and
the desert portion of West Texas. The advance of slavery
northward had reached a stopping point, and it was improbable
that the filibusters in South American areas and Cuba would
give the South a market for slaves. Ramsdell believed, more-
over, that slavery would have receded from its most advanced
positions if the war had not interfered.
While the author is careful to point out that "soil exhaustion
was by no means the only cause of the westward expansion
of slavery" (p. 85), he fails to say just where slavery might
have gone. Southern California might have sustained slaves,
but that was some distance from Central Texas.
Soil exhaustion was probably a factor in the coming of the
Civil War, but one wonders whether much undue emphasis has
not been placed on it by the author.
It is unfortunate that contemporary records of the planta-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945, periodical, 1945; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146055/m1/667/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.