Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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What were the reasons for slavery’s decline in the Upper South?

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Over time, slave ownership became increasingly concentrated among a smaller number of landowners throughout the Southern colonies. According to the Digital History source I attached below,

The proportion of southern families owning slaves declined from 36 percent in 1830 to 25 percent in 1860. At the same time, slavery was...

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Over time, slave ownership became increasingly concentrated among a smaller number of landowners throughout the Southern colonies. According to the Digital History source I attached below,

The proportion of southern families owning slaves declined from 36 percent in 1830 to 25 percent in 1860. At the same time, slavery was sharply declining in the upper South. Between 1830 and 1860, the proportion of slaves in Missouri's population fell from 18 to 10 percent; in Kentucky, from 24 to 19 percent; in Maryland, from 23 to 13 percent.

Note that slavery was declining throughout the South, just more rapidly in the Upper South. As the tobacco industry declined in the South, slave traders moved approximately one million slaves from the tobacco plantations in the Upper South to cotton plantations in the Lower South between 1790 and 1860. This helped support middle-class occupations in both the North and South. It also enabled the expansion of textile mills in the Northern colonies, as cotton was transported from the South to be manufactured in the North. Cotton plantations yielded high profits during the Industrial Revolution, and the transfer of slaves from the Upper South to the Lower South reflects an adaptation to changing market demands.

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I would also add that the early nineteenth century witnessed a decline in tobacco cultivation in the Chesapeake for a variety of reasons, including soil depletion and falling prices. Many planters did turn to cotton, especially in places like Southside Virginia, but as the previous response implies, many turned to less labor-intensive crops like grains, which led to a labor surplus. White anxieties about large populations of black slaves (especially after the Nat Turner rising), as well as the voracious demand for slaves in the new Southwest, created strong cultural and economic motives for the sale of slaves to the lower South, and the decline of the institution, in the Upper South. 

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Slavery declined in the Upper South mainly due to cotton.  First, that region was not good for growing cotton.  As cotton became "king," that region could not keep up and therefore needed fewer slaves.  At the same time, slaveowners in that area could make more money selling their slaves to the cotton areas of the Deep South than by keeping them.  This also helped lead to the decline in slavery.

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