Calculating the Value of the Union: Slavery, Property by James L. Huston

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By James L. Huston

Whereas slavery is frequently on the middle of debates over the reasons of the Civil struggle, historians usually are not agreed on accurately what point of slavery-with its a variety of social, financial, political, cultural, and ethical ramifications-gave upward push to the sectional rift. In Calculating the price of the Union, James Huston integrates monetary, social, and political heritage to argue that the difficulty of estate rights as they pertained to slavery was once on the heart of the Civil warfare. within the early years of the 19th century, southern slaveholders sought a countrywide definition of estate rights that will realize and guard their possession of slaves. Northern pursuits, nonetheless, hostile any nationwide interpretation of estate rights as a result of the chance slavery posed to the northern unfastened hard work marketplace, rather if allowed to unfold to western territories. This deadlock sparked a technique of political realignment that culminated within the production of the Republican social gathering, finally resulting in the secession difficulty. Deeply researched and punctiliously written, this research rebuts contemporary developments in antebellum historiography and persuasively argues for a essentially monetary interpretation of the slavery factor and the arrival of the Civil conflict.

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Extra resources for Calculating the Value of the Union: Slavery, Property Rights, and the Economic Origins of the Civil War (Civil War America)

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Samuel Adams, the Boston radical who trumpeted Lockean doctrines about the sanctity of private property as much as anyone, showed that the central ambiguity about property rights was that they were the creation of society. ’’ Property depended upon legal definition, but nature did not do the defining; society through government determined what was or was not property. The moderate James Wilson accepted the fact that even if one argued in favor of property being a natural right, it was a natural right that could be modified by positive institutions—that is, by government.

James D. B. De Bow superintended the Seventh Census and provided a table of the real and personal 32 s l av e r y a n d p ro p e r t y r i g h t s wealth of the states but added no narrative to it. A brief table gave an accounting of all persons who owned over $100,000 in various counties in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Ohio; they were southerners.

This discussion points to one obvious conclusion. Because no prior definition of property exists—no ‘‘eternal’’ definition—then societies continuously decide what objects are property and what ones are not. Periodically societies revise the list of items they have designated as property. And this function of government—this unavoidable function of all governments—means that at times what was once considered property may in the future be considered as nonproperty and inappropriate for private possession; the power of the state will not condone and enforce private possession.

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