Unavailable data regarding slaveholders in the U.S. from 1790-1860

Posted on December 12, 2008 by


I just put up two posts today (Slave numbers in the Southern States as represented through the U.S. Census & Slave numbers in the Northern States as represented through the U.S. Census) to show the versatility of the Historical Census Database that I mentioned yesterday. There are all sorts of queries possible, but after making the queries, one can spend a considerable amount of time “playing” with the database (I know I do). Considering a recent exchange that I was involved in within the blogosphere regarding the Northern involvement in slavery, one of the things that I’m left with is an interest in knowing the percentage of people who benefited from slavery in both the the North and the South. Regretfully, census records offer but a small amount of information that is of use in answering this question. The database provides slaveholder information only for 1790 and 1860.

The 1790 census data is incomplete. When submitting the query for number of slaveholding families, data is available for only 8 states (1,563 families owned slaves in Ct., 12,226 families in Md., 123 families in N.H., 7,793 families in N.Y., 14,973 families in N.C., 1,858 families in Pa., 461 families in RI, and 8,859 families in S.C.). Despite the fact that slaves were in other states, no data is returned for Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, or Virginia. However, when submitting the query for number of slaveholding families, one should take the time to look at the differentiation that is made possible in the database. A query for average number of slaves per family shows that among the 1,563 slaveholding families in Ct., there was an average of 2 slaves per family. By comparison, the 8,859 slaveholding families of South Carolina owned an average of 12 slaves per family. Yet another query worthy of a person’s time is the one that is possible for “free colored slaveholding families.” The results of this query reveal (at least from data that is available) that there were 6 free black families in Ct. who owned slaves; 84 in Md.; 9 in N.Y.; 28 in N.C.; 7 in Pa.; and 61 in S.C.

The 1860 census database is not as dynamic as the 1790 database, but has features that the 1790 database does not offer. Among the slaveholder queries possible are the number of slaveholders who owned a specific number of slaves. In South Carolina for example, 1 slaveholder owned 1,000 slaves in 1860. This is the only instances among all states where any one slaveholder owned so many slaves. However, working down the list, it is discovered that of the slaveholders who owned 500-999 slaves, 1 was in Arkansas, 4 were in La., 1 was in Mississippi, and 7 were in S.C. I made a query of slaveholders in general and took the time to rank the results on my own. The results show, in order of ranking, that Virginia topped the list with 52,128 slaveholders. It would have been interesting to see what the average number of slaves were per slaveholder, state-by-state, but that query wasn’t an option. Nonetheless, the following shows the ranking, from highest to lowest, of slaveholders per state.

  1. Virginia: 52,128
  2. Georgia: 41,084
  3. Kentucky: 38,645
  4. Tennessee: 36,844
  5. North Carolina: 34,658
  6. Alabama: 33,730
  7. Mississippi: 30,943
  8. South Carolina: 26,701
  9. Missouri: 24,320
  10. Louisiana: 22,033
  11. Texas: 21,878
  12. Arkansas: 11,481
  13. Maryland: 13,783
  14. Florida: 5,152
  15. Delaware: 587
  16. Nebraska Territory: 6
  17. Kansas Territory: 2

On a sidenote, I find it quite interesting that, of the top five states listed here, only one from the deep South (Georgia) is represented, and of course, the deep South led the way in the movement for secession. For that matter, South Carolina ranking eighth is also interesting.

Anyway… taking this information “to task” in analysis, I think the next step I would do would be to look at the amount of improved land per state, the number of farms, etc., and reconsider the numbers of slaves and slaveholders in each state based on the additional data.

So, in short, this still doesn’t give me the answer that I want, but what I did find was educational.

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