How many were ‘guilty’?

Here’s some interesting data that should be useful in one of those online discussions where people are pointing fingers regarding slave-owning in the South. I see lots of claims that only a ‘tiny percentage’ (single digits, according to some who claim this) held slaves, and of course the person saying this always says that his own ancestors owned none — “it was only those big plantation owners, the very rich Cavalier class”, etc. This always rang false to me. I know that there were smaller farmers who had a couple of slaves, or a few.

The following is from a book called The South, its Economic-Geographic Development, by A.E. Parkins, published in 1938:


percentage of slaveholders_southitseconomic00parkrich_0222

The salient facts, to me, are that about 50 percent of farm-owners did own slaves but the author estimates that about a third of the total population of the South owned any. The distribution of slaveowners varied according to region and county.

And of those farms which had slaves, there were a good many more small farms with a few or a couple of slaves versus the number of very large plantations with great numbers of them. So it was not the large farmers or plantation owners alone who owned most of the slaves; even small farmers had them, and smaller farms were overrepresented, percentage-wise, in the number of slaveholders.

I don’t expect this data will ever be used by anyone; it seems it’s more appealing to make unsupported claims about who owned, or didn’t own, slaves, so as to be able to point the finger somewhere else. Where is the solidarity that should exist? The South is besieged and there should be more unity as opposed to class division. Funny, our ancestors didn’t go in for that kind of division as much; the people of the old South had a loyalty to one another and there was little of this ‘Celt vs. Anglo-Saxon’ or ‘poor people vs. rich, evil planter class’ that has become popular. Jacobinism is slyly insinuating itself in our society, although it’s always been there, implicitly, in egalitarianism; it’s just a matter of degree.

There was a popular statement, credited to a couple of renowned Southron statesmen:
I am an aristocrat; I love liberty, I hate equality.” Naturally that kind of sentiment is not going to go over well in egalitarianism-besotted America. Few people seem to get the obvious truth that liberty and equality can’t coexist; they are mutually exclusive. Equality, or a pretended equality, requires coercion. And we are finding that out.

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