Economic Issues

Economic issues were also a major concern: Daniel Lee, editor of the Southern Cultivator, wrote that if one million men and women "now worthless in Africa" were introduced, the southern mines would "pay a good interest on a thousand million dollars, and the muscles of these savages [would] pay a fair interest on a thousand or five hundred dollars each." In one year, he asserted, the Africans would have paid for their transportation, their own price, and, at $500 per person, they would add $500 million to the southern economy.

To those preoccupied with cheaper labor rather than politics, the revival advocates had a ready argument: the domestic slave trade that had uprooted more than a million African Americans from the Upper South had cost too much to the Deep South. Enslaved labor had become too expensive, as one commentator explained: "The old rule of pricing a negro by the price of cotton by the pound—that is to say, if cotton is worth twelve cents, a negro man is worth twelve hundred dollars, if at fifteen cents, then fifteen hundred dollars—does not seem to be regarded. Negroes are twenty-five per cent higher now, with cotton at ten and a half cents, than they were two or three years ago, when it was worth fifteen and sixteen cents. Men are demented upon the subject. A reverse will surely come." In the 1850s, a male "prime hand" in the Gulf States could cost $2,400, or about $48,000 in today's dollars. A newly arrived African, on the other hand, could be purchased for less than $800 ($16,000), or a third of the cost.