Section #9 - Growing opposition to slavery triggers domestic violence and a schism in America’s churches

Chapter 91: The Breadth Of Slave Ownership In The South

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Distribution Of Slaves

It’s estimated that 30% of all white families across the early southern states own slaves – with the incidence ranging from a high of 70% in Georgia to a low of 18% in Maryland.    

Percent Of Families Owning Slaves
“Old South”30%
North Carolina27
South Carolina48
From 1840 US Census

Starting with a white population of 4.8 million in 1840 and assuming an average of six people per household, there are just over 800,000 “families” in total across the South.  

Thirty percent of that number yields some 240,000 families who are owners of the 2.5 million enslaved blacks. The distribution of these slaves is sharply skewed. 

Thus about 70% of all slave-holders run small to mid-sized farms with under ten slaves, while only 12% have the twenty or more required to operate actual plantations.  

But the real “tycoon elites” of the South comprise only about 8,000 families who own roughly 600,000 enslaved blacks.  

Estimated Distribution Of Slaves In 1840
#  Slaves OwnedNumber  Families% of all Families% of all  OwnersNumber Slaves% of all SlavesLikely “Use” Of  Slaves Owned
560,000 70%
140,000517%40,0002% Small farm
2-472,000930 195,000Small farm
5-956,000724 332,00015 Mid-sized farm
10-19 40,000517 540,00023 Larger farm
20-4924,0003800,00029 Small plantation
50-995,3000.662350,00014Large plantation
Total800,000100%100% 2,500,000 100%

While slave owners are overwhelmingly white men and women, a small number are free blacks. In South Carolina, for example, data from 1840 show 402 free blacks owning 2,002 slaves, or an average of five per family. The highest ownership among free blacks traces to three sugar plantations in Louisiana, with 215 slaves belonging to Nicholas Metoyer and his family, 152 to a  widow, Ciprien Richards and her son, and another 70 to Antoine Dubuclet and his wife, Claire.

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The Southern Planter Tycoons

Planter James Marshman
Twenty Largest Slave Owners Across The South
2,340Nathaniel Heyward (1766-1851)Colleton. S.C.Rice“The Bluff.” A shrewd businessman who acquires 19 plantations over time. Dabbles in politics and signs “Nullification” doc. Nearly $1 million estate at death in 1851.
1,130Joshua J. Ward (1800-1853)Georgetown, S.C.Rice“Brookgreen.” Known as “king of the rice planters.” Born on plantation, leads development of premium “Carolina gold long rice,” SC Lt Gov 1850-52.
858 Dr. Stephen  Duncan  (1787-1867)Issaquena, Miss.Cotton “Saragossa.” Born in Pa, MD degree, to Natchez, efforts to re colonize Africans, later anti-secession.
753 John Burnside  (1810-1881)Ascension, LouisianaSugar “Houmas House.” Belfast, Ireland native, buys from Wade Hampton for $1 million.
709 Meredith Calhoun   (1805-1869)Rapides,  LouisianaSugar “Calhoun’s Landing.” From Pa to Red River estate, editor of National Democrat.
700 William Aiken, Jr.  (1806-1887)Colleton, S.C.Rice “Jehossee Island.” Other businesses are canals and railroads, SC Gov ’44-46 then US  House ’51-57. 
670 John Manning  (1816-1889)Ascension, LouisianaCotton “Millford.” SC Gov son, Princeton, marries Hampton  daughter, politics, SC Gov ’52- 54, moderate secessionist, Beauregard staff in war, refuses oath to secure Senate seat.
659 Joseph Acklen  (1816-1863)W.  Feliciana, LouisianaCotton “Angola.” Lawyer, marries plantation heiress and widow of mega-slave trader Isaac Franklin, lawyer, link to Texas Republic, and triples value of estate.
631 R.F.W. Allston  (1801-1864)Georgetown ,  S.C.Rice “Chicora Wood.” West point  grad, marries into elite JL Petigru family, scientific work on rice, SC Gov ’56-58, opposes secession. 
575 Joseph Blake  (???)Beaufort, S.C.Rice “Bonnie Hall.” One of three  Blakes, all heirs of colonial era Gov of Carolina, own slaves in England also. Little known.
550 John Robinson  (1811-1870’s)Madison, Miss.Cotton “Annandale.” Aristocratic life  with little interest in farming operations.
540 Jeremiah Brown  (1800-1863)Sumter, AlabamaCotton “Lowden.” Son of wealthy Baptist minister, SC College, law, large donations to Howard College (later Samford), equips CSA troops
538Arthur Blake (???)Charleston, S.C.Rice“Blake’s Plantation.” Related to  Joseph and Daniel. Little known.
530John I. Middleton (1800-1877)Beaufort, S.C.Rice“Middleton Place.” Family from  Barbados, father was SC Gov and Amb to Russia, he supports re opening global slave trade and secession.
529Elisha Worthington (1808-1873)Chicot, ArkansasCotton“Sunnyside.” Little known beyond reported romance with slave and children attending anti-slavery  Oberlin College.
527Daniel Blake (???)Colleton, S.C.Rice“Board House.” Related to Joseph and Arthur Blake. Little known.
523Dr. John C. Jenkins (1809-1855)Wilkinson, Miss.Cotton“Elgin.” Father a wealthy Pa. iron  mfr, MD from Dickinson, inherits  from uncle, scientific  
experiments, dies along with wife and many slaves in the yellow fever outbreak.
511J. Harleston Read (1815-1866)Georgetown, S.C.Rice“Rice Hope.” Born on plantation and inherits from his MD father. Little known.
505John Mease Butler (1808-1863)McIntosh, GeorgiaRice
“Butler Plantation.” Inherits via mother, Sarah Meese, daughter of Rev War and founder, Pierce Butler, changes name to Butler, deplorable conditions, his brother (Pierce) even a worse master.
491Charles Heyward (1802-1866)Colleton, S.C.Rice“Rose Hill.” Grandfather signs Dec. of Independence, attends Princeton, keeps extensive illustrated diary about property.
Partially from Tom Blake (2001)