Slavery has come under intense scrutiny during two periods of American history: from the Revolution through 1865, and since the 1950s. During the antebellum years, when the question was what to do about slavery, constitutional concerns about the property rights of slave owners and the extent of congressional authority defined the limits of the dispute until the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Southern planters then decided that secession was the only way to guarantee that nothing would be done about slavery. Four years of warfare disproved their judgment. Slavery disintegrated in the Confederacy and died in the months following Appomattox. The end of slavery helped to make four years of carnage a noble cause, and it seemed to eliminate the most formidable barrier confronting American blacks.
During the years that intervened between the Civil War and the stirrings of the modern civil rights movement, only a few historians—most notably W.E.B. Du Bois and Ulrich Bonnell Phillips—considered slavery worthy of serious study. Prominent historians looked elsewhere for their interpretations of American history: to the frontier; to the conflict between agrarians and industrialists; to the liberal tradition. Until World War II, leading interpretations of the Civil War emphasized the insignificance of slavery.1 One school argued that the war contested lofty principles of states’ rights: revisionists claimed nothing worthwhile was at stake on the corpse-strewn battlefields. Slaves and slavery simply did not seem important to most scholars. With the exception of Du Bois and several other black writers, most historians—like Phillips—had few doubts about the inferiority of blacks. The important fact about slavery was that it was finished. What more was there to say?
Plenty, it turned out. The politics of post–World War II America raised the question of racism in the United States. The Nazis’ genocidal atrocities made racism disreputable among many establishment whites for the first time in modern history. The growing strength and assertiveness of the NAACP and other black organizations made civil rights more than a marginal political issue. In discussions of what to do about racism the legacy of slavery unavoidably came to the surface. What one thought about racism had a great deal to do with what one thought about slavery. And what one thought about both racism and slavery had much to do with what one thought about the United States in the modern world. In 1949, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. summoned historians to consider the implications of the decade just past for the history of slavery and the Civil War. “There are certain essential issues on which it is necessary for the historian to have a position if he is to understand the great conflicts of history,” Schlesinger wrote.
These great conflicts are relatively few because there are few enough historical phenomena which we can confidently identify as evil…. And human slavery is certainly one of the few issues of whose evil we can be sure. It is not just “a very ancient labor system”; it is also a betrayal of the basic values of our Christian and democratic tradition.2
The sentiment Schlesinger voiced was widely shared among historians and it inspired renewed attention to slavery.
That slavery was evil did not come as news to black scholars. Since the 1920s Carter G. Woodson had encouraged the study of black history in the Journal of Negro History and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Despite valuable contributions like Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America (1935) and John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom (1947), until the 1950s most white historians considered black history marginal. During the post-war years, two major works by white scholars helped pull slavery from the margins to the center of historical debate. Kenneth Stampp’s The Peculiar Institution (1956) was the first full-scale history of slavery that did not presume blacks were inferior. Based on painstaking research in southern archives, The Peculiar Institution demolished Ulrich Phillips’s portrait of slavery as a benign experience that civilized and educated savage blacks. Stampp put emphasis on the many forms of coercion masters had at their disposal as well as the brutalities and indignities slaves suffered. He saw oppression as the result of the masters’ insistence on white supremacy and the control of labor. Stanley Elkins’s interpretive essay, Slavery (1959), explored the psychological trauma slaves endured. Elkins described—
Sambo, the typical plantation slave, [who] was docile but irresponsible, loyal but lazy, humble but chronically given to lying and stealing; his behavior full of infantile silliness and his talk inflated with childish exaggeration. His relationship with his master was one of utter dependence and childlike attachment: it was indeed this childlike quality that was the very key to his being.3
Elkins rejected the racist explanation for Sambo and put forward the hypothesis that slaves, like many inmates of Nazi concentration camps, succumbed to the shock of absolute dependence on an all-powerful superior. Slavery was so harsh, Elkins argued, that slaves became the willing subordinates of their masters. Stampp, by contrast, portrayed slaves as resisting their masters at every turn, working indifferently, breaking tools, running away, and occasionally rebelling.
Resistance or accommodation? These questions lay at the heart of numerous studies of slavery published since the 1960s: John Blassingame’s The Slave Community (1972); Eugene Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll (1974), Herbert Gutman’s The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom (1976), Leon Litwack’s Been in the Storm So Long (1979), to name only a few.4 Although these and other historians of slavery disagreed vehemently on many issues, a consensus emerged that slaves made as much of a life of their own as their masters would allow, that slaves often built satisfying relations with each other in a relatively cohesive slave community, and that slave culture helped slaves to preserve their dignity and humanity under difficult circumstances. Recently, dissenting voices have warned that the new consensus minimizes the brutally oppressive aspects of slavery, the divisions within the slave community, and the fragility of slave culture.5
In 1958, two Harvard economists took a different approach to the controversies then developing over slavery. Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer examined the profitability of slavery. After considering such issues as the price and productivity of slaves, the masters’ costs of maintaining them, the annual dividends masters received on their slave capital, and the impact of slavery on southern economic growth, Conrad and Meyer concluded that slavery was highly profitable. Their work provided an economic basis for the moral and political position Schlesinger had taken in 1949. For Conrad and Meyer the revisionist argument that the Civil War was unnecessary and that slavery would have been phased out because it was unprofitable was “a romantic hypothesis which will not stand against the facts.” In their view the contention “that slavery must have destroyed itself” could “no longer rest upon allegations of unprofitability.” They contended that “economic forces often may work toward the continuation of a slave system, so that the elimination of slavery may depend upon the adoption of harsh political measures. Certainly that was the American experience.”6
The article by Conrad and Meyer set off a debate among economists and their graduate students at Johns Hopkins. One of the students, Robert William Fogel, had read Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma as an undergraduate at Cornell and had participated, he writes, “in the popular student protest movements of the 1940s and early 1950s, which in New York were generally anti-capitalistic, anti-fascist, and antiracist.”7 Fogel said he was inspired by the work of Conrad and Meyer, “not because I was especially interested in the history of American slavery,” he says, but because of “the methodological challenge,” the opportunity to resolve a historical controversy “scientifically by applying the analytical and quantitative methods of economists” to historical evidence—an approach subsequently called “cliometrics.” The economic model constructed by Conrad and Meyer appeared promising to Fogel because it posed the central problem as “one of logic, not ethics.”
In 1965 Fogel and a fellow Johns Hopkins graduate student, Stanley L. Engerman, began cliometric research on slavery. In 1974 they set forth their “principal corrections of the traditional [historical] characterization of the slave economy” in Time on the Cross, a book that ignited a firestorm of criticism.8 Some historians claimed that the book was wrong on economic grounds and that slavery was not profitable in the way Fogel and Engerman alleged. Other historians found the economic methods of Fogel and Engerman narrow and excessively abstract, and argued their account was inadequate because it ignored the culture and historical experience of both slaves and masters. Both kinds of critics said that Fogel had exaggerated the extent to which slaves were well-fed and otherwise well looked-after. Now, in Without Consent or Contract, Fogel attempts to answer his critics, and he announces the “close [of] an intellectual journey that has lasted more than two decades.”
During that time Fogel has received high scholarly honors. Among the first economists elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Fogel shared the Bancroft Prize in American History for Time on the Cross. Having taught at Rochester, Harvard, and Cambridge, he is currently the Charles R. Walgreen Professor of American Institutions at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, where he directs the Center for Population Economics. Since slavery is no longer central to Fogel’s research, the volumes under review are likely to be the most elaborate statements of his thesis ever made.
The unusual character of these new volumes reflects the organization and scope of Fogel’s slavery project. As director, Fogel wrote Without Consent or Contract, the interpretative volume that summarizes and synthesizes “all the major results of the new slavery research.” This book contains some three dozen tables, graphs, and charts, but it is written in nontechnical language. Footnotes, which were omitted from Time on the Cross, direct the reader to the bibliography or to the three unpublished companion volumes (which have not been discussed in previous reviews). Following the example of Time on the Cross,9 Fogel was also coeditor of Evidence and Methods, a compendium of seventy-four entries organized to correspond to topics raised in Without Consent or Contract. Seventeen scholars, in addition to Fogel, are represented in Evidence and Methods with entries that range from very brief notes to full-scale articles. Most of the book is a series of extended, largely technical footnotes, and it reads accordingly.
The other two volumes—Markets and Production and Conditions of slave Life and the Transition To Freedom—contain thirty-four “of the principal papers produced by collaborators” in the slavery project. Evidently, most of these papers originated as memoranda circulated among the researchers. Of the twenty-three authors other than Fogel, all but one are economists, most of whom do not seem to share John Kenneth Galbraith’s conviction that “there are no useful propositions in economics that cannot be stated accurately in clear, unembellished and generally agreeable English.”10 In addition, it appears that nearly all the authors were Fogel’s graduate students, which gives the volumes the quality of a reverse Festschrift.
Altogether, Fogel and thirty-five other writers contributed to the four volumes, and they were by no means the entire research group. Fogel also acknowledges his indebtedness to another twenty-five students and, in Time on the Cross, to a staff of sixteen research supervisors and assistants. Curiously, while the authors use prices as the most telling of indicators, the volumes are mute about how much all this cost, but it seems to me possible that the slavery project was the largest and most expensive nongovernmental historical research project ever undertaken.
In Without Consent or Contract, Fogel acknowledges that “some of the novelty [of Time on the Cross] arose from exaggeration and misconception rather than from new evidence and deeper insights.” One group of critics concluded a searching evaluation of the book with the more severe judgment that “the novel views of history and historiography propounded in Time on the Cross…appear to be largely mythical.”11 Fogel generously credits the critics for improving and broadening the range of slavery research: “It was an exchange in which there were no losers,” he writes; but he makes clear his conviction that the earlier book’s basic propositions about slavery have been reinforced by new research. Only two or three of the dozens of entries in the volumes accompanying Without Consent or Contract propose drastic revisions to the arguments of Time on the Cross, and almost all of them complement the basic theses of the previous book.
Without Consent or Contract nonetheless differs substantially from Time on the Cross. The earlier book asserted that, at least in some respects, slavery was really not all that bad, as the following quotations suggest:
The belief that the typical slave was poorly fed is without foundation in fact.
Slave health care was at its best for pregnant women.
The contention that the slave family was undermined by the widespread promiscuity of blacks is as poorly founded as the thesis that masters were uninhibited in their sexual exploitation of slave women.
Nor is it by any means clear that the destabilizing effects of the westward migration on marriages was significantly greater among blacks than it was among whites.
The record shows that over the course of two years a total of 160 whippings were administered [on a plantation with about 120 working slaves], an average of 0.7 whippings per hand per year.
It seems warranted to place the average net rate of expropriation of slave income at about 10 percent.
The average pecuniary income actually received by a prime field hand was roughly 15 percent greater than the income he would have received for his labor as a free agricultural worker.12
Such statements are absent from the new book, which is characterized by a chastened, somewhat restrained tone. Presumably, Fogel intends to make it impossible for any reader to interpret Without Consent or Contract—as many did Time on the Cross—as a scientific apology for slavery. Fogel explains that “despite the desire to develop a precise, emotionally detached, ideologically neutral analysis [in Time on the Cross], moral issues inevitably intruded into cliometric discussions.” In particular, cliometricians felt “discomfort and embarrassment” when they measured
rates of return on men, women or children or efficiency indexes for a morally corrupt system. Few could escape the feeling that even at a distance of more than a century, the dirtiness of the business was rubbing off on them.
Without Consent or Contract leaves no doubt about Fogel’s belief that slavery was evil. In a lengthy afterword on the moral problem of slavery, Fogel indicts the slave system on four counts: that it permitted masters “unrestrained personal domination” over slaves and that it denied slaves economic opportunity, citizenship, and “cultural self-identification.”
New research on the astonishingly high mortality and poor nutrition of slave infants and children both underscores this indictment and is responsible for the most important revision of Time on the Cross in Without Consent or Contract, a revision based on the careful research of Richard Steckel, the author or coauthor of five articles in Conditions of Slave Life and the Transition to Freedom. In a study of eleven large plantations that left detailed records of slave births and deaths, Steckel discovered that more than half of all slave babies died in the first year of life, a mortality rate more than twice that of antebellum whites. Although the mortality rate declined for slave children who survived their first year, it remained twice the white rate through age fourteen. In view of this grim rate of mortality, Steckel estimated (in a previous publication) that the life expectancy of slaves at birth was twenty-one to twenty-two years, while the life expectancy of whites was forty to forty-three years. 13 But this and other revisions of Time on the Cross are only obscurely acknowledged in Without Consent or Contract. The new information about infant and child mortality is buried in the dependent clause of one sentence in a discussion of the nutrition of slave children. Unless I missed it, Without Consent or Contract contains no mention of the difference between slaves and whites in life expectancy at birth. In an extremely brief note in Evidence and Methods, centered around a table that will be indecipherable to all but experts (the headings of the table are nQx, 1x, n1x, Tx, and ex), Fogel estimates the life expectancy of slaves at birth at 29.78 years. Why he did not take account of Steckel’s much lower estimate of slaves’ life expectancy and the much higher life expectancy of whites is puzzling. Instead, in Without Consent or Contract Fogel comments, “That adult slaves in the United States enjoyed relatively good health is indicated by the fact that life expectations of slaves and whites were similar after age twenty.”
Far more prominently featured in Without Consent or Contract is Steckel’s research on the height of slaves. When slaves were shipped from United States ports—typically from Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia for sale in New Orleans or other ports along the Gulf Coast—customs officials were required to record on the shipping manifest the gender, age, and height of each slave. Of course the recorded ages and heights were inaccurate: ages tended to be reported in even numbers; heights in even-numbered inches, six-inch intervals, or whole feet. Steckel, who collected these statistics from coastal shipping manifests for over 50,000 slaves, made every effort, he tells us, to take account of and correct inaccuracies. He found that slave children were tiny; their average height did not reach three feet until after they were four years old, by which age they were roughly five and a half inches shorter than modern children that age. The height of slave children up to age ten was comparable to that of children today in the urban areas of Bangladesh and the slums of Lagos.
The average height of slaves at a given age can be interpreted as a measure of the general nutritional history of the slave up to that age. Making the relevant extrapolations from data on modern populations, Steckel estimates the birth weight of slave infants at less than 5.5 pounds, which “place[s] American slave newborns among the smallest documented for poor populations in developing countries of the mid-twentieth century.”14 Slave children remained quite short until late in their teens: at seventeen, the average height of young slave men was shorter than 96 percent of twentieth-century men that age; young slave women, on the average, experienced a sudden spurt of growth between fifteen and seventeen, by which time they were shorter than 80 percent of twentieth-century women that age. Slaves did not reach their full stature (67 inches for men; 62.5 for women; roughly an inch and a half shorter than modern counterparts) until their early twenties, several years later than well-nourished twentieth-century people.
Many readers may interpret these startling facts as evidence that slaves endured a harsh Darwinian struggle to survive: the stronger, better nourished slaves withstood the gruesome death toll and, against the odds, they grew up. Fogel has a different interpretation. He acknowledges that there was “chronic undernourishment” among slave infants under three. Then nutrition improved: “more balanced diets contributed to catch-up growth between ages three and eight.”
Ironically, the entry of pubescent children into the adult labor force did not aggravate childhood nutrition but led to its alleviation. Although subjected to the intense routine of the gang system, which was nutritionally far more demanding than the work or play of childhood, adolescents were switched from the porridges and gruels of children to the meaty diets of field hands.
Whether “catch-up growth” actually took place is in fact open to question. The slaves described in the coastal shipping manifests were, after all, being sold. Fogel assumes that the adult slaves in the manifests were a representative sample of all slaves. However, in order to absorb the cost of transporting the slaves to markets in the Southwest, where they would need to sell at a competitive price, masters presumably chose for sale in the coastwise trade their bigger, stronger, better nourished adult slaves. Smaller, weaker, less well-nourished adult slaves would be too expensive to sell at an advantage in southwestern markets. Normally, such slaves were probably sold in local markets. If so, what appears as “catch-up growth” in coastal shipping manifests may instead be a sample biased toward taller, stronger adult slaves. A much smaller sample of heights of slave recruits in the Union army closely matches the adult male heights noted in the manifests, which reassures Fogel about their reliability.
Yet it is not implausible to suppose that slave recruits, like slaves sold in the coastal trade, were among the bigger, stronger, healthier men. By the same token, the children in the coastal trade may well have been more representative of the general population. Compared to older slaves, relatively few children were sold in the coastal trade and most of them were sold with adults. Children were probably much less likely than adults to be singled out for sale; instead, they simply accompanied older slaves who were selected for their marketable traits. If so, the children described in the manifests are more likely than adults to be a representative sample of the general population. If one grants this possibility, Steckel’s data on height and mortality may tell a story about slavery quite different from the one in Without Consent or Contract.
For Fogel, the interesting question is why did well-nourished slave mothers have such sickly, malnourished babies. His answer is that masters forced pregnant slave women to work until the last minute before birth. During the week before childbirth, pregnant women picked an average of more than three quarters of the amount of cotton picked by women of the same age who were neither pregnant nor nursing, Fogel reports. The result was “that diets sufficient to maintain the health of nonpregnant women engaged in heavy labor were insufficient to produce average weight gains in pregnant women that would yield adequate average birth weights and forestall high infant death rates.”
This conclusion leads to another paradox that Fogel takes up in Evidence and Methods: assuming masters realized that hard work was not good for pregnant slave women (as more than a few antebellum white southerners observed), wasn’t it shortsighted of them to work pregnant women so hard that it reduced the number of slave children and ultimately the number of potential laborers? No, Fogel calculates. Assuming that the “condition for the overwork of a pregnant woman to be a profit-maximizing policy” is $$$
Fogel concludes the condition was met: “failure to overwork slave women would have reduced the [master’s] annual profit rate by 2 percent.”
With this calculation, Fogel assimilates into the basic argument of Time on the Cross the new data in Without Consent or Contract that is most at odds with the portrait of slavery in the earlier book. To borrow a phrase from Tocqueville, one pregnant thought binds together both Without Consent or Contract and Time on the Cross. That thought is the efficiency of slave agriculture.15 As Fogel explains, “One productive process is said to be technically more efficient than another if it yields more output from the same quantity of inputs.” That was exactly the economic advantage of slavery over free labor. Masters forced about two thirds of all slaves to work, roughly twice the rate of participation in the labor force among free people. More important, masters who owned sixteen or more slaves could adopt the gang labor system which forced slaves to work “76 percent more intensely per hour than did free southern farmers or slaves on small plantations.” Gang labor plantations “produced, on average, about 39 percent more output from a given amount of input than either free farms or slave farms that were too small to employ the gang system.” Time on the Cross called this advantage an “economy of scale.” Without Consent or Contract notes that the gang labor system made an “enormous, almost unconstrained degree of force available to masters.”
Whatever the efficiency of slavery is called, it is the concept underlying the other major arguments in both books: that slavery was a highly profitable, capitalist institution; that masters were shrewd, rational “profit-maximizers”; that slaves were relatively well treated in order to work hard; and that slaves worked extremely hard to produce the South’s most profitable crops. Unlike Time on the Cross, Without Consent or Contract does not explicitly attribute the hard work and productivity of slaves to their having internalized a Protestant work ethic instilled by their masters’ clever system of rewards. Nonetheless, Without Consent or Contract retains the argument that in their thirties slaves enjoyed significant opportunities for upward occupational mobility, from field labor to “craft or managerial slots” for men and house service for women. (To put this argument in perspective, it is worth recalling that three out of four slaves in 1860 were under thirty.) According to Fogel, “In 1860 slaves were probably still the chief non-ownership managers on about half of all large plantations.” Implicitly, Without Consent or Contract considers slaves neither Rebels nor Sambos but—as in Time on the Cross—Poor Richards, people who were hard at work chopping cotton and hoping to move up the job ladder to middle management.
The privileged status Fogel gives to efficiency—with all that implies in economic theory—leaves little place for slave resistance or other features of slave culture. Without Consent or Contract in effect poses the question, “How could plantations have produced so efficiently if slaves engaged in significant resistance?” In order for slave resistance to “count,” in Fogel’s view, it must measurably reduce productivity; and it did not. The feelings and the acts of will of slaves are thus reduced to their purely economic effects, to their influence on production. If one argues from the premise that efficiency is the main determinant of social decisions, nothing else really matters. But it should be noted that Without Consent or Contract uses the economic theory of markets to explain the behavior of slaves who were in no way complicit in market relationships; they were slaves without their consent or contract. The same theory is used to account for the behavior of masters, and it works better for them since they were intimately involved in market relationships. But the theory has the same flattening effect on the attitudes and desires of masters, making them single-minded profiteers rather than the far more complicated human beings they revealed themselves to be. The theory works best in explaining the behavior of markets, which is what it is supposed to do. Fogel takes pains to deny that efficiency implies virtue:
Although slavery was profitable, efficient, and economically viable…it was never morally good…. Slavery deserved to die despite its profitability and efficiency because it served an immoral end. Efficiency is not a synonym for good…. During the early years of World War II there was no more perfect example of human efficiency, or a more perfect symbol of evil, than the Nazi Wehrmacht
No doubt such statements represent Fogel’s sincere belief. However, it is also true that the economic theory of markets clearly implies that efficiency is a virtue. After all, markets are relationships between buyers and sellers that are made with consent or by contract, which gives markets their ethical force. According to the economic theory Fogel uses with such virtuosity, markets are the economic logic of ethics. In Time on the Cross the virtue of efficiency was explicit; in Without Consent or Contract it is explicitly denied, although it is implicitly fundamental. The new book might reasonably have been titled, Time on the Cross—Once More with Feeling.
Half of Without Consent or Contract is devoted to a sophisticated synthesis of the secondary literature on the politics of the antislavery campaign in Britain and the United States, a subject given only passing mention in the previous book. The sustained attention to antislavery politics underscores the moral position of Without Consent or Contract: the destruction of slavery, Fogel wants to say, was more important than the efficiency of slavery. He eloquently defends the achievement of the Civil War:
It preserved and reinforced conditions favorable to a continued struggle for the democratic rights of the lower classes, black and white alike, and for the improvement of their economic condition, not only in America but everywhere else in the world. The fall of slavery did not usher in the millennium, it produced no heaven on earth, but it vitalized all the grand movements, principles, and reforms of…[our] age.
Politically, Fogel adheres to the position staked out by Schlesinger and by Conrad and Meyer.
Fogel’s analysis of antebellum politics emphasizes the process by which the moral fervor of the early abolitionists became secularized and incorporated into party politics, making possible the Republican victory in 1860. The process, in Fogel’s view, involved two stages: the destabilizing of the Whig and Democratic parties—the second American party system—and the subsequent creation of a winning antislavery coalition. Two major events shook the parties that dominated national politics in the 1830s and 1840s. Between 1844 and 1860, vigorous economic growth reduced the urgency of issues such as the effects of the tariff and the fairness of the banking system, issues that had defined the national competition between Whigs and Democrats.
Contributing to the economic growth, moreover, was an unprecedented tide of immigration. Between 1841 and 1851 more immigrants arrived in America than during the previous two centuries. The destabilizing effects of growth and immigration were felt above all by the “native, non-farm workers in the North,” who made up approximately a quarter of the northern electorate. Such workers “suffered one of the most severe and protracted economic and social catastrophies of American history…rivaling, if not exceeding the economic blow suffered by urban labor during the Great Depression of the 1930s.” They suffered from declining wages, reductions in the number of days worked, degradation of their skills, and unemployment. They expressed their grievances in strikes and trade union organizations. They also organized anti-immigrant political movements in communities throughout the North. Nativist politics, which culminated in the Know-Nothing victories of the mid-1850s, detached a large fraction of the northern electorate from the established national parties. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, when the question of the expansion of slavery into federal territories shattered the national parties, Republicans, Fogel writes, succeeded in
turning the attention of Northerners from the key Know-Nothing issue (the papal conspiracy to subvert American institutions) to the key Republican issue (the Slave Power conspiracy to subvert northern liberties and economic welfare)—from a foreign menace to a southern menace.
Fogel’s account of the process of destabilization is more fully developed than his explanation of the Republican victory. But his interpretation of antebellum politics combines in an original and provocative way the politics of the controversy over the extension of slavery into the West, on the one hand, with, on the other, the dislocations caused by immigration in the North. Fogel acknowledges that “well into the war years neither Lincoln nor the Republican party was committed to freeing the slaves or to granting political and social equality to the free blacks of the North.” Only the Civil War would accomplish the former and begin the latter.
By ignoring the slaves’ wartime contribution to their own emancipation, however, Fogel misses an opportunity to unify the two halves of Without Consent or Contract. Slaves refused to recognize the legal niceties of policymakers in Washington; they fled to Union lines, singly, in groups, and later in throngs. By voting with their feet, by serving in the army, slaves gave a crucial impetus to the war aim of freedom.16 The wartime politics of southern slaves demonstrate that the achievement of blacks under the adversity of slavery was not the productivity of cotton plantations but the preservation of their humanity. The politics of freedom practiced by the slaves prove that they drew their own conclusions about the connection between logic and ethics.
December 21, 1989
A major exception was James Ford Rhodes, History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 (7 vols., 1893–1906). ↩
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., “The Causes of the Civil War: A Note on Historical Sentimentalism,” Partisan Review, Vol. XVI No. 10 (1949), pp. 968–981. ↩
Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery (University of Chicago Press, 1959), p. 82. ↩
Litwack’s book won the Pulitzer prize but it and other important books about slavery are not listed in the bibliography of Without Consent or Contract. For a discussion of the historiography of slavery, see August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915–1980 (University of Illinois Press, 1986), pp. 239–276. ↩
See for example, Peter Kolchin, Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom (Harvard University Press, 1987). ↩
Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer, “The Economics of Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South,” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. LXVI, No. 2 (April 1958), pp. 95–122. ↩
This quotation and all subsequent unattributed quotations are from the volumes under review. In writing the review I had access to page proofs of Without Consent or Contract and roughly 2,200 manuscript pages of the other volumes, which were missing another 150 pages or so here and there. Therefore, it is impossible to cite page numbers. ↩
Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (Little, Brown, 1974), p. 4. ↩
Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross: Evidence and Methods—A Supplement (Little, Brown, 1974). ↩
John Kenneth Galbraith, Economics in Perspective: A Critical History (Houghton Mifflin, 1987), p. 4. ↩
Paul A. David, Herbert G. Gutman, Richard Sutch, Peter Temin, and Gavin Wright, Reckoning with Slavery: A Critical Study in the Quantitative History of American Negro Slavery (Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 347. See also, Herbert G. Gutman, Slavery and the Numbers Game: A Critique of Time on the Cross (University of Illinois Press, 1975). ↩
Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, pp. 109, 122, 135, 49, 145, 157, 239. (Pages are listed in order of citation.) ↩
Richard H. Steckel, “A Dreadful Childhood: The Excess Mortality of American Slaves,” Social Science History, Vol. 10 (Winter 1986), p. 454. ↩
Richard H. Steckel, “Birth Weights and Infant Mortality Among American Slaves,” Explorations in Economic History, Vol. 23 (1986), p. 183. See also Steckel, “Growth, Depression and Recovery: The Remarkable Case of American Slaves,” Annals of Human Biology, Vol. 14 (1987), pp. 111–132. ↩
See Thomas L. Haskell, “Were Slaves More Efficient? Some Doubts About Time On The Cross,” The New York Review (September 19, 1974), pp. 38–42. ↩
See Ira Berlin et al., eds., Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867, Vol. 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1982); and Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1864–1877 (Harper and Row, 1988). ↩