American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime

By Ulrich Bonnell Phillips | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
BUSINESS ASPECTS OF SLAVERY

AN expert accountant has well defined the property of a master in his slave as an annuity extending throughout the slave's working life and amounting to the annual surplus which the labor of the slave produced over and above the cost of his maintenance.1 Before any profit accrued to the master in any year, however, various deductions had to be subtracted from this surplus. These included interest on the slave's cost, regardless of whether he had been reared by his owner or had been bought for a price; amortization of the capital investment; insurance against the slave's premature death or disability and against his escape from service; insurance also for his support when incapacitated whether by illness, accident or old age; taxes; and wages of superintendence. None of these charges would any sound method of accounting permit the master to escape.

The maintenance of the slave at the full rate required for the preservation of lusty physique was essential. The master could not reduce it below that standard without impairing his property as well as lessening its immediate return; and as a rule he could shift none of the charge to other shoulders, for the public would grant his workmen no dole from its charity funds. On the other hand, he was often induced to raise the scale above the minimum standard in order to increase the zeal and efficiency of his corps. In any case, medical attendance and the like was necessarily included in the cost of maintenance.

The capital investment in a slave reared by his master would include charges for the insurance of the child's mother at the time of his birth and for her deficit of routine work before and

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1
Arthur H. Gibson, Human Economics ( London, 1909), p. 202. The substance of the present paragraph and the three following ones is mostly in close accord with Gibson's analysis.

-359-

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