New York Herald, "The Late Meeting of Maryland Slaveholders," July 23, 1858

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"The Late Meeting of Maryland Slaveholders- Slavery in the Border Slave States," New York Herald, July 23, 1858, p. 4: 2-3.
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New York Herald
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The Late Meeting of Maryland Slaveholders- Slavery in the Border Slave States
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Michael Blake, Dickinson College
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The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

The Late Meeting of Maryland Slaveholders- Slavery in the Border Slave States.

We published the other day the proceedings of a meeting of slaveholders recently held in Chestertown, Kent county, Maryland, in reference to "the better security of their slave property," &c. The immediate cause of this meeting was the late notorious Bowers affair. A man of the name James L. Bowers had been charged with, and prosecuted for, aiding a slave of a Mr. Davidson to escape. The testimony was not deemed sufficiently clear by the Court to justify a judgment against the accused; but, according to the speech of Mr. Senator Pearce, the facts stated in this case, and many other facts as to the subsequent escape of slaves, brought a moral conviction to the minds of all who knew them, that this man Bowers had been actively engaged in seducing or aiding slaves in the county to escape from their employers. Accordingly, a party of the indignant citizens had waited upon Bowers at his house, and having called him out, had tarred and feathered him, (notwithstanding the most desperate endeavors of his wife to prevent it,) and had given him the usual warning in such cases to quit the county. The affair created a great local excitement pro and con. This Chestertown meeting was the result on the pro-slavery side, and its proceedings were concluded with a series of resolutions substantially justifying the lynching of Bowers, and threatening a summary punishment in the future to all such offenders and their active sympathizers and abettors.

The most remarkable fact, however, developed at this meeting, was the statement of the Hon. James B. Ricaud, that "two of hi personal friends some time since lost each a slave, and shortly afterwards he was told by a most respectable gentleman in Pennsylvania that, seeing two negroes in his neighborhood, apparently new comers, he had inquired of them who they were. They informed him they had arrived the day before: that they had runaway from their master in Kent county, Maryland, whom they named, and from the time they left home until they reached Pennsylvania they had been furnished at every five miles on the way with a place of refreshment and refuge." In other words, in a journey of forty or fifty miles through the slaveholding population of two of the counties of Maryland, these two runaway slaves had found a station of the underground railroad at every fifth mile - a revelation which is, indeed, of a very significant character in connection with these underground railroad operations.
The precarious tenure of slave property in Maryland is thus very strikingly disclosed; and the above statement of Mr. Ricaud is strongly supported by the high rewards of from two to three hundred dollars which the Maryland planters frequently offer for the recovery of a single runaway slave, and by the long continuance of such advertisements in their local newspapers. The question, then, of the perpetuity of slavery in Maryland and all the border slave Sates thrusts itself before us, and we are compelled to look into it, from the commanding importance of the general subject to the whole country.
These are several things which are operating to the extinguishment of slavery in the border slave States, and among these two we may enumerate: -

1. Climate, soil and productions.
2. The pressure of the free white labor of the North.
3. The underground railroad lines.
4. A local anti-slavery sentiment.

The border slave States are Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. Delaware is in an active transition state, and is generally regarded as little better than a merely nominal slave State. A considerable portion of Maryland extends along the Pennsylvania line, and is an elevated and mountainous country, better adapted for free white then for slave labor, and admirable adapted for runaway negroes. The western half of the great State of Virginia is a mass of mountain ranges, with narrow valleys between, affording a very limited area for large slave holding plantations, but beautifully cut up into small arable districts, suitable for such crops as can be cultivated by a white man who is the head of a family, including from two to half a dozen lusty boys. Hence there are comparatively few slaves in Western Virginia, and throughout the State the comparative increase of the free white population between the last two census of Virginia population of 1850 as compared with that of 1840: -

Whites Negros
1840 301,800 472,528
1850 740,358 449,057

- Which shows an increase of twenty per cent of the white population against an increase of about five per cent of the slave population. True, we must take into this estimate the 20,000 slaves that are annually shipped off from Virginia to the cotton States of the extreme South. But still the result is the positive gain of the white population; and this gain, from the opening of the Western section of the State by railroads, &c., will be still more remarkable in 1860 than in 1850.

Next, let us look at Kentucky, from the figures of the census: -

Whites Slaves
1850 781,403 219,981
1840 620, 253 182,268
Increase 171,150 182, 268

- From which it appears that Kentucky holds her position much better as a slave State then Virginia; but then she has fewer wornout estates, and her minimal increase of slaves has been pretty much retained at home. The long Ohio river boundary of exposure of Kentucky, however, to the free States of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois renders her peculiarly liable to loses by the underground railroad, and those losses are constantly operating to diminish the value and security of her slave property, while the increase of her white population is rapidly encroaching upon the value of her slave labor.
Missouri comes next in order. Here the relative increase of the white and slave population is very striking: -

Whites Slaves
1850 692,004 87,422
1840 323,883 53,240
increase 171,150 29,182

Here we have a white increase of nearly seventy-five per cent against a slave increase of fifty per cent; but the peculiar advantages of the free white labor movement in Missouri are there; her comparatively high northern altitude and free state surroundings, the pressure of a Northern free white emigration and the masked ascendancy of her free white over her slave population, which stands in the ratio of seven to one. In Kentucky the whites are less then four to one slave; in Virginia they are less than two to one. In Maryland the whites to the slaves stand in the ratio of nearly five to one; and there, while the increase of the whites between 1840 and 1850 was from 318,000 to 417,000, or about thirty-three per cent, the slave population remained at a stand still, the total number being 89,797 in 1840 and only 90,368 in 1850 - an increase of 631 in ten years, which is considerably less then one per cent. In Delaware, in 1840, the slaves numbered 2,695; in 1850, 2,290 - a decrease of over 300, and a decrease from 1830 of one-third of the whole number.
From these figures it will be seen that slavery is near extinct in Delaware; that it has arrived at the turning point in Maryland; that the white population is crowding upon it in Virginia in the ration of twenty per dent increase against five per cent; that it is losing ground in Kentucky, an that in Missouri it is on the high road to emancipation. Possibly within the next fifteen years all these will be free States. And what then? Disunion? No. A very large proportion of the slaves of these border States will be thrown into the cotton States, and from the natural prejudice against free niggers in these border slave States, when they shall have sloughed off the institution, they will still afford a barrier for the protection of the cotton States.

In the meantime it becomes a paramount duty of the free States, and especially the border free States, to carry out faithfully the provisions of the constitution as embodied in the Fugitive Slave Law, and to discountenance these underground railroads and all their agents. The only security henceforth to the Union is a rigid adhesion to the constitution. The South has now only the justice of the North to depend upon; for the South has lost her balance of power, and from the laws of climate, soil, productions and population, she must eventually lose her present northern tier of slave States. In view of all these facts and probabilities, our conservative readers will perceive the vital necessity of a controlling Union sentiment in 1860 against all sectional agitators of "slavery," the "slave power," and "the aggressions of the slave oligarchy." Otherwise the next Presidential election may bring upon us all the evils of the most mischievous disunion agitation.

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