Tennessee slave holders were also involved in the practices
of breeding, trading, and selling slaves. The evidence to support the
subtle process of breeding is sketchy. That it was a legitimate part of
slavery was attested to by the court of the state.(Story of slave breeding)
In this particular case the court sought to protect the heir of an estate by
prohibiting the sell of a slave mother who had several children. To sell
a slave "so peculiarly valuable for her physical capacities of child bearing
would be an enormous sacrifice for the heir." In fact, the court of appeals
declared, "the modest profit gained from the labor of a gang of slaves in Tennessee
made an increase in stock an object of their owners."
Slave markets existed in almost every Tennessee town,(Slave traders) and slaves were moved through Tennessee to the lower South. Dr. Mitchell explained this process.(Dr. Mitchell and Slave trading) Slave trading and slave buying were engaged in by many Tennesseans. In 1821 Andrew Jackson of Nashville bought a slave to surprise his daughter-in-law"with her personal maid, a bright young negress named Gracies." On another occasion, Jackson asked his nephew, Andrew J. Donalson, to "be on the look out for a good buy in a few likely Negroes," while he was studying a Translyvania University in Kentucky.
Tennesseans frequently traded with Kentucky and deeper points South. They were exposed to advertisement such as that of William F. Talbott, a slave dealer in Lexington, Kentucky, who in 1853 offered $1,200.00 to $1,250.00 for slaves to be carried to the New Orleans Market.(Slave Ads) His advertisement read: "I will pay $1,200.00 to $1,250.00 for number one men and $850.00 to $1,000.00 for young women. In fact, I will pay more for likely Negroes than any other dealer in Kentucky."
The operation of a plantation, slave trading, and the profitability of slavery, can be seen in the slave holding experiences of another soon to be President from Tennessee, James K. Polk, (Image of James K. Polk) who succeeded Martin Van Buren (Image of Van Buren) in 1848. In 1833 Polk and his brother-in-law, Dr. Silas M. Caldwell, established an 85 acre plantation in Fayfette County Tennessee, not far from Memphis. Polk's plantation was not very large. He had less than 25 slaves, young and old. In 1834 he produced 29 bales of cotton, which was considered a small return for the effort. This helped to convince him and his partner to sell the plantation for $6,000.00 and more further South into Mississippi to establish a new one. Dr. Caldwell, Mr. Beanland, the overseer, and the slaves were sent from Columbia, Tennessee to Mississippi to reduce the land from a state of virgin nature to a thriving cotton plantation.
Polk and his brother-in-law purchased their slaves for $8,025.00 in 1833. This included 25 men, women, and children, valued at $600,00, $450.00 and $75.00 each respectively.(Inventory of Polk's Slaves) Slaves were often offered and sold in lots. In 1833, for example, the New Orleans slave house of Hewlett and Bright conducted the sale for the owner of a lot of valuable slaves being sold on his departure to Europe. They were all sold at 1/2 cash down, the other half a mouth later with a mortgage on the slaves until the final payment was made.(Slave Ads)
The move of Polk's plantation to Mississippi was made under difficult conditions. The roads were trails through the forest and travel was slow and painful. The weather was bad.
Dr. Caldwell urged the slaves forward each day as far as he could get them to go. The journey of about 100 miles was made in eight days. The slaves traveled on foot and the wagon toiled forward, loaded with pork, meal, tools, bedding, furniture for the cabins and Mr. Beanland, who was accompanied by his new wife.
It was a rapid journey. Dr. Caldwell pushed forward the building of cabins for the slaves, gave directions, and set out for Columbia, Tennessee, where he arrived five weeks after leaving for Mississippi. He described his activities in a letter dated February 10, 1835, "I got to Mississippi with our Negroes on the 10th day of January. I remained there eighteen days, put up house for Mr. Beanland, four houses for the Negroes, a smokehouse and a kitchen, and made a lot for our stock.
I met no bad luck going down. Mr. Beanland is very much pleased with his situation, the Negroes only tolerably well satisfied. I procured some seeds, some I bought, some I got without buying, and directed Beanland to plant 75 acres in corn, and all he could in cotton. I got Abram, the blacksmith, in a shop to do some work we needed. I sent by wagon to Memphis for tools."
Once Tennesseans decided to buy, sell, or trade a slave, they could transact their business in almost any town or establishment in the state.(Slave Auctions) Slaves were usually advertised as in the 1856 announcement. Clarksville, a small town in 1856 had a slave market. Nashville had four, all on Market Square, that same year. Each had its own auction block, but there was a main auction block used by all four, located on the spot formally occupied by the African Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday School building in Nashville. Memphis operated the largest center in the opening West. The picture of this jail is from the renown Forrest Trading Center, (Nathan B. Forrest slave trader) owned by the soon-to be famous Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Confederate Calvary. (End, Part VII)
Slavery and Violence in Tennessee
and Executive Producer