TEXAS, BANKS AND SLAVERY. We continue through ‘The Half Has Never Been Told' with Chapter 8, entitled ‘Blood.’ It starts with the blood drawn on the backs of slaves by the ‘whipping machine,’ forcing ever higher productivity from slaves in the ‘Southwest,’ meaning the Mississippi region. A few slaves resisted the lash, but when one told his master he wouldn’t be whipped anymore, he got the answer, ‘if you can’t be whipped, I can still kill you.’ He could, without penalty, save for the price of replacing the slave. Some slaves ran off, and here ‘blood’ came to mean bloodhound, the dogs used to catch them. Of the hounds’ noise on the chase, said white enslavers, ‘the music they make was the sweetest in the world.’
But by 1836, slave productivity was causing a problem. It was outpacing, temporarily, the capacity for English textile mills to process and sell it. In a short time, the price of cotton dropped from 18 cents to six cents a pound, and the price of slaves tracked the price of cotton. To make a longer story short, a great number of Southwest enslavers suddenly couldn’t pay their debts, and many banks in the area also crashed. It was the crash of 1837. Slaves were put on the block at reduced prices in large numbers, which meant many slave families were broken up, tearing apart the ‘ties of blood’ among them to great sorrow and suffering.
One way for the enslavers to escape the bill collectors was to move into the Texas territory, where the law would not yet reach, but where they could still seize land and grow cotton. The practice was so common, bills were returned to creditors simply marked ‘GTT,’ widely understood as ‘Gone To Texas,’ but soon meant any efforts of any deadbeats to escape payment.
But therein lies the tale. Mexico had abolished slavery, but had a weak grip on its Northern States, including Texas. The enslavers in Congress wanted it, and so rigged up the ‘Republic of Texas’ backed by the enslavers’ money. Texas was brought into the union to thwart Mexico’s abolition and secure slavery’s expansion westward. Just set aside all the chauvinist mythology from the 1950s about Davy Crockett and the Alamo.
The abolitionist movement continued to grow, mainly among Northern church-based women. One tactic was signing petitions to Congress with huge numbers of names, to be printed in the Congressional Record. The enslavers in Congress would have none of it, and passed a ‘gag rule’ forbidding any mention or acceptance of these petitions as illegal. The abolitionists pointed out this thwarted the First Amendment, and that slavery thus not only stripped any rights from Blacks in the South, but was now also stripping rights from whites in the North. The dots were being connected. More to come.
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