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The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860$
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Calvin Schermerhorn

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300192001

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300192001.001.0001

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Sweet Dreams and Smuggling Schemes

Sweet Dreams and Smuggling Schemes

(p.69) 3 Sweet Dreams and Smuggling Schemes
The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860

Calvin Schermerhorn

Yale University Press

For a brief period following the War of 1812 the United States tolerated slave smuggling among allies as part of a political strategy to govern Louisiana. Federal tariffs were also raised to protect domestic sugar from foreign competition. At the same time the political economy of slavery changed rapidly. Cotton replaced foodstuffs as the largest national export. In that atmosphere, a failed clothing merchant in New York City reinvented himself as a Louisiana sugar planter. New Jersey native John Craig Marsh partnered with New Yorker William Stone and bought a sugar plantation at Avery Island, Louisiana. Sugar planting was a capital-intensive business that was punishing to workers, most of whom were enslaved. To cut start-up costs in 1818, Marsh and Stone bought enslaved New Jersey workers and smuggled them to Louisiana with the help of state judges who fraudulently certified the bondspersons’ consent. Marsh and Stone supplemented that bound workforce with African-descended New York contract workers who toiled on Avery Island for a period of years in slave-like conditions. The scheme boosted Marsh and Stone’s fortunes, and they supplemented their workforce with bondspersons bought from Austin Woolfolk and other legal vendors.

Keywords:   Sugar, Slave smuggling, Geopolitics, Empire, New Jersey slavery

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