An advertisement from the Jackson Mississippian, August 28, 1860:
Fifty Negroes for Sale.
Slave Depot, Crystal Springs.
We have established a Depot at Crystal Springs, Mississippi, for the sale of Negroes, and as our facilities for buying cheap and desirable Negroes are unsurpassed, we can say to purchasers, that we will make it to their interest to call on us before purchasing elsewhere, and purchasers who are visiting New Orleans, would find it convenient and to their interest to examine our stock.
Relying entirely on making large and quick sales to sustain us in offering such liberal inducements, and any Negro sold by us, that does not come up to our representation, as per bill of sale, will be taken in exchange with as little trouble as possible to the purchaser.
Being permanently located here, we can be found at all times to make our guarantee good. We have just received a large lot of young and likely Negroes and will continue to receive, as may be required, No. 1 Men, Boys, Women, Girls and Families; also, extra Cooks, Washers and Ironers, Blacksmiths, &c.
M. N. Robertson3 & Co.
Crystal Springs, Miss.
Was the war about slavery? Public statements during the war can be misleading.
The Founding Fathers, both in the North and South, generally regarded slavery as an evil, but one that they could not easily remedy. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1820 that
I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. The cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.
Yes, I know, that wasn’t her ear he had her by, but at least publicly he felt bad about it. With the rise of Northern abolitionism, and the opportunity for expansion of slavery afforded by the territory gained after the Mexican-American war, Southern rhetoric began to harden. By the 1850s many Southerners were no longer apologizing for slavery, but proclaiming it to be a positive benefit to both whites and blacks (see John Bell, or Charles O’Conor, for instance).
Meanwhile, when the war came the North didn’t want to alienate the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, all slave states, so Lincoln and the Republican leadership tried to make it very clear that they wanted only to prevent the extension of slavery into the territories. They agreed that the Constitution did not allow the Federal government to abolish slavery in existing states. Furthermore, many of the white citizens of the “northwest” — Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana — were as hostile to free blacks as they were toward slavery. They didn’t want slaveowners bringing them, but they didn’t want free blacks immigrating to those states either. They certainly didn’t want to fight a war to free the slaves. Most Union soldiers, at least at the start of the war, were fighting to preserve the Union. During the war, many abolitionists were very impatient with the Union’s failure to clearly declare the goal of destroying slavery entirely; it took until 1863 for that to become official policy.
As for the South, after seceding the Confederacy wanted recognition by European countries. They knew that Europeans were deeply opposed to slavery, for the most part, so most Southerners played up state’s rights and downplayed slavery in their public statements. Nevertheless, the right that those seceding states were claiming was first and foremost the right to hold human beings as property. Southerners felt that this “right” was threatened by the Republicans, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, and that was what made a Lincoln victory intolerable to them.
It’s peculiar; the North didn’t go to war to abolish slavery, but the South went to war to preserve it.
1I went through Crystal Springs on my bike on the way to New Orleans in 2007, but it didn’t make much of an impression on me. The town’s web site today informs us that, like most places in the US older than twenty years, it is “historic”. It’s also the home of the PTA, and was once known as the “tomatopolis of the world”. The Chamber of Commerce neglects to mention the slave depot, but that probably isn’t much of a tourist attraction2.
2In fairness, I should point out that I never saw a Confederate flag as I rode the whole length of Mississippi, while they are common in Missouri. Furthermore, people in Mississippi, both white and black, were unfailingly polite, helpful, and friendly toward me.
3It seems likely that “M.N. Robertson” is Marcus N. Robertson, born Oct. 28, 1824 in Monticello, MS, and buried in Old Crystal Springs Cemetery. After the war the 1870 census listed him as a dry goods merchant with a fair amount of property4.
4 From Clan Donnachaidh Genealogy:
MARCUS N.2 ROBERTSON (NATHANIEL1)6 was born October 28, 1824 in
Monticello, Lawrence, Mississippi7, and died April 28, 1886 in
Mississippi8,9. He married MARY SUSAN MCDONALD January 02, 1845 in Hin
Co, Mississippi10. She was born September 10, 1829 in South Carolina11,
and died March 03, 1874 in Mississippi12,13.
Notes for MARCUS N. ROBERTSON:
1870 Fed Census, page 162, Coahoma Co, Ms; P.O. Friars Point shows him as a
Dry Goods Merchant with $35,000 value of real estate and personal property
value at $60,000. Born in Mississippi. Age 46 and married to Mary, a
born in S. C. FHC #0552226; ms/24
More About MARCUS N. ROBERTSON:
Burial: Old Crystal Springs Cemetery, Crystal Springs, Copiah Co, Ms14