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Betting on Secession: Quantifying Political Events Surrounding Slavery and the Civil War

  • Charles W. Calomiris
  • Jonathan Pritchett

Abraham Lincoln's election produced Southern secession, Civil War, and abolition. Using a new database of slave sales from New Orleans, we examine the connections between political news and the prices of slaves for 1856-1861. We find that slave prices declined by roughly a third from their 1860 peak, reflecting increased southern pessimism regarding the possibility of war and the war's possible outcome. The South's decision to secede reflected the beliefs that the North would not invade to oppose secession, and that emancipation of slaves without compensation was unlikely, both of which were subsequently dashed by Lincoln's actions.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19625.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19625.

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Date of creation: Nov 2013
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Publication status: published as Betting on Secession: Quantifying Political Events Surrounding Slavery and the Civil War Charles W. Calomiris Jonathan Pritchett AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW VOL. 106, NO. 1, JANUARY 2016 (pp. 1-23)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19625
Note: AP DAE POL
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  1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1978. "The Structure of Slave Prices in New Orleans, 1804 to 1862," UCLA Economics Working Papers 119, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Calomiris, Charles W. & Schweikart, Larry, 1991. "The Panic of 1857: Origins, Transmission, and Containment," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(04), pages 807-834, December.
  3. Choo, Eugene & Eid, Jean, 2008. "Interregional Price Difference in the New Orleans Auctions Market for Slaves," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 26, pages 486-509.
  4. Pritchett, Jonathan & Smith, Mallorie, 2013. "Sequential Sales as a Test of Adverse Selection in the Market for Slaves," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 73(02), pages 477-497, June.
  5. Mark Yanochik & Bradley Ewing & Mark Thornton, 2001. "A new perspective on antebellum slavery: Public policy and slave prices," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 29(3), pages 330-340, September.
  6. Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 2008. "Biological Innovation and Productivity Growth in the Antebellum Cotton Economy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(04), pages 1123-1171, December.
  7. Newland, Carlos & San segundo, María Jesús, 1996. "Human Capital and Other Determinants of the Price Life Cycle of a Slave: Peru and La Plata in the Eighteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(03), pages 694-701, September.
  8. Chenny, Shirley & St-Amour, Pascal & Vencatachellum, Desire, 2003. "Slave prices from succession and bankruptcy sales in Mauritius, 1825-1827," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 419-442, October.
  9. Calomiris, Charles W. & Pritchett, Jonathan B., 2009. "Preserving Slave Families for Profit: Traders' Incentives and Pricing in the New Orleans Slave Market," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(04), pages 986-1011, December.
  10. Jonathan Pritchett & Jessica Hayes, 2011. "The Occupations of Slaves Sold in New Orleans: Missing Values, Cheap Talk, or Informative Advertising," Working Papers 1113, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
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