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