Tla Stic Ocean

trend. Thereafter slave agriculture and its defense became the dominant theme of the conventions. Even De Bow's Review moved in this direction. Though De Bow continued to give lip service to industrialization, his Review devoted more and more space to agriculture, proslavery polemics, and southern nationalism. By 1857 the politicians had pretty well taken over these "commercial" conventions. And the main form of commerce they now advocated was a reopening of the African slave trade.50

Federal law had banned this trade since the end of 1807. Smuggling continued on a small scale after that date; in the 1850s the rising price of slaves produced an increase in this illicit traffic and built up pressure for a repeal of the ban. Political motives also actuated proponents of repeal. Agitation of the question, said one, would give "a sort of spite to the North and defiance of their opinions." A delegate to the 1856 commercial convention insisted that "we are entitled to demand the opening of this trade from an industrial, political, and constitutional consideration. . . . With cheap negroes we could set the hostile legislation of Congress at defiance. The slave population after supplying the states would overflow into the territories, and nothing could control its natural expansion." For some defenders of slavery, logical consistency required a defense of the slave trade as well. "Slavery is right," said a delegate to the 1858 convention, "and being right there can be no wrong in the natural means of its formation." Or as William L. Yancey put it: "If it is right to buy slaves in Virginia and carry them to New Orleans, why is it not right to buy them in Africa and carry them there?"51

Why not indeed? But most southerners failed to see the logic of this argument. In addition to moral repugnance toward the horrors of the "middle passage" of slaves across the Atlantic, many slaveowners in the upper South had economic reasons to oppose reopening of the African trade. Their own prosperity benefitted from the rising demand for slaves; a growing stream of bondsmen flowed from the upper South to the cotton states. Nevertheless, the commercial convention at Vicksburg in 1859 (attended by delegates from only the lower South) called for repeal

50. McCardell, Idea of a Southern Nation, 129-40; Otis Clark Skipper, f. D. B. De Bow:

Magazinist of the Old South (Athens, Ga., 1958), 81-97; Wender, Southern

Commercial Conventions, 207,225.

51. Potter, Impending Crisis, 398-99; Wender, Southern Commercial Conventions, 178,

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