The Economics of the Richmond Slave Trade

Here’s Jack Trammell of Randolph-Macon University talking at the American Civil War Museum about the economics of slavery in Richmond.

The video’s description says, “John ‘Jack’ Trammell, Randolph-Macon professor and author of ‘The Richmond Slave Trade: The Economic Backbone of the Old Dominion,’ gave a Tredegar Society lecture on February 12, 2015. He discussed the immense economic role that slavery had in Virginia, the South, and the whole United States.”



  1. Very engaging talk.

  2. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Good piece. Thanks for sharing. Only wish it had been longer (I will definitely have to buy his book). His comment — “The economics of slavery was the cause of the Civil War” — is a theme I have argued for a number of years. Depending on the numbers you use, 4 million slaves were worth between $3.5 billion and $4.8 billion. Add to that the value of the land, homes, farm implements and all that cotton and the Confederacy had a real shot, had it won its independence, of being the richest country in the world. Southerners wanted their own tariffs, the revenue of which would have been used to build financial institutions, railroads, warehouses, industries, canals and more. You and I have discussed this before and I still maintain that it was an economic war. For more on this topic may I suggest James Huston’s “Calculating the Value of the Union: Slavery, Property Rights, and the Economic Origins of the Civil War” (U. of North Carolina Press, 2003). FWIW, he looks and sounds a bit like Tom Izzo. GO MSU!!!

    1. I’d say the economics of slavery is a part of it–a large part of it, but a part of it. Another significant feature is the social aspect regarding fear of equality of African-Americans. A third significant feature is the survival of the Union. Both slavery and survival of the Union played into protection of family for the confederates and the Union side, respectively.

  3. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Agree. Probably should say, “The economics of slavery was the cause of secession.”

    1. Well, again I’d have to say the economics of slavery was a part of it. The social aspect of slavery was another part. Then there was also the political power to affect slavery, the indignation at perceived insults that revolved around slavery.

  4. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    No question that the social aspect of slavery was a huge part, especially in the South. All we have to do is look at what happened during Reconstruction with the KKK and later the Jim Crow laws that kept free blacks in virtual bondage until the 1960s.

  5. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    His book is available from Amazon ($17.81 in paperback only).

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