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Slavery in Kentucky 1792 to 1865

This study is an attempt to give a connected and concise account of the institution of slavery as it existed in the State of Kentucky from 1792 to 1865. Much has been written of slavery in other States, but there has not been published a single account which deals adequately with the institution in Kentucky. A scholarly treatise on The Anti-Slavery Movement in Kentucky, by Professor Asa E. Martin, of Pennsylvania State College, has appeared but, as this work is limited to a discussion of the history of the movement to overthrow slavery, our study parallels and supplements it.

In this study the chief emphasis has been placed upon the legal, economic and social history of slavery in Kentucky, mention being made of a few of the interesting antislavery incidents when these are known to have influenced the local status of the slave. We have first considered the inception of the system as based fundamentally upon the type of land settlement and tenure, followed by a study of the growth of the slave population, which brings in the question of the local economic value of the slave. An attempt has been made to explain the internal slave trade; and to consider to what extent Kentucky served as a breeding State for slaves destined to the market in the lower South.

In the chapter on the legal status of slavery special emphasis has been placed not only upon the legal position of the institution but upon the general evolution of the rights of the Negro in servitude. This section is vitally connected with the anti-slavery movement after about the year 1835. The problem of the fugitive slave and the general rights of emancipation and of the freed Negro have been approached purely from the legal standpoint.

The chapter on the social status of the slave considers the conditions of slave life that were more or less peculiar to Kentucky. There has often been made the statement, that in Kentucky Negro servitude was generally on a higher plane than in the States to the south and the treatment of slaves was much more humane. Some light has been thrown on these questions.

As a supplement to the discussion of the legal and social status a general summary of public opinion regarding emancipation and colonization has been added. Although for the most part consisting of previously published material this section has been treated from the viewpoint of the existing institution and not from the anti-slavery side which occasioned most of the original publication.

This study has been made from a consideration of the contemporary evidence as found in newspapers, statements of slaves, and general evidence of travelers and citizens of Kentucky during the period before the Civil War. The material for the study of this field is not only scattered throughout the country but for the most part it is very meager compared with the records of States like Virginia and Missouri. All the documents, papers, manuscripts and works known to be of value, however, have been consulted. The most valuable records for this treatise are to be found in the Durrett Collection at the University of Chicago, the extensive files of early Kentucky papers in the Library of the American Antiquarian Society, and the documents in the Kentucky State Library at Frankfort.

To Mr. Clarence S. Brigham, of the American Antiquarian Society, Mr. Edward A. Henry, of the University of Chicago Library, and Mr. Frank Kavanaugh, of the Kentucky State Library, I am indebted for invaluable assistance rendered in securing material for this work. The treatment of the legal status of slavery would have been very meager, were it not for the valuable aid given by Dr. George E. Wire, of the Worcester County (Massachusetts) Law Library. To Miss Florence Dillard, of the Lexington (Kentucky) Public Library, I am indebted for assistance given throughout the period of my studies. To Prof. George II. Blakeslee, of Clark University, I owe more than to any one else—for his inspiration during my three years of study, for his most valuable aid in the correction of the manuscript, his candid judgment and judicial reasoning and the many suggestions which have helped to make this study what it is.

Ivan E. McDougle
Clark. University,
Wohcester, Massachusetts.

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