The Bondsman’s Burden: An Economic Analysis of the Common by Jenny Bourne Wahl

By Jenny Bourne Wahl

Have been slaves estate or people below the legislation? Antebellum Southern judges designed effective legislation that secure estate rights and helped slavery stay economically workable, legislation that sheltered the folks embodied through that propertySH-the slaves themselves. accidentally, those judges generated ideas acceptable to bland americans. Wahl presents a rigorous, compelling financial research of the typical legislations of Southern slavery, analyzing millions of criminal disputes.

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Additional info for The Bondsman’s Burden: An Economic Analysis of the Common Law of Southern Slavery

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Sellers typically knew more about their wares than buyers, but the gap in information was larger and the likelihood of adverse selection greater in slave cases. Placing more responsibility on slave merchants than on other antebellum vendors reflected this greater divergence in knowledge between seller and buyer. Buyers' lack of information may offer another reason for legally protecting them. Owned slaves could substitute for free laborers. Yet unlike employers of free persons, slaveowners could not fire unsatisfactory workers.

For example, courts found for the sellers in cases where the sold slaves were said to be aged twenty-five and twenty-two, respectively, but were truly aged twenty-nine and twenty-six. But Kentucky courts understandably ordered rescissions in two other cases. In one case, vendor McCann claimed that slave Hannah - who was forty years old with nine or ten children - was age twenty-nine with three children. In the other dispute, a seller represented his slave's age as twenty-five instead of her true age of forty.

Occasional thefts among tolerably good slaves may be expected . . such habits were easy of correction by prudent masters. . Like master, like man . . "52 These examples show that a seller's representations about a slave's physical attributes and skills bound him, although statements about morals and character might not. Judges' rulings in such cases helped prevent adverse selection and moral hazard problems in slave-sale transactions. Responsibility for his own representations did not, however, carry over to statements made by the seller's slave.

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