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The 1850 and 1860 Census, Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants
Table of Contents
The Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants,
used in the 1850 and 1860 Censuses, is one of the fundamental documents we use
to research the slavery period; perhaps only probate and deed records are used
more often. Yet, this part of the census is one of the most problematic, more
because of what it omits than because of what it tells us. Drafted for the first US Census that
originally planned to name every inhabitant in the country, Schedule 2 was
altered to prevent recording slaves’ names and other personal information. This essay will examine:
• How Congress developed the 1850 Census, Schedule 2
• Enumerator’s Instructions for Schedule 2
• Differences between the 1850 and 1860 Schedule 2
• Common issues and problems in interpreting Schedule 2
Besides introducing the new researcher to these frequently-misunderstood sources, I hope to stimulate discussion from all who have used Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants, for genealogical or historical research, especially on the topic of interpreting the information in these admittedly frustrating schedules.
Even professional historians have sometimes misunderstood and misrepresented Schedule 2 as a document that proves slave owners ignored the humanity of slaves. Edwin L. Ayers, on his educational documentary website, Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War (http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/govdoc/slave_census.html), calls Schedule 2 the “Slaveowners Census” as if this were the actual title of the schedule. In his description of Schedule 2, Ayers portrays white southerners, not as deeply conflicted and neurotic products of their own stubborn devotion to a peculiarly oppressive institution, but as cartoon-quality villains, monstrously devoid of any human recognition of the enslaved: “So important was slavery that the census takers maintained a separate book to list all the slaveowners and their property. Chillingly enough, the census takers were not interested in the names of individual slaves but only in their age, sex, and skin shade.” This false characterization of census takers fails to acknowledge that it mattered not what census takers were “interested” in, but, rather, what their instructions dictated to them to record. There is ample evidence that census takers not only knew much more about the individual slaves than they were authorized to record, but that the exclusion of slaves’ names and other data from the census actually made the census taker’s tasks far more difficult than if similar data had been recorded for slave and free.
The history behind the census of Slave Inhabitants suggests how representatives of the slaveocracy were fully conscious that naming each slave in the 1850 census would give public recognition to the humanity of each slave roughly on a par with the dignity afforded to whites who were all to be named in Schedule 1. By amending Schedule 2 to make it anonymous, southern senators deliberately obscured as much of the slaves' humanity as possible, for political reasons.
With all its flaws, the 1850
and 1860 Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants, is an indispensable tool for the study
of American slavery and for the search for ancestors who might be enumerated
therein. Although Schedule 2 seems a shabby travesty when compared with
Schedule 1, it does enumerate—no matter how inefficiently and how flawed the method—the
enslaved population of the
Thanks to the
Library of Congress’ American Memory project (homepage http://memory.loc.gov),
we have the entire series of published Congressional debates online. The
antebellum series, under the title The Congressional Globe, is available
at the link below. Unless otherwise stated, all my references are to page
numbers in the Globe, 31st congress, 1st Session, searchable at the
In the midst of an acrimonious exchange on the Senate floor between William H. Seward of New York and William R. King of Alabama, over whether the 1850 census data could show the quality of life of slaves in the South, Thomas J. Rusk of Texas complained to Seward, “It is to be regretted, sir, that we cannot do anything here without having this interminable question brought up. It must, it seems, be brought forward when we have only the census bill up for discussion.” (page 675)
Rusk should not
have been surprised. The first thing you notice about the debates in Congress
in the 1840s and 1850s is how often the topic of slavery appeared. It permeated
virtually every discussion as a few vehemently anti- and pro-slavery
Congressmen used every opportunity to agitate the issue in their respective
houses. Each session saw a pile of petitions from hundreds of Northern citizens
for the abolition or restriction of slavery (see, just for example, on page 814, the 37 anti-slavery petitions
introduced on 24 April 1850)—all of which were routinely tabled, but which, nevertheless,
fanned the embers of hostility between Northern and Southern states. The 1850
sessions were particularly fiery on the subject of a fugitive slave bill which
was eventually signed into law
existing myths and fabricated new ones to suit their own agendas. For example,
the speakers for the deep South portrayed slavery only as big plantations with
hundreds of slaves personally unknown to their owners.
Neither northern abolitionists nor southern slaveocrats proposed simply gathering exactly the same data for free persons and slaves in 1850. Some abolitionists were bent on using census data to poke slaveholders in the eye on subjects like slaves’ health and longevity (as explored through average ages and child mortality), the migration patterns imposed by the internal slave trade, the illegal importation of African slaves (as would be suggested by a place of birth in Africa after 1808), and the results–and future implications–of racial amalgamation. One Southern gentleman wanted to test a pet theory that mulattoes were less fertile than blacks of “pure blood.”
Other Southerners reacted defensively to prevent any inquiry that would undermine their message that slaves were property, or would reveal slaves to be real persons with families or social structure of any kind. Both sides, embroiled in debate over the bill that would become the Fugitive Slave Act, were interested in knowing how many runaway slaves might fall under the provisions of the act. The result was the 1850 census we know today (and its virtual clone in 1860), in which the millions of slaves are presented as nameless and faceless numbers.
J. D. B. DeBow, Superintendent the 1850 Census, recommended in his report, Statistical view of the United States (Washington: 1854), page 15, that the next census, 1860, should combine Free, Slave and Mortality schedules into one form that used the same questions for all persons. His suggestion was ignored.
Debates in the
Confusion over the mandate of the Census Board had opened the door for Congress to micro-manage the content of each column in each schedule form. In part because of all the wrangling over the cost of paper, it was not until April that debate finally touched the manner of taking the census of slaves.
The first debates over the 1850 census of slaves were, in one sense, a struggle over what the slaveholders would allow the rest of the nation to know about slavery and slaves. The Senate committee that drew up the first plans for the 1850 census contemplated recording the names of all persons, slave and free. This led to the first controversy between senators who thought that the census could be taken most efficiently and accurately by naming the slaves, and those senators who opposed naming the slaves on ideological grounds which they disguised as practical objections.
Many southern senators surely believed that requiring a slave master to answer queries that personalized individual slaves invested slaves with a dignity that was incompatible with the institution that held them in bondage. Certainly there was never any serious thought that slaves would have an input to the census—for the census taker to enter the plantation quarters and to record personal facts from the lips of slaves would be an unthinkable trespass on the prerogative of slave masters, the same as if a census taker were to question a white child instead of speaking to the father of the household.
More pointedly, if a hard-core abolitionist like New York’s William H. Seward supported enumerating the slaves by name, and even demanded more information about the condition of the South’s slaves, pro-slavery senators would reactively oppose him on principle.
To argue against
enumerated slaves by name, southern senators, led by
contrast to the
I have silently edited the Congressional debates transcribed below to omit irrelevant remarks and repetitive arguments, but I have marked ellipses ( . . . ) only when splicing sentences or paragraphs. All page references are to the Congressional Globe, 31st Congress, 1st Session, available at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwcglink.html#anchor31
Davis’ version of
the Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants, included twelve columns:
(1) Names of slave owners
(2) Names of slaves
Description: (3) Age, (4) Sex, (5) Color
(6) Place of Birth
If a female, the number of children she has had who are:
(7) No. she has had, (8) Known to be living, (9) Known to be dead
(10) Deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic.
(11) Degree of removal from pure white and black races.
version of this form can be seen at
Senator Arthur P. Butler of South Carolina immediately rose with an amendment, saying: “I move to amend, so that instead of requiring the names of the slaves to be taken, the number only shall be required . . . and I now move to strike out the word ‘names’ and insert the word ‘number.’” (page 672)
David: “Then we shall lose the benefit of the classification of ages.”
At this point,
Senator Joseph R. Underwood of
Senator George E.
Some senators laughed.
Underwood: “I have
no particular anxiety to see these classical names that have been suggested,
and whether it be
Senator Robert M.
T. Hunter of
Underwood: “Not at all; there is a total mistake on that subject. The names of the white population are not proposed to be published, nor are the names of the blacks.” Only the statistical tables produced by counting the names, ages, et cetera, were to be published.
Senator David L.
Senator Underwood patiently repeated his explanation of how recording all the names would save time for census takers, and would be more accurate, because all tabulation and calculation would take place later, instead of on the spot. “I imagined myself going about with the census taker,” said Underwood, “and how he would talk with the head of a family, and how he would make his memorandums as he went along, and the conclusion was irresistible that he would do the business faster by merely putting down the name and age” (pages 672-3).
Underwood shot back: “If the slave owner cannot give the name of the children, how is he to give the age?”
Clemens: “He knows how many children there are, and can tell about the time they were born. Say that he has a negro woman of the name of Eliza with four children—he can state about the time each was born. As to their names, he would not know anything about that until the children had reached the age of twelve or fourteen.”
cannot speak for the large negro owners in the South,
but I can of that description of people and the negroes in my own State. And I
venture to say that there is no plantation in my quarter, although the slaves
are nothing like as numerous as they are in the South, but what the owner can
tell you the name of every person on the plantation, and that without hesitation.
We generally keep a record of their names and ages. And I should suppose that
while the farmers of the South were recording, according to the suggestion of
the Senator from
Clemens: “I did not say that they had a record of their ages, but merely that they could tell very nearly what they were.”
Underwood: “Well, if there was any record of their ages I should suppose it would be connected with their names. If no record is kept of the age, then it has to be guessed at, and the name may as well be guessed at also, for it is wholly immaterial. But you must describe the children in some way, or take and put them down as child number one, child number two, and give the age of each. It will do just as well to designate them by numbers as by name, provided it secures the basis of the calculation which it is necessary to make afterwards. An oath that it is the correct name of the child is not required, and if the age of a child can be given, so can a name, and if all are given the same name it makes no difference. . . . The idea suggested, that the farmer will not know the names of his slaves makes no sort of difference. He can know as much about the names as the age; and all we can expect is, to come as nearly to what is precisely correct as possible, and that by the safest and most correct means. I have nothing more, I believe, to say on this particular subject.”
Senator Butler’s amendment, to replace slaves’ names with numbers, was then put to a vote and passed.
After a heated debate on 9 April 1850 between Senator Joseph R. Underwood of Kentucky and South Carolina’s Senator Arthur P. Butler, the Senate passed Butler’s amendment to the census bill, an amendment that replaced slaves’ names with numbers, thereby perpetuating a public anonymity for over three million persons held in bondage as chattels in the South.
None of his colleagues
challenged Senator Butler with the fact that, in the late antebellum period,
less than three percent of slaveholders owned 50 or more slaves—in other words,
In the next phase of the
debates, Senator William R. King of
Senator William R. King of
The motion to strike “places of birth” from Schedule 2 was put to a vote and passed.
Before we watch Senator King
demolish more of Schedule 2, let us take a closer look at his argument about
slave birthplaces. Neither the owners nor the slaves themselves (according to
King) could be expected to know their birthplaces—and yet, he asserts, “They
are known to have been born within the slave states.” Suppose, however, that some
of those slaves had been born in northern states whose laws had required them
to be emancipated at a certain age, but whose owners had illegally sold them
South rather than lose the investment—states like
Immediately after winning passage of his first amendment, King re-entered the debate to propose another: “I have another proposition to make, and Senators, I think, will all perceive the propriety of it. In schedule two are the following words: ‘if a female, the number of children she has had, known to be alive, known to be dead.’ Now, sir, it is impossible to ascertain the number of children upon a plantation that any woman has had. The woman herself, in nine out of ten cases, when she has had ten or fifteen children, does not know how many she has actually had.” This brought a laugh.
King continued, “No, sir, she cannot tell. The owner certainly does not know; the manager of the estate does not know, because managers are frequently changed. One or two children may be born while an individual is manager of an estate, and others may be born after his place is supplied by another. There is no mode by which you can ascertain except through the medium of the woman, and she cannot tell. Where is the advantage, then, of filling up considerable space with this item, and swelling the document without getting any information at last?”
Davis of Massachusetts offered a half-hearted response: “I hope that the column will be allowed to remain, although I do not know that it is very material.”
King: “Not at all. . . . I
want the census to be taken with as much care as possible. I want all the
people of the
Underwood: “These tables, in reference to the slave population, which were adopted by the committee, were adopted in compliance with the wishes of southern gentlemen. . . . There are a number of philosophical inquiries which they were in pursuit of, as well as the mere basis of representation. . . . Hence it is, the action of the committee on this subject was not confined simply to an enumeration of the inhabitants, but to the effect of various localities on health and longevity; to the effect of climate, the condition of the colored race, and all matters of importance in reference to the contemplated object. You will find in these tables that we require, not only the age and sex, but the color of the person; and we find in another column the degree of removal from pure blood is required to be stated; and this inquiry, in reference to the number of children which each woman may have had, I can inform my honorable friend, was inserted, as far as I know, at the instance of a southern gentleman” (page 674). Later in the same debate (page 676), Underwood revealed that this gentleman “believed that a certain class of colored people had fewer children than a certain other class; and he believed that the average duration of the lives of the children of the darker class was longer than the that of the children of the lighter colored class, or the mixed.”
Exasperated at the erosion of columns from the table he had labored so long to construct in committee, Underwood exclaimed, “If you do not intend to get the information in its ramifications, as I had suggested, you may as well strike out the whole table, and send your deputy marshal into a plantation merely to ascertain the number of slaves, so far as the basis of representation is concerned, and you will then get clear, as has been suggested by the Senator from North Carolina, of all this increase at the start; and I suppose that the Senator from Alabama voted with him” (page 674).
Underwood: “Well, I am vastly
surprised at the course he is taking now. If he succeeds in all the amendments
that he is proposing, it will come down to the basis of his argument. . . . I
think you that you ought to retain the name, age, number of children, and
everything, if you wish to get at anything that will be practically useful
hereafter, in reference to this class of population. There is one practical use
to which this information may be applied, as everybody knows, and it is
insurance on lives. The whole table, in regards to longevity, and everything
connected with the number and age of children, will furnish information on
which valuable tables may be constructed, if you continue them for a series of
years. . . . This would be the
commencement. If it is not proper to begin at all, strike out the whole table,
and bring it to what my honorable friend from
Underwood, clearly losing his argument, was desperately grasping at straws—did he really expect Senators to design a national census to explore the vigor of mulattoes, or to provide actuarial data for the insurance industry?
Senator Solon Borland of
Underwood continued to argue unconvincingly for the value of exploring “whether an individual is a quadroon, a mulatto, or any other proportion of blood” (page 675).
Just as it seemed the fires of
debate on this issue would soon to be extinguished along with Underwood’s hopes
for his version of the slave schedule, Senator William H. Seward of
Of course, Seward was
sarcastically taunting King with one of the favorite arguments of pious
pro-slavery writers, that Africans were better off as
King swallowed the bait, hook,
line and sinker: “I am not at all surprised to hear the senator from
King continued, “Sir, I have listened to the Senator’s remarks. I will not characterize them: respect for myself and this body will prevent me. He comes forward here on all occasions, when the slightest opportunity is afforded him, to endeavor to produce a feeling of prejudice against that section of the country in which I live, in order to minister to that miserable fanatical spirit——”
The Vice President: “The honorable Senator is out of order.”
King: “Well, sir, let the Senator keep himself within the bounds usually prescribed to members of this body, and not attempt, by a sneering manner and insidious language, to produce an effect which he dare not do directly.”
Senator Thomas J. Rusk of
In his next breath, Rusk
described the use he feared would actually come from the census data: “It may
be used for the purposes of agitation; it may be used in stump oratory to
awaken prejudices in one section of the country against the other. . . . It is
of apiece with the proceeding which took place yesterday, when a petition
numerously signed was presented to this body, asking Congress to enroll the
slaves in the militia of this country. Now is this not irritating?” It was fears like these that motivated
After further debate of the
utility or futility of the data, the columns asking about each slave woman’s
children, and the column asking for “the degree of removal from pure blood”
were stricken from the form (page 677). Next,
In the Senate version of the 1850 Census, Schedule 2, slave owners and slaves were presumed jointly ignorant. Because of this allegedly impenetrable ignorance, slaves enumerated in the census would have no names, no birthplace, and no maternal connection to their own children. Next, the House of Representatives would take its turn at refining the Census Bill.
The debates in the House of Representatives did not dwell on the details of Schedule 2 (Slave Inhabitants) as the Senate debates had, but some southern representatives echoed the same accusations that the census was designed to fuel abolitionist agitation. The House version added the columns for “Fugitives from the state” and “Number manumitted,” but the single most important amendment in the House ensured that belated, fractious debate would not endanger the 1860 census. The final version of the census bill was passed almost at the last minute, only one week before the census takers were to begin their work.
Compared to the acrimonious
Senate debates, proceedings on the Census Bill in the House were contentious
but civil. Congressmen mainly debated whether the wording of the Constitutional
requiring a decennial census limited Congress to collecting only the bare information
necessary to allocate representation and taxation, or whether the Constitution
merely specified a minimum requirement, which could be supplemented by any
inquiries that Congress should desire to make.
Most of the House debates on the census bill argued the
constitutionality of asking more detailed personal information than any
Representative John K. Miller
Georgia Congressman Alexander H. Stephens (future Vice-president of the Confederacy) suggested that the census, in the form proposed, threatened the union: “It would be well for the members of this House who were friendly to the permanent union of these States, to recollect that it could be maintained only upon principle, and by confining it to the objects for which the Union was formed. . . . Those objects were enumerated and specified in the Constitution. . . . Would the gentleman who had reported this bill inform him under what clause of the Constitution he got the power to appropriate the money of the people of this country to seek such information?” (page 812).
Among those who rose to answer
Stephens’ and others’ objections was Joseph M. Root from
Charles E. Clarke of New York reminded Stephens that he had declared, in recent debates about whether or not to ban slavery from the newly-settled western territories and states, that “no government could stand or ought to stand, that brought its power in conflict with the property of the people. The property to which the gentleman referred, is property vested in slaves, which he was pleased to estimate at fifteen hundred millions of dollars. I deemed the expression indefensible, revolutionary; but since the sentiment is advanced in this House, and seems to be entertained by others than the gentleman from Georgia, it is quite desirable to know the ages as well as the numbers of the slaves, with the view of ascertaining their value, and comparing that property with other property which the same gentlemen seem to think deserves no protection, no encouragement. It is quite desirable to know the positive and relative yield of agricultural productions in different sections of the country, in order that we may see whether it be wise to ingraft slavery upon the immense territories which we have lately acquired” (page 840).
Clarke continued: “Let there be light, was the command of Infinite Wisdom at the creation of the world. The rule seems to be reversed here, in the government of a small part of the world; and the cry of gentlemen here is, let there be darkness.” He then offered examples of where the census might shine a light: “There is in the free States a class of men entitled to all the privileges of citizenship there, who, if they set foot in certain other States of this Union, are liable to be imprisoned, and in certain contingencies to be sold as slaves, because it has pleased God not to bestow upon them quite so white a skin as some of us wear. Is it not desirable to know how numerous this class is, with the view of ascertaining the practical value of a great principle of the Constitution?” Clarke was doubtless referring to Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states, “The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States”—a section routinely violated by southern state laws targeting free persons of color.
Clarke then suggested that the census data could measure compliance with the 1808 U. S. ban on importing slaves: “Would it not be worth while, if it were in our power, to ascertain the lineage and the place of birth of the African race, in order, amongst other things, to ascertain whether our laws excluding slaves from foreign parts are violated or observed?”
Joseph A. Woodward of
In one of the lengthiest speeches of the debate, John W. Howe of Pennsylvania presented his long list of reasons for highly data in the census, among which was that census data as to shades of color of the “colored population” would provide clues as to whether “the whole human race originated from one common parentage.” Howe also wanted determine the “various employments” of all the African slaves—although no version of the census schedules ever included slaves’ occupation or employment, and he never introduced an amendment to add this item to Schedule 2 (page 862).
The most significant amendment
made in the House of Representatives passed on
A joint conference of members
from the House and senate met and resolved the differences between their
versions of the Census, so that the bill could pass on 20 May (pages
1027-1028). Three days later,
To interpret the
entries in the 1850 Census, Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants, we must know what
the census-taker was supposed to record. The official title for the person who
collected the census data was “Assistant Marshall” but I will use the more common
terms “census taker” and “enumerator” interchangeably. Lemuel
Shattuck (1793-1859) drafted the instructions for enumerators. Shattuck, who
had been invited to
The source for the
following text is from the
EXPLANATION OF SCHEDULE 2—SLAVE INHABITANTS
This schedule is to be filled up in the following manner:
Insert in the heading the number or name of the district, town, city and the county or parish, and of the state in which the slave inhabitants enumerated reside, and the day of the month upon which the enumeration was taken. This is to be attested on each page of each set, by the signature of the assistant marshal. The several columns are to be filled up as follows:
1. Under heading 1, entitled "Name of slaveholders," insert, in proper order, the names of the owners of slaves. Where there are several owners to a slave, the name of the one only need be entered, or when owned by a corporation or trust estate, the name of the trustee or corporation.
2. Under heading 2, entitled "Number of slaves," insert, in regular numerical order, the number of all the slaves of both sexes and of each age, belonging to such owners. In the case of slaves, numbers are to be substituted for names. The number of every slave who usually resides in the district enumerated is to be entered, although he may happen to be temporarily absent. The slaves of each owner are to be numbered separately, beginning at No. 1, and a separate description of each is to be given. The person in whose family, or on whose plantation, the slave is found to be employed, is to be considered the owner—the principal object being to get the number of slaves, and not that of masters or owners.
3. Under heading 3, entitled "Age," insert, in figures, the specific age of each slave opposite the number of such slave. If the exact age cannot be ascertained, insert a number which shall be the nearest approximation to it. The age of every slave, either exact or estimated, is to be inserted. If the slave be a child which, on the 1st of June, was under 1 year old, the entry is to be made by the fractional parts of a year, thus: One month, one-twelfth; two months, two-twelfths; three months, three-twelfths, and so on to eleven months, eleven-twelfths; keeping ever in view, in all cases, that the age must be estimated at no later period than the 1st of June.
4. Under heading 4, entitled "Sex," insert the letter M for male, and F for female, opposite the name, in all cases, as the fact may be.
5. Under heading 5, "Color," insert, in all cases, when the slave is black, the letter B; when he or she is mulatto, insert M. The color of all slaves should be noted.
6. Under heading 6 insert, in figures, opposite the name of the slave owner, the number of slaves who, having absconded within the year, have not been recovered.
7. In column 7, insert opposite the name of the former owner thereof, the number of slaves manumitted within the year. The name of the person is to be given, although at the time of the enumeration such person may not have held slaves on the 1st of June. In such case, no entry is to be made in column No. 2.
8. Under the heading 8 entitled "Deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic," the assistant should ascertain if any of these slaves be deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic; and if so, insert opposite the name or number of such slave, the term deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic, as the fact may be. If slaves be found imprisoned convicts, mention the crime in column 8, and the date of conviction before the number in the vacant space below the name of the owner. The convict slaves should be numbered with the other slaves of their proper owner.
The instructions for Schedule 2 provide for a straightforward counting of slaves in the districts where they lived. The following section is one of the most important of the instructions: “The number of every slave who usually resides in the district enumerated is to be entered, although he may happen to be temporarily absent. . . . The person in whose family, or on whose plantation, the slave is found to be employed, is to be considered the owner—the principal object being to get the number of slaves, and not that of masters or owners.” In other words, when the census-taker knocked on a door, the head of household was expected to give an account of all slaves who lived in that household or on that plantation. Presumably, in the case of absentee owners, the overseer would meet the census-taker.
Two parts of this instruction may require interpretation. If a slave was said to be “temporarily absent,” what was the length of time that enumerators considered “temporary”? If a slave were hired out to another person, what length of service would place that slave in the category of one “found to be employed” in the hiring family, as opposed to being merely “temporarily absent” from the owner? Since most hired slaves seem to have been rented on an annual basis, from January through Christmas, I suggest (as my unsupported opinion) that slaves hired by the year were probably enumerated in the household of the person who had hired them. The hiring person’s name would appear in the “Names of Slave Owners” column, rather than the legal owner. Examples of enslaved persons “temporarily absent” might include those out on a short-term hire or on loan, and runaways absent for less than a year.
Any Indians who were slaves are not differentiated in this census. This is consistent with slaveholder ideology that all slaves were Negroes.
In his report, The
Seventh Census of the
The census form was modified for 1860 by adding a column for 'Number of Slave Houses', and there were differences in the instructions. What
follows is a verbatim transcript of the 1860 instructions, interjected with my
comparison of the 1850 instructions. The
text, below, is adapted from Steven Ruggles and
Matthew Sobek et al., Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 3.0,
SCHEDULE No. 2.-SLAVE INHABITANTS.
This Schedule 1s to be filled up in the following manner: The heading is to be filled up in all respects after the manner of Schedule No, 1, omitting only the name of post office.
[Instructions for 1860, Schedule 1, directed that page headings were to include “the lesser division, as town, township, ward, or borough; then the name of the county and State, with the date of taking; after that enter your own name and record the name of the post office of the vicinage. Every day you will change the date and on every page write your name. All the other entries are to be repeated so long as the returns apply, but the moment you enter upon another town, township, ward, borough, or county, you must change the heading to correspond."]
1. Owners of Slaves,—Under heading No. 1 insert, in proper consecutive order, the names of all owners of slaves. When slaves are the property of a corporation, enter the name of the corporation. If held in trust for persons who have attained to their majority, whose names as owners do not elsewhere appear, the names of such persons may be entered, or their number, as “John Smith and two others;” always provided that the “others” do not appear as owners in other places. If held in trust for minors, give the number of such minors. The desire is to obtain a true return of the number of owners.
[This instruction, desiring a “true return of the number of owners” contrasts with the instruction for 1850, which stated, “the principal object being to get the number of slaves, and not that of masters or owners.”]
2. Number of Slaves.—Under heading 2, entitled “Number of slaves,” insert, in regular numerical order, the number of all the slaves, of both sexes, and of every age, belonging to the owner whose name you have recorded. In the case of slaves, numbers are to be substituted for names. The description of every slave, as numbered, is to be recorded, and you are to enumerate such slaves as may be temporarily absent, provided they are usually held to service in your subdivision. The slaves of each owner are to be numbered separately, beginning with the older at No. 1. The person in whose charge, or on whose plantation the slave is found to be employed may return all slaves in his charge, (although they may be owned by other persons,) provided they are not returned by their proper owner. The name of the bona fide owner should be returned as proprietor, and the name of the person having them in charge as employer.
[This is essentially the same as for 1850, except that in the case of hired slaves, both the owners’ names and the hirers’ names are to be recorded.]
3. Ages.—Under heading 3, entitled “Age,” insert, in figures, the specific age of each slave opposite the number of such slave. If the exact age cannot be ascertained insert a number which shall be the nearest approximation thereto. The exact or estimated age of every slave is to be inserted. If the slave be a child which on the 1st day of June was less than one year old the entry is to be made by fractional parts of a year, as directed in Rule 7, Schedule 1. Slaves who (born previously) have died since the 1st day of June are to be entered as living, and all details respecting them to be given with as much care as if the slave were living. You are desired to give the names of all slaves whose age reaches or exceeds 100 years.
[There was no provision in the 1850 schedule for naming slaves over age 100]
4. Sex.—Under heading 4, opposite each number, insert “m” for male, and “f” for female, in all cases, as the fact way be. In the case of slaves it is very essential that the sex be specified, because of the entire omission of name. The compensation for all returns where this fact is omitted will be reduced.
5. Color.—Under heading 5, entitled “Color,” insert, in all cases where the slave is black, the letter “B.” When he or she is a mulatto insert “M.” You are to note the color of every slave. Those who are in any degree of mixed blood are to be termed mulatto, “M.”
[The 1850 instructions did not define “mulatto”]
6. Fugitives.—Under heading 6 insert, in figures, opposite the name of the owner, a mark or number designating the fugitives who, having escaped within the year, have not been returned to their owners. Such fugitives are to be described as fully as if in possession of their masters. No allusion is to be made respecting such as may have absconded subsequent to the 1st day of June; they are to be recorded as if in possession of their proper owners.
7. No. Manumitted.—In column No. 7, insert opposite the name of the former owner thereof the number of slaves manumitted within the year ending on the 1st day of June. The name of the person is to be given although at the time of the enumeration, or on the 1st day of June, such person may have held no slaves. The description of all the slaves manumitted may or may not be given at your pleasure, but the number manumitted must be clearly expressed. If you describe them separately, write “manumitted” under the name of the former owner in a line with each one described. If the former owner of slaves manumitted within the year should have died or removed, such circumstance is not to obviate the necessity of their enumeration as directed.
8. Deaf and Dumb, Blind, Insane, Idiotic.—You should be particular in every instance to inquire whether any slave comes within the above description, and, if so insert the fact in column 8, opposite the number and general description of such slave. If slaves be found imprisoned convicts, mention the crime in column 8, and the date of conviction in the vacant space No. 1. By carefully observing the following schedule, you will experience no difficulty in making proper returns:
9. Number of Slave Houses.—In column 9 you will insert the number of slave tenements or dwellings on every farm and plantation, and in every family where slaves are held you will inquire what number of separate tenements are occupied by slaves, and you will insert the number in every instance on a line with the last slave described as belonging to the person or estate whereof you are instituting inquiry. We wish by this column to learn the number of occupied houses, the abode of slaves, belonging to each slaveholder.
Below are some issues to consider about how an enumerator carried out his instructions. The answers for each county may be as different as the individual men who enumerated the census. Schedule 2 is not as straightforward as it appears, which makes it a somewhat complex genealogical tool.
• Did the
enumerator consistently identify hirers, trustees and guardians as well as the
slave owner, when the enslaved were employed by someone other than the owner?
My own research in
• How did the enumerator interpret the length of time that made a “temporary absence” when recording the number of “such slaves as may be temporarily absent, provided they are usually held to service in your subdivision”?
• Were slaves
double counted? Yes, in some cases they were.
Afrigeneas researcher, Melvin Collier, found
his same ancestors counted in both
Perhaps about 15% of slaves in the Antebellum South were hired out. If a slave was hired out of the county for a year, was that a temporary absence or not? Might the slave unintentionally be enumerated in both places? What about slaves hired by any one slave owner to several other persons in the same county—how would the enumerator avoid double-counting of either the slaves or slave owner? To follow his instructions correctly, the census enumerator would have had to remember all slave owners that he had already named previously in the schedule to avoid recording them again (except for the allowable case of an owner of slaves employed by another—but even then he would have to know whether or not those particular slaves had already been counted).
The slaves were enumerated at the master’s house, which was not necessarily near the slaves’ homes. Slaves were enumerated not at their own dwellings (where they could have been sighted and confidently counted) but by an accounting from the lips of slave masters who might be owners, hirers, or trustees, and who might not even live in the same district as their enslaved laborers. This fact alone cautions us that the slave enumeration data requires careful interpretation.
framers of the census explicitly intended to keep enumerators from knocking on
the doors of slaves’ houses—and to preclude them from hearing any information
from the mouths of those houses’ occupants.
Information to complete Schedule 2 usually came from the same
householder who gave the data on free inhabitants in Schedule 1. This makes the order of visitation in
Schedule 1 critical to the interpretation of Schedule 2, but at the same time
divorces Schedule 1 (slave owner data) from the geography of schedule 2,
because slave masters did not necessarily live near their slaves. Many enslaved persons lived on the same
farms, or in the same houses, as their owners, but many did not. Slaves could:
• Live on the same lot or farm as the owner’s home
• Live on the property of the owner at some remote location
• Live on the farm or at the house of a person who hired them
• “Live out”—an illegal, but oft-tolerated, arrangement in which a slave occupied a house separate from and without supervision from any white person.
Unlike persons named in Schedule 1, who actually lived on the premises at which they were enumerated, slaves enumerated in Schedule 2 could live almost anywhere as long as they were “usually held to service” in that county. For example, some slave owners lived in town with their house servants, while their field hands worked a plantation miles away in the country.
Schedule 2 (column 9) asked for the number of slave houses on the assumption that most slaves lived in structures separate from the dwelling-house of the master, such as the familiar plantation slave quarters, built a discreet distance away from the big house. Among yeoman slave owners and townspeople, the most common slave house was probably the detached kitchen near many farms and town houses (southerners often used the terms “kitchen” and “negro house” interchangeably). The more slaves a farmer had, of course, the more slave houses he (or she) would need.
Schedule 2 does not tell who lived in each slave house—it merely reports a total number of occupied slave dwellings. The census does not say who actually lived in these “slave houses.” Occupants could have included persons owned by the same slave master who owned the houses, persons held in trust, and persons hired from others. Slaves reported as an owner’s property might have lived elsewhere—the common exception being slaves who were hired out at a distance to other masters; less common exceptions but more problematical to any interpretation of Schedule 2 are slaves who “lived out” apart from any master.
census instructions directed enumerators to replace slaves’ names with numbers,
a few enumerators recorded the names anyway, in error. Three copies of each
census schedule were supposed to have been made: one for the census bureau in
Washington, one for the State’s secretary of state, and the third to be
deposited in the local county courthouse.
Counties where Schedule 2 names slaves tend to be counties in the
I have a different
theory to explain the existence of the Camden County, NC, document cited
below. I suggest that this copy with
slave names was the census-taker’s working copy, from which he copied the
smooth version (without names) for submission to
Counties known to have slaves’ names in the 1850 or 1860 Census:
Extracts published in the Frontier Freedman’s Journal:
1860 Boyd County,
A Note About Schedule 3, Mortality: Although slaves are not named in Schedule 2, they ARE named in Schedule 3, Mortality (all persons who had died during the year ending 1 June 1850). In some districts, both the slave master and the slave are named, but in other districts, only the slave is named, which makes identification with a slave owner (for genealogical purposes) difficult. Whenever extracting from the Mortality schedules, ALWAYS include all the names, even those of white people, because the mortality schedule usually follows the order of Schedules 1 and 2, which means you have a better chance of identifying the slave owner by comparing these three lists. For the same reason, NEVER rearrange the names in Schedule 3 in alphabetical order, because you destroy any chance of identifying the deceased with their families or slave owners.
Schedule 3 offers another example of the census taker’s instructions forcing enumerators to omit vital data about slaves. Instructions told the enumerator to check a column for persons who were married at time of death, but to leave this column blank for slaves. I have seen a schedule (1860, Upson County, GA) where a census taker had started checking this block for married slaves, then, apparently realizing his mistake, going back and crossing out the marks.
About the Author: David E. Paterson, AfriGeneas Slave Research Forum manager, was born in Scotland, UK, grew up in Seattle, WA, and lives in Norfolk, VA. He is married to the former Judy L. Moody of Memphis, TN. David is completing his MA in History from University of West Florida with a concentration on the American Old South and Reconstruction. David's slavery-related work has appeared in American Archivist, and Oxford University Press has commissioned him to write two biographies for the forthcoming African-American National Biography. His long-term research goal is to write a history of Upson County, GA.
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23 Jun 2004 . 16 May 2015
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