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Plantation America, 1789
Population by Race and Function [Free or Unfree]

The following is a rough sketch of the population makeup of the freshly-minted United States of America in 1789. I have sourced A Unit History of the United States, Hamm, Bourne and Benton, D.C. Heath and Company, 1938, as this is the most recent text book I have found which treats truthfully with the foundation of English America as an attempt to replicate existing Anglo-Saxon forms of tyranny. The figures are raw and depend partially on my imperfect understanding of the “servile drift” that occurred as each province of English America evolved a form of tyranny in keeping with its own religious character and those escaping these black powder gulags headed to sea as sailors or pirates or inland as settlers, Indian fighters or adopted Indians.

The territories of Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio are omitted, as minimal unfree folk of any race existed on the frontier.

Comments by period scholars, such as Benjamin Franklin who noted that over half of Pennsylvania’s 434,000 residents were unfree or runaway whites, have been taken into consideration. It is likely from period references that for every negro slave in the south there was a white servant. In Maryland an astonishing 40% of persons were negroes or mulattos, as well as Chinese and Asians classified inaccurately as such.

Population by Race

Overall population: 3, 800,000

White population: 3,200,000

Negro population: 600,000

Population by Function

This is based on the two servile to one free ratio maintained in Maryland, New York and New England for roughly a century. With no significant change in the economic condition the same ratio of unfree would be required until the opening of the Ohio Country in the 1890s, which siphoned 100,000 unfree whites. The economy was structured to maintain servants in a permanent state, as few options for earning a living remained outside of re-selling one’s self every seven years, until too old to be bought, at which point death on the road or in a poor house was the norm. The frontier option was increasingly sought after the piracy business was crushed in the 1720s. By the 1790s the runaway’s choice was usually the mountains or the frontier. About half of the unfree whites numbered below would be free by 1812.

Pennsylvania and Virginia are treated as exceptions, being excessively peopled by the unfree.

Overall population: 3,800,000

Free population: 2,280,000 [under 100,000 of this number would be Amerindian, Negro and Mulatto, or about 1 in 22 being free non-white]

Unfree population: 1,520,000

Unfree Negro population: 600,000, with approximately half of this number being held in Virginia and Maryland.

Unfree White population based on economic needs: 880,000, 1 quarter of these being held in Pennsylvania. I trust this deductive total more than my adduced total below.

Unfree White population based on authors state-by-state estimate: 620,000, which leaves a quarter-million souls unaccounted for. If this count is correct, these quarter million folk would likely be elderly, sick or injured servants no longer worth the purchase price, minor children of servants who were not necessarily doomed to enslavement, as were their negro counterparts, and of course, runaways, predominantly white, teenage males.


The United States would reject 150,000 convict laborers shipped out of Britain, who would instead form the unfree population of Australia and New Zeeland. This, along with the Shawnee defeat in 1814 and the Removal of the Cherokee and Seminole nations to Oklahoma [1] drastically reduced the unfree white labor pool and encouraged massive negro breeding programs and kidnapping of whites who had the ability to tan and could be passed off as mixed race negroes, across the south.

1. The Seminole chief Billy Bowlegs, a hybrid, Indian-negro-white, agreed to move to Oklahoma only after he was promised 50 black slaves!

Books by James LaFond

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