Slave Prices and the Economy of South Carolina, 1722-1809


Peter C. Mancall

Joshua L. Rosenbloom

Thomas Weiss

Based on data from several samples of probate inventories we construct and analyze a time series of slave prices for South Carolina from 1722 to 1809. These estimates reveal that prices fluctuated without trend prior to the 1760s and then began to rise rapidly, more than doubling by the early nineteenth century. Estimates of supply and demand functions indicate that while long-run slave supply was highly elastic, the short-run supply function was quite inelastic. Our analysis of the slave price series indicates that the price of rice was the major determinant of the demand for slaves and in turn largely explains the rise in slave prices. These findings have important implications for the interpretation of evidence on rising yields in rice production over the eighteenth century and the sources of wealth accumulation in South Carolina