Slavery and Secession – 1860 Census Statistics

Secession Date and Slave Population (1860)



S % of Total Pop. Slave-
SH %of
S. Carolina 12/20/60 402,406 57.2 26,701 8.9
Mississippi 1/09/61 436,631 55.2 30,943 8.7
Florida 1/10/61 61,745 44.0 5,152 6.5
Alabama 1/11/61 435,080 45.1 33,730 6.4
Georgia 1/18/61 462,198 43.7 41,084 6.9
Louisiana 1/26/61 331,726 46.9 22,033 5.9
Texas 2/1/61 182,566 30.2 21,878 5.2
Virginia 4/17/61 490,865 30.7 52,128 4.7
Arkansas 5/6/61 111,115 25.5 11,481 3.5
N. Carolina 5/20/61 331,059 33.4 34,658 5.2
Tennessee 6/8/61 275,719 24.8 36,844 4.4
Kentucky NA 225,483 19.5 38,645 4.2
Maryland NA 87,189 12.7 13,783 2.3
Missouri NA 114,931 9.7 24,320 2.3


Occasionally, a set of statistics appears that is particularly interesting. David C. Hanson of Virginia Western Community College, has compiled just such a statistical table comparing the percentage of slaves and slaveholders in the southern states in the 186o Census and the order of secession in 1860-61. It makes a strong connection between a relatively high percentage of slaves and slaveholders in a state’s population and early secession. For example, the states of the Lower South tended to have a higher percentage of slaves and slaveholders in their populations, which made the planter elite more powerful in politics than the Upper South where slaves and slaveholders were a smaller percentage of the population and were forced to a greater degree to accommodate the interests of non-slaveholders. Hence, the Lower South, where slavery and slaveholders were more concentrated, left the Union in the first wave of the secession winter of 1860-61. In the Upper South, it took Lincoln’s call for troops in April 1861 to convince enough non-slaveholders, who were more prominent in the population and politics than further south, to go along with slaveholders for secession to occur in the Upper South.

Hanson also states, “the percentage of slaves and slaveholders generally correlates with the sequence of secession.” So South Carolina, with both the highest percentage of slaves and slaveholders in the state’s population, was not surprisingly the first state to secede. Tennessee, with the smallest percentage of slaves and slaveholders of the seceded states was the last to go. It is also significant that the slave states with the weakest concentration of slaves and slaveholders (Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri–plus Delaware that for some reason Hanson leaves off his table) did not secede at all.

So in short, with this nifty table David C. Hanson makes a definite connection between the concentration of slaves and slaveholders in a particular southern states and when it seceded from the Union in 1860-61, and whether it seceded at all. Certainly, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence connecting slavery and Civil War causation, but this table also makes a compelling statistical case.

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at
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3 Responses to Slavery and Secession – 1860 Census Statistics

  1. Pingback: Not Surprising, Part Deux | Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

  2. Evets Sirrah says:

    can someone please update the reference/source.. thank you

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