DOMESTIC SLAVE TRADE Soil exhaustion in the tobacco growing regions along the Atlantic coast and border states, coupled with the "official" closing of the Atlantic slave trade in 1808 and the concurrent demand of cotton producing states for additional labor, led to the development of the domestic or interstate slavetrading system in the United States during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Essentially the product of supply and demand, the domestic slave trade involved a mass migration of African American bondsmen from those states with a surplus of slaves (Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri) to the cotton producing states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. Similar to the Atlantic slave trade, slaves were chained, often in coffle formation, and shipped as cargo either via the Atlantic Ocean or overland to the Cotton Kingdom.
The principal slavetrading centers in the "supplier" states were Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Norfolk and Charleston, while New Orleans and Montgomery were the slave trade capitals in the "recipient" states. Acting as middlemen between the suppliers and recipients, of course, were the slavetraders, who ranged from itinerants operating a relatively small volume business to tycoons and entrepreneurs with hundreds of agents and numerous auction-houses and slave prisons located in different sections throughout the South. The exact volume of the domestic slave trade can only be estimated, though it certainly was enormous. In 1820, the area now comprising Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas contained less than 60,000 African American slaves. By the eve of the Civil War this figure had climbed to over 600,000. To be sure, natural increase accounts for a degree of this inflation, yet by far the primary growth-factor must be attributed to the domestic slave trade. See also: ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE.