The Accounting Historians Journal
Vol. 15, No. 1
1988 MANUSCRIPT AWARD
Jan Richard Heier
AUBURN UNIVERSITY AT MONTGOMERY
A CONTENT COMPARISON OF ANTEBELLUM PLANTATION RECORDS AND THOMAS AFFLECK S ACCOUNTING PRINCIPLES
Abstract: During the antebellum period of United States history, the southern states generated an unprecedented amount of wealth through a well developed plantation system that produced vast quantities of cotton, sugar, and tobacco. To date, very little has been written on the methods used by the planters to account for this wealth. This paper reviews plantation accounting methods as outlined by the southern agricultural reformer Thomas Affleck in his book The Cotton Plantation Record and Account Book. The paper also presents a statistical study of surviving plantation records which determined that these very unique and sophisti-cated procedures of Affleck's became widely used among planters.
INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The decades 1820 to 1860 represented a period in United States history that was marked by economic growth amid growing sectional strife between the northern and southern states. During this period of time the North was growing into an urban and industrialized power with its textile and iron industries. This economic prosperity was matched in kind by the southern states which grew vast quantities of cotton, sugar and tobacco on a well developed plantation system manned by black slaves. These commodities grown by the southern states made up an average of eighty percent of all value exported from the United States. In 1860, cotton exports alone reached $192 million, or approximately sixty percent of all exports [derived from: U.S. Census Bureau 1970]. The cotton produc-tion from the southern plantations literally ran the textile mills of Great Britain and New England. "Cotton was King," and was generating vast amounts of wealth for the antebellum plantaion owners of the southern United States.
Accounting for the wealth generated by the plantation