Guys, I'm going to spend much of the day trying to pull our Sunday crowd-sourcing into a coherent post. There's some great stuff in there.
I want to make sure that I, again, call attention to an error in the original thread. The 1860 value of the slaves was $3.5 billion and the 21st century value is, per Blight, $75 Billion. I obviously want to correct the record, but I also don't want something like "Ron Paul Voted for MLK Day" to happen here. There's no need for exaggeration. The scale is ultimately what we come back to:
In 1860 slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America's manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together. Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy. The only thing worth more than the slaves in the American economy of the 1850s was the land itself...
At any rate, this thread is yours.