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Abstract (Lang: English):
The use of enslaved people as collateral for mortgages exposed them to the larger unpredictability of (what modern economists term) the business cycle. When debtors failed to repay their loans, creditors claimed the collateral and any other valuable property that would fulfill the contract. As the unwitting pawns used to resolve these debtor–creditor disputes, enslaved people found themselves at the center of lawsuits in which courts decided on the ability of creditors to seize bondspeople and sell them away from their family, friends, and homes to satisfy financial claims. While the transformation of slaves into abstract financial assets had been slowly ongoing for decades, the severe dislocation of the Panic of 1819 accelerated this process.