|Born||March 4, 1787
|Died||January 29, 1867
New York City
|Laurel Hill Cemetery|
Stephen Duncan (1787-1867) was an American plantation owner and banker in the Antebellum South. He became the wealthiest cotton planter in the South prior to the American Civil War, and the second largest slave owner in the country.
In 1808, shortly before the War of 1812, he moved to Natchez, Mississippi. In the antebellum South, Natchez was a thriving city thanks to the cotton industry. He purchased Auburn from Lyman Harding in 1827.
In Natchez, he worked as a banker and a plantation owner. He served as the President of the Bank of Mississippi. He owned the following cotton and sugar plantations: L'Argent, Camperdown, Carlisle, Duncan, Duncannon, Duncansby, Ellisle, Homochitto, Middlesex, Oakley, Rescue, Reserve, Attakapas, and Saragossa. In the 1850s, he owned over 1,000 slaves, making him the largest resident slaveowner in Mississippi. By 1860, Duncan's slave ownership was second only to Joshua John Ward (1800-1853) of South Carolina.
Duncan sold his crops through the merchant firm Washington Jackson & Co. in New Orleans, Louisiana, instructing them to sell it through their subsidiary Todd, Jackson & Co. in Liverpool, England. The revenue derived from the cotton and sugar sale would then go to Charles P. Leverich & Co., a bank headquartered in New York. His plantations would yield returns of US$150,000 every year. As a result of these financial transactions, Duncan became the richest cotton planter in the South before the war. He re-invested his money in Northern railroad securities and in Midwestern public lands.
Prior to the American Civil War of 1861-1865 and together with other slave owners Isaac Ross (1760-1838), Edward McGehee (1786-1880), John Ker (1789-1850), and educator Jemeriah Chamberlain (1794-1851), he co-founded the Mississippi Colonization Society, whose aim was to send freedmen to Liberia on the African continent. The organization was modeled after the American Colonization Society, but it focused on freedmen in Mississippi, a large slave state. During the Civil War, he stood firm against secession and the Confederate States Army. As a result, he became ostracized by other Southerners. In 1863, he left Natchez for New York City. He sat on $1,060,000 in investments unrelated to his plantations, thus enabling him to live comfortably regardless of the outcome of the war.
Duncan married Margaret (Ellis) Duncan, and they had two children, John Ellis Duncan and Sarah Jane Duncan. Duncan married a second time, in 1819, to Catherine (Bingaman) A. Duncan, and they had four children: Stephen Duncan, Jr., Charlotte N. Duncan, M. L. Duncan, and Henry P. Duncan.
In 1911, his heirs donated the Auburn mansion and its gardens to the city of Natchez.
- Natchez Guesthouse
- Engerman, Stanley L. (1976). "The Southern Slave Economy". In Owens, Harry P. Perspectives and Irony in American Slavery (University Press of Mississippi). p. 107.
- Alan Huffman, Mississippi in Africa: [the Saga of the Slaves of Prospect Hill Plantation and Their Legacy in Liberia Today, Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2010, pp. 91-92 
- David G. Sansing, Sim C. Callon, Carolyn Vance Smith, Natchez: An Illustrated History, Plantation Pub. Co., 1992, p. 88 
- William P. Baldwin, Elizabeth Turk, Mantelpieces of the Old South: Lost Architecture in Southern Culture, The History Press, 2005, p. 192 
- Ann Patton Malone, Sweet chariot: slave family and household structure in nineteenth-century Louisiana, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1992, p. 287 
- Louisiana State University Library: Stephen Duncan Correspondence
- Harold D. Woodman, King Cotton and His Retainers: Financing and Marketing the Cotton Crop of the South, 1800-1925, Beard Books, 199, p. 160 
- 'Plantation Economy', American Cotton Planter, N. B. Cloud, 1854, Volume 2, p. 118 
- Blake, Tom (2004). "The Sixteen Largest American Slaveholders from 1860 Slave Census Schedules". Ancestry.com.
- Mary Carol Miller, Lost Mansions of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2010, Volume II, pp. 53-54 
- Martha Jane Brazy, An American Planter: Stephen Duncan of Antebellum Natchez And New York (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2006).