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Chapter 16 - The South and the Slavery Controversy 1793-1860


"Cotton is King!"

  • The Cotton kingdom developed into a huge agricultural factory, pouring out avalanches of the fluffy fiber. Quick profits drew planters to the virgin bottomlands of the Gulf States causing cotton farmers to buy more slaves and land.
  • Northern shippers earned a large part of the profits, loading and bulging bales of cotton to southern ports, transporting them to England, selling their fleecy cargo for pounds sterling, and would buy needed goods to sale in the United States.
  • To a large degree, the prosperity of both North and South rested on the bent backs of southern slaves.
  • Cotton = for ½ the value of all Americans exports after 1840, holding foreign nations in partial bondage. Britain's single most important manufacture in the 1850's was cotton cloth, and about one-fifth of its population, directly or indirectly, drew it's livelihood from this industry.
  • South produced more than ½ of entire world’s supply of cotton and about 75% of cotton supply of fiber came from white-carpeted acres of the South
  • In their eyes “Cotton was king”: the gin was his throne and the black bondsmen (slaves) were his henchmen.
  • Cotton was a powerful monarch = if war broke out between North and South, northern warships would cut off the outflow of cotton therefore causing the British factories to close their gates and starving mobs would force London gov’t to break the blockade and the South would triumph.

The Planter "Aristocracy"

  • 1850, only 1,733 families owned more than 100 slaves--> this group led politically and socially
  • these planter aristocrats enjoyed a large share of southern wealth: educated their children in finest schools, money provided leisure for study, reflection, and statecraft, felt obligated to serve the public
  • dominance by favored aristocracy=undemocratic-->widened gap between rich and poor, hampered tax-supported public education(b/c rich planters sent their children to private institutions)
  • Southern aristocrats idealized a feudal society and tried to bring back a type of medievalism (author Sir Walter Scott helped them with this)
  • plantation system shaped lives of southern women: the mistress commanded a large household staff of mostly female slaves, gave daily orders to cooks, maids, seamstresses, laundresses, and body servants
  • relationships between mistresses and slaves ranged from affectionate to atrocious: slavery strained bonds of womanhood-->virtually no slaveholding women believed in abolition

Slaves of the Slave System

  • plantation agriculture was wasteful-->cotton spoiled the good earth, quick profits led to excessive cultivation which led to a heavy flow of population to the west and northwest
  • economic structure of south became monopolistic:small farmers sold to more prosperous neighbors and went north or west
  • plantation system financially unstable: temptation to overspeculate in land and slaves caused planters to plunge in beyond their depth
  • slaves were a heavy investment of capital: some injured, run away, wiped out by disease, etc.
  • dangerous dependence on a one-crop economy-system discouraged healthy diversification of agriculture and manufacturing
  • southern planters resented the north growing at their expense, pained by heavy outward flow of commissions and interest
  • Cotton Kingdom repeled European immigration which added to manpower and wealth of north
  • immigration(german, irish) to south discouraged by competition of slave labor, high cost of fertile land, and ignorance of cotton growing
  • white south became the most Anglo-Saxon section of the nation

The White Majority

  • Only about one-fourth of white Southerners owned slaves or belonged to a slave owning family.
  • The smaller slave owners did not own a majority of the slaves, but they made up a majority of the masters.
  • By 1860 the number of whites who didn't own slaves had reached 6,120,825. This was three-quarters of all southern whites.
  • Many of the poorer whites were hardly better off economically than the slaves, but they took comfort knowing that they outranked African-American slaves.

Free Blacks: Slaves Without Masters

  • Throughout the South were some free blacks who had purchased their freedom with earnings from labor after hours.
  • Free blacks were prohibited from working in certain occupations and forbidden from testifying against whites in court. They were vulnerable to be taken back into slavery.
  • Free blacks were also unpopular in the North. Several states forbade their entrance, most denied them the right to vote, and some barred blacks from public schools. Anti-black feeling was frequently stronger in the North than the South.
  • Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and self-educated orator of rare power, was several times mobbed and beaten by northern rowdies.

Plantation Slavery

  • Legal importation of slaves being ended in 1808, slaves were still smuggled to the South because of their high value to the farmers. But most of the slave pop. came from reproduction
  • Slaves became so valuable that risky jobs were given to paid Irishmen to spare the slave's life
  • Slaves were being sent into the deep south bc of the cotton boom and the Old South getting soil-exhausted.

Life Under the Lash

  • White southerners exaggerated slave life
  • Actual slave life varied between each southern region, though hard work, ignorance, and oppression was associated with slavery everywhere.
  • Some laws of protection, but hard to enforce due to the fact that slaves were forbidden to testify in court.

The Burdens of Bondage

  • Slaves were deprived of the dignity and sense of responsibility that comes from independence and the right to make choices.
  • Slaves were denied an education, because reading brought ideas, and ideas brought discontent. Many states passed laws forbidding their instruction, and perhaps nine-tenths of adult slaves at the beginning of the Civil War were totally illiterate.
  • In 1800 an armed insurrection led by a slave named Gabriel in Richmond, Virginia, was foiled by informers, and its leaders were hanged. Denmark Vesey, a free black, led another rebellion in Charleston in 1822. It too was betrayed by informers, and Vesey and more than thirty followers were publicly hanged. in 1831 Nat Turner led an uprising that slaughtered sixty Virginians, mostly women and children.
  • slavery fostered brutality of the whip, the bloodhound, and the branding iron
  • defenders of slavery were forced to degrade themselves, along with their victims

Early Abolitionism

  • 1817 American colonization society was founded and in 1822 the republic of liberia was established for former slaves. fifteen thousand blacks were transported there over the next few decades.
  • By 1860 cirtually all southern slaves were no longer Africans but native born African Americans with thier own history and culture, colonization idea appealed some antislaveryities including Abraham lincoln until the time of the civil war
  • 1830, teh abolitionist movement took on new energy and momentum, mounting to the proportions of a crusade. 1833 american abolitionists took heart when their british counterparts unchained the slaves in the west indies.
  • Dwight Weld, inspired by Finney, was aided by merchants in new york Arthur anda Lewis Tappan, and preached antislavery gospel . one of his compelling arguments made it to Harriet beecher stowe's uncle toms cabin.

Radical Abolitionism

  • New Years day, 1831, 26 year old Wiliam Lloyd garrison published in boston the first issue of his militantly antislavery newspaper , THE LIBERATOR. caused uproar.
  • in the paper he claimed that he would not tolerate the poisonous gases weed of slavery and he will be heard.
  • other abolitionists acted as well, 1833, teh american antislavery society was founded. Many black americans viewed themselves as monuments for abolitionists
  • Fredrick douglas, escaping slavery in 1838, ran into abolitionists in 1841 and gave an inspirational speech involving antislavery in massachuesetts. despite threats against him, he published a book about himself in 1845,

The South Lashes Back

  • After a Virginian legislature debated and defeated various slave emancipation proposal, the south would tighten down on its slave codes and moved to prohibit emancipation.
  • The Nullification crisis of 1832 caused Southern whites to respond with reasoning that the Bible and Aristotle supported slavery, and that working conditions were better for Black slaves than Black factory workers.
  • Pro-abolitionist executed freedom of speech with the press and petitions, which upset the southern slaveholders.

The Abolitionist Impact in the North

  • Abolitionists, especially the extreme Garrisonians, were unpopular for a long time in many parts of the North. Garrison’s talk of secession grated harshly on northern ears.
  • The North had a heavy economic stake in Dixieland. By the 18050’s southern planters owed Northern bankers about $300million.
  • Textile factories in the North were fed by cotton from labor systems of slaves, and it these labor systems were disrupted then the supply would be cut off and unemployment would occur in the North. Because of this strong hostility developed in the North against the boat-rocking tactics of the radical antislaveryites.
  • Mobs were provoked by tongue-lashings by extreme abolitionists. Lewis Tappan’s New York house was broken into in 1834 while a crowd cheered from the street. In 1835 Garrison was dragged through the streets of Boston by a rope.
  • By the 1850’s abolitionist outcry had made a deep dent in the northern mind. Citizens had come to see the South as the land of the unfree. Not many Northerners wanted to abolish slavery outright, but a growing number opposed extending it to western territories.

What was the True Nature of Slavery

  • Economic historians report that slavery was in fact very profitable for the owners of the plantations
  • Some would compare the treatment to the slaves like that of the treatment of the Jewish peoples put into Nazi concentration camps.
  • Slavery was like that of a paternal system, owners coaxing work and controlling reluctant slaves like they were machines and not people.
  • The veiw of a slave as a noneducated working machine was wrong, for they kept their culture and wit about them and merely put on a front of an immature mind.
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