Slavery and the South

  1. The South - General Observations

    1. Economy

      1. Growth outpaced all other sections

      2. Not diversified - overwhelmingly agricultural

      3. Independent of other regions of country

      4. Depended on Britain for manufactured goods, investment capital, export market

    2. Society

      1. Low level of urbanization because of plantation system

      2. Low investment in education

        1. No need for large educated workshop

        2. No desire on part of elites to educate poor whites or slaves

        3. Class structure inhibited individualized instruction

        4. Illiteracy rate over 20%, compared to 10% in the North

      3. Low level of immigration post Revolution

      4. Less impact than North from reform movements (Great Awakening, literary renaissance, utopian movement, etc.)

    3. Social Classes

      1. Aristocratic Planters

        1. Held 11 slaves or more

        2. 5% of Southern families

        3. Biggest plantation had about 2000 - rice plantation in SC

        4. Adhered to a paternalistic, patron-client set of values that predated the Revolution

        5. The plantation mistress

          1. trapped in a double standard

            1. expected to be a moral example on the plantation

            2. meanwhile, no restrictions on their husbands' behavior

            3. Mary Boykin Chestnut (p383) called the sexual dynamics of slavery "the sorest spot"

          2. also expected to manage much of the day to day f plantation life

      2. Middle Class Planters

        1. Held 1-10 slaves

        2. 18-20% of Southern families

        3. Slave holding provided opportunities for social and economic advancement

      3. Small Independent Farmers (Yeomen Farmers)

        1. Held no slaves

        2. This is the typical Southerner

        3. Grew grain, not cotton

        4. Fiercely independent, greatly concerned about property rights

      4. Poor Whites

        1. Illiterate

        2. Lived in worst country for farming (hill country - called "hillbillies")

        3. Looked down upon by both blacks and whites

      5. Free Blacks

        1. In 1850s, about 250,000 in South (about 245,000 in rest of country)

        2. More free Blacks in North than South

        3. Almost all owned small farms

        4. Led a precarious existence in South - needed to carry papers

        5. Some owned slaves

      6. Black Slaves - 4 million in 1860, compared to 8 million whites in South

    4. Growth and Expansion

      1. Cotton demanded continuous growth, westward expansion

      2. Growth also assumes political balance between North and South

      3. Planters and politicians considered overseas expansion (Cuba, Mexico, Central America, etc.)

      4. Also sought to expand further into Southwest

      5. Desire to expand slaver labor into mining operations

      6. Some moves to diversify - textile mills to make coarse cloth

  2. Slavery

    1. After 1808, international slave trade prohibited

      1. Smuggling low

      2. Thus slaves became some of the most "American" of people in US - little "immigration" after 1808

    2. Internal slave trade grows rapidly

      1. Shift in slavery from old slave states in east (VA, NC) and new ones farther west (Mississippi, AL)

      2. Older states shift to new crops, sell off slaves

      3. South worried that Congress might shut this trade down

      4. Much capital tied up in slaves - went into industry in the North

      5. Male slave in 1800 - $400; in 1860, $1600.

    3. Personal restrictions on slaves

      1. Prohibitions on education of slaves

      2. No public meetings to be held

      3. Churches skirt these issues

    4. Slave Families

      1. Up to 25% broken up by internal slave trade (in the last generation)

      2. Otherwise, marriages stable, long-lasting

      3. Patriarchy reduced - no male control of wealth

      4. Mothers central in family - similar to many West African cultures

      5. As children, less gender separation and inequality than in free families

    5. Slave religion

      1. Outward Christianity

        1. Tailored for slavery

        2. Focus on Old Testament slavery and New Testament loving God

        3. Less oppressive than Christianity in free culture - less emphasis on piety, strict personal morality

        4. slave spirituals constituted a form of cultural resistance

          1. embodied a theology of God's children held in bondage, to be liberated by God

          2. sometimes used coded language to protest slavery

    6. Slave Resistance

      1. Less open rebellion than subtle resistance

        1. work slowdown

        2. feigned illness

        3. feigned madness or incompetence

      2. Resistance often centered around issues of food, shelter, work

      3. Brer Rabbit stories were examples of cultural resistance

        1. based on West African folklore

        2. Told stories of an oppressed hero who overcame stronger foes with cunning, guile, and psychology

      4. Escape

        1. Fugitive slaves a major issue in growing North-South conflict

        2. Difficult to escape from Deep South; Easier from border states

        3. less than 1% per year escaped

        4. Usually spontaneous, not carefully planned

        5. Underground Railroad created a network of "conductors" and safe houses to help escapees

        6. Harriet Tubman was the most prolific conductors, guiding some 300 people on 19 trips

        7. By 1840, most Northern governments and juries would not return slaves

        8. South considered this breaking the law

      5. Nat Turner Rebellion - Virginia, 1831

        1. a rare example of large scale rebellion aimed at destroying slavery

        2. 55 whites and about twice as many Blacks killed in revolt

        3. Led to increased fear among whites about possibility of slave uprisings

    7. Southern ideology and slavery

      1. Based squarely on racism

        1. idea that Africans were sub-human

        2. belief that Africans were "grown-up children" and naturally lazy

        3. belief that Africans could not usefully govern themselves

      2. Slavery seen as guarantor of white freedom and equality

      3. Argument that slavery was a moral good

        1. Allows for Christianization, places slaves in culture superior to that of Africa

        2. An anti-Capitalist argument for slavery

          1. promoted mainly by George Fitzhugh

          2. Anti-market, anti-free trade, anti-capitalist

          3. Market Capitalism invites cruel use of human beings

          4. Industrialization upsets natural social order

          5. Capitalism destroys the family

          6. Capitalism must be destroyed

          7. Society should be divided between a paternalistic master class and servile labor

    8. Nullification Crisis
      1. Vice-President John Calhoun and President Andrew Jackson fell out of states' power
        1. Calhoun felt claimed could set aside federal laws because he thought states were sovereign
        2. Jackson believed federal power should be limited, but not that states were sovereign
      2. South Carolina, angered over high tariffs, calls convention in 1832 to nullify federal tariffs
        1.  Pushed by Calhoun
        2. Wanted to test resolve of federal government
        3. Threatened secession
      3. Jackson reacts
        1. Reinforces federal troops in South Carolina
        2. Sends warships to Charleston
        3. Declared nullification a treasonous act
        4. Convinced Congress to pass Force Bill, giving him military authority to pacify South Carolina
        5. Congress proposes compromise tariff in 1833
        6. S.C. backs down, but not before "nullifying" the force bill