Browsing "Antebellum Economics"

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

In the four prewar years 1856-1860, total federal expenditures were a mere $274 million, and financed by tariffs (disproportionately paid by the South), and the sale of public lands. The direct costs of the Northern war effort 1861-1865 is estimated at $2.3 billion; when indirect costs such as outright destruction and soldier pensions are included the estimate rises to $8 billion. “[The] Union’s expenditures on the war were equivalent to more than 70% of the North’s share of the 1859 gross domestic product. Lincoln’s war economy enabled Philip Amour to make $2 million selling pork to the Northern army; Clement Studebaker amassed a fortune providing wagons to Northern forces, and Andrew Carnegie grew rich as an iron merchant.

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

“First . . . the [Northern] citizenry remained passionately resistant to any form of federal income tax. A second option was to turn to borrowing. The great advantage of this choice was that it would pass some of the cost of the war on to future generations (in the form of interest and debt). A final choice was to print money and declare it legal tender – a policy not without cost. The printing of currency not backed by specie would raise prices, thus financing the war through inflation.

As soon as the war began, President Lincoln ordered Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to begin taking steps to fund the war. Chase faced an economy that had barely recovered from the Panic of 1857 before being thrown into recession by the secession crisis. Chase initially turned to increase import fees, excise taxes and the sale of government land, but he soon shifted his attention to the sale of [war] bonds [hoping] to fund its war effort through a form of borrowing.

Congress [passed] the revolutionary Legal Tender Act [in] February 1862 [which] provided for the issuance of $150 million in non-interest bearing notes. Although not backed by gold or silver, these “greenbacks” were legal tender for all debts except import duties and interest on government loans. By issuing notes without the backing of specie, the government risked serious inflation.

In August 1861 Congress passed a 3 percent tax on incomes of more than eight hundred dollars, but it was a year before those funds were collects. The following July a new revenue measure expanded income taxes and added an assortment of other levies.

In late summer 1862 bond sales had dwindled [and] Secretary Chase turned to Philadelphia broker Jay Cooke to orchestrate a massive campaign to stimulate them. This strategy [of 2500 agents nationwide] anticipated the patriotic war bond drives of World Wars I and II. [Roughly] one in four Northern families [purchased them,] Yet it appears most war bonds ended up in the hands of banks and wealthy investors.

The final piece of Chase’s financial program did not fall into place until midway through the war. The National Banking Act of February 1863 (and legislation of June 1864) established a new system of banks. Finally, in March 1865, Congress passed a 10 percent tax on all notes issued by State banks [which was sufficient to] drive most State banks into the new banking system.

When all was said and done bond sales funded two-thirds of the North’s military expenses. Various forms of wartime taxation funded 21 percent of the war’s cost, and the remaining costs were financed through inflation. By printing greenbacks the federal government caused an increase in prices, which had a measurable impact on the Northern economy. At their peak, prices rose to 80 percent above antebellum levels.

The funding legislation passed by the war Congress raises a broader issue. How did wartime measures reshape the American economy?

One long-standing interpretation is that the war was a triumph of industrial capitalism. With for decades the intellectual heirs of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had battled over the constitutionality of federal measures to assist economic development.

With the [Southern] congressmen safely out of the way [in 1861] – so the interpretation goes – Republicans were free to pursue an agenda which features protective tariffs and strong banking legislation. The Civil War provide the perfect excuse for imposing a broad economic revolution.”

(The North Fights the Civil War: The Homefront, J. Matthew Gallman, Ivan R. Dee, 1993, excerpts pp. 96-99)

The Real Cause of Secession

The protectionist Morrill Tariff passed the Senate on March 2, 1861, with many Southern members already having resigned their seats due to their States no longer being part of the United States. In response, Virginia Senator Roger Pryor delivered a blistering tirade against the Northern protectionists: “The importune protectionists of Pennsylvania . . . after higgling successively with every party for a stipend from the Treasury, at last caught the Republicans in a moment of exigent need, and from their lust for place, extorted the promise of a bounty to iron. This bill is the issue of a carnal coalition between the Abolitionists of New England and the protectionists of Pennsylvania.” The low, free trade tariff passed by the Confederate Congress would be ruinous to high-tariff Northern ports.

The Real Cause of Secession

“Southern agrarians had made known their intense hostility to protective [import] duties which they considered a burdensome tax upon their enterprise for the benefit of Northern manufacturers. It was the issue that drove South Carolina to the edge of rebellion thirty years before, and ever since 1846 Southern influence had kept tariff schedules at low levels.

But a tariff increase had been one of the major planks in the Republicans’ Chicago [party] platform. Its appeal had won them many votes in the East, especially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Accordingly they were determined to redeem their pledge without delay; indeed they were warned repeatedly that failure to act would ruin them in Pennsylvania.

[Republican Simon] Cameron’s correspondence made it evident that conservative Pennsylvanians were determined to have a higher tariff regardless of the consequences; that this was not an issue which they regarded as properly open to compromise. Harry C. Carey of Philadelphia, the doctrinaire protectionist who was ready to concede almost anything else to the South, comforted his sympathizers with a unique diagnosis of the secession crisis which absolved them of any responsibility. In begging Northern congressmen to raise the tariff, he argued that free trade was actually “the cause of the discord with which we are troubled.” Only protection [of Northern manufacturers] could form a sound foundation for a prosperous and harmonious Union.

In any event, Republicans wasted no time in bringing the tariff question before Congress. A bill sponsored by Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, which provided substantial protection for Pennsylvania iron and other Northern manufactures, had passed the House at the previous session. Cameron pressed for its consideration in the Senate as early as the second day of the new session.

Senator Hunter of Virginia, defending the rights of farmers and consumers, led the opposition to the new tariff . . . [as to] Virginia and the rest of the South this bill would be ruinous. “I know that we here are too weak to resist or to defend ourselves; those who sympathize with our wrongs are too weak to help us . . . No sir, this bill will pass. And let it pass into the statute-book; let it pass into history, that we may know how it is that the South has been dealt with when New England and Pennsylvania had the power to deal with her interests.”

A week later an amended version of the Morrill Tariff passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 14, the opposition coming exclusively from Southerners and western Democrats. Representative [Daniel] Sickles of New York City reflected the views of the merchants when he protested that this bill would further alienate the South from the Union, for “our Southern friends perceive that . . . you intend . . . to tax them on the necessaries of life in order to enrich the manufacturing classes of the North . . .”

(And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts pp. 161-164)

Money Versus Morality Up North

In his “Lords of the Loom” study of the years preceding the war, author Thomas H. O’Conner asserts that “Throughout much of traditional historical literature, the conservative Northern Whigs in the decades before the Civil War have either been completely overlooked, or else dismissed out of hand with vague generalizations.” He further credits fellow author Vernon Parrington with cautioning his readers that “the Puritan and the Yankee were two halves of the New England whole.” Conner’s book is the story of what happened “when the Puritan conscience collided head-on with the Yankee zeal for profit – when the moral desire to uproot the evils of slavery reached the point where it had to be weighed against the economic demands for more slave-grown cotton” – for New England mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Money Versus Morality Up North

“In 1941, Philip Foner, in his “Business and Slavery,” made an appeal for a more detailed study of the Northern businessman and his reaction to the coming of the Civil War. Countering the popular interpretation that the war was a product of two conflicting economic systems, Professor Foner presented his own observations regarding the concerted efforts of the New York financial interests to check any and all movements which tended to precipitate an intersectional struggle.

Foner’s challenge has failed to arouse very much historical enthusiasm, apparently, for many recent historical treatments of the critical years before the Civil War continue to generalize upon the essential economic antagonisms of the North and the South, and still look upon the Northern industrialist as the catalytic agent which propelled the sections into bloody warfare.

One of the most distinctive presentations of this economic point of view came into the twentieth century with the writings of Charles Beard. The South, according to Beard, was an area of “planters operating in a limited territory with incompetent labor on soil of diminishing fertility,” in contrast to the industrial men of the North who “swept forward . . . exulting in the approaching triumph of machine industry, [and who] warned the planters of their ultimate subjection.”

The economic interpretation was carried into the twenties by the work of Vernon Parrington . . . enthusiastic about the “agrarian democracy” of the West, sympathetic at times toward the interest of the South, Parrington had little regard for the ideals of a middle class which was busily engaged in “creating a plutocracy.” In the decades before the war, claimed Parrington, the major parties of the United States chose to follow the economic interests of “master groups, heedless of all humanitarian issues”; and once the war was over, the “slave economy could never again thwart the ambitions of the capitalist economy.”

[Despite considerable evidence to the contrary], Writers continue to generalize upon New England’s “hatred of Southerners and their institutions” and often describe this hatred so intense that New England would “do everything possible to destroy slavery.”

(Lords of the Loom: The Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War, Thomas H. O’Conner, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1968, excerpts pp. 1- 6)

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

The aristocratic cotton manufacturers who supported Henry Clay’s “American System” organized the Massachusetts Whig party out of the chaos of Andrew Jackson’s reelection in 1832. They and their allies saw high tariffs as job insurance, and resented Jackson’s appeal to immigrant labor, farmers and urban workers. These Massachusetts Whigs had grown wealthy from Eli Whitney’s invention and slave-produced cotton from the South, and considered abolitionists as enemies of the Constitution and peace. Both Whitney and the mill owners were responsible for perpetuating slavery in the South as they made cotton production highly profitable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

“The leaders of the Whig party, for a number of reasons, were particularly responsive to the abolitionist threat. Several members of their class, including Sewall, Edmund Quincy, Ellis Gray Loring, Francis Jackson, James Russell Lowell, William Ellery Channing, and Wendell Phillips, had entered abolitionist ranks and so threatened the newly-restored [upper Boston] class unity.

Although the aristocrats were engaged in a great many reforms, abolitionism never became fashionable or even acceptable to the social elite as a whole, and aristocrats who associated with the abolitionists were quickly ostracized. Consequently, many of the leading abolitionists came from less socially-distinguished families and were most successful in their appeals to the middle class.

The Whig leaders, who regarded abolitionism as a disruptive influence in American society and deplored the abolitionists’ opposition to harmony with the South and the maintenance of the Union, seldom distinguished the moderate abolitionists from the Garrisonian extremists.

Worst of all, from the Whig point of view, the abolitionists, in their demand for immediate, uncompensated emancipation, had attacked property right which the conservative Whigs regarded as fundamental to every other right.

The Whig leaders opposed all denunciations of slavery and slaveholders, many of whom were personal friends, business associates, and political allies. They considered slavery a redundant issue in Massachusetts politics and anti-slavery propaganda worse than meaningless in the North. Although most of them, to be sure, considered slavery an evil, they emphasized that it was an institution wholly controlled by the States, and as such was protected by the Constitution, which was no to be tampered with.

Anti-slavery agitation in the North would only bring about sectional disharmony and, in addition, worsen the condition of the slave in the South. Abbott Lawrence summed up the conservative Whig position when he wrote:

“I am in favor of maintaining the compact as established by our fathers. I am for the Union as it is. I have no sympathy with the abolition party of the North and East. I believe they have done mischief to the cause of freedom in several States of the Union. The abolition of slavery in the States is exclusively a State question and one with which I do not feel that I should meddle or interfere in any shape or form.”

(Cotton Versus Conscience: Massachusetts Whig Politics and Southwestern Expansion, 1843-1848, Kinley J. Brauer, University of Kentucky Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 22-24)

Factions Combine to Battle a Common Foe

Lincoln was the consummate politician at the head of a minority party made up of warring factions, whose only commonality was deep hatred of Democrats and the interests of the American South. He realized after his plurality victory that public jobs, i.e., the patronage, had to be wisely distributed to these factions to cement the fragile party together. In the Fort Sumter crisis, though common sense and peace demanded wise leadership and diplomacy, Lincoln instead put party above country – fearing that any action appearing conciliatory toward the South would cause his Republican party of many faces to disintegrate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Factions Combine to Battle the Common Foe

“The groups who contributed to Lincoln’s triumph in 1860 almost defy analysis, so numerous and varied they were. Among the more important were:

  1. the antislavery Whigs, who seized upon the sectional issue for political reasons or because they sincerely believed that the Southern planter interests would either politically ruin the nation or cause disunion.
  2. Free-Soil Democrats, particularly in the Northwest, who feared extension of Negro slavery into their territory or who had severed their allegiance with the Democratic party when [both Presidents Pierce and] Buchanan disregarded their section’s interest in favor of the South.
  3. Disgruntled Democrats, with no pronounced opinions on the sectional controversy . . . disappointed in their many quests for public office or else detested Buchanan and other Democratic chieftains . . .
  4. Certain Know-Nothing who disliked the Democrats for party reasons or because of the latter’s coddling of the Irish vote.
  5. German-born naturalized citizens who hated the Southern slave-plantation system, feared competition with Negro labor, and wanted free land.
  6. Homestead and internal improvement people in general.
  7. Protective tariff advocates, particularly in Pennsylvania, who opposed Democrats because of their free-trade [and low-tariff] tendencies.
  8. Groups in favor of the Pacific railroad [to increase Northeastern trade with the Orient].
  9. Those who wanted daily overland mail and who believed that the Buchanan administration was favoring [a Southern railroad route].
  10. Certain Union-minded conservative men in the border States, who believed that the regular Democratic party under Pierce and Buchanan was becoming an instrument of pro-slavery interests and a force for secession and who hoped to conservatize the Republican party from within.

Only a few years before these numerous factions had hewn at each other’s heads; they had come together in the recent campaign like Highland clans to battle the common foe. The leaders of these various factions were still jealous of one another and often openly hostile.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 9-10)

 

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

There is little question that the origins of the American Revolution, and the later War Between the States, are rooted in New England’s illicit trade in slaves and molasses, and England’s efforts to stop the maritime competition with the mother country. By 1750, Rhode Island had become the center of the transatlantic slave trade, surpassing Liverpool for the dubious honor.

The author below writes: “nine-tenths of the colonial merchants and skippers had become smugglers as the break with England neared. Such men as John Hancock, a prince of contraband traders, on the eve of Paul Revere’s ride had for counsel before the Admiralty Court in Boston none other than John Adams, answering for him a half-million dollar suit in penalties as a smuggler.” He went on that “One-quarter of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence were bred to commerce, to the command of ships and to contraband trade.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

“In accord with the spirit of the times the British Parliament passed a series of statutes in 1633 providing, among other things, that nothing could be brought into the colonies that wasn’t carried there in British ships, “whereof the master and three-fourths of the crew are English.”

[Concerned about the rise of illicit maritime trade of New England] the shipbuilders of the Thames district met in London in the winter of 1724-1725 and formally complained to the Lords of Trade:

“In the eight years ending in 1720 we are informed that seven hundred sail of ships were built in New England, and that in years since, as may if not more; and that the New England trade, by the tender of extraordinary inducements, has drawn over so many working shipwrights that there are not enough left to carry on the work [in England].”

Linked inseparably with the venture south to the [West] Indies the colonists’ brisk trade in rum and what they were in the habit of calling “Black Ivory.” For the Indies trade was a three-cornered affair hinging on rum, slaves and molasses. Together they comprised the foundation for more ships and hence more trouble than all the politicians ashore put together.

The New Englanders had Indian slaves as early as 1637 . . . and more or less formal business developed, with traders nabbing Indians along the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine and selling them into slavery up and down the coast. It was the black ivory from Africa, however, that turned the trick in the West Indies trade and established Southern slavery on a solid and enduring footing.

The mechanics of this all-important trade worked like this: molasses was brought to New England and made into rum; the rum, highly prized among Negroes on the west coast of Africa, brought its own price among the drinkers, a price that included any of their relatives or friends who might have the bad judgment to be lying about, and the resultant human cargoes were disposed of profitably in Boston, Newport [Rhode Island] and on south.

Not all the West Indies rum was drunk by Negroes. A flourishing local trade in fur was conducted with the Indians by the extremely profitable exchange of a few bottles of cheap rum or whiskey for the entire season’s catch of its drunken owner. The tribal chiefs . . . in 1726, begged without avail to have the sale of firewater to the young braves stopped.

It is hardly surprising, then, that among the first real troublemakers of all the British efforts to raise money [to support the colonies] was a new Molasses Act, for it was molasses brought in from the French West Indies from which New England rum was made. To put teeth into the effort Parliament authorized the use of writs of assistance, a sort of search warrant covering an entire community that gave British customs officials the right to search any ship, warehouse or even private home for smuggled goods.

When the harried Board of Trade and Plantations finally decided to act, its attempt to enforce the Navigation Acts [to restrict New England’s rum and slave triangle] was the spark in the touchhole that set the guns to booming.”

(Yankee Ships, an Informal History of the American Merchant Marine, Reese Wolfe, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 39; 43-44; 49-51)

Jul 14, 2018 - Antebellum Economics, Economics, New England History, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Sharp Yankees, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

The Fells Point shipyard of Baltimore builder William and George Gardner built many fast merchantmen during the 1830s, as well as for the slave and opium trade. One Fell’s Point free black carpenters was Fred Bailey (later Fred Douglass) who helped build the slavers Delorez, Teayer, Eagle at Price’s Shipyard, plus the Laura at Butler & Lamdin yard in the same city. In 1844, Bostonians George and John Dixwell of Augustine Heard & Co. ordered fast clippers built by the Gardner’s to carry Bombay opium to China, where it was outlawed. One of their most notorious opium clippers built for the Dixwell’s was the “Frolic,” despite an 1844 treaty forbidding American ships carrying in into China.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

“Probably the most notorious slave ship ever built in the United States, the Venus, was widely discussed in the newspapers at the time. On July 4, 1838, the Venus reached completion at Fells Point . . . the Venus was neither a warship nor a merchantman, but a slave ship in disguise. Indeed, like the merchant traders of New England, Baltimore shipbuilders had a long tradition of employing ruses to conduct their craft in defiance of the law.

The Gardner’s were careful; to protect themselves by selling the slave ships they built to foreign buyers. These transactions through intermediaries, though contrived and transparent, sufficed to enable the Gardners and other Baltimore builders to construct the world’s most profitable slavers while remaining officially and legally ignorant.

As soon as the Venus was ready to be launched, [owner] Lambert Giddings [transferred] the vessel to Jose Mazorra, a notorious [Cuban] slave trader. As the Venus left Havana “with equipment for the slave trade,” we may assume that during her nineteen-day layover in Cuba carpenters were busy fitting her out with platforms in her hold and tons of iron shackles and chains.

On November 5, the Venus, still under the American flag, arrived at Lagos on the West African coast . . . and departed Lagos with a cargo of about 1,150 slaves. The American flag and papers had provided protection for the vessel until the slaves were driven aboard, whereupon the vessel was given over to an agent of Jose Mazzora who carried . . . fraudulent papers . . . disguised as a wholly different vessel.

Continued “foreign” orders for slavers during 1838 and 1839 helped the Gardners’ business survive the financial panic of 1837. [The slaver Venus] would bring international recognition to the Gardners – and ultimately an order for two opium clippers from John and George Dixwell of Augustine Heard & Co. [of Canton, China and Ipswich, Massachusetts].”

(The Voyage of the Frolic: New England Merchants and the Opium Trade, Thomas N. Layton, Stanford University Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 41-43)

 

Jul 8, 2018 - Antebellum Economics, Bringing on the War, Jeffersonian America, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on Virginians and the Exploration of the West

Virginians and the Exploration of the West

Tutorial schooling by local pastors was the rule in the Virginia Piedmont of Meriwether Lewis’s youth. Parson William Douglas had taught three American Presidents in their childhood – Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. Lewis was tutored 1789-1790 by Parson Matthew Maury in a rude log building, Albemarle’s Classical School, on the lawn of Edgeworth Farm. Maury was the father of the renowned Matthew Fontaine Maury of naval and hydrographic fame.

Captain Meriwether Lewis and his Corps of Discovery were to depart on his epic journey West by the end of June, 1803, but it was July 4th when he actually left Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Virginians and the Exploration of the West

“The expeditionaries carried tomahawks and scalping knives . . . the [.69 caliber] horse pistols were probably of the North and Cheney Model of 1799. Lewis was meticulous in his choice of rifles for the expedition . . . and [designed his own] “Harper’s Ferry Rifle” which resembled the Kentucky rifle but he had the easily damaged stocks reduced to half-length and the overall length of the .54 caliber piece was only 47 inches.

So efficient was Captain Lewis’s design that the rifles were used as models for the first “mass-produced” Army rifle in the United States. On May 25, 1803, the Secretary of War found the new rifle so functional that he ordered 4,000 of them manufactured for the troops.

Historians have wrangled for decades over just what was Jefferson’s intent in sending Lewis and Clark – exploration, commerce or conquest? It was clear enough to Lewis from his orders. While he awaited Clark’s decision [to join him] before contacting his second choice as a companion, Lieutenant Moses Hook, he read and reread the amended instructions drawn up and given him by the President.

“The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, & such principal stream of it as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce.”

Jefferson ordered Lewis to fix, by coordinates of longitude and latitude, all “remarkable” points on the Missouri, such as rapids, islands, and the mouths of tributaries, the variations of the compass, the exact location of the portage between the Mississippi and Pacific drainages. He urged Lewis to make his observations with great care and to record them, as well as all of his notes, in several copies for safety against loss.

The President ordered him to become acquainted with the Indian nations, to determine their numbers and the extent of their possessions. He wished to know their languages, traditions and occupations, including agriculture, fishing, hunting, war and the arts. He was interested in their relationship with other tribes, their food, clothing and tools, their diseases and remedies, their laws and customs and the articles of commerce they possessed or desired, all to encourage future trade and their ultimate civilization by the United States.

Jefferson insisted that Lewis’s entry into the Far West be a peaceful one. “In all your intercourse with the natives, treat them in the most friendly and conciliatory manner which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies . . . [and convey] our wish to be neighborly, friendly and useful to them . . .”

(Meriwether Lewis, a Biography, Richard Dillon, Coward-McCann, Inc., 1965, excerpts pp. 14; 42-44; 50)

Joseph Davis Encourages Black Entrepreneurs

As a young man, Jefferson Davis learned life at the feet of his older brother Joseph Emory Davis (1784-1870) the management skills necessary to operate his own Mississippi plantation, “Hurricane.” As described below by author Hudson Strode, Jefferson “was convinced that servitude was a necessary steppingstone to the Negro’s eventual freedom and “measurable perfectibility,” and that those brought from Africa “were benefited by their contact with white civilization and Christianity.” Further, he viewed “the instrument of supplying cotton to the textile industry, which meant better employment in England and on the Continent, as well as New England, the Negro made a real contribution to world prosperity.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Joseph Davis Encourages Black Entrepreneurs

“In one special characteristic Jefferson was deemed a spiritual son of his brother: “he could hardly comprehend anyone’s differing from him in political policy after hearing reasons on which his opinion was based.”

While Jefferson reveled in Joseph’s talk and Joseph’s books in the evenings, by day he was diligent in the pursuit of agriculture. He carefully remarked his brother’s methods of slave management and agronomic techniques. In Natchez with Joseph sand James Pemberton, he had bought ten carefully selected slaves. He had put his faithful body servant in charge of them . . . Pemberton, with a shrewd understanding of both the black man’s and white man’s psychology, [and who was] indispensable.

But even more so was Joseph, who was noted throughout Mississippi for his model plantation. Strange as it may seem, the democratic plutocrat Joseph had been influenced by the utopian philosophy of the socialist Robert Owen, whose “A New View of Society” he had read before meeting him on the stagecoach in 1824.

As Joseph’s Negroes testified both before and after the War Between the States, they were mostly kindly treated. No overseer was ever given the right to punish them. The Negroes enjoyed a kind of self-rule devised by Joseph, in which the older or more settled ones acted as the jury for offenders. Though the Negroes themselves set the penalty, the master reserved the right to pardon or mitigate the severity of the sentence, which Jefferson noted he did more than often.

The slaves were encouraged to be thrifty, resourceful and inventive. They could raise their own vegetables and produce their own eggs to supplement their weekly rations. Eggs bought by the big house were paid for at market prices, though they could also be sold at any market.

When a slave could do better at some other employment than daily labor, he was allowed to do so, paying for the worth of regular field service out of his earnings. One of the slaves ran a variety shop, and sometimes he would buy the entire fruit crop from the Davis estates to sell and ship. Joseph chose his favorites from among the Negroes for advancement according to their qualities and aptitudes. Any individual talent that revealed itself was nurtured.

Jefferson was particularly impressed by a responsible and gifted Negro named Benjamin Thornton Montgomery, whose father, John, had been born a slave in Loudon County, Virginia. John had been taught to write by his master’s young son . . . John’s bent was carpentry, he became an expert in building. Then he took up civil engineering, devising his own instruments.

John passed on his knowledge of reading and writing to his son Ben Montgomery, who had acquired a little library of his own by the time Jefferson came to Hurricane. As the Montgomery boys grew up they helped Joseph with his large correspondence, business and political.”

(Jefferson Davis, American Patriot: 1808-1861, a Biography of the Years Before the Great Conflict, Hudson Strode, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955, excerpts pp. 111-113)

The Genius of Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney was a mechanically-talented Massachusetts farm boy who graduated from Yale and ventured South in 1792 to teach school in South Carolina. As he watched plantation slaves working laboriously to pick “the fuzzy, stubborn seeds from “vegetable wool,” at an average rate of two pounds per day,” he quit his teaching position to concentrate on the invention to speed the chore. Cotton production soared from 10,000 bales in 1793 to double that in 1796, and 180,000 by 1810 – Whitney can be said to have single-handedly perpetuated slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Genius of Eli Whitney

“The Agricultural Society of South Carolina, second of its kind in the United States, came into being in 1785 “for promoting and improving agriculture and other rural concerns.” Its high-minded purposes were defined by Thomas Heyward, Jr., its first president, who expounded: “After having gloriously succeeded . . . in terminating a war . . . it is incumbent upon us equally to endeavor to promote and enjoy the blessings of peace. Agriculture was one of the first employments of mankind . . . [and] one of the most innocent and at the same time the most pleasing and beneficial of any . . .”

This interest in diversified agriculture was further evidence that the institution of slavery – a national rather than sectional cancer – was well on its way to extinction before the American Revolution. Jefferson was strongly opposed to it; his original draft of the Declaration of Independence contained a denunciation of it. Early attempts along these lines were thwarted by the British crown.

To Virginia goes the honor and distinction of being the first American State to prohibit the importation of slaves, having passed a law to this effect during the very first session of its existence under the republican government (1778). Maryland followed suit in 1783.

The tobacco planters, slavery’s principal eighteenth-century exponents, were learning slavery’s folly and coupling it with old guilts of moral shame.

So firm was the resolve and so positive was the action that there can be no doubt as to the demise of the slave during the early years of the nineteenth century, had it not been for the “sudden apparition of the great cotton crop, conjured by the genius of Eli Whitney” and dwarfing all other Southern resources by the “instant employment of the half-idle slaves, whose presence had begun to be felt as a burden.”

Without an economical means to separate the lint from the seed, cotton could not have become the ruthless king that it was. Without King Cotton, slavery would have withered and died. Without the emotionally packed issue of slavery, the newly-formed States would have arrived at a peaceable solution to their differences, because their quarrels centered around cotton and the tariff.”

(This is the South, Robert West Howard, editor, Rand McNally & Company, 1959, excerpts pp. 136-138)

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