The Northern wage system was creeping southward in antebellum times and doomed the plantation system if the question of the emancipated freemen’s position could be determined. That wage system, more cruel but more efficient and cost-effective, would replace the plantation socialism which cared for its workers from cradle to grave.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
The North’s Soulless Captain of Industry
“It was not until fanatics, like William Lloyd Garrison, began to burn the Constitution, preach secession and denounce as fiends all Southern slaveholders that the South began to defend slavery and stand on their rights under organic law. To stand by their dignity as men and repel insults by force of arms if need be. My father believed that slavery would die of its own weakness in the South, as it had died in the North, unless meddling fools should provoke a war over it. As they did.
He held no illusions of the moral superiority of the Northern wage system. It had been introduced into the mills of the South and he had studied it at close range. He knew that slavery was doomed because of the superior cruel efficiency of the wage system, a far deadlier instrument of oppression if used without conscience. The Yankee had discovered this tremendous fact and applied it to his whole economic system.
They could hire an able bodied white man to work in the mills for 80 [cents] a day, a woman for 30 [cents]. Working every day in the year a man could earn $200, out of which he must pay his rent, his food, his clothes and his doctor’s bills. It cost my father $300 a year to feed, clothe, and house and care for each slave and then it took two slaves to do the work one white man was doing in the North.
My father knew that no human being could live on this earth and reproduce his kind on 80 [cents] a day. And for this reason he never believed in the moral superiority of this new master who used the wage system. In the South they called a slave a slave. In the North they called him a wage earner. He knew that ethics had nothing to do with the abolition of slavery in the North. It was abolished by the Captain of Industry, not the preacher or the agitator.
The Captain established the wage system because it became a mightier weapon in his hand for producing riches and paying dividends. It was subject to but one law . . . the iron law of wage . . . of supply and demand. The system was scientific, soulless. The wage earner, driven by hunger and cold, by the fear of loss of life itself, was always more efficient in his toil than the care-free Negro in the South, who was assured bread, clothes, fuel, shelter and the doctor’s care.”
(Southern Horizons, The Autobiography of Thomas Dixon, IWV Publishing, 1984, pp. 5-6)