HIST-8 lec.9: Antebellum America
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HIST-8 lec.9: Antebellum America

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  • 1. Antebellum America
  • 2. Timeline: Antebellum America 1826 American Temperance Society founded 1831 first publication of The Liberator 1833 Britain abolishes slavery 1841 New England transcendentalist communities founded 1848 Revolutions across Europe 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • 3. All the virtues that are founded in the sensibility of the heart … pity, the attribute of angels, and friendship, the balm of life, delight to dwell in the female breast.
  • 4. The moment the inexperienced youth sets his foot on the sidewalk of the city, he is marked and watched by eyes that he never dreamed of. The boy who cries his penny-paper, and the old woman at her table professedly selling a few apples and a little gingerbread, are not all who watch him. There is the seducer in the shape of the young man who came before him, and who has already lost the last remains of shame. There is the hardened pander to vice who has little remorse at the ruin of innocence as the alligator has in crushing the bones of the infant … and there is she – who was once the pride and hope of her parents – who now makes war upon virtue and exults in being a successful recruitingofficer of hell.
  • 5. In democracies, where the members of the community never differ from each other and naturally stand so near that they may all at any time be fused into one general mass, numerous artificial and arbitrary distinctions spring up by means of which every man hopes to keep himself aloof lest he should be carried away against his will in the crowd. (19th-century etiquette manual) Etiquette is the barrier which society draws around itself as a protection against offences the “law” cannot touch; it is a shield against the intrusion of the impertinent, the improper, the vulgar – and a guard against those obtuse persons who, having neither talent nor delicacy, would be continually thrusting themselves into the society of men to whom their presence might (from the difference of feeling and habit) be offensive, and even insupportable. (19th-century American etiquette manual)
  • 6. c. 1830 Oh! It is grievous to see a being standing upon the threshold of an immortal existence, created for glorious purposes, and with faculties to fulfill them, discussing the merits of a ribbon, or the form of a bow, or the width of a frill, as earnestly as if the happiness of her race, or her soul’s salvation depended upon her decision. In politeness, as in every thing else connected with the formation of character, we are too apt to begin on the outside.
  • 7. Thus the habits of the soul become written on the countenance; what we call the expression of the face is only the story which the face tells about the feelings of the heart. 1841
  • 8. The simpler and the more easy and unconstrained your manners, the more you will impress people of your good breeding. parlor scene: sentimental etiquette and dress, 1847
  • 9. We may form some opinion of a man’s sense and character from his dress. sentimental dress, 1850 Will he never come?
  • 10. They say, and I am very much inclined to believe, that in the matter of honor these men practice delicacies and refinements unknown in the North. They are frank, hospitable, and put many things before money. To ride, to hunt, to smoke like a Turk in the sunshine: there is the destiny of the white. To do any other kind of manual labor is to act like a slave.
  • 11. St John Plantation, Louisiana, 1861
  • 12. …good – a great good. [Africans] had never existed in so comfortable, so respectable, or so civilized a condition, as that which is now enjoyed in the Southern states.
  • 13. It is not the first time I have had occasion to observe that men may repeat with the utmost confidence some maxim or sentimental phrase as self-evident or admitted truth which is either palpably false or to which, upon examination, it will be found that they attach no definite idea. Notwithstanding our respect for the important document which declared our independence, yet if anything be found in it, and especially in what may be regarded as its ornament than its substance, false, sophistical and unmeaning, that respect should not screen it from the freest examination. “All men are born free and equal”? Is it not palpably nearer the truth to say, that no man was every born free, and that no two men were ever born equal. Man is born in the state of the most helpless dependence on other people. The means therefore, what ever they have been, by which the African race now in this country has been reduced to slavery cannot affect us, since they are our property, as your land is your property: by inheritance or purchase and prescriptive right. You will say that man cannot hold property in man. The answer is that he can and actually does hold property in his fellows all over the world in a variety of forms and has always done so. Man is born to subjection. The condition of our whole existence is but to struggle with evils. To compare them, to choose between them, and so far as we can to mitigate them. To say that there is evil in any institution is only to say that it is a human institution.
  • 14. The cornerstone of the Confederacy is American negro slavery. ... As a race the African is inferior to the white man. Subordination to the white man is his normal condition. He is not his equal by nature and cannot be made so by human laws or human institutions. Our system therefore, so far as regards this inferior race, rests upon this great immutable law of nature. slavery has ever been the stepping ladder by which nations have passed from barbarism to civilization The negro is but a grown up child, and must be governed as a child. The master occupies towards it the place of parent or guardian. Like a wild horse, he must be caught, tamed, and domesticated. We find slavery repeatedly instituted by God or by men acting under his immediate care and direction, as in the instance of Moses and Joshua. Nowhere in the Old or New Testament do we find the institution condemned, but frequently recognized and enforced. Men are not born entitled to equal rights. It would be far nearer the truth to say that some are born with saddles on their backs, and others booted and spurred to ride them.
  • 15. I bought a boy named Isaac for $1,100. I think him very prime. He is a house servant, first rate cook, and splendid carriage driver. He is also a fine painter and varnisher and says he can make a fine panel door. Also, he performs well on the violin. He is a genius, and strange to say , I think he’s smarter than I am.
  • 16. I refused a girl 20 years old at 700 dollars yesterday. If you think best to take her at 700 I can still get her. She is very badly whipped but has good teeth.
  • 17. from Billings’ sketch of “An American Slave Market”, 1852
  • 18. In no country in the world has the principle of association been more successfully used, or more unsparingly applied to a multitude of different objects, than in America. Besides the permanent associations which are established by law under the names of townships, cities, and counties, a vast number of others are formed and maintained by the agency of private individuals. … Societies are formed to resist enemies which are exclusively of a moral nature, and to diminish the vice of intemperance: in the United States associations are established to promote public order, commerce, industry, morality, and religion; for there is no end which the human will, seconded by the collective exertions of individuals, despairs of attaining. (Tocqueville, Democracy) Penny dailies are to be found in every street, lane, and alley; in every hotel, tavern, countinghouse, shop.
  • 19. Friedrich, “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” (1818) Reason is as cold as a cucumber. (Emerson) Reason is to the imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance. (Shelly) A man . . . must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. (Shelly) One impulse from the vernal wood May teach you more of man, Of moral evil and of good, Than all the sages can. (Wordsworth)
  • 20. In the woods we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, --all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. (Emerson) To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men, - that is genius. (Emerson) He seemed to be in an unusual good humor. He was excessively lively – so much so that I entertained I know not what of uneasy suspicion. It is not impossible that he was affected with the transcendentals. I am not well enough versed, however, in the diagnosis of this disease to speak with decision upon the point … Nothing would serve him but wriggling and skipping about under and over everything that came his way; now shouting out, and now lisping out, all manner of odd little and big words, yet preserving the gravest face in the world all the time. I really could not make up my mind whether to kick or to pity him. (Poe, “Never Bet the Devil Your Head”)
  • 21. from Harper’s Weekly, 1858
  • 22. The fact is that his precocity in vice was awful. At five months of age he used to get into such passions that he was unable to articulate. At six months, I caught him gnawing a pack of cards. At seven months he was in the constant habit of catching and kissing the female babies. At eight months he peremptorily refused to put his signature to the Temperance pledge. Thus he went on increasing in iniquity, month after month, until at the close of the first year, he not only insisted upon wearing moustaches, but had contracted a propensity for cursing and swearing, and for backing his assertions by bets. (Poe, Never Bet the Devil Your Head)
  • 23. a covenant with death and an agreement with hell I appear before the immense assembly this evening as a thief and a robber. I stole this head, these limbs, this body from my master, and ran off with them.