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Lecture 2: Proslavery versus free labor


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Lecture 2

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Lecture 2: Proslavery versus free labor

  1. 1. Proslavery v. Free Labor Ideologies A Hardening of Views
  2. 2. Main question for the day • Why did whites in the N and S come to feel strongly enough about the place of slavery in the nation’s future to take up arms? – Most white Northerners had no interest in eradicating slavery – Most white Southerners did not own slaves • Moreover, Union and Confederate armies were formed primarily of volunteers – Around 80% on both sides • Not the case for U.S. forces in major 20th c. wars • Most CW soldiers fought at least in part because they believed in the cause
  3. 3. Explanations • Must go beyond the question of self-interest, very narrowly defined • Must focus on dominant ideologies that took root during the antebellum years (30-40 years leading up to the war) • North – Rise of free labor ideology • South – Emergence of an aggressive defense of slavery as a “positive good”
  4. 4. North • Just 10% of Northerners held abolitionist views • Racism was pervasive and getting worse – New “scientific” racism emerged in 1820s • Effects of industrialization and immigration • New laws and state constitutions – Restricting rights blacks previously enjoyed – Some new Western states prohibit backs from entering – Incredible hostility/violence directed at abolitionists • Elijah P. Lovejoy, abolitionist printer, was murdered • William Lloyd Garrison nearly lynched – Even those hostile to slavery believe the Constitution protects it; could only prevent its expansion (Lincoln)
  5. 5. Anti-abolitionist handbill, 1837
  6. 6. Elijah Lovejoy (1802-37) • Native of Maine; Presbyterian minister, abolitionist, printer • Moved to Missouri, began publishing a religious newspaper and speaking out against slavery • 1836: Witnessed brutal lynching of Frank McIntosh, a free black and boatman • Mob destroyed Lovejoy’s press, so he moved across the Mississippi River to Alton, IL • But mobs destroyed his press there, too – multiple times • Received a new printing press in November 1837 • Lovejoy and some 20 armed men were defending the press until it could be installed in the newspaper’s office • Mob set the warehouse on fire; Lovejoy shot and killed trying to escape
  7. 7. Elijah P. Lovejoy An influential martyr During Lovejoy’s memorial service, John Brown vowed to end slavery. Although Brown was already helping slaves escape on the underground railroad, Lovejoy’s murder further radicalized him. Jan. 1838: Lincoln, a 28-year-old IL representative living in Springfield (just 70 miles from Alton) gave a lyceum speech condemning “the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice.”
  8. 8. Mob attacking warehouse storing Elijah J. Lovejoy’s printing press
  9. 9. South • Fewer than 1/3rd of households held slaves – Much more than 6% of individuals (a stat often cited) – But still definitely a minority of the white population • Those from slaveholding families were somewhat overrepresented in the Confederate Army • States with the most slaves were the first to secede • Still, the majority of Confederate soldiers (probably around 60%) did not own slaves
  10. 10. Southern population, 1860
  11. 11. Where slaves lived in 1860 • Number of slaves in the Lower South: 2,300,000 – 47% of total population • Number of slaves in the Upper South: 1,200,00 – 29% of total population • Number of slaves in the Border States 400,00 – 13% of total population • Upshot: Strong correlation between a state’s inclination to secede and the percentage of slaves in its population
  12. 12. Stats on slave ownership/secession • In the Lower South (SC, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, FL – states that seceded first) – 37% of white families owned slaves • In the Middle South (VA, NC, TN, AR – states that seceded only after Fort Sumter was fired on) – 25% of white families owned slaves • Percentage of white families in the Confederacy overall that owned slaves: 30.8% • Border States (DE, MD, KY, MO – slave states that never joined the Confederacy) – 16% of white families owned slaves
  13. 13. What connected yeoman to planters? • Economic dependence (often of a very personal nature) – “Borrowed” their slaves – Brought cotton to plantations to be ginned • Economic interest – They also wanted free trade, a low tariff • Democratic political culture – Connected all white men • Shared culture more generally – Attended same churches, etc. • Ambition – Owning many slaves was equated with high social status; many yeoman hoped to become planters themselves • Fear of slave uprisings
  14. 14. Fear of slave rebellions • Nat Turner’s Rebellion in VA (1831) – Largest slave revolt in US history; led by a literate lay preacher • Acknowledged his own master had been kind to him – Frightening not only to slave owners, but to all whites who feared black vengeance and social disorder • Resulted in strengthening of slave codes – More restrictions on slave movement, owning weapons, congregating, etc. – Militarization of the South » All white men in the community called upon to participate
  15. 15. Abolitionism • 1831: Same year as Nat Turner’s Rebellion, William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator – Advocated immediate emancipation without compensation to owners – Denounced colonization schemes – Allowed women to play a large role in the movement • Burgeoning of the abolitionist movement – Flooded the South with abolitionist literature • South furious that US Post Office being used to disseminate abolitionist literature • Gag rule – Prevented Congress from considering anti-slavery petitions between 1836-44
  16. 16. William Lloyd Garrison
  17. 17. From the 1831 and 1860s smastheads
  18. 18. Sen. John C. Calhoun (SC) • Slavery as “a positive good speech” (1837) – Delivered in the context of a defense of the gag rule; “abolition and Union cannot coexist” • “If we concede an inch, concession would follow concession–compromise would follow compromise, until our ranks would be so broken that effectual resistance would be impossible… Consent to receive these insulting petitions, and the next demand will be that they be referred to a committee in order that they may be deliberated and acted upon.” – “We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions.” • “To maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the country in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races. Be it good or bad, [slavery] has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people.” – Besides, slavery is good! • Has uplifted blacks, without leading to the degeneration of whites • Rooted in racial difference decreed by nature: “Two races of different origin” • In all societies, one portion of the community lives on the labor of another
  19. 19. John C. Calhoun
  20. 20. Calhoun, cont. • John C. Calhoun’s trajectory mirrored that of the nation – Started out as a nationalist • Believed in strong central government; supported protective tariffs – Gradually came to see the South’s interests as radically different from the North’s • Grew obsessed with growing pop. difference between the regions – Switched to support of states’ rights and free trade • Developed a doctrine of nullification – States can reject federal laws against their interests • 1832: SC issues its Ordinance of Nullification – Ultimately backed down; new tariff law drawn up • Calhoun acknowledges the real issue is slavery
  21. 21. Proslavery arguments • Defense of slavery dates back to colonial times, but really surges in the 1830s • Some appealed to the new so-called scientific studies that legitimized racism • Others offered religious explanations – Christ never spoke out against slavery – The Old Testament patriarchs practiced slavery – Southerners emphasized original sin and the need for social restraints; challenged perfectionist religious doctrines that were sweeping the North
  22. 22. Proslavery arguments, cont’d • Directly challenged the notion of “all men are created equal” – Claimed advanced societies always relied on a class of laborers to do the dirty work • Slavery was a humane alternative to Northern industry – Where workers were discarded if sick or old • Provided greater social stability – Compared the supposedly tranquil South to labor unrest in Northern cities
  23. 23. Northern critique of South • Southern economy inefficient and stagnant • Class structure a fixed hierarchy • Society dominated by an aristocracy of slaveholders – In other words, southern society was the very antithesis of what Northerners saw as their own economically fluid, socially mobile, democratic society • Slave system affected all workers – Degraded the slave – But also degraded the value of manual labor – made it less respectable – and thereby affected white workers
  24. 24. Free Labor Ideology • Northerners believed in the superiority of free labor – Belief in no fixed classes; in the possibility for social advancement; and in the goal of economic independence – Goal was not great wealth, but independence – Notion that the middling classes were the backbone of the republic – At the heart of the Republican Party, formed in 1852 • Expansion of free labor as the solution to class division/poverty – American West as safety valve – American exceptionalism to Europe • Problem: Southern legislators blocked proposals for a Homestead Act to give away free land – Calls for “Free Soil” – “free soilism”
  25. 25. Lincoln’s views on labor • 1847: "And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.” • September 1859: “The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor—the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all—gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all.” • March 1860: “I want every man to have the chance—and I believe a black man is entitled to it—in which he can better his condition —when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him!”
  26. 26. Republican politician Henry Waldron (1859) “This slave Democracy tramples [the Constitution] under foot. We have sacred guarantees in that instrument in behalf of free speech, free thought, and a free press, and yet today Democratic postmasters rifle mails and violate the sanctity of private correspondence. Today a system of espionage prevails which would disgrace the despotism and darkness of the middle ages. The newspaper which refuses to recount the blessings and sing the praises of slavery is committed to the flames. The press that refuses to vilify the memory of the fathers is taken by a ruthless mob and engulfed beneath the waters. The personal safety of the traveller depends not on his deeds, but upon his opinions.... Where slavery is there can be no free speech, no free thought, no free press, no regard for constitutions, no deference to courts.” R
  27. 27. Republican Party Handbill (1856) • “The expansion of slavery is a question not only of FREE SOIL but of FREE MEN. Do you doubt it? Read the words of the highest authorities in the south . . . • ‘SLAVERY IS RIGHT, NATURAL AND NECESSARY AND DOES NOT DEPEND UPON INSTANCES OF COMPLEXION. THE LAWS OF THE SLAVES STATES JUSTIFY THE HOLDING OF WHITE MEN IN BONDAGE.’ • ‘Slavery is the natural condition of the laboring man, whether white or black. The great evil of Northern free society is that it is burdened with a servile class of mechanics and laborers unfit for self- government and yet clothed with the attributes and powers of citizens.’”
  28. 28. Why people went to war • Most white Northerners came to believe the expansion of slavery did threaten their interests – Thought it corrupted their democratic republic – Foreclosed possibilities for social advancement – Might even make them like slaves by degrading the value of labor • Most white Southerners deeply resented the North’s attempts to limit slavery as a presumptuous attack on their culture, society, economy
  29. 29. Issue of Westward Expansion • In the end, it all comes down to what is going to happen in the West • White Northerners felt that allowing the expansion of slavery would worsen the plight of Northern workers • White Southerners felt that forbidding the expansion of slavery threatened their interests • Neither side wanted to lose political influence in Washington