GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies

Jack Lawrence jlawrence at
Thu Jan 5 13:13:23 CST 2012

There is, as you point out, a lot more going on here.

The wealth generated by slavery was not only in the cotton, rice etc that 
they produced.
It was also in the slaves themselves. A strong field hand was worth a 
thousand dollars in 1850's-60's dollars.
So a man with a thousand slaves had a hundreds of thousands of dollars 
dollars in wealth out in the fields, no matter how well his crops fared. He 
could also hire those slaves out, or let a skilled slave, like a carpenter, 
take on work in town and pay (more likely split) what he earned. He could 
even hire out the women.

The south understood that the influx of northern immigrants was producing a 
body politic that wanted no part of slavery. Even so, the north was willing 
to tolerate it, to preserve the union. So was Lincoln. In that regard, he 
was a manifestation of the body politic in it's purest form. What would not 
be tolerated was the southern demand to allow slavery in territories prior 
to their admission into the union (bleeding Kansas was all about whether 
Kansas would be free or slave at admission.)  The Supreme Court was 
responsible for this when it overturned The Missouri Compromise, which 
required one slave state be admitted for every free state admitted So the 
south tried to circumvent this by allowing slavery in the territories prior 
to admission. Trying to abolish slavery in a state that already had slaves 
would be difficult to say the least.

Now, the reason the south wanted the territories to be open to slavery was 
purely economic. More slave territory meant that more slaves were needed. 
Which meant that if a man owned a thousand slaves worth a hundreds of 
thousand of dollars, they were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

Succinctly stated, slavery as practiced in the United States at that place 
and time was a giant bubble. It was not slavery that was going to go away. 
It was the wealth of the slaves that was going to diminish.

Your second paragraph, that the matter of slavery in the Civil War is over 
determined is simply incorrect. The only thing going on here is slavery.
It is true that there was a racial undertone, but it was a created racial 
undertone. Throughout history, for the most part, slavery had been pretty 
much an economic institution.
In the south, people were taught that Africans were an inferior people, 
somewhere between animals and people. They were too simple to function 
freely. Even the slaves were educated in their dependence on white people. 
Traveling minstrel shows toured the south. They always included three main 
characters, Jim Crow, the typical hard working, carefree negro who prospered 
when he did his masters bidding, Tambo, the joyous musical negro, and Zip 
Coon, the sly negro who was always getting Jim in trouble (think King Fish 
Amos and Andy and ). Just another way to keep blacks in their place.

Indoctrination was prevalent among white people too.

Preachers preached it on Sunday (There was even a "Christian Way" to treat 
your slaves dogma), politician orated over the dangers of free negroes and 
civic leaders did the same.
The message was always the need that slaves had for white masters. But the 
really chilling, insidious, vile message, the one that chilled the populace 
and absolutely convinced them that they need to keep these people enslaved 
was that black slaves craved after, lusted for and, left unfettered, would 
unleash a depravity on white females unseen since the rape of the Sabine 
women. Can you imagine preaching this on Sunday?
Which, IMHO, accounted for the fierce devotion to the south among southern 
women during the war. (Ok, Butler didn't help much).

So, at the end of the day, there was no other cause for the war but slavery, 
but slavery itself was a many faceted thing.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <joadx1 at>
To: <gettysburg at>
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:59 AM
Subject: Re: GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies

> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> This is not a simplistic view; in fact, a number of modern analyses of the 
> Civil War focus precisely on the economic aspects of the conflict.  One 
> that I have read indicates that one of the reasons why non-slave-owning 
> southerners fought to protect slavery was because so much of the southern 
> economy was founded upon it that everyone would suffer economically if it 
> disappeared.
> And while it would take us too far away from the parameters of this 
> discussion board, I would argue (and do argue in my own professional work) 
> that the peculiar institution of money has a particularly powerful role in 
> our history, past and present, that is often misunderstood or ignored. 
> But I will go no further on that.
> But I will add that the matter of slavery and the Civil War is 
> overdetermined--that is, there is more than one cause at work here. 
> Beyond the very real economic dimensions of the matter are the racial ones 
> (I do not want to dwell on this, but racial hatred and feelings racial 
> superiority are also involved); the social class ones (the plantation 
> aristocracy was able to paper over the class inequalities in the south by 
> telling southern yeomen that without slavery they would be part of a 
> menial class, but with it they were part of a ruling caste); and simple 
> fear: the southerners were very well aware that they had, in many regions, 
> established slave populations that were much larger than the white 
> populations, and they were terrified of a slave rebellion on the order of 
> the successful rebellion in Haiti.
> There are yet other parts to this ugly puzzle, but your own suggestion is 
> a very important part of it all.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Andy Mills <amills at>
> To: GDG <gettysburg at>
> Sent: Thu, Jan 5, 2012 9:44 am
> Subject: GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies
> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> My apologies as I am not the best at getting ideas and thoughts out of my 
> head
> and rationalizing them so others can understand.
> Having made my disclaimer, I am curious as to why the war wasn't all about
> money?
> Secession caused the war and slavery caused secession, I think based on 
> emails I
> have read over the last couple days, everyone agrees with this statement.
> But what caused slavery?  The immediate cause was the need for cheap labor
> centuries before the civil war, so the underlying cause of slavery was 
> money,
> ergo money caused slavery and slavery caused secession so the root cause 
> was
> money?
> I understand that by 1860, there was also a racial element to America's 
> slavery
> and part of the reason for maintaining the system was this racial element 
> but I
> don't think this was the major force in maintaining the "peculiar 
> institution",
> as the major force was simply put:  money.
> So why wouldn't the root cause then be economics, that without allowing 
> slavery
> into the territories, slavery would slowly die and as a result, so would 
> the way
> of life for the slave holding aristocrats of the South and their desire to
> maintain slavery was a desire to maintain their statuses, income, etc.
> One example would be Hampton Plantation outside Baltimore.  It was one of 
> the
> largest and richest prior to the Civil War but slowly fell into a period 
> of
> decline once slavery was banished from the country until the NPS saved the
> mansion future generations (yes, I know other organizations originally 
> saved it
> in 1948, but didn't want to go into all the history of it).  We can look 
> at many
> of the James River plantations that had to open their doors to the public 
> to
> preserve and protect their properties because they were no longer 
> sustainable
> once slavery was abolished.
> I agree that the original south seceded to protect slavery, but underneath 
> that,
> slavery was there to support their income / economies, so if you want to 
> say
> slavery led to secession which lead to the war, why can't you further 
> define it
> that money led to slavery which lead to secession which led to war and as 
> such,
> the root cause is the all powerful dollar?
> I understand this is a simplistic view and possibly an incorrect view of 
> the
> situation, but to me, secession caused the war and a desire to protect 
> slavery
> led to secession (I understand that you can't separate slavery from 1860 
> South),
> but the root cause of slavery was money.  American slavery / chattel 
> slavery
> wasn't like the Native Americans that took slaves from rival tribes to 
> help
> replenish their population, or Rome that took slaves from captured armies.
> Slaves in those societies were not the basis of the economies as it was in 
> the
> Antebellum South.
> I hope this makes sense, but wanted to get some viewpoints to see if this 
> is a
> valid opinion or is full of holes.
> Thanks,
> -----Original Message-----
> From: gettysburg-bounces at [mailto:gettysburg-bounces at] 
> On
> Behalf Of John Lawrence
> Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2012 8:48 PM
> To: GDG
> Subject: Re: GDG- NPs & Slavery
>>I am not arguing  whether not Lincoln could have  have chosen another
>>method to react to secession.  I'm not arguing Lincoln did not go to
>>war to preserve the union.   I am simply stating the  historical fact
>>that secession was caused by slavery and war was the result.
>>It is impossible to have any discussion of the causes of the war or the
>>cause secession without the inclusion of slavery.
>>The indisputable point is  slavery was the cause of secession which was
>>the cause of the war.
>>The other what-ifs do not apply to that.
>>Take Care
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