GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies

Margaret D. Blough mdblough1 at
Thu Jan 5 15:03:10 CST 2012


The distinction is one which Ira Berlin among others use: a society with slaves versus a slave society. As is often pointed out, at the time of the American Revolution, slavery existed in all of the British colonies. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, the process of ending slavery from Pennsylvania on up had begun with Massachusetts already having abolished slavery. The process, while not without controversy, was peaceful and, in most states, gradual. These were societies with slaves. Slavery was just one form of labor. It didn't mean slaves were treated any better but it meant that these societies could end slavery without any great fears of societal disruption or disintegration. 

Slave societies, which became the norm in the South, were societies in which slavery was not just a form of labor, it was woven into the fabric of the society. It was even the paradigm for all other relationships with any attack or weakening of slavery was seen as just the first step in a disintegration of all other relationships in a patriarchal society: wife to husband, children to father, etc. and, ultimately, the destruction, probably violent, of society itself. In 1862, Lincoln sponsored serious efforts to federally subsidize loyal slave states ending slavery in their borders. Those states rejected any such compensated emancipation and, ultimately, lost slavery but got no compensation under the 13th Amendment. Southern wealth was built on slavery, particularly in the 1850s as slave prices soared, but, when they said they were fighting for their way of life, they weren't kidding. 



----- Original Message -----
From: "Andy Mills" <amills at> 
To: "GDG" <gettysburg at> 
Sent: Thursday, January 5, 2012 3:41:31 PM 
Subject: Re: GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies 

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes: 

I agree with everything you said. I fully support the fact that the wealth was slaves and to the slave owners, they didn't see the slave as a human being, but instead as an object that can be owned, traded, sold, whipped, beat, etc. 

I think we disagree on a technicality. We both say that they wanted to protect their wealth. I see that desire to protect their wealth as the underlying cause, even though that wealth was the slave. I think I just take it one step further and see it as the money invested in the slave, the slave system and their socio-economic structure system based in slavery and it would destroy their economy and wealth to lose slavery, but it is the desire to protect their investments and savings as the root cause. Had they built a society on the backs of the ostrich, the outcome would have been the same (yes, I realize the analogy is silly, but there is just no comparison that can be made to owning another human being). 

I am just not sure there is really a difference and this is what I am trying to determine. Is the need to protect their investments and wealth the root cause, or the system (slavery) in which that wealth was created and stored as the root cause? 


-----Original Message----- 
From: gettysburg-bounces at [mailto:gettysburg-bounces at] On Behalf Of Jack Lawrence 
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2012 3:33 PM 
To: GDG 
Subject: Re: GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies 

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes: 

The point is the slaves were the same as houses to the slave owners. 

Economically, they were, as I pointed out earlier, wealth. No one argues that. But the wealth was based on slaves. 

Socially, they were scared to death that a monster they had created was about to devour them (of course, the slaves themselves dispelled this boogeyman when they had a chance to turn contraband. there were no massacres. they just wanted out of the system. 

Watch night is still celebrated in some poarts of the country, I have been told. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Andy Mills" <amills at> 
To: "GDG" <gettysburg at> 
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2012 2:18 PM 
Subject: Re: GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies 

> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes: 
> Jack: 
> A nice response. 
> But are the slave owners fighting to keep their slaves, or keep their 
> value in those slaves that are make them rich? 
> If the federal government decided as a result of the housing bubble to 
> nationalize all private homes to avoid another bubble and people rebelled 
> as a result: would that rebellion be over houses or the fear of losing 
> your investment in those houses? There is a distinct difference between 
> the two as one is over the right to own an object and the other is over 
> money and investments and what is perceived to be an invasion of the 
> government to prevent you from making a living by a system that has been 
> around and ingrained in your culture for centuries. 
> Please: before anyone says it, I understand one is comparing an inanimate 
> object to a human being but fortunately, we have no modern example to use. 
> Thanks, 
> -----Original Message----- 
> From: gettysburg-bounces at [mailto:gettysburg-bounces at] 
> On Behalf Of Jack Lawrence 
> Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2012 2:13 PM 
> To: GDG 
> Subject: Re: GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies 
> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes: 
> Hello. 
> 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. 
> ---------------- 
> -to unsubscribe 
> for Archives 

---------------- -to unsubscribe for Archives 

---------------- -to unsubscribe for Archives 

More information about the Gettysburg mailing list