Cotton, Slavery, and the Old South Chapter 11. The Cotton Economy A shift of economic power from the “upper South” to the “lower South” took place . This led to a growing dominance of cotton in the southern economy referred to as “King Cotton ”. The Rise of King Cotton.
Cotton, Slavery, and the Old SouthChapter 11 The Cotton Economy • A shift of economic power from the “upper South” to the “lower South” took place. • This led to a growing dominance of cotton in the southern economy referred to as “King Cotton”
The Rise of King Cotton • In the 19th century the upper South (VA, MD, NC) cultivated tobacco, but prices became unstable and the soil exhausted. • By the 1830s the upper South began to grow wheat, while tobacco growing shifted westward. • The Southern regions of South (SC, GA, FL) continued growing rice, while the Gulf Coast cultivated some sugar but crops were limited
The Cotton Gin • The decline of tobacco in the upper South led not to industrialization but the growing of short-staple cotton, which could grow in different environments. • With the invention of the cotton gin short-staple cotton was now profitable. • Demand for cotton growing was at its height due to the rise of textile industry in Great Britian during the 1820s/30s and New England in the 1840s/50s • New lands and expansion of cotton growing were needed to meet this new demand.
At the beginning of the 1820s production of cotton moved westward into Alabama, Mississippi, LA, TX, AK. By the 1850s it dominated the economy. • The “Lower South” or “Cotton Kingdom” attracted many seeking profits & also slaves.
Southern Trade & Industry • Business classes and manufacturers were unimportant in the South due to slow growth & location which was mainly in the upper South. • The non-farm commercial sectors mainly served the needs of the plantation economy. Brokers who marketed crops acted as merchants and lenders. • The South’s primitive banking system did not allow for structures necessary for industrial development.
The South also had an inadequate transportation system with few roads, canals, & national railroads. • Some southerners recognized the economic subordination to north and advocated for economic independence including New Orleans native James De Bow who wrote of this in his magazine De Bow’s Review.
Sources of Southern Difference • Despite “colonial dependency” the South did little to industrialize because the agricultural system & cotton were so profitable • There was little incentive to look beyond because the wealthy had already invested much of their capital into land & slaves.
The Lack of commercial growth also resulted because of traditional values distinctive to South. • The South discouraged cities & industry due to their perceived elegance & more refined life than rapid growth.
White Society in the South • The Planter Class • The majority of people didn’t own slaves (only ¼ did) & of those a small % owned many. • The planter aristocracy (those owning 40+ slaves and 800+ acres of land) exercised power and influence greater than their number. • They excercised political, economic, & social control & saw themselves as aristocracy despite most wealth being recent
Growing crops was profitable but just as competitive and risky as industry in North. • After struggling to reach their position in society they were determined to defend it. This is perhaps why the defense of slavery and the South’s “rights” were stronger in the booming lower South and weaker in the more established southern areas.
“Honor” • White males adopted a code of chivalry that obligated them to defend their “honor”. • Ethical ideals such as bravery & also the public appearance of dignity & authority led southerners to fight back.
The “Southern Lady” • The lives of affluent women were centered in the home. • They had little role in public activities or as wage earners. • White men more dominant & women subordinate than in North • Most lived a solitary farm life with no access to the “public world”. This led to the role wife & mother. • Less educational opportunities were available for women
The Plain Folk • This describes the typical person of the South. Not the planter & slaveholder but the modest yeoman farmer that practiced mainly subsistence farming. They lacked the resources for cotton or to expand their operations • They had little prospect of bettering their position in society because the southern educational system provided poor whites with little opportunity to learn.
The majority were excluded from planter society, but opposition to the elite was limited mainly to the “hill” and “backcountry” or people who were secluded, unconnected to commercial economy, and loyal to the nation while above sectional fighting. • Most non-slaveowning whites lived in the middle of the plantation system and were tied to it. They relied on planters for markets, credit, and were linked through kinship. • A large sense of democracy & political participation gave a sense of connection to the societal order. The Cotton boom of the 1850s gave them hope of economic betterment.
A belief existed that an assault on one hierarchical system (slavery) would threaten another hierarchical system (patriarchy or social organization). • Even the south’s poorest members (known as “clay eaters”) who owned no profitable land did not offer great opposition to the established society. The greatest factor binding all classes together was perception of race and members of the ruling race.
Slavery – The “Peculiar Institution” • Varieties of Slavery • Slavery was called “peculiar” by Southerners because it was distinctive from the North & Western world. • Slavery was regulated by law. Slave codes forbade property, congregation, & teaching a slave. Anyone suspected of having a trace of African blood was defined as black
Despite the provisions of law, a variety existed within the slave system because white owners handled most transgressions. • The size of the farm & number of slaves varied. • The majority of slave-owners were small farmers, but the majority of slaves lived on medium to large plantations where there was a less intimate owner-slave relationship.
Life Under Slavery • Slaves generally received enough necessities to enable them to live and work; they lived in slave quarters. • Slaves worked hard. Women labored in fields with the men and had other chores. Women were often single because their husbands were sold away (single parents)
Slaves had a high death rate and less children survived to adulthood than whites. • Some say the material condition of slavery may have been better than some northern factory workers. • Their lives were less severe than slaves in Caribbean & South America. • Laws preventing slave imports were an incentive to the Southern elite to provide some care.
Other cheap laborers (such as Irish) were used to perform the most dangerous and least healthy tasks to protect their investment. Still overseers hired by owners often treated slave badly, and household servants were often sexually abused by their master.
Slavery in the Cities • On isolated plantations masters maintained direct control. Slaves in cities were often hired out to do labor and unskilled jobs. • In cities the line between slavery & freedom was less clear. White southerners viewed slavery as incompatible with city life. Cities used segregation to maintain social organization.
Free African-Americans • About 250,000 free African Americans were located in slaveholding states before the Civil War. • Most were located in VA and MD. Some had earned money and bought freedom for themselves and their family. Mostly urban blacks were able to do this. • Some slaves were freed by their master for moral reasons, while others after their master died.
During the 1830s, state laws for slaves tightened because of the growing number of free blacks & abolition movement in North gaining steam that made manumission of slaves harder. • Most free blacks were very poor, had limited opportunities & therefore were only quasi-free.
The Slave Trade • The transfer of slaves from one part of the South to another was an important consequence of development of Southwest. • Sometimes slaves moved with their master but more often were transferred through slave traders. • The domestic slave trade was important to the growth and prosperity of the system, but dehumanizing. It was here that children were often separated from parents.
Slave Resistance • Most slaves were unhappy being slaves & wanted freedom but they dealt with slavery through adaptation (slaves who acted as white world expected him, charade for whites) or resistance (those who could not come to accommodate their status) • In 1831 Nat Turner, a slave preacher, led armed African Americans in VA but eventually was overpowered by state & federal troops.
The Nat Turner Rebellion was the only actual slave insurrection in the 19th century, but fear of slave conspiracies renewed violence & led to stricter laws. • Some slaves attempted to resist by running away, escaping to the North or Canada using the Underground Railroad. • People like Harriet Tubman & sympathetic whites assisted them on this route. The odds of success were low. • Slaves also resisted by refusing to work hard & stealing from their master.
The Culture of Music • Language and Music • Slaves incorporated African speech w/ English- called “pidgin” • Songs were very important in order to pass time. Some had political, emotional, & religious messages. • African-American Religion • By the 19th century nearly all slaves were Christians. Black congregations were illegal, but most went to master’s church led by Baptist or Methodist white minister
African American religion was more emotional. • It reflected the influence of African customs and practices where chanting emphasized the dream of freedom and deliverance. • Christian images were central to slave leaders Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner.
The Slave Family • Blacks were deprived of legal marriage, but the “nuclear family” was the dominant kinship model. • Up to 1/3 of black families were broken apart by the slave trade, which led to strong extended kinship networks. • Black women often bore children to white masters.
Slaves had a complex relationship with their masters because they depended on them for material means of existence as well as a sense of security and protection. • This paternalism was used as an instrument of white control. This sense of mutual dependence reduced resistance to an institution that only benefited ruling white race.