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Re: free

Posted by Satya Gabriel on October 5, 2001 at 08:56:20:

In Reply to: Re: free [This message has been deleted] posted by Satya Gabriel on October 5, 2001 at 08:39:33:

U.S. society prior to the Civil War was a complex mixture of class processes (industrial capitalism, self-employment, slavery), political processes (democratic elections existed side by side with slave concentration labor camps), and cultural processes (the abolitionist movement was gaining in strength during the 1950s at the same time that attitudes in favor of slavery were hardening).

The oft-mentioned balance of power (in the economy and polity, as well as the institutions shaping American culture) between pro-slavery forces and non-slavery was changing in favor of the latter due to a range of factors, including the growth of industrial capitalism (whose interests often diverged from the interests of the slave masters in the ante-bellum South. For example, industrial capitalists often favored tariffs on European manufactured goods in order to protect their own products from competition --- the Southern slave masters (often called simply "planters") were customers for these products and wanted lower prices, which would have prevailed in the absence of tariffs); large scale immigration into the capitalist (and self-employed) dominated regions, where abolitionist sentiment was already strongest (resulting in growing Congressional representation for these areas); growing consciousness about the conditions of the slave concentration labor camps, particularly from former slaves who had relocated to the North (which undermined ante-bellum ideology that promoted the view of slavery as benign or even civilizing institution); and a growing militance on the part of self-employed farmers who opposed the expansion of slavery into Western territories.

I think it reasonable to assume (certainly based on speeches and other documents of the time) that the coalition that formed around the 1860 election victory of Abraham Lincoln, bringing together industrial capitalists and self-employed farmers, was an economic one, a coalition designed to achieve primarily economic ends. There is scant evidence that this coalition would have pursued abolition, as opposed to restrictions on the growth of slavery, as priorities. However, the existence and growing strength of this bloc was perceived as a mortal threat to the system of slavery by the slave masters and those associated with them (such as overseers) in the ante-bellum South. And their reaction against the coalition is not simply that abolition might follow. The slave masters feared the economic impact of policies, such as high tariffs, that would raise their cost of business. And, there is clear evidence, that they viewed high tariffs as only the beginning. They felt that this new power bloc would certainly place abolition on the agenda. The Southern leadership initiated an insurrection that came to be the Civil War.

The result, as we all know, was great bloodshed and destruction, but also the ending of the long history of legal enslavement. Would slavery have ended without this insurrection? Did the slave masters inadvertently kill the very "way of life" they were trying to protect? Or were they right, the growing power of industrial capitalism, combined with the support of independent (self-employed) farmers, would have led to the ending of slavery eventually, no matter what the slave masters did or did not do? And, if this is correct, would the ending of slavery have been for purely economic reasons, as was implied in the narrative following the Masterpiece Theater presentation of _A Respectable Trade_? What role did cultural processes play? More specifically, was abolitionism a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for the ending of slavery? And was the entire structure of capitalism opposed to slavery, as is also implied by the economic determinist position? What about the close links between financial institutions in the Northern states and the Southern slave masters: Northern banks often financed the slave masters? And, as indicated by the tariff disagreement, Northern industrialists made a good deal of money selling goods to the Southern slave masters. Northern merchants also profited from slavery by selling the output of the plantations and taking a hefty margin for themselves. And, finally, the exports of the slave concentration labor camps, were often carried on ships owned by Northern-base shipping enterprises (some of which had participated in the infamous slave trade, about which A Respectable Trade is centered).

In other words, the relationship between the Northern industrialists, merchants, shipping concerns, and banks with the slave masters of the ante-bellum South was a complex one, not as simple as implied in the Masterpiece Theater narrative. In the final analysis, you will have to make up your own mind, from the available evidence, whether or not you think slavery ended because of the growth of industrial capitalism or whether it was some combination of this and other factors (such as the moral suasion of the abolitionists) or something else entirely (such as, for example, serendipity --- perhaps slavery could have not only survived but strengthened, if not for the slave master over-reaction).

If you have any further questions or need of clarification or correction, don't hesitate to ask.

Reply to:

: : Professor Gabriel, I welcome your comments. People, please help me to make sense of the past.

: : Based on the movie a respecable trade the only reason that slavery ended in Europe was because it was not as profetable as industrilizing. In the U.S slavery continued. The movie said it took a war 30 years latter to end it. Was the war more focused on the Norths ability to say slavery was wrong (since it was industralized did not need slavery), when the south relied on slavery. So in essens the war ws not based on the moral rights and wrongs of owning a person but on the ecconomics of it.




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