In Reply to: Matewan/Norma Rae Essay posted by Andrea Mank on October 15, 2000 at 08:38:14:
A Respectable Trade is not governed merely by slavery, but many economic processes occurring simultaneously. These processes build on each other, and are interdependent. Both capitalist, feudalistic, and self-employment process take place, all of these sub processes are dependent on the overlying process of slavery.
On the outset Josiah Cole has several motivations for proposing marriage to Frances. Their husband / wife relationship has many feudalistic characteristics. In marriage she is bonded to him by contract, and her husband governs every move. Frances is considered a long-term investment on the part of her husband. In addition to the traditional duties of a wife, Frances acts as a teacher to the slaves, educating them in the English language, manners, and the etiquette required to be a house servant. This increases the value of the slaves, adding to Josiah's profits, since his wife is bound by contract, and a source of free labor. Furthermore, Josiah's marriage to Frances raises him in the eyes of society. Though Frances has lost her fortune, she was born into aristocracy, and is closely related to the respected higher class, derived from old family money. Through marriage Josiah has weaseled his way into the upper circle, and is allotted many of the opportunities that would not otherwise be afforded to a man of his business and standing.
Josiah Cole is the director of both slavery and a capitalistic situation. He gains the monetary means to posses resources, and hires others to carry out jobs for a salary. Thus, there is a capitalistic relationship between Josiah and the sailors, whom he sends to Africa for 'cargo'. In addition, there are several house servants who are paid a wage, and can therefore be considered a part of the labor market, which is identified with capitalism. Furthermore Caesar, the printer, and the doctor are self-employed. They work for themselves, using their own resources, carrying out the labor with their own hands, and the ending product belongs to them. However, neither of these practices could stand on their own without the framework of the slave trade, which holds together the society of 1872.
The events of A Respectable Trade, along with all economic systems, are driven by human nature, culture, and the "sambo" mentality.
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