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Less than 5% of Southerners owned Slaves

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by RobertP, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. RobertP

    RobertP Captain

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    For my friend, Scribe. Less than 5% of the whites in the South owned slaves. Fully 3/4's of the white people of the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery or the plantation system.

    This was written by none other than the late John Hope Franklin in From Slavery to Freedom, McGraw-Hill, 1994., p. 123. Franklin was a Harvard educated Professor Emeritus of History and Professor of Legal History at Duke University. Dr. Franklin also happened to be a Black man. This may come as an inconvient truth to some here.

    So, why did they fight. As Prof. V.L. Parrington said in his Pulitizer Prize winning book Main Currents in American Thought, "slavery was only the immediate casus belli. The deeper cause was the antagonistic conceptions of the theory and functions of the political state that emerged from antagonistic economic systems." Bingo.
     

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  3. prroh

    prroh Captain

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  4. OpnOlympic

    OpnOlympic Cadet

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    Less than 5% ofSoutherners owned slaves

    Would RobertP happen to know what the "...antagonistic economic systems." were that created two antagonistic sections in the United States?
     
  5. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    Why fight? For their rights including the right to own slaves. Then and now, people can be swayed by their political leaders. It's easy to gwine to fight since it would all be over in one quick, relatively bloodless battle. When the war started going past its first year, a lot of men wanted out and the conscription act by the Confederate Congress was seen by many as a betrayal.

    BTW, a good book about the war is Chandra Manning's What This Cruel War Was Over.
     
  6. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011

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    Why fight? Because there was a fight going on. Plain and Simple. Very few families showed up in mass to fight. (You'll recall it was mostly individuals.) The reason the war started was one or two things. The reasons men fought were not very related to any of that. Bullets and bloodshed drew folks to the ruckus.
     
  7. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    Very few families showed up? Do you mean entire families, including babies and grandma? If so, this makes no sense. Could you flesh this comment out a bit?

    There is a huge distinction between slaves owned within a household/family and enlistment into an army. In fact, they are totally unrelated, if that was the connection of the above comment.

    Confederate fans like the per capita white ownership of slaves rather than family ownership as the smaller percentage on a per capita basis supports, in their minds, the idea that slavery was an afterthought in the list of differences between regions.
     
  8. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    This sounds like the tired old canard that the south was agricultural and the north was industrial. The north was every bit as dependent on the produce of the nation as was the south. Industrialists had to have cotton. Rice was a staple out into the furthest reaches of Western territories. Tobacco, (can't call that a staple, but there were lots of southerners living off the income from a few acres of the weed) was as good as gold. Sugar is hardly worth mentioning except for the number enslaved to plant, harvest and process it.

    Trade wasn't one way. Where did white flour come from? Corn meal? Hay? Potatoes? Apples? Hominy? Beef?

    Many southern farms were self-sufficient; that is, each grew enough provender to sustain itself. But many were not. In effect, cotton went north and flour went south. Each section was heavily dependent on the other for what it needed.

    Somewhere in there, this synergy broke. And the rock on which the ship broke? Some prying, holier-than-thou northerners figured there ought to be no man owning another. And the reaction from the south was equally sanctimonious: "This is the way we do things down here -- butt out."

    A really strange way for grown-ups to act.

    Just a thought. (Hey! I'm watching the Senate getting ready to break into a fist-slinging brawl. Give me a break.)

    Just a thought.

    Ole
     
  9. OpnOlympic

    OpnOlympic Cadet

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    Exactly right Ole, they are poster children for the test of madness: repeating something over and over again, expecting a different result.
     
  10. Scribe

    Scribe Cadet

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    Since you repeat yourself let me repeat myself.

    Per the 1850 Census there were some 350,000 slaveowners. In order to get a handle on the number of white southerners with a vested interest in slavery and those slaveowners we have to add:

    1) The slaveowners' nonslaveowning wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, maiden aunts and dotty uncles, nephews and nieces, and unemployed cousins all of whom might depend to some extent of ol' massa and his slaves for their sustenance. U.S. Sen. James Hammond of South Carolina (he of "Cotton is King" fame) pointed out that the 350,000 slaveholder number actually represented not individuals but families, and need be multiplied by five or six to give an accurate picture of those directly benefiting from slavery. Five times 350,000 = 1,750,000.
    2) Add to that the overseers, the slave patrol members, the doctors, lawyers, merchants, et al, and their families, who relied on the slaveowner for much of their income.
    3) Add the upwardly mobile nonslaveholding whites who hoped someday to become slaveowners someday.
    4) Then we have the nonslaving whites who admired and honored the slaveowner aristocracy and looked to the planters for leadership.
    5) Top that off with all those who took as gospel Albert G. Brown of Mississippi and his ilk when he argued that without slavery, "The Negro will intrude into his [the nonslaveholding white] presence -- insist on being treated as an equal -- that he shall go to the white
    man's table, and the white man to his -- that he shall share the white man's bed, and the white man his -- that his son shall marry the white man's daughter, and the white man's daughter his son. In short, they shall live on terms of perfect social equality."

    Put them all together and they spell a majority of southern whites who had or thought they had a vested interest in preserving and protecting slavery, up to and including fighting for it.

    end of plagiarizing myself

    There was widespead acceptance of and support for slavery in the antebellum south that went beyond the owners of record of slaves. Plus slavery was not just an economic/labor system, it was a system of social control sustained by a people who could not conceive of living with 4 million free blacks who as freedmen might expect some modicum of political power.

    Out of curiousity, what does the fact that the good Dr. Franklin was black have to do with anything?

    And what made the economic systems antagonistic?
     
  11. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    To All,

    And this is the road I weary of, as I have been down it too many times to count.

    Why is it we can never seem to take the South at its own word when it came to the primary reason they left the Union? Why is it we have to ignore declarations and ordinances of secession? The very words recorded in the US Congress? The 50 years of agitation over slavery right up until the election of 1860? The newspapers articles? The letters and diaries of the time?

    Slavery has, does, and will always be at the bottom of every issue, every supposed cause, every reason why the South was ultimately led from the Union. It will not go away, it will not recede, it will not be driven from the pages of our collective history.

    Read my signature statement and accept the history of the time.

    Unionblue
     
  12. Horace Porter

    Horace Porter Sergeant

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    Because, for people who identify with the South and who admire the Confederacy, it's painful to admit this, because deep in their hearts, they know slavery's an evil thing, and how could their heroes have fought to preserve it?

    They simply lack a dispassionate disinterestedness. Somehow, it's personal.
     
  13. dvrmte

    dvrmte Major

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    I found this and found it interesting. I'll post part of it and a link.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-mackey/confederate-remembrance-s_b_106773.html

    The second group -- the Sacrificers -- are the people who trace their heritage back to the Confederate soldiery of the Civil War. Their focus is on the sheer magnitude of the sacrifice of the common Southern soldier in the war. As has been noted by Senator Webb and a legion of historians, the vast bulk of Confederate soldiers did not own a single slave and many from the most rural areas had never even seen a black man or woman in their lives. Yet that begs the question: Why did these men, who had no direct benefit, in general, from slavery, fight so hard to uphold it? Why did, to paraphrase a military historian speaking of the German Army of World War II, such a great army fight for such a reprehensible cause?
    The simple fact is that the individual Confederate soldier -- from the lowest economic rung and in many cases disenfranchised as the slaves were -- fought for a variety of reasons. Localism and tribalism, which we in happily accept being a part of the modern Middle East, but for some reason can't understand as a normal part of antebellum American culture, played an important role. The nationalistic spirit of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which we are still seeing today, was invented to heal the breach of the Civil War... because it really didn't exist before 1861. Soldiers were organized in local companies and state regiments. Go to any battlefield of the war, and you can see hundreds of monuments from the Northern and Southern states, and with a handful of exceptions only a few to the Regular U.S. Army. To the men of that era, New York or Virginia was their country. Tied closely to this is the nature of how men went to war in 1861 -- you fought with your neighbors, relatives and friends in your local regiment. Peer pressure was a major part of why the individual fought. There was, of course, a not-so-honorable side as well, as the vilest of racial fears were encouraged, out of fear that the Yankee Abolitionists would not only overturn slavery, but put white Southern womanhood at risk as well. Others, while not the majority as reflected by the States Righters, believed that the issue was individual freedom and State's Rights == a flexible and nearly mystical idea as diaphanous as that of "Union." The reasons for each man who joined the armies of either side are as complex as each individual.

    Sincerely,
    dvrmte
     
  14. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    dvrmte,

    Larry and I have had many discussions over the years on why individual soldiers fight.

    The same is true of soldiers today, while many rushed to join the services after 9/11, you will find many who joined for various other reasons.

    Some join out of a sense of duty to their country, some for employment or job training. Some join for the educational benefits, others for the adventure and the travel the service affords. Not since my early days in the 1970s does the services employ the draft, so all are volunteers at the present.

    But there is one thing that never changes. You go to war when your government tells you for the reasons they give you. The same thing happened in the American Civil War.

    The oft-used quote that only 5%, 3%, etc., of Southerners owned slaves is not accurate, slavery was an institution recognized by a soldier's state, enshrined in his state's constitution, protected by his courts in his laws, and preached from his churche's pulpit that it was condoned in the Bible and was his heritage and right.

    But even if he did not own a slave or never could afford one, or if he enlisted for a variety of reasons, he fought for his government and its goals and its objectives and there can be no doubt that slavery, its preservation and its protection, was the main cause of the war. Without it, no secession. With no secession, no war. Period.

    Many a boy in the South enlisted for the adventure, the travel, a chance at a good fight, to protect his family and his home and never owned one slave. I can agree with that. But whether he wanted to or not, he fought for it. Of this there can be no doubt. Even later in the war, when the average soldier complained of the twenty negro law, or how the war had become a 'rich man's war and a poor man's fight,' he fought to protect that institution.

    The simple fact remains, without slavery, without those who were in charge who had a vested interest in slavery, not one of those nonslaveholding boys would have ever needed to enlist. There was simply no other reason, no other cause, that could bring about the slaughter of 620,000 Americans. Not big interferring government, because there was no such thing in 1861. 16,000 soldiers, 2/3rds scattered west of the Mississippi in company sized packets fighting Indians? A handful of federal marshals? A part-time US attorney general? What with the most contact common folk had with the federal government was the US Post Office? Hardly.

    The tariff? Which hardly anyone but that 5% of slaveholders ever saw or had to pay because they imported luxuary goods like Cuban cigars, French wines and silks? If you were a farmer in the South, how much did you import? Nothing. And the tariff was paid, 92% of it, in the NORTH, not the South. Slaves didn't import. Millions of Southern residents didn't import goods from overseas and the tariff was so low, it was considered almost a 'free trade' environment at the time. And please don't mention the upcoming vote on the Morril Tariff as a reason for secession. At the time it was merely a replacement tariff, designed to make up for shortfalls in the federal revenue. At the time of the firing on Ft. Sumter, there was two hundred thousand dollars in the US Treasury. The tariff as a cause? NO.

    I have heard and seen the other so-called causes, i.e., Big Business, Money the North was going to lose or so desired to take from the South and have to reply with the word that makes the most sense. BALONEY. Not when I read Northern businessmen who visited Lincoln and begged him to offer more concessions to the South in order not to effect business.

    What does that leave? One thing and one thing only, the only issue to agitate the nation for 50 years prior to Ft. Sumter, slavery. To say otherwise is to flatly deny history and to call every Southerner of the period, who declared openly and clearly what the war was about, a liar or a fool. I cannot bring myself to believe either.

    My ancestors are from Virginia and fought in the 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Co. G, The Nelson County Grays. That unit was part of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and it fought in every battle from Bull Run to Appomatox. My direct ancestor, Jacob Lee Hambleton, owned seven slaves and came from a large slave-holding family. He and his three brothers enlisted into the Confederate army.

    I know exactly what Jacob was fighting for. His home, his family, AND his way of life, which revolved around slavery. I sincerely believe that if he had owned no slaves, he would have enlisted for the first two reasons just as fast and just as willingly.

    But I also firmly believe that slavery, and the South's refusal to give it up, but its stubborn insistance to protect it, to maintain it, to expand it at the expense of others, brought on the war and the need for nonslaveholders to sacrifice their homes, their families, and their lives for one of the worst reasons ever to go to war for.

    I have researched, read and debated here and elsewhere and have come to this opinion. I have seen nothing in a percentage figure to convince me otherwise.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
  15. RobertP

    RobertP Captain

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    Balderdash.
     
  16. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    "The tariff? Which hardly anyone but that 5% of slaveholders ever saw or had to pay because they imported luxury goods like imported luxuary goods like Cuban cigars, French wines and silks? If you were a farmer in the South, how much did you import? Nothing. And the tariff was paid, 92% of it, in the NORTH, not the South. "

    UB
    You are getting lost in numbers, although your idea is right.

    With an average white household about five or six persons The 5% (actually 6) of individual slaveholders can be more rationally represented as about 1/3 of the families owned slaves. This does not include the noslaveholding families that hired slaves. There were parts of the south where slaveholding households numbered in 2/3 or better percentage and other parts where less than 5% were slaveholders. I am also sure that the individual slaveholders shared commonly imported like ladies dress goods with members of their households.

    I am also sure, that most farmers and slavesholders imported NOTHING. They were consumers of imported goods, not importers. To say that farmers consumed no imported goods is not a supportable statement as records of destination for consumption of imported goods are not recorded as the imported goods became part of domestic commerce after duty was paid.

    Although 92% of customs duties were paid in the North, principally NYC, much of these goods found their to the south. Whether it is 2%, 5% or 20%, we will never know.

    I am also sure that percentages of imported goods consumed in the south were NOT featured in recruiting posters.
     
  17. Leah's Choice

    Leah's Choice Cadet

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    Balderdash. What does that mean? I'm not asking for a definition of the word, I'm wondering what it is you're disputing. The percentage of slave owners in the South, or H.P.'s statement that Southerners recognize slavery as a great evil but defend the war in order to preserve the honor of those who fought on the side of the South?
     
  18. dvrmte

    dvrmte Major

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    I don't disagree entirely. In fact I agree with most of what you say.

    The post I made previously is just about a mirror image of what you just said. If you read it, it classifies how the Confederacy is memorialized. I don't consider myself a "Lost Causer." I group myself with the "sacrificers" as explained in my last post.

    I have learned alot since joining this forum. My beliefs have evolved. I know that the Confederate government mislead alot of people just as I believe the Union government did as well. No government is perfect.

    I'm sure the actual number of soldiers that owned slaves themselves was pretty low, though their families may have owned them. It's just how you want to use the percentages. Many north and south benefited from slavery prewar.

    Some wars this country has fought I totally disagreed with. I think they were wrong and immoral but if I had been drafted I would have went. If during those wars I would have felt my home or country was endangered I would have volunteered. My country my home, right or wrong.

    I just think some of the posters here have a total disregard for descendants of Confederate soldiers.
    My ancestors on one side were from the Georgia mountains, totally isolated from slavery. They moved there immediately after the removal of the Cherokee.(A bad thing) They moved from the mountains of North Carolina.
    This is the part that totally baffles me. All of my Georgia ancestors and their brothers joined the Confederate army in September 1861 or February 1862. They were between the ages of 24 and 38 and all were married and had children. I could see them going if conscripted but to join??? Something really motivated them. I could never see myself leaving my wife and four children behind on a sustenance farm as my g-g-grandfather did.
    I asked my grandfather why he thought they joined. The only thing he could figure is the fellows liked to fight. I don't buy it. It was a different time and I may never figure out there motivation especially because some people in this area were known to have Union sympathies. That may have something to do with it but I doubt it.

    So please, with all due respect, refrain from lecturing me about the myth of the Lost Cause. I get the feeling you think I believe in it. My beliefs have evolved.

    Sincerely,
    dvrmte
     
  19. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

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    One way to look "at the numbers." Over one half of the population of the Confederacy were either slaves or slaveowners.

    Unionblue and Horace Porter are correct is saying attempts to downplay slavery's central role may be comforting to those having a personal or family identification with the old South. The idea of human slavery and racial prejudice ar repugnant to any decent American in the 21st century. But the people of 1860 thought differently, as reading the Ordinances of secession from 1860 reveal.
     
  20. dvrmte

    dvrmte Major

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    I'm sure after the northern importers paid the tariffs they were able to recoup them when they sold the goods. So as you said, who knows what percentage the south paid of the tariffs.

    Sincerely,
    dvrmte
     
  21. RobertP

    RobertP Captain

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    I mention that Prof. Franklin was black because otherwise many of many of you would dismiss his statistics as the manipulations of a revisionist, moon and magnolias, sympathizer. Although I respect your research and extrapolations, I tend to go with the late Duke professor. He could have have easily chosen to have an agenda, but didn't.

    As for your comment on 4 million free blacks. That is true. As Jefferson said, and I paraphrase, we have a Tiger by the tail. It was also true in the North where free laborers wanted no part of the black refugees whom they feared would destroy their livelihood. The NY riots were the result. And my, weren't those refugees welcomed with open arms over the past 150 years?

    People were people and did the best they could. I suspect that those in those in the North were not really much different than in the South. Nobody was pure, and the sanctimony rings hollow. I don't lose any sleep over it.
     

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