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the relationship between social classes and affinity toward slavery

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by Baggage Handler #2, Oct 14, 2009.

  1. Baggage Handler #2

    Baggage Handler #2 2nd Lieutenant

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    From the other, really big thread, here is a splinter.

    It seems apparent that there was some correlation between a position on slavery and the social class. I.E. those with large plantations were pro and those who actually had to do the work were against.

    Does it go any deeper than that? Were the social strata in between divided proportionally?
     

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  3. OpnOlympic

    OpnOlympic Cadet

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    All social (and economic) classes in the slave states had a stake in the existence of the institution of slavery and had an interest in seeing it survive.
     
  4. K Hale

    K Hale Colonel Civil War Photo Contest
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    Most people are in favor of the status quo, aren't they? If you were a non-slaveowner from the mountains where slavery was rare, you were probably not in favor of slavery. In one of Olmsted's books (A Journey in the Back Country, I think it's called), he reports on what sounds like a large percentage of poor-whites who were all for getting rid of slavery, but says that this is not because of a feeling of injustice or pity, but simply because they didn't want blacks around. At least that was Olmsted's interpretation.
     
  5. Baggage Handler #2

    Baggage Handler #2 2nd Lieutenant

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    Not the slaves.
    Probably not many of the skilled tradespersons who found themselves in competition with slave labor.
    Possibly not some of the poorer farmers who found themselves squeezed into the periphery.
    And quite likely not members the First Alabama Cavalry, USV.

    Please, overgeneralizations don't help discussion.
     
  6. Baggage Handler #2

    Baggage Handler #2 2nd Lieutenant

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    "Come high or come low, our status is quo," yes?

    The thought I'm chewing on, but haven't fully digested is this:
    The civil war broke open along the lines it did because of a clash between two mutually exclusive cultures.

    One leaned toward an egalitarian federalism, a society in which there was mobility between social and wealth classes, and in which power was distributed throughout the electorate.

    The other leaned toward a rigidly stratified society, both in money and status, with the goal of moving the primary political power to the "patrician" class. The "lowest" class was anchored there by slavery, allowing all other classes some sense of superiority.​

    I was having difficulty picturing a dirt poor reb signing up to protect the wealth of someone much richer. Phrase it as Johny Reb answering the drum-beat to protect his station in life (a station which depends on there being a slave class), and it makes more sense to me.

    Again, not married to this idea.

    [add the following:]
    As you move from top to bottom, I don't think the desire to maintain "the peculiar institution" is uniform. The probability of finding someone ambivalent about it - I think - would increase as you went down-class. You might not find a majority against it at any layer, but given that most states fielded at least one Union regiment (South Carolina excepted?), indicates some level of independent thinking.


    Thanks.
     
  7. lwhite64

    lwhite64 Corporal

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    Well not in all cases, there was opposition to secession from some large planters, they saw that if it failed then slavery was doomed. You see the support strongest among your mid sized slave owners who want to expand and grow. You can see the opposition with some of the slave owners around Vicksburg in 1860, and people like Plowden Weston in Georgetown, SC. However, when the states do leave the Union they see it as sink or swim, so then support it.

    Lee
     
  8. OpnOlympic

    OpnOlympic Cadet

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    Slaves were In southern society, but not Of it. They were not citizens and legally, they were not persons, they were pieces of propety.
    Skilled artisan may not have appreciated slave competition, but that does not mean they favored freeing the slaves or did not want slaves of their own.
    In southern society, slavery was the accepted means of betting ones life, both economically and socially. No matter how poor a white man be, in a slave society, he could always be assured his social status was not the lowest.
    If slaves were troublesome competition as slaves, how much more troublesome would they become as free competition?(for artisans, farmers, merchants, mechanics, etc., etc., etc.)
     
  9. K Hale

    K Hale Colonel Civil War Photo Contest
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    "They're takin' our JOBS!" Poor-to-middling people in the north weren't too happy about emancipation for that reason either.
     
  10. OpnOlympic

    OpnOlympic Cadet

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    the relationship between social classes and affinity towards slavery

    Even the most poverty stricken white yeoman, with a family of starving children, sleeping with their pigs and having to eat dirt to ease the pain of pellagra, could still thank God each morning of his miserable life, for not letting him be born a slave.
    If slaves were emancipated, slave owners would lose their wealth, while a condition of equality would exist between most poor whites and most ex-slaves and since southern society was mostly either rich or relatively poor, you have a very large base of the population with a case against emancipation.
     
  11. F. C. James

    F. C. James Cadet

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    If the Plain Folk had been aware of how much the large Planter detested him and looked down on him, I wonder if he would have supported the secession and the volunteered to fight for the rich man's property rights ?

    Below is an excerpt from an article published in 1862 where a South Carolina Planter is interviewed by a Yankee reporter. His Lordship gives his opinion of the Plain Folk and Southern farmers in general.

    The article can be read at :

    Continental Monthly - June 1862

    "Among the Pines"

    Page 711

    http://digital.library.cornell.edu/c/cont/cont.1862.html
     
  12. OpnOlympic

    OpnOlympic Cadet

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    Ref. Post #10; posted excerpt reads as abolitionist propaganda. But, even if the discussion was a fake, its basic point is still valid.
    Slaver owners were a miniscule part of southern society, numerically. Yet they overwhelmingly dominated the political power structure in slave state representation in Congress and state legislatures, such a dominance of only a single social (and/or econommic) class could not survive, if that governing class did not represent some common interest, that unified all southern voters.
    Although, there may have been the normal antipathies between social groups, the fact remains that slave owners and most non-slaveowning (even the poorest whites) had a common interest in keeping Blacks only as slaves.
     
  13. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Well said, Opn, as usual.

    Ole
     
  14. Freddy

    Freddy 2nd Lieutenant

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    The footnote for the statistics referenced in the article claim that the numbers are correct.
     

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