Could the Civil War had been avoided if less profit was acceptable

wilber6150

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#1
Hi list,
Just pondering this question.. What economic loss would the South had taken, i.e. large plantation owners, if the CSA freed the slaves but paid them a meager wage to still work the plantation.. What Im wondering is how much profit margin was there in a bale of cotton, could the slaves been worked like the emigrants in Northern factories , with company housing in the form of their slave quarters and company store..Was the war really over a profit margin?
 

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unionblue

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#3
wilber6150,

I also think one has to take into consideration the social controls also provided to the white South by the institution of slavery.

I think there was much worry beyond financial concerns (although I think there were bigs ones, especially with those heavily invested in the institution) and the biggest was what whites thought might be a backlash over the nearly four million slaves being held in forced bondage for so long.

Hard to imagine the fear that most felt if the slaves were not held under strict control, especially when one reads about all the concerns and worries most Southerners felt about possible slave revolts and Northern abolishionists "stirring up" their slaves.

One has to also look at the past attempts to offer financial compensation to Southern slaveholders for their slaves, prior to and during the Civil War. Each time it was offered, it was rejected for various reasons.

If the South had tried to give up slavery without compensation, I am very certain there would have been considerable financial and social tribulations, that would have lasted for some years, perhaps even decades.

Hope that helps.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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#4
wilber6150,

I also think one has to take into consideration the social controls also provided to the white South by the institution of slavery.

I think there was much worry beyond financial concerns (although I think there were bigs ones, especially with those heavily invested in the institution) and the biggest was what whites thought might be a backlash over the nearly four million slaves being held in forced bondage for so long.

Hard to imagine the fear that most felt if the slaves were not held under strict control, especially when one reads about all the concerns and worries most Southerners felt about possible slave revolts and Northern abolishionists "stirring up" their slaves.

One has to also look at the past attempts to offer financial compensation to Southern slaveholders for their slaves, prior to and during the Civil War. Each time it was offered, it was rejected for various reasons.

If the South had tried to give up slavery without compensation, I am very certain there would have been considerable financial and social tribulations, that would have lasted for some years, perhaps even decades.

Hope that helps.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
You both make very good points and I completely agree with your views. I do believe the Nat Turner revolt scared the bejesus out of the plantaion owners and changed their view of their slaves for the worse. After that revolt, the freedom of movement of the slaves was curtailed drastically to try to prevent "plottin aginst the white folks"... no compensation would have allayed those fears
 

Craig L Barry

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#5
It is always about the money. It is the only thing most governments take seriously. You can do
just about any crime in America and get away with it, except for not paying your taxes. If people
paid attention to what they pay in income taxes, in other words--if it was not withheld but rather
paid out of pocket--you would see a revolt. The Civil War was "...a specious piece of humbug designed to
mask their (Northern) desire for the economic control of the Southern States." They claim Dickens
said that, but I can't find the original source on it. Supposedly it appeared in a newspaper editorial
from a debate on the Morrill Tariff. The point is the same whether he said it or not.

Nothing new, the economic advantages combined with a resistance to tariffs led to South Carolina
about pulling out of the Union in the 1840s. If the South, along their peculiar institutions were an
economic liability, like Cuba was for the USSR for example, would the North have invaded? I bet not.
And when non-union skilled labor undercut the ownership/training costs of human bondage, the South
would have dropped the peculiar institution like a hot potato.

It is sort of like the way we tolerate illegal immigration. We want our yards cut and roofs
replaced on the cheap, to say nothing of how we've gotten used to cheap grapefruit juice.
The difference between slavery and illegal immigrant labor is the freedom to come and go.
Slaves lack that critical ability. You read from time to time about illegal immigrants held
at arms and forced to work to pay off the cost of smuggling them in. That's modern-era, too.
This differs from ante-bellum slavery exactly how?
 

gary

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#6
$1,500 per slave. Lose ten slaves and it's $15,000 and one hundred slaves $150,000. That's a lot of ducats back then. As much as I abhor slavery, I can't see slaveowners parting with an asset with no compensation.

It probably would have been cheaper if the North bought the slaves and paid for it via an income tax on the North.
 

WJC

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#7
Hi list,
Just pondering this question.. What economic loss would the South had taken, i.e. large plantation owners, if the CSA freed the slaves but paid them a meager wage to still work the plantation.. What Im wondering is how much profit margin was there in a bale of cotton, could the slaves been worked like the emigrants in Northern factories , with company housing in the form of their slave quarters and company store..Was the war really over a profit margin?
We can take guesses at an answer, but it really is unknowable. There is no evidence that more than a very few slaveholders considered it.
Certainly, there were ideas floated about reimbursing slaveholders for freed slaves, but most were rejected out of hand by slaveholders and dismissed by Congress because of the immense cost involved.
The idea was only implemented in freeing slaves in the District of Columbia in 1862. That program freed just over 3100 slaves at a cost of almost $1 million.
In the end, however, what you suggest is close to what evolved. Slaves were given a small plot for subsistence farming and a small house in exchange for working the fields of the local plantation.
 
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#8
Slavery could have been limited if they had been interested in doing so.
The Romans, as an example, created many legal rights for slaves.
1. Limit the age at which a slave can be sold to be between 15-25.
2. Make school up to 8th grade available to all.
3. Recognize slave marriages,
4. Make interstate sales subject to federal regulation and taxation.
The problem was that by 1860 the southern states were over producing cotton based on the lowest possible labor costs. Even the slightest increase in the labor costs, was going to put leverage producers out of business.
In a rational system, picking time would have been festival time, and piece rates for lbs brought in would have paid for celebrations.
 

major bill

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#9
Answering this is difficult. A more in depth study of the cost would be needed. Also selling slaves allowed the slave owner to raise money when needed. It would be more difficult to sell free blacks to raise money. Also plantations received loans based on the value of slaves as assets. How would a bank loans be secured without slaves as assets?

How I see this is if cotton prices fell, a slave owner could sell slaves to make the loan payments. With no slaves to sell in bad years. a plantation owner would need to sell other assets such as land to make loan payments.
 

Robtweb1

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#10
Hi list,
Just pondering this question.. What economic loss would the South had taken, i.e. large plantation owners, if the CSA freed the slaves but paid them a meager wage to still work the plantation.. What Im wondering is how much profit margin was there in a bale of cotton, could the slaves been worked like the emigrants in Northern factories , with company housing in the form of their slave quarters and company store..Was the war really over a profit margin?
It was all about money.
 
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#12
Hi list,
Just pondering this question.. What economic loss would the South had taken, i.e. large plantation owners, if the CSA freed the slaves but paid them a meager wage to still work the plantation.. What Im wondering is how much profit margin was there in a bale of cotton, could the slaves been worked like the emigrants in Northern factories , with company housing in the form of their slave quarters and company store..Was the war really over a profit margin?



Historicaly, very little of the vast fortunes amassed by the plantationoligarchy of the South percolated to the vast majority of southerners, white or black. Ye, though they did not profit verymuch(it at all) from the economic benefits of Slavery, all whites did benefit from its social controls, no matter their economic status.

In this regard, I think it prfitable to read Jefferson Davis' Farewell Address to the Senate, when joined his State in Secession. In it he describes the reason's for his Stte's secession and why he agreed with them, it contained very little of Economics.

But, I think over time, the issue of the existence of Slavery would not have been nearly so difficult, if the solution to the question of what to do with Afro-American's, without slavery.
 
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#14
I don't believe that slavery would have ended without a war.

I say this because slaves were looked upon as property and not human beings. Slaves, were a means to an end...tools to be used and exploited, for profit. It really came down to money. And, northern agitation against slavery was seen as government interference and resented. Forcing the south to free slaves may have been seen as close to theft by a government far off in Washington, D.C.

In a way, the Civil War was a class war. Most southerners didn't own slaves. Those that did couldn't run their plantations without free labor and the cost of paying freed slaves or, hiring local labor would have been expensive and could have bankrupted them, if not put a huge dent in their lifestyle. Plus, slavery was a big business. There was money to be made.

By framing northern agitation for emancipation as the federal government attempting to curtail southern rights, and steal private property, the upper class was able to whip the local population into a frame of mind that caused many poorer southerners to feel as threatened as the plantation owners felt. I imagine that many poorer southerners thought that if the federal government could come in and take slaves from the plantations, what can they do to the rest of us on a whim? For example...

Imagine, the federal government decreed that owning a dog is immoral and illegal, and they should be freed. Dog owners would be up in arms. Then those who own cats would start to think that they could be next along with those who own other animals as pets. They'd band together and fight. I am not comparing people to animals but the concept of ownership might have been the same.

After Nat Turner, southerners were loathe to free slaves. The fear of another revolt or random acts of retaliation by recently freed slaves was very real. Thus, keeping them ignorant and controlled was considered the safe bet, and a right of ownership.

Remember in the movie, ' Gettysburg', when a southern soldier that had been captured was asked why he was fighting in this war? His answer was, "I'm fighting for my rights.". I bet he wasn't a slave owner. But, I bet he felt that the north was threatening his civil rights and it had nothing to do with slavery per se.
 
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#15
Hi list,
Just pondering this question.. What economic loss would the South had taken, i.e. large plantation owners, if the CSA freed the slaves but paid them a meager wage to still work the plantation.. What Im wondering is how much profit margin was there in a bale of cotton, could the slaves been worked like the emigrants in Northern factories , with company housing in the form of their slave quarters and company store..Was the war really over a profit margin?
Slavery wasn't profitable, what slaves produced was. That production did not require slavery.
Slavery continued into the 19th Century because of who the slaves were. Most Americans did not believe Blacks could integrate into White society. If slaves were freed, by whatever means, the Black labor for production might not be lost, but that labor might produce more trouble than anything else, and it would make other labor hard to acquire. In the first 7 states to secede, there were large areas of significant Black slave populations. The White populations there were scared.
Buying slaves and freeing them would not moderate the fear, it would intensify it.
The issue was more that the Blacks were where they were, not their dollar value.
 
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#18
I noted that until yesterday, the most recent post on this thread was dated 2010. Then, someone posted on this thread yesterday. I’m curious: what prompted the resurrection of this “zombie” thread? Is this thread related to another, more recent discussion?
There's a lot of valuable knowledge hidden away in old threads (they go back 20 years now!), it's good to see them resurrected, so that we can all benefit from them today.

I wasn't here in 2010, but have found some worthwhile food for thought in some of the early posts of this thread.
 
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#19
Remember in the movie, ' Gettysburg', when a southern soldier that had been captured was asked why he was fighting in this war? His answer was, "I'm fighting for my rights.". I bet he wasn't a slave owner. But, I bet he felt that the north was threatening his civil rights and it had nothing to do with slavery per se.[/QUOTE]



The question was(and is) except for the right to own slaves, what Civil Right of a Southerner was endangered, that was not equally endangered for Northerners?
 
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#20
Hi list,
Just pondering this question.. What economic loss would the South had taken, i.e. large plantation owners, if the CSA freed the slaves but paid them a meager wage to still work the plantation.. What Im wondering is how much profit margin was there in a bale of cotton, could the slaves been worked like the emigrants in Northern factories , with company housing in the form of their slave quarters and company store..Was the war really over a profit margin?




I would guess Yes, to the extent that less profit, would result in fewer slaves and as a result reduced pressure to keepAfro-Americans as slaves, reducing a percieved need for secession.

However, in pure economic theory terms, it is more likely that, in the short runb at least, less profits would result in fewer plantations, but those would be bigger with more slaves to increase production to maintain maximum profit levels, i.e., less profits might just easily mean fewer, bigger plantations, with more Slaves.
 



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