Discussion Planter debt caused the war

NH Civil War Gal

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Like I said in note #3, inadvertently the large Southern planters recreated a West African economic model of wealth and liquidity (slaves) in the lower half of the United States. In the North, wealth was not held in that economic model, so having slaves or not, was not an issue or had economic impact within the populace on holding debt or not.

This model was already discarded all over Europe and the Caribbean Islands.

As pressure built on the ”lone island” of economics, the South tried to push this model west because of declining nutrition in soil in the South, political pressure from overseas and in the North, and internal pressures the South was starting to feel. The whole situation was nonsustainable and VERY combustible. And combust it did. It was going to do so, sooner or later - whether it was slave revolt when numbers grew too big IF they had managed to push west OR a catastrophic agricultural failure taking place.

Even the ones that went to Brazil couldn’t maintain that economic system. They couldn’t control what slaves they had for very long and Brazil freed their slaves and that economic model was over too. In fact, I always thought it was crazy that they thought it was going to be so simple to recreate an economic model of such immense proportions which actually showed they didn’t understand their own economic model at all or how it had originally worked or didn’t.


In reading some diaries, a FEW, far seeing, Southern planters invested in Northern bonds and were okay after the war. Interestingly, the Southern Planters that did that, still rooted for the CSA and didn’t see a problem with playing both sides against the middle. Most didn’t and lost everything, except the land they held. Their liquidity had walked off because the rest of the country did not HOLD that economic model. If it was Africa those slaves that had walked off would have been simply gobbled up and reenter the economic system.

The South never invested their debt into modernizing and mechanizing their rural landscape, i.e., railroad gauges, road surfaces, public schooling, etc. This is like an onion - there were a lot of complex layers to this and they got far more hung up on individual state rights decades earlier than the war than the North ever did. They weren’t able to cooperate with a Southern debt until much too late.
 
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Interesting discussion. Anyone looking for more information should consider this book, written in 1856. The Kindle version is 99 cents. I grew up "Confederate" and Olmsted's observations ring true to me. It's like that old quote - "It's hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame." Having outsiders' observations can be very helpful.

A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States​

by
Frederick Law Olmsted
3.88 · Rating details · 113 ratings · 6 reviews
In 1852, Frederick Law Olmsted, began his first journey down the Eastern Seaboard to visit the slave states of Washington, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.

His dispatches to The New York Times form the basis of this fascinating account of slavery before the American Civil War.

This first-person account of the pre-war South presents a stark depiction of those states which relied upon a slave economy.

He provides a vivid description of how both the slave-owning elites and the African-American populations lived and worked, supporting his observations with critical analysis.

A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States remains a classic on a par with Alexis de Tocqueville’s endlessly cited critique of a generation earlier.” The New York Review of Books

“As an argument against slavery, his book seems to us worth any number of Uncle Tom’s Cabins; for he writes upon the subject without noise or passion, and contents himself with stating in a simple manner what he has observed, and what conclusions he has founded upon his observations.” The Saturday Review

“No one can ever understand rightly the industrial and economic history of the southern states without a definite conception of the practical workings of slavery itself. These are the considerations which make Mr. Olmstead’s book of permanent value.” Francis W. Shepardson, Journal of Political Economy

“Some of the most interesting works that have been written on America … are the production of a native, Mr. F. L. Olmsted.” The British Quarterly Review

A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States
is essential reading for anyone interested in nineteenth century American history and the development of the abolition movement before the American Civil War.

Frederick Law Olmsted was an American journalist, social critic, public administrator and landscape architect. He was particularly famous for assisting in the design of many of America’s most loved parks, including Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and Elm Park in Worcester, Massachusetts. He wrote three different accounts of his travels across America. A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States is his most famous and was published in 1856. Olmsted died in 1903. (less)
 

Andersonh1

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Interesting discussion. Anyone looking for more information should consider this book, written in 1856. The Kindle version is 99 cents. I grew up "Confederate" and Olmsted's observations ring true to me. It's like that old quote - "It's hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame." Having outsiders' observations can be very helpful.

Thanks for the recommendation. Bought it and started reading. I like the author's informal "here's what I saw" style so far.
 

bayouace

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Olmstead spent several days with Richard Taylor at Fashion Plantation above New Orleans.
Basically, Taylor was offering that slavery was evil, but it enabled the way of life for planters, their factors, bankers, and merchants in the South.
From Richard Taylor, Soldier Prince of Dixie by T. Michael Parrish.
 

mobile_96

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Anyone looking for more information should consider this book, written in 1856. The Kindle version is 99 cents. I grew up "Confederate" and Olmsted's observations ring true to me. It's like that old quote - "It's hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame." Having outsiders' observations can be very helpful.
The following is the introduction to a presentation I will be giving at my RT in Dec.:
Better known as the designer of Central Park in New York City, Frederick Law Olmsted,
an anti-slavery northern writer, had traveled in the South from 1852 to 1854. On his journey he
observed southern society and recorded his observations for an eventual northern audience.
Acknowledged by historians as having been biased against the region, Olmsted’s accounts of his
travels are nevertheless cited time and again to provide a picture of the antebellum South.
Olmsted’s book claimed to explain how the region’s social, political, and economic systems
functioned and to show that slavery held back southern progress at every turn. His travels
seemed so extensive and his writing so detailed that his many readers considered the work,
notwithstanding its rather obvious bias, to be one of the more comprehensive accounts of life in
the South.
Olmsted saw the free North and its society as virtuous and progressive and the slavebased
society of the South as immoral and backward. He really experienced very little of the region,
even of the cotton states. Olmsted traveled to perhaps forty counties in the slave states, just
less than five percent of the total number of counties, which was 808 by my count from the
1860 census records, of the seceding states.
Yet, he drew conclusions about all of southern slave society from his tiny bit of exposure to it.
Passing through Montgomery, Alabama, he commented on how pleasant and prosperous the town was, but
asserted that its happy condition resulted from the fact that most of the people living there were
northern or foreign born.
Mobile, populated mostly by Southerners, presented a sharp contrast
to Montgomery and Olmsted described it as a dirty town with very high prices. The city’s only
assets, its one hotel and the beginning of a ship building industry, were, of course, owned and
operated by northern men or foreign born merchants.
Similarly, San Augustine, Texas, settled by migrants from the lower South, was a filthy,
drunken, violent place with no redeeming qualities at all.
Olmsted insisted that during all of his travels in East Texas he never saw a
single person read and that the population was mired in ignorance. One of the most important
cities in the Southwest at this time, Vicksburg, barely rated a mention from Olmsted beyond a
complaint about the condition of its dock facilities. He stopped at no smaller towns or villages
in Mississippi and none at all in Tennessee because all of the inhabitants there were in his
estimation dirty, toothless, ignorant, or flea ridden. The city of Natchez was not any better, as
“the houses and shops within the town are generally small, and always inelegant.” Olmsted
found what he was looking for in his travels, a region backward and blighted, lacking in virtue
and industry.
The remainder of my RT presentation will show how wrong Olmsted was.
 
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Wow - that wasn’t what I got out of his book either. He wrote in great detail about the east coast of North Carolina and turpentining and showed great respect for the people doing that. He talked a lot about regional accents, education and sometimes lack of it.
Plenty of my ancestors had to sign legal papers by making their mark (x) because they could not write their name. In the North, especially New England, taxes were collected to support local schools, but in the South education was generally available to mostly just the children of the wealthier classes who paid for tutors and private schools. Wealthy planters, who had the time and money to run for political offices, were not going to vote to levy a tax on themselves to teach poorer white children how to read and write.

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ushistory/chapter/educational-reforms/#:~:text=Key Points
 

NH Civil War Gal

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Wealthy planters, who had the time and money to run for political offices, were not going to vote to levy a tax on themselves to teach poorer white children how to read and write.
And it wasn’t to their advantage to teach poor whites to read and white either. They were the aristocracy and wanted to keep it that way.
 
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And it wasn’t to their advantage to teach poor whites to read and white either. They were the aristocracy and wanted to keep it that way.
And whites struggling on small farms to keep themselves financially above water were not inclined to want to be taxed to provide schooling. There wasn't much middle class in the South at that time. Manufacturing, tailoring, blacksmithing, wagon making, skilled labor of many kinds requiring the use of your hands, such as might provide middle class income, was seen as slave work.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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And they could contribute much more to the family's survival by working on the farm 👍
I wonder though what the difference was in attitude (regional maybe?) compared to similar situations in the North that put a premium on education in some form or another.

There were plenty of small, struggling farms in the North and West yet the communities and families put a lot of effort into some sort of education. But maybe I’m getting off topic here…
 
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I wonder though what the difference was in attitude (regional maybe?) compared to similar situations in the North that put a premium on education in some form or another.

There were plenty of small, struggling farms in the North and West yet the communities and families put a lot of effort into some sort of education. But maybe I’m getting off topic here…

Learning to read in New England was strongly tied to the belief that everyone of every class should be able to read the bible. I'm not sure if we thank the Puritans or the Calvinists or the Quakers for that. This tradition was carried west as the county grew. Various forms of commerce and industry in the North and West provided a tax base that helped offset what the average household had to pay to educate their children, which was a great advantage over the South.
The South didn't at that time, have that sort of tax base to draw on. Cotton was king. It was all about the export of raw materials mostly drawn from land, so the more land the better. Education didn't really provide much benefit if all you needed to do was grow more crops. And the whole issue of what was acceptable labor for a white person really limited the South, where the social ideal was to emulate the English aristocracy aka the Cavaliers . By definition a Gentleman in England was a man who did not have to work for a living. Physical labor was something only slaves and lower classes did.
Confederate soldiers marching through Pennsylvania on the way to Gettysburg marveled at a number of things, including the sight of the owners of neat, very prosperous looking farms out in their field with their sons doing the work reserved for slaves at home. And the fact that the farmer's wife and daughters were also washing, cleaning, and working on a farm that looked so well to do was shocking to them!
To be on topic here, the point of all this is to suggest the South was slowly boxing itself into a corner in a multitude of ways and the debt the planters were accumulating in order to maintain their social status was a house of cards that was destined to fall.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Dec 1, 2018
Olmstead's descriptions of the backward Carolinas can easily be matched by the complaints and scorn that English visitors had for the condition of the Irish in Boston and through New England during the same period. Against his abolitionist propaganda one has to balance the facts of what was actually happening economically.

https://www.carolana.com/NC/Transportation/railroads/nc_railroads_1860.html

http://www.csa-railroads.com/index.htm

Saying that the planters were broke does not make it so. The cotton South was the one part of the country that did not suffer during the Panic of 1857. They had completely recovered from their period of financial crisis - the 1840s. The trade in cotton was booming in volume and price. Planters could not abandon the political argument that the South was much put upon; they had been using that theme for a quarter century. But, their economic view in 1860 was optimistic, not fearful; they argued in favor of Southern slavery's expansion to the territories and overseas because they anticipated making more money, not because they were afraid of losing what they had.
 

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