Discussion Planter debt caused the war

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
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.
In terms of volume, the cotton growers were doing fine. But the British and French had saturated the world market with factory cloth. The price cotton was getting noticeably soft, just as the prospects for the unmodified continuation of slavery in the US began to look doubtful.
As far as territorial expansion of cotton production, it happened in the post war era. Texas became a major producer of cotton, and the effect on the price of cotton and per capita income in the southern areas was negative.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The southern areas experienced a boom as the English and French invested heavily in textile production after the end of the Crimean War. It wasn't going to be permanent. But only deep insiders in Manchester, New York and New Orleans would have been able to see the softening of the market.
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
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.
I‘d like to say in a first place that this discussion is extremely interesting - and I already learned a lot from reading all the posts in this thread.

More than that I became motivated to do some reading to compare the evolution of slavery in the US with other nations (especially as I read in a post of @NH Civil War Gal that „the institution“ was already discarded everywhere else - which seems to lead inevitably to the assessment that southen planters quite foolhardy clinged to a dying economy).

Currently I feel heavily influenced by the idea that the slave economy resembles some kind of capitalism in it‘s purest form. It shaped everything (and that is indeed EVERYTHING) to produce a maximum of wealth with a minimum of investment. The landscape of the caribbean islands was thoroughly changed, the population completely changed as well, leaving an army of slaves extremely effectively controlled by a rather scant force of overseers to produce a highly profitable cash crop. This system accounted at times for more than a half of the income of the british crown).
Hence I‘d say slave economy could be extremely profitable - and from what I read it was also very profitable in the US regarding the cotton plantations until the start of the Civil War.

From a purely economical perspective it wasn‘t even a dying economy with the ending of the slave trade.
The southern planters developed a revised system. With an enslaved population of several million individuals they found ways to keep mortality overall remarkable low as the enslaved african-american population was clearly rising (quite in contrast to the situation in the Caribbean).
Of course that ways were partly atrocious (with internal slave trade) but obviously it was also part of the system to see to “acceptable“ life conditions for the enslaved at least at a relevant part of places.
(Please don‘t misunderstand me: I do neither want to say that slaves lived happily nor that slavery was a morally acceptable system...).

Hence I‘d say that the slave economy wasn‘t dying at all in the US, it could even handle the ending of slave trade and was predictably profitable in the years to come.
It was also foreseeable that abolition was a lot harder to achieve in the US than eg in England.
In England the planter class of the West Indies was never a relevant part of the english population and it took an immense sum to reimburse them for giving up slavery.

Hence in the US where about a third of the population lived in slave states and where the economy in the bigger part of that slave states was heavily relying on planation income the planters could probably at least
1) expect to get an even more spectacular reimbursement -
2) and it was even dubious if a majority of the constituents would ever see abolition (as race equality was a quite natural consequence of it) as a desirable solution.

Out of such a perspective the planters were probably not acting unreasonable (out of a pure economical point of view) with clinging to plantation economy.
I am pretty sure that only a majority of planters in the old slave states - where the soil was already depleted - changed their investment policy (as that was the only reasonable way for them) - whereas the planters in eg Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia saw plantation economy still as the most profitable investment (and acted accordingly).

So it maybe wasn‘t a question of education, cleverness or fore-seeing, maybe it was just pure capitalist thinking -adapted to local conditions - and heavy political string-pulling to advance one‘s own economical interests (also a quite common stance in a capitalist system).

But please...I was consciously overlooking morale aspects (which I of course see as being most important myself) - I just wanted to suppose that slavery in the US in 1860 could have been seen as a profitable investment that had quite prospects in the future still(out of a purely economical perspective).
But I do not have enough and clear statistical data to support that idea...
 
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atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
Secession fervor was strongest in the deep south because the planter elite there being dependent on a debt financed cash crop economy with slaves as collateral were highly vulnerable. Ban expansion of slavery into the western territories and you depress slave valuations making it harder to use them as collateral to secure financing.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Cash crop planters were often in debt, fearing their position and way of life as semi feudal lords was going to end they pushed for secession and having the confederate gov't assume responsibility for debts owed to northerners.
Is this the true cause of war-debt and extreme measures to get out of it by the elite class?
The US gov't assumed debt owed to British merchants post war for independence so was this the inspiration for southern planters.
Your thesis would be correct only to the extent of its relationship to the South's Peculiar Institution of chattel slavery.

Southern Planters were property rich and cash poor due to the economic system under which they lived and operated.

For the most part the planters were completely satisfied with how their economy worked. The source of planter wealth and their economic system was founded upon Cotton produced by slave labor.

Because of the peculiar economic system developed by the planters would still have to finance their crops by loans, secured by the value of their slaves.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Well now, I don't appreciate being scolded, "before you come in here." I've been posting here a lot longer than you, sir/madam.

I don't have the time or energy to go point-by-point with you tonight, but I am in the habit of providing sources and not just anonymous claims. You're "GDP claim" needs to be backed up with a credible source and I won't be surprised to see it's accurate.

What it ignores is that the North did not export very much in the mid 19th century. Over half of "hard currency" export income came from the South, over 50% being from cotton alone. The British Pound at that time was the "reserve currency" of the world, not the U.S. dollar, which was a bloody joke 170 years ago. You think the banksters didn't recognize this?

Here is a credible source for 19th century U.S. export income:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/maps4387.html

Don't even get me started on the dumb, uneducated planters, who rolled Union Armies twice their size for four bloody years before their resources were exhausted.

Did you know, the Civil War Union Army is the only one in U.S. history that gave up twice the casualties as its adversary? That never happened before or since.

Probably had something to do with all those dumb Southerners, who by the way, won Reconstruction in their fight against the clever Yankees. Maybe that's not a good thing, but that's what happened.
Southern whites defeated Reconstruction by terrorism but eventually lost ground in the modern era. Not sure that's something to be proud of.
Leftyhunter
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I‘d like to say in a first place that this discussion is extremely interesting - and I already learned a lot from reading all the posts in this thread.

More than that I became motivated to do some reading to compare the evolution of slavery in the US with other nations (especially as I read in a post of @NH Civil War Gal that „the institution“ was already discarded everywhere else - which seems to lead inevitably to the assessment that southen planters quite foolhardy clinged to a dying economy).

Currently I feel heavily influenced by the idea that the slave economy resembles some kind of capitalism in it‘s purest form. It shaped everything (and that is indeed EVERYTHING) to produce a maximum of wealth with a minimum of investment. The landscape of the caribbean islands was thoroughly changed, the population completely changed as well, leaving an army of slaves extremely effectively controlled by a rather scant force of overseers to produce a highly profitable cash crop. This system accounted at times for more than a half of the income of the british crown).
Hence I‘d say slave economy could be extremely profitable - and from what I read it was also very profitable in the US regarding the cotton plantations until the start of the Civil War.

From a purely economical perspective it wasn‘t even a dying economy with the ending of the slave trade.
The southern planters developed a revised system. With an enslaved population of several million individuals they found ways to keep mortality overall remarkable low as the enslaved african-american population was clearly rising (quite in contrast to the situation in the Caribbean).
Of course that ways were partly atrocious (with internal slave trade) but obviously it was also part of the system to see to “acceptable“ life conditions for the enslaved at least at a relevant part of places.
(Please don‘t misunderstand me: I do neither want to say that slaves lived happily nor that slavery was a morally acceptable system...).

Hence I‘d say that the slave economy wasn‘t dying at all in the US, it could even handle the ending of slave trade and was predictably profitable in the years to come.
It was also foreseeable that abolition was a lot harder to achieve in the US than eg in England.
In England the planter class of the West Indies was never a relevant part of the english population and it took an immense sum to reimburse them for giving up slavery.

Hence in the US where about a third of the population lived in slave states and where the economy in the bigger part of that slave states was heavily relying on planation income the planters could probably at least
1) expect to get an even more spectacular reimbursement -
2) and it was even dubious if a majority of the constituents would ever see abolition (as race equality was a quite natural consequence of it) as a desirable solution.

Out of such a perspective the planters were probably not acting unreasonable (out of a pure economical point of view) with clinging to plantation economy.
I am pretty sure that only a majority of planters in the old slave states - where the soil was already depleted - changed their investment policy (as that was the only reasonable way for them) - whereas the planters in eg Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia saw plantation economy still as the most profitable investment (and acted accordingly).

So it maybe wasn‘t a question of education, cleverness or fore-seeing, maybe it was just pure capitalist thinking -adapted to local conditions - and heavy political string-pulling to advance one‘s own economical interests (also a quite common stance in a capitalist system).

But please...I was consciously overlooking morale aspects (which I of course see as be most important myself) - I just wanted to suppose that slavery in the US in 1860 could have been seen as a profitable investment that had quite prospects in the future still(out of a purely economical perspective).
But I do not have enough and clear statistical data to support that idea...
You should remember in all of this, those planters were deeply entrenched for generations dating back at least to the revolution. Their whole upbringing to their great grandparents was built on the slave system. Being in the south they saw it as their God-given right, and any infringement or threat was taken seriously as a forfeiture of those rights.
Lubliner.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Well now, I don't appreciate being scolded, "before you come in here." I've been posting here a lot longer than you, sir/madam.

I don't have the time or energy to go point-by-point with you tonight, but I am in the habit of providing sources and not just anonymous claims. You're "GDP claim" needs to be backed up with a credible source and I won't be surprised to see it's accurate.

What it ignores is that the North did not export very much in the mid 19th century. Over half of "hard currency" export income came from the South, over 50% being from cotton alone. The British Pound at that time was the "reserve currency" of the world, not the U.S. dollar, which was a bloody joke 170 years ago. You think the banksters didn't recognize this?

Here is a credible source for 19th century U.S. export income:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/maps4387.html

Don't even get me started on the dumb, uneducated planters, who rolled Union Armies twice their size for four bloody years before their resources were exhausted.

Did you know, the Civil War Union Army is the only one in U.S. history that gave up twice the casualties as its adversary? That never happened before or since.

Probably had something to do with all those dumb Southerners, who by the way, won Reconstruction in their fight against the clever Yankees. Maybe that's not a good thing, but that's what happened.
Southern whites defeated Reconstruction by terrorism but eventually lost ground in the modern era. Not sure that's something to be proud of.
Leftyhunter
I‘d like to say in a first place that this discussion is extremely interesting - and I already learned a lot from reading all the posts in this thread.

More than that I became motivated to do some reading to compare the evolution of slavery in the US with other nations (especially as I read in a post of @NH Civil War Gal that „the institution“ was already discarded everywhere else - which seems to lead inevitably to the assessment that southen planters quite foolhardy clinged to a dying economy).

Currently I feel heavily influenced by the idea that the slave economy resembles some kind of capitalism in it‘s purest form. It shaped everything (and that is indeed EVERYTHING) to produce a maximum of wealth with a minimum of investment. The landscape of the caribbean islands was thoroughly changed, the population completely changed as well, leaving an army of slaves extremely effectively controlled by a rather scant force of overseers to produce a highly profitable cash crop. This system accounted at times for more than a half of the income of the british crown).
Hence I‘d say slave economy could be extremely profitable - and from what I read it was also very profitable in the US regarding the cotton plantations until the start of the Civil War.

From a purely economical perspective it wasn‘t even a dying economy with the ending of the slave trade.
The southern planters developed a revised system. With an enslaved population of several million individuals they found ways to keep mortality overall remarkable low as the enslaved african-american population was clearly rising (quite in contrast to the situation in the Caribbean).
Of course that ways were partly atrocious (with internal slave trade) but obviously it was also part of the system to see to “acceptable“ life conditions for the enslaved at least at a relevant part of places.
(Please don‘t misunderstand me: I do neither want to say that slaves lived happily nor that slavery was a morally acceptable system...).

Hence I‘d say that the slave economy wasn‘t dying at all in the US, it could even handle the ending of slave trade and was predictably profitable in the years to come.
It was also foreseeable that abolition was a lot harder to achieve in the US than eg in England.
In England the planter class of the West Indies was never a relevant part of the english population and it took an immense sum to reimburse them for giving up slavery.

Hence in the US where about a third of the population lived in slave states and where the economy in the bigger part of that slave states was heavily relying on planation income the planters could probably at least
1) expect to get an even more spectacular reimbursement -
2) and it was even dubious if a majority of the constituents would ever see abolition (as race equality was a quite natural consequence of it) as a desirable solution.

Out of such a perspective the planters were probably not acting unreasonable (out of a pure economical point of view) with clinging to plantation economy.
I am pretty sure that only a majority of planters in the old slave states - where the soil was already depleted - changed their investment policy (as that was the only reasonable way for them) - whereas the planters in eg Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia saw plantation economy still as the most profitable investment (and acted accordingly).

So it maybe wasn‘t a question of education, cleverness or fore-seeing, maybe it was just pure capitalist thinking -adapted to local conditions - and heavy political string-pulling to advance one‘s own economical interests (also a quite common stance in a capitalist system).

But please...I was consciously overlooking morale aspects (which I of course see as be most important myself) - I just wanted to suppose that slavery in the US in 1860 could have been seen as a profitable investment that had quite prospects in the future still(out of a purely economical perspective).
But I do not have enough and clear statistical data to support that idea...
Also keep in mind the US didn't exactly end slavery as it used " convict leasing" which means arresting young mostly African American men and making them work for free this system lasted well into the 20th Century. Former Georgia Governor Joe Brown made a lot of money from convict leasing post ACW and former Confedrate General Nathan Forrest tried to make money but failed.
Leftyhunter
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Well now, I don't appreciate being scolded, "before you come in here." I've been posting here a lot longer than you, sir/madam.

I don't have the time or energy to go point-by-point with you tonight, but I am in the habit of providing sources and not just anonymous claims. You're "GDP claim" needs to be backed up with a credible source and I won't be surprised to see it's accurate.

What it ignores is that the North did not export very much in the mid 19th century. Over half of "hard currency" export income came from the South, over 50% being from cotton alone. The British Pound at that time was the "reserve currency" of the world, not the U.S. dollar, which was a bloody joke 170 years ago. You think the banksters didn't recognize this?

Here is a credible source for 19th century U.S. export income:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/maps4387.html

Don't even get me started on the dumb, uneducated planters, who rolled Union Armies twice their size for four bloody years before their resources were exhausted.

Did you know, the Civil War Union Army is the only one in U.S. history that gave up twice the casualties as its adversary? That never happened before or since.

Probably had something to do with all those dumb Southerners, who by the way, won Reconstruction in their fight against the clever Yankees. Maybe that's not a good thing, but that's what happened.


Scolded? No, but maybe you can appreciate being corrected? So what if you been posting here longer, does that give you street cred to post misinformation? What makes you think the source you posted is credible? Evidently, you cannot connect the dots to explain your source's validity and to make your original argument plausible. All you did was defend your post through rhetoric, and posted a source you cannot make mental credence that it was a microeconomic chip on a vast macroeconomic pie chart. Here's your rhetoric and I quote you: "Here is a credible source for 19th century U.S. export income," and yet you still don't understand the 50% of exports equated to 5% of the national GDP. All you source you posted was confirm that you are not versed in economics.


What do casualties have to do with the theme of this thread? Nothing. You been posting in this site way longer and cannot stay on theme? Again, just like you don't understand cotton's role on the national GDP you don't understand casualty percentages. Do you know that the Union had a way higher disease and non-combat death rate? I don't think so, and that's why you made that outrageous claim that the Union took twice as many casualties, but you are giving the credit to "battlefield" casualties, which is absurd.

I hate to burst you bubble but I did the sum total for "battlefield" casualties for the entire war and the Confederates took at least a 4% higher battle field casualties. The aggregate battle death toll percentage favored the Union. Between 1.5 million and 2.4 million Union soldiers served during the Civil War, whereas 750,000 to 1 million Confederate soldiers served. Consequently, the Union had an a estimated 40-50% more men than the Confederates, and took only an estimated 16,000 more casualties. Battle death percentages are a good metric: the Union battle casualties were 110,000 and the Confederacy was 94,000, that equates to the Union had roughly 16-17% battle mortality rate and the Confederacy had a 20% battlefield death mortality rate. The problem is that when people read about casualties they don't notice that they are reading the sum total of deaths: battle deaths, disease and prisoners of war and that's why they misconstrue the mortality rate of 15% for the Union and 12% for the Confederacy, but strictly from a battlefield mortality the Confederacy had a 20% mortality rate and the Union around 16-17%. If I wanted to add in prisoners/surrender the Confederates took a 100% casualty rate. But for the sake argument and purely battlefield deaths the Confederates had a higher battlefield death rate, by like 4% and that was huge percentage.

Clearly you are wrong on cotton's importance and clearly you are wrong about casualties.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
You should remember in all of this, those planters were deeply entrenched for generations dating back at least to the revolution. Their whole upbringing to their great grandparents was built on the slave system. Being in the south they saw it as their God-given right, and any infringement or threat was taken seriously as a forfeiture of those rights.
Lubliner.
The people that remained in the southernmost states, whether they were descended from the South Carolina and Georgia families, or whether they were transplants from the Caribbean seeking to continue a way of life that was not allowed in the British Caribbean possessions, or refugees from the Dominican Revolution, were very committed to the slave system. Those who preferred to not work extra help, and stuck to the basic corn/pork economy that was widespread in the US tended to move away. It was a very mobile population after the conclusion of the American Revolution and there was a large amount of sorting going on in the movement. I think debt was not a major factor. The risk to large farms with excess labor, and the slave brokers themselves, was the US would start regulating the internal involuntary movement of labor. Implicit in what Lincoln did not say was that he was going to extend British international anti-slave trade policies internally in the US. That would take the profitability away from many of the eastern large farms and start the process of voluntary emancipation over again.
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
James Oakes touches on it in Freedom National. Lurking in the background was the prospect of using power under the commerce clause to regulate the slave trade.
Regulation of the slave trade per commerce clause would impact in unknown ways the use of slave property as loan collateral. What form that regulation would take would be interesting as slaves were chattel property, so what other chattel property was subjected to commerce clause regulation?
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
What do we know of the personal finances of the secessionists, I am talking about the delegates to secession conventions.
I am looking at this from the position that economics was driving the politics.
 

Eric Calistri

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 31, 2012
Location
Austin Texas
What do we know of the personal finances of the secessionists, I am talking about the delegates to secession conventions.
I am looking at this from the position that economics was driving the politics.

Woosters _Secession Conventions of the South_ summarizes the delegates. Whether his information is what you are looking for, I can’t say. What you will see is that slave owners, and particularly owners of many slaves, tended to dominate these conventions.
1623723518147.png

The convention numbers above come from Wooster _Secession Conventions (for the states that did not have conventions the numbers are for the state legislature.) The general population numbers are from the 1860 census, and express ownership by white males.
 
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A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Woosters _Secession Conventions of the South_ summarizes the delegates. Whether his information is what you are looking for, I can’t say. What you will see is that slave owners, and particularly owners of many slave, tended to dominate these conventions.

Interesting set of numbers. Relevant to the question in the original post, I wonder how much if any research has been done into the indebtedness of the individuals involved, or at least a sample of them. That information might be hard to root out. Another way at the answer might be to look for examples of slaveowners' commenting on their indebtedness in public or private statements.

ARB
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
The people that remained in the southernmost states, whether they were descended from the South Carolina and Georgia families, or whether they were transplants from the Caribbean seeking to continue a way of life that was not allowed in the British Caribbean possessions, or refugees from the Dominican Revolution, were very committed to the slave system. Those who preferred to not work extra help, and stuck to the basic corn/pork economy that was widespread in the US tended to move away. It was a very mobile population after the conclusion of the American Revolution and there was a large amount of sorting going on in the movement. I think debt was not a major factor. The risk to large farms with excess labor, and the slave brokers themselves, was the US would start regulating the internal involuntary movement of labor. Implicit in what Lincoln did not say was that he was going to extend British international anti-slave trade policies internally in the US. That would take the profitability away from many of the eastern large farms and start the process of voluntary emancipation over again.
This is highly interesting. I never read something about Lincoln wanting to regulate (and on a long term interdict) internal slave trade. It would fit to his observing of the plight of some slaves being sold and transported down the river. Could you please guide me where to find something about his stance/politics regarding internal slave trade?
Are there any letters of his to be found - or something else?
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
Could I have some sources for the "confederate gov't assume responsibility for debts owed to northerners."?? I do remember that the owners of debt were told by the gov't that they were to pay that debt to the confederate treasury instead of it going north, or being defaulted. And this topic was discussed here some years ago.
I just read this in Battle Cry of Freedom. The Confederate gov't was hurting for funds. The treasury was expecting a huge windfall as the plantation owners began paying their debts to them. Most planters continued to pay the northern merchants and banks to maintain good credit and continue selling via the black market.
 
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