Slavery Myths

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Might want to wager I've read plenty about the NYC draft riots - including, among other published and unpublished works, the books by Bernstein and Schecter. Let's see if you can answer this question - who were the rioters? By the way, "hundreds" were lynched? Kindly provide a source. And when you're done with that, tell us about the Union League Club, who was in it, and what it did.

Bonus question: How many Free Blacks were "kidnapped in the North" during the period June 20, 1863 - July 4, 1863, where, and by whom?

Going to blame it all on the Irish. I’ve read Bernstein.

Kidnapping was a cottage industry in NYC. Don’t see the relevance in June and July 1863

Systemic Racism in the North. Some seem not to Recognize Northern Sins!
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Going to blame it all on the Irish. I’ve read Bernstein.

Kidnapping was a cottage industry in NYC. Don’t see the relevance in June and July 1863

Systemic Racism in the North. Some seem not to Recognize Northern Sins!
"Going to blame it all on the Irish" - um, that's who did the rioting and committed the hangings. If you actually read Bernstein, then you know why the Irish in NYC rioted, their economic circumstances, and the draft - you're trying to use the NYC draft riots as an example of "systemic racism" in the North. Flat out doesn't work. Not that there wasn't systemic racism in parts of the North, because there was - but the effort at equivalence with the slavery-defending South doesn't work either.

I didn't see your response regarding the "hundreds of lynchings" during the riots. I know that you didn't get that number from Bernstein. And kidnapping of freed black Americans was not a "cottage industry" in the Army of the Potomac. I can't say the same about its opponent.
 

CW Buff

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 22, 2014
Location
Connecticut
That slave owners could not part with slavery does not mean that it was as or more efficient than free labor. They were invested in it, to the tune of $1,000 per slave (so the contemporary belief went, I don't believe it was nearly that much on average). They could not part with it because most of their wealth was sunk into it. As per the MI declaration, $4 bollion (again, not actually that much, perhaps only $3 billion). They had, as Jefferson described it, a wolf by the ears (meaning they were riding a wolf, and holding on by its ears, which by the rather flawed logic somehow suggests that the wolf can't turn on you -- but Jefferson may have also been thinking of Santo Domingo). In addition, work on cotton plantations was not very desirable, and what would have happened if their employees were free to seek other work.

I think the question is more that, if slavery was less efficient than free labour, it rather raises the question as to why they were so wealthy to begin with, unless they were making money by other means.

If on the other hand more money could have been generated by the same number of free-soil farmers, we should expect to see the free soil farms generating a lot of money in and of themselves.

Now, I think what's going on here is that there's an amount of labour which is being expended by (say) 40 slaves, and an amount of labour being expended by (say) 41 free-soil farmers, and it would take some more careful analysis to see which amount of labour was larger. I don't think however that it can be contested that the slave owner is getting more total benefit from the labour of those 40 slaves than he would have by being free-soiler 41 - even if the farm is not in fact a cotton plantation, since cotton planting while common was not the only form of slave field labour. (Itself, perhaps, a misconception).

My view is that slavery persisted and was considered in danger of expansion at least in part because it was a system which economically functioned, or did so well enough to persist.

Hmm... it'd be interesting to compare cotton production before and after the Civil War in an area of land with comparable population density, number of people working in the fields, and area under cotton cultivation. I know absolute cotton production in the US was pretty high for decades thereafter, of course; the trick is avoiding confounding variables like "new agricultural machine introduced".
Hope you don't mind, but I'm not sure what is and is not permissible on the other thread, and just like there is a secession forum, there is a slavery forum. I also like using old threads rather than starting yet another new thread. I'll also predicate this with the fact that I don't really like discussing slavery absent the moral implications, however I guess I'm in for a pound since I did wade in. Also, this is not my strong suit, so I'm getting into a healthy dose of conjecture here.

I think we need to consider how slavery got its start. For the most part, it originally filled a niche that no other system of labor, indentured servitude for instance, could. Meaning that it met a labor demand nothing else could. Getting in on the ground floor makes a big difference. At that time it was not hard to start small and grow big. The industry was not saturated with wealthy plantation/slave owners. But wealth begets wealth, and at some point the most productive land in regions amenable to staple agriculture becomes dominated by those who are already wealthy. Cotton (white gold once Eli Whitney gets involved) exacerbates this problem. I think the reason small scale farmers in the South had a tough time of it was because they did not have access to good fertile land. Put 40 free farmers on 2,000 acres of land, 50 acres each, and I think they will do better than a plantation on 2,000 acres with 40 slaves. Slave-based plantation agriculture did well in the South because plantation/slave owners exercised a great deal of control there. This, I believe, is why, at least in part, places like western VA wanted to get away from the plantation regions of their states.

This is not to say slavery was not more efficient than free labor... for cotton production (before mechanization). How much would you have to pay a free laborer to do such an undesirable job? Turns white gold into, I don't know, maybe aluminium (did I spell that right:D).
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The idea that wealth begets wealth I think is part of the issue; why does wealth beget wealth, in this case?
It's because they're making a high return on investment.

There are some confounding variables, here, which are:

- Perhaps the reason why small scale farmers had trouble competing with the plantations was because they had worse land.
Or
- Perhaps the reason the small scale farmers had worse land is because they had a tough time of it competing with the plantations (and thus the plantations could afford to buy them out for the good land with terms the small scale farmers would accept, because the land's ROI for the plantation owners was enough they could offer a good price)


We'd probably need to compare the same types of economic activity between slave and free, and then accept that cotton was more profitable than the typical slave plantation or slave enterprise. But it is worth realizing that the reason why abolition was enacted in (e.g.) the British Empire was that there was a moral argument for its end, not an economic argument for its end, and this is why the state was willing to spend an enormous amount of money on getting rid of it - 5% of GDP in that year, in fact.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
As a clarification, I should make clear that one reason for this is that I am of the view that there are strong systemic reasons why slavery was the standard in a significant fraction of cultures for a significant fraction of history - for example it was extremely prevalent in the Roman world, and the Latifunda outcompeted the yeoman-farmers in Italy for starters.
It just turns up a lot (and, indeed, continues to turn up today), which suggests that at least some people are profiting from it.


Those reasons are that it had traits making it economically sustainable, societally stable (especially in the American South, where major slave revolts were startlingly rare given the size of the population and the area) and creating incentives for many of those within the system - both slave and free man - to perpetuate it. This included the system of slave overseers (meaning that ambitious slaves became invested in the system and in "not making a fuss" to maintain their own position and power) and the dangled carrot of manumission (which meant that those who wanted freedom were never quite denied it, and which suggested that good behaviour would be rewarded with freedom). At the same time, the system allowed for the poor treatment of slaves to get extra work out of them, or rather it allowed for the amount of work got out of slaves to be influenced by punishment or the threat of punishment as well as the incentive of higher wages.

This is why slaves were sold for such a high price. If someone who paid $300 for a slave couldn't expect to get the same quality of value-added work out of him (over and above the cost of feeding and otherwise sustaining him) as they might get out of the same amount of money used to hire a free labourer, then the whole system would basically not function as someone who was hiring free labour (for, say, a factory job) would garner a significant advantage.

While certainly a lot of people can follow an inferior economic system, the ones who are following the superior one should expect to do better on average, and over time this would tell.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
The opinion piece starts out with one claim that deserves to be challenged,
"There was neither a North nor a South during colonial America when the colonies treated their relationship with Britain as much more important than with each other. Nevertheless, while slavery was legal and present throughout the colonies, "
In studying the American Revolution and what led up to it, there was a "North and South " even before the rebellion began.
In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the Revolution began in the North, it had rather mediocre support in the South until Washington took up the cause.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
I think there's certainly an argument that the American War of Independence took on a slavery dimension as well.
Indeed It must have. Even more so in the southern colonies. The sovereignty of each colony must be as well, each was very much independent of others, we tend to forget there were border conflicts between some of the New England colonies just a few years before our revolution began.
Colonial Americans were not nationalist, they were colonist, just as the name implies, independent of each other.
Each faced it's own challenges, most important was the pursuit of financial viability for the colony they lived in and the very hard day to day struggle to survive.
We can not underestimate the power of self preservation in such a situation,. These were above all else, pragmatic people.
Was slavery more important to the average in New Englander than tomorrows work day?
Should the pioneer of the early era of newly formed Union have abandoned settling in the Northwest Territories because of the injustices of slavery?
Because people went about their business, about the everyday struggle to survive and build towns and schools and new industry in what was wilderness, doesn't mean they approved of slavery.
As cold as it may sound, there were other pressing issues.
From the start of the Revolution through the founding of the new nation the issues that divided each colony from the others was not as important an issue as the survival of the whole,
This moral cease of hostilities succeeded in the short term , but as the economy of each colony became more intertwined with the others and as new territories were acquired by the new nation, the issue of slavery came to a boil.
We have not changed much, when we are collectively focused on an enormous challenge we can overlook differences.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The misconception here is that there was a Northern & a Southern economy. In 1860, there was just one highly integrated US economy. There is nothing convoluted about the relationship between commodities produced in one region & finished goods in another.

The flax grown by slaves in the Kentucky Bluegrass was, via the Erie Canal, essential for the rope walks in New England. The same material was absolutely essential for making the burlap that wrapped cotton bales.

The iron foundries of Cincinnati produced farm equipment that were shipped north & south via the Ohio & Mississippi River networks. The only difference in the trade was the weight of the implements. Slaves deliberately broke anything they could. A hoe destined for Iowa was about 1/3 lighter than one shipped to a slave state.

Slaves deliberately mistreated horses & mules. In a world where equines were strictly work animals, they were routinely treated in what we would be considered brutal, today. From a slave’s point of view, when a draft animal went down, they had a day off. Even though a horse can pull more relative to its weight & is significantly more economical to feed, mules were the draft animal of choice in slave states. That was because a horse is easy to breakdown & a mule is not.

For a long list of very good reasons, almost all mule production was in TN, KY & MO. That is still true, today. Mules went down river to slave states & all across the free states.

One of the lost commodities from the CW period is smoked sweet potatoes. A properly smoked sweet potato will keep for years. My personal experience is that they are also very tasty. As a highly nutritious food item that could be shipped in bulk & would not spoil, smoked sweet potatoes were a prime menu item on plantation tables.

The Shakers at Pleasant Hill Kentucky annually shipped tons of smoked sweet potatoes via their river landing. Principally the potatoes went down river, but plenty went northward, as well.

I am willing to bet that few of you have ever heard of poultry droving. To this day, a breed of poultry herding dog is still at work in Balkan countries. The arrival of large flocks of turkeys gobbling their way into Boston announced the beginning of the Christmas season into the 1950’s. Look it up & prepare to be amazed!

The professional poultry drovers & their specialty bred dogs were essential in that pre-refrigeration time. Annually, droves of thousands of turkeys, ducks & geese passed from Pleasant Hill to Louisville for transshipment north & south. Folks in Nashville & Chicago sat down to their Christmas feasts with birds that had walked half way across Kentucky. What must those drumsticks have been like?

As my my 5th grade great granddaughter’s Tennessee history text book states, it was the cotton gin that drove both the bonanza in cotton milling & the insatiable need for more land & the slaves to work it. A look at the 1860 slave map will tell you that cotton was a three legged stool. It was worthless without a gin near a river to take it to a port & worthless without a mill to turn it into finished products. Take away one leg of the stool & Cotten was worthless.

In the myopic naval gazing god annotated mind of newly rich slave-holding cotton producers, cotton was everything. Before 1840, it took 8 hours to hand clean one pound of cotton. If you think that is not true, try it sometime. Not only are the seeds firmly attached to the fibers, every one of them has a needle sharp point on it. From the date the first bole of cotton was ginned until 1860, the price of slaves increased exponentially.

Almost all the equipment for ginning & transporting Cotton came from the North. As one soldier pointed out, even the iron steps of the courthouse in Vicksburg had Cincinnati cast into them. Slave-holding women no longer spent long winter days in the loom house. The women folk of the big house cut the material from Northern mills using scissors from Northern factories. They sewed their slave’s clothing with needles & thread from the same source. Cards of needles & pins were prime items on the manifests of blockade runners.

The fact of the matter was that the South Carolina Hotheads that started the secession didn’t know how their own economy worked. Living, as they did, on the exponential increase in wealth that the integrated economy of cotton production & manufacturing had produced, they labored under a profound misconception. It wasn’t god that had made them masters of millions of people, it was economics. Only someone with tunnel vision would have come up with something as self defeating as the cotton embargo.

Racism, fear of free blacks flooding the labor market, fear of their voting power & a whole host of cultural baggage meant that the white population of the free states were as bigoted as anybody else in the 19th Century. Nobody conversat with the weird & bizarre nature of racist beliefs will mistake the moral revulsion for slavery for any love of the enslaved. The actual mechanisms with which 4,000,000 people were held in bondage would gag a buzzard.

The false equivalency that makes Norwegian emigrat farmers in Wisconsin, Iroquois in New England, Chinese in New York laundries & my wife’s Dutch ancestors who settled New Amsterdam into an amorphous “North” responsible for starting the Civil War is an absurdity. The simple fact of the matter was that planet wide slavery was no longer economical viable.

The material benefit no longer outweighed the obvious moral degradation that slave-holding entailed. Nobody but a few nut jobs like John Brown were going to be leading an armed abolitionist invasion of slave states. Simple economics was killing the slave based production model all across the border states. Cotton production in Egypt & India was about to drive the price of cotton into a decades long decline.

The South Carolina Hotheads seceded from the Union to preserve slavery forever at exactly the moment that morality & economics combined to destroy both their cotton production monopoly & tolerance for slavery came to an end. Hubris has a way humbling us all. All the champions of the god given right to hold other human beings as property accomplished was to hasten the destruction of all they held dear. The fully integrated economies of the US & the world entered the Industrial Revolution to produce wealth on an unimaginable scale. All that would be left to the slave-holders would be the profoundly dishonest moonlight & magnolia myth of antebellum life. Edited
 
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Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Cotton production in Egypt & India was about to drive the price of cotton into a decades long decline.
Honestly,it looks like there's a spike in the 1860s and then it returns to a higher value than pre-1860.

EnglishCottonImportsPrices.gif


(The "deflated" column is the one you want.)

I can't see any decades-long decline, or if it's there it starts above the 1850s price.


This is what you'd expect given that (1) US production was still dominant, and (2) US production was still the best in quality. Indeed the word "Surat" entered slang for several decades because the cotton grown in India at Surat was substandard, with a short staple - so "Surat beer" meant substandard beer.
 
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