The Confederacy was not a Con Job

jgoodguy

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#1
The Confederacy was not a Con Job

Assertion
The Confederacy — and the slavery that spawned it — was also one big con job on the Southern white working class. A con job funded by some of the antebellum one-percenters, and one that continues today in a similar form…. With low wages and few schools, Southern whites suffered a much lower land ownership rate and a far lower literacy rate than Northern whites…
Rebuttal.
First, the author seems to accept the assumption that the lack of slaveownership meant that they had no stake in the preservation of the institution. A non-slaveowner may have been part of an extended family that did own slaves. Non-slaveowners also had opportunities to lease slaves for various purposes. And, of course, it only took the purchase of one slave to move someone into that elite category. This is not to suggest that such a transition happened often or that from our perspective the distribution of wealth in the South was not unfair. We are free to draw our own conclusion.
Key point.
But the idea that this arrangement was a “con job” dismisses the perspectives of ordinary people. It strips non-slaveholders and poor whites of any agency or ability to assess their world and take appropriate action. They are rendered simply as pawns in a larger game. It smacks too much of evil Wall Street bankers manipulating innocent 401-K investors and homeowners out of their mortgages. We can only imagine what con jobs future generations will claim were at work in 2015.

The author seems to admit given the evidence provided that we don’t know anything about how Canna Hyman or anyone else from the family who left home viewed the war. What we do know from an incredibly rich body of scholarship is that the Confederate government enjoyed support from slave and non-slaveowners alike well into the war. This is something that needs to be understood. We need to understand it on their own terms.
 

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Dave Wilma

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#4
It takes a couple of clicks to drill down to the original opinion piece by Frank Hyman so this is a reply to a reply to a reply of an opinion. Welcome to CWT.

I think there are a couple of possible "con jobs" that run through the whole ACW, the run up, and the aftermath and not all qualify as con jobs. The idea that white Southern non-slaveholders were conned into thinking slavery was in their best interest is, as Hyman says, does not wash. Slavery was part of the economic system and even if someone did not hold slaves, he could and may even have aspired to hold slaves. That's how a man (and a few women) got ahead. That was the system. The other justification for the system, besides being profitable, was the unstated fear whites had for blacks.

A con did rise when the Slaveocracy convinced citizens they had to go to war to defend this system.

Another con came into play in the aftermath defending the war con with The Lost Cause spinning the causes of the war and even the war's conduct in another direction.
 
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#6
"Rich man's war, poor man's fight" pretty much sums up the typical Confederate Trooper's perspective.
The typical Confederate soldier, at least in the ANV, wasn't a poor man.

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-civil-war-‘a-rich-man’s-battle-but-a-poor-man’s-war’.107797/

Glatthaar on the Soldiers of 61: , Rich and poor shouldered arms in equal proportions in 1861, and the middle lot of them were certainly from solid, middle-class backgrounds. (p. 19)


http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Army_of_Northern_Virginia#start_entry
Soldiers tended to come from comfortable backgrounds. Their median personal and family wealth (if they still lived with parents or other immediate family members) was $1,295, placing them solidly in the middle class.
 

PatW

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#7
I think the notion of the support of slavery being a con job ignores the nature of the institution and the functions it appeared to serve.

The first function of slavery was enriching the owners of slaves. That function seems to be all we remember today.

However, slavery had a galaxy of functions that seemed to benefit non slave holders.

Remember, a large majority of the U.S. population, north and south were probably extreme racists. They saw blacks as being lazy, violent, and potentially dangerous. Slavery was seen as an institution that converted
 

PatW

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#8
Pops, the problem of using an I pad.

Slavery was seen as an institution that converted potentially ungovernable blacks into productive slave. It was also seen as an institution that protected society from their dangerous impulses. We see this in the fact that many slave states restricted the numbers of free blacks by outlawing private emancipation and or requiring free blacks to leave the state. Some free states had laws on the books restricting the movement of free blacks into the state. Anyone who saw free blacks as a menace to social order had a big stake in the continuation of the institution of slavery.

Also, slavery could be supported by poor whites in the south and poor workers in the north. They could see free blacks as being competitors for their labor. They could also view themselves as being at least a step off the bottom of society which was occupied by slaves.

I argue that slavery was seen as a method of social control over a dangerous group. Again, I believe that view was widely held in all parts of the nation.

When the USCT were started, many whites believed that the attempt was doomed to failure because of the views of black inferiority. One reads quite a few comments from the period where Union officers and observers of the military were surprised at the effectiveness and performance of black troops. I think those comments show a pervasiveness of racism that is hard to fathom today. I suppose such racial views could seem reasonable. I would think that being a slave prevented most people from showing the positive attributes.
 

OpnCoronet

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#9
Did the ruling oligarchs of the South manipulate facts to gain the confidence(Trust) of the southern people, in order to get them to act against their own best interests?
The answer, IMO, depends upon when the oligarchs were aware of their duplicity or not. In a nutshell, I believe ome of them certainly were aware that the southern people needed to be prepared to accept secession as an acceptable(Constitutional/legal) means of protecting 'states rights' and later that the interests of all southerners were better protected out of the Union rather than in it. That process of preparation took approximately 20 yrs(roughly 1835 to 1855)
The question for me, in this particular matter, was the trust they oligarchs labored to acquire, betrayed in the end?
 

jgoodguy

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#10
Confidence trick
A confidence trick (synonyms include confidence game, confidence scheme, scam and stratagem) is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their confidence, used in the classical sense of trust. Confidence tricks exploit characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty, honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, naïveté and greed.
Good day, Member. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to show the CSA was a con based on accepted rather than wistful definitions of con.
 
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#11
It was no con job, the Confederacy was an attempt to save and protect a form of civilization.
That may or may not be true, but that doesn't address the issues raised in the article in the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

There's no doubt that the elite believed they were saving and protecting a form of civilization. The question is, what was in it for subsistence farmers, for example? What did they stand to gain from secession? Did those benefits justify the risks they faced - such as death? The author of the article does not feel they did. He seems to feel that the elite used racist propaganda to spark pro-secessionist sentiment, and when that failed, they used force/coercion to enroll non-elites into the CSA army.

We could summarize those thoughts by saying that in the eyes of the author, Confederate civilization, far from being "by, for, and of the people," was "for" the Confederate elite, an elite that used racist appeals to gain the support of non-elite whites. In his view, the non-elite gave their lives to protect a civilization whose benefits they would not themselves enjoy, binding them to a racist mentality in the process.

I'm not saying I agree with all of that, but that seems to be what the writer is saying.

- Alan
 

jgoodguy

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#12
CSA Constitution:

Preamble
We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America
 

18thVirginia

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#13
That may or may not be true, but that doesn't address the issues raised in the article in the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

There's no doubt that the elite believed they were saving and protecting a form of civilization. The question is, what was in it for subsistence farmers, for example? What did they stand to gain from secession? Did those benefits justify the risks they faced - such as death? The author of the article does not feel they did. He seems to feel that the elite used racist propaganda to spark pro-secessionist sentiment, and when that failed, they used force/coercion to enroll non-elites into the CSA army.

We could summarize those thoughts by saying that in the eyes of the author, Confederate civilization, far from being "by, for, and of the people," was "for" the Confederate elite, an elite that used racist appeals to gain the support of non-elite whites. In his view, the non-elite gave their lives to protect a civilization whose benefits they would not themselves enjoy, binding them to a racist mentality in the process.

I'm not saying I agree with all of that, but that seems to be what the writer is saying.

- Alan
Reading the letters Southern soldiers' wives wrote their governors during the latter part of the War, as documented by in Stephanie McCurry in Confederate Reckoning, one gets the impression that their wives felt a con job had been done on the small subsistence farmers.

One group of women's statements:

"Those that brought the war on us is at home," they raged, "and our boys are fighting for there property. It has been an unholy war from the beginning," they concluded, "the rich is all at home makeing great fortunes"-the rich didn't care "what becomes of the poor class of people so that they can save there neggroes." Confederate Reckoning, kindle 2290
Another woman's observance:

"I believe slavery is doomed to dy out," she wrote, "and that god is agoing to liberate niggars and fighting an longer is fighting ing against God." "Now sir," she wound up, "you and some of the rest of those big bugs will have to answer for they blood of our dear ones who have been slain, God will demand their blood at your hands." Confederate Reckoning, kindle 2225.​
 

jgoodguy

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#14
Reading the letters Southern soldiers' wives wrote their governors during the latter part of the War, as documented by in Stephanie McCurry in Confederate Reckoning, one gets the impression that their wives felt a con job had been done on the small subsistence farmers.

One group of women's statements:

"Those that brought the war on us is at home," they raged, "and our boys are fighting for there property. It has been an unholy war from the beginning," they concluded, "the rich is all at home makeing great fortunes"-the rich didn't care "what becomes of the poor class of people so that they can save there neggroes." Confederate Reckoning, kindle 2290
Another woman's observance:

"I believe slavery is doomed to dy out," she wrote, "and that god is agoing to liberate niggars and fighting an longer is fighting ing against God." "Now sir," she wound up, "you and some of the rest of those big bugs will have to answer for they blood of our dear ones who have been slain, God will demand their blood at your hands." Confederate Reckoning, kindle 2225.​
Had the CSA provided adequate food to soldiers' families, would the opinons remained the same?
 

18thVirginia

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#15
Had the CSA provided adequate food to soldiers' families, would the opinons remained the same?
I think there were a variety of different reasons, so my answer would probably be "Yes." When the Confederacy lengthened the ages of conscription, they caught a lot of family men with a household of children. It was going to be difficult for women in subsistence farming families to keep their farms going without their husbands and due to conscription there were a smaller amount of males left around to help. They were also suddenly dealing with bureaucrats with taxing authority, officials who could impress stuff and armies who could take whatever they wanted.

My impression is also that exemptions were a major irritant for these women who saw their own husbands, sons, brothers gone for long periods of time, while all kinds of wealthy folks were getting exemptions. There were also quite a few officers who'd been part of recruiting their husbands who resigned their commissions and came home, often to get some kind of exempt job or be part of a Home Guard patrol or militia, while their husbands were still somewhere fighting.
 

jgoodguy

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#16
I think there were a variety of different reasons, so my answer would probably be "Yes." When the Confederacy lengthened the ages of conscription, they caught a lot of family men with a household of children. It was going to be difficult for women in subsistence farming families to keep their farms going without their husbands and due to conscription there were a smaller amount of males left around to help. They were also suddenly dealing with bureaucrats with taxing authority, officials who could impress stuff and armies who could take whatever they wanted.

My impression is also that exemptions were a major irritant for these women who saw their own husbands, sons, brothers gone for long periods of time, while all kinds of wealthy folks were getting exemptions. There were also quite a few officers who'd been part of recruiting their husbands who resigned their commissions and came home, often to get some kind of exempt job or be part of a Home Guard patrol or militia, while their husbands were still somewhere fighting.
One of those exempt jobs was handling welfare for soldier's wives.
 



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