- Oct 3, 2005
The South was not responsible for a lion's share of taxes.It's a very intriguing argument, to be sure! Slavery as an acknowledged, formal institution would have ultimately died out but how long that would have taken is debatable.
It seems from the graph, the slavery numbers follow a very typical bell curve. In the 1860s, cotton production met it's apogee and some early developments of things like the cotton gin made slave owning MORE profitable than ever. But all things do end as we see from the 1890s through to our current century where technology has advanced leaps and bounds, more than it ever had at any time in previous history. Primarily, the ability to harness electricity, developments of nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides (post WWI), and tractor development. 1860s plantation owners were riding the tail end of a time with just enough technology to make slavery still viable but not so much as to make it burdensome.
Slave owning is a very costly business and economically not feasible as new inventions are derived to speed up the harvesting process. This in and of itself would have made field slavery obsolete. I'm sure a plantation owner would value speed of harvesting and processing over tedious manual labor that produced significantly less output. No matter how fast and good the picker, they are still humans with a limited capacity. Feeding, housing, clothing, and medical treatments of slaves would become money squandered since their position has been swapped out for a machine that produces far better results.
That being said, it's possible that the last frontier of slave holding would be household slaves, which is a place that would still require a lot of manual labor for cleaning, cooking, and laundry. But how many house slaves would one plantation home need? Then the question becomes ... what do you do with the rest?
As history has proven, the Union cause was never an altruistic cause. The South was responsible for a lion's share of the U.S. GDP and paid the most taxes. People talk a lot about the North being more "industrialized" but lose sight of the fact there has to be a raw material to process in the first place. There was no way that Washington will let all that money peacefully strut out of the Union. The North spent a lot of emotional coin to sell the slave narrative to promote recruitment of the more ideological for whom profiteering held no particular significance. This is obvious in the way slaves were summarily dumped (for lack of a better term) into their freedom with their 100 acres and a mule and some fine sounding but unenforced legislation. Otherwise, they were on their own and did not really benefits from much of these newly found "rights".
So, long and short - I do agree with this theory but we will never know will we?
We can fantasize about how long slavery would last minus the CW. An excellent argument can be made that of it lasting, in reality if not name until the 21st century. That's the great thing about what ifs. What is not theoretical is that most of the decision makers in 1860 didn't see it going anywhere. Slavery might be killed, but it wasn't dying.
The end of slavery not benefiting the people formerly enslaved? I'll let that one sit there for awhile.
A lot of your thoughts are familiar from the "Dunning School."