Counterpoint Why did The Uncontrolled Growth Of Sectionalism During the 1850s Happen; Slavery or Something More Subtle?

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#1
ink e from The Impending Crisis, by David Potter

The Summery is that just like nesting Russian dolls, there is often something deeper than hitting Southerners over the head with 'slavery' and retreating into a self satisficing session with Treasury Virtueure. Economic clashes over modes of production and labor is another. Or perhaps a clash of civilizations which is common in historical scholarship.

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matthew mckeon

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#2
ink e from The Impending Crisis, by David Potter

The Summery is that just like nesting Russian dolls, there is often something deeper than hitting Southerners over the head with 'slavery' and retreating into a self satisficing session with Treasury Virtueure. Economic clashes over modes of production and labor is another. Or perhaps a clash of civilizations which is common in historical scholarship.

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Very interesting excerpt!
 

matthew mckeon

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#4
I doubt anyone will be surprised by my take. It's the opposite of a "hot take" as the kids say.
I think that slavery was front and center in sectionalism, and in back and on the sides as well.
1) If the slave states were more agricultural than the free states, isn't it because of slavery?
a. Investment tended to go into the most profitable enterprise: land and slaves. Southern capitalists didn't look to industrial development with the same focus as the Boston Associates in developing the textile industry.
b. Having said that, certainly some industry did develop, often using enslaved labor, and northern and European finance were part of the cotton economy.
c. And having said that, the majority of the free state people were still farming.

Economically, slavery was in the driver's seat.
 

matthew mckeon

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#6
The Confederacy included different cultures, that united to support the "Confederate Project" It wasn't a cultural monolith. The signifier of which Southerners were the most committed Confederates and the most fiery fire eaters was their entanglement with slavery. The fewer slaves, the fewer Confederates.

The Union was even more diverse due to immigration. Yet they united to support the Union cause.
 

matthew mckeon

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#7
The Confederacy included different cultures, that united to support the "Confederate Project" It wasn't a cultural monolith. The signifier of which Southerners were the most committed Confederates and the most fiery fire eaters was their entanglement with slavery. The fewer slaves, the fewer Confederates.

The Union was even more diverse due to immigration. Yet they united to support the Union cause.
In the excerpt, Potter notes that the anti- slavery resistance rose when the nation expanded, over the westward spread of slavery, but didn't where the vast majority of enslaved people actually lived. Later writers like John Oakes in The Scorpion's Sting argue that people gauged the future of slavery everywhere in the US on its ability to expand. Containing slavery would mean its eventual extinction, or so the thinking went. Therefore keeping slaves out of Kansas would eventually weaken slavery elsewhere, which is why a slaveowner in South Carolina wanted slavery to be able to spread into the West.
 
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#8
Two books I would recommend, but not for buying: At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis by the late Shearer Davis Bowman and Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States by Michael E. Woods. These books let us peer into the cultural and social factors that led to the war, and they were essential to me in understanding how sectional animosity was able to erupt in warfare.

These books are written, it seems to me, for graduate level historians and social scientists; they're not for everybody. I'd see if I could get them from a library before buying them.

Why were these books useful to me? I used to be one of those folks who ascribed all of human behavior to economic determinism... the idea that economics and economic relationships are the foundation upon which all other social and political arrangements in society are based. But if that was true, then, for example, religion would not matter... but it does. I still do regard economics as a key force in explaining our actions, but I understand that other forces must be reckoned with.

These books go beyond economic determinism. They helped me to understand the social and even emotional conditions and states of people of the era, which provided an understanding of why people behaved the way they did.

Many people will say that the secessionists left the Union because of slavery. This is a very simplistic, imprecise statement, although, if you wanted to use just one word, that is it. But one word does not suffice.

More precisely, people seceded because they perceived that the Republican Party was pro-abolition, or beholden to abolitionists; and that the Party would enact policies that would ruin slavery, and thus southern society. It was more about a distrust and even hatred for the so-called "Black Republicans" that led to secession.

Recollect that the SC Sec Dec states

On the 4th day of March next, this (Republican) party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

If SC believed that the Republicans were indeed hellbent on waging a war against slavery, their decision to secede makes sense. Why did they feel that way? The books I mention give some insight into why specific southerners felt and believed that Northerners in general and Republicans in general were a threat to their way of life.

- Alan
 

matthew mckeon

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#9
Potter, in describing the "clash of civilizations" theme, writes about a "static" South and a "dynamic" North, and that slavery was an archaic institution. But was not the South dynamic in the 19th century? Edward Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told describes a slave economy expanding rapidly, moving fluidly from crop to crop, moving vast numbers of enslaved workers hundreds of miles, innovating new financial institutions, weathering economic disasters, increasing productivity.

He attributes the increase in productivity to brutal punishment for those who fell behind, forcing the enslaved workers to work faster and more efficently, while others give more credit to planting practices and new breeds of plants. However it doesn't change the fact that they were innovating, not being static.
 
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#10
ink e from The Impending Crisis, by David Potter

The Summery is that just like nesting Russian dolls, there is often something deeper than hitting Southerners over the head with 'slavery' and retreating into a self satisficing session with Treasury Virtueure. Economic clashes over modes of production and labor is another. Or perhaps a clash of civilizations which is common in historical scholarship.

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RE: The two cultures would still have clashed even if all the negroes had been free.

% of the population that was of African decent in the first two states to leave the Union:
o South Carolina: 58%
> from the SC secession declaration: "On the 4th day of March next, this (Republican) party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
"The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy. Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief."​

o Mississippi: 55%
> from the MS secession declaration: "In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.​

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."​

The question arises, what kind of southern society would there have been if African Americans were free? Potter The "cultural explanation of sectionalism" theory speculates that the negroes' problem was not their legal status, but the work they had. Interesting speculation. I wonder, what if the free black majorities in SC and MS used their power to elect black governors, black majority legislators, and black members of Congress... what would those societies look like?

What did white Southerners in general say about that possibility of racial equality in their section?
**********

In John C Calhoun's famous "Slavery as a positive good" speech, he said:

A large portion of the Northern States believed slavery to be a sin, and would consider it as an obligation of conscience to abolish it if they should feel themselves in any degree responsible for its continuance...​
We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions. To maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the country in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races. Be it good or bad, [slavery] has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people.​

Note Calhoun's words. The end of slavery will not just lead to economic ruin; it will lead to a "country drenched in blood" and "extirpating (exterminating) one or the other of the races." To Calhoun, the end of slavery meant, literally, death... not the figurative death of southern society or civilization; it meant the literal death of blacks and/or whites in a race war.
**********

In his Senate farewell speech, outgoing (due to secession) MS senator Jefferson Davis said

I do think she (the state of Mississisppi) has justifiable cause (to secede), and I approve of her act... It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi to her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races.​

To Davis, the mere suggestion of negro equality was just reason to dissolve the Union.
**********

In his Senate farewell speech, outgoing (due to secession) AL senator Clement Claiborne Clay said

The platform of the Republican party of 1856 and 1860 we regard as a libel upon the character and a declaration of war against the lives and property of the Southern people. No bitterer or more offensive calumny could be uttered against them than is expressed in denouncing their system of slavery and polygamy as "twin relics of barbarism." It not only reproaches us as unchristian and heathenish, but imputes a sin and a crime deserving universal scorn and universal enmity.​
No sentiment is more insulting or more hostile to our domestic tranquillity, to our social order, and our social existence, than is contained in the declaration that our negroes are entitled to liberty and equality with the white man. It is in spirit, if not effect, as strong an incitement and invocation to servile insurrection, to murder, arson, and other crimes, as any to be found in abolition literature.​
And to aggravate the insult which is offered us in demanding equality with us for our slaves, the same platform denies us equality with Northern white men or free negroes, and brands us as an inferior race, by pledging the Republican party to resist our entrance into the Territories with our slaves, or the extension of slavery, which — as its founders and leaders truly assert — must and will effect its extermination.​

Clay's argument that "No sentiment is more insulting or more hostile to our domestic tranquillity, to our social order, and our social existence, than is contained in the declaration that our negroes are entitled to liberty and equality with the white man" speaks for itself.
*********

On the eve of the war GA governor Joe Brown (Georgia governor Joseph Brown, in response to a "letter requesting me to give to the people of Georgia my views" Milledgeville, Dec. 7, 1860) said:

3rd, What effect will the abolition of slavery have upon the interest and social position of the large class of nonslaveholders and poor white laborers in the South?...​
...suppose ...negroes were... set free and left among us, (which is the ultimate aim of the Black Republicans,) what would be the effect upon our society? ...I must not lose sight of the 4,500,000 free negroes to be turned loose among us. They, too, must become tenants, with the poor white people for they would not be able to own lands. A large proportion of them would spend their time in idleness and vice, and would live by stealing, robbing and plundering. Probably one fourth of the whole number would have to be maintained in our penitentiary, prisons, and poor houses.​
...In this capacity they would at once come in competition with the poor white laborers. Men of capital would see this, and fix the price of labor accordingly... The negro comes into competition with the white man and fixes the price of his labor, and he must take it or get no employment.​
The negro therefore, comes into competition with the poor white man, when he seeks to rent land on which to make his bread, or a shelter to protect his wife and his little ones, from the cold and from the rain; and when he seeks employment as a day laborer. In every such case if the negro will do the work the cheapest, he must be preferred. It is sickening to contemplate the miseries of our poor white people under these circumstances. They now get higher wages for their labor than the poor of any other country on the globe. Most of them are land owners, and they are now respected. They are in no sense placed down upon a level with the negro. They are a superior race, and they feel and know it.​
Abolish slavery, and you make the negroes their equals, legally and socially (not naturally, for no human law can change God's law) and you very soon make them all tenants, and reduce their wages for daily labor to the smallest pittance that will sustain life. Then the negro and the white man, and their families, must labor in the field together as equals.​
Their children must go to the same poor school together, if they are educated at all. They must go to church as equals; enter the Courts of justice as equals, sue and be sued as equals, sit on juries together as equals, have the right to give evidence in Court as equals, stand side by side in our military corps as equals, enter each others' houses in social intercourse as equals; and very soon their children must marry together as equals.​
May our kind Heavenly Father avert the evil, and deliver the poor from such a fate. So soon as the slaves were at liberty, thousands of them would leave the cotton and rice fields in the lower parts of our State, and make their way to the healthier climate in the mountain region. We should have them plundering and stealing, robbing and killing, in all the lovely vallies of the mountains. This I can never consent to see. The mountains contain the place of my nativity, the home of my manhood, and the theatre of most of the acts of my life; and I can never forget the condition and interest of the people who reside there.​

The historian Potter Those who theorize the "cultural explanation of sectionalism" notion are surely correct when they say the North and South would still have had clashing cultures if the slaves were freed. But I don't know if his comments fully capture what white southerners thought would happen to their society if that was so. Note that to these men, the legal status of the Negro - ie, whether or not he was given equality, not just liberty - mattered, and it mattered a lot.

- Alan
 
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uaskme

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#11
Potter is right, the Anti-Slavery opponents who fought for Black Rights were not a large enough group to cause a Civil War. I don't think that people realize that after the compromise of 1850, the argument about the Territories had been decided. During this Calm in the early 50's the 2 party system began to unravel. The American Party rose because of the rise of the Immigrant population during this Era. Along with the Hatred of the Catholics. The Know Nothings will kill the Whig Party. Know Nothings will also weaken the Democrat Party. People have begun to lose confidence in the Democracy and Whigs who have controlled Politics since Jackson.

During the mid 50's with the debate over the TRR, the South with a Democrat President is getting the upper hand over which Route the TRR will take. Douglas has tried to get Territorial Status for the Kansas Territory since 1845. He knows that if that area is not Settled, he can't get the TRR, which is his Dream, to build the West and make it a buffer for North and South Sectionalism. He knows that Southerners will never agree for Territorial Status in an area, they know will never be Slave. So, he blows up the Missouri Compromise, Puts Popular Sovereignty in the Kansas bill. This gives and Issue for the Democrats and Whigs to reform their parties. Gives rise to the Free Soilers, who have been dead since the 1850, Compromise. And is a Gift to the Republicans. So, the Politicos are going to Blow Up Sectionalism for Political Gain. Democrats are going to Split over Popular Sovereignty, North vs South.

Republicans will Reform, be defeated in 56'. They will learn from the loss, and determine what will gain them the Presidency in 60.

PA and NJ want protective Tariffs for Coal and Steel. The Rise of the Great Lake Economy want Protective Tariffs. So Tariffs is in the Republican Platform of 60'.

The Mid-Westerners want Harbor and Internal Improvements. Buchanan had Vetoed Bills to stop these Improvements to the Lake Region. A plank in the Republican Platform in 60'.

Mid-Westerners also want Free Homestead Law. Give Land Away. Southern Democrats have kept that from happening. That is in the Republican Platform.

Central Route for the TRR is in the Republican Platform. South aint getting it. Under Republican Control, Never Will.

Also, during the run up to the election. Republicans have convinced the Mid-Westerners that Southern Whites and Blacks, destroy Land. They wear out soils, Blacks will compete with White Labor. So, Southerners are a Treat to Northern White Prosperity. They Also attach this Slave Power Concept to the Northern Party. The fact is the Northern Democrats are as Anti-Slavery as the Republicans. But to make the Republicans the only viable option to subdue the Southerners, Republicans have to convince the Racist Northern Whites that the Slave Power will make Slavery National. Northerners will have more Blacks, in their neighborhoods.

So, Republicans win the Election. Lower South had become a 1 Political Party. Unlike the Border South and Upper South which has other Political Options they can Trust. So, the Lower South chooses, Disunion.

So, as we can see. The Rise of the Republican Party was Economic. Anti-Slavery or Anti-South because of the Boogie Man prophecy of the Republicans.

Disunion of the Lower South, again because of the breakdown of the two party system, and the Boogie Man prophecy of the Radical Dis-unionist.
 
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#13
Potter is right, the Anti-Slavery opponents who fought for Black Rights were not a large enough group to cause a Civil War. I don't think that people realize that after the compromise of 1850, the argument about the Territories had been decided. During this Calm in the early 50's the 2 party system began to unravel. The American Party rose because of the rise of the Immigrant population during this Era. Along with the Hatred of the Catholics. The Know Nothings will kill the Whig Party. Know Nothings will also weaken the Democrat Party. People have begun to lose confidence in the Democracy and Whigs who have controlled Politics since Jackson.

During the mid 50's with the debate over the TRR, the South with a Democrat President is getting the upper hand over which Route the TRR will take. Douglas has tried to get Territorial Status for the Kansas Territory since 1845. He knows that if that area is not Settled, he can't get the TRR, which is his Dream, to build the West and make it a buffer for North and South Sectionalism. He knows that Southerners will never agree for Territorial Status in an area, they know will never be Slave. So, he blows up the Missouri Compromise, Puts Popular Sovereignty in the Kansas bill. This gives and Issue for the Democrats and Whigs to reform their parties. Gives rise to the Free Soilers, who have been dead since the 1850, Compromise. And is a Gift to the Republicans. So, the Politicos are going to Blow Up Sectionalism for Political Gain. Democrats are going to Split over Popular Sovereignty, North vs South.

Republicans will Reform, be defeated in 56'. They will learn from the loss, and determine what will gain them the Presidency in 60.

PA and NJ want protective Tariffs for Coal and Steel. The Rise of the Great Lake Economy want Protective Tariffs. So Tariffs is in the Republican Platform of 60'.

The Mid-Westerners want Harbor and Internal Improvements. Buchanan had Vetoed Bills to stop these Improvements to the Lake Region. A plank in the Republican Platform in 60'.

Mid-Westerners also want Free Homestead Law. Give Land Away. Southern Democrats have kept that from happening. That is in the Republican Platform.

Central Route for the TRR is in the Republican Platform. South aint getting it. Under Republican Control, Never Will.

Also, during the run up to the election. Republicans have convinced the Mid-Westerners that Southern Whites and Blacks, destroy Land. They wear out soils, Blacks will compete with White Labor. So, Southerners are a Treat to Northern White Prosperity. They Also attach this Slave Power Concept to the Northern Party. The fact is the Northern Democrats are as Anti-Slavery as the Republicans. But to make the Republicans the only viable option to subdue the Southerners, Republicans have to convince the Racist Northern Whites that the Slave Power will make Slavery National. Northerners will have more Blacks, in their neighborhoods.

So, Republicans win the Election. Lower South had become a 1 Political Party. Unlike the Border South and Upper South which has other Political Options they can Trust. So, the Lower South chooses, Disunion.

So, as we can see. The Rise of the Republican Party was Economic. Anti-Slavery or Anti-South because of the Boogie Man prophecy of the Republicans.

Disunion of the Lower South, again because of the breakdown of the two party system, and the Boogie Man prophecy of the Radical Dis-unionist.
So in other words, you disagree with the "cultural explanation of sectionalism" that Potter describes in the above excerpt. OK.

- Alan
 

uaskme

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#14
So in other words, you disagree with the "cultural explanation of sectionalism" that Potter describes in the above excerpt. OK.

- Alan
Rise of Yankee Federalism. Started at the Founding. Election of a Yankee Sectional President, who’s Goal was to form the Federal Government to the advantage of the Yankee. Plucky Puritans thought at the Founding, their version of White Supremacy, Protestant Principles should Control the Federal Government.
 
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#15
Rise of Yankee Federalism. Started at the Founding. Election of a Yankee Sectional President, who’s Goal was to form the Federal Government to the advantage of the Yankee. Plucky Puritans thought at the Founding, their version of White Supremacy, Protestant Principles should Control the Federal Government.
I was trying to determine if you agreed or disagreed with the "cultural explanation of sectionalism" theory, with a yes or no answer. I will assume the answer is no.

- Alan
 
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#16
The Confederacy included different cultures, that united to support the "Confederate Project" It wasn't a cultural monolith. The signifier of which Southerners were the most committed Confederates and the most fiery fire eaters was their entanglement with slavery. The fewer slaves, the fewer Confederates.

.
It might be said that ties to slavery created the most firm secessionists, but not the most ardent Confederates. Among the most firmly "rebel" were many who had not been secessionists, and were mad they were caught in a war.
 
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#17
It's useful to compare and contrast the "cultural explanation of sectionalism" idea with the current fundamentalist school of Civil War causation.

In this video, historian Elizabeth Varon talks about the "fundamentalist school" in the first 3-4 minutes of a talk. She says "there's emerged in recent years a strong consensus, which scholars call the fundamentalist school, that slavery was the root fundamental cause of the civil war and that the political antagonisms between the North and South flowed from the fact that the North was a free labor society while the South was a slave labor society which remained committed to slavery and indeed to extending its domain."

The idea that the South and North/West had different and even clashing cultures is quite common among scholars, it seems to me. But the nature of those differences is disputed. Fundamentalists say the root cause of the war was the conflict between the free labor North and the slave labor South. That is, "slavery" did not cause the war, per se. Rather the the free labor North and the slave labor South were different societies, and their differences led to conflict.

In this sense, both sections caused the war because they were not sufficiently like the other to prevent this controversy.

Would there would have been a war even if the Negroes were all freed? Fundamentalists would probably say that if there was no slavery, then no other conflicts would have risen to the level that they required a war to resolve.

I will add this. The books At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis by the late Shearer Davis Bowman and Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States by Michael E. Woods, and others, have given me an added perspective on the war.

I have come to appreciate that people are innately irrational. We are not fact based logic machines that produce rational decisions. Our decisions are often based on feelings and emotions (fear, hate, etc), beliefs that have no basis in objective facts, ignorance, prejudice and bias, and other factors.

When I look to controversies now, I try to understand, what is the emotion and feeling and belief and etc that people are bringing to conflicts? Often people look at strings of facts and events and say, well the logical consequence of A is B, and that led to C, and it all makes sense. But human behavior is based on fact and fancy, and we do things that make no apparent sense.

So for me, the caning attack on Sen Charles Sumner (R-MA) by Rep Preston Brooks (D-SC) on May 22, 1856 ~ in retaliation for a speech given by Sumner two days earlier in which he fiercely criticized slaveholders, including a relative of Brooks ~ says more about the divisions of the day than debates on railroad policy, for example. Talking about slavery and anti-slavery led to fighting words; they raised boisterous passions, to use a word.

An aspect of the culture clash that I see is that many white Southerners had an anger and indignation and other feelings and emotions toward what they felt were the negative, insulting, and provocative words and actions of Northerners concerning the institution. I don't see any other controversy that made them feel this passion that led to secession. The idea of Republicans wanting to change the nation from half free and half slave to one that all free... that was a rhetorical declaration of war against the South. And I understand why they might feel a little bit upset about an incoming president believing as much.

- Alan
 
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unionblue

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#18
ink e from The Impending Crisis, by David Potter

The Summery is that just like nesting Russian dolls, there is often something deeper than hitting Southerners over the head with 'slavery' and retreating into a self satisficing session with Treasury Virtueure. Economic clashes over modes of production and labor is another. Or perhaps a clash of civilizations which is common in historical scholarship.

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It was the elephant in the room that brought on sectionalism, the snake coiled under the table at the founding of the Republic, the one issue that could not be compromised on, but could only completely spread throughout the nation or be banished from it.

Slavery.
 
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#19
Potter, in describing the "clash of civilizations" theme, writes about a "static" South and a "dynamic" North, and that slavery was an archaic institution. But was not the South dynamic in the 19th century? Edward Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told describes a slave economy expanding rapidly, moving fluidly from crop to crop, moving vast numbers of enslaved workers hundreds of miles, innovating new financial institutions, weathering economic disasters, increasing productivity.

He attributes the increase in productivity to brutal punishment for those who fell behind, forcing the enslaved workers to work faster and more efficently, while others give more credit to planting practices and new breeds of plants. However it doesn't change the fact that they were innovating, not being static.
Baptist's book had been thoroughly debunked which sinks this post. Even a quick search of the archives here finds a thread or 2 here debunking Baptist thoroughly. Lots of anti Southerner writers were taken in by his fraud from confirmation bias/
 



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