South


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South Essay, Research Paper

The American South, had a social system which was distinct in many ways. There was an economy relative to

the region, where class structure and a system of racial differences which caused the South to become

unique to the rest of the nation. Historians such as James Henretta have said that Capitalism was the

cause of all evil within the American South. American Capitalism defined by Max Weber is a greed for

gain , and acquisition by force, … whether directly in war or in the form [of] exploitation of

subjects . This type of lifestyle within a growing nation could not work with the gentry class which was

moving into the region unless there was people to do the work on the farms for them. At first there were

indentured servants, but this system of work only worked for a limited time as these servants would work

their time of servitude and then leave on their own. The American farmer in the south needed more control

on their workers and needed to know that they ( the worke!

rs ) weren t going to just leave and start up their own farm for themselves. Thus the manipulation of

slave labor became the answer for capitalism, and from the use of black slave labor, tension began to

rise between the slaves brought from Africa, and the land holders of the South.

Tension between Slaves and land owners have been strong in the South for many years, and one

might say that the cause of it is the ways of which the Black slaves of plantations and farms were

treated. The founders of the Carolina colonies were not only interested in the use of slaves in the

solution of their labor problems of too much work not enough workers, but they had a very big material

interest. The use of slave labor, was a coerced, cash-crop system of labor from which slavery became an

economic necessity because for a person who owned land they needed workers, and these workers were

predominantly Negro slaves brought in sold from Africa. To southern colonists, slavery was first an

economic institution solely for the purpose of solving an economic problem, that problem – work cost too

much money so the colonists implemented forced labor for economic gain. So slavery provided the basis for

a special Southern economic and social life which had continued on until the Ci!

vil war.

The special economic life which the people of the South lived upon was one of greed for expansion

and gain. Capitalism at its best, and the Southern colonies were very good at it. Lewis C. Gray defined

the southern plantation as a capitalistic type of agricultural organization in which a considerable

number of unfree laborers were employed under a unified direction and control in the production of a

staple crop. The plantations were mostly one crop oriented, cotton or tobacco, and this lead to cash

crops rather than supplying for the colonies themselves. The plantation gentry or Masters as they were

called by the slaves, never thought of the big picture involving cash crops, only their own well being

and how much money they were going to make whether physical force was used or not. Slavery and the

plantation system led to agricultural methods that depleted soils and the slavery system forced the South

to exploit more slave labor as a means of better production rather th!

an the realization of worn-out lands. Such a labor system in the South aggravated and caused very deep

problems between the Master and his slaves.

Slavery established the basis of the planter s position and power. It measured his affluence,

marked his status, and supplied leisure for social graces and aristocratic duties. The road of power

in the South lay through the plantation and the Master would see to it that his or her plantation be the

best. Great planters held enormous power in the southern colonies, they spent much of their free time in

leisure, educational pursuits, and participation in public life; George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

both were within this group of people. Most planters were also very active entrepreneurs, who would

engage in quick profit type situations which would help them make more money on top of the plantation

profits made for them by their slaves. Although their main means of money and profit was the forced

labor unit of slavery on the plantations, these other quick scheme ideas forced planters into believing

that slave holding was more profitable. Therefore an increase in the !

amount of slaves doing work on plantations was evident due to its profitability for planters and farmers

and the control on labor.

Controlling labor in the South, became an entity upon which no plantation could survive without. The

Southern Master had many slaves who he expected to do enormous amounts of work all for the Master s gain.

Consequently a capitalistic lifestyle had absorbed and encouraged slavery. The resultant fortunes for

which Planters and Farmers had flow into their pockets, was because of slavery and slave-holding. A small

commercial bourgeoisie was created from slavery and the ideology of capitalism was the root of

construction. Perhaps if it weren t for capitalism and the expansion by British gentry slavery caused by

capitalism would never have happened.

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