The American South


The American South Essay, Research Paper

The American SouthThe American South, had a social system which was distinct in many ways. There was an economy relative tothe region, where class structure and a system of racial differences which caused the South to becomeunique to the rest of the nation. Historians such as James Henretta have said that Capitalism was thecause of all evil within the American South. American Capitalism defined by Max Weber is a greed forgain , and acquisition by force, … whether directly in war or in the form [of] exploitation ofsubjects . This type of lifestyle within a growing nation could not work with the gentry class which wasmoving into the region unless there was people to do the work on the farms for them. At first there wereindentured servants, but this system of work only worked for a limited time as these servants would worktheir time of servitude and then leave on their own. The American farmer in the south needed more controlon 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 ofslave labor became the answer for capitalism, and from the use of black slave labor, tension began torise 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 onemight say that the cause of it is the ways of which the Black slaves of plantations and farms weretreated. The founders of the Carolina colonies were not only interested in the use of slaves in thesolution of their labor problems of too much work not enough workers, but they had a very big materialinterest. The use of slave labor, was a coerced, cash-crop system of labor from which slavery became aneconomic necessity because for a person who owned land they needed workers, and these workers werepredominantly Negro slaves brought in sold from Africa. To southern colonists, slavery was first aneconomic institution solely for the purpose of solving an economic problem, that problem – work cost toomuch money so the colonists implemented forced labor for economic gain. So slavery provided the basis fora 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 expansionand gain. Capitalism at its best, and the Southern colonies were very good at it. Lewis C. Gray definedthe 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 astaple crop. The plantations were mostly one crop oriented, cotton or tobacco, and this lead to cashcrops rather than supplying for the colonies themselves. The plantation gentry or Masters as they werecalled by the slaves, never thought of the big picture involving cash crops, only their own well beingand how much money they were going to make whether physical force was used or not. Slavery and theplantation system led to agricultural methods that depleted soils and the slavery system forced the Southto 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 deepproblems 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 powerin the South lay through the plantation and the Master would see to it that his or her plantation be thebest. Great planters held enormous power in the southern colonies, they spent much of their free time inleisure, educational pursuits, and participation in public life; George Washington and Thomas Jeffersonboth were within this group of people. Most planters were also very active entrepreneurs, who wouldengage in quick profit type situations which would help them make more money on top of the plantationprofits made for them by their slaves. Although their main means of money and profit was the forcedlabor unit of slavery on the plantations, these other quick scheme ideas forced planters into believingthat 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 farmersand the control on labor. Controlling labor in the South, became an entity upon which no plantation could survive without. TheSouthern 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 forwhich Planters and Farmers had flow into their pockets, was because of slavery and slave-holding. A smallcommercial bourgeoisie was created from slavery and the ideology of capitalism was the root ofconstruction. Perhaps if it weren t for capitalism and the expansion by British gentry slavery caused bycapitalism would never have happened.

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