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Unit XIII: The Ante-Bellum South

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1 Unit XIII: The Ante-Bellum South

2 The social order of the south can best be described as an oligarchy in which the planter aristocracy controlled the governments. They made up only 3% of the population roughly 1,700 families who owned more than one hundred slaves each. They controlled the vast majority of the wealth. They sent their children to the finest schools, usually up north or in England.

3 There was no tax supported education system precisely for this reason.
The aristocracy also seemed to believe they were chivalrous knights of a feudal society. For the women they command large household staffs that catered to their every need.



6 The middle class slave-owning families totaled about 345,000 and most of them owned less than ten slaves. They were comparable to northern small farm-owners. They worked the fields alongside their slaves.


8 The small farmer who owned no slaves made up 75% of the population, roughly 6.1 million. They were subsistence farmers who grew food not cotton. Surprisingly they were some the staunchest defenders of slavery, hoping to on day rising in the social order. They also had no interest in seeing slaves freed whom they saw as being racially inferior.

9 There was also a small class of "mountain" whites living in the Appalachians who hated the slaves and the aristocracy. They would support the Union during the Civil War.



12 A small number of freed blacks existed in the south settling in the northern areas of the south or in New Orleans. They were restricted from working in certain jobs and always feared being kidnapped back into slavery. They were detested by slave owners who wanted slaves to have no hopes of freedom.


14 Freed blacks also lived in the north where they were frequently barred from entering the state and gaining rights.

15 At the bottom of the social order in the south were the four million slaves. Unlike in other New World societies slaves were an investment and profitable. They were spared work, which may kill them. The slave society though did not allow for the economic improvement of the south.




19 The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 allowed the south to produce vast amounts of cotton. The increased cotton harvest also helped the north to industrialize its textile production. This industry would later be used to crush the south. By % of Southern capital consisted of slaves, which accounted for over $2 billion in gold.


21 The lives of the slaves varied from region to region but certain things were standard. Work was always long and hard, slaves suffered oppression, and were under the constant eye of the overseer. They had no rights of course except for protection from unusually cruel punishment. Slaves were kept in line by floggings which were used as sparingly as possible because the slaves were an investment.

22 Remarkably slaves families for the most part stayed together and families retained their heritage. They created over time a mixture of Christian and African religious practices. Slaves were kept illiterate and uneducated. As slaves they found ways to cause disruptions in their work. They worked at the slowest pace possible and frequently broke their tools.


24 The four million slaves of the south were responsible for creating a vast land of cotton in which "King Cotton" ruled. As the country grew the cotton kingdom grew as well, with high profits from the sell of cotton planters bought more land and more slaves. The north profited as well by shipping large loads of cotton to England.

25 Cotton made up half of American exports after 1840 and the south produced half of the world's cotton, most of which was sold to the textile factories of England. The south felt this would make the British a willing ally if civil war were ever to occur. Southerners defended slavery as an economic necessity. Slaves were the only feasible way to harvest the vast amounts of cotton for a profit.

26 Plantation owners argued that their slaves were treated more humanely than the wage laborers of the north who worked in disease infested factories. They also argued that unlike northern workers there was never a fear of unemployment or becoming homeless.

27 Plantation owners argued that they were civilizing and Christianizing the African slaves.
Many of the slave owners argued they could not free the slaves because of the fear of rebellions and retribution.

28 Slave rebellions did occur and were dealt with swiftly and with the death of the leaders who were publicly hung. In 1800 Gabriel Prosser led an armed rebellion in Richmond, Virginia. The rebellion was ended before it could begin and the leaders killed. Another revolt took place in Charleston in 1822.

29 The revolt was led by a freed slave named Denmark Vessey; he and thirty others were hung.
The bloodiest rebellion of the slaves was led by a preacher Nat Turner in 1831, also in Virginia. He and his followers brutally slaughtered about 60 people before being caught.



32 Proslavery and antislavery arguments have been put forth since the mid-1600s as the enslavement of Africans took hold in the colonies. Early arguments and the majority of all arguments centered on the biblical justifications of slavery or the lack thereof. Proslavery advocates typically argued Old Testament verses which justify slavery.

33 Whereas antislavery arguments came to rely on the New Testament.
In the 1800s though the nature of slavery arguments came to rely on the economic necessity of slavery to profit on cotton plantations.

34 They also produced proslavery literature in response to the failed rebellion of Denmark Vessey. Southerners believed that the rebellion failed because of the divine intervention of God. They argued that abolitionists were trying to deprive the slaves of their family atmosphere established by their masters (paternalism).

35 A common argument was that slaves were better off in slavery than the Northern or European factory worker and that blacks were genetically inferior and incapable of sustained freedom.

36 As abolitionist literature like that of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin, which examined the destruction of slave families by slave auctions and David Walker who called for the bloody end to slavery and the work of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a former slave, who lectured throughout the north on the evils of slavery.



39 Southern arguments led by John Calhoun began to argue that slavery was a positive good and not a necessary evil. This argument was taken further by men such a George Fitzhugh who argued that slavery should be spread across the country because of its superiority to the factory system and James H. Hammond, who argued that it was slavery which saved the country from a financial panic in 1857 that only affected the North.

40 Neither of these arguments though would explain Harriet Tubman, a former slave, who was one of the conductors of the Underground Railroad. The railroad was a system of trails and houses, which escaped slaves, could use to make their way to freedom.




44 Southerners responded to the growing abolitionists by forcing through Congress the "Gag rule," which ended all debates on abolitionists petitions sent to Congress. In 1835 the federal government ordered all abolitionist material in southern post offices destroyed.

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