Author Topic: Only 8% of High Schoolers Can Identify Slavery as Civil War's Root Issue  (Read 1127 times)

Offline SGOS

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There were actually three factions at play, which could be seen in Bleeding Kansas.  One faction was of course the faction lined up behind slavery.  The second faction was the Free Soil faction that wanted slavery confined to the South.  They didn't want their labor to compete with slave labor.  They weren't abolitionist, they just didn't want the expansion of slavery, and they wanted it for personal selfish reasons.  The third faction was the Abolitionists, and they opposed slavery in itself and wanted to see it eliminated even from the South.
Opposing slavery on the grounds that it's bad economics?  This sounds like a paradox, except that I read somewhere that some Southern leaders, had actually come to that conclusion themselves.  Kansas didn't want to compete with other business that depended on slave labor.  I can understand that, except that Kansas could have solved the problem by buying slaves. 

I would guess that slavery was a benefit of wealth.  The losers that cannot compete with slave labor would not be large landowners and producers of products, but the white trash who would be jobless in the face of slave competition.  But it's an interesting part of the discussion that I had never heard of before.


Offline Hydra009

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I stand by my claim that the Southerns States only finally rebelled when they lost political control over the Federal Government.  The Northern States were gaining in population (even counting the Southern slaves as 3/5s who could of course not actuallt vote).  They knew they could only support their "peculiar institution" by controlling the Federal Government, and when Lincoln of the new Republican Party was elected, they had lost all control.

So, in a fit of High Pique, they decided to leave.
That's my impression as well.  Hence their abrupt departure from the USA following Lincoln's election.

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It was sort of inevitable.  The North proved that industry and basic capitalism of free men beat the slave system of the South.  Well, that's how things go usually.  The better system wins.
Ehh...the North had more troops, more factories, more miles of rail lines, etc.  Those sorts of factors tend to be more decisive in conflicts than whose economic system is better.

Offline Cavebear

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Opposing slavery on the grounds that it's bad economics?  This sounds like a paradox, except that I read somewhere that some Southern leaders, had actually come to that conclusion themselves.  Kansas didn't want to compete with other business that depended on slave labor.  I can understand that, except that Kansas could have solved the problem by buying slaves. 

I would guess that slavery was a benefit of wealth.  The losers that cannot compete with slave labor would not be large landowners and producers of products, but the white trash who would be jobless in the face of slave competition.  But it's an interesting part of the discussion that I had never heard of before.

I agree in general.  But buying slaves was never the solution.  As sad as it seems, it was tried and was not monetarily possible.  Straightout emancipation without compensation was the only way.  For the Southern slaveowners, ruination of what was built on the labor of slaves was the only possible outcome.  What they reaped by enforced labor had to be lost. 

It wasn't equal measure, no equal measure was possible for the cruelty and debasement of of people for 2 centuries.
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Offline Cavebear

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That's my impression as well.  Hence their abrupt departure from the USA following Lincoln's election.
Ehh...the North had more troops, more factories, more miles of rail lines, etc.  Those sorts of factors tend to be more decisive in conflicts than whose economic system is better.

When I lived in Massachusetts, I was taught the Civil War was all about slavery.  Then Dad got a promotion to Petersburg VA,  It didn't change my mind any (or of any of my family).  But I was forced to learn "the other side".  I never agreed, but I did come to understand the insanity of the Southern POV.  It was awkward (I was the only student from north of the Mason/Dixon Line).  Moving to MD after that was a relief.

I mean seriously, my class history notebook project HAD to include "Brave Southern Soldiers" on pain of automatic failure (that was made clear to me, "the unwanted Yankee kid").  With Mom's help, I did the least I could get away with in 1960.  I passed.   Dad was an engineer and completely oblivious to how we hated living in VA back then.

We finally escaped to MD in 1963 and while I have lived all around Washington DC since, I have never lived in VA.  Foreign territory...  Though I hear Northern VA is entering the 20th century lately.
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Offline SGOS

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I agree in general.  But buying slaves was never the solution.  As sad as it seems, it was tried and was not monetarily possible. 
Now I had read an argument somewhere that from an economic standpoint alone, slave labor was not the best approach to a strong economy, but I can't remember the reasoning.  Economic ideologies being the close cousins of politics and religion, they are argued that each one is superior to all the others.

Putting aside the greater issue of the inhumanity of slavery, and advancing the argument that slavery is a poor stand alone economic strategy by itself, why did the South feel slavery was vital to its economy?  Conversely, putting aside the plight of the Kansas white trash, why would Kansas disagree?

Specifically, what arguments can be made against slavery as a purely economic strategy?

Offline Cavebear

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Now I had read an argument somewhere that from an economic standpoint alone, slave labor was not the best approach to a strong economy, but I can't remember the reasoning.  Economic ideologies being the close cousins of politics and religion, they are argued that each one is superior to all the others.

Putting aside the greater issue of the inhumanity of slavery, and advancing the argument that slavery is a poor stand alone economic strategy by itself, why did the South feel slavery was vital to its economy?  Conversely, putting aside the plight of the Kansas white trash, why would Kansas disagree?

Specifically, what arguments can be made against slavery as a purely economic strategy?

The disadvantages of the Southern US economy vs the Northern US economy seems sufficient.  But I will also suggest it is like entropy.  The economic strategy of slavery (in only those terms, not ethical ones) was based on only a few having many slaves while the majority of Southerners didn't.   It created a desire upwards and a downward economic pressure on the poor Southern whites  ("poor" economically, not "poor like "oh those sad people") - though they were).

In an economic sense, as proved by the Northern States and every other developed nation around the world at the time, slave labor does not produce general wealth.  In fact, as far as I can tell, it produced land-rich but monetary poverty all around except for a very few.  And that is no way to build a nation.  People working for themselves do better.
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Offline SGOS

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The disadvantages of the Southern US economy vs the Northern US economy seems sufficient.  But I will also suggest it is like entropy.  The economic strategy of slavery (in only those terms, not ethical ones) was based on only a few having many slaves while the majority of Southerners didn't.   It created a desire upwards and a downward economic pressure on the poor Southern whites  ("poor" economically, not "poor like "oh those sad people") - though they were).

In an economic sense, as proved by the Northern States and every other developed nation around the world at the time, slave labor does not produce general wealth.  In fact, as far as I can tell, it produced land-rich but monetary poverty all around except for a very few.  And that is no way to build a nation.  People working for themselves do better.
That's the way I thought it would work also.  In order to have economic growth you need have people able to buy. Slaves can't buy anything, and the unused potential paid labor force can't either.  It's like the wealthy producing great quantities of product, but having few buyers.

Offline Baruch

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Now I had read an argument somewhere that from an economic standpoint alone, slave labor was not the best approach to a strong economy, but I can't remember the reasoning.  Economic ideologies being the close cousins of politics and religion, they are argued that each one is superior to all the others.

Putting aside the greater issue of the inhumanity of slavery, and advancing the argument that slavery is a poor stand alone economic strategy by itself, why did the South feel slavery was vital to its economy?  Conversely, putting aside the plight of the Kansas white trash, why would Kansas disagree?

Specifically, what arguments can be made against slavery as a purely economic strategy?

The Southern economy did almost fail, but cotton, and the cotton gin saved it.  That and the massive export of cotton to GB.  Originally slaves (who are expensive) were used to raise luxury goods (tobacco).  You can't make money off of corn, using slaves.  In the Deep South they also tried to use slaves to raise sugar cane (as they did in the Caribbean) ... but without the Federal sugar subsidy, it probably didn't pay for itself.  GB sent people (including Scots and Irish) to the sugar plantations, because it was Devil's Island for them.  Sugar was used to make rum (another luxury good).  But the sugar/rum economy failed circa 1800 after the rise of Cuban rum.

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« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 08:40:17 PM by Baruch »
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Offline Jason Harvestdancer

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I stand by my claim that the Southerns States only finally rebelled when they lost political control over the Federal Government.  The Northern States were gaining in population (even counting the Southern slaves as 3/5s who could of course not actuallt vote).

Of course.  With their demographic defeat they knew two things would happen.

1.  The Federalist / Whig / Republican platform of internal improvements would benefit the Northern states, because they are the majority.
2.  The taxes to pay for these improvements would be laid on the Southern states, because they are the minority.

Economics is powerful and subtle, and most politicians are idiots.
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Offline Baruch

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Of course.  With their demographic defeat they knew two things would happen.

1.  The Federalist / Whig / Republican platform of internal improvements would benefit the Northern states, because they are the majority.
2.  The taxes to pay for these improvements would be laid on the Southern states, because they are the minority.

Economics is powerful and subtle, and most politicians are idiots.

No, all people are political (says Aristotle).  And monkeys (says Darwin).  It is a wonder history has anything other than disasters.

The South was trying to escape this demographic problem by expanding their culture to Central America.  Ever hear of the first American President of Nicaragua?  William Walker.  Just extending the planation economy.  It was Cornelius Vanderbilt who stopped it, with his para militaries.  Blackwater isn't new.  Remember in public discourse, Ignorance is Strength!

Cavebear - yes, in NE you are taught propaganda favorable to your section of the country.  The kids should be made to watch The Crucible every year.
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Offline Cavebear

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Of course.  With their demographic defeat they knew two things would happen.

1.  The Federalist / Whig / Republican platform of internal improvements would benefit the Northern states, because they are the majority.
2.  The taxes to pay for these improvements would be laid on the Southern states, because they are the minority.

Economics is powerful and subtle, and most politicians are idiots.

The South had opportunities for technological advancement, but refused them because they did not advance their slavery-oriented economic system.  In refusing those technological advancements (railroads, telegraphs, assembly-line work, interchangeable machine parts, free trade, multiple trade goods, efficient shipping (the fastest boats in the world were not called "Yankee Clippers" for no reason), etc.

The South had only cotton and tobacco, and depended on others to ship their raw materials overseas.  They were essentially a colony of England and France and the North who turned their raw products into higher value finished products like cloth. 

The South essentially doomed itself.  In hindsight, of course.  Yet, even if they had realized it, how could they have changed their economy and kept their slaves?  They couldn't let the slave economy go, because their social status depended on having slaves to work their fields and cater to their every whim in the manor. 

Well, gee, they could have freed the slaves and bought labor.  It worked everywhere else...
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Offline Baruch

Cavebear ... partly true, happens with the establishment in every economic zone .. they try to enhance the status quo.  But the Yankees got help from reptilian aliens, and the South didn't ;-)  There is a canard, that the Romans didn't invent industrialism, because slaves were cheaper.  This is partly true, even though steam engines existed in Alexandria in Roman times.  There were a few labor saving machines in local areas, where slave labor wasn't available ... watermills in Gaul for example.  Slavery didn't become uncompetitive until the Black Death killed off half of Europe, driving up the value/cost of labor.  That is when the early industrial revolution (looms in Belgium and coal in Britain) got going.  Yes, looms were high tech in 1300.  Women traditionally didn't even have a spinning wheel, they used the distaff and spindle technique.  And knit or crocheted the yarn into cloth.  Machinery to help women didn't get going until late, because they are always freely available drudge labor (sorry ladies, but it is true).
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Offline Cavebear

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Cavebear ... partly true, happens with the establishment in every economic zone .. they try to enhance the status quo.  But the Yankees got help from reptilian aliens, and the South didn't ;-)  There is a canard, that the Romans didn't invent industrialism, because slaves were cheaper.  This is partly true, even though steam engines existed in Alexandria in Roman times.  There were a few labor saving machines in local areas, where slave labor wasn't available ... watermills in Gaul for example.  Slavery didn't become uncompetitive until the Black Death killed off half of Europe, driving up the value/cost of labor.  That is when the early industrial revolution (looms in Belgium and coal in Britain) got going.  Yes, looms were high tech in 1300.  Women traditionally didn't even have a spinning wheel, they used the distaff and spindle technique.  And knit or crocheted the yarn into cloth.  Machinery to help women didn't get going until late, because they are always freely available drudge labor (sorry ladies, but it is true).

Your problem is such that people on the Board COULD believe you saying there were aliens involved in the North's victory.  You bring it on yourself.

The slave labor ecomomy only made strictly economic sense when machines weren't available.  Every where machines replaced basic human labor, slavery died.  Only in the South did machinery (the cotton gin) not lead to the end of slavery.  No plantation owner could have afforded household slaves otherwise. 
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