A Southern View of History: The War for Southern Independence
PART II. REGIONAL DIFFERENCES
In Part two we briefly examine the difference between the people who populated the Northern states and those who populated the Southern states. These differences contributed to social, political and economic strife between the regions that continued to grow until session of states began.
Objective: To develop an understanding of the Southern Culture and to identify those conflicts of culture, beliefs and values between the Northern and Southern populations that would eventually lead to Southern State Secession.
A. Cultural Differences
The southern states and northern states were predominately settled by two different cultures of people. The settlers of the South were primarily, but not exclusively, of Celtic descent. The ancient Celts spoke various forms of an Aryan, or Indo-European language known as Celtic, or Keltic. They were called Celts because of the language they spoke, rather than because of the race to which they belong.
Celts were famous for their wit, their love of liberty, and their bravery in battle. In about 500 B.C. the Celts were found mainly in the areas now known as Southwestern Germany. They soon spread over most of western Europe. In the British Isles they were divided into two branches. One branch, which included the Irish, the Manx, and the Highland Scots, spoke Gaelic. The other branch, to which the Welsh, the Cornish, and the Bretons belonged, spoke Brythonic. The Celts in Europe developed the Gaulish language. A majority of the settlers of the South came, primarily, from the western areas of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. These areas were populated by the Celtic tribes who were earlier driven out of the inner regions of England. In the 1st century BC, Strabo wrote of the Celts: ‘The whole race… is madly fond of war, high-spirited and quick to battle… and on whatever pretext you stir them up, you will have them ready to face danger, even if they have nothing on their side but their own strength and courage’.
Settlers of the Northern states were primarily of English, Dutch and German descent. The roots of those English tended to be towards Anglo, Saxon, Danish and Norman origins. At the time of the federal census of 1790, well over three-quarters of the people living in New England were of English origins; New York, having originally been a Dutch colony, retained a large Dutch component in its population, but the single largest group, comprising something over two-fifths of the people, was English; Pennsylvania was heterogeneous – two-fifths of the people were of Celtic origins, a third were German, fewer than a fifth were English. From Pennsylvania southward Celts dominated the frontier, where they constituted from 60 to nearly 100 percent of the total population. In the North Carolina tidewater districts, from 39 percent of the population in Edenton to 48 percent in Newbern were Celts, but in the upland interior they constituted 63 percent of the population in the Fayette district and almost 100 percent in the Hillsborough district. In the western Virginia counties of Fayette and Lincoln, Scots and Irish alone numbered nearly 80 percent of the population. Such ratios of Celts to Englishmen suggests that the North and the South were settled and dominated numerically during the antebellum period by different people with significantly different cultural backgrounds.
The people of the South were referred to as “Crackers.” This goes back to Old England, describing a person who is carefree, likes music, likes to drink and fight, likes to tell stories and crack jokes, or just simply likes to have a good time.
The first Celts were a mixed people. They tended to be fair-haired and light-skinned, but some had darker-colored hair and complexion. Southerners themselves like to explain their special culture in terms of ideals. Instead of being restless, unstable, and ruthlessly progressive, they said, they put their surplus energy into the life of the mind, and cultivated the greatest of all arts, the art of living. The South fostered conversational talent, while her platform oratory stimulated political thought more forcibly than the newspaper articles of the North. The Southern ideal approximated closely to the ideals of eighteenth-century English life.
The well-born Southerner was convinced that he was a man of far more spirit and resource than the Northern counterpart. The Southern way of life, with much hunting, general use of horses, frequent marksmanship contests, the existence of two fine schools of war, the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, and the South Carolina Military Academy or “Citadel” at Charleston; and the memory of Southern prowess in the Mexican War, bred a deep conviction in Southerners of their people and their homeland.
Education for utility was steadily gaining ground in the North; education for character and grace held sway in the South, and the scope of education was far from identical. The nation, by 1850, had just over six thousand academies, of which the very respectable number of 2,640 were in the Southern states. Estimates of the section’s enrollment in these schools ran as high as two hundred thousand. The University of North Carolina early in the 1850’s established professorships of civil engineering and agricultural chemistry.
Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1850’s, boasted of six newspapers, two medical schools, one of extremely high standards. Several boys’ academies existed, two seminaries for women, and a Mechanic’s Institute which offered a library, free lectures, and a night school with technical courses.
Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1850, had a public library of five hundred volumes. The public school system, which an energetic Yankee superintendent, Dr. J.G. Holland, had briefly taken in hand in 1848, was one of the best in the South.
In 1860 Virginia had twenty-three colleges enrolling 2,824 students, as against New York’s seventeen colleges listing 2,970 students; and Georgia’s thirty-two colleges with 3,302 students nominally overshadowed the eight Massachusetts colleges with 1,733 registrants.
South Carolina had as many as a hundred thousand volumes in its public libraries. The South was a form of society rather than an area. Its special psychology, traditions, and principles ran far back into history. The doctrines on the Virginia school on State Rights and strict construction, crystallized by Madison and Jefferson in the Resolutions of 1798-99, continued to find a wide acceptance.
It was a land of simple dogmatism in religion, of Protestant solidarity, of people who believed every word of the Bible, and of faith frequently refreshed by emotional revivalism. All visitors to the South quickly found out that two Americas really existed: the North and the South. Most of the go-ahead spirit and nearly all the “we-can-whip-universal-nature brag” was concentrated in the North; much of the leisure, courtliness, and pride in the South.
Edmond Pollard noted that back as early as 1787 that a “Sectional Animosity” was formed and became “striking and persistent feature of the history of the American States.” At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison discovered clashes of interests between states, large and small, North and South, climate and economy which “concurred in forming the great division of interests in the United States”; and “if any defensive power were necessary, it ought to be mutually given to these two sections. In the South Carolina Convention, which ratified the constitution, General Pinckney spoke of the differences between those living in the Northern and Southern States. “When I say Southern, I mean Maryland and the States southward of her. There, we may truly observe that nature has drawn as strong marks of distinction in the habits and manners of the people, as she ahs in her climates and productions.”
Many Southerners felt a deep-seated injury in the centralizing tendencies of the federal government. A belief that consolidated power spelled danger had become deeply ingrained. The Southern states followed the rule that the best government was the least government. The South was adamant in standing for no high protective tariffs, no ship subsidies, no national banking and currency system; in short, none of the measures which business enterprise deemed essential to its progress.
North and South had always, from early colonial days, found difficulty in understanding each other. William Byrd of Virginia and John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay had approached life from totally different points of view. By 1830, the divergent psychologies of the two sections presented the most serious obstacles to understanding. What an Alabamian meant by “liberty” and “democracy” was something different from what a New Yorker meant by those terms.
The Yankee and the Westerner thought of the Union with the high emotional fervor which they had learned from Daniel Webster. They thrilled to the term with an intense spirit of nationality, a passionate attachment to the republic as a whole, a conviction that the people must stand as a unit in defense of national honor and freedom.
The dominant elements of the Lower South held a quite different conception. Their Union had to be yoked with State Rights. It was, next to their sectional liberties, most dear. They viewed the union as did John C. Calhoun, whose view was “a peculiar association in which sovereign States were held by high considerations of good faith; by the exchanges of equity and comity; by the noble attractions of social order; by the enthused sympathies of a common destiny of power, honor and renown.”
Naturally, the South thought of itself more and more as a separate nation. By 1857 the major Protestant denominations in the North and the South had split. One major political party, the Whigs, had first split in half and then disappeared. A deepening divide surfaced within the press, pulpit and education. With every passing year, the fundamental assumptions, tastes, and cultural aims of the North and South became more divergent. The South was even distinct in that it had developed its own dialect within the English language that is unlike any other region in the world.
The South was almost exclusively dependent on agriculture. Their warm climate provided an excellent environment for farming. The people of the North were very industrious. They were strong believers in education, they liked to read and write. Southerners read for personal enjoyment and cultivation; Northerners read to invent or to write.
The Pilgrims and Puritans of New England, in their beliefs, values, lifestyles were quite different from those of the Southern people. New England would become the predominant writer of textbooks in the 19th centuries. Is there any doubt that the history, heroes and values of the New England Yankee culture would take a paramount focus in the writing of texts used for educational purpose over the past 200 years, even those used in the South? Is it any wonder when the Yankee versions of history were considered the gold standard for education, even to this day? This would explain why the history books on early America detail a lot of New England history. Even though there were Southerners living in Jamestown, Virginia, for some 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. The New Englanders wrote most all of the early history books and, thus, we study New England history quite extensively, even today. Yet scholars call this a “balanced approach to history.” It takes a tremendous effort on the part of students and teachers to uncover the true Southern history after layers of Yankee influenced writings have dominated the content and intellect, the training and evaluation of American History at all levels.
Different standards, ideas, aims, outlooks, ideals; a different color of life and throb of pulse; different glories and different shames; different precedents and traditions; different fears and elation’s, had come to characterize the two sections, which in a word, were by this time lapped in two different cultures.
One must remember that the South has its own distinct culture with its own special history, heroes, traditions and values. The South gave the world Southern architecture, authors, chefs, statesmen, musicians, painters and outstanding leaders in many fields. The Southerner maintained a special bond with the land and her people. The Southerner would demonstrate qualities of courage, devotion to duty, an indomitable spirit, a close attachment to home, family, state, nation and their firm belief in spiritual values.
References and Details:
“Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South” by Grady McWhiney.
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 2.
“The Story of the Confederate States” by Joseph T. Derry, Part II, Chapter 1.
“The South Under Siege 1830-2000: A History of the Relations Between the North and the South” by Frank Conner, Chapter 2
“The Confederate Nation by Emory M. Thomas, Chapters 1 and 2.
“The Story of the Confederacy” by Robert S. Henry, Chapter 1.
“The Men in Gray” by Robert C. Cave, Chapter 3.
“The Truths of History” by Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Chapter 11
B. The Population Shift
The population of the North and the South was comparatively equal at the time of the ratification of the Constitution. The federal government could approach regional issues on an even keel and, at worst, at least work out a compromise on issues. Both the North and the South had equal representation in the Senate and the House.
Within the next 70 years the nation’s total population increased 800%, up to a total of 31 1/2 million people. New York’s population had grown by 1,140% and had grown to 2 1/2 times that of Virginia. This growth in the North would attribute to the shift in representation in the House of Representatives, which is where all federal government appropriations were created. This would give the North total control of federal government spending. As the North grew in population so did their representation grow accordingly.
The population of Chicago doubled between 1852 and 1855, leaping from 38,000 people to 80,000. Milwaukee, which probably counted a greater proportion of foreign-born inhabitants than any other American city, had more than tripled in size within a decade.
The large influx of foreign population, which had neither state attachments nor state pride, had increased the Northern preference for a strong central government. The South was plainly falling behind in the race for population. Of the eight and a half million increase during the decade, the states of the future Confederacy claimed only about two million. By 1860 twenty-one new states had entered the union but only 9 were Southern states. This attributed to the Northern advantage in the Senate.
The balance was gone. This imbalance allowed the representatives of the North to force unfair tariff laws upon the states of the South. These unfair tariffs would force the South to buy manufactured goods from the North at high prices rather than buy cheaper and sometimes superior quality imported goods from Europe. This growing imbalance played an important role in the 1828 threat of secession by South Carolina over unfair tariff laws that raised the prices of some imported goods as much as 45 to 50 percent, and South Carolina’s passing of a Nullification Act in 1832 that declared the federal tariffs null and void, based on the sovereignty of the states and the state’s rights.
The North was gaining more and more power on the federal level. Their true desire for the upper hand on the federal level could not be denied when in 1836 the question arose on the annexation of the Republic of Texas into the Union. The North openly opposed this annexation simply due to the fact that the South’s powers in the federal government would be strengthened.
By 1861 there were about four million persons of alien birth living in the states that remained in the Union as opposed to only about one fourth of a million residing in the states of the Confederacy. Probably one out of every four or five U.S. soldiers was of foreign birth and only one out of every twenty or twenty-five Confederate soldiers were of foreign birth. German-born immigrants made up about 200,000 U.S. soldiers. There were about 150,000 Irish, Canadians and English totaled about 50,000. Forty-five of the North’s 583 general officers were of foreign birth, including twelve Germans and twelve Irishmen. It has been estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 Irish-born soldiers marched in the Confederate army and they outnumbered any other foreign group on the Southern side. Among the Confederacy’s 425 general officers, only nine were foreigners, five of whom were Irish.
|Dist. of Columbia||60,788||11,107||3,181||75,076|
References and Details:
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 3.
“The South Under Siege 1830-2000: A History of the Relations Between the North and the South” by Frank Conner, Chapter 7
C. Southern Class Structure
In Southern society the major planters flourished at the apex of the social pyramid. They owned the largest plantations, the most slaves, and often the largest debts to Northern banks and financiers. According to Southern agricultural lore, an efficient plantation unit numbered about a thousand acres, worked by 50 to 100 slaves. Using that yardstick about 8,000 Southern planters qualified as major planters in 1850.
William H. Russell, a military correspondent for the London Times, sampled the hospitality of planter John Burnside at Houmas Plantation in March, 1861, located about sixty miles north of New Orleans. Russell recorded his impression in his diary. According to his diary, he climbed a high bank to a road edged with a white picket fence that extended as far as he could see. Through a gateway, he discovered a tree-lined avenue adjoining a red brick walk. Proceeding, he came upon a white house surrounded by a carefully manicured lawn. Colorful climbing flowers clung to the six white Doric pillars that spanned the front, providing shade and fragrance to those who lounged on the first or second floor verandas. The house itself, surrounded on three sides by the imposing columns and the porches they enclosed, rose in impressive new-Greek style to a widow’s walk around the square cupola that crowned the structure.
Russell wrote that the fields of the plantation were as flat as a tabletop. He could see some slave cottages, plantation offices that looked “like large public edifices in the distance.” All together, Russell discovered, the plantation contained 40,000 acres, 18,000 of which remained to be cleared, drained and cultivated.
These planters were the ones who did not favor secession. They had achieved wealth, status, and substantial land ownership. They financed their speculative undertakings through Northern banks and financial institutions. They were making money and enjoying life – traveling abroad and sending their children to fine schools. They had reached the pinnacle status of the Southern aristocrat. Their continued financial success was based upon (as they saw it) the continuation of slavery in the South. Plantation slavery, they declared, was a rational institution; it had logic and purpose and was engaged in purely as a financial investment to make the planter more money. Slaves were essentially property and treated as such by the planters. Slaves were viewed as assets by the planters and were purchased to increase the wealth of the planter, not because the planter hated Africans and simply wished to make their lives as miserable as possible.
Since slavery already existed and was protected under the existing U.S. Constitution and in the Southern states, it was assumed the South would block any Constitutional amendment abolishing the practice. Many planters did not favor secession. As they viewed it, they stood to lose what they had already achieved.
There were actually many “South’s”, only one of which represented the major planter whose measure could not be taken merely by the number of acres he cultivated. Incomplete statistics indicate that there were in the pre-War Between The States period about 700 of the 1,000 acre, 50-100 slave plantations in Alabama, and perhaps 900 in Georgia. Long before 1860 the major planter’s lifestyle had become the Southern model.
The second-rank planters who owned from 10 to 50 slaves emulated the major planter in many ways. There were about 84,000 such individuals in 1850. They were “on the make”. They exploited the richness of the soil for all it was worth and put the profits back into their businesses. They enjoyed less leisure time than did the major planters. They worked in the fields, often alongside their slaves, and few of them employed overseers. As their economic condition improved they upgraded their style of living.
A third group included most of the slaveholders in the South – over 154,000 in 1850 – all those who held nine slaves or fewer. About 60 percent of this group owned farms ranging in size from 50 to 300 acres. Over 60 percent of the non-slaveholding farmers of the South operated farms of about the same size as the small planter.
In the Appalachian highlands and the sandy pine woods dwelt yet another group of Southerners often referred to as Southern Highlanders. They were herdsmen, forced off the lower grasslands who moved into the grasslands of the pine belt and grassy hills and valleys of the highlands. These folks, who preferred the life of the hunter or herdsman to that of the farmer or planter, were then driven into the highlands and pine woods as the
agrarians preempted the better lowland soils. They built rough cabins, often cleared several acres and grew vegetables and perhaps some cotton or tobacco as well.
About 500,000 Southerners of yet another class, often simply labeled “poor whites,” inhabited the South in 1860. They shared the pine woods and the highlands with the herdsmen, or they could be found on the edges of towns, or indeed in almost any corner of any Southern state, barely subsisting on neglected or unproductive lands. They lived primarily by hunting, fishing, and occasionally produced a few garden vegetables. The source of this poor white class is not clear, but the fact that almost every frontier in American history had similar elements suggests that they might have been bypassed by the Southern frontier and driven to less desirable areas by migrants and greater zeal. Thus, except for the highlanders and poor whites, the smaller planters and non-slaveholding farmers composed the bulk of the white population in the South. By 1850, non-slaveholding white farmers were increasing more rapidly as a group than were slaveholders.
Although primarily a rural land, the South in 1860 had a lively urban population that included merchants and manufacturers centered in 20 cities with over 10,000 population each, the largest of which were Baltimore and New Orleans. By 1860, the South had more than $96,000,000 invested in about 20,000 factories. Nearly 110,000 factory workers were turning out products worth approximately $155,000,000 annually. Many of the laborers
toiled in the plants only a portion of their time, for many of the factories still operated on the old domestic or putting-out system. The professional classes of the South were not unlike anywhere else, except that their prosperity depended upon the success of the planters. The doctors, lawyers, journalists, and career-military officers – economically and socially tied into the planter economy.
Another class that existed in the South were the “free blacks”. “Free”, in reference to Southern black Americans who were not slaves. They had been freed by former masters legally, had bought their way out of slavery from masters who allowed it, or had been born to manumitted slaves. Most of the 250,000 free blacks lived in Virginia and Maryland, but clusters could also be found in Louisiana, particularly around New Orleans, in North Carolina, Tennessee, and in the border states of Kentucky and Missouri. Free Southern blacks in most communities held unskilled jobs, working usually as farm hands or day laborers. Some were trained as artisans and followed trades such as carpentry or shoemaking. A few became wealthy, like Thomy Lafon, a New Orleans tycoon who amassed a fortune of over $500,000. The “Charleston Mercury” reported in its Sunday, September 8, 1861, edition that free blacks in Charleston, South Carolina, had contributed $450 to the Confederate war effort.
Some free blacks became slaveholders themselves. Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer black historian, reported that 4,071 free blacks held 13,446 slaves in 1830. The largest concentration of black slaveholders were around New Orleans (753 owners with 2,351 slaves) Richmond, and in Maryland.
The final class we find in the South is the black slave. The slave existed in a closed system. Some masters allowed their slaves to purchase their freedom but the vast majority were the unconditional property of their masters. The master defined the slave’s role, provided them with a clear and simple script, judged their performance, and rewarded or punished them according to its quality. In this closed system the slave had only limited contacts with free society. The masters provided the food, clothing, and shelter for their slaves.
Many slaves worked under the “task” system. This system provided the slave with a set of tasks to be completed within a given period of time. Should those tasks be completed before the given period of time had elapsed, the slave could then spend time in leisure, hire themselves out (with the foreknowledge of the master), or could work producing goods that could be sold, with the slave retaining all of the profits made from the sale. It was under the task system that some slaves were made able to buy their freedom.
References and Details:
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 2, 3 and 4.
“Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South” by Grady McWhiney.
“The Confederate Nation” by Emory M. Thomas, Chapters 1 and 2.
“The History of the Confederacy 1832-1865” by Clifford Dowdey, Prologue, Chapter 2
D. Economic Issues
The U.S. Gross National Product (GNP) of the 1850’s was driven by Southern exports (cotton, tobacco and sugar). By 1860 Southern agricultural exports accounted for at least 3/4 of the total federal budget. Southerners viewed this situation as one in which money was leaving the South and going to the North to fuel the Northern industrial revolution. Southerners were quick to point out that the South also furnished the largest parts of the nation’s exports. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1850, cotton alone accounted for nearly half of the nation’s foreign shipments, $71,984,616 out of $144,376,000. Ten years later the situation remained unchanged. The exportation of domestic produce in 1860 was $333,576,000 of which raw cotton represented $191,807,000.
The financial panic of 1857 saw the South survive the collapse much better than the North. Senator James Hammond, of South Carolina, stated, “When the abuse of credit had… annihilated confidence, when thousands of the strongest commercial houses in the world were coming down and hundreds of millions of dollars of supposed property were evaporating in thin air, when you came to a deadlock and revolutions were threatened, what brought you up? Fortunately for you, it was the commencement of the cotton season, and we have poured upon you 1,600,000 bales of cotton just at the crisis to save you from destruction.”
The panic of 1857 was caused in part to changes in the world market at the conclusion of the Crimean War and signaled the end of the boom times that followed the Mexican War for the United States. Corruption businessmen in Northern America saw their hold on wheat markets falling, because Russians were now able to send their grain crops to market. Needing to raise quick cash, the Northern capitalists under priced the American crops they bought in order to export grain competitively, thus depressing American grain product prices. As demand for US grain continued to drop, Northern export profits dwindled. With overproduction in the mid-west, the wheat market collapsed, causing an economic depression in the West. At that time British investors began to remove funds from American banks questioning their soundness. The falling grain prices spread economic misery into rural areas. Manufactured goods began to pile up in warehouses, leading to massive layoffs. Widespread railroad failures occurred, an indication of how badly over-built the American system had become, and Land speculation programs collapsed with the railroads, ruining thousands of investors. Several major railroad embezzlement scandals were exposed, shaking up their creditors on Wall Street. The largest bank in Ohio, the New York Branch of the Ohio Life and Insurance Company failed following massive embezzlement scandal. This sent shock waves through the Northern economy. Most Northern banks reacted by hoarding reserves, and tightening credit. Over 800 banks collapsed and numerous wealthy manufacturers and investors went bankrupt.
The steamship S. S. Central America carrying over $1 million dollars in commercial gold and a shipment of 15 tons of federal gold valued at $20 an ounce sank near South Carolina on her voyage from San Francisco. She went down in a hurricane on September 12, 1857. The gold intended for the Northeastern banks went down with the ship. This sent a shock wave through the financial community.
The panic turned into national depression that lasted for several years. Greed, corruption, overextension of credit drove this crisis in the North and West. Northern politicians at the time fraudulently used the panic as an excuse to promote their tariff policies on the South, in effect using the European demand for Southern cotton and tobacco to cover their losses in the grain markets. Cotton and tobacco production was not affected by the economic downturn. The South survived the 1857 panic because of Europe’s continued demand for cotton. Southern cotton and tobacco producers took European manufactured goods in trade and were thus not dependant upon cash for payment. This further removed from the financial crisis centered in the North on banking and credit. Production increased, and the South prospered. Senator Johnson showed that the daily wages for bricklayers in New Orleans and Charleston averaged $3. Wages for bricklayers in Chicago and Pittsburg was $1.50. Carpenters in New Orleans/Charleston earned $2.50 a day. The same in Chicago/Pittsburg earned $1.50. General laborers in these Southern cities earned $1.25. Their counterparts in the North earned $.75. The Federal Government gained more power using the excuse of preventing future recessions and depressions. Many Southern farmers realized that if the tariffs were removed, they could ship their cotton directly to European markets for greater profit. Howell Cobb, Senator James Hammond, A. Dudley Mann, and others labored to establish direct trade with Europe and direct mercantile and banking connections with England, as the one way to lift the South to economic independence.