Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Growing Sectional Conflict

I)       Northern Society – the society of the north was experiencing tremendous population growth, industrialization, a revolution in transportation and communication (railroads and the telegraph)
Mose the Fireman

A)    Population growth in the North – due to improvements in diet, the fact that the climate in the North was more hospitable to human habitation than much of the South, and the fact that most immigrants from Europe chose to live in the North rather than the South, the population of the North grew at a much faster rate than the population did in the South.

1)      Improvements in diet – most people in the north had access to a better diet than those in the South; ready sources of protein (red meat) and complex carbohydrates (wheat and corn), as well as dairy products.

2)      Northern climate – most of the north was free of dehabilitating illnesses and diseased, like malaria, that was prevalent throughout the South.  The changes in seasons meant that disease-carrying insects had less time to spread their microbes than in the South.

(a)    Cholera and dysentery – solved in the Northern cities once people figured out that greater efforts had to be made to separate potable water (that water that you consume) from water used to flush away waste.

3)      Immigration from Europe – areas in the north drew a great number more immigrants than the South; European immigrants had no desire to compete for scarce artisanal jobs in the South with slaves, and the greater capital costs to begin farming in the South (that is, the cost of slaves) made farming in the South unattractive, and unaffordable, for most European immigrants.

(a)    Rural immigrants – became farmers throughout the Midwest; Germans, Scandinavian peoples, people from the British Isles.

(b)   Urban migrants – many Germans (many of whom were skilled craftsmen or artisans), Irish (principally unskilled labor) settled in the cities of the East Coast, the growing cities in the Midwest, and even on the West Coast in San Francisco.  Outside of New Orleans, the cities of the South attracted few migrants; again, the skilled labor in most southern cities was performed by free blacks or skilled urban slaves.

B)    Industrialization -- the growth of industrialization in the North created great wealth for a few in the section, at the expense of a growing disparity between the rich and the poor in the North; the growth of cities in the North also created greater divisions within Northern society between urban dwellers and rural, even as they became more dependent upon each other.  This growth of industry in the North also created a greater division between the North and the South.

1)      Greater importance of capital – the greater amounts of money that defined industrialization limited those who could enter into the growing businesses in the North, while at the same time the money invested in these businesses increased the influence of men of capital in politics.

(a)    Railroads – the great amounts of capital involved in building and running railroads, coupled with the economic benefits that connections with rail lines brought, made railroads prime beneficiaries of government largess before and after the Civil War.

(b)   Iron foundries – the increased demand for iron, caused by the growth of railroads (engines, rolling stock, and most importantly rails, which consumed nearly 70% of the yearly output or iron production) led to the expansion of the industry, and increased efforts to rationalize it by technological improvements and removing impediments that limited production (the needed skills of iron workers—puddlers and their helpers).  This effort is not entirely successful until the 1890s.

(c)    Mining – to supply the raw materials for iron making, and to supply the fuel for steam locomotives.

C)    Private capital v. public interest – the major difference between financing railroads and financing the construction of canals was that the former was funded by a greater level of private investment, while the latter was funded by public funds directly; railroads also depended upon funding from local government sources, independent of the states.

1)      Canal construction – although the actual construction was completed by independent contractors, the money raised either came directly from tax dollars, or from the sale of bonds by the state government, guaranteed by the full faith and credit of that state government.

2)      Railroad construction – was directly funded by the sale of private stock, purchased by both officers of the corporation and by “disinterested” investors who had no other connection to the railroad other than their stock ownership, who desired the greatest return on their investment. Individual cities and counties, who had been bypassed during the canal boom, also had their hopes raised that their location, and willingness to pony up local tax dollars, would help put their location on a railroad map, and therefore increase the likelihood of a great increase in the town’s prospects.

(i)     Initial investment – initially, railroads were funded just as canals had been, by local investment by either local governments or the state government.  This method was quickly replaced by this new method of the private sale of stock (a form of lending for the promise of a return plus interest of the initial amount invested), while local governments offered “inducements” to attract rail companies to build lines to their communities.

(ii)   “Watered stock” – the sale of stock beyond the value of the actual capital owned by the railroad.

(iii) Bankruptcy – as railroads failed, the capital invested in them remained—locomotives, track, and rolling stock all were assets that other rail lines quickly bought up.

D)    Growth of Wage Labor – all of this capital investment created new kinds of employment, which in turn created increasing demand for wage labor.

1)      “Free Labor” ideology – to this point, wage labor was not considered to be free labor, since a wageworker was completely dependent upon wages paid by an employer.  While these workers were far removed from being “wage slaves,” as they proclaimed themselves, this was a departure from the way most white men in society had conducted themselves to this time. The ideal for nearly all unskilled northern labor was to become “free” labor—either independent craftsmen, or farmers.
2)      “Free Soil” ideology – the idea that in the developing western territories, all residents should have an equal opportunity to succeed; allowing slavery, it was believed, would allow slaveholders an unfair advantage, and would create a stratified society that access to “free soil” would prevent.

II)    Southern Society – the mirror image of Northern society, supposed by the people who ran the society to harkened back to an earlier, more idyllic time.

A)    Based upon racialized slavery – slavery, as we have discussed, is the oldest form of organizing labor, practiced by all ancient societies; although none had racialized the practice of slavery as it was in the new world.

1)      “Obligations” of master to slaves – (this point is heavily emphasized by George Fitzhugh in Cannibals All!) slaves, because their lives were controlled ultimately by the patriarch of the family, were viewed as members of this extended family—in theory, at least (or for the consumption of northern critics of slavery).

(a)    Deference from all members of society – lower class whites, as well as African American slaves; all of the members of the society were expected to defer to the wishes of slave masters, who viewed themselves (and expected others to view them, as well) as the patriarchal leaders of all of southern society.

(b)   “Benevolence” of the master – slave owners believed themselves to be driven by concern for the lives of their families and slaves, rather than by mere profit like their northern capitalist counterparts.

2)      Need to expand slavery – because slavery existed at the tolerance and acquiescence of non-slaveholding Southerners, most large slaveholders, who controlled the political machinery in the region, felt that the had to be able to expand slavery into new territories, because without the expansion of slavery the illusion that poor farmers in the South would one day be able to become large planter themselves would be gone. In fact, Southern politicians needed access to cheap land for the same reasons that Northern politicians did—to create this illusion of economic upward mobility, which allowed them to remain in power.

III) Growth of Sectional Politics

A)    Pre-1850 – before 1850, the sectional division along slavery, North and South, meant little in national politics; slaveholders from both the Whig and Democratic parties agreed with non-slaveholders in the Whig and Democratic parties that it was an issue best left to the states to determine—especially with the Missouri Compromise of 1820 still in effect, when members of both parties agreed that there would be no slavery north of 36 30 (the southern border of Missouri).  This agreement went by the wayside with the acquisition of so much new land as a result of the War with Mexico.

1)      Pre-1850 Whig Party – the first party of Lincoln. Whigs believed generally that the federal government should use tax dollars to make internal improvements—things like canals and railroads.

2)      Pre-1850 Democratic Party – opposed Whig plans for tax and spend programs, which they believed would merely line the pockets of the rich (or take money out of their pockets, if they were already rich planters). The Democratic Party was made up of an amalgamation of southern planters and urban immigrants (largely Germans and Irish), who united with the party largely because the Whigs tended to have a lot of “nativist” in their party.

3)      “Gag Rule” – the agreement, forced by Southern legislators, that forbade the discussion of slavery on the floor of the House of Representatives; the gag rule forbidding the presentation of petitions against slavery was passed on May 18, 1836, and remained in force for most of the time until December 1844, when it was finally broken by Rep. John Quincy Adams. In fact, the gag rule played into the hands of the abolitionists because they were able to make the point that southern slaveholders would rather trample the rights of northerners to defend their right to slavery.

B)    Growing Hostility to “Slave Power” – many politicians, and ordinary people, in the north were growing weary of being dictated to by the “slavocracy” of the South.

1)      Wilmot Proviso – named for Pennsylvania representative David Wilmot, who wanted to limit the influence of slavery in the territory to be won from Mexico, which his “Proviso” promised to do. The Wilmot Proviso was an amendment to the 1846 appropriation for negotiating the treaty with Mexico. This amendment was defeated and removed in the Senate; it was the opening salvo in the growing legislative opposition to the expansion of slavery.

2)      “Free Soil” movement – the drive by white northerners to limit the acquisition of property in the opening West to people like themselves, and prevent competition from slaveholders from the South.

C)    Growing sensitivity to attacks on slavery – as attacks by Northerners on the institution of slavery intensified, Southern slaveholders grew more defensive about their “peculiar institution,” and more adamant that any attack on slavery was in fact an attack on “the Southern Way of Life.”

1)      Secession threats – led by John C. Calhoun (who had been threatening secession by South Carolina since the first Jackson administration), Southern politicians began to threaten secession of the institution of slavery was not given further protections.

D)    Compromise of 1850 – compromise put together by Henry Clay, which consisted of five part: statehood for California; the creation of the territories of Utah and New Mexico, in which the slavery question would be settled by “popular sovereignty” (voted on by the white male citizens, that is); the dispute of the border between New Mexico and Texas; the end of slave trading in Washington, D.C. (although the individual right to own slaves would continue to be upheld there); and a more stringent, and stringently enforced, fugitive slave law. John C. Calhoun led southern opposition to this, and it was initially defeated. A young senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, decided to break apart each of the five sections of the omnibus bill, and allow votes on each section, which eventually got the bill passed.

E)     Kansas-Nebraska Act – large numbers of northern legislatures wanted a transcontinental railroad, including Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas favored a northern route, through the territory of Kansas; to expedite this, he wanted to get statehood for the territory as soon as possible. To appease Southern opposition, and not to upset his Northern supporters he came up with—

1)      “Popular sovereignty” – Douglas believed (quite wrongly) that the dilemma over whether the Kansas Territory should be slave or free would be best solved by letting the people in the Territory decide for themselves. This “solution” resulted in a full-scale civil war between anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces in the Territory.

2)      Massachusetts Immigrant Aid Society – from the abolitionist hotbed of Massachusetts, this society put up money to help anyone who proclaimed themselves an enemy of slavery and slaveholders to move to and buy land in the territory of Kansas. Slaveholders in western Missouri, threatened by this action, began to move into the territory, as well.

(a)    Jayhawkers – term used to describe anti-slavery forces, who often raided and killed settlements of pro-slavery forces, both in Kansas and in western Missouri.

(b)   Bushwhackers – term used to describe pro-slavery forces, who often raided and killed at settlements of anti-slavery forces, almost exclusively in Kansas

(c)    Both forces were filled with people who felt that they were merely protecting their own interests, and were in fact protecting their rights. A smattering of people we would today probably considers psychopaths, or at least sociopaths, committed a host of atrocities, which included the slaughter of innocents, on both sides.

IV) Conclusion – Both northern and southern societies saw the growing rift between them both, and saw each other as the growing evil antithesis of themselves.  Combined with their diverging economic interests, it made the likelihood of war greater with each passing year.

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