Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Old South - Described

From Temple's "East Tennessee in the Civil War":

But, while the North was capturing and organizing new states in the North-west, and extending its empire of thought to the Pacific, the South was slowly moving on as it had done fifty years before. The negro and the mule were the two great factors in its growth, and they leisurely moved on in the old way. They tilled the fields and raised the cotton, the sugar, the rice and the tobacco on which all prosperity depended. Kentucky, Tennessee and the West furnished the mule, the corn, the hay and the bacon. Southern harbors were filled, for the most part, only with coasting vessels. The harbors and the great natural highways to a large extent remained unimproved, because of the supersensitive scruples of Southern statesmen on constitutional questions.

Free, universal education was unknown. The great body of the people were poorly educated, many not at all. The result was, that they were generally thriftless, nerveless and non-progressive. As a rule, only the sons of wealthy men were thoroughly educated. The most promising sons of the rich planters were sent to the University of Virginia, or to Princeton, or Yale, or West Point, to be educated for the bar or the army, with the hope of their ultimately going to congress or becoming governors or great generals, while some were educated for the ministry or for the profession of medicine. The army or a political life was thought to be the highway to honor. Many of the young men on the great plantations grew up with no definite aim, no high purpose. They frolicked, and played cards, and followed the yelping hounds; they "sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

Manufacturing received but little encouragement; It served to develop a spirit of independent thought among the operatives, inconsistent with the safety of slavery. Skilled laborers, especially of the higher grade, would read and think and talk. Slavery was naturally repugnant to them, because it degraded them and their own labor. It tended to lower all laborers to the level of slaves. Trading was only tolerated as a necessity. Mining was almost unknown. The mechanic arts were only practiced in a small way. Planting and war were the only honorable callings aside from the learned professions. Even the learned professions were considered inferior in dignity to the other two. The little land owners who cultivated their fields with their own hands did not rise into the honorable dignity of planters. They were farmers, laborers, "poor whites."Only the man with his broad acres, his drove of Negroes, and his overseer was styled a planter. Without the appendage of an overseer—the most cruel and despicable of men—the position of no planter was high.

The great planter was a man of power. He was courted and honored. The doors of society opened wide at his approach. No wonder he became arrogant and haughty. Yet he possessed many noble qualities. He was brave, generous, magnanimous, sincere and honorable. Certainly in his day he had his good things—"was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day."From the serene heights of his fancied exaltation, the great planter looked down with cold contempt on the large body of Northern men. He regarded them as little tillers of the soil, petty traders, low shop-keepers, enslaved mechanics, howling fanatics and lovers of money. They were mean in spirit, cowardly, narrow, selfish and abased. Mammon was their God. If they gave to objects of charity, it was on a cold calculation that they would get back in some way two dollars for every one given. The operatives in factories were the slaves of the lordly manufacturers, with fewer comforts than the bondsmen of the South.


Trooper York said...

Just got a new book called "Throw Away the Scabbard" which is an alternative history about what would have happened if Stonewall Jackson had survived Chancellorsville.

It looks pretty good. Just sayn'

rcocean said...

Hey thanks for the suggestion. I haven't been able to read much, just too busy. Maybe, I need to go on a cruise.