The Inevitable Fracture

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Wilentz makes a point to discuss how the institution of slavery caused a major fracture in the Union. He talks about how the “fire-eaters” led the charge of the South’s eventually succession, but it is important to note that there have been threats of succession for many decades leading up to this cataclysm.

Many attempts were made to curb the tension between the North and South. Such as the Democratic National Convention being held in Charleston instead of New York. They had hoped that this would seem like a gesture of goodwill but it had the opposite effect. The presence of the Northern politicians provoked the anger of the Southerns.The voting in this convention ended up in a standstill and forced a reschedule which managed to slightly delay the inevitable fracture. This political unrest in just choosing a candidate only exasperated the issue more.

Wilentz noted that Lincoln had high hopes that secessionists would fail because they had misinterpreted him. He hoped that the sensible people of the South would see through the extremists’ lies and remain members of the Union. Unfortunately, Lincoln’s election had the opposite effect. It turned Deep South moderates and even Unionists into Secessionists. The question soon became not whether or not to secede but when and how.

South Carolina was the first state to secede on December 20 soon followed by Mississippi, then Florida, and the rest of the southern states to Texas. There was a strong counteroffensive in the border states but that only managed to slow the process. With the South seceded the inevitable conflict was on the horizon.

Contrasting Slave Systems in Colonial America (Inhuman Bondage Ch. 6)

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Most history books focus on slavery as a Southern colony decision, a system where wealthy plantation owners use harsh techniques to keep their slaves obedient. Davis, however, explains the use of slaves in the other colonies, and the difference between the slave systems in the Southern colonies.

I had never heard of the rather large slave culture in the Middle Colonies, as Davis describes. While the English on the mainland may have been leery of slavery, the Dutch influence in New York allowed for slavery to develop. The Dutch, lacking the rush of emigrants that other countries had, needed laborers, and turned to free and enslaved blacks for that force. Some worked in fields, but many blacks worked in factories, too. Since there was no one staple crop in the North, those colonies did not rely on an entirely slave labor economy. Many blacks worked side-by-side with indentured servants and other whites, as well, making it a more preferable life.

Even though there were slaves in Northern colonies, the slaves in the South still lived a harsher life, with far less of a chance of ever finding freedom. Davis mentions how many Southern planters feared buying slaves from the West Indies and preferred to buy directly from Africa. This reminded me of Davis’s point from the earlier chapter that in the West Indies, the Africans had a stronger culture and a more tight-knit community. This would cause fear in plantation owners’ minds that these slaves would be more likely to organize a revolt. Just as Matt mentioned in his last post (, I also had never thought of the slave culture in South America and the Caribbean. That culture, however, is important in the reasoning behind the slave trade in the American colonies. If the colonists had not feared these revolts, most slaves would have probably come from the Caribbean, which would have changed the culture of the slave-labor colonies.

Davis also comments on the difference in slave systems in Virginia and South Carolina. Although South Carolina was the only colony that intended to have slaves, they had a more open system. More blacks had a chance of gaining their freedom. When the whites and the blacks mixed, the white owners would sometimes free their mixed children. Just as Davis compared the slave lifestyle between the West Indies and North America, he hints that slave life in South Carolina would be more preferable than life in Virginia, where plantation owners controlled with the whip. The Stono Rebellion caused slave life in South Carolina to change, but in early colonial life the slave systems in the Southern colonies were not as similarly harsh as I previously thought.