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Chapter thirteen of the article talks about social systems, human principles, and political institutions that existed in the South before the Civil War. The article shows that the southern part of the country was the most complex, even though it hosted rich farmers and faithful slaves. From the analysis, the southern societies had a diverse culture that gave new members difficulties in surviving economically. The author establishes that the south had a complicated culture that incorporated the values of blacks, whites, and yeoman farm families.
Regarding the social structure, the main source of livelihood cotton, even though it was not the only agricultural crop in the region. The economy of the south depended on cotton since it was the major cash crop. The region encouraged policies aiming at legalizing slavery since it was its major source of labor. With time, the global price of cotton went up, which influenced the lives of the locals and foreigners in the south. The government came up with a policy that flushed out Indians and encouraged the whites to take up land that belongs to the locals. Consequently, the upper south diversified its agricultural practices by planting various crops.
The soils could no longer support the growth of cotton, forcing settlers to change to different crops. Since the south depended on agriculture, the region was predominantly rural, even though a few cities and urban centers developed (Davidson, Brian and Christine 333). The region depended heavily on foreign markets since the local population could not support domestic consumption. In terms of manufacturing, the region lagged behind since slaves were never trained to operate machines.
Analysis of the class system reveals that settlers occupied the top class while slaves were always at the bottom. Slaves were owned just as other properties were owned on the farm. The ruling class, which was predominantly white, was expected to work hard to preserve the high status. The type of relationship that existed between owners of the means of production and slaves was a patron-client relationship. This means that slaves had to seek permission in order to perform any activity on the farm. However, the author reports that not all whites owned slaves in the region since only one southern white belonged to a slave-owning family.
Moreover, less than two percent of whites were rich enough to own slaves. One settler could own up to twenty slaves, but a majority just owned few slaves. The author of this book differs from other analysts since he reports that a number of differences existed among settlers (Davidson, Brian and Christine 240).
Other historians observe that all settlers were equal in terms of status, meaning that they were all rich. In this book, it is argued that the sophisticated polite society of the Tidewater was very different from another colonist society found on the cotton border. The society found in the Tidewater had an organized sense of family and elegant homes, while the one found in the border was corrupt since it utilized unscrupulous means to benefit from slaves.
In the south, plantations were mainly used for business since colonial masters insisted on policies that aimed at fulfilling their personal interests. For instance, they used the idea of paternalism to support slavery, even though the idea was simply a utopia. Slaves, who were allocated duties related to taking care of the settlers’ homes, faced a number of problems. The female slaves were unable to accomplish their household chores since these duties were too many.
A few female blacks complained of mistreatment. Complaints were related to sexual harassment. Unlike other studies suggesting that all property owners in the south were rich farmers, the author of the book gives a contrary view by suggesting that a majority of whites in the south were Yeoman farmers who never owned any slaves. In fact, they worked on their farms with their families only. Such families believed that slavery was an expensive affair that was hard to sustain. They simply supported slavery because of racism, but not because of its benefits. Poor whites were against the idea of emancipation since they hated blacks, but they never supported the rich whites in society.
Institutionalization of Slavery
The author alleges that a number of blacks in the south served as slaves, whereby they worked under inhuman conditions. They could go for the whole day without food while some were even subjected to strict disciplined, such as physical beating. Compared to other black workers in the north, the living standards of the blacks in the south were extremely poor. The diet supplied to slaves was monotonous, the housing system was poor, and they were provided with inadequate clothing.
In fact, workers were not provided with any form of healthcare. This explains why slaves had a very short lifespan. The rates of infant mortalities were higher than expected. Even though slaves tried to fight for their rights, they achieved little since whites still practiced inhuman activities. In 1831, a preacher referred to as Nat Turner organized a major revolt. In the revolt, slaves violated the rules by running away from their masters, stealing properties, and doing a shoddy job when given an assignment. With time, the author claims that blacks developed their own culture that would help them cope with the situation (Davidson, Brian, and Christine 252. Slaves reinterpreted the teachings of the Bible to favor their status.
They believed that they would be free one day since slavery was against the teachings of the Bible. Apart from using the Bible to demand their rights, slaves introduced songs and other forms of arts that criticized slavery. Even though slaves were made up of various cultures, white racism united them since they could not withstand oppression.
Defense of Slavery
Slavery was considered inhuman in most parts of the country, but the southern whites were reluctant to abandon it since they relied on slave labor for production. They defended it through a constitutional amendment. Southern leaders drafted a number of policies that would influence other whites to support slavery. Nationally, parties campaigned for the legalization of slavery since it was argued that it could support economic development. However, the south was unable to convince the north to support the idea of institutionalizing slavery since it was generally considered inhuman. In other words, slavery did not become a national issue, as was expected by southerners (Davidson, Brian, and Christine 264).
With time, blacks gained consciousness and decided to fight for their rights. They organized a revolution that would bring changes in the socio-economic and political institutions. Blacks were against slavery and the conditions that accompanied it. They wanted to be included in the running of the state and policymaking, particularly those policies that touched on their rights. This led to the American Civil War that ended slavery in the south.
Davidson, James, Brian, DeLay, and Christine, Heyrman. US: A Narrative History. McGraw-Hill Higher Education: New York, 2012. Print.