Southern Region, 1800-1850 - Marion Brady

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Southern Region, 1800-1850In 1763, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixonsurveyed and established the boundary linebetween the colonies of Maryland andPennsylvania. This boundary line came to beknown as “the Mason-Dixon Line.” It alsobecame an imaginary line separating “theNorth” from “the South.” In the first half ofthe 1800s, states lying south of this MasonDixon Line along the Atlantic coast weregenerally considered the “Old South.” Thepresent southern states bordering the Gulf ofMexico (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, andTexas) were sometimes called the “New South.” Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, andMissouri, although later considered “southern,” were then thought of as “western” lands.Data in this Part should help you answer the question: How did the experiences shared bypeople in the South affect their ideas and ways of acting?Investigation: Interpreting Data for the SouthUse the same procedure as with the Part on the Northeast:Use the Model to analyze each piece of data. You’ll find (or be able to infer)information about:1.Setting, both natural and human-made, including such thingsas transportation methods.2.Demography: Population density and distribution (where dopeople live?)3.Action patterns: Occupations, child rearing patterns,organizations, social classes, etc.4.Shared ideas about education, religion, status, the future, etc.Make notes on the information, which will help you summarize theSouth when you’ve studied all the material in this activity.Original material copyright 2013 by Marion Brady and Howard Brady. This material may be copied and printedby teachers or mentors for use with their own students only. All other rights reserved.Southern Region, 1800-1850Page 1

Robert Russell, an English gentleman and writer for the London Times, traveledthroughout the South in the 1850s and made these observations.Traveling through a fertile district in any of the southern states, the appearance ofthings is very different than that in the Free States. During two days’ sail on the AlabamaRiver from Mobile to Montgomery, I did not see enough houses in any one spot to call it avillage. There were many places where cotton was shipped and supplies were landed. Still,there were no signs to show that we were in the heart of a rich cotton region. In fact, themore fertile the land, the fewer villages and towns there are. And how can it be any otherway? The system of management which is recommended as the most economical andprofitable is to raise and to manufacture on the plantations everything which the slavesrequire. This is seldom accomplished, but a great part of the clothing is homemade. Thechief articles imported are bacon and mules from the northern states. The only article sold iscotton, which is taken to the nearest point on a navigable river and shipped out to an agentin an exporting town. The bacon all comes in through the same channel.Statistics for slavery, 1800-1860:Page 2Southern Region, 1800-1850

Estimated Slave Population of the s of 2,796,0004,541,000Joseph H. Ingraham, a young New Englander, toured southwestern Mississippi. His book,The South-West, describes what he saw. It was published anonymously in 1835, signed“By a Yankee.”A plantation well-stocked with workers is the ambition of every man who lives inthe South. Young men who come to this country “to make money” soon want this. A broadplantation, waving with snow-white cotton bolls, fills their dreams. This is the reason forthe great number of planters and the few professional men. In such a state of things, no mengrow old or gray in their profession if they are at all successful. As soon as the younglawyer makes enough to purchase a few hundred acres of rich land and a few slaves, hequits his profession at once, though perhaps just rising into prominence, and turns cottonplanter. The legal profession at Natchez is composed entirely of young men. Ten years fromnow, probably not four out of five of these will still work as lawyers.Physicians make money much more rapidly than lawyers, so they turn planter evensooner. They, however, keep their titles, so that doctor-planters are now numerous. They faroutnumber the regular doctors, who have not yet climbed high enough up the wall to leapdown into a cotton field on the other side. Incomes of 20,000 are common here. Severalindividuals possess incomes of from 40,000 to 50,000 and live in a style equal to theirwealth. The amount is generally expressed by the number of their Negroes and the numberof “bales” they make at a crop. To sell cotton in order to buy Negroes, to make more cottonto buy more Negroes, etc., is the aim of all the operations of the cotton planter. His wholeworld is wrapped up in it. The towns and villages of Mississippi, as in European states, arelocated perfectly independent of each other, isolated among forests, and often many milesapart. In between are large areas of country with no other division except counties. Natchez,for instance, is a town one mile square, but from its boundaries to Woodville, the nextincorporated town south, it is 38 miles.Southern Region, 1800-1850Page 3

C. C. Clay, Jr., an Alabama legislator, made the following speech to an agricultural clubin his state in 1855.I can show you, with sorrow, in the older portions of Alabama, the sad results of theexhausting culture of cotton. Our small planters, after taking the best off their lands, areunable to restore them with rest, fertilizer, or otherwise. So, they are moving further westand south, in search of other fresh lands which they will also ruin. Our wealthier planterswith more money are buying out their poorer neighbors, extending their plantations andadding to their slave force. The wealthy few, who are able to live on smaller profits andgive their fields some rest, are thus pushing off many of the small independent planters.Of the 20,000,000 annual profit from the sales of the cotton crop of Alabama,nearly all not used to support the producers is reinvested in land and Negroes. Thus, thewhite population has decreased and the slave population increased. In crossing MadisonCounty, one will discover numerous farmhouses, once the houses of freemen, now occupiedby slaves. Others are deserted and run down. One will see fields, once fertile, now unfencedand abandoned. He will see the moss growing on the walls of once-thrifty villages. He willfind that “one master grasps the whole domain” that once furnished happy homes for adozen white families. Indeed, a country where, 50 years ago, hardly a tree had been felledby the axe of the pioneer, is already showing signs of the decay apparent in Virginia and theCarolinas. The freshness of its agricultural glory is gone; the energy of its youth is extinctand the spirit of desolation seems hanging over it.One of the problems faced by Southern plantations was erosion of the soil. (Erosion cantake place when all trees have been cut down and when land has been planted too often.Rain then washes away all of the valuable, rich topsoil.) Frederick Law Olmstead, anorthern traveler in the South, reports on the erosion problem in Louisiana in 1854.During the day I passed four or five large plantations. The hillsides were worn,cracked, and channeled like icebergs; the stables and Negro quarters were all abandoned—everything was given up to nature and decay.In its natural state, the soil that has never been cultivated appears the richest I haveever seen, the growth upon it from weeds to trees being dense and rich in color. At first thesoil is expected to bear a bale and a half of cotton to the acre, making eight or ten bales foreach able fieldhand. But the soil’s productivity rapidly decreases.If these slopes were made into permanent terraces, the fertility of the soil might bepreserved, even with constant use. In this way the hills would continue for ages to produceannual crops of greater value than those which are now obtained from them at suchdestructive expense. From ten to twenty crops of cotton turns fields into absolute deserts.But with Negroes at 1,400 a head and fresh land in Texas at half-a-dollar an acre, nothingof this sort can be thought of.Page 4Southern Region, 1800-1850

The following letter was written by Henry Barnard to his sister in New England. Barnardtells about his visit to the Carter plantation in Virginia:Petersburg, VirginiaMarch 15, 1833My Dear Betty,I think you would delight to visit this region, if only to observe the difference ofmanners and habits from what you have been accustomed to, and to experience the princelyhospitality of the gentle-born families. Now, so that you may understand how we lived thereand how one of these large establishments is carried on, I will describe a single day there. Iwill suppose also that it is a day upon which company is expected.When you wake in the morning, you are surprised to find that a servant has been inand, without disturbing you, built up a large fire, taken out your clothes and brushed themand done the same with your boots, brought in hot water to shave you, and indeed standsready to do what you ask. As soon as you are dressed, you walk down into the dining room.At eight o’clock you take your seat at the breakfast table of rich mahogany—each platestanding separate on its own little cloth. Mr. Carter will sit at one end of the table and Mrs.Carter at the other. Mrs. Carter will send you, by two little black boys, as fine a cup of coffeeas you ever tasted, or a cup of tea. It is fashionable here to drink a cup of tea after coffee. Mr.Carter has before him a fine cold ham of the real Virginia flavor—this is all the meat youwill get in the morning, but the servant will bring you hot muffins and corn batter cakesevery two minutes. You will find on the table also, loaf wheat bread, hot and cold, and cornbread.After breakfast, if visitors wish to ride, horses are ready at their command. If theywish to read, there are books enough in the library. For writing, materials are ready in hisroom. The Master and Mistress of the house are not expected to entertain visitors till an houror two before dinner, which is usually at three. If company has been invited to the dinner,they will begin to come about one—ladies in carriages and gentlemen on horseback. Afterfreshening up, the company amuse themselves in the parlor. About a half-hour before dinner,the gentlemen are invited out for a drink. When dinner is ready (and by the way, Mrs. Carterhas nothing to do with setting the table; an old family servant, who for 50 years hassupervised the matter, does all that), Mr. Carter politely takes a lady by the hand and leadsthe way into the dining room. They are followed by the rest, each lady led by a gentleman.Mrs. Carter is at one end of the table with a large dish of rich soup and Mr. Carter at theother, with a cut of fine mutton. Scattered round the table, you may choose for yourself: ham,beef, turkey, duck, eggs with greens, etc., etc.; for vegetables—potatoes, beets, hominy. Thislast you will find always at dinner. It is made of their white corn and beans and is a very finedish. After you have dined, there circulates a bottle of sparkling champagne. After that, offpass the things and the upper tablecloth, and there is placed on the table ‘the dessert,consisting of fine plum pudding, tarts, etc., etc. After this comes ice cream, West India(Continued)Southern Region, 1800-1850Page 5

preserves (peaches preserved in brandy), etc. When you have eaten this, off goes the secondtablecloth, and then upon the bare mahogany table are set the figs, raisins, and almonds, andbefore Mr. Carter are set two or three bottles of wine—Madeira, Port, and a sweet wine forthe ladies. After the glasses are all filled, the gentlemen make toasts to the ladies and downgoes the wine. After the first and second glass, the ladies retire, and the gentlemen begin tocirculate the bottle pretty briskly. The gentlemen may join the ladies as soon as they please.After music and a little chit-chat, the ladies prepare for their ride home.English traveler Harriet Martineau visited a Southern plantation in 1834 and reported ondaily life:Our settled rural life in the South was various and pleasant enough; all shaded withthe presence of slavery, but without any other drawback.You are awakened in the morning by black women. Perhaps, before you are halfdressed, you are summoned to breakfast. You look at your watch, and listen whether it hasstopped, for it seems not to be seven o’clock yet. You hurry, however, and find your hostessmaking the coffee. The young people drop in when the meal is half done, and then it isdiscovered that breakfast has been served an hour too early. The clock has stopped, and thecook has ordered affairs according to her own guesses about the time. Everybody laughs,and nothing happens.After breakfast, a farmer in homespun—blue trousers and an orange-brown coat, orall-over gray—comes to speak with your host. A drunken white has shot one of hisNegroes, and he fears no punishment can be obtained, because there were no witnesses ofthe deed but blacks. A consultation is held whether the affair shall go into court. Before thefarmer departs, he is offered cake and liqueur.Your hostess, meantime, has given her orders, and is now busy in a back room, orout on the porch behind the house, cutting out clothes for her slaves; very hard work inwarm weather. The young people may pretend to study lessons, and may do more thanpretend if they happen to have a tutor or governess. But it is likely that their occupations areas various as their tempers. Rosa cannot be found; she is lying on the bed in her own roomreading a novel; Clara is weeping for her canary, which has flown away while she wasplaying with it; Alfred is trying to find out how soon we may all go out to ride; and the littleones are lounging about outside, with their arms round the necks of blacks their size. Yousit down to the piano or to read, and one slave or another enters every half hour to ask whattime it is.Page 6Southern Region, 1800-1850

The cotton dock at New Orleans:Frederick Law Olmstead summarized some of his experiences traveling in the South:I went on my way into the cotton states, within which I traveled over at least threethousand miles of roads. The people living by the side of the road certainly had not beenmade rich by cotton or anything else. And for every mile of roadside upon which I saw anyevidence of cotton production, I am sure that I saw a hundred of forest or wasteland. Forevery rich man’s house, I am sure that I passed a dozen shabby and half-furnished cottages,and at least a hundred cabins that were mere hovels. And I think that for every man ofrefinement and education with whom I came in contact, there were a score or two whocompletely lacked the things that in the North would show that a man had begun to acquiremoney.Southern Region, 1800-1850Page 7

Additional information from DeBow:I believe that, in the South, the non-slaveholders far out-number the slaveholders,perhaps by three to one. In the more Southern portion of this region (“the South-West” ofwhich Mississippi is the center) the non-slaveholders have very little money. The landwhich they own is generally poor. It is so poor that a small livelihood is all that can begotten from it. The more fertile soil is in the hands of the slaveholders and will never beavailable to anyone else. I am sorry to say that I have observed an evident deteriorationtaking place in this poorer part of the population—the younger portion of it being lesseducated, less industrious and less worthy of respect than their ancestors.Slave ownership in 1850:Demographic CategoryAll Slave StatesCotton States1-9 slaves per family255,258 families104,956 families84,328 families43,299 families7,939 families6,144 808,76810-49 slaves per family50 slaves per familyWhite PopulationFree Black PopulationSlave PopulationWorkers in the South, earned professions0.8%Navigation0.7%Mining0.2%Page 8Southern Region, 1800-1850

Investigation: The Slave ExperienceThe experiences of slaves in the South were far different from those of any otherAmerican group, and had powerful effects on their ideas and ways of acting. Read theaccounts of slave experiences in this activity, and use the model to determine someimportant ideas and ways of acting. How would slave experiences affect their ideasabout the future? About religion? About authority?Solomon Northrup was a free African-American man who was kidnapped and held as aslave for 12 years. Here he describes the New Orleans slave auction at which he was soldin 1841:In the first place we were required to wash, thoroughly, and those with beards wererequired to shave. We were then given a new suit of clothes, cheap but clean. The men eachwere given a hat, coat, shirt, pants, and shoes. The women were given dresses of calico anda handkerchief to tie around their heads.We were then taken to a large room in the front of the building, and told where tostand and how to act.A planter of Baton Rouge purchased Randall. The little fellow was made to jumpand run across the floor and perform many other feats to show his activity and condition.All this time Eliza (his mother) was crying aloud and wringing her hands. She pleaded withthe man not to buy him unless he also bought her. She promised to be the most faithful slavethat ever lived.The man answered that he could not afford to buy both of them. Then Eliza burstinto total grief, weeping and pleading. The owner of the slave-pen turned round to hersavagely and ordered her to stop her noise or she would be whipped. If she didn’t stopcrying immediately, he would take her to the yard and give her a hundred lashes. Yes, hewould take the nonsense out of her!Eliza shrunk before him and tried to wipe away her tears, but she failed. She wantedto be with her children, she said, the little time she had left. All the threats and frowns of theowner would not stop her. She continued to plead and cry, and ask that she not be separatedfrom her boy.It did no good. The man could not afford to buy both of them. Randall must goalone. Then Eliza ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him again and again. She told him toremember her—with her tears falling on the boy’s face like rain.“Don’t cry, mama. I will be a good boy. Don’t cry,” said Randall, looking back asthey went out the door.Southern Region, 1800-1850Page 9

When he was 90 years old, David Blount recalled his days as a slave:The master made us work through the week, but on Saturdays we used to goswimming in the river and do a lot of other things we liked to do.We didn’t mind the work so much because the ground was soft as ashes and themaster let us stop and rest when we got tired. We planted potatoes on the uplands and cornon the low ground next to the river.I worked for a while on Cape Fear in North Carolina. Sometimes on hot days whenwe were cutting fodder, we’d all stop work about three o’clock in the afternoon and goswimming. After we came out of the water we’d work harder than ever. The master wasgood to us because we worked hard and did what he told us to do.Usually the master hired good overseers, and lots of times he let slaves oversee, butI remember once when he hired a man who was really mean. He beat some of the halfgrown boys until the blood ran down to their heels, and he told the rest of us that if we toldon him he would kill us. We didn’t dare ask the master to get rid of him, so this went on fora long time.Solomon Northrup described slaves’ work in the cotton fields:During all the cotton hoeings, the overseer or driver follows the slaves on horsebackwith a whip. The fastest hoer takes the lead row. He is usually about a rod ahead of theothers. If one of

the South. Young men who come to this country “to make money” soon want this. A broad plantation, waving with snow-white cotton bolls, fills their dreams. This is the reason for the great number of planters and the few professional men. In such a state of things, no men grow old or gray in their profession if they are at all successful.