Section #9 - Growing opposition to slavery triggers domestic violence and a schism in America’s churches
Chapter 89: The Growing Sectional Divide As The Election Of 1840 Looms
The South Shapes A Narrative To Support Its Slavery And Culture
As tensions grow between the North and South by 1840, both regions resort to their own “narratives” to explain why their culture and lifestyles are superior.
The Southern narrative begins with its rationales related to slavery:
- The practice of slavery does not originate in America but is imported here by the British.
- Most of the nation’s slaves enter the country through ports in the North, not the South.
- Over time, the North manages to cleanse itself of its slave population.
- The Africans are an inherently inferior and potentially violent species, incapable of being assimilated.
- The “burden” of caring for — and controlling – the slaves then falls entirely on the South.
- In return for managing this burden, the South uses the slaves to support their agrarian economy.
- The slaves are also given the chance to embrace Christianity along the way and achieve salvation.
- The best interests of the nation are served by supporting the South’s practices and needs related to slavery.
- That kind of regional cooperation was exactly what the founding fathers sanctioned in the 1787 Constitution.
- The Union is being threatened by stealing power from the states and handing it to the federal government.
- The South will leave the Union if the federal power is turned against its interests in slavery.
The institution has endured in the South out of “obligation and duty” to the nation. Blacks are “so poor, so wretched, and so vile…as to be totally disqualified from exercising freedom.” Instead of criticizing and meddling in slavery, the North should be thankful to the South for “fulfilling the high trust which has devolved on us as owners of slaves.”
Southerners Condemn The North’s Economy And Way Of Life
Accompanying the South’s defense of its “planter society” comes a scathing indictment of the many woes it sees in the North’s shift away from Jefferson’s agricultural vision and to Hamilton’s capitalism and industrialization.
- The basic freedoms and values Americans hold dear are now threatened across the North.
- No longer is it a place where independent farmers are working their own land, enjoying comparable wealth and influence, avoiding debt, solving their own domestic issues at the local level, and electing a small, fiscally frugal national government whose main role lies in managing foreign affairs.
- Instead wealth and power have been concentrated in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.
- The villains here are capitalism and corporations which place private profits above public good.
- Together they encourage personal greed and “get rich quick” speculation.
- Together they end all too often with personal debt and corruption.
- A corrupt corporate banking system provides the fuel for these schemes by printing and distributing soft money “unbacked” by gold and silver, thus eroding the “real value” of the dollar for all Americans.
- Corrupt politicians, co-opted by the wealthy few into supporting their profit-making programs, threaten the very notion of a “government for the people.”
- Corrupt businessmen convert Northern workers into “wage slaves,” whose daily lives in factories or offices often leave them worse off than a Southern field hand picking cotton.
- The credo of industrial capitalism across the North lies in maximizing profits for its stockholders over doing what is in the best interests of the country and the common man.
Most critically, the South argues that personal freedom has been eroded across the North. Jefferson’s yeoman farmer is, above all else a free (white) man, indebted to no one but himself. He is not a wage earner, dependent on a capitalistic owner/boss for his economic well-being. Nor is he a borrower, in hock to a capitalistic banker.
Being free economically, he can be free politically. Government is there to serve him; not vice versa.
The Northern Narrative Is Upbeat And Energized
As Hamilton’s diversified, modern economy takes hold, the vast majority of Northerners are delighted by the personal benefits that accrue from it.
The emergence of urban centers greatly facilitates commerce and makes the necessities and luxuries of life more easily available than ever before.
Many are attracted to trading in their backbreaking labor on the family farm to earn a living based on their wits and acquired skills. And these new jobs often result in increased income and wealth.
While still small, a growing and on-the-make “middle class” begins to assert itself in the North.
Rather than a blight on the landscape, the advent of large cities tend to become a source of pride that America finally belongs as a global power.
Would the average Northerner trade places with their Southern counterparts in 1840? The answer is no way.
Animosity Toward The Southern “Slavocracy” Deepens
By 1840 many Northerners are also forming up a negative impression of the South. The basis for this is definitely not moral qualms related to the institution of slavery.
Indeed. the vast majority of whites across the North and West have already signaled in state Constitutions and “black codes” that they want nothing to do with blacks – be they slaves or freed men – in their midst.
Instead, the antipathy seems to center on the privileged Southern planter class, with their vast farms, aristocratic lifestyles, and leisurely indulgences, all built off the backs of unpaid slave laborers.
That whole system seems like a put-down to the hard work recorded daily by the white men of the North – be it on farms or in cities. Northern politicians will later leverage these feelings by labeling the South as a “slavocracy” and an affront “to the dignity of free white labor.”
The sense of Southern privilege also seems to be operating within the Federal government.
The fact that four of the first five US presidents are Virginians is not lost on the Northern politicians in Washington.
Nor is the sense that the make-up of the Senate is rigged to insure that the Southern states retain equal control over the passage of legislation – despite the fact that Census counts show a widening majority of citizens living up North.
Animosity of this sort also grows around actions like the 1836 “Gag Rule,” the South’s attempt to shut down debate on the abolitionist petitions. It is not that the North supports these petitions – rather that a certain amount of heavy-handed Southern arrogance seems at work in their demands.
As the Northern economy takes off along with city life, the South also begins to appear backwards, as if it has been left behind. In its attempts to block congressional programs to build needed roads, canals and other infrastructure needs of the country, it appears out of touch and self-serving.
The sum total of these impulses across the North and West is to push back on the South, to “put it in its place,” especially when its planter class seems intent on exercising its privilege.
At times in almost perverse fashion, the North will discover that nothing rattles the South like goading it over the institution of slavery.
Two Roads Diverging In 1840
As a disappointed Van Buren exits the White House, sectional differences that almost prevented the formation of the Union in 1787 are intensifying.
The South, frozen in its agrarian tradition, betting its entire future on crops of cotton and slaves, growing suspicious that the North will stand in the way of its future success.
The North, impatient to move on to the promises of capitalism and industrialization, sensing a backwards South asserting unwarranted privilege and blocking progress.
The threat of dis-union in the air.
All with echoes of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address ringing in the background: All with echoes of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address ringing in the background:
Sidebar: Those Exiting And Entering The Public Stage In 1840
|Exiting||Death||Age At Death|
|Charles Pinckney||October 29, 1824||67 years|
|CC Pinckney||August 16, 1825||79|
|William Eustis||February 6, 1825||71|
|John Adams||July 4, 1826||90|
|Thomas Jefferson||July 4, 1826||83|
|Luther Martin||July 10, 1826||78|
|Rufus King||April 29, 1827||72|
|John Jay||May 17, 1829||83|
|David Walker||August 10, 1830||33|
|James Monroe||July 4, 1831||73|
|Reverend Thomas Paul||1831||58|
|John Marshall||July 6, 1835||79|
|James Madison||June 28, 1836||85|
|Aaron Burr||September 14, 1836||80|
|Elijah Lovejoy||November 7, 1837||34|
|Tecumseh||October 3, 1838||71|
|Benjamin Lundy||August 22, 1839||50|
|Robert Hayne||September 24, 1839||47|
|Aging||Born||Age In 1840|
|Albert Gallatin||Jan 29, 1761||79|
|James Forten||September 2, 1766||74|
|JQ Adams||July 11, 1767||73|
|Andrew Jackson||March 15, 1767||73|
|William H Harrison||Feb 8, 1773||67|
|Roger Taney||March 17, 1777||63|
|Henry Clay||April 12, 1777||63|
|James Tallmadge, Jr.||January 28, 1778||62|
|Richard M. Johnson||October 17, 1780||60|
|Daniel Webster||January 18, 1782||58|
|Thomas Hart Benton||March 14, 1782||58|
|John C Calhoun||March 18, 1782||58|
|Lewis Cass||October 9, 1782||58|
|Martin Van Buren||Dec 5, 1782||58|
|Zachary Taylor||Nov 24, 1784||56|
|Arthur Tappan||May 22, 1786||54|
|Winfield Scott||June 13, 1786||54|
|Theo Frelinghuysen||March 28, 1787||53|
|John J. Crittenden||September 10, 1787||53|
|Lewis Tappan||May 23, 1788||52|
|John Tyler||Mar 29, 1790||50|
|George McDuffie||August 10, 1790||50|
|Francis P. Blair||April 12, 1791||49|
|James Buchanan||April 23, 1791||49|
|James Birney||February 4, 1792||48|
|Thaddeus Stevens||April 4, 1792||48|
|Willie P. Mangum||May 10, 1792||48|
|George Dallas||July 10, 1792||48|
|Rev. Charles Finney||August 29, 1792||48|
|Lucretia Mott||January 3, 1793||47|
|Sam Houston||March 2, 1793||47|
|Thomas Dalton||October 17, 1794||46|
|Emerging||Born||Age in 1840|
|Silas Wright||May 24, 1795||45|
|Joshua Giddings||October 6, 1795||45|
|James Polk||Nov 2, 1795||45|
|Rev. Samuel Cornish||1795||45|
|John Bell||February 18, 1796||44|
|Andrew Butler||November 18, 1796||44|
|Gerrit Smith||March 6, 1797||43|
|Thurlow Weed||November 15, 1797||43|
|Rev. Theodore Wright||1797||43|
|Millard Fillmore||Jan 7, 1800||40|
|Caleb Cushing||January 17, 1800||40|
|Daniel Dickinson||September 11, 1800||40|
|Robert B. Rhett||December 21, 1800||40|
|Henry Seward||May 16, 1801||39|
|Brigham Young||June 1, 1801||39|
|Ralph Waldo Emerson||May 25, 1803||37|
|Theodore Weld||November 23, 1803||37|
|Henry Foote||February 28, 1804||36|
|Nathaniel Hawthorne||July 4, 1804||36|
|Franklin Pierce||Nov 23, 1804||36|
|Angelina Grimke||February 20, 1805||35|
|William Lloyd Garrison||December 12, 1805||35|
|John Hale||March 31, 1806||34|
|Henry Wise||December 3, 1806||34|
|Preston King||October 14, 1806||34|
|Robert E. Lee||January 19, 1807||33|
|David Atchison||August 11, 1807||33|
|Salmon Chase||January 13, 1808||32|
|Jefferson Davis||June 3, 1808||32|
|Edgar Allan Poe||January 9, 1809||31|
|Abraham Lincoln||February 12, 1809||31|
|Robert MT Hunter||April 21, 1809||31|
|Hannibal Hamlin||August 27, 1809||31|
|Charles Lenox Raymond||February 1, 1810||30|
|David Ruggles||March 15, 1810||30|
|Robert Toombs||July 2, 1810||30|
|Robert Purvis||August 4, 1810||30|
|Charles Sumner||January 6, 1811||29|
|Owen Lovejoy||January 6, 1811||29|
|Horace Greeley||February 3, 1811||29|
|Harriet Beecher Stowe||June 14, 1811||29|
|Lewis Hayden||December 2, 1811||29|
|John McClernand||May 12, 1812||28|
|Alexander Stephens||February 11, 1812||28|
|John Fremont||January 21, 1813||27|
|Stephen A Douglas||April 23, 1813||27|
|William Yancey||August 10, 1814||26|
|Howell Cobb||September 7, 1815||25|
|Nathaniel Banks||January 30, 1816||24|
|Henry David Thoreau||July 12, 1817||23|
|Frederick Douglass||February 1818||22|
|Herman Melville||August 1, 1819||21|
|David Wilmot||January 14, 1820||20|
|John C. Breckinridge||January 16, 1821||19|
|Ulysses S. Grant||April 27, 1822||18|