That Peculiar Institution: Slavery

“The Peculiar Institution”: The isolating paradox

1)     Isolates blacks from whites by race, generates a distinct AA culture

2)     Master depended on the slave and the slave depended on the master

-est and reg by slave codes, but were much more relaxed due to lack of enforcement


-Systems of operations:

1) Task: slave assigned one task and was free to do with his time as he pleased the rest of the day. Common on smaller plantations

2) Gang: slave groups made to work under overseer for however many hours. More common.


-slaves were generally very unhealthy; women in particular

-perhaps materially better off than the average NE factor worker

-US: only country to make the population increase via reproduction

-masters made an effort to keep them alive to reduce costs

-House slaves had less work but more abuse than field slaves. They were also very isolated and resented/resentful

-Urban slaves were much more autonomous


Border South: Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware

-do not fight on Confederate side

-17% slave, 20% adults own approx. 5 slaves

Middle South: Virginia, N. Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas

-30% slave, 36% adults own approx. 5 slaves

Lower/Deep South/Black Belt: S. Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida

-51% slave, avg adult owns 15 slaves

-45% of whites own slaves

Mountain South/PL1763: Appalachian Mountain area

-almost no slaves

-poorest white people—“clayeaters”

-has nothing to do with the slave south


-Short staple cotton grows as an industry while tobacco, rice, long staple, and sugar go down due to ease of growth and manufacturing.

-shifts slave density deep south

-still lots of debt due to high slave mortality and soil exhaustion à buying up land to keep up with demand

-Highly agricultural society

-highly profitable (eh)

-too much invested capital



White Society

The Planter Class

-aristocracy is a myth, born of the need to retain societal values and the illusion of a grandeur of wealth—which is mostly land and slaves

“Cult of Honor” : an elaborate code of chivalry for men adopted as a way to justify their way of life by returning to archaic values


-courtesy and respect as a way to separate them from the slaves

-considered “savage” in the North

-The “Southern Lady”

-subordinate to men: “Right to protection” = “Right to obey”

-isolated and less educated

-threatened by the slave system, which meant they were often just as harsh on them as the master

-some rebelled, others desperately clung to it (“at least I’m not them”)

The Plain Folk

-Hill people were against slavery because it threatened independence

-subsisted of simple sustenance farming, seclusion, and little cash

-conservative political values

-Most poor farmers could not oppose the slave system because of kinship or investments. They relied on the system to give them the illusion of power within the political system, headed by the planter elite, and were committed to the idea of patriarchy

-Clayeaters need to feel superior



-Free blacks preferred poverty over slavery

“Sambo”: the stupid façade


-patterns of resistance


-Gabriel Prosser

-Denmark Vessey

-Nat Turner succeeds to scare the shit out of everyone.

-Harriet Tubman/Underground Railroad



-Religion: mixed Christianity with black traditions (highly emotional)


-Traditional nuclear family structure maintained through extended kinship

  • Missouri Compromise of 1820: “firebell in the night”
    • Tallmadge Amendment, 1819: proposal for gradual emancipation of slavery in Missouri
    • Provisions: Maine (free state), Missouri (slave state), no slavery north of 36-30’ line
  • Slavery Revolts
    • Denmark Vesey, 1822
    • Nat Turner, 1831
  • Abolitionism
    • Gradual emancipation?  Jefferson: “We have a wolf by the ears”
    • American Colonization Society
    • William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator, 1831
    • American Anti-Slavery Society
      • Theodore Weld: American Slavery As it Is
      • Wendell Phillips — “Abolitionism’s Golden Trumpet”
      • Angelina and Sarah Grimke
      • Arthur and Lewis Tappan — financed abolitionists
    • Elijah Lovejoy
    • African American abolitionists
      • David Walker: Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, 1829 – violence to achieve emancipation.
      • Sojourner Truth
      • Martin Delaney: back-to-Africa movement
      • Frederick Douglas: political means rather than radical means
    • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
    • Hinton Helper: The Impending Crisis of the South (economic reasons; not moral reasons)
    • Underground Railroad: Harriet Tubman
      • “Personal liberty laws” in Northern states: refused to help federal officials capture fugitive slaves.
      • Prigg vs. Pennsylvania, 1842: Court ruled states could not harbor fugitive slaves
    • Abolitionists ultimately successful
      • Confiscation Acts, 1862; Emancipation Proclamation; 13th Amendment
  •  Pro-slavery apologists: George Fitzhugh
  • Gag Rule, 1836 (eventually removed in 1844)
  • Banning of abolitionist literature in Southern mails (begins in 1830s)
  • Wilmot Proviso, 1848
  • Free Soil Party
  • Compromise of 1850
    • Fugitive Slave Law; Ableman vs. Booth, 1859
  • Expansionism under President Pierce spurred by desire for new slave territories
    • Ostend Manifesto: Southerners desire Cuba
    • Walker Expedition (1855-57): American group briefly took over Nicaragua
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854
    • Birth of the Republican Party
  • “Bleeding Kansas”
  • Brooks-Sumner Affair, 1856
  • Dred Scott case, 1857
  • Lincoln-Douglas debates, 1858
  • John Brown attacks Harper’s Ferry, 1859
  • Election of 1860
  • Crittenden Amendment
  • South Carolina ordinance of secession

Let the Civil War begin!


2 responses to “That Peculiar Institution: Slavery

  1. Pingback: Map of the US History Guide | Surviving High School: A Hypocrat in a Perpetual State of Procrastination·

  2. Pingback: Westward, Ho! | Surviving High School: A Hypocrat in a Perpetual State of Procrastination·

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