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Belles in hoop skirts
December 20, 2010 3:44 AM   Subscribe

This evening in Charleston, SC, a Secession Ball! When they don their "period formal" hoop skirts tonight some ladies may rue the fact that have no slaves to pull their corsets tight. The ladies and their escorts, many of whom are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who would like us to believe that the Civil War was not about slavery. The NAACP, and others disagree. The NAACP has organized a peaceful protest.
posted by mareli (116 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oops, an extra who where there should be a comma instead.
posted by mareli at 3:46 AM on December 20, 2010


The weird thing is that most of the participants and organizers would be shocked that others might consider them racist. People convince themselves of the lies they tell about Northern aggression or whatever. It works the same way with affirmative action. Sad but true story - I was recently at a small party at the home of a prominent member of the NAACP. I overheard two white people talking about getting kids into college and they agreed that as a white male from the suburbs a kid has nothing going for him and was screwed regarding getting into a good college. They of course ignore the fact that even with a heavy affirmative action program only a few percent of the slots will be allocated to blacks and thus not available to their kids. Their kids are competing against all the other privileged white kids from the suburbs and even without affirmative action are not getting into superior schools without superior qualifications.
posted by caddis at 4:03 AM on December 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


The ball is a way to honor the brave S.C. men who stood up to an over-domineering federal government, high tariffs and Northern states that wanted to take the country in an economic direction that was not best for the South

Forward?
posted by explosion at 4:10 AM on December 20, 2010 [29 favorites]


They of course ignore the fact that even with a heavy affirmative action program only a few percent of the slots will be allocated to blacks and thus not available to their kids.

It still sucks if they were part of that few percent who would have got those slots.

If we just fix the goddamned education system in the first place, there would be no need for affirmative action.

The goals of affirmative action are pure, I'm sure, but the message is insidious: minorities can't compete with the big boys and the great white father needs to put his thumb on the scale to maintain the appearance of fairness and equality.
posted by gjc at 4:16 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK, alright, this, from the Sons of Confederate Veterans site, really takes the cake:

"The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South's decision to fight the Second American Revolution. "

That's just beyond the pale, really.

I'm so goddamn tired of fighting the Civil War
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:24 AM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


The ladies and their escorts, many of whom are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who would like us to believe that the Civil War was not about slavery.

On March 21st, 1861, the Vice President of the Confederacy gave a speech that gets to the point of all this:
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner–stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.
posted by nomadicink at 4:28 AM on December 20, 2010 [34 favorites]


Gone With the Myths (NYT op-ed)

The South's Secession Commemoration (The Daily Show 12/9/2010)
posted by pmurray63 at 4:43 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a proud Northern son (albeit one born and raised in Maryland), I sometimes think that we might not have a fraction of the problems we have these days if Union troops had really put a kicking to the Confederacy. I know there are a host of reasons, historical, political, social, why this wouldn't happen, but maybe it would put a lie to this "The South Will Rise Again" malarkey. For more than 150 years, we've had to hear how Southern gentlemen just wanting to sit on their lovely farms and drink juleps fended off Northern barbarians. Maybe if we had a full Reconstruction, maybe if we hadn't allowed history books to be so blase about this stuff.

Children in Germany don't learn about the Nazi's, but only how they were strong warriors who perfected the blitzkrieg style of battle, do they? On a more serious question, how do the Japanese learn about their wartime actions, such as Nanking.

If there is a good side to history being written by the victors, it's to prevent the last century and a half of Southerners who hang the stars and bars and proclaim it to be about "heritage". Your heritage is the bondage and involuntary servitude of millions of people. And you only gave it up when forced. American society is still dealing with the repercussions of it now, which requires social programs to equalize. Racism, either personal or institutionalized is behind any number of current social ills. But it hides behind people like Sons of Confederate Veterans.
posted by X-Himy at 4:46 AM on December 20, 2010 [27 favorites]


Hey, if the Civil War was not about slavery, then the South didn't lose, right?
posted by telstar at 4:46 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


My brother-in-law is a proud and active member of the SCV, and he has brainwashed my sister into believing all of that garbage about the 'war of northern aggression,' Lincoln being the worst and most oppressive president, etc. It nauseates me to even think about it.

I had never even heard of the Cornerstone Speech. I try to avoid arguing with my brother-in-law about this nonsense, because he'll never change his mind, but that's something new to bring up next time he starts mouthing off about the Civil War not being about slavery.

What galls me the most about the SCV is that they are clearly racist, but will deny it to their dying day.
posted by wadefranklin at 4:58 AM on December 20, 2010


The problem is that if you take slavery out of the equation, I agree with them on states rights. But the evils of slavery totally tainted that point of view.

(I am qualified to join the Daughters of the Confederacy but it will never happen. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:59 AM on December 20, 2010


Also, don't forget treason.
posted by Buffaload at 5:05 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


The problem is that if you take slavery out of the equation

But you can't. That was the "state's right" that mattered to the racist scumbags of the Lost Cause.
posted by spitbull at 5:10 AM on December 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


The problem is that if you take slavery out of the equation, I agree with them on states rights.

Like, say, states rights as exercised by Alabama Gov. George Wallace, when he stood in the university door, and only a federal presence enforcing the law enabled the black students to enter?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:14 AM on December 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


And the funniest (in a dark humor sense) aspect of the whole state's rights argument is that the Confederate constitution, which for the most part was just a copy of the US constitution, actually took away a right from the states: the right to decide for themselves whether slavery was legal. The right of white folks to own black folks as property was a guaranteed right in the Confederate constitution, so no state that was part of the Confederacy could ban slavery.
posted by wadefranklin at 5:14 AM on December 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


Wish I could stick around and engage in this conversation but I'm heading up to Charleston. If I get arrested will y'all bail me out? Just kidding!
posted by mareli at 5:17 AM on December 20, 2010


The current Confederate apologists only talk about states rights when it is convenient for them. When some northern states did not enforce the Fugitive Slave Law, the pro-Slavery folks howled to Washington DC that that federal law should be enforced.

The government the southern states formed was more controlling and intrusive than the Federal government ever was at that time.
posted by marxchivist at 5:30 AM on December 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm really torn about an event like this. On the one hand, the war was clearly about slavery -- it was about state's rights, but as the NAACP rep says the only state right in question was about whether some states could make it legal to buy and sell human beings.

But on the other hand, hoop skirts are awesome. Can I have a memorial abolitionist ball, with hoop skirts and anti-slavery activism?

More seriously, the NAACP response -- to run education sessions on slavery -- is a good one. The only way to fight propaganda and wilful blindness is education.

To answer the poster unthread: all German schoolkids study the Holocaust, including visiting concentration and death camps. (I don't know when this began, and it might have been mainly or only in West Germany). Many Japanese kids don't study WWII atrocities, and there continue to be major conflicts within Japan and between Japan and other nations over textbook content.

As a kid in Toronto, Canada, we were introduced at an early age to the evil of nuclear bombs though the story of Sadako Sasaki and her attempt to make 1000 paper cranes, which leaves out the truly horrific aspects of nuclear bombs, but certainly impresses children with the way that nuclear bombs affect people even years later. We also learned about the internment and mistreatment of Japanese Canadians, and the racism against Chinese immigrants to Canada. We did not cover any history of black Canadians and segregation in Canada, and our native Canadian history classes left out all of the more recent history (reservations, residential schools, systematic racism). Things may have improved since the 80s-90s, but I would give my experience only a B- on teaching about bad stuff in our history. (It would be a C, but we also had very little "aren't we great" in the way history was taught -- mostly it was this is what happened and here are some whys.)
posted by jb at 5:36 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Was anyone else bothered by the existence of the country group "Lady Antebellum"? Glorifying a time period, and a style of life that can only exist when there is an class of people to trample and exploit economically is strange, and I was a little bothered that no one apparently explained to them that perhaps it is a poor choice to name their band after that. Although, given the popularity of "Need You Now" perhaps no one cares.
posted by jenlovesponies at 6:03 AM on December 20, 2010


I had never even heard of the Cornerstone Speech

Funny how those things never come up, eh?

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about South Carolina's statement of secession:
...asserts that the government of the United States and of states within that government had failed to uphold their obligations to South Carolina. The specific issue stated was the refusal of some states to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and clauses in the US Constitution protecting slavery and the federal government's perceived role in attempting to abolish slavery.

The next section states that while these problems have existed for twenty-five years, the situation had recently become unacceptable due to the election of a President (this was Abraham Lincoln although he is not mentioned by name) who was planning to outlaw slavery.

.....

While later claims have been made that the decision to secede was prompted by other issues such as tariffs, these issues were not mentioned in the declaration. The primary focus of the declaration is the perceived violation of the Constitution by northern states in not extraditing escaped slaves (as the Constitution required in Article IV Section 2) and actively working to abolish slavery (which they saw as Constitutionally guaranteed and protected). The main thrust of the argument was that since the Constitution, being a contract, had been violated by some parties (the northern abolitionist states), the other parties (the southern slave-holding states) were no longer bound by it.
Here's the actual text of the Declaration.
posted by nomadicink at 6:04 AM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


What a lot of the SCV "patriots" overlook is that, had they actually been living back then, they most likely would not have been part of the genteel society they cherish and celebrate. They would have probably been poor sharecroppers and laborers, who were treated little better than the slaves. Sometimes worse, since they weren't valuable property, like the slaves.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on December 20, 2010 [16 favorites]


But on the other hand, hoop skirts are awesome. Can I have a memorial abolitionist ball, with hoop skirts and anti-slavery activism?

Howabout a Regency ball? All of the 19th century fashion, none of the slaver horseshit. It's like cosplay for Jane Austen nerds.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:19 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your [Southern] heritage is the bondage and involuntary servitude of millions of people.

I'm not a Southerner but I think that they've got a bit more culturally going than just slavery and the Confederacy but their endearing love for the later -is- galling. My objection to this statement isn't that but the fact that it makes the rest of the country sound like such innocents in the matter: we Americans, we Europeans profited immensely from their inhumane labors and the economy that surrounded it. Slave dollars bought our independence, fueled our industries and our government for a great many years. I find it sad that the takeaway legacy is largely "those poor slaves," and goddamnit, if you're going to take away one point, take away that one. I don't think the horror of it is really fully appreciated (not just "understood") by much of the world, even many Americans. It was like a low-tech shoah for generations upon generations and at the end there was no remedy, just 40 acres and a mule with which to make one's way. Their immigrants path was, as a group, harder than most: I reckon few had relatives "back home" who could back them in any way as many of the rest of us washed ashore here might have had.

That said, the contribution of enslaved Americans should be held up there with the greatest we've ever had. Food? Music? The gold we extracted from their blood? Their contributions make a large part of who we are today and we should daily wake, stretch, and thank them for our existence. Chances are, if you're reading this, their work touched you.

Sadly, I think Antebellum crap is enjoyed because it allows for ridiculous costumery, and who doesn't love that? I mean, shit, did you -see- Gone With the Wind? Fashiony goodness wrapped up in a foul stench of immorality that we cannot culturally abide: nothing too close to your evil ways, friends. No Nazi uniforms, no Antebellum. Y'all fucked it up; losing the culture that propagated those romantic thoughts should be the price paid maybe forever; at least until you've beaten the racist trash from amongst your midst.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 6:23 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's like cosplay for Jane Austen nerds.

Admittedly, with less Mr. Darcy fanfic. Of course, the SVC can get down with some Stonewall Jackson/Robert E. Lee slash, I suppose....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:30 AM on December 20, 2010


While it is clear to any honest student of history that the issue of slavery was the paramount cause of secession, nonetheless many Southern states still mouth off about states rights, and that issue has once again reared its rebellious head:

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/us/politics/20states.html?_r=3&hp

Interesting to me that so many of the states and people in those states that like the idea of states nullifying federal laws are those states that more often than not get more money back from the federal govt than they put in in the form of taxes.
posted by Postroad at 6:31 AM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


i'm skipping the sons of the revolution ball this year as i'll be busy celebrating the establishment of democracy in iraq and afghanistan
posted by kitchenrat at 6:40 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the several black neighbors of mine that fly the stars and bars on their houses and cars, i think it means more than racism. One of my neighbors has a huge back tattoo of the rebel flag...

One of the best T-shirt ideas a friend of mine ever had was "The south will fall again."
posted by schyler523 at 6:45 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thing I don't get about all of this - why a peaceful protest? I think that seeing how mad this makes a lot of people would do some of this trash some good.
posted by Fuka at 6:47 AM on December 20, 2010


Was anyone else bothered by the existence of the country group "Lady Antebellum"? Glorifying a time period, and a style of life that can only exist when there is an class of people to trample and exploit economically is strange, and I was a little bothered that no one apparently explained to them that perhaps it is a poor choice to name their band after that. Although, given the popularity of "Need You Now" perhaps no one cares.

To be fair, this would invalidate celebrating most of the culture of the past. Egypt and Rome were major slave-owning societies whose greatest achievements would have been impossible without bonded labor. The Middle Age of Europe that has all those fancy knights and kings likewise rested on the back of serfs. The whistful view of the indigenous habits of the Americas doesn't often pay attention to the number of different cultures that took slaves. Oh, and that's not even getting into how most of these societies treated women.

On one hand, I hate the whitewashing of history because it prevents people from looking at the past and understanding where all these things came from. When you blame everything on the North that means that nothing is your fault, and an uncritical culture not only doesn't grow, it usually regresses.

On the other hand, our culutural "fun stuff" bin like wearing togas, admiring pharoahs, trying on hoop-skirts, and playing around in armor as you talk like a knight from the Middle Ages would be pretty bare if we only put things connected acceptable history in it. There must be someway to be critical with the past, but still be able to have fun with it. God knows that my friend who enjoys his Viking heritage doesn't think about the raping, pilliaging, and murdering everytime he puts one of those mead-horn to his lips.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:55 AM on December 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


The problem Slap*Happy is that there is hardly a period in history where you can point to something of significant enough size that I can't find something despicable that said group did and shake my finger and say, "A ha! So you support (some horrible thing that some subset of our ancestors thought made sense at the time but in the fullness of history, we don't look back on and think, "Wow, that's all different colors of messed up!")

The problem comes when people decide to extrapolate from the narrow little pie slices of history that are fun to play with and decide to rewrite the past based on that. Looking at my own little piece of interest, knights in shining armour fighting in tournament is all kinds of fun. The doctrine of chevauchée, essentially creating a famine in enemy territory, was ruthless and brutal. Guess which one we don't talk about much.

Historical recreation is always going to be vaccinated time travel. At its best, it might make contributions in areas of experimental archeology. When it tries to explain how society really worked back in the day it needs to be hit on the nose with a rolled up piece of paper and firmly told "No!"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:59 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


The thing I don't get about all of this - why a peaceful protest? I think that seeing how mad this makes a lot of people would do some of this trash some good.

Violent protests are usually frowned upon in most civil discourses.

On a more serious question, how do the Japanese learn about their wartime actions, such as Nanking.

They usually don't. While in Japan, I saw (and read) plenty of "How deplorable this war with the US is" whitewashing of history that totally saw the war in Asia as nothing deplorable at all. Not saying that Japanese culture is all like that, but there is a major strain of War Crimes denial, or at least complete ignorance of WWII as far as what Japan was actually doing.

Also, don't forget treason.

Meh. I don't consider treason to be innately immoral as all civil wars and revolutions have treason, even for the "good guys". Not that I would trust a treasonous former confederate officer in the government ever again, but I can understand divided loyalties. But yes, I try to point the "treason" aspect out when I see a military member with a confederate battleflag bumper sticker. Not only is he celebrating treason, but he himself is part of the Union military now.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:02 AM on December 20, 2010


"The ball is a way to honor the brave S.C. men who stood up to an over-domineering federal government, high tariffs and Northern states that wanted to take the country in an economic direction that was not best for the South"

Right to a point, but the "over-domineering federal goverment"/states' rights argument is based on the feds INTERFERING WITH SLAVERY. And the economic direction the South wanted to go was one that was ENTIRELY BASED ON A SYSTEM OF PLANTATION SLAVERY. Yes, dismantling the slave-based plantation system SCREWED the South economically. So, yeah, economics and states' rights were motivating forces, but they motivated because the threat to their way of life was the risk of losing the system of slavery. Grar.

@jb: "But on the other hand, hoop skirts are awesome. Can I have a memorial abolitionist ball, with hoop skirts and anti-slavery activism?"

Yes you may. Here in Lincoln country (central Illinois) we in fact have such things, where people dress up in period costumes and Lincoln re-enactors (and other period re-enactors -- Douglas, Mary Todd, etc.) come and re-enact stuff, and they teach you the dances and all. There's typically a big public ball at least once a year. These and similar events have been big the last couple years as we head into the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln election, Civil War, etc.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:03 AM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


States' rights actually did contribute to the secession, but not in the way most people think - the Confederacy was actually objecting to the Northern states' exercising their own rights as they refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. In fact, they were against states' rights. The states' rights argument really didn't emerge in anything like the way we know it today until Reconstruction, when once again the Southern states wished to run things differently than the Constitution required.

"States' rights" itself is really a bit of a misnomer, if not a spurious concept entirely. States don't have any rights that aren't either designated to them in the Constitution, or simply not spoken of in the Constitution, and in case of a conflict, the Constitution basically wins unless and until amended. States taking actions that are later prevented by Constitutional amendment haven't lost a "right;" they never had the right, they only ever had the liberty to legislate within the constraints of the Constitution.
posted by Miko at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


The participants in the Secession Ball are the types who love to wrap themselves in the flag and consider liberals and whatnot traitors to the USA when their very ancestors that they honor were treasonous traitors. It's not even so much the villainousness of treason as it is the hypocrisy of patriotism and secession celebration.
posted by caddis at 7:06 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, reading the articles makes me kind-of glad I live in a state where we get to commemorate being on the AWESOME side of the war. And being the home of Lincoln. Our 150th anniversary Civil War observances are considerably less fraught -- although the Lincoln Museum in Springfield (which is fan-freaking-tastic) has a great exhibit on pre-war and wartime racial violence in Illinois, so we remember that not all Illinoisians were on the side of the angels on this one, and it was certainly not an easy and clean "us vs. them" situation. Mary Todd Lincoln herself was from a prominent Kentucky family and several of her brothers (including half-brothers) served in the Confederate Army. (Would make for awkward family gatherings, one imagines.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:12 AM on December 20, 2010


Sometimes I think that we should have let the south go when we had the chance.

It has been nothing but trouble since the end of the war. I know that getting rid of slavery was, of course, a good thing, but have they been worth the hassle since then?
posted by freakazoid at 7:16 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


A friend of mine back in Baton Rouge had a great "Southern Belle" impersonation she'd do. She'd flutter her eyes, look coy, and say, in a charming accent, "Hold my magnolia while I beat my nigger." That to me is the heart of all this offensive nonsense.
posted by Legomancer at 7:20 AM on December 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Just to throw in some New South weirdness: in the small town I grew up in in Alabama, the balls were part of the town's "Heritage Days" The girls in the hoop skirts were elected by the Junior League for their beuty and gentility and they acted as "hostesses" in the various antebellum mansions around town, giving tours and serving tea and petit-fours. The thing is Heritage Days and the Junior League had been integrated for years, so you were just as likely to see a black belle as you were a white one in our evenly racially divided community. It was actually viewed as a sort of civil rights milestone by many in the town; no one seemed to see the irony.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:22 AM on December 20, 2010


From South Carolina's daily The State:
The language of the S.C. Declaration is so straightforward, so unambiguous that it is difficult to comprehend that there ever could have been any disagreement over what drove South Carolina to secede. So before any more breath is wasted in arguing about just what our state will be commemorating on Monday, we are reprinting the Declaration on this page. We would urge anyone who doubts that our state seceded in order to preserve slavery — or, for that matter, anyone who has come to accept the fiction that slavery was merely one of several cumulative causes — to read this document.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:25 AM on December 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Sometimes I think that we should have let the south go when we had the chance.

It has been nothing but trouble since the end of the war. I know that getting rid of slavery was, of course, a good thing, but have they been worth the hassle since then?


I think you're about to get mobbed by several MeFis that originated from the Southern United States, plenty how contributions to MeFi are just as noteworthy as the contributions of Southerners to the United States in general. Or are you only allowing the South to keep all the bad things and none of the good.

I absolutely hate hearing the "We should have just let them leave" argument. It's lazy and mean-spirited. Oh, and it ignores the triumphs and tragedies of millions of people that consider themselves southern.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:25 AM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


shakespeherian: Thanks for that link, I've sent it over to my Facebook list. As someone who has a friend who works for The State, they are an awesome paper for SC, overall.

And yes, as someone who lives yet again in his home state of SC while remodeling his Mother's home, I'm glad there's a whole Union.
posted by Asim at 7:37 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know that getting rid of slavery was, of course, a good thing, but have they been worth the hassle since then?

I'm gonna go ahead and say that freeing millions of slaves from bondage is worth the hassle of occasionally reading headlines that make you unhappy.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:43 AM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, the South lost the war, but won the reconstruction battle of fictions, at least up until the Civil Rights movement started dismantling the myth. If you have a relatively strong stomach go back and read some Thomas Nelson Page, watch Birth of a Nation, etc. For about a hundred years, north and south, the idea that the plantation was some lost Eden where the races worked together in harmony, with happy singing slaves who were just like family and aristocratic ease, culture and beauty were lost by the invasion of industrialized, lowborn, rude, murderous land-hungry Yankees and their bestial black soldiers sold pretty well. The Klan resurgence in the 20s was the result of a concerted effort to get white folks to overlook the differences of the past, have a good sentimental cry over the time they almost let abolition ruin the country, and have a round of hugs and scapegoating.

I just got done teaching a Civil War literature course. The difficulty is seeing the stereotypes battle it out on the page: the dissolute slave-raping gambling dueling impulsive alcoholic malarial Southerner vs. the noble patriarchal man of taste and obligation, keeping everything in its god-ordained place, defending his homeland, and the virtue of his women. You know neither one of them is representative. It's harder to scrape through to the truth, and you see the big stereotypical ideas covering people up even in autobiographies.
posted by LucretiusJones at 7:48 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


So much of America's vernacular culture and mass popular culture basically is Southern culture, or an adaptation of the same, that I can't imagine a US without the South.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


There is slavery in Jane Austen -- they are just discreet about it (most present in Mansfield Park, but I doubt that many richer gentry families in the period -- like Darcy's -- had no connection or investments in slave colonies, or in the downstream economic activity dependent on wealth from the slave colonies).

Also, empire waists look really bad on me.
posted by jb at 8:00 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Miko: That's an invitation for a [citation needed] if I've ever seen one.
posted by pts at 8:05 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's best if the North and South regard each other as that crazy part of the family: You can't stand'em half the time, but they're family and you're stuck with them, so you might as well be pleasant and wait until they leave the room before you talk about them.
posted by nomadicink at 8:12 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


We need a United States to make us all better on average. You guys voting Democrat and not being racist assholes like us averages the entire country out to slightly less Republican/racist, and us Southerners being awesome in every other aspect of life (food, music, literature, gentility, proper making of iced tea, hat-wearing, dueling, mud-bogging, mellifluous speaking voices) averages out, well, you. You know, like how lame y'all are. Bless your hearts.

Seriously though the people going to this ball can eat a dick.
posted by ND¢ at 8:16 AM on December 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


It was actually viewed as a sort of civil rights milestone by many in the town; no one seemed to see the irony.<>

When I think of the highly segregated Southern neighborhoods I've seen in places like Richmond and Charleston, your integrated celebration does sound downright charming and healthy and worth celebrating.

(When I think of the obnoxious and antiquated boosterism of my own hometown, I can understand the irony-seeking, "I'm too cool for this" instinct, too. Circle of life, I suppose.)

Celebrating succession is a step too far. Keep the traditions and the cool clothes, call it something else, and invite your multicultural neighbors to join you... I guarantee it will be loads more fun. Then double your fun when you get an invite to a unique cultural celebration from somebody you never would have met if you hadn't opened up your own event.

A lot of people in Charleston do know how to party, so hopefully this learning will come in time.

posted by Skwirl at 8:21 AM on December 20, 2010


Miko: That's an invitation for a [citation needed] if I've ever seen one.

1. The blues, jazz, all of music.

2. Mark Twain, William Faulkner, all of literature.

3. Bourbon.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:21 AM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


...awesome in every other aspect of life (food, music, literature, gentility, proper making of iced tea, hat-wearing, dueling, mud-bogging, mellifluous speaking voices...

You forgot eye-gouging! [pdf]
posted by marxchivist at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2010


Here's a side-by-side comparison of the Confederate and United States Constitutions. If they were fighting for states' rights, why didn't they write their constitution that way instead of copying the American constitution and adding language explicitly protecting slavery?

Several changes strengthen the Confederate government over the states: Article I, Section 2(1) gives the Confederate government control over voter eligibility; this is up to the states in the US Constitution. Article I, Section 4(1) gives the Confederate government control over setting the rules for elections; again, this is up to the states in the American constitution. Article I, Section 9(6) gives the Confederate government the power to tax trade between the states. Article IV, Section 3(3) requires new Confederate states to be slave states; states could choose to be slave or free under the US Constitution.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:33 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you really need a citation to imagine the United States without the influence of African-American music, without country and western music, without bluegrass, without Elvis, without Johnny Cash, without Dixieland and blues and jazz? Without soul food, Tex-Mex, rice-based dishes like jambalya, Gulf shrimp, pecans, Tabasco, blue crabs, barbecue? Without the shotgun house, Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Faulkner, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Tom Wolfe, Alice Walker? Without the Black Mountain College of Arts? Half of the Appalachian Trail? Without a Great Migration or a Civil Rights Movement? Cigarettes? The space program? A whole bunch of Presidents? The Trail of Tears? Southern folk tales and songs, fiddle tunes, quilt patterns, dungarees, jokes, religious movements, Dogfish Head beers, bourbon? Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Tallulah Bankhead, Aziz Ansari, Julia Roberts, Andy Griffith, abolitionist Levi Coffin, Nina Simone, Big Boi and Andre 3000?

Not every little piece of American pop culture originates in the South, but "United States culture," as we know it, would not exist without the South having been part of the US even just since 1865. Both directly and indirectly, people and resources with roots in the South have had a power over our cultural development inordinate to the size and population of the Southern regions. To think of today's America, minus all Southern influence, could create only an alternate-reality version of American culture that would seem very foreign to all of us.
posted by Miko at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


...Shakespeherian said it so much more succintly.
posted by Miko at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The harsh reconstruction policies of the North and the economic conditions these policies created contributed a great deal to the state of things today in the South. See article, Social Consequence of Disease in the American South, 1900 – World War II. Although it seems that many on MeFi be happy about this.

It is difficult (if not impossible) to defend the ball, but dealing with the complexities of our regional differences by writing off the South in its entirety seems like a bad idea to me.

Can we get rid of California next? I don't really fancy celebrities and plastic surgery...
Oh wait, it isn't all like that?
posted by Kronur at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2010


...Shakespeherian said it so much more succintly.

But I left out Tabasco, so I lose.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:51 AM on December 20, 2010


Yes, but Miko did include Dogfish Head beers, which are from Delaware. You know, the across the Mason-Dixon line state of Delaware, the only slave state that didn't send any soldiers to the Confederate cause, that Delaware?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:00 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regiments, didn't send any regiments (I'm sure there were some individuals that snuck off to Virginia or something).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:01 AM on December 20, 2010


Damn, I thought Dogfish was from Virginia. Oops.
posted by Miko at 9:07 AM on December 20, 2010


The harsh reconstruction policies of the North and the economic conditions these policies created

What harsh reconstruction policies, exactly? The article you link states the causes of widespread disease as "a confluence of poverty, climate and the legacy of slavery."
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2010


...Shakespeherian said it so much more succintly.

Probably a Yankee.
posted by nomadicink at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.

—Ulysses S. Grant
posted by stargell at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Despite his flaws, Ulysses S. Grant was an amazing general and believer in common humanity and dignity. I'm always amazed about his words in his autobiography.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:24 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I think that we should have let the south go when we had the chance.

I don't think an independent South would have been at all viable given the politics of the 19th century. Does anyone REALLY think that a expansionist Union that lived, breathed, and ate manifest destiny as an ideology would have coexisted with the Confederacy for more than a generation given the way it repeatedly picked fights with England, Spain, Mexico, and dozens of First Nations to assert its divine right to rule from sea to shining sea.

No, the Confederacy was a fucking stupid idea that owed it's entire political existence to the foolish hope that they could buy off an abolitionist England with cotton. But England didn't need American cotton and was justifiably reluctant to send their troops into another bloodbath.

The Confederacy was, as far as I can tell, doomed from the start.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was anyone else bothered by the existence of the country group "Lady Antebellum"?

I live in Nashville and they're hot shit around these parts. The band name is supposedly from an offhanded reference somebody made during a photo shoot at some antebellum plantation (which there are also plenty of down here). I don't think the people in the group or their Capitol Nashville handlers have any particular "rah rah the South shall rise again glory be" focus in their music or anything and indeed would be mortified by the inference. But if some folks who have that on their mind are dumb enough to buy a Lady Antebellum music because they make the non-existent link, so be it, just more cash in the coffers.
posted by blucevalo at 9:41 AM on December 20, 2010


at the end there was no remedy, just 40 acres and a mule

Well, except for the 40 acres and a mule bit...
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:47 AM on December 20, 2010


And of course, another legacy of the Civil War and reconstruction was the Great Migration encouraged by early civil rights firebrands like Ida B. Wells who wrote in 1891: "There is, therefore, only one thing left to do; save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:57 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The whitewashing impulse is very old. Jefferson Davis himself tried to deny the importance of the slavery issue in his voluminous memoir.
posted by Trochanter at 10:22 AM on December 20, 2010


Kronur: got any cites that aren't coming from a bizarre AIDS-denialism blog? Not to impugn the Southern Medical Association, but the source you chose to link from would make me doubt "Green Eggs and Ham" were it linked therein.
posted by jtron at 10:25 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Re all of this, Lady Antebellum, etc.

I'm from Louisiana, not South Carolina, but there is a lot of plantation culture boosterism in the south that is taken as totally ordinary and not racist.

I never questioned it growing up, but after I moved north and had the Finding Myself/Liberal Arts Experience, it occurred to me how weird it is that we nostalgize what should be an embarrassing aspect of our "heritage". When I mentioned it to some relatives, they couldn't see what I was talking about at all and thought I was a weirdo for not fetishizing the Antebellum thing.

Then again I have the same questions about the way people get all obsessed about Imperial Russia (faberge eggs, the Anastasia myth), the Middle Ages, turn of the century industrial barons, and the like. The anarchist in me thinks there's a real reason that middle and lower class people are taught to be nostalgic for authoritarianism. Especially how that typically correlates to middle and lower class people who see the interests of the rich as their own interests, in the here and now, while standing in the voting booth.
posted by Sara C. at 10:40 AM on December 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm not for grabbing things linked from an AIDS-denialism blog either, but the article is from a peer-reviewed journal. Here's the meat of the abstract: "The Northern perceptions of the South as a backward and sickly region were only compounded by the realization that her population was malnourished, infected by worms, and continually plagued by agues and fevers. As historian John Duffy concluded, 'As a chronically debilitating disease, it [malaria] shared with the other two the responsibility for the term "lazy Southerner." ' "
posted by blucevalo at 10:41 AM on December 20, 2010


Kronur, that link is full of nonsense. Read an actual book about 19th-century medicine in the US for why. I recommend Malaria by Margaret Humphreys or Our Present Complaint by Charles Rosenberg.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2010


Ladies: Before leaving for the ball in your hoop skirt, learn to sit in the privacy of your boudoir! Careless crouching may mean showing the world your pantaloons.
posted by Cranberry at 11:14 AM on December 20, 2010


Careless crouching may mean showing the world your pantaloons.

Please, we all know the mating call of the southern belle is, "I am soooo drunk, y'all!"
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:37 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


it occurred to me how weird it is that we nostalgize what should be an embarrassing aspect of our "heritage"....The anarchist in me thinks there's a real reason that middle and lower class people are taught to be nostalgic for authoritarianism.

I work in public history, and this doesn't happen only in the South. The Southern historic houses and plantation sites do have the most direct evidence of planned slave quarters and work areas and fields, but in the North, we also fetishize similar 18th and early 19th-century sites that are no less complicit in slavery. The great fortunes of the English and Dutch and British Empires, and the Spanish and French too, and finally the New Republic of the United States, were all built, quite inarguably, on the backs of laboring slaves. Whether the money came from sugar or tobacco or cotton or rice, from gold or spices or fabrics or beaver pelts, most of the wealth that flowed to these nation groups, and which they largely still enjoy, was either drawn from the land and water by people who were forced to work and not compensated for it, or made possible by the new standards of living, surplus resources, and new middle class that the slave system created.

It sounds strange to people touring the "sea captain's houses" in New England, but those houses represent American slavery every bit as much as the plantations of the South.

In addition to which, a lot of families in 18th-century New England had their own slaves here, too.
posted by Miko at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Today's New York Times Disunion post is particularly good.

The president came, joined by his niece Harriet Lane, and was the first to kiss the bride. It was a happy event in a beautiful setting, reminiscent of so many other happy events and beautiful settings the president had enjoyed in his younger days as a diplomat in Russia and Great Britain. But soon the mood was broken by a commotion instigated by the entrance of Lawrence Keitt, the brash, bombastic, recently resigned congressman of South Carolina. Jumping, bellowing, waving a piece of paper over his head, he shouted “Thank God!’’ again and again. Finally he elaborated. “South Carolina has seceded! Here’s the telegram! I feel like a boy let out of school.’’
posted by blucevalo at 12:17 PM on December 20, 2010


The Southern historic houses and plantation sites do have the most direct evidence of planned slave quarters and work areas and fields, but in the North, we also fetishize similar 18th and early 19th-century sites that are no less complicit in slavery.

Oh, I'm quite well aware that slavery was part of a worldwide economic network that depended on bonded labor in various guises. However, there is something pretty special about how obsessed southerners (at least where I grew up, the proximity of the "river road" plantations might be an aspect of this) are about Antebellum slave-holding society.

Every year in school we would take field trips to plantations. These field trip plantation tours never included anything about the horrors of what slavery was, or anything that dwelled on the realities of owning actual human beings as property. They were whitewashed accounts of how cool it was to be American aristocracy living in a fancy house, going to fancy parties, perhaps fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. These field trips were a lesson in "Our Heritage", how to be a white person in the south.

Even on the state tourism website, which is a little more politically correct so as to attract outsiders, the plantations are described more as architectural curiosities than as places where people were enslaved. And these are the places where people were enslaved, not places where people benefited from cheap cotton, or places where rum was distilled, or the places where rich people whose money could somehow be traced to slavery lived.

This is all sort of like if tours of Auschwitz never mentioned Jewish people or genocide, and characterized it as a place to look at interesting mid-20th-century architecture. Yes, it's true that the US didn't take too hard a line on allowing the Holocaust to happen. It's true that we had our own Japanese internment camps. It's true that anti-semitism existed (and continues to exist!) in other parts of the world, and that there have been acts of genocide against Jewish people in other times and places. It's true that there are American corporations that benefited from unpaid concentration camp labor. However. That doesn't change the fact that Auschwitz was where the holocaust happened. And if German culture nostalgized the Nazi period and the holocaust to the extent that US southerners do slave-holding culture and the CSA, people would be absolutely horrified.
posted by Sara C. at 12:33 PM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I wonder if one day they will give tours of the cheap, zero lot line, McMansion communities that were hastily thrown together to satisfy the lust of those making a fast buck on the backs (and easy credit accounts) of underpaid, uneducated labor in the "Right-to-Work" locales? Maybe they'll have Heritage Balls where the Belles will wear midriff shirts and low slung pajama bottoms?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:41 PM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shit, I think I godwinned the thread. Carry on...
posted by Sara C. at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2010


I'm in total agreement with you about plantations, but not so ready to excuse New England history fetishization, because it wasn't that abstract.

these are the places where people were enslaved

...and so are 18th century New England elite-class houses (although there is a reasonable argument that the slavery here was much less institutionalized and on a slightly less brutal scale).

I agree that this should never be overlooked, and would argue for every 18th century New England mansion tour to discuss slavery. It was happening, there and then. And even if not, people will never realize that the economic links are real unless you point them out and say "This family could never have controlled so much wealth without the products of slavery."
posted by Miko at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


(In other words, becoming rich off the proceeds of slavery wasn't a passive looking-the-other-way - it was an active process of analyzing economic opportunities and pursuing them).
posted by Miko at 12:45 PM on December 20, 2010


The civil war wasn't just about slavery. It was about a medieval, feudal society and a modern, industrialized society that had the misfortune to share a country for a little while.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2010


Oh. This thread again. Hi, y'all!

Roll Tide!

It's just an ESPN ad, but it's funny because it's true.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:50 PM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


The civil war wasn't just about slavery. It was about a medieval, feudal society and a modern, industrialized society that had the misfortune to share a country for a little while.

One of which was based on slavery.
posted by spitbull at 3:17 PM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree that this should never be overlooked, and would argue for every 18th century New England mansion tour to discuss slavery.

As a former tour guide for Boston-area historic houses, we absolutely did that where enslaved people had lived in the house, or where the home owners had profited from the slave trade.

On the other hand, when I went to Monticello, the tour guide pointed out the "servants' quarters" to us.

I don't think that saying "slavery was part of the economic system of the whole US for a long time, and that isn't discussed enough" obviates the contention that "there is a particular reluctance among white people in the former CSA states to face up to the truth of slavery."
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:27 PM on December 20, 2010


...when I went to Monticello, the tour guide pointed out the "servants' quarters" to us.

My favorite historical site phrase for slaves is "antebellum workforce."
posted by marxchivist at 3:29 PM on December 20, 2010


One of which was based on slavery.

Actually, I assumed that was implicit in "Feudal", but after looking up the definition of Feudalism, I noticed that it doesn't necessarily imply serfs or slaves. Which is weird -- can you even have Feudalism without slaves?
posted by Afroblanco at 3:45 PM on December 20, 2010


Apparently, you're not really supposed to ask what feudalism is, because the question usually leads to slappy fistfights among medievalists.
posted by Trochanter at 3:48 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always liked Enslaved Americans, as if it were comparable to being Irish or Armenian or something.
posted by Sara C. at 3:59 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]



In addition to which, a lot of families in 18th-century New England had their own slaves here, too.


Yup. They did in 17th-century New Netherland, too. Not my favorite part of my genealogical study.
posted by jgirl at 4:26 PM on December 20, 2010


Freedom Challenged Individuals?
posted by nomadicink at 4:32 PM on December 20, 2010


Apparently, you're not really supposed to ask what feudalism is, because the question usually leads to slappy fistfights among medievalists.

Apparently, the term for the system of vassals and lords that divided the medieval period into multiple fiefs with serfs or peasants working the land is now known as manorialism, because no one could agree that feudalism meant that.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:06 PM on December 20, 2010


So sayth a history professor that I had that specialized in the field. I don't have any training on the issue, but he said that it much more accurately described what we think of as the feudal society. Plus, I don't think there's any debate that the antebellum South was not rather manorial, even if people aren't sure about the term feudal associated with it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:09 PM on December 20, 2010


You're also describing a system that spanned most of southwestern Europe for some 700 years. Probably any term would be stretched thin to apply to all of it.

Aside from that, whether you call it feudalism or manorialism, the system of interconnected fealties that is such a central (if contested) part of medieval power wielding is not a part of antebellum southernness as I can see it. They were slave holders in a slave holding economy. I don't see why the Roman model isn't as appropriate.
posted by Trochanter at 6:45 PM on December 20, 2010


I'm not fully versed in this, but my guess is that the Antebellum south would fall under manorialism, but not feudalism. Though I do think that some people who identify deeply with the antebellum lifestyle do tend to see themselves as feudal-style lords - you also tend to hear a lot about Leadership and Defending Our Way Of Life. In a way the people who buy into it hardcore definitely see the world in a pre-modern framework. (Which may go hand and hand with the apocalypticism of Evangelical Christianity.)

Of course, I'm not sure any of this is true of the actual Civil War era planters.
posted by Sara C. at 6:56 PM on December 20, 2010


I don't think that saying "slavery was part of the economic system of the whole US for a long time, and that isn't discussed enough" obviates the contention that "there is a particular reluctance among white people in the former CSA states to face up to the truth of slavery."

I don't disagree.
posted by Miko at 7:10 PM on December 20, 2010


but my guess is that the Antebellum south would fall under manorialism

I kind of disagree with that. Not as to how a Southern planter might romantically identify himself, but in actuality. They were members of the Union. They sent elected representatives to Washington. That's how they governed themselves. Hell, Southern planters wrote the constitution.
posted by Trochanter at 7:11 PM on December 20, 2010


Slave holding plutocrats. That's about right.

"Rich man's war -- poor man's fight." As the barefoot, half starved Rebs used to say.
posted by Trochanter at 7:15 PM on December 20, 2010


Manorialism more describes the system and way of life of what we think of as a fief (bonded labor, manor the central labor structural point for multiple families) than what we would see as the tiers of feudalism (vassalage, lords demanding fealty). The South romanticized the later, but with the use of generational slaves certainly had the former. So, I would say that there was manorialism among the rich in the Antebellum South.

The generational standpoint also helped make it more in line with the Middle Ages and less in line with the Roman system, except during the Late Roman Empire where manorialism rose in the first place.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:59 PM on December 20, 2010


Oh, I don't think that identifying the Antebellum south with manorialsm or feudalism is accurate either. If we're going there, why not the company towns of the industrial North that had their own form of debt slavery and plutocratic lawmaking?

No, the politics of the Civil War was a creation of the industrial revolution that made cotton into a viable cash crop. Slaves to the South. Cotton, tobacco, and sugar to the North or England. Cloth and rum to Africa. It was the origins of modern agribusiness with big farms of cash crops producing products that were shipped thousands of miles away.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:05 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have a lot invested in this argument, but what about the "serfs come with the land" thing? If Jefferson had picked up and moved he would have taken his slaves with him.

The generational standpoint also helped make it more in line with the Middle Ages and less in line with the Roman system

Why? In the Roman system, the son of your slave was your slave. And in fact, just thinking of the way slaves were housed would make it appear more Roman. My (not very well informed) impression of the Southern way was a communal barracks type of system, not the family huts of the Middle Ages.

No expert here, just wondering.
posted by Trochanter at 8:18 PM on December 20, 2010


The feudal thing seems more to have come out of a long-running love of the south for the novels of Walter Scott. The South was--more agrarian, more aristocratic, more obsessed with bloodline and heritage (partially because more entangled with agrarian enterprises like raising dogs and horses where blood obviously /does/ out, and partially to help shore up the ideas of race that were very convenient, even necessary to hold if they were going to keep their economy).
posted by LucretiusJones at 9:00 PM on December 20, 2010


A central part of classical feudalism was that land and peerage were granted by the king as a reward for taxes, support of the army, and sometimes pure nepotism. I suspect plantation owners saw themselves as more along the lines of a landed gentry than peerage.

The plantation system used in the South never fully died out. Key triggers for the Vietnam war included a famine when the French land owners insisted on maintaining rice exports at the expense of subsistence crops, and English troops giving weapons to Japanese POWs to prevent the Viet Cong from distributing stockpiled food in French warehouses.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:41 PM on December 20, 2010


But I left out Tabasco, so I lose.

Just have to mention here: Louisiana brand so totally kicks Tabasco's ass that it ain't even funny. If you try Louisiana brand you'll never go back to that watery Tabasco again.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:46 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The plantation system used in the South never fully died out.

Hell, it didn't really die out in the South, what do you think I was driving at with all that "Right-to-Work" crap up thread! Another recent example of Feudalism in action and violent reactions against it would be the history of Rwanda and the genocide to bring down "Tutsi feudalism".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:26 AM on December 21, 2010


By 1860 there were approximately 4,000,000 slaves in the United States, the second largest slave society--slave population--in the world. The only one larger was Russian serfdom. Brazil was close.

But in 1860 American slaves, as a financial asset, were worth approximately three and a half billion dollars--that's just as property. Three and a half billion dollars was the net worth, roughly, of slaves in 1860. In today's dollars that would be approximately seventy-five billion dollars. In 1860 slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America's manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together. Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy. The only thing worth more than the slaves in the American economy of the 1850s was the land itself, and no one can really put a dollar value on all of the land of North America. If you're looking to begin to understand why the South will begin to defend this system, and defend this society, and worry about it shrinking, and worry about a political culture from the North that is really beginning to criticize them, think three and a half billion dollars and the largest financial asset in American society, and what you might even try to compare that to today.
-- Yale History Professor David Blight, from The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interesting, kirkaracha...and if that's just asset value, think about the value then of the production capacity.
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2010


Just for comparison, the UN estimates the international drug trade to total around $400 billion dollars, $75 billion of that in cannabis.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:53 AM on December 21, 2010


Also for another comparison, the UN also estimates that roughly one million people are trafficked annually (note that is trafficked and not smuggled).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:57 AM on December 21, 2010


I'm an early modernist, so I'm not going to argue about feudalism (though aspects remained, of course), but it's silly to call the Southern plantation system manorial. The manorial system means manors -- specific divisions of land like parishes or townships which would have courts and their own customs/laws. In England, the lord of the manor was the owner of the "soil", but most tenants also owned their own lands either as freehold (their land pretty explicitly) or copyhold (theoretically tenants and owed rent and/or labour duties when serfdom was going, but at the same time often had the right to inherit or sell their copyhold land like freehold) -- only leaseholders rented their land in the way we think of it today. There were slaves in medieval England, but serfdom was not slavery -- you would have serfs and slaves separately. There were different gradations of unfree labour. (And interestingly, in rural medieval England, serfs tended to be richer than the free people, because their serf status guaranteed them a farm, whereas the free people were often poor cottagers dependent on wage labour.)

It makes the most sense to put Southern production into a "plantation" model. It consisted of a very large farms (so large it seems silly to call them farms) growing mostly one-cash crop (monoculture was never a feature of manorial farming), with all of the land owned by one person with no one else exercising any property or use rights (manors have complex patterns of property and use rights). It was specifically "slavery-based plantation", which is (of course) radically different from free-labour plantations, but still has more resemblance to wage-labour plantation production than manorial production.

I'm positive that the Southern plantation owners would have seen themselves as being like the land gentry of Britain (specifically England), but the organisation of their crops and production -- not to mention their labour -- was radically different.
posted by jb at 8:51 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slavery in the US South was much more cruel and very different than slavery in ancient Rome, medieval Scandinavia, the Arab world or even the US North.

It isn't called the Peculiar Institution for nothing.
posted by QIbHom at 9:00 AM on December 21, 2010


Speaking of another aspect of England during the period of slavery --

in Manchestor, there is a memorial to Abraham Lincoln right off the main square. The mill workers had been early trade unionists and active abolitionists, and many were evangelical/dissenting Christians. Some of the mill bosses wanted to support the South, the source of a lot of their cotton, but the mill workers campaigned against the South despite the fact that it hurt them economically.
posted by jb at 9:06 AM on December 21, 2010


Slavery in the US South was much more cruel and very different than slavery in ancient Rome, medieval Scandinavia, the Arab world or even the US North.

While that may be roughly true, I pretty sure there is enough annecdotal evidence on either side of that argument to make it rather difficult to generalize like that.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:13 AM on December 21, 2010


QIbholm : historians of slavery in the north have told me that it was as cruel as the South (in terms of individual treatment) - it just ended earlier and is thus farther back in our public memory. Also, Carribean and South American slavery was a very similar institution, and often even more dominant in the local society (like in Demerara, where slaves were the vast majority of the people). Crowns of glory, tears of blood is a good history of 19th century slavery in Demerara, a British colony now part of Guyana.
posted by jb at 9:19 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry: annecdotal evidence
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:19 AM on December 21, 2010


I'm back, didn't get arrested, it was inspiring. This ball is a precursor of events to come in the next five years. Then the revisionists will take on Reconstruction.
posted by mareli at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2010


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