History 3.3
29 Nov.-4 Dec. 2001

The Cotton Kingdom:
The Expansion of Slavery and the Intensification of Southern Cultural Identity

I. Westward Expansion and the Cotton Boom
(amplifying points made in video)

A. Spread of planters, cotton, and slavery into new southern states, creating internal slave trade and economically reinvigorating slavery.

B. Reorganization of the national economy around cotton: Hemp in the upper south and textiles in New England.

II. Video Clips: "Africans in America"

Terms/concepts/names to watch for:

abolition of international slave trade (1808), growth of internal slave trade

Richard Allen & African Methodist Episcopal Church

American Colonization Society

Denmark Vesey

slave religion

proslavery argument

Nat Turner

Virginia slavery debate

Abolitionism, varieties of and changes in

David Walker and his Appeal

William Lloyd Garrison

The Liberator

"moral suasion"

anti-abolitionist riots

Elijah P. Lovejoy

"whitening" of citizenship in North

III. Resurgent Slavery and Southern Cultural Identity

A. Slavery, the peculiarly paranoid institution: Fear of rebellious slaves as underlying factor in history of Old South.

1. Planters could not forget that slaves did not want to be slaves and would escape or resist if they could.

2. The "wolf by the ears": The racist, fear-based abolitionism of Thomas Jefferson & other white southerners.

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us [the whites] in such a contest."

3. Necessity of violence and coercion to keep slaves in bondage, contradicting many other southern values: whipping, slave patrols.

B. Slavery's Impact on Southern Culture

1. Slavery had always made South distinct from other regions, but there had been hope that differences might fade.

2. Impact of slavery on southern whites: Slavery turned many slaveholders into depraved tyrants and taught their children to be same.

3. Result: A violent, patriarchal culture, where white men lived by code of "honor" & physically punished rivals, critics, challengers to their power.

C. Cotton and the Intensification of Southern Cultural Differences

1. Problem: Need to find some justification for expanding slavery in face of egalitarian American values and outside criticism.

2. Growth of plantersí self-image as feudal lords or British-style aristocrats; yet more lavish estates and lifestyles; "Cavalier" myth; interest in Middle Ages, novels of Sir Walter Scott & ideas of "chivalry"; growth of duelling & other aspects of "honor" culture.

3. Rise of the proslavery argument and planter paternalism: Plantation slavery seen as a better system than northern individualism & capitalism. Chattel slavery as more humane than "wage slavery."

4. Increasing intolerance of dissent against slavery in South or North, especially after the Virginia slavery debate.

III. Van Burenís Southern Problem:
Slavery and the Demands of Party

A. Southern defense/expansion of slavery strained party system: northern politicians forced to prove their loyalty to slavery.

B. The War against the Abolitionists

1. Origins: Van Buren was Jackson's heir apparent but under pressure from southern Democrats to prove that he was not soft on abolitionism.

2. Organized anti-abolitionist "mobs" attacked newspapers and meetings all over North.

3. The attack on the Charleston post office and Postmaster General Kendallís decision to allow non-delivery of abolitionist direct mail.

4. The congressional "gag rule," 1837-1844: automatic tabling of abolitionist petitions to Congress.

C. Van Buren as Proslavery President

1. Election of 1836: South partly deserted Van Buren but he won anyway.

2. Southern pressure became even harder to resist after Panic of 1837 made MVB very unpopular.

3. Second Seminole War (1835-42): brutal campaign to make Florida safe for slavery.

4. Amistad case (1839): Administration sided against Africans who had taken over an illegal Spanish slaving ship & then been tricked into sailing to America.