Sunday, September 29, 2013

Working People Respond to Nationalizing Capital During the Civil War

I.               The Process of Industrial Capitalism
The Sunken Road at Antietam. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

A.   The Civil War—the Civil War is often called the first modern war, in large part because the decisive factor in the Union’s victory over the Confederacy was its industrial edge, which allowed the North to replace war material rapidly, while the South was slowly starved of war material.

1.     Financing the war—while part of the war was financed by simply printing more money, and another significant portion financed through the first income tax—but the war was also financed by the sale of bonds to investors. This created a growing role for bankers and financiers during the war, a position they were able to maintain when the war ended.
Jay Gould. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

2.     Economic Class and the War—while we would like to think that American men would gladly fight for their country when called upon, this was not always the case. Early in the war, there were more volunteers on both sides than could actually get outfitted and trained adequately, by the second year of the war enlistments dropped precipitously for both the North and the South. This led to the institution of the first Conscription Acts (significantly, first by the alleged “states rights” proponents of the Confederacy) in American history.
Map of New York City Draft Riots

a.     Bonuses—because bonuses were also provided for soldiers who volunteered for service, a not uncommon practice for a number of men was to volunteer, collect the bonus for volunteer, and then desert—only to show up at a recruiting station to volunteer again.
Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

b.     Substitutes—both sides allowed draftees to provide substitutes, or to pay a bounty of $300.00 (the average yearly income of a worker at that time) to avoid service (the father of Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, chose to pay a bounty to the government instead of serving when he was drafted). This was seen as inequitable by many men at the time, and was a contributing factor for the New York City Draft Riot in July 1863.

c.     “Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight”—because of this class bias, the Civil War was known at the time as “A Rich Man’s War, and a Poor Man’s Fight” because, while rich men often became richer supplying the armies with war material (see below),  poor men made up most of the foot soldiers, and also made up the lion’s share of dead bodies that were found on the battlefields.

3.     The Labor of Slaves in the War—the South had a much smaller population to draw upon to put soldiers in the field, and it was this population difference that was probably the greatest contributor to the defeat of the region in the Civil War. Over 40% of the population in the South in 1860 was African American (1.5% free blacks, and the rest slaves), and were never provided arms in any significant numbers (near the end of the war, there was much talk about arming slaves, and a few were allowed to serve in the Confederate Army—but not in significant numbers). This did allow the South to field a higher percentage of white men in its army than the North could muster—but not enough to make any real difference in the numerical superiority the North enjoyed.
Slave "contrabands"

a.     Continuation of slavery—until the appearance of the Union Army in the vicinity, most slaves in the South were little effected by the war. They continued to work on plantations and small farms, as well as in cities.

b.     The Great Strike—given the opportunity, however, slaves showed in great numbers that they were willing to help overthrow this system by showing up in Union Army encampments in huge numbers. “Contrabands,” as they were called, were initially returned when masters came to claim them, but after realizing that the domestic war effort in the South depended upon their labor, they were instead put to work in Union camps, until early 1863 when they were permitted to enlist in separate units in the Union Army. By the end of the war, African American troops made up approximately 10% of soldiers in the Union Army.

4.     Government Contracts—to provide clothing, bedding, tents, boots, wagons and horses, food, ammunition, weapons—in short, everything needed to run the war. It is easier for the government to maintain these contracts if they were given only to a few large business, rather than numerous small ones.

a.     Financiers—The Civil War was financed by a variety of means: printing more money (in fact, the so-called “greenbacks” were issued for the first time during this conflict—what we today identify as money), by raising taxes, and by selling bonds. The sale of bonds—promissary notes issued by the government to pay back the loan of money with interest—were a way for the government to raise money by financing the debt it was incurring to fight the war. The men selling these bonds received favorable discounts to encourage their promotion, and many made considerable profits from these sales.
Railroad mortar

5.     Transportation—Much of the South had relied upon river transportation, and resisted using government incentives to spur railroad growth; this obstacle was removed with secession and the withdrawal of much of the Southern Democratic contingent. The resultant spurt in rail line construction was spurred not only by the need to transport military goods, but also by the construction of the transcontinental rail line.

6.     Labor shortage—with numerous volunteers (and, later, conscripts) off fighting to save the Union, coupled with the growing demand for labor that the build-up for war entailed, the resultant labor shortage was very beneficial for those workers who were not called to service, since business owners could not abide a long work stoppage.
William Sylvis. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

B.    William Sylvis and the National Labor Union (NLU)
1.     Formed in 1866—While declaring practical objectives, like raising wages and improving working conditions, the NLU also promoted a political agenda, including the eventual establishment of a labor party.

2.     William Sylvis—born in Annolph, Pennsylvania in 1828, Sylvis began serving an apprenticeship as an iron molder by the early 1840. By the second half of that decade, he had finished that process, and worked in a variety of establishments in the Philadelphia area. During this time, Sylvis also began his association with the Stove and Hollow Core Molder’s Union, first as an organizer, and later, fulfilling a vision to bring all iron molders into a single union, at the head of the Iron Molders’ Union.
a.     Effects of the Civil War
b.     Manufacturers’ Associations
c.     The turn towards politics
d.     1868
e.     Sylvis’ death

C.    The NLU and Social Reform
1.     The 8 Hour Day—this proposal captures the imagination of workers for decades after it was first proposed by the NLU in 1866—to its final fruition in 1937.
2.     Cooperatives

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Industrial Capitalism in Antebellum America

Rather than merely rely on my interpretation for the development of capitalism in Antebellum American (meaning before the American Civil War), we'll start off this presentation by listening to a lecture from someone a bit more sympathetic to these developments, professor Donald Miller (no relation):

I. Division of Labor and the Factory

A. Outwork--the manufacture of some goods took place in the Early National period not in factories, but in the home, or in home-based shops.

1. Shoe Manufacturing in Lynn, Massachusetts--outwork began with the recruitment of workers from the countryside. Entreprenuers hired skilled craftspeople to cut leather hides into usable shapes (called "blanks"), and then recruited farmers and their families to sew the soles together, and attach the uppers to the sole. The market for "ready-made" shoes was largely the slave labor force in the South.

B. Factories--factories grew from established small shops, as master craftsmen ("masters") expanded their operations. As these larger shops became economically successful, they attracted other investors who new nothing about the manufacture of goods--but much about squeezing greater profits from a business.

1. Porkopolis--in the 1830s Cincinnati merchants built large slaughterhouses that slaughtered thousands of hogs every month. This was accomplished by developing a system of overhead rails that eased transportation of the hog carcasses around from station to station (the predecessor of the assembly line), dividing the slaughtering process into a number of discrete steps.

2. Textile manufacturing--

a. Great Britain--was the leading manufacturing nation in the world, largely on the strenght of its textile industry. To keep this position, economic and political leaders worked together to attempt to prevent the immigration of mechanics who held much of the manufacturing knowledge--especially the manufacture of machine tools.

i. "Free trade"--because of the manufacturing advantage Great Britain held over much of the rest of the world, British politicians became the strongest proponenets of the idea of "free trade"--of lowering trade barriers so the British could export their inexpensive manufactured goods.

ii. "Protectionism"--countries, including the United States, responded to this competition be "protecting" their own nascent industries by imposing tariffs (taxes on imported goods). These tariffs made imported goods more expensive, but also helped to protect and promote manufacturing--and therefore manufacturing jobs--in the host country.

b. United States--the earliest textile factory in the United States was located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (near Providence) at the falls of the Blackstone River. The falls powered the water wheel that, through a series of belts and pulleys, provided power to the machinery in the factory.

i. Finding workers--initially, workers at the Slater Mill in Pawtucket were recruited as family units. Fathers were expected to enforce factory discipline. This workforce, however, was largely resistant to the implementation of this factory discipline, taking days off to fish or hunt, and fathers often failed to discipline their offspring for their actions at work. By the 1820s, families were replaced by young, unmarried women from surrounding farms, who looked to work in factories as an escape from the drudge work on these family farms. This was first implemented at a mill in Waltham, Mass., and became known as the "Waltham Plan."

C. American Mechanics and Technological Innovation

1. Mechanic--today, we use the term "mechanic" to refer mainly to someone who works on automobiles; in the early 19th century, however, a mechanic was a highly-skilled mechanical generalist, able to build machine tools (machines used to make other machines); to be called a mechanic was very high praise,

2. Eli Whitney--was one of the premier mechanics in the Early National era. Whitney's mechanical genius led not only to the invention of the cotton gin, but also to the development of precision machine tools and interchangeable part. Whitney and a partner manufactured manufactured military weapons, and Whitney designed and built machines tools that could rapidly produce interchangeable musket parts. Being able to manufacture interchangeable parts was a huge leap forward in developing the manufacturing process, because the modern factory could not operate without it.

D. Wage workers and the Labor Movement--from early to the mid-19th century, many American craft workers espoused artisan republicanism, an ideology based on liberty and equality. They saw themselves as a group of small-scale producers, equal to one another and free to work for themselves.

1. Formation of unions--with the development of the outwork and factory system, more workers were becoming dependent upon wages, and less likely to become a small-scale producer (although this myth lived on for decades after this time). To assert their independence, workers rejected the term "master" and began using the Dutch work "boss" (which means master) instead. At about the same time, these workers also rejected the term "servant" for themselves, and instead became "hands" or "hired hands."

a. Workers with skills not easily transferred to machines--stone masons and members of other building trades were the most prominent examples--were able to retain a great deal of independence. Other workers, like shoemakers, hatters, printers, furniture makers, and weavers, saw their skills undermined by outwork and the introduction of machines--and as a result their status fell.

2. Labor ideology--with the formation of early labor unions, there also developed an ideology to support these unions: producerism and the labor theory of value.

a. Labor theory of value--held that the price for a particular good should be determined by the amount of labor required to produce it--and that the worker should get the lion's share of the profit, rather than the owner of the factory, who did nothing to add value to products. Although this idea was popularized by Karl Marx (who appropriated the idea from an English philosopher/economist named David Riccardo), but the idea first gained hold in early 19th century America.

II.             Canals – canals made the inexpensive transportation of raw materials from the hinterland to the city, and finished materials from the city to the hinterland, possible, which created markets both for farmers in these hinterlands (and encouraged them to begin to grow more to satisfy the market, rather than for their own subsistence) and for merchants in the cities (which also increased demand for inexpensive manufactured goods, which encouraged the construction and implementation of factories.

A.   Erie Canal – the construction of the Erie Canal ensured that New York City would remain the commercial center of the United States; its success spurred the construction of canals all over the country in the first half of the 19th century.

1.    Construction costs – although calls for the federal government to finance construction of the canal, in the end the state had to finance the project.  It did so by selling bonds to citizens, most of which was sold initially in relatively small increments ($1000-$2000); eventually the bonds were sold on the London Stock Market, and as far away as China, but the initial construction was financed by small investors within the state.

2.    Local contractors – were responsible for constructing specific portions of the canal; most had little experience in constructing something like this project, and were forced to learn on the fly; the profession of civil engineering was in fact invented on this project in the United States

3.    First section of canal opened in 1818 – the state of New York built the easiest section of the canal first, to assure success so that more investors would be encouraged to invest money.  This strategy worked; by 1824 the canal bonds were being traded on the London Stock Exchange.

4.    Expansion of markets for New York City – with the opening of the entire canal system, from Albany to Buffalo, then by the Hudson River to New York City in 1826, the market area for New York City became the entire Great Lakes area; raw materials (or near raw materials) where sent to NYC where they were finished into manufactured goods; these goods were then sent back into the hinterlands, or sent to Europe in exchange for European finished goods, which would be shipped to far-flung areas in the market area.

B.    Spur for the construction of other canals – the huge success of the Erie Canal spurred the construction of a large number of other canals.

1.    Pennsylvania Main Line – to connect Philadelphia to the coalfields in the Allegheny Mountains; the engineering problems that they had to be overcome for that the canal took much longer to become profitable.

2.    Baltimore and Ohio – to connect Baltimore to the Ohio River; again the construction costs to build the canal through the Allegheny Mountains prevented the canal from becoming quickly profitable.
3.    Canals in the Midwest

a.    Ohio and Erie – connected Cleveland to the Ohio River at Portsmouth

b.    Wabash and Erie – to connect western Indiana with a Lake Erie port at the Maumee River; Indiana granted land in northwestern Ohio to accomplish this, which the state of Ohio protests.  Eventually becomes two separate canal projects—the Wabash and Erie, and the Miami and Erie canal; the Miami and Erie eventually extends from Cincinnati northward to a city formerly thought to be at the southern boundary of the then territory of Michigan.

c.    Illinois and Michigan Canal – this canal connected a backwater village near the southern shore of Lake Michigan, which had taken its name from the native word for the smell of rotting onions that grew in the swamps in its midst (Chee-caw-go), to the Illinois River, and then southward to the Mississippi River.  This city finds its greatest growth in the second transportation wave, the railroad.

C.   End of the Canal Era – by the 1840s, the greatest era of canal building had ended; none of the canals built during the era were as successful as the Erie Canal; in fact, several states that had built several canals during this time period—namely, Ohio and Illinois—teetered on the edge of bankruptcy as a result.
1.    Capitalization costs – the construction of canals were capital intensive; digging miles of canal, even by cheaply employed immigrant labor, cost a lot of money; upkeep on the canals, once dug, was an added expense.
2.    Technology superceded – the improvements made in the construction of steam engines, which made possible the railroad locomotive, made the canal obsolete.
a.    Railroads – able to move freight year round; canal could only be used during the non-winter months, since they were dependent upon water; railroad also prove to be faster, and able to transport more material in a single load.  Toledo, in fact, was the terminus of a railroad before its canal era began (the Toledo and Adrian railroad, which began operating in 1837)

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Wages of Whiteness

I.                   Race and Language  -- the usage of language is constructed in the antebellum period which promotes the idea of workers, and worthwhile work, being done only by  white workers.

A.    “Neither a servant nor a master”

1.     Master/Boss – during the pre-industrial time period—indeed, into the early years of industrialization—the term master meant a skilled craftsman who owned his own place of business, and who hired journeymen and trained apprentices in that place of business; in addition, of course, masters in the South owned slaves.  As the idea of drawing a greater distance between African slaves and white wage workers gains greater influence, whites begin to insist upon using the Dutch term for master—“boss.”

2.     Servant/Help—Hands – in the antebellum time period, white servants in households begin to insist on being called “help,” rather than servant, again to differentiate themselves from servile African slaves.  The word servant soon only applies to slave servants; all other servants are called “hired men, women, or girls” (for servants who were unmarried and/or younger women).

a.      Blackness and servility – become intertwined in the white mind; even though whites continue to be employed in servile positions—most employed Irish women at this time are employed as maids in homes, after all—whites are able to disassociate the job of servant from being servile by insisting that those kinds of positions are only held by African Americans.

B.     Wage Slavery and Free White Labor – while dissociating the work of whites from labor performed by African Americans, whites also used the degraded position of African American slaves to compare their own condition (usually unfavorably) to.

1.     White slaves – white workers, in comparing their condition to that of African American slaves, always compared their condition as being worse than slaves in the South.  In many ways, this was an attempt to make appeals across class boundaries for white solidarity, since the condition of slavery was one that no white should have to fall into.  The closeness of this comparison was too much for white men, and the preferred term became wage slaves.  The term white slaves and white slavery continues on in our language as the term for young women who are forced into prostitution—stripped of the masculinity that the term originally had.

a.      White slavery as proslavery – the dichotomy that the term white slavery hints at—the impact of the term white slavery lay in the recognition that whites should not be slaves—can only exist as long as the “normal” condition of African Americans is that of chattel slavery; only then can the alleged slavery of whites be seen as oppressive.

b.     Mike Walsh – Irish immigrant who became U.S. representative from NYC, and in many ways the leading proponent of the fight against “white slavery,” but supporter of the continuation of chattel slavery for African Americans.
c.      George Henry Evans – leading figure among pro-labor abolitionists, who had a long career in the labor movement; in the early 1830s Evans is among the most militant of abolitionists; by the 1840s, however, Evans advocates eradicating “white slavery” as a precondition of ridding the country of all slavery.

2.     Wage slaves – became the preferred term to describe the plight of whites who worked for wages.  While the comparison to the plight of African American slaves remains—and the comparison between the two ways of life still favors the material condition of chattel slaves over wage slaves—by removing the racial designation “white” this term makes the condition “wage slave” the norm only for the white working-class, because wage slavery is understood to include only free whites, even though free African Americans worked for wages in the North as well.

3.     Free white labor – the preferred state of white labor, obviously.  To define itself, however, free white labor needed an antithesis, which was unfree black labor.

a.      Herrenvolk republic – a republic for the master class.  Herrenvolk is a German word meaning master people, and came into prominence, of course, during the rule by the Nazi party in that country.  Herrenvolk democracy was a term used by South African sociologist Pierre van der Berghe to describe the government of that country until recent times.  Roediger borrows and amends the term to describe the government in the US during the antebellum period (the era preceding the Civil War)

II.                Work, Culture, and Whiteness in Industrializing America

A.    Minstrel Show – by “blacking up” workers could critique society, as well as mourn the loss of cultural norms that industrializing society forced them to give up.

1.     White appropriation of African American culture – minstrelry allowed white performers to appropriate and satirized aspects of African American culture.  It also allowed whites the opportunity to mourn the loss of their own traditional cultures.

a.      Stock characters and “vernacular” language – minstrel shows perpetuated racial stereotypes that whites held of African Americans – laziness, licentiousness, easily frightened, child-like.

b.     Performance as a critique of society – in their portrayal of African Americans, however, minstrel performers were also able to give voice to critiques of ruling class whites, as blacked-up performers “put on airs” of supposed respectability.

III. The Irish as a Case in Point

A.     Group Solidarity – in part because the widespread prejudice that the Irish faced, and in part through their affiliation with institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church, the Irish created amongst themselves a strong national identity.

1.      Historic antecedents – various Irish institutions and cultural practices helped create the environment that shaped this group identity.

a.       Whiteboys and Ribbonmen – groups of Irish peasants had grouped together to form secret societies in Ireland to resist the collection of rents and other practices thought to violate cultural norms.  These groups formed at the village level, or at times at the county level.

b.      Canal riots – groups of Irish workers fought against other groups of Irish workers (those from other villages, or from other counties) who they were afraid would compete for sometimes scarce jobs digging the canals.  This action expanded to fighting other ethnic groups (like the Germans) who also worked on these canal projects.

c.       Movement of these practices to urban centers – when the Irish moved into cities in large numbers, they brought this practice of group solidarity with them; by the use of this group solidarity, Irish workers were able to obtain positions for relatives, friends, and neighbors.

2.      Replacement of African Americans by Irish workers – because the Irish were seen during this time period as non-white, they competed for jobs with other non-whites—namely, African Americans.

a.       Irish and African Americans – only able to obtain positions that other workers—the “whites”—did not want to compete for (usually the dirtiest or hardest jobs).

b.      “White Men’s Work” – after eliminating competition from a particular kind of work, Irish workers in a particular occupation declared that the occupation was “white men’s work.”  This helped them to often limit the options for African Americans to compete for a particular position, because the Irish would appeal to a wider “white” solidarity.

B.     Irish as Citizens – Irish able to make this appeal to wider white solidarity because of their participation in politics.

1.      The Irish democracy – although the Irish were scorned by nativist groups, and by evangelical Protestant groups, they were courted by the Democratic Party.  The Democratic Party, the party of slaveholders, rejected much government interference in daily life, and so was more often anti-prohibition, and often pro-immigrant.  The concentration of Irish immigrants in Northern cities often meant that the Irish were a counterbalance for the strength of the Whig party, which was the northern section of the country.

a.       Irish support of political machines – the support supplied Irish immigrants by Democratic Party political machines, was often returned by Irish voters on Election Day.

2.      Irish identification as Americans – Although Irish proclaimed continued allegiance to Ireland, almost all immigrants chose to remain in their adopted country—and, indeed, proclaimed themselves to be Americans.

Adoption of a pre-existing condition – Irish did not invent racism, or white identity; they merely learned to manipulate that pre-existing condition in their favor.  The ethnic immigrant groups quickly learned to follow the Irish example

Sunday, September 15, 2013

American Slavery, American Freedom

Slavery and Freedom—why did slavery and freedom grow together in British North America?

The  Triangular Trade--involved trade among people on four continents: Europe, Africa, and North and South America (trade with the so-called "New World"--North and South American--is usually counted as one entity, making the trade three cornered). Europeans benefited most directly by the triangular trade, since their ships did nearly all of the transporting. The profits from this slave trade led to the growth of the banking industry, and provided the financing for the Industrial Revolution. Africa provided most of the slaves for the Slave Trade—and this trade controlled by Africans. African peoples along coast traded slaves for European trade goods. Initially this meant cloth that Africans did not manufacture themselves (particularly woolen goods) which were valuable because of their novelty. Later, Africans acquired Firearms and Rum, like the Native Americans;  the acquisition of firearms and rum changed the complexion of this trade, allowing those people who acquired firearms to control and subjugate neighboring peoples—and to control the slave trade. Europeans also sought gold from their African trading partners; largely from the so-called “Gold Coast,” located along the coastline of present-day Ghana. Slave acquired from a variety of sources in Africa were then transported across the Atlantic Ocean and sold to the highest bidder, who used the labor of these slaves to grow crops that were desirable in the trade--gold, sugar cane, tobacco, rice, and eventually cotton. Eventually, the labor of slaves was used to create many manufactured goods, as well, which many non-slave workers found threatening.

   Slavery and the Middle Passage—as slavery became more lucrative, slave ships transported greater numbers of slaves per voyage—meaning that slaves were packed tighter together. Typically, about 10% of the Africans died on any given voyage. While not statistically more significant than those Europeans who died on their own journey to the Americas, it is qualitatively different because no Africans emigrated willingly, while many Europeans—even those who became indentured servants—did.Statistically, many more Africans were shipped to the Sugar Islands and Brazil over British North America. On the eve of the American Revolution in 1770, about 20% of the 2.3 million people in British North America (about 460,000) were African or African descendents.

Slavery in North America—in British North America, slavery developed into three distinct systems: the Chesapeake Slavery system, the Carolina Slaver system, and northern slavery. The Chesapeake Slavery was the oldest form in North America, having been established in 1619 with the landing of the first slaves by Dutch slave traders. In the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion—after 1680, labor in the Chesapeake region shifted from mixed indentured servitude and slavery to the near exclusive use of slave labor, used both on tobacco farms and later to grow wheat (to feed the slave populations on the sugar islands, ironically.  Slaves worked as workers in a variety of occupations as workers, including  cultivation of crops (tobacco, wheat), as house servants, and as skilled and semi-skilled workers, which made the slave South less attractive to European immigrants, particularly during the 19th century. Slavery moved westward with the country, and as the population moved west, so did slavery (Thomas Jefferson). Because slave owners produced greater wealth for themselves, they were able to buy the best land in these western areas, which in turn allowed them to continue to create more wealth, and created a social and political elite in the region that allowed the interests of slave holders to predominate. The racial foundations of slavery—the perception of race (remember, race is a social construct) developed later.

In the Carolinas initially, Indian Slavery—the earliest slaves in Carolina were Indians, largely supplied by the Creek people—until they realized that they themselves could become slaves, and which time the withdrew from trade relations with English colonists in favor of trading with the Spanish in Florida, who no longer took many Indian peoples as slaves. As Native American sources for slaves dried up, and England took control of the transport of slaves from Africa, African slaves became more prevalent in the Carolinas. Like many growers in Virginia, the road to riches in the Carolinas was through providing foodstuffs for the slave workforce of the Sugar Islands (since every available arable acre there was given over to the cultivation of sugar cane. This led to the development of Task organization of labor. Task organization of labor—slaves in Virginia were closely supervised, and had to occupy all of their time with assigned jobs. In part, this was driven by the fact that tobacco cultivation gained little because of efficiencies of scale (workers could not be forced to work faster, because each tobacco plant needed individual care). Rice plantations, on the other hand, gained greatly because of economies of scale, because of the series of dikes that had to be constructed to alternatively flood and drain the fields—but organizing slaves using the task system, slave drivers allowed slaves greater freedom, in that they were allowed to work for themselves when their assigned tasks were completed. Slave populations grewafter African slaves were introduced to the Carolinas (particularly South Carolina—North Carolina became a separate colony by the 1730s), they quickly made up the majority of the population. In part, this was a consequence of the large numbers of slaves used in the cultivation of rice; but Carolina planters also actively discouraged the settlement of poorer whites in the colony, except on the poorest land (the Appalachian Mountains). Georgia largely followed the Carolina model after the 1740s, when the resistance of the colony’s proprietors (in particular, James Oglethorpe) was finally overcome

                                   Northern slavery—Overlooked in history largely, slavery also existed in the colonies of the Middle Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—all three states retained slavery well into the 19th century, as well) and New England. In Connecticut and Rhode Island—tobacco farms and dairy farms in certain parts of these two states led to them developing relatively large slave populations. In the Middle Atlantic colonies—New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all has a significant number of slaves working on wheat farms, again largely for export of foodstuffs for the slaves working on sugar plantations in the Caribbean. Particularly in New York City and Philadelphia, however, slaves were also employed as urban workers: stevedores (loading and unloading ships), as skilled and semi-skilled workers in artisan shops—and as personal servants. Slaves in the north were a sort of status symbol—by the early 18th century, about 75% of the urban elite owned slaves employed as personal servants

Slave Cultures and Slave Resistance--Africans did not arrive in the New World with a modern identity as African or especially as African Americans; they instead became these new entities we call African Americans. They did not arrive in America as a single African people, but as many African peoples. They were bonded together because of their state of bondage, not because of any “racial identity. African American culture developed over a course of years, as new languages developed (ex. Gullah, and other dialects that combined African and European languages—“creole”). African culture also developed differently—and at a different pace—depending upon the density of African American population. In the  Carolinas and Georgia, many Africans retained and developed African and Africa-based cultural practices, which were particularly strong in those areas where African descendents made up a majority of the population. In the Chesapeake region, African American culture was different, because African American population remained in close contact—and under close supervision—of whites. In the Middle Atlantic and New England—because African Americans were largely dispersed in both of these regions, it was much more difficult to retain and develop new African cultural practices in these two regions.

  Slave Resistance--slaved also resisted their condition in a variety of ways: in everyday resistance methods like  “Going slow,” “acting dumb;” acts of sabotage, and in running away. There were also organized rebellions like the Stono Rebellion 1739-1740 and the NYC burning(?) 1741.

Conclusion—As we saw in the reading of the complaint of the indentured servant last week, many whites come to see their position as undesirable, and compare it unfavorably  with the position that slaves held—but this was not done as an effort to raise the conditions of slaves, but instead becomes a plea for white solidarity.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Organizing Work in Early North America

To understand how work changed in the early history of the United States, it is necessary to have an understanding of how work was organized before there was a United States. We will examine how various Native American groups organized work, and then contrast that with how Europeans organized work during the same period. This will allow us to contrast the two, and give us some insights into the conflicts and misunderstanding the two societies had with each other.

Work in Native American Societies.

If you depend upon European accounts of how Native Americans worked at subsistence, you get the impression that natives lived off the largess of the land, and did little work--particularly males. Not surprisingly, this was really not the case. Natives did much to shape their environment, and at times before first contact with Europeans, had developed quite sophisticated civilizations just as hierarchial as European societies; most famously this was the case with the Aztecs, but there were societies in North American that approached that level of sophistication, as well. Certainly the Moundbuilders of southern Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern Alabama can be considered relatively sophisticated societies, and the artifacts those societies left behind (the mounds) are testament to both a hierachial society (that is to say, someone directed the work of building the mounds, and many people worked under that direction) as well the ability to produce a surplus of food to feed the workforce.

Cahokia Mounds, located just east of present-day St. Louis, is perhaps the apex of Native American civilization in North America. Cahokia was probably the largest city in North America until perhaps 1770, with a population conservatively estimated in excess of 14,000 people. This meant that there was, of course, a substantial popultion of workers building this huge complex of mounds to feed, build housing for, and keep warm. The downfall of Cahokia was probably due to the fact that all of this activity denuded the area of trees (for building activity and fuel to cook food), leaving the area susceptible to extreme flooding, which caused workers to lose confidence in the leaders of the society and to abandon the project. By the time of European contact, these complex societies in the middle of the continent has been largely abandoned. Maize cultivation continued, but native peoples (except those living in harsher climates like the American Southwest) largely returned to living in smaller, clan-based societies.

In these smaller, clan-based societies, much of the work of cultivation of food was done by the female members of the clan. The men usually assisted in preparing the fields (if preparation was deemed necessary), but most of the work was done by females. Men hunted game, and spent much of the rest of their time either hunting, at war with other native groups, or playing war-like games (lacrosse is the descendent of one of these games) with other native groups. While this seems patently unfair, this gave women tremendous influece over the affairs of the clan or group--because they provided most of the nutrition and sustenance for the group. In fact, most native peoples organized themselves along matrilineal lines (that is, they traced their descendence from their mother's family), and women often had a great deal of influence over the affairs of their clan. Cultivation of food in the "Indian style" was also less onerous, because of the way they cultivated food. Corn, beans, and squash--the "Three Sisters"--were all grown together in one mound. The corn stalk provided support for the beans, while the squash grew along the ground and inhibited the growth of weeds. Childcare was a shared responsibility among the women, as well.

Work in European Socities
We are quite familiar with the way work was organized in European Societies, because that has, of course, become the way that work is organized in most modern societies. During the early years of contact with Native American societies, however, work was organized in Europe very differently than work in an industrialized society. Before 1600, most workers were engaged in agricultural work. With the emergence of industry this means of organizing work changed drastically. The term "industrial revolution" is often used to describe these changes, but that term is something of a misnomer. These changes were gradual, taking years to take hold. This means that the changes so affected were not necessarily destined to happen, or irreversible. One of the earliest responses to these changes in England was the passage of the Statute of Artificers (1562). This law attempted to limit the maximum pay workers could obtain, and also limit the opportunities for advancement for these workers. The law also decreed that sons had to follow in the trade of their fathers.

This development was in part a response to the disruption the enclosure of the commons caused British society. The commons was essential to subsistence farming in Great Britain, because it allowed those without adequate land of their own to keep livestock--a goat, sheep, or perhaps even a cow. When country gentry began to enclose these areas, claiming "ownership," this began forcing poor farmers off the land and into cities, where they could only subsist by casual day labor, obtaining a trade, or shipping out to sea on either a merchant ship or man'o'war--particularly attractive with the Spanish discovery of gold in the New World and the willlingness of Queen Elizabeth to grant writs of marque for privateers. The wealth Spain was obtaining from the New World, and their alleged mistreatment of the natives, led other countries--including Great Britain--to claim rights to obtain land in North America.


The Virginia Company were a group of investors, expecting a return on their investment, on the model of the West Indies Company that had financed the sugar plantations in the British Caribbean.

 Captain John Smith was a much more complex character than Disney would lead you to believe; short, swarthy, and hairy (by contemporary accounts); Smith proposed to overcome the natives militarily and then enslave them, using the Spanish model. The Jamestown settlement was reliant upon Smith’s ability to cajole and threaten to get corn from the natives; the natives soon realize this and threaten to abandon the area and allow whites to stave to death.

 “The Starving Time” (1607) – then inability of the Jamestown settlement to grow enough food for themselves, combined with the diseases they contracted which incapacitated a number of them, meant that for the first several years the people of the settlement were reliant upon food arriving for them from England.  When shipments were delayed or did not arrive, a number of settlers quietly starved to death. Smith’s leadership  ameliorated this condition somewhat, since he decreed and enforced that all settlers were to put in 4-6 hours a day in the fields (or they would not eat). The Virginia Company had no idea what it would take to set up a productive colony in North America; they sent workers like goldsmith and jewelers, whose crafts provided a newly established settlement with no useful skills, and would not for a number of years; the people sent to Jamestown were also top-heavy with gentlemen, who did no manual labor by station, and not enough husbandmen and farmers.

The settlers at Jamestown were  completely dependent upon natives supplying them with food – but the relations with the natives were strained; battles with natives broke out in which military operations were carried out which would burn villages and destroy caches of the corn crop—which the English themselves were dependent upon. The condition of the settlers compelled some to commit acts of cannibalism; in a recorded instance, a man killed his wife, chopped her up and ate her, in an area of abundant game, fish, fruits, nuts, and berries.  There were also instances of the dead being dug up so that the living could eat them.

Part of the reason for this was the social composition of Jamestown settlers:

1)   Gentlemen – 36 of 105 settlers, which meant that nearly 1/3 of settlers, expected that they would perform no manual labor because it was beneath their station in life.

2)   Craftsmen – made up the largest portion of the population, but none expected to work outside of their area of training, or outside of their craft (due to restrictions that they had always practiced that craft under—namely, the Statute of Artificers.  Too often, their particular craft was not needed, so they sat around pursuing leisure activities (gambling, etc.) while they and their fellows starved to death.

3)   Husbandmen and farmers – made up the smallest portion of the settlers, but they were expected to produce enough food for the entire settlement.

This organization of society seems senseless to us today—after all, if one were starving, why would you just accept that fate and not try to find food for yourself?  But many English were use to an inadequate diet and hunger while they were in England, and they had no expectation that life would be substantially different for them on a new continent.

 The Tobacco Boom (1611-1630, approximately) – the best grade of tobacco came to Europe from Turkey; Virginia tobacco was considered a grade or two below that, but tobacco was destined to provide the colony with a way to attract new investment.  At first, tobacco was seen as undesirable, an unclean habit; it increasingly gained favor, however, with a resultant rise in the value of tobacco. The addictive nature of tobacco, and the newly abundant supply, created a  price boom – by 1619, the price a tobacco farmer could get for tobacco was approximately three shillings a pound (or approximately $1,500/hogshead barrel, which equaled about 300lbs.).  This price only prevailed for about ten years, however; as the market was flooded with Chesapeake tobacco, the price declined, until in 1630 the price for a pound of tobacco had declined to about a penny a pound (or $5.00/hogshead). The immediate effect, however, was to create a labor shortage – to take advantage of this tobacco boom, tobacco growers needed to get labor to the colony to produce the crop to sell to merchants in England.

Tobacco is a labor-intensive crop;  the growing, harvesting, and processing of tobacco required a great deal of labor.  On top of this, it takes a year and a half for the tobacco plant to mature, and the plant needs a lot of attention to flourish. One person could attend to approximately 2,000 tobacco plants, which in turn would yield about 500lbs of tobacco; therefore, the more labor one could employ (but not necessarily in the definition of pay), the greater one’s chances of making a substantial amount of money there were. This coincided with a labor “surplus” in England, which during this time was undergoing a period of consolidation of land holdings on the part of the landed gentry (the enclosure of the commons), and the early beginnings of the Industrial Revolution (where peasants who where being pushed out of farming were in the process of becoming wage workers in factories in urban areas).

Labor “recruitment” came from prisons and workhouses, as well as those recruits of “spirits” and “crimps” who simply kidnapped persons of the lower classes, and put them on ships to the Americas to be employed as indentured servants (a practice which was known among this population as being “barbadosed,” because Barbados was the destination of the greatest share of such people, to work on the sugar plantations). Workers often required "seasoning” – ships with new indentured servants usually arrived in Virginia at the beginning of summer. The combination of a long, arduous journey, general malnutrition, and a variety of diseases then prevalent during the summer in the Chesapeake area (like malaria, typhus, and diphtheria), combined with the pace of work killed off a horrific number of workers.

Massacre of 1622

A surprise attack by natives upon Jamestown resulted in the killing of 347 men, women, and children; this resulted in a retaliatory strike by the remaining Jamestown settlers, and a determination to wipe out natives in the area once and for all; however, its also prompted an investigation by Parliament which uncovered the fact that despite the immigration of 3,570 people in the three years proceeding the native attack, only 1,240 English subjects were alive at the time of the attack.  The population of Jamestown before this period of intensive immigration was 700—which meant that 3,030 people had died in the preceding three year time period.  On top of this, the Virginia Company was nearly bankrupt; in 1624 the crown took over responsibility for the settlements in Virginia.  The population losses decrease after this, but remained relatively high throughout the 1620s and 1630s.

Population increase from about 1640, due in part to the drop in demand for tobacco (the market was glutted at this time period); other crops with less intensive labor requirementswere grown which were then sold to plantations in the Caribbean. The propagation of apple trees – used largely to make cider, which meant that less contaminated water was consumed, which decreased the prevalence of diseases like dysentery and typhus); new workers began arriving in the fall, rather than new workers arriving in the beginning of summer, they arrived at the beginning of fall, which gave them a longer time to acclimate themselves.

New Problems

This led to an increased demand for land, as more servants survived their period of indenture, there was a corresponding increase in the demand for more land. Indentured servants, by contract, were given head rights – the term used to explain the right to land that one claimed when it could be proven that one making such a claim had paid for the passage of another to the colony (this helped provide a larger number of planters to employ indentured servants, who themselves were usually promised a substantial amount of land and the tools to work it in return for their labor); because unimproved land was more valuable than improved land (tobacco could only be grown for a three or four year period before exhausting the land), those who could afford to employ indentured servants benefit. This led to increased costs of labor, as more indentured servants survived their period of service and made greater demands for land.  When indentured servants did not survive the seven years of their service, it was more economically viable for large planters to employ indentured servants; as these indentured servants began to live longer, however, the employment of slaves became more attractive. The higher initial cost of slavery – the employment of slaves had a higher start-up cost, because slaves were more expensive than indentured servants--meant that until one could amortize this cost over the productive life of the slave, the cost ended up being less than that for indentured servants.