II
PLANTATIONS AND PLANTERS

THE LATE ANTE-BELLUM PERIOD in the old South is often pictured as the hey-day of Southern aristocracy. To many people, the gentleman planter stands as the symbol of the old South and its way of life. This view needs considerable modification. It is true that a great part of the area's wealth and power was controlled by the aristocrats, but it should be remembered that they were few in number and constituted but a very small part of the total white population. The majority of the white people in Alabama, as in the other cotton states, belonged to the yeomanry, whose importance has been underestimated. They owned small estates; some owned no estates at all. They had few slaves; many had none. Travelers who came south expecting to gaze with awe upon the splendor of vast cotton plantations were often astonished to find, even on these plantations, log cabins containing two to four rooms with an open passageway between. The frontier period was still too near for over-refined living. Harriet Martineau, an English writer, came through Creek County in April, 1835, to visit friends who had migrated from South Carolina to a plantation seven miles from Montgomery. She described their home as "a loghouse, with the usual passage in the middle." "In my well-furnished chamber," she remarked, "I could see the stars through the chinks between the logs."1

This is not to say that all wealthy planters lived in unpretentious or lowly cabins. Some of their homes, especially during the late 'forties and 'fifties, were palatial structures as compared with the homes of the yeomanry, but few of them attained the glory popular

____________________
1
H. Martineau, Society in America, I, 295-309.

-19-

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