From Slave South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia

By Peter Wallenstein | Go to book overview

8
DEPRIVING A WHOLE RACE

EVEN BEFORE the growth of state power and the development of new institutions, American voters relied on public authority to shape their social system. Much of antebellum intervention in social relations simply perpetuated traditional patterns of regulating the status of various groups of residents. The criteria for intervention in these traditional ways were not physical handicaps or social behavior but sex and, above all, race.

Speaking for the Georgia Supreme Court in 1857, Justice Henry L. Benning cataloged types of laws that Georgia's legislature could enact -- had, in fact, already enacted -- limiting the rights of white women, blacks, and convicted criminals. The state enjoyed virtually unlimited power, Benning declared, to enact a law "for the creation, or the destruction, of any right" so long as the legislators deemed such laws to be for "the good of the State." On Georgia's statute books were laws "depriving married women of liberty and of the right of property" and "depriving all women of political rights"; laws "depriving men of property, of liberty, of life, for crime"; and laws "depriving a whole race, of every right, except the right to life." Georgians subjected to these laws derived no benefits aside from "good done to the public."1 Before the Civil War and Reconstruction, neither state nor federal constitution limited Georgia's authority to enact and enforce all such laws.


Paternalism = Protection + Coercion

In defining the highly variable rights and responsibilities of nineteenth-century Americans, public authorities formulated strikingly different social policies for various groups. Paternalism, rather than liberty, provides the key to understanding the social experience of most antebellum Georgians. Liberty in the competitive, anomic world of late antebellum Georgia, as elsewhere in America, was generally reserved for white men. Only they, the perception went (and the justification), could absorb the stresses of life in a world of social insecurity -- the burdens of responsibility for success or failure in a disorderly society, absence of unemployment insurance in a market economy, vanishing fixity of status and place.

Paternalistic policies governed white women and children, slaves, and Indians. Paternalism connotes coercion as well as protection, power as well as

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From Slave South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps, Figures, and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Society And Politics 7
  • 2 - State Power And Tax-Free Finance 23
  • 3 - The Accommodation Of The Public 32
  • 4 - Tax Upon The Time And Labor Of Our Citizens 40
  • 5 - Creating A New Revenue System 49
  • 6 - What Disposition Shall Be Made Of The Money? 61
  • 7 - Great Objects Of The State's Charity 74
  • 8 - Depriving A Whole Race 86
  • 9 - Rich Man's War 99
  • 10 - Rich Man's Fight 110
  • 11 - Confederate Context 121
  • 12 - Power And Policy 131
  • 13 - Freed Men And Citizens 140
  • 14 - All The Children Of The State 152
  • 15 - Higher Education For A New South 160
  • 16 - Railroads, Debt, And Reconstruction 170
  • 17 - A Tax Base Without Slaves 183
  • 18 - Conscripts, Convicts, And Good Roads 196
  • Epilogue: From Eighteenth Century To Twentieth 208
  • Essay On Primary Sources 215
  • Notes 219
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index 273
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