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

By Peter Wallenstein | Go to book overview

9
RICH MAN'S WAR

CIVIL WAR came to America soon after Georgia and ten other states left the Union and formed the Confederacy. In November 1863, the war was in its third year as Governor Joseph E. Brown addressed the general assembly in Milledgeville. "I have heard it remarked," Brown observed, "that this is the rich man's quarrel and the poor man's fight, and that the abolition of slavery would not injure the poor, who are not slaveholders."1

One "poor man" from North Georgia spoke for thousands when he wrote Governor Brown in the spring of 1864. Not quite fifty years old and thus subject, under the recently extended military ages, to be called into action, Harlan Fuller wrote, "I am liable at any time to be taken away from my little crops leaving my family almost without provisions & no hope of making any crop atal. I have sent six sons to the war & now the 7th enrolled he being the last I have no help left atal." Though Fuller described his poor health, he concluded, "I dont mind the battle field but how can any man be there & hear both at the same time." In an attempt to demonstrate that he was no shirker in the cause, he showed how his dilemma applied to state and Confederate taxes as well as to the draft. "I have paid all Tythe & Tax held against me with the acception of 25 lb of bacon which is out of my power to pay til I can make another crop for I have not got that amount in the world."2

Yeoman discontent in Georgia and throughout the Confederacy led to cries of "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Like Harlan Fuller, a majority of white families owned no slaves and thus had no direct economic interest in protecting slave property. In a "rich man's war" fought to safeguard slavery through political independence, planters had the most to gain from victory, yet nonslaveholders often felt that they carried the burden of battle. The cry of "poor man's fight" resulted primarily from a provision in Confederate draft legislation that exempted one white male for each twenty slaves on a plantation. The law's objective had been to keep slaves under control so as to prevent slave uprisings and to maintain production, but many people perceived the draft exemption as an escape hatch for the wealthy, who also had the option of hiring substitutes to fight in their stead.3

Of the war's characterization as "the rich man's quarrel," Governor Brown declared: "A greater error has never been conceived." Brown explained why, in his view, all white Georgians shared a compelling interest in a Confederate victory. He stressed the loss in station that all whites, especially the nonslave

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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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