After 1783, France and Britain withdrew from all but sporadic interventions into the politics of the Southland, and Spain barely summoned the energy to cling to its possessions along the Gulf of Mexico. In the space thus created, the government of the United States controlled by the owners of great plantations and of many slaves became free to eliminate Indian competition. Thereafter it was able to decide how an empire of cheap land acquired from them might be allocated. In this open scene, the planters could make decisions without inhibition, arranging the society they wanted and the disposition of land that would best serve their interests. It is difficult to think of another group of people in human history who have enjoyed so luxurious an occasion to turn theoretical preferences into desired outcomes.
The most articulate among the Founders in setting forth how they should best make use of this immense opportunity was Thomas Jefferson. He was also the most powerful man among them as they swept aside the subsistence economy of the American Indians of the South, sustained the trans-Atlantic shipment of labor from Africa, and filled the Southland with African slaves while its independent farmers were thrust to the sidelines. These were not the outcomes advocated by Jefferson in his writings of the 1770s and the early 1780s. He had urged a contrary model for civil society and another use of the land in the famous words: 1
Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.… Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistence, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependence begets subservience and suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. 2