Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War

By Harold S. Wilson | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION:
SOUTHERN MANUFACTURING CIRCA 1860

The statistical war between the sections began before the first shots sounded at Fort Sumter. James D. B. DeBow, superintendent of the national census in 1850, devoted most of three volumes on industrial resources to a benevolent analysis of cotton and slavery in the South. His successor, Joseph C. G. Kennedy, superintendent of the 1860 census, was the alleged author of a polemic against the "King Cotton" theorists that favorably compared the economy of New York to that of the Gulf states (Colwell; Elliott). Drawing freely upon the decennial reports and other sources, abolitionist Hinton Rowan Helper in The Impending Crisis and Southern apologist Thomas P. Kettell in Southern Wealth and Northern Profits applied statistics to larger theoretical constructs about the impacts of slavery upon economic development. Gilbert J. Beebe and Samuel M. Wolfe promptly wrote refutations of Helper, while Henry Chase and Charles W. Sanborn, in The North and the South, defended him. These publications in turn fueled debates in Congress and in the press. Although marked by inevitable disagreements, misstatements, and inaccuracies, the controversy disclosed much about the quantity of war-related industries in the South.

Such a revealing exchange took place in March 1860 between Senator Daniel Clark of New Hampshire and Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. Clark's offending remark was that "Tennessee had both coal and copper, but she lacked the energy to develop her resources…and he had himself seen copper taken from the mines there and sent to New York to be smelted by the 'mud sills' of society, because there were not energy and enterprise enough in Tennessee to do it" (Johnson 3: 491). The east Tennessee commoner was instantly on his feet. The Ducktown

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