From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South: Central Georgia, 1800-1880

By Joseph P. Reidy | Go to book overview

4
Impending Crisis: The 1850s

THE YEAR 1848 marked a crucial turning point in the history of the South. Regionally and nationally, 1848 represented the start of a period of economic growth that transformed the American economy. But also during that year, the treaty of peace with Mexico incorporated into the national domain a vast new territory with ominous portent for the future of slavery. Internationally, the wave of revolutions sweeping Europe polarized the forces of aristocratic privilege and popular government throughout the North Atlantic world. Among other things, it resulted in the emancipation of serfs in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and of slaves in the French and Danish West Indies.

The reverberations from these events challenged the traditional values of plantation society. Although southern partisans had long criticized the frenetic pace of change in the North, before 1848 they could do so at arm's length. In those idyllic days, southern staple producers were in the world market but not of it, realizing returns on their crops through international trade but curbing the spread of bourgeois values into the South. But after 1848, the dawn of what Eric Hobsbawm has aptly termed the "Age of Capital," the South felt the pressures of capitalist development as never before.1

These changes inevitably took political expression as southerners wrestled to master "circumstances that can neither be foreseen [n]or avoided."2 From the dawn of the second party system a generation earlier, national political developments and personalities had cast a shadow across Georgia politics. Yet the primary reference point of most voters remained local. Their immediate concerns embraced neighbors and relatives, and county government provided the

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From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South: Central Georgia, 1800-1880
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Maps xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The World of the Yeoman Settlers, 1800-1835 14
  • 2 - The World of the Planters, 1820s-1850s 31
  • 3 - The World of the Slaves, 1820s-1850s 58
  • 4 - Impending Crisis: The 1850s 82
  • 5 - The Civil War and the Demise of Slavery, 1861-1865 108
  • 6 - The Origins of Compensated Labor, 1865-1868 136
  • 7 - Creating a New Body Politic, 1865-1867 161
  • 8 - The Rise and Decline of Radical Republicanism, 1867-1872 186
  • 9 - Capitalist Transformation, 1872-1880 215
  • Conclusion - From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in Larger Perspective 242
  • Appendix 249
  • Notes 253
  • Bibliography 315
  • Index 347
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