The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers, 1776-1816

By Arthur Alphonse Ekirch Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE QUALIFIED AFFIRMATION OF THE SOUTH

WHILE Southerners joined in the formulation of the American conception of the idea of progress, their point of view was in general characterized by a defence of the institution of Negro slavery. In the words of an early writer on the subject: "Slavery has ever been the step-ladder by which civilized countries have passed from barbarism to civilization."1 Wedded to the institution of slavery and to the production of ever greater quantities of cotton, the South was primarily an agricultural society. Although an occasional Southerner argued the merits of manufacturing or of diversified agriculture, the section on the whole remained only slightly affected by the industrialization taking place in the North. As the gap in the years leading to the Civil War narrowed, the divergence between the economies of the North and of the South widened. The ante-bellum Southern contention that slavery was an agency in the progress of civilization became more and more unacceptable to the North. Pursuing two different ways of life, and adhering to two unlike social and economic systems, the ideals and the concepts of progress entertained in the South and in the North also differed. However, because they found the idea of progress useful to their purposes, both Southern planters and Northern abolitionists adopted it in their arguments over the "peculiar institution."

Deferring for the moment a treatment of the Southern adaptation of the idea of progress to the devices of its own pro- slavery arguments, the use of the idea by the proponents of Southern industrial expansion may be noted. In the South programs for state aid to railroads and for government protection of slavery were advocated along with appeals to American free institutions and to the traditional view that "Free Trade

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1
Edward Brown, "Notes on the Origin and Necessity of Slavery" ( Charleston, 1826), p. 6.

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