Rural Land Tenure in the United States: A Socio-Economic Approach to Problems, Programs, and Trends

By Alvin L. Bertrand; Floyd L. Corty et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Public Policies and Programs
Relating to Land Tenure:
Labor Policies and Programs

FEW PUBLIC POLICIES have explicitly related to farm labor, either as a production input or in the sense of its tenure categories. The one important exception is the institution of slavery. However, various other governmental policies, while not concerned with farm labor as such, have exerted important influences on farm labor, both as a production input and as a tenure consideration. The labor policies of the United States which have related in some determinable way to land tenure are reviewed in this chapter.


Slavery as an Institution

With the concern here being the farm-tenure implication of slavery, interest will be concentrated in both the direct and the indirect influences of slavery on tenure. Slavery and the sharecropping system it engendered as its successor were, of course, tenure institutions themselves, and they had various direct tenure consequences. But slavery and its concomitant institutions also had important indirect influences on farm-tenure phenomena. This was through their effect on the whole socio-economic fabric of Southern life, which is the context of tenure arrangements and practices in that region. These general influences of slavery on Southern life will be considered first.

Slavery was a " way of life " for the South and for both its races. On the economic side, it was a labor system; it reinforced and was reinforced by the pattern of labor-intensive, one-crop plantation agriculture; it was the foundation of the Southern aristocracy; and it discouraged the development of a diversified economy. On the social side, it was conducive to a high degree of stratification: There were slaves, the poor whites, and the planters, but scarcely any numerous and influential middle class. Where the plantation economy and its

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