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King Cotton Notes

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1)        The White South
Boyer, 341-357.


  1. How did King Cotton tie into southern expansion and shape a regional culture distinct from the North? How did cotton and slavery impact the economy and culture of the South?
  2. What was the distribution (geographic and socioeconomic) of slave ownership in the South?
  3. What were the main groups within Southern society? How did this compare to Northern society at the time?
  4. What were the arguments for and against slavery? Why did almost all white men – including many who did not own slaves and competed against slave labor – support the slave system?
  5. What were they key cultural values of southern society?

IDs:        Upper South, Deep (Lower South), the Cotton Kingdom, ‘peculiar institution,’ yeoman, pine barrens people, The Impending Crisis of the South, George Fitzhugh and the ‘lords of the loom’ v. the ‘lords of the lash,’ the ‘code of honor.’


The Old South

  • The South emerged as a distinctive region distinguished by its peculiar institution of slavery
  • Upper South (VA, NC, TN, and ARK) practiced more diversified agriculture of wheat, tobacco, hemp, vegetables, and livestock, did not necessarily rely on slavery
  • Lower/Deep South (SC, GA, FL, AL, MI, LA, TX) pursued the two great cash crops of cotton and sugar, depended on slave labor
  • Together they formed the Old South  region

King Cotton

  • Large change from 1790 to 1850 for farmers
  • Tobacco was dying out but cotton becomes hugely profitable
  • Cotton Kingdom”
  • Large scale cotton production happened in the lower southern states where it was ideal climate
  • Depended on heavy slave labor
  • Corn became another large produce, was able to help feed hogs and people
  • Helped money remain in the South
  • Cotton  profitable, corn self-sufficient
  • Ties between Upper and Lower South
  • Many settlers in Lower South had originally lived in the Upper South and maintained family and other social ties to that area
  • All white southerners benefited politically from the three0fifths clause
  • All white southerners were stung by abolitionists criticisms of slavery
  • Internal Slave Breeding taken up by Virginians to supply labor huge market

North and South Divide

  • Dynamic growth of south widened the gap
  • South was rural (farming), North was urban (industrial)
  • Some exceptions Tredegar Iron Works established by William Gregg
  • A company town in SC nation’s 4th largest producer of iron products
  • Slavery was a problem for Southern industrialization
  • Whites didn’t want to waste money on dat shit they need niggas
  • Education is North was big (30% illiterate), South very small (60% illiterate)

Social Groups in the South

  • Planters  owners of 20 slavers or more
  • Small slave-owners  owners of fewer than twenty slaves
  • Yeomen  family farmers
  • Pine Barren Folk  Squatter faggots

Plantation Agriculture

  • Whether devoted to cotton, tobacco, rice or sugar was characterized by a high degree of division of labor
  • Most southern whites spent money on slave rather than luxuries
  • Wives and Husbands
  • Got awkward sometimes, White men would have babies with slaves (mulatto children)

Small Slave-owners

  • Majority of slave holders, had usually about ten slaves, worked side-by-side with them niggas
  • Delta Region  slave owner dominated areas in south

Yeomen (Self-Sufficiency)

  • Non-slaveholding family farmers
  • Largest single group southern white, small landholdings (50-200 acres)
  • Tended to congregate in upland regions
  • Mixed reputation within the Old South
  • “Poor White trash” in low country & delta
  • “Dominate group” in upland areas
  • Economic exchanges within immediate neighborhoods

Pine Barren People

  • Most controversial group in the Old South
  • Independent whites
  • Squatted on lands, built crude cabins
  • 1% of South population
  • Planted on partially clear land
  • Grazed cattle & hogs in piney woods
  • Lazy & shiftless  no cash crops, no routine work
  • Anti-Slavery northerners  “slavery degraded poor whites”, pine barrens people as living proof7uy
  • Pro slavery  “they could at least feed themselves” “unlike starving paupers of the north”
  • Refused to hire themselves out as “slave labor”
  • Lived in pine barrens by choice

Planters vs. Yeomen: Divided Party Lines

  • Planter => Whig Party
  • Economic dealings
  • Reliance on banking, need for credits
  • Yeomen  Democrats
  • Economic independence
  • 4 groups:
  • Yeomen  upland for from deltas
  • Planters deltas & down south
  • Small slave owners other areas down South
  • Pine Barrens  own world
  • Independence from each other
  • No exclusive control over politics
  • Yeomen voted for planters
  • But: not giving absolute control, opposed Whigs favored banks
  • Universal white manhood suffrage

The Impending Crisis of the South:



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