Booknotes: The Slaveholding Crisis
16 hours ago
By appointing a New York Bucktail [Van Buren], a Pennsylvania New Schooler [Ingham; New Schoolers were pro-internal improvement democrats who had originally supported John C. Calhoun for president in 1824 but had converted to the Jackson cause early in 1824], two southerners [Branch and Berrien], and two westerners [Eaton and Barry], he recognized the factions and sections that had given him strongest support while denying predominance to any. Although Van Buren got the top spot, Jackson managed, by appointing obscure men of Radical antecedents from North Carolina and Georgia, to exclude not only the Little Magician’s South Carolina foes [allies of Calhoun] but also his potent radical allies in Virginia [the Richmond Junto, headed by editor Thomas Ritchie]. Never before had the Old Dominion been banished from the highest executive levels.
The westerner Eaton was positioned in the War Department and the Georgian Berrien as Attorney General to execute a final solution of the Indian problem. Branch had denounced banks, and Barry had been chief justice of Kentucky’s antibank New Court. The most ingenious selection was Ingham, a paper manufacturer loyal to Pennsylvania protectionism but also a veteran Calhounite. Having resolved his conflicting loyalties by abstaining on the Tariff of Abominations, he was placed at the Treasury to compromise the most dangerous impending issue.
A satire on dissension and political intrigue within Andrew Jackson's administration, surrounding the Spring 1831 resignations of several members of his Cabinet. In the center Jackson sits in a collapsing chair, labeled "The Hickory Chair is coming to pieces at last." Seated on the arm of his chair is a rat with the head of Postmaster General William T. Barry. On the floor before him is a pile of resignations with a broken clay pipe, and a brazier. He sweeps with a broom at a number of rats scurrying at his feet, and in the act knocks over the "Altar of Reform" toppling a winged ass also holding a broom. The rats have heads of (from left to right) Secretary of State Martin Van Buren, Secretary of War John H.Eaton, "D. I. O."(?), Navy Secretary John Branch, and Treasury Secretary Samuel D. Ingham. John Calhoun is a terrier which menaces the Van Buren rat. Van Buren, threatened by an eagle while attempting to climb the "Ladder of Political Preferment" whose rungs are labeled with the names of the states, says, "If I could only humbug that Eagle and climb up this ladder." Calhoun: "You don't get up if I can help it." Eaton: "I'm off to the Indians." Branch: "This from the greatest and best of men." Ingham: "Is this the reward of my Patriotic disinterestedness." In a doorway marked "Skool of Reform" appears a man in a visored cap and fur-trimmed coat saying, "There's Clay, and this is all Clays doings." Daniel Webster and Henry Clay (with raised arms) look in through a window. Webster: "That Terrier has nullified the whole Concern." Clay: "Famine! War! Pestilence!"
Early in 1822, the Blount/Overton newspapers began puffing Jackson as a presidential candidate, and that summer the [Tennessee] legislature formally nominated him.” None of the Tennessee politicians who hatched Jackson’s nomination thought he could be a serious contender nationally, and most of them thought his candidacy could be dropped once this became evident and once it served its local purpose.
[Zebulon Vance] was also realistic enough to know the task [of reviving the Whig Party] was impossible. When asked to do so in 1865, therefore, he replied with cold finality: "The [Whig] party is dead and buried and the tombstone placed over it and I don't care to spend the rest of my days mourning at its grave." To this brutally candid and totally accurate extinguisher, there was -- and is -- only one appropriate response. Amen!
John Randolph . . . bitterly sneered that he had always known that the northern representatives who voted for the Compromise “would give way. They were scared at their own dough faces – yes, they were scared at their own dough faces! – We had them, and if we had wanted three more, we could have had them; yes, and if these had failed, we could have three more of these men, whose conscience, and morality, and religion, extend to ‘thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude.’”
It is apt that the wracked, erratic, half-mad Virginian should have coined the peculiar epithet, “doe face,” that became, in a curious mutation, “doughface,” the universal term of contempt for such “Northern men with Southern principles,” or rather, as Randolph implied, with no principles at all.
“Doe face,” which owes its paternity to John Randolph, age has mellowed into “dough face” – a cognomen quite as expressive and appropriate, if not as classical.
Our newspapers are full of these and similar daily occurrences among slaveholders, copied verbatim from their own accounts of them in their own papers, and all this we fully credit; no man is simpleton enough to cry out, “Oh, I can't believe that slaveholders do such things,” – and yet when we turn to the treatment which these men mete out to their slaves, and show that they are in the habitual practice of striking, kicking, knocking down and shooting them as well as each other – the look of blank incredulity that comes over northern dough-faces, is a study for a painter: and then the sentimental outcry, with eyes and hands uplifted, “Oh, indeed, I can't believe the slaveholders are so cruel to their slaves.” Most amiable and touching charity! Truly, of all Yankee notions and free state products, there is nothing like a “dough face” – the great northern staple for the southern market – “made to order,” in any quantity, and always on hand. “Dough faces!” Thanks to a slaveholder's contempt for the name, with its immortality of truth, infamy and scorn.
Not everyone understood Randolph’s reference, and no one dared to ask for an explanation. A few apparently thought the sardonic Virginia aristocrat had a female deer in mind and the word he used was doe. Others thought he was referring to a child’s game where children put dough on their faces, worked it into strange configurations, and then looked at their reflections.
Whatever Randolph had in mind, his words stuck.
Randolph, mocking the northerners intimidated by the South, referred to a children’s game in which the players daubed their faces with dough and then looked in a mirror and scared themselves.”
[Randolph] was probably referring to a game where children placed wet dough on their faces and frightened themselves and their friends by looking in a mirror.
As Karl Marx would analyze capitalist exploitation of European industrial labor, the Virginian explained capitalist exploitation of American agricultural labor. Both men cherished human labor as the source of economic value. "Labour is in fact the great fund for human subsistence," said the Virginian; "-- a surplus of this subsistence is wealth." Labor's "degree of safety" was for him the "barometer of good government."
Also like Marx, the Virginian thought labor "the object which tyranny invariably attacks." The American Revolution had no sooner guaranteed the republic's labor against the ancient extortions of European aristocracies and priesthoods, he argued, then a new and even more oppressive "aristocracy of paper and patronage" arose. Taylor calculated that "this legal faction of capitalists" was extorting 40 percent of the proceeds of agricultural labor. [Me: Shades of George McDuffie's Forty-Bale theory!] Writing just as wage labor galvanized capitalist exploitation, he anticipated Marx in sensing that capital "will, in the case of mechanics, soon appropriate the whole of their labor to its use, beyond a bare subsistence."
Excluding Congress and the military, the entire government establishment at Washington, from President to doorkeeper, numbered only 153 people at the beginning of Jefferson’s administration and would increase to only 352 by 1829. In 1815 the President paid out of his own pocket the single secretary who assisted him; the Attorney General had neither clerk nor office; the Supreme Court convened for two months a year in a Capitol Hill boarding house; and during the summer only the clerks and bureau chiefs remained in the muggy capital to keep the wheels of state slowly turning.
A gloomy view of the effects of the Polk administration's Tariff of 1846. The artist echoes Whig condemnation of the measure as adverse to American trade. A funeral cortege, composed of administration supporters, carries the coffin of "Free Trade" to a grave marked by a monument with the names of sixteen states. The names of Pennsylvania and New York, two states particularly resistant to the new tariff, appear in large letters. Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are missing. Over the grave is a banner reading, "Here lies Free Trade! Be it understood / He would have liv'd much longer if he could." The pall-bearers are (left to right) Vice President George M. Dallas, James K. Polk, Secretary of State James Buchanan, and Secretary of War William L. Marcy, wearing his characteristic fifty-cent trouser patch (see "Executive Marcy and the Bambers," no.1838-5). Polk: "This is a dead weight and verry heavy Mr. Vice." Dallas replies: "I agree with every thing you say Mr. President. if you were to insist that the moon was made of green Cheese I would swear to it for a Consideration." Buchanan complains: "I say, army lower down your side a little, you are throwing all the weight on me." Buchanan, from Pennsylvania, drew considerable fire from his native state for his support of the new lower tariff. Marcy suggests: "Raise your side, state and then we'll throw the whole weight on our leaders." The mourners are administration supporters: editor Thomas Ritchie (here called "Mother Ritchie" and dressed as a woman), senators John C. Calhoun and George McDuffie, and congressmen Ambrose H. Sevier, Robert Barnwell Rhett, and Dixon Hall Lewis. Ritchie: "If he should be resucitated! What a paragraph it would make in my paper!! Nous Verrons." Calhoun: "Hung be the heavens with black!" McDuffie: "If the whigs should get in we must resort to Nullification!" Sevier: "this sticks in my gizzard!" Lewis (notoriously obese): "We must grin and bear it, though it makes me feel very heavy!" Rhett: "a plagu of this sighing! it wells one up most villainously!" In the lower margin is the narrative: "This unfortunate youth died of Home Consumption & was buried at Washington in Nov: 1846 [the date the tariff was passed]. He was carried to the grave by Polk, Dallas, Buchanan & Marcy. The chief Mourners were his Nurse Mother Ritchie, [. . .] the cenotaph is to be erected by the Whigs. 16 States have already contributed & others are coming in."
David Wilmot . . . frequently associated slavery with soil exhaustion. “Sterility follows its [slavery’s] path,” he declared in 1846. A decade later, Representative Israel Washburn of Maine noted that “their [southerners’] lands are being worn out and exhausted. . . . [T]hey have not the enterprise, skill or means to renovate them.”
In summary, the regressions indicate that the environmental factors (soil types, typography, and climate) greatly influenced levels of improved land; they show a particularly strong association between alfisol soils and high levels of improved land. Ultisols and rugged topography (such as the mountains of Appalachia or the marshes of the coastal regions), on the other hand, led to low levels of improved land.
What makes the statistical results for 1860 even more compelling is that the same basic relationship holds for 1890 as well. Despite the greater availability of fertilizers, farmers in counties with poor soils cultivated far less land than farmers in areas with more favorable soils. The 1890 results cast further doubt that slavery and cheap western land caused shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivation, simply put, outlived both.
The virtue of a democratic system with a First Amendment is that it readily enables the people, over time, to be persuaded that what they took for granted is not so, and to change their laws accordingly. That system is destroyed if the smug assurances of each age are removed from the democratic process and written into the Constitution. So to counterbalance the Court's criticism of our ancestors, let me say a word in their praise: they left us free to change. The same cannot be said of this most illiberal Court, which has embarked on a course of inscribing one after another of the current preferences of the society (and in some cases only the counter majoritarian preferences of the society's law trained elite) into our Basic Law.
Ruffin had tried a variety of techniques to renovate his fields. Nothing worked until Ruffin read English author Humphry Davy’s Elements of Agricultural Chemistry (1813). Davy’s discussion of soil acidity led Ruffin to a profound insight. A few brief experiments convinced Ruffin that the acidity of southern soils prevented crops from taking in nutrients. An acidic soil, no matter how well fertilized, would almost always produce poor yields. To correct the problem, Ruffin applied marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate. The high calcium content of marl, Ruffin hypothesized, neutralized the natural acidity of southern soils. . . . A series of carefully conceived experiments showed that applications of marl doubled and sometimes even tripled wheat and corn yields. Ruffin publicized his findings in a series of articles and in an 1832 pamphlet entitled An Essay on Calcareous Manures. The work was a stunning scientific achievement that promised to revolutionize southern agriculture.
One of the popular accounts of Fillmore's stay in England concerns the ex-president's refusal to accept a D.C.L. degree at Oxford University [in 1855]. A reliable 19th century biographer, who personally interviewed Fillmore, and other writers commenting about the Oxford incident said that the ex-president refused the honor on the grounds that he lacked scientific and literary attainment. Fillmore never attended a college. He allegedly made this statement: "I had not the advantage of a classical education and I don't feel any man should accept a degree he cannot read."
Sharply critical of both the Democratic and Whig choice of presidential candidates in 1852, the artist laments the nomination of two soldiers, Winfield Scott (center) and Franklin Pierce (far right), in preference to several more "capable" statesmen who appear at left. The latter are (left to right): Samuel Houston, John J. Crittenden, Thomas Hart Benton, Millard Fillmore, John Bell, Lewis Cass, Stephen A. Douglas, and Daniel Webster. Most prominent in the group are Fillmore, Cass, and Webster, who also sought the presidential nomination in 1852. Fillmore: "I have sought more anxiously to do what was right; than what would please, and feel no disappointment, at finding that my Conduct has, rendered me an unavailable candidate." Cass: "We have been partizans where we differed in opinions as to the best means of promoting the prosperity and happiness of our native land, but we cast aside, party when we stood Shoulder, to Shoulder, for the Constitution & the Union." Webster: "It is not our fortune to be, or to have been successful Millitary Chieftains. We are nothing but painstaking, hardworking, drudging Civilians, giving our life, and health, and strength, to the maintenance of the Constitution and upholding the liberties of our country." Columbia, draped in stars and stripes and grasping the hands of Scott and Pierce, responds: "I acknowledge your noble services, worth and Constant devotion most Illustrious sons, and that you have the long experience, Sound sense and practical wisdom which fit you to receive the highest honor in my power to bestow, but you are "not Available." " "Availability," in the contemporary lexicon, meant the quality of broad popular appeal. Scott and Pierce were both distinguished in the Mexican War. Scott, holding a liberty staff and Phrygian cap, proclaims: "You see Gentlemen it is "availability" that is required and that is "my" qualification." Pierce holds a shield adorned with stars and stripes, adding, "I am a "Great" man and have done the country "Great" Service! I never knew it before; but it "must be so;" for the Convention has declared it, and the Democracy affirm it." Before his nomination by the Democratic convention of 1852, Pierce was a relatively little known New Hampshire attorney--a fact which Whig publicists tended to exaggerate. Pierce had, after all, served as a two-term congressman and senator from New Hampshire.
I will just call the attention of my colleague to an ordinance passed by the Mayor and Common Council of a neighboring city, in prevention of the danger from hydrophobia; they decreed and ordained that every dog running at large through their streets should wear a muzzle.
Well, sir, there was a certain yankee pedler [sic], who had a dog which he employed to guard his wagon; and, as he wanted his dog to have the power of biting thieves, and stood in awe of the ordinance of the Mayor, he had a muzzle made and attached it to his dog’s tail. [A laugh.] The dog was caught by the constable running about the street with the muzzle at the wrong end; the muzzle was taken off, and the owner arrested for a violation of the ordinance.
But when the yankee was brought before the magistrate, he plead that penal statutes were always to be rigidly construed, and as the law said nothing about where the muzzle was to be worn, he insisted that he had complied with the letter of the statute; and he then turned about and entered a complaint against the constable who had removed the muzzle, and had him fined $15, that being the penalty for taking off the muzzle from any dog, according to the same law. [Loud laughter.]
A satirical attack on alleged excesses in the Van Buren administration and on the President's Loco Foco or radical Democratic supporters in New York. Martin Van Buren rides past New York's Tammany Hall in a luxurious British carriage. With him are editors and advisers Frances Preston Blair and Amos Kendall. The carriage is drawn by supporters, one wearing a fireman's hat marked "No.5." A crowd looks on, and two youthful "Loco Foco" match-vendors wave as the coach passes. Blair: "Well my democratic friends this is really a triumph! What will the Federal Whigs say to it." Kendall: "You told me Matty that you could make the Tammany men do do anything--I see you can!" Van Buren: "These are my loyal subjects! old Tammany never fails to do her duty on a Pinch!" Others: "This is truly royal--great as the Coronation--what a humbug is this Democracy." "This beats our reception of Hunt & Cobbett at Spittalfield." ". . . LaFayette's entry was a fool to this." An elderly man in the crowd: "I must have a seat in Congress again to speak of this Triumph." The coach's driver: "This is True Democracy--a triumph of principle." Weitenkampf dates the print 1838, but several factors argue against this. The matter of Van Buren's purportedly regal life-style and preference for foreign goods figured large in the Whig campaign of 1840. (It was given prominence by Pennsylvania Representative Charles Ogle's lengthy philippic on the subject in Congress during April of that year.) In addition, editors Blair and Kendall emerged as Van Buren's most powerful publicists during the 1840 race.
Shifting cultivation effectively precluded Smithian industrialization. A sparsely settled countryside meant fewer people, smaller markets, and, ultimately, less manufacturing and urban development. A population spread thinly over a wide area discouraged local manufacturing. The lack of local manufacturing and urban development in turn reinforced the incentives of slaveholders to achieve self-sufficiency. With few towns and cities to provide goods and services, slaveholders had a greater incentive to use their slaves to produce textiles, shoes, and other goods for home use when the demands of the plantation slackened. Southerners thus failed to develop the local pools of capital, skilled workers, and entrepreneurial ability that had helped sustain northern industrialization.