Capitalism: The Cause Of Slavery In The American South

The American South, had a social
system which was distinct in many ways. There was an economy relative to the
region, where class structure and a system of racial differences which caused
the South to become unique to the rest of the nation. Historians such as James
Henretta have said that Capitalism was the cause of all evil within the American
South. American Capitalism defined by Max Weber is “ a greed for gain”, and
“acquisition by force, ... whether directly in war or in the form [of] exploitation
of subjects”. This type of lifestyle within a growing nation could not work
with the gentry class which was moving into the region unless there was people
to do the work on the farms for them. At first there were indentured servants,
but this system of work only worked for a limited time as these servants would
work their time of servitude and then leave on their own. The American farmer
in the south needed more control on their workers and needed to know that they
( the workers ) weren’t going to just leave
and start up their own farm for
themselves. Thus the manipulation of slave labor became the answer for capitalism,
and from the use of black slave labor, tension began to rise between the slaves
brought from Africa, and the land holders of the South.
Tension between
Slaves and land owners have been strong in the South for many years, and one
might say that the cause of it is the ways of which the Black slaves of plantations
and farms were treated. The founders of the Carolina colonies were not only
interested in the use of slaves in the solution of their labor problems of
too much work not enough workers, but they had a very big material interest.
The use of slave labor, was a coerced, cash-crop system of labor from which
slavery became an economic necessity because for a person who owned land they
needed workers, and these workers were predominantly Negro slaves brought in
sold from Africa. To southern colonists, slavery was first an economic institution
solely for the purpose of solving an economic problem, that problem - work
cost too much money so the colonists implemented forced labor for economic
gain. So slavery provided the basis for a special Southern economic and social
life which had continued on until the Civil war.
The special economic life
which the people of the South lived upon was one of greed for expansion and
gain. Capitalism at its best, and the Southern colonies were very good at it.
Lewis C. Gray defined the southern plantation as a “capitalistic type of agricultural
organization in which a considerable number of unfree laborers were employed
under a unified direction and control in the production of a staple crop.”
The plantations were mostly one crop oriented, cotton or tobacco, and this
lead to cash crops rather than supplying for the colonies themselves. The plantation
gentry or Masters as they were called by the slaves, never thought of the ‘big
picture’ involving cash crops, only their own well being and how much money
they were going to make whether physical force was used or not. Slavery and
the plantation system led to agricultural methods that depleted soils and the
slavery system forced the South to exploit more slave labor as a means of better
production rather than the realization of worn-out l
ands. Such a labor system
in the South aggravated and caused very deep problems between the Master and
his slaves.
Slavery established the basis of the planter’s position and power.
It measured his affluence, marked his status, “and supplied leisure for social
graces and aristocratic duties.” The road of power in the South lay through
the plantation and the Master would see to it that his or her plantation be
the best. Great planters held enormous power in the southern colonies, they
spent much of their free time in leisure, educational pursuits, and participation
in public life; George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both were within this
group of people. Most planters were also very active entrepreneurs, who would
engage in quick profit type situations which would help them make more money
on top of the plantation profits made for them by their slaves. Although their
main means of money and profit was the forced labor unit of slavery on the
plantations, these other quick scheme ideas forced planters into believing
that slave holding was more profitable. Therefore an increase in the amount
of slaves doing work on p
lantations