CSA, 1890 AD
Andrew Hamilton has another excellent article on the Confederacy at Counter-Currents.
While I mostly agree with his conclusions, I want to use this article as an opportunity to set the record straight on a few enduring misconceptions about the long term viability of slavery.
There was nothing inevitable about the demise of New World slavery. The successful attack on slavery in the nineteenth century was motivated by the humanitarian sentiment that drew its strength from liberal ideology and evangelical religious conviction.
Like most other crank leftwing utopian schemes, abolitionism succeeded in spite of its many empirical demonstrations as a failure, not because slavery had ceased to be viable. The “Golden Circle” would have continued growing and would have easily adapted to technological progress if the abolitionist fanatics hadn’t gotten their way when they did:
“The social viability of chattel slavery had run its course by 1860. Even if had it survived for a few more decades, it was on the way out.”
This isn’t true.
By 1860, there were almost 4 million slaves in the Confederacy. This is an amazing accomplishment when you consider that only 6 percent of the slaves imported to the New World – somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 to 600,000 – had been brought to the United States.
In fact, the slave population in the United States had nearly doubled since 1830. Demographically, the slaves in the South had a higher standard of living and a longer life expectancy than free negroes in the Northern states. The slaves on Southern plantations had a material standard of living comparable to Northern manufacturing workers, but no one ever argues that industrialization had run its course.
The slaves in the South lived better than the English working class in London which, unlike the South, did not have a self-sustaining population. The same was true of most European cities at the time where free laborers were not as healthy, fecund, or self-sustaining as the slaves on Southern plantations. In Ireland, a million people died in the Great Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1852. In Finland, nearly 15 percent of the population died from famine between 1866 and 1868.
The slaves on Southern plantations in Mississippi and Alabama in the 1840s exported food to Ireland which was starving to death under freedom in the British Empire. Famines continued to plague parts of Europe into the twentieth century, especially Russia and Eastern Europe, where millions died in the Ukraine during the Holodomor. Slavery in the South undoubtedly saved millions of Africans from the fate of death by war or starvation in the Congo or Sahel region where war and famines carry off millions to this day.
Turning to the glorious triumph of freedom in Jamaica and Haiti, while the War Between the States was winding down in the United States, the free negroes in Jamaica had been reduced to near starvation by thirty years of their own stupidity and laziness:
“Jamaica loves a hero, and no Jamaican was more heroic than Paul Bogle, the Baptist preacher and reform agitator who led the Morant Bay uprising. Bogle and his conspirators were protesting not against the adored Queen Victoria and the empire she ruled from London, but against the plight of the half-starving black majority that was without work, without land or a future.
By the 1860s – thirty years after emancipation – many Jamaican plantations had turned to scrub as the owners were unable to compete with the cheap sugar produced by Cuba and Brazil. Jamaica had become a patchwork of ramshackle, half-evacuated farmsteads, where rumours of re-enslavement (associated with the possibility of Jamaica joining the United States as a slave state) were rife.”
The oldest operating NGOs in the world are anti-slavery organizations.
Ever since the reign of “Baby Doc” Duvalier in the 1980s, these NGOs have effectively transformed Haiti into a “Republic of NGOs,” where the Haitians (in spite of the billions of dollars in foreign aid, and with the assistance of countless thousands of bleeding heart Western liberals working for the NGOs) have managed to lose the capacity to even feed themselves.
This is a disturbing scene from Haiti in the 204th year of free society:
“PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It was lunchtime in one of Haiti’s worst slums and Charlene Dumas was eating mud.
With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies.
Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.”
Since Haiti’s latest earthquake in 2010 (similar scenes of devastation, looting, and barbarism accompanied the 1842 Le Cap Earthquake), the UN “humanitarian intervention” has unleashed a cholera epidemic in the country, and Sean Penn slammed the whole fucking world for Haiti Fatigue at the Cannes Film Festival.
Curiously enough, no one in the mainstream ever points out that the Visible Black Hand of Economics is responsible for plight of Haiti whose absolute exports in 1995 were far short of the value of its exports under slavery as Saint-Domingue in 1791 after 207 years of freedom. Instead, the failure of “free” Haiti which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is blamed on slaveowners in Saint-Domingue when it was the richest and most dynamic colony in the world.
Is it really fair to pick on Haiti and Jamaica and point out the calamities of freedom there? What does that say about the viability of slavery as a social system in the South? Well, for starters, it adds the indispensable context which is always ignored by the disingenuous liberal proponents of freedom and equality.
They have been even more studious in ignoring the consequences of freedom in the United States:
“Professor Downs, 39, is part of a wave of scholars who are sketching out a new, darker history of emancipation, Professor Blight said, one that recognizes it as a moral watershed while acknowledging its often devastating immediate impact. And the statistics offered in “Sick from Freedom” are certainly sobering, if necessarily tentative.
At least one quarter of the four million former slaves got sick or died between 1862 and 1870, Professor Downs writes, including at least 60,000 (the actual number is probably two or three times higher, he argues) who perished in a smallpox epidemic that began in Washington and spread through the South as former slaves traveled in search of work — an epidemic that Professor Downs says he is the first to reconstruct as a national event.”
Nearly a quarter of the slaves in the South got sick and died as a direct consequence of the abolition of slavery. Emancipation ruined both the planters and the yeomanry while hurling the slaves, especially the elderly who basically lived under welfare capitalism on the plantations, into destitution where they starved to death or succumbed to smallpox and died in makeshift slums outside the cities.
So, in terms of demographic arguments, how had slavery ceased to be viable in 1860? Compared to what? To the destitute free negroes in the Northern states, who had a lower standard of living, a poorer diet, and a lower life expectancy than the slaves? To the European working class which had a lower birthrate and which lived on the precipice of famine? Maybe to their “free” counterparts in Africa where cannibalism was a major source of protein in West Central Africa?
Whatever the faults of slavery in the Old South, it was better to be a slave in the South than a starving peasant in Ireland or a starving serf in Finland or Russia, or someone’s lunch in Africa. The slaves in the South multiplied as fast as the White population because there wasn’t much of a material difference in their calorie intake, disease environment, or living conditions.
Economically, the idea that the demise of slavery was imminent in 1860 is even less plausible. In the British West Indies, it was widely accepted by 1860 that freedom had failed; free labor on sugar plantations in Jamaica had been soundly defeated by slave labor in Cuba.
The abolition of slavery in the British West Indies raised the price of sugar in Britain because free laborers were unable to sustain production or keep up with surging demand. That’s why the British succumbed to free trade in sugar in 1846. The lesson of Britain’s “Mighty Experiment” in abolition to the other slaveholding nations was to double down on slavery which became even more profitable in Brazil and Cuba due to the suicide of their leading competitor in sugar and coffee.
Freedom had already ruined Haiti. Freedom had failed again in Sierra Leone. Freedom failed spectacularly in the Niger Expedition of 1841. Gradual emancipation failed in the British West Indies. Freedom set off a similar economic calamity in the French West Indies, Dutch West Indies, and the Danish West Indies.
Now what about cotton? That’s the real test of the economic viability of slavery. The vast majority of the slaves in the Old South in 1860 were living on the cotton plantations. Well, it is probably significant that India had once been a major producer of cotton and textiles, but slave labor in the Old South had a strong comparative advantage over free labor in India, and over the course of the early nineteenth century had driven their Indian competition out of business.
Ever hear about that from the libertarians who are always talking up the “superiority” of freedom? Probably not. Who needs successful empirical demonstrations of the viability of economic theories when they are precluded by Austrian “praxeology” or Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand.”
British attempts to compete with slave labor grown Southern cotton in India, Niger, and British Guiana had failed. The Old South had a stranglehold over the world supply of cotton until the military intervention by Union Army destroyed slavery and changed the competitive equation. Southern dominance in cotton in a triumphant Confederacy in the late nineteenth century would have been even more one sided.
In 1860, the Cotton Kingdom was still in its infancy. Even Alabama and Mississippi weren’t even a generation removed from the frontier. The idea that slavery had reached its geographic limits is absurd because the South had an overabundance of uncultivated land when secession happened. By the early twentieth century, 3x as much land was planted in cotton as had been the case under the Confederacy.
This excerpt comes from Stanley L. Engerman and Robert William Fogel’s Time on the Cross: The Economics of Negro Slavery:
“The result of the test are presented in figure 29. It shows that far from falling, the prices of slaves would have risen. Indeed the average annual rate of increase between 1860 and 1890 would have been 1.4 percent a figure slightly lower than the prewar trend of growth. In other words, prime field hands in 1890 would have sold at 52 percent more than they did in 1860. This startling conclusion was completely unanticipated by the proponents of the natural limits thesis. It rests on two solid facts. The first is that the demand for American cotton grew a little more rapidly than the supply, not only until 1890 but right up to World War I. Hence the real price of cotton was higher in 1890 than in 1860. Second, the quantity of land devoted to cotton did not remain constant at the 1859 level. Quite the contrary, it grew at a rate (2.06 percent per annum) which was in excess of the growth rate of the black labor force. In other words, the assumption that the quantity of land available for use in cotton was almost exhausted by 1860 is false. The land devoted to cotton nearly doubled between 1860 and 1890; it more than doubled between 1890 and 1925.”
If it had not been for the war, the Cotton Kingdom in an independent Confederacy would expanded, slave prices would have risen, demand for cotton would have risen until World War I, and the South would have been vastly richer than it was in 1860 – significantly richer, because Southern taxes would have fueled Southern prosperity, as opposed to subsidizing the North’s inferior manufacturing industries and the pensions of Union war veterans, and slavery would have become even stronger and more entrenched than it already was in 1860.
Generations of liars have claimed that slavery was incompatible with industrialization and a modernized economy. How do they explain Cuba under slavery, which had built more railroads than the rest of “free” Latin America combined, or even the Old South where cotton production had exploded because railroads had opened up vast swathes of new land in Texas. The South didn’t have as many railroads as the North, but it had far more railroads than most “free” European nations at the time, many of which were built by slaves rented out to railroad corporations.
What about coal mining? Slaves worked in mines in Ancient Greece, in Spain and North Africa during the Roman Empire, most of the slaves in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia had worked in mines. In fact, more gold was mined in Minas Gerais in Central Brazil by slaves than in either Mexico or Peru. After the abolition of slavery, blacks worked in the coal mines in Alabama, and there was no reason why slaves couldn’t have been used in coal mines in Appalachia. Slavery would have colonized the Southern mountains in places like Birmingham and West Virginia.
In the aftermath of abolition, the “Big Mules” in Alabama (the alliance between Birmingham industrialists and Black Belt planters) ruled Alabama politics for generations. Planters feared that industrialization and a Northern-style urban working class would have undermined slavery. The successful wartime and postwar industrialization of Alabama, not to mention the White working class Klan in the 1920s, proves that racialism could have thrived in an industrialized Confederacy as easily as it thrived in the post-abolition Jim Crow South.
The biggest challenge to slavery would have been the mechanization of agriculture in cotton in the early twentieth century. Eventually, the cotton fields and the sugarcane fields would have been emptied of slaves. This is something that might have come sooner rather than later if abolition had not ruined the yeomanry or created a superabundance of cheap labor.
In an independent Confederacy, the South would have had a free hand to solve the Negro Question, something that was not the case under the restored Union with its 14th Amendment Constitution. The most obvious solution to this problem was to let slavery run its natural course. Already by 1860, the high prices of slaves was pulling slaves out of the Upper South and Eastern South to the Western South. Virginia and Kentucky had grown significantly whiter as slaves were sold south to areas where they could be more profitably employed.
An independent Confederacy could have solved the Negro Question in any number of intelligent ways: through the acquisition of new territory in Central America and the Caribbean, which would have pulled the slaves ever further south; adapting slavery to an industrialized economy by forcing slaves to work in manufacturing industries and mines just as they did in the Jim Crow South; through colonization by joining the European imperial adventure in Africa; through expanding the ranks of slaves in domestic service; through creating segregated reservations for the blacks in the manner which had been done with the Indians or with the blacks on the bantustans in South Africa and Israel under apartheid.
We can say this much with a high degree of certainty: if the South had been left alone to resolve the Negro Question, then it wouldn’t have created BRA in a million years, and an independent Confederacy founded on slavery and the self evident truth that all men are not created equal would be infinitely more hospitable to racially conscious Whites than the Northern-dominated dystopia we live under today.
If the abolitionist attack on slavery had been parried as successfully as the repeal of Prohibition, could its successors like “anti-racism” or “civil rights” have triumphed in the twentieth century? Highly unlikely.