Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

Peter da Silva peter at baileynm.com
Sat Sep 26 08:07:50 EST 1998

In article <y6ww6rx4ec.fsf at tweedledumb.cygnus.com>,
Craig Burley  <burley at tweedledumb.cygnus.com> wrote:
>peter at baileynm.com (Peter da Silva) writes:
>> In article <y6u31xr16o.fsf at tweedledumb.cygnus.com>,
>> Craig Burley  <burley at tweedledumb.cygnus.com> wrote:
>> >(It's my impression that it's fairly easy to eliminate slavery,
>> >especially my legislative fiat, once the major task of building
>> >is completed, the population is relatively stabilized, and the
>> >available land relatively well-colonized.  Otherwise I'd assume
>> >there'd be difficulty convincing people to stay and work on
>> >building infrastructure or doing the hard work of feeding those
>> >who did, when freedom permitted them to find their fortunes
>> >elsewhere.)
>> It's my impression that most of the infrastructure building was done
>> by free men in the course of their finding their fortunes. The main
>> reason slavery hung on was because cotton production was so labor
>> intensive, and too many people were running off finding their fortunes
>> in the process of extending the infrastructure.
>Well, I guess "African slaves built this nation" was another one of those
>lies my teachers taught me.  (Not that I entirely believed it anyway.)

It's not entirely false, it's just far from the whole truth.

>(Note I did say "...or doing the hard work of feeding those who did",
>by which I meant to include farming and, I guess, cotten production.)

Slaves were mostly used in labor-intensive cash crops. Cotton is the
obvious one, but there's plenty of others. And I've heard it argued that
without the mechanical methods of harvesting and processing cotton that
were one of the products of the industrial revolution the south would
still be effectively a slave society.

The conflict between whether the US would be an industrial or agricultural
society was already well out in the open in Jefferson's day, and is one
reason the south refused to go along with his desire that slavery be outlawed.

Jefferson himself was heavily conflicted over the issue. Slavery, the
Louisiana purchase, and other policies he was morally opposed to but had to
support (and even in the case of Louisiana, drive) to hold on to his doomed
vision of a primarily agricultural USA. And you can't say he entirely
failed... the US is still a very rural society.

In hoc signo hack, Peter da Silva <peter at baileynm.com>
 `-_-'   "Milloin halasit viimeksi suttasi?"
         "Tell init(8) to lock-n-load, we're goin' zombie slaying!"

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