Industrialized Slave Labor BY Beloved358 When one views slave labor, vision usually comes to mind. Most people when they view slave labor from a 19th Century perspective, view it as a large Southern style plantation where the main house has servants and the fields have slaves toiling over cash crops such as cotton or tobacco with a master overseeing the progress of the slaves. On occasion, this would be the ideal for some parts of the Southern countryside, such as societal functions, and the economy, but one must not overlook how slaves also played a role in the development of industries and factories.
While it is true that the North had many factories and grew quicker than the South, the South also tried to keep up with competition through urbanization and sporadic factories around the Southern region. One problem facing Southerners was the refusal to perform any manual labor that would equate with the slave population. l Many white southerners refused to perform tasks that were equal to the slave population or work alongside them. Slave labor had a important role in the ongoing development of industrialization, primarily factories, in many Southern cities such as Baltimore,
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Maryland, Richmond, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina which brought on many changes in economic, social, and cultural changes not only in Southern communities, but also in the black community as well. The institution of slavery not only affected the slaves, but the entire South. Since the South was a part of the United States, if had much in common with other Americans, such as a shared history, language, religion, and government. But, one thing differed from other Americans outside of the South and that was the difference between black and white.
Because the South was a slave society, many different aspect of southern society evolved around slavery. Because of this, slavery affected every inch of southern society and industry was also one that was affected by its institution. Slavery can be viewed as a legal institution that bought property, humans, to be used as chattel labor or for other services. “Slavery is not a moral category, comparable to good manners or honesty; it is an institution performing various functions, in particular that of providing an important part of the labour supply. 2 That view, was the viewpoint of most people who had or owned slaves. There was no universal legal definition of slavery. However, when viewing the Southern institution of slavery, legal elements such as a claim of ownership, heritability (the status of children of slaves and slavery from birth, responsibilities, etc. Indentured servitude did exist, but as time went on and industries were coming to fruition in the south, slavery for life as well as hereditary slavery became the norm for the South. 3 Slavery was viewed with pride by southerners.
Many looked to well-run plantations before industrialization as their reasoning for their near-unanimous enthusiasm for slavery in the south. Slavery was looked upon as the “southern prosperity’ and the ey to Howe, Daniel w. What Hath Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815- 1848. New York: Oxford university Press, 2007. pg. 132. 2 Morris, Thomas D. Southern Slavery and the Law: 1619-1860. Chapell Hill, NC: University North Carolina 1996, 426. 3 the continuation of the traditions, morals, and values of southern society. Slavery therefore, was key to not only the agricultural society of the south, but also it’s rise in industrialization as well. Industrialization had started taking place for many years in many parts of the American economy and society. Ronald Lewis explains how “Although the southern conomy of the eighteenth century was predominately agricultural, the seeds of industrialization took root during the half century prior to the American Revolution,”. 5Because of the rise in immigration from Europe and the slave trade that dominated the south, industrialization was needed to help in the ongoing rise of the needs of the people.
Daniel Howe explains how “The America of 1848 had been transformed in many ways: by the growth of cities, by the extension of United States sovereignty across the continent, by increasing ethnic and religious diversity as a result of both mmigration and conquest-as well as by expanding overseas and national markets, and by the integration of this vast and varied empire through dramatic and sudden improvements in communications. “6The need for the continuation of slavery and its expansion into markets such as the industrial sector in the Southern region was necessary to continue the societal culture and norms.
Even though many of the new immigrants coming into the country had knowledge of working in a factory, slaves could become Just as efficient and economical with the same tasks. Ronald Lewis xplains in his book, “Coal, Iron, and Slaves: Industrial Slavery in Maryland and Virginia 1715-1865”, how the qualities of business and industry in the Old South are often obscured by the pervasive shadow or the plantation. “The roar of a blast furnace, or the din of a cotton factory, was more likely to Jar the southern imagination than to capture it, given the South’s traditional idealization of itself as an arcadian paradise. 7 Southern entrepreneurs knew to capitalize on industries and factories as a way to profit. Many of them blended their careers as both an entrepreneur and lanter/salve owner. This tendency was one of the most interesting characteristics of the development of industrialization in the South. Slave owners, planters, and wealthy businessmen who could afford to take risks invested in capital that gave rise to the industrial expansion in the South. Due to this investment by southerners, it would seem obvious that slaves would be required to work in factories Just as much as pick cotton in the fields.
Industrialization of the south was by no means and easy task. Slave owners felt anxiety as slaves took work in the factories and questioned the esult that industrialized slavery would be on production, effectiveness, and society. Slave owners felt that if slaves were to be given work in a factory, the loss between owner and slave would give slaves freedom to roam their minds and control. “Equally important, many slaveholders viewed cities with deep suspicion as places likely to corrupt, and undermine the subservience of, Currie, Stephen.
Peculiar Institution: In Plantation South. Vork: Lucent Books, 2005, 39. 5 Lewis, Ronald L. Coal, Iron, and Slaves: Industrial Slavery in Maryland and Virginia, 1715-1865. westport: Greenwood press, 1979. g. 11 6 4. 7 Lewis, 3. their slaves. “There are, you may say, hundreds of Negroes in this city who go about from house to house… who never see their masters except at pay day, live out of their yards, hire themselves without written permit…
This of course is very wrong, and exerts a most injurious influence upon the relation of master and servant. “8 Masters were fearful that slave labor in an industrialized society or an urban society would inevitably make masters lose control of not only their slaves, but also their mode of income due to a loss in efficiency from their slaves. However, due to competition from the ever-industrializing North, the South’s competition and drive would have to make compromises on the fabric of commercial and cultural slavery.
Due to this ever rising issue, factory slave labor became more and more common not only because of the industrialization of the North and its competition, but also because it became economically sound practice to employ slavery in factories than hired workers. Slaves were workers who could not quit nor come and go when he/she felt like it. A slave was given shelter, food, and clothing so that the slave performs his/ er work daily without these regards. A slave would also be made to work long hours under brutal conditions with a ruthless overseer only so that his master can profit from his labor.
A wage laborer though, could do the opposite in almost all conditions. He/she could come and go as one pleases, work long hours but can also have the option to quit, and be able to relocate as needed for food, clothing, and shelter. The only commonality would be the brutality of work and that the “master” or “boss” would end up with most of the pay. Another issue could be that of the abilities of the labor that is hired. Many people felt that slaves were incapable of performing industrial work and that slaves would not be able to gain the knowledge or ability to do so.
However, white, unskilled labor was no more able and even faced disadvantages that a slave had an advantage in. For example, “Unrelenting physical labor in the heat of the furnaces may have been regarded as the urban equivalent of plantation field labor. Blacks were thought to have greater tolerance for working in heat… “9 Due to the harsh conditions of plantation labor and heat, it was viewed that blacks physicality and sturdiness made it a perfect fit for some of the extreme limates of the industrial factories of the South. For this reasoning, slaves were put to work in factories that were often torturous and backbreaking heat.
Slave labor also gave factory owners a chance to have an abundance of labor. Tredegar Iron Works is a good example of this. “Thus it was that in 1847, as the contract expired, Anderson began moving slaves into skilled positions at his furnaces. His plan had the desired effect of reducing costs: a reduction of twelve cents per ton of rolled iron for one example. Being really the only industrialized city that utilized slaves in factories to a arge and successful extent, Richmond had no set guidelines as to how to treat employed 8 Kolchin, Peter.
American Slavery:1619-1877. Hill Wang, 2003. 177. 9 Whitman, Price Freedom: Manumission in Baltimore Early National Maryland. Lexington: Press Kentucky, 1997. slaves. Tredegar Iron Works, with Joseph Anderson at its head, set this precedent. “10 White laborers working in the factories or in the cities where the factories were located though did not always welcome having an abundance of slaves in the factories. One such example is where one man explains, “If we are to have negro abor in abundance, where will my support come from?
If my labor is to be supplanted by that of negroes, how can I 1 Strikes as well as protests from the workers ultimately ensued with the victor being that of the owner. Even though Anderson’s intent was not to replace his workers with black slaves, he felt precedent to not let his workers tell him what to do with his slaves (property) and that is he did follow the wishes of the protests of the workers, it would mean the downfall of all slavery. 12 Tredegar Iron Works and Mr. Anderson set an example that if workers protested bout the use of slavery in the factories and property right’s, it would be in Mr.
Anderson’s right to sue the workers for “forming an illegal combination to exclude slaves from his factory. “13 The principle of the case was that if it were to be approved would make the slave property useless and that the owner’s would be at the will of the worker. The positioning of slavery in industry would also be affected by how the workers felt whom and what should be employed. Transforming from agriculture to industry was no quick matter in southern society. The south’s primary economy was based on agriculture and a change from rural to