Labors Civil War in America

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Labor Movement

They sold more diversified crops for the neighboring planters and the planters often hired them as overseers. However, because of this dependence, the southern yeoman farmer had a particularly tense relationship with slaves, some of whom lived in similar economic circumstances or better. Furthermore, most poor southern whites realized that slavery protected them from the menial work required of slaves. While the slave system was ingrained in the economic, political, and cultural life of the southern society, research and scholarship has shown that, rather than acting as passive victims, many slaves continued to resist the institution.

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Frequently, slaves ran away, causing considerable financial losses to their owners. Other times, rebellion was more confrontational as illustrated by Nat Turner's Rebellion in Events like this ignited further uprisings and fueled the growing abolitionist movement in the North, convincing southerners that agitation from outsiders was precipitating the unrest.

In competition with the slave system of the South was the concept of "free labor" advocated by many in the Northeastern states. Although the term might suggest the same meaning, the word "free" had nothing to do with bondage or working for no wage, but rather indicated concepts of freedom, independence, and self-reliance. The concept emphasized an egalitarian vision of individual human potential, the idea that anyone could climb the ladder of success with hard work and dedication. Such concepts and confidence in individual potential sprung from, or were at least supported by, the religious revivalism of the era known as the Second Great Awakening.

At the same time, secular American philosophers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were stressing ideas of self-reliance through concepts like transcendentalism.

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Bonded Labor

Like it had done in Europe years before, industrialization changed the nature of work and production in the Northeast. In the "Agrarian Republic" of early America, the home was the center of manufacture and production. Skilled workers learned specialized trades through apprenticeships. Industry moved the workplace to the factory where machinery required far fewer skills from laborers. The textile mills in Massachusetts stand as the most classic example of early American industrialization.

The industrial changes of the early nineteenth century fueled an uneasy relationship between the North and the South. As illustrated by the Lowell Mills, the two enjoyed a reciprocal economic relationship with the South providing the raw material for manufacturing in the North.

Thus, the slave system literally supported the Lowell Mills. Located in a rural area, the primary fuel was clean, hydroelectric power. At its height, the operation comprised forty mill buildings, , spindles, 10, looms, and employed 10, workers to operate it all. The mills at Lowell had several advantages over the cotton manufacturers in Britain including its proximity to the cotton of the south and natural energy sources.

One advantage Britain had was its access to cheap labor.


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To compensate, Lowell increasingly began to hire young women to lower labor costs and compete with England's mills. Eventually, managers replaced these women for an even less expensive immigrant workforce.

Bonded Labor | Debt Bondage or Peonage - End Slavery Now

The economic changes of industrialization created a concentration of wealth and distinctive new middle and working classes. The need for cheap labor invited unprecedented waves of immigrants in the s and 50s, particularly those fleeing from the potato famine in impoverished Ireland. The willingness of these people to work for low wages eventually convinced the factory managers, like those at the Lowell Mills, to replace its local labor with chiefly immigrant labor by the s. The Irish served as the primary labor force in the construction of infrastructure like the Erie Canal as well.

German immigrants, while also poor, differed from the Irish in that they had money to buy land, settled largely in the west, and for the most part were skilled artisans. The influx of immigrants prompted a reaction known as "Nativism. The two groups-the Irish and free blacks-often competed for the lowest-paying jobs in the industrial North. Many prominent people of the day observed that working conditions for immigrants in the North, although based on the "free labor" ideology, were just as deplorable as those of the slaves.

Like slavery, nativism also spread as the country expanded. Burns, Ken. The Civil War. WETA, Farmer's Museum[NY].

Economic Development during the Civil War and Reconstruction

McPherson, James. Civil War Preservation Trust. Civil War Primary Sources The Civil War Era Collection Hector and Albert E. Great Expectations for the Civil War Question. Many soldiers elected to leave the ranks and return home to provide for their families, officially a capital crime in the eyes of the military system. For more information Burns, Ken.


  1. Pas de trĂªves avec les rois ! (French Edition).
  2. Causes of the Civil War;
  3. Intro: Labor and WWI.
  4. Bibliography Civil War Preservation Trust. About the Author. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless. Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Find Out Who Said It. Read More. How does democracy die? Often, democracy dies in broad daylight as thousands cheer.