The South As It Was
THE SOUTH AS IT WAS
by Franklin Sanders
In Brazil there dwells a remote tribe of Indians who all share a peculiar mutation. Within the mystery of their optic nerves, all sensation is transmitted to their brains upside down. Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to bother them. But then, that's probably not odd at all, because how would they know they are seeing the world upside down? They've never seen it right side up, so they can't tell the difference.
Unlike those Indians, we live in a world turned upside down. Like them, we are accustomed to viewing the world upside down -- so accustomed, in fact, that we can hardly imagine what the world would look like right side up.
And how do we turn a world upside down back right side up?
Or if we don't yet have enough leverage to turn the whole world right side up, then how can we lead upright lives in an upside down world?
What did the South look like before the Revolution that we call the War Between the States? Let’s look at economics & business, occupations, the financial system, women and education, and slavery.
ECONOMICS & BUSINESS
It is almost impossible for us to envision the economic freedom that reigned in the Old South. From the individual's standpoint, there was near complete freedom of entry into every market.
There was, for example no license necessary to work as a Barber, Hairdresser, Carpenter, Plumber, Doctor, Undertaker, Engineer, Teacher, or any other calling you might name. Most callings were trained by apprenticeship, or as they like to say today, as if it were some new discovery to common-sense-challenged educrats, "hands on experience." There were no state-backed unions and cartels, from the NEA to the Board of Cosmetology.
Before entering the practice of a calling, no particular course of education was required. Of course, that has it downside as well. Suppose you sat down in the chair of a barber who had never shaved anyone before and had a nervous twitch? Who would you call when he slit your throat? Just think about what that implies for developing and practising individual responsibility, self-restraint, discretion.
There was absolutely minimal government interference in the economy. As a practical matter, there was no regulation, unless, for example, in Tennessee you wanted to exhibit a sideshow or circus. Think about what that means. If you grew cabbages, there was no National Board of Cabbage Marketers to tell you how to do it and when you could do it and what you could charge. It was just cabbage anarchy, from the Potomac to the Red River.
No regulation meant that the government couldn't tell you how much water your toilet could use when it flushed, or how long to cook your hamburgers. Shoot, that's probably the reason most of the people in the South and the rest of the country used outhouses and ate raw meat.
In fact, about the only contact most people had with the Federal government was through the US Post Office. There was
- no Veteran's Administration to loan money and fix flats,
- no GSEs like Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac to float mortgages,
- no Small Business Administration to loan money to the overlooked and underfunded,
- no Agriculture Department to destroy agriculture,
- no Department of Commerce to tie up commerce, no Department of Defence to wage war,
- no Department of Health & Human Services to make you sick at your stomach,
- no FAA, no IRS, no EPA or FCC.
There wasn't even a Department of Transportation or a Department of Energy.
About the only thing regulated was banking, because it was recognised as a danger to the public good and stability. Kentucky and Alabama even had state banks. Throughout the early 1800s wild issues of unbacked bank notes regularly caused havoc and economic hardship. The South in particular had been victimised by booming land speculations financed by wildcat banks. Southerners recognised that to allow the banking system too much room would be to allow it to take over the economic life of the commonwealth.
And of course, they were right, as our situation today proves. Today a banking cartel holds the nation's economic life by the throat. It was organised in embryo by the Greenback Act of 1862 and the National Banking Act of 1863 in the north and was brought to maturity in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. None of us are immune from the periodic terrors it creates through its manipulated booms and busts. As a practical matter, the banking system, business, and civil government are one and the same fascist creature. With the ascendancy of the banking cartel, the web of debt financing has enmeshed the lives of most Americans. And of course, the cartel has forced us to remove our constitutional and statutory limits on usury that once protected the poor and unwary from the usurer.
Can you imagine this: the people of the South before the War by and large did not borrow money to live? Their currency was not created out of thin air by a monopoly, but had real value all its own? They just had to tough it out with the guidance of almighty Alan Greenspan.
A NATION OF FARMERS
In 1860 the Southern people's occupation was overwhelmingly farming. Eighty-five percent of the population of the Greater South lived on farms. By 1970 only 37% were classed as "rural," and by 1998 that had dropped to 25%.
I don't have the figures for the South alone, but in 1860 there were 2,044,000 American farms averaging 199 acres. By contrast, in 1997, there were 1,912,000 farms, after peaking at 6,812,000 in 1935. The reduction, by the way, was the favour of your Yankee government's conscious policy to reduce the number of farms, increase their size, and concentrate their ownership. They were successful in changing the size, too. The average farm in 1997 had 487 acres.
In 1880 (admittedly 20 years after the war but still representative), 43.8% of the people worked on farms; in 1990, 75.2% of the population was urban, 24.8% rural, and of course not all country-dwellers worked on farms.
In 1998, farm operators and managers, 'other agricultural and related occupations', and farm workers totalled 4,193,000, or 8% out of total employed, or 8%. Out of the whole population, all farm occupations totalled only 1.55%.
In the South of 1860 there were as yet very few corporations. The corporation as we know it - the artificial juridical creature with limited liability for its owners and perpetual life - had only recently been born. A series of developments and court cases, culminating in Bank of Augusta v. Earle (1838) had only begun to change the structure of Southern life and business.
In the old South there existed an understanding of economic activity wholly unlike ours. Where we focus on marketing, trading, and manipulation, the people of the old South focussed on production and self-sufficiency. Wealth was measured by real property, land, not stocks, bonds, and IRAs. The Southerner of 1860 could not imagine our world today where business, finance, and government are one monstrous Siamese triplet.
I began to understand this when I came across Article II, Section 28 of the Tennessee constitution. "The Legislature shall have power to tax merchants, peddlers, and privileges." I knew this came from the 1834 constitution, but wasn't sure why the power to tax should be restricted to just these three.
Privileges I understood to be special franchises, like a corporation, that the legislature creates and confers. It stands to reason that the commonwealth should also have some benefit from its own creation in the form of a tax.
Peddlers I later learned came from outside the community to trade inside the community. Having no roots or ties within the community, they were viewed as a nuisance that had to be made answerable to the local community, controlled and reduced by a tax.
But merchants I didn't grasp until I came across a passage in Dabney's Defence of Virginia & the South. Before abolition, Dabney says, Northerners had argued that the slave system was uneconomical because it suppressed local trade by merchants. To this the Yankee pointed with "undoubting elation, as proof of the vastly superior wealth and productive activity of the North. But in fact, he was a fool; he mistook what was a villainous, eating ulcer upon the public wealth of the North, and on the true prosperity of the people, for a spring of profits."
On the contrary, Dabney explains, the relatively smaller number of local merchants in the South did not signify less wealth or prosperity, but more wealth, conferred by a system of practical self-sufficiency that did not encourage or need parasitical middlemen. These surplus traders filled no genuine marketing need for producers. On they contrary, they only increased costs to consumers for nothing more than "vain trafficking".
"Now this narrow trafficker, whose only heaven was buying and selling, very naturally jumped to the conclusion, that the South was so much poorer than the North, as she exhibited less local trade. Whereas in fact, she was just so much richer. ...
"The local merchant, thus unnecessarily invited in, sucks a greedy profit; a vain show of trading activity is made in the community; and all the really producing classes are made actually poorer; while this unproductive consumer, the unnecessary retail trader, congratulates himself on his mischievous prosperity [emphasis added].
"[When] the advocate of the hireling system attempts to reply to this, by saying that his system has opened a place for an additional branch of industry, that of enlarged traffic[king], he is preposterous. The answer is, that the additional industry is a loss; it is unproductive. As reasonably might one argue that crime [promotes] public prosperity, by opening up a new branch of remunerative industry, -- that of police and jailers, a well paid class!"
"But sensible men ever prefer facts to speculations - the language of experience to that of theoretical assertion. ... By the census of 1860, while the population of the Free States was not quite 19 millions, their total of assessed values, real and personal, was $6,541,000,000: being $346 to each soul. The free white population of the South was a little more than eight and a quarter millions, and our total of assessed values was $5,465,808,000: being $660 to each soul, nearly double the wealth of the North. But if the four millions of Africans in the South be added, our people still have $447 dollar of value for each soul, black and white."
Dabney's point, not surprising from a member of an agrarian society, is that the middlemen who handle the farmer's produce are both too numerous and too rapacious in the Northern commercial system. Surprising and persuasive, however, are the statistics that he adduces. These plainly show that, measuring by assessed property value, the South was nearly 30% richer (29.2%) per capita than the North. Somehow, without a plethora of merchants, the South's wealth had outpaced the North's.
Today, of course, that commercial system rules supreme. The State of Tennessee has thrown aside these limitations on taxation by declaring everything but breathing a "privilege," and taxes everything else besides. The farmer's well-founded resentment has been co-opted or annihilated. The commercial system of Government-Business partnership has reduced his independent numbers to a mere handful clinging to the land, or buys off the rest with direct bribes called "farm subsidies."
In 1860 every educated Southerner could carry on an intelligent discussion about monetary science, and why not? Since the country's founding monetary issues had been the steady diet of politics. Compare that to today, when the money manipulators, in a coup that nearly outmatches all their others, has managed to take that discussion completely off the table and rule it as their own peculiar province.
In large areas of the South the people didn't even use government money. The federal government had been slow to supply silver coinage, so in many areas the old Spanish piezas de ocho series - two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar - still circulated alongside federal silver coin.
The Carolina and Georgia gold rushes of the 1830s had attracted Templeton Reid to north Georgia and the German father & son, Christopher and August Bechtler to Rutherford County, North Carolina. From 1830 to 1852 these skilled metallurgists operated a private mint in Rutherfordton. From 1790 to 1840 Rutherford County North Carolina was the nation's primary source of gold supply.
By the way, one dollar in 1860 was worth $19.24 in 2002 dollars. What costs $1,000 today would have cost $51.96 in 1860
(That's from the web-site. By gold calculation with gold today at $400, $2003$19.35 = 0.048375 troy ounce = one gold dollar).
In 1860 Currency in circulation in the US consisted of
- $207,305,000 in gold,
- $21,000,000 in silver, and
- $207,102,000 in state bank notes = $435 MILLION
That would equal $8.05 billion in Year 2000 dollars, but think about it.
No US currency. No Federal Reserve notes. No one could force you to take bank notes, much less a check, if you didn't want it. 47.6% gold, 4.8% silver, and 47.6% state bank notes. And don't forget, the state bank notes - the banks' liabilities -- had to be backed by something, and that something was gold and silver. And they maintained a reserve of 35-40%.
In 2001, currency in circulation amounted to $662 billion, one thousand two hundred sixty-nine times currency in circulation in 1860. Out of that $662 billion, none was gold and silver. Zero % in gold, zero % in silver, 100% in Federal Reserve notes (with a scattering of competing US notes, which the Fed is still busily pulling out of circulation).
And don't forget, today banks still have to keep a reserve behind their liabilities - your deposits. Today, however, "reserves" means currency, which means Federal Reserve IOU nothings, to the tune of - less than 1%.
M1 money supply, - which includes currency outside the US Treasury, Fed Reserve banks, and the vaults of Depository institutions, travellers checks, demand deposits, and other checkable deposits - would more closely approximate currency in circulation in 1860. At the end of April, 2001 it amounted to $1,281 billion, 2,944 times currency circulating in 1860.
In 1860 were only 1,562 banks in the whole country to serve a population of 31,443,321. In 1998, there were 10,481 banks, down from peak of 30,456 in 1921, nearly halved from 1985. Whoops! Competition appears to have failed to thrive in the banking industry. Concentration
Bank assets in 1860 were $1,000 million, which in Yr. 2000 dollars would be $19,244.95 million. ($19 billion)
Compared to 31.4 million population in 1860, bank assets stood at $31.80 per person. That equals $611.99 in 2002 dollars.
In 1998 insured commercial banks (8,774 institutions) had assets totalling $5,441 billion ($5.4 trillion) against a population of 271 million, or assets equal to $20,952.43 per capita in Year 2000 dollars.
So in 140 years, bank assets per capita had grown to 3,562% of their 1860 level.
Now I will admit that the US economy has grown quite a bit in the last 140 years, but financial institutions, that is
- banks and
- insurance companies and
- GSEs &
- monetary authorities and
- savings institutions and
- life insurance and
- pension funds and
- mortgage companies and
- mutual funds and.
- money market funds and
- security brokers and
- all the legion of traffickers in debt and money
have grown quite a bit more.
In 1998, all the assets of those financial institutions totalled $24,537 billion ($24.5 trillion). Against a population of a population of 271 million, that works out to $90,542.44 per head.
If we compare the 1998 per capita assets of all those financial institutions ($90,542.44) against the 1860 per capita bank assets ($611.99 in Y2002$s), we find they have multiplied 14,794.76%. Apparently, financial services has been what they call a "growth industry" in the past 140 years.
But so what? That doesn't prove anything because the US economy has grown so much in the past century and a half.
Let's compare Gross National Product from 1860 to today. All these figures are in Year 2000 dollars. From an 1869-1879 average of $92.30 billion or $2,122.05 per head, GNP had grown in 1998 to $8,859.26 billion, or $32,780.46 per head.
That's an increase from $2,122.05 per head to $32,780.46. In other words, GNP per capita multiplied by 1,545%.
So while gross national product per capita increased about 15.5 times, bank assets grew 35.6 times, and assets of the broad financial industry grew 154 times, or about ten times as fast as GNP.
Which brings to mind something Gary North recently wrote.
"Two generations ago the economist Joseph Schumperter argued that when private property went predominantly from land to invested capital - fiduciary property - private property lost its socially binding effects. I think he was correct. The Nashville Agrarians argued the same thing in 1930, echoing the Southern apologists of 1850."
And that is the point that I have tried to make with the train of statistics paraded above.
First, the wealth of the South was primarily in land and the capital equipment necessary to work the land. Wealth was not held as money or financial assets, but real assets. And the world has not changed, the wealth of the world still comes from the things men take the ground.
What has changed is that the producers and workers no longer own, much less control, it, a small group of financiers does. And they control it by controlling money they artificially create, ex nihilo. With that artificially created money they also control politics and government to maintain and increase their wealth and control.
But if that change of the locus and focus of property from land to financial assets and manipulation had brought only prosperity and had worked no unhealthy social change, we would have no cause to complain. Here we see the wisdom and foresight of our Southern agrarian thinkers since the American Revolution, who, without having seen the change, understood these connections. In 1860 Southern society was
- familial, and
Today it is
- atomized, and
Is it so hard to make the jump from money to metaphysics? From land to love?
To understand that this shift in economic focus has furnished, if not the sole at least a major, cause of atomisation and isolation from self and mankind?
Is the etiology of the raging plague the modern world calls "alienation" too obscure, too well camouflaged to diagnose?
Is it too heretical, to admit that the worship of Mammon poisons the worshippers?
Or are we simply so accustomed to living in this upside down world that we can't see that everything is topsy-turvy?
SLAVERY AS IT WAS
We are told that slavery was the worst thing that ever happened to any group of humans, that Southerners fed their slaves dirt, and when there wasn’t enough dirt they fed them sand, etc., etc.
But how were slaves really treated? Since Southerners have an interest in this discussion, let’s go to a reliable northern source. Let’s go to Nobel Prize winning University of Chicago professor Robert Fogel and University of Rochester Stanley Engerman in their book, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. We can be sure that these northern gentlemen would give us the unbiased truth. In fact, Fogel was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his work on this very book. How did slaves really live? How were they treated.
Economic statistics of course can’t tell the whole story, but they do tell a lot. Here’s what Fogel and Engerman found out:
"The myth of slave breeding was just that, a myth. “The evidence put forward to support the contention of breeding for the market is meagre indeed.”
“The belief that the typical slave was poorly fed is without foundation in fact.” “The average daily diet of slaves was quite substantial. The energy value of their diet [4,185 calories] exceeded that of freemen in 1879 [3,741 calories] by more than 10%. There was no deficiency in the amount of meat allotted to slaves.” “The slave diet was not only adequate, it actually exceeded modern (1964) recommended daily levels of chief nutrients. On average, slaves exceeded the daily recommended level of proteins by 110 percent, calcium by 20 percent, and iron by 230 percent” and 350% of recommended Vitamin C."
Slave housing was not crowded by standards of the time. On average there were 5.2 slaves per house on large plantations, compared to 5.3 persons per free household in 1860.
“[T]he ‘typical’ slave cabin of the late antebellum era probably contained more sleeping space per person than was available to most of New York City’s workers half a century later."
“While the quality of slave medical care was poor by modern standards, there is no evidence of exploitation in the medical care typically provided for plantation slaves. … That adequate maintenance of the health of their slaves was a central objective of most planters is repeatedly emphasised in instructions to overseers and in other records and correspondence of planters.”
Fewer slave women died due to pregnancy than free women.
Infant mortality rate for slaves in 1850 was 183 per thousand before the first birthday while the infant death rate for southern whites in 1850 was 177 per thousand “virtually the same as the infant death rate of slaves.
Although the life expectation of slaves in 1850 was 12 percent below the average of white Americans, it was well within the range experienced by free men during the 19th century. …. U.S. slaves had much longer life expectations that free urban industrial workers in both the United States and Europe.” Average us white, 1850, 40 years vs. US slave 1850, 36 years. Italy, 1885, 35 years; Austria 1875, 31 years; Chile 1920, 31 years; Manchester, England 1850, 24 years; New York, Boston, and Philadelphia 1830, 24 years.
Slave owners were very reluctant to break up families. “[B]oth moral convictions and good business practice generally led planters to encourage the development of stable nuclear families.”
FAMILY, WOMEN, EDUCATION
Since 1860 society in the South has literally been turned upside down. Think about it under the headings of family, women, and education.
In 1860 the family was the strong and unchallenged pillar of society. Divorce usually resulted in social ostracism and until a short time before, could only be obtained by an act of the legislature. There was no social security, no Medicare, no welfare. It was the family's duty to take care of the old and sick, with joy, until the day of their death. To be outside a family was a kind of death itself. The family in its self-sufficient household constituted what Dabney called a little commonwealth, so that the state was a commonwealth of commonwealths.
In 1860 women practically did not work outside the home. Statistics for 1870 (after the War) show 18% of Southern women in the workforce. By 1998, 60% of American women worked outside the home.
But anyone would be sorely mistaken who thought that working at home indicated a minor or unimportant role in the world. Because the home contained the primary locus of most economic activity, the lady of the house was charged with managing an impressive economic enterprise. Whether on a plantation or a small farm, she oversaw and took part in every labour from providing clothing to preparing food to planning the planting, not to mention raising, teaching, and loving children - a lot of children.
The birth rate in 1860 stood at 44.3 births per thousand women of all races. By 1998, it has dropped to 14.2, less than a third of its 1860 level. In 1860, married women of all races averaged giving birth to more than five children. On average Southern women 20 to 44 years old enjoyed the presence of more than one child under five at home. Obviously, abortion was not a social problem.
I couldn't find the illegitimacy rate for 1860, but as late as 1960 in the United States, illegitimate births for all women amounted to only 5.3%. In 1993, 30.5% of all US babies were born out of wedlock, the world's highest illegitimacy rate (22% for whites, 68% for blacks.) In 1993, 245 of all American women had borne a child out of wedlock, up from 15% in 1982. In 1992, American women bought 25% of the 418 million condoms sold. Forty-six percent of American women will have abortions in their lifetimes.
As the performance of these Southern women would show in the next five years when their men had to leave them for the war, there was no challenge of courage, labour, and ingenuity they could not meet and overcome. The Gloria Steinems and Hillary Clintons of our day could put on platform heels and stretch themselves to their full height and still not reach these women's shoelaces.
And all of this they accomplished daily without the loss of femininity. Nor should we falsely infer that their intense femininity - which still astonishes the whole world today in their daughters -- precluded their intellectual and cultural development. The multitude of now vanished female academies many little towns across the South would testify to that by themselves, but besides that we have those ladies' literary remains. Whoever has read the memoirs of a Varina Davis or Mary Boykin Chesnut or Phoebe Pember or countless others will never be able to account the women of the old South a batch of simpering, brainless beauties.
Compare - no, better not compare - that Southern womanhood to the fruit of feminism today. It's unnatural goals abandon womanhood in the name of womanhood. In the name of exalting women they have only succeeded in abasing her lower than any time Christian civilisation remembers. Compare the today's fragmented family , where both parents work, children are exiled to government school, and their only point of contact is their daily meeting for nutrition beneath the Golden Arches.
And think of the wild anarchy across the South in the field of education in 1860. There was no compulsory state education. . No one, least of all any bureaucrat, could arrest you or take away your children for not sending them to the state school. Just think of that. Forget every statistic and every item I have mentioned so far. Forget all that. If I could point to just one thing which all by itself would make the Old South the unutterable antithesis to America today, it would be education.
Think of it: no state sponsored education. No compulsory separation of children from parents. No indoctrination into state religion and state ideology. No beanie-weenie lunches in school cafeterias that smell like old milk and bananas.
Of course I could wax long-winded about the quality of the results from the Old South's educational system and today's state run system, but I won't. That would be an obvious cheap shot, as anybody who has ever tried Davis or Thornwell or Lee or Calhoun and then read USA Today can testify.
The educational failure of compulsory state education is too obvious to bear repeating, but its effects do not stop there. The budget of every state in the union devotes 40 to 60% of its resources to the education industry. (Think what they could do with 100%) Who is the largest employer in Memphis, Tennessee, home to Federal Express and I don't know how many other giant corporations? It's the school system. Compulsory state education is actually a gigantic welfare and public works project of the Commercial System, employing millions of unemployables and keeping young people out of the workforce.
But all of these objections pale next to the real revolt against nature and nature's God. Compulsory state education usurps the parent's ordained authority over children. It violently rends and destroys nature's closest and most loving relation, next to marriage. Nearly 500 years ago John Calvin wrote, "[T]he right which parents have over their children is inviolable, so that they who attempt to overthrow it confound heaven and earth." Compulsory state education institutionalises this blasphemy, and asserts for the state a warring claim to godhead.
But then, that is one true and primary cause of all these changes - that the American nation - and the modern South -- has revolted against the rule of the Almighty God.
But in the end, it is not fitting that we ourselves judge our Southern ancestors, for no man can rightly judge his own case. In 1863 an English officer, Col. Arthur Fremantle visited the Confederate States to see for himself what her people were like. We have his judgement in his book, Three Months in the Southern States:
"I have never met a man who was not anxious for the termination of the war; and I have never met a man, woman, or child who contemplated its termination as possible without an entire separation from the now detested Yankee. I have never been asked for alms or a gratuity by any man or woman, black or white. Every one knew who I was, and all spoke to me with the greatest confidence. I have rarely heard any person complain of the almost total ruin which had befallen so many. All are prepared to undergo still greater sacrifices, -- they contemplate and prepare to receive greater reverses which it is impossible to avert."
"This war is essentially a war of conquest. If ever a nation did wage such a war, the North is now engaged, with a determination worthy of a more hopeful cause, in endeavouring to conquer the South; but the more I think of all that I have seen in the Confederate States of the devotion of the whole population, the more I feel inclined to say with General [Leonidas] Polk - "How can you subjugate such a people as this?" and even supposing that their extermination were a feasible plan, as some northerners have suggested, I never can believe that in the nineteenth century the civilised world will be condemned to witness the destruction of such a gallant race."
To which I can only add, "God save the South!"