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Notes Chapter 9: The Quest for a Republican Society I. Many interpreted the success of their government since independence as divinely inspired, a sign that God looked favorably on their self-governing experiment. II. During the 1st ½ century, the nation had matured into a full-fledged “republican” society. After independence, Americans tried to become “republicans” not just in their constitutional and legal systems but also in their political outlook, social behavior, and cultural values. A. By 1820 they had made considerable progress towards these goals, for their state and society now reflected many of the values of ordinary citizens. B. Yet this pursuit of republican ideals was conflict-ridden and complex, for 3 partially competing, partially complementary visions for republican society emerged during the formative era. III. Many white Americans, especially in the northern states, were democratic-republicans. Seeking to implement their ideals, they tried to instill greater equality into political and family life. A. Some of these initiatives succeeded, but just as often they failed because of the strength of entrenched cultural values and economic interests. IV. In the South many whites shared these democratic aspirations, but because their society was even more sharply divided along the lines of class and race, they found such ideals more difficult to attain. A. Consequently, Southern leaders gradually devised an aristocratic-republican ideology that better represented the dominant cultural values and hierarchical character of their society. V. Another vision of American society took form in the wake of the massive religious revival that swept through American society during the 1st ½ of the 19th century.
Part 2: 297-302
Notes Increased Labor Discipline I. In theory, while masters had virtually unlimited power, both legal and physical, over their slaves. By law slaves could be disciplined at the will of their owners and bought and bought and sold like livestock. A. Planters had never been able to turn slaves into willing workers. So in the upland cotton-growing regions of SC and Georgia and in AL and MI, owners devised a new gang-labor system to increase the output of their workers. B. Planters w/20 or more slaves organized them into teams that were supervised by drivers who assigned them specific tasks. C. To clear and plant newly settled lands, profit-conscious masters instructed drivers and overseers to use the lash to extract labor from exhausted field workers. Gangs worked at a feverish pace. D. Even on well-established plantations, gang labor became the norm. By forcing their slaves to work in gangs, owners extracted more labor, increasing output and profits. Resistance and Flight I. To resist the innovations of gang labor and forced separations, African Americans used the same tactics as previous generations of slaves. To slow the pace of work they feigned illness and were careless with their master’s property. To maintain kin ties they insisted that work gangs be sold in families and defied their masters when they were not.
A. Masters ignored such resistance at their peril, because slave’s relatives might retaliate with arson, poison, or destruction of crops or equipment. B. Blacks realized that a revolt was unlikely to be successful. In most areas they accounted for less than ½ of the population, and everywhere they lacked strong institutions needed to organize a rebellion. C. Moreover, their white adversaries were armed, unified, and militant, and there were only a few places to which the blacks could flee and set up their own communities. One such refuge was Spanish Florida, but that option was cut off in 1819 when the US annexed the territory. D. Elsewhere in the south small groups of escaped slaves eked out a bare subsistence in deserted marshy areas or in mountain valleys. Given these limited options, most slaves had no choice but to build the best possible lives for themselves on the plantations where they were born. Like the oppressed peasantry of Europe, enslaved African Americans worked as dependent agricultural laborers and built close-knit communities based on family, kinship, and religion.
Free Blacks I. Meanwhile, free African Americans explored the opportunities, and encountered the racial limits, of republican liberty. A. In the post-revolutionary era a few free blacks were able for the 1st time to make full use of their talents, and some achieved great distinction. B. More impressive and enduring than individual achievements were the community institutions created by the 1st generation of free African Americans. In the major cities of the North and in Charleston, SC, hundreds of free blacks pooled their resources and talents to fund schools, mutual-benefit organizations, and fellowship societies. C. Reacting to discriminating treatment in white Protestant churches, free blacks formed their own congregations and an independent religious domination—the AME. Over the years these institutions gave free African Americans a sense of cultural autonomy. II. Between 1790 and 1820 the number of free blacks steadily rose, from 8% to 13%. About ½ of all free blacks were in the North, where they were treated as 2nd class citizens and consigned by custom to the most menial and low-paying work. A. In rural areas, free blacks worked as farm laborers or tenant farmers; in towns and cities, as domestic servants, laundresses, or day laborers. B. Prejudice further circumscribed the lives of these African Americans: even in the North they were usually forbidden to vote, attend public schools, or sit next to whites in churches. Virtually all public facilities in the North were segregated. III. Most free African Americans in the slave states lived in the upper south. However, these free blacks faced substantial legal restrictions; those accused of crimes were often denied a jury trial, and those who lacked work were threatened by vagrancy and apprenticeship laws intended to force them back into slavery. A. To prove their free status, free blacks had to carry documents, in some states they needed official permission to travel across county lines. Kidnapping and sale into slavery were a constant threat. B. However, the shortage of skilled workers in southern cities created opportunities for a few blacks to become carpenters, blacksmiths, barbers, butchers, and shopkeepers. Skilled African American workers in Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston, and New Orleans formed their own benevolent societies and churches, which became the core of their urban communities, providing education, recreation, and social welfare programs. IV. As a privileged group among African Americans, free blacks felt pulled in 2 directions: loyalty to the welfare of their families, which often meant assimilation into white culture, and loyalty to their race, which meant identification w/the great mass of
enslaved African Americans. A. In some places wealthier free blacks, particularly the mulatto children of white masters and black women, drew apart from common laborers and field hands and adopted the outlook of the planter class. B. Generally, free blacks and enslaved African Americans saw themselves as one people. Knowing that their own freedom was not secure as long as slavery existed, free blacks sought to win freedom for their “brothers” and “sisters.” C. Free blacks in the south aided fugitive slaves while those in the North supported the antislavery movement. In the rigid caste system of American race relations, free blacks stood as symbols of hope to enslaved African Americans and as omens of danger to the majority of whites.
Part 3: 310
3 variants of republican society developed in the US in the early 19th century: democratic republicanism in the North, aristocratic republicanism in the South, and an evangelical Protestant vision of republicanism that was embraced by many people in both regions. In the North the ideal of a democratic republican society based on liberty and equality encouraged the emergence of a white male citizenry that demanded voting rights, pursued social mobility, and looked w/suspicion on aristocratic pretensions. A. Political and religious leaders promoted a different path for women, developing the notion of a separate sphere consisting primarily of domestic responsibilities. B. Republicanism and sentimentalism influenced the private lives of many Americans, encouraging young people to marry for love as well as economic security, and promoting parents to rear their children using reason and authority. In the South, planters extended the slave regime into the Old Southwest. This expansion led to a sectional confrontation over slavery that the Missouri Compromise temporarily resolved by allowing some free and some slave states to be formed from the Louisiana Purchase. A. Enslaved blacks adopted English and some white religious practices but, along with free blacks in northern cities, forged a distinct African American culture. The southern planter elite solidified its control of the southern social order, constructing an elaborate intellectual defense of slavery and depicting itself as a natural aristocracy. Using the ideology of white supremacy, it retained the loyalty of white tenants and yeomen. A. The hierarchical character of southern society encouraged the formation of an aristocratic republican system of values. The Second Great Awakening made Americans a fervently Protestant people and dramatically increased the influence of evangelical Baptist and Methodist Churches. A. Religious revivalism also enhanced the status of women, whose moral activism broadened the dimensions of their sphere to encompass teaching in public schools and managing charitable organizations and religious societies. Religious institutions thus gave women a new and growing presence in public life and added a new dimension to the American republican experiment.
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