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Book Reports: Slave Country and Divided Mastery - Essay Example

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Book Reports: Slave Country and Divided Mastery

Slaves had thus become just part of the "machinery" of production. This brought it home to me just how integral a part of the South slavery was.
Another feature that struck me was the use of the stories of individual slaves and white people. Rothman showed how unique both were and, overall, just how much the foundation and growth in the early days of America depended upon the forced labor of black people. This is obviously an aspect of our history that is often ignored by historians and the general population, for understandable but regrettable reasons. In general people don't want to concentrate or dwell on the fact that an institution as evil as slavery was the basis for the development of America. However, as Rothman shows, it inevitably was.
In the first half of Divided Mastery Jonathan Martin reveals that the slave system in the American South was paradoxical. On the one hand there were a number of self-sustaining features within it and on the other there were those that were sure, in the long run, to undermine it. He concentrates on the fact, in the first half of the book, that the whole southern economy was based upon slavery, including the rise of such large cities as Charleston and, to a lesser extent, New Orleans.
Of particular interest to me within this book was the mixture of personal, first person narrative and analysis from the author. Thus the book starts with the very memorable quote from a newspaper, the Southern Planter, in December 1852: "the thing is an evil, existing among us". The reader might expect this to be from an anti-slavery tract, but is surprised to learn that the "evil" being discussed here is not the whole institution of slavery but rather the practice of "hiring out" slaves to the highest bidder by owners. This was said to be destabilizing the whole nature of the economic system.
Was anyone else unaware of the system of hiring out slaves
Such viewpoints regarding the details of slavery, and the arguments over how it should be carried out -rather than about its existence, were a new thing to me. They showed that slavery was an accepted part of the South, so accepted indeed that many people thought that it was beyond question. This was why they had the time, energy and openness to discuss matters such as the renting out of slaves in much the same way industries now argue about outsourcing. The fact that they are talking about human beings doesn't seem to cross the mind of many of the people.
Second half of Divided Mastery
In the second half of Divided Mastery, the author concentrates upon the manner in which what he calls the "triangulation" of ownership: between slave owner, hirer and slaves eventually brought about the elements of its undoing. He says that there were advantages to the flexibility given to owners (getting more money when needed), for the hirers (only having slaves when needed) and even for the slaves themselves (through being able to play one master off against another).
It was the latter point that was most noticeable to me and most striking. It seems controversial to consider the "positive" aspects of one feature of slavery for the slave, but it ...Show more

Summary

The first half of the book Slave Country deals with why slavery expanded in the post-Revolutionary period, particularly in the far south of the state of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Rothman forcefully argues that the settlement of these states by plantation owners set the new nation inevitably on the course towards civil war.
Author : iroob
Book Reports: Slave Country and Divided Mastery essay example
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