In “How Different from Each Other Were the Antebellum North and South”, Edward Pessen argues that the North and South were similar but fundamentally different. They were similar in most of the aspects of common life such as; economy, social structure, and politics. The North and South were both centered around agriculture. They were both centered around a, agriculture, which supported most of the economy before the market revolution. Northern farms mostly grew grains and corn, while the southern farms grew tobacco, rice, sugar and cotton.
The goal for the North and South was to be self-sufficient, and have influence and power. While in the North, the wealth came from industry and the market revolution, but in the South, the wealth could mostly be contributed to slavery and agriculture that required slaves to operate. Pessen uses many outside sources to support his argument about the North and the South. He uses Ulrich B. Phillips’ definition of “planters”. In this definition, Phillips states that because 10% of the slave-owners had twenty or more slaves, they lived on a plantation (Pessen, 1132).
The more slaves one had, the wealthier they would be. Pesson also uses Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, to illustrate that most people had a belief that the Old South was populated mostly by plantations that had masters that were sinful and cruel, but also honorable. This belief is wrong because plantations did exist, but not in as big of a number like Gone with the Wind suggests. Slavery was very prominent in the South, but not known in the North, because many northerners were abolitionists or anti-slavery.
The South was working on navigating by rivers and streams, instead of progressing with railroads. This could show that the South really was moving backwards compared to the North. The North’s economy was booming because of the industrial production in the Northwest. The North and South both invested in American made products, to make the most money out of their investment (Pessen). In “Antebellum Southern Exceptionalism: A look at an Old Question”, James McPherson argues that the North and South were very different in their morals, religion, and climate.
McPherson also argues that the North and the South could not live under the same government for much longer. McPherson believed that the only similarities between the North and South were the language, constitution, legal system, economy, and Protestant religion. Having the same language and law system wasn’t the problem, the problem was how the language and the laws were put in place. The North and South were both using the language as another factor that drove a wedge in between them. The South was more centered in tradition, fearing change. The North however, was interested in modernizing, and improving.
For example, “In 1820, 10 percent of free-states lived in urban areas, compared to five percent in the slave states. ” (McPherson, 425). This just shows that the North and South were growing farther and farther apart. The North was growing at a faster rate of change, that gave no hope to the South for an alliance back with the North. In the 1850’s the railroad boom in the North was tying the Northwest and the Northeast together, which allowed for a stronger trade route. This new trade route put a more East to West emphasis, instead of a North and South route.
This also helped expansion into cities that now are Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland. In politics, the North believed in the idea of free labor, and the South believed in slave labor. McPherson quotes William H. Seward, “.. irrepressible conflict between two opposing and enduring forces” (McPherson, 422). Which can very accurately describe the situation going on between the North and South at the time. McPherson quotes a Georgia newspaper, “Free Society! We sicken at the name,” (McPherson, 423). This simple sentence shows just how against Free Society the southerners were.
The southerners also felt that they needed to figure out if the nation was going to accept a free society or disapprove of the idea. The North and South were different, but they couldn’t remain that way forever, which ultimately lead to war. McPherson quotes a journalist William Howard Russel, that can give more insight to how the southerners felt about the North. A southerner said, “We have no cities, we don’t want them, we are pursuing our own system, and working out our own destiny,” (McPherson, 421). This can support McPherson’s original argument that the North and South were too different to live under the same union.
McPherson and Pessen both argued that the North and South were different in the fundamentals or morals of the nation. Pesson, argued that economically, socially and politically the North and South were similar. McPherson argued that the North and South were too different and shouldn’t live under one existing government unless they could figure out if they wanted to be a slave labor state or a free-labor state. Pesson and McPherson’s slavery argument is similar because of abolitionists versus pro-slavery, and free labor versus slave labor.
The North was more urbanizing and progressing than the South, which both Pessen and McPherson could agree on. McPherson and Pesson could also agree on that the North and South needed to solve the problem of slavery to move on as a union. McPherson, however disagrees with Pessen’s argument that the voting habits were similar. McPherson writes, “…different societies to be similar such as France and Germany, and Turkey and Russia,” (McPherson, 423). The documents in chapter 11 of Voices of Freedom by Eric Foner support both McPherson and Pessen’s argument on the issue of the North and South.
Document number 66 Fredrick Douglass on the Desire for Freedom by Fredrick Douglass suggests that Douglass was against slavery and he thought that slavery was a moral problem, which could connect to Pessen because he argues that slavery was not known by the North, and even some politicians from the time didn’t want to deal with the conflict. Document 67, Rise of the Cotton Kingdom written by Fredrick Norcom supports Pessen’s argument. Fredrick Norcom argued that the South and the cotton kingdom was a way to “get rich fast”. This was because the land was cheaper in the South, so for a little investment, people could get a high reward.
Rise of the Cotton Kingdom can also be related to Pessen’s views because Pessen writes about how less free white men owned land in the North than in the South. This could be because the land was cheaper and it was easier to get a high return. Pessen also writes “Northern fortunes, in fact, owed more to commerce and finance than to manufacturing,” this is another way that the economy was different between the North and South (Pessen, 1135). Document 68, William Sewall, the Results of British Emancipation written by William Sewall, supports both McPherson and Pessen’s arguments.
Sewall argued that slavery was on the road to abolition. Sewall also argues about free labor and slave labor, going back to both McPherson and Pesson’s argument. Sewall argues that free-labor is the “path of industry” (Chapter 11, 213). This was similar to McPherson’s argument because he also argued that free labor was the way to go. In Document 69 Rules of Highland Plantation written by Bennet H. Barrow, Barrow writes that if the slave-owners treat the slaves with kindness, they won’t want to try and escape, which can support McPherson’s arguments about slavery.
Article 70, Slavery and the Bible, the writer argues that even God had slaves, which supported the pro-slavery movement by the southerners. He also writes that the slaves are better off than the free-laborers, which challenges McPherson’s labor argument. Slavery could be considered as more “job secure” then the idea of free labor because there isn’t a lot of job security. The Documents of Chapter 13 in Voices of Freedom support Pessen more than they support McPherson. Document 80 and 85 support McPherson, and 82, 83 and 84 support Pessen.
In article 80, Manifest Destiny, John O’Sullivan argues that expansion is the future of the United States, which starts with the annexation of California, and a new road to help the transfer of goods across America. O’ Sullivan also argued that slavery had nothing to do with the sectional crisis, which is similar to McPherson’s argument. In Document 82 Resistance to Civil Government, Henry David Thoreau writes that “I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government, which is the slave’s government also,” (Chapter 13, 262).
This can connect to Pessen in his thought that the North acknowledge slavery because most of the North were either abolitionist or anti-slavery. In document 83, The Irrepressible Conflict, William Henry Seward writes that expansion is very controversial. This can reflect both Pessen and McPherson’s differences because they both argue that expansion is controversial because of the expansion of slavery. Seward also writes that the North is the “home of progress” which can be reflected mainly by McPherson. In Seward’s opinion, slavery is immoral, which can be connected to Pessen’s differences.
Seward also argued that the North and South are incompatible, which connects almost directly to McPherson’s main point. In document 85, The Lincoln- Douglass Debates, Steven Douglas argued that this country was made by white men, for white men which could reflect both McPherson and Pessen’s opinions. Abraham Lincoln was against slavery like most of the North, he was a radical candidate for presidency because he thought he had no right to touch slavery. The documents of chapter 14 of Voices of Freedom argue that the people fighting the Civil war came from different societies.
Pessen also wrote about this idea in his article. In the beginning of the Civil War, blacks were not allowed to enlist in the Union’s army. After Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, blacks could enlist. After black were able to enlist, they still were not equal to the white soldiers. In Article 91, Fredrick Douglass on Black Soldiers, Fredrick Douglass tried to recruit northern blacks for the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers company. This was a volunteer company commanded by Robert Gould Shaw. Douglass wanted to plant a seed in the government’s head about what to o with the blacks after they fought in the Civil War.
This relates back to Pessen’s argument that the North and South were different societies before the war. The North was concentrating on becoming more urbanized and industrialized, while the South concentrated on the growing of cotton and the use of slave labor. They grew so far apart that eventually something had to be done to solve the problem. In Article 88 Letter of a Civil War Soldier, Marcus M. Spiegel writes a letter to his wife about his journey in the Civil War.
In a quote, “I am in favor of doing away with the institution of slavery,” (Chapter 14, 286). Meaning that he was fighting to end slavery and trying to get Negros paid for the work they do. He felt this would be better than having slave labor. Spiegel writes that he was just doing his civil duty by his country, which is why most people decide to join the military. After reading McPherson, Pessen, and examined the chapters in Voices of Freedom, the conclusion can be made that the North and South weren’t completely different. They both had the same language, legal system, economy and constitution.
They did however, have very different morals. The North wanted to progress with industrialization, and the South was concentrating on the farming of cotton. The South hated the idea of industrialization and wanted nothing to do with it. The North wanted to change and move forward, but the South was moving backwards, or toward their own destiny. These many issues caused the North and South to drift so far apart that they ended up in a civil war. There were many reasons to go to war, but the disagreement of slavery was by far the most important.