Causes of the Civil War – 9: The Debate Over the War’s Inevitability
Slave Auction

This post concludes a series exploring Causes of the Civil War. A review of the literature reveals – not surprisingly – a lack of agreement over whether the American Civil War was inevitable. Given the fact that it did occur, the question under consideration might be better stated as “at what point in time” did […]

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Causes of the American Civil War – 1
Image of slaves on Smith's Plantation

To celebrate the opening of Wig-Wags.com, I’m republishing a  series of posts on the much debated topic of the causes of the American Civil war. Let today’s post serve as its introduction. I’ll attempt in the series to address two questions. The first is whether economic interests, political agitation, and the cultural differences between North […]

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Civil War Historian Kenneth M. Stampp Dies, 96

The folks at the Berkeley’s public affairs office confirmed for me today that Kenneth M. Stampp died. His book The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South  (1956) is required reading in my program and rightly so. The view into slavery was groundbreaking. A full obituary will be posted shortly on Berkeley’s news site. Condolences […]

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On Slavery 9 – Partus Sequitur Ventrem

When considering slaves, Colonial Virginians abandoned the English tradition of partus sequitur patrem (one’s status was determined by the disposition of their father) in favor of the Roman principle of partus sequitur ventrem, a “child inherits the condition of the mother.” (1) Thus offspring of slave women were the property of their mother’s owner whether […]

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On Slavery – 8: The "Peculiar Institution"

I believe the use of the phrase “peculiar institution” was intended to convey the highly contradictory nature of the practice of human ownership in a country based on equality and freedom. Regardless of what perspective one might have of slavery in America, it is difficult to argue against the fact that these contradictions existed. Historian […]

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On Slavery – 6 Chattels Personal

Kenneth Stampp’s chapter “Chattels Personal” is excellent. I suspect that “chattel” is not a word most of us learn unless we study law or Antebellum American history in depth. Its meaning in the context of slavery is, of course, that person’s slaves were consider legally as “chattel personal.” Being a person quite taken with words, […]

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On Slavery – 5 Escaping

Historian Kenneth Stampp makes an interesting point about differing locations of slaves determining the destination of escapees. Those living near Indians might, for example, seek refuge with local tribes, as was the case in Florida. “…Florida slaves escaped to the Seminole Indians, aided them in their wars against the whites, and accompanied them when they […]

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On Slavery – 4

The experience of slaves could vary by region due in large part to the type of product the slave was engaged in bringing to market. Slaves in the hemp producing regions of Kentucky and Missouri, worked in rhythm with the cycles required by the crop. Similarly, slaves who worked in cotton producing areas (above) or […]

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On Slavery – 1

I’m reading Kenneth M. Stampp’s fascinating book, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South for class. A focus this week and next is, among other things, the ways in which slave owners controlled their bondsmen. The methods varied considerably as did the ethical sensibilities of the masters and overseers. Stampp suggests that behavioral control […]

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