Textbook: Mba Mbulu's Introduction to White History: The History of White America. Click here for purchase information.
Click Here and read the extract from Mba Mbulu's Introduction to White History: The History of White America for this class. Also read Chapter 20 of the textbook, Mba Mbulu's An Introduction to White History. Think about what you read and be able to respond to the following questions.
(1) Was capitalism new to the settlers who came to the new
(2) How did their capitalist approach to economics impact on the history of the United States of America?
(3) What were the different capitalist approached that were taken in the American colonies?
(4) How did the different capitalist approached taken in the American colonies affect the ability of the colonies to get along harmoniously?
(5) The major problem generated by the different capitalist systems revolved around labor. Why is it important to know the difference between labor and slavery?
(6) If the settlers who populated the north had populated the south instead, would they have been in favor of a slave labor system?
(7) It is safe to say that among the colonizers of the new land, morality had some substance, but only within relatively minor contexts. What do you make of that statement, and what does it imply for the future of Black people in the United States?
By the time colonization had begun in the new land, England's people had been experiencing capitalism for in excess of 200 years. In fact, they were a capitalist minded lot, and they brought this taste for capitalism with them to the new land. Quite naturally, the English subjects who settled in the northern areas approached the issue of economics from a capitalist perspective. [Since much of the north, particularly New York, was initially colonized by the Dutch, and since the Dutch had capitalist roots that exceeded those of even England, the English taste for capitalism was expanded by the Dutch settlers they encountered.] Similarly, the English subjects who settled in the the middle areas approached the issue of economics from a capitalist perspective. And, the English subjects who settled in the southern areas approached the issue of economics from a capitalist perspective. The capitalist solutions arrived at by those in the northern and middle areas were similar enough that they could be merged without generating much ado. However, the capitalist solution arrived at by those settlers who occupied the southern areas was so different from the others that it strained the ability of the sections to get along harmoniously. This difference hovered for a seeming eternity, and threatened the creation of the United States of America during the Revolutionary War period. Later, this difference brought the country to the brink of civil war in the 1820s and, finally, exploded into bloody hostilities between the states in the 1860s. We will develop this theme more in later pages of this book.
The major problem generated by the different capitalist systems revolved around labor. For the most part, large and small farmers and businessmen in the northern and middle colonies in the early 1600s either worked for themselves or paid laborers to work for them. In the southern colonies, laborers were, for the most part, forced to work for free. From the point of view of those in the north, forced unpaid labor was detrimental for several reasons, including but not limited to the following: (1) Paid laborers increased the size of the consumer market and resulted in the healthy expansion of capitalism. Unpaid laborers, on the other hand, tended to stifle the growth of the economic market; (2) Paid laborers forced businessmen to adopt efficient business practices. Unpaid laborers, particularly in the agricultural sector, encouraged businessmen to lay waste to the most valuable resource of all--land (England's businessmen had learned from the experience of its wool industry); (3) Paid laborers tended to respect property and the rights of businessmen. Unpaid laborers tended to harbor grave resentments, disrespect law and order, destroy property and threaten the security of the entire nation; (4) Paid laborers tended to feel better about their prospects for the future, and were therefore more likely to feel a degree of contentment. There was not the slightest degree of contentment among unpaid laborers; (5) Paid laborers could be "educated" and contribute not only to the economy, but to "society" at large. Unpaid laborers had to be kept uneducated and ignorant, and represented all of the dangers to society that lack of education and ignorance generally represent; (6) Paid labor was more likely to defend the status quo against foreign aggression, while the opposite was true for forced labor; and (7) Paid laborers tended to be healthier, less prone to fall victim to an epidemic and less likely to pose a health or sanitation threat to the overall community. The opposite was true of unpaid laborers. In short, then, what the northern colonies saw when they looked at the southern areas was a form of capitalism that (1) restricted the growth and development of a healthy, more profitable market, (2) wasted resources that northern businessmen could translate into millions of dollars in profit, (3) promoted disrespect for law and order, (4) decreased the value of property, (5) raised external security concerns and (6) raised internal security and sanitation concerns for the entire nation. Understanding this, one can see why northern elites and business persons saw the southern system of capitalism as a plague that should be eliminated. For various reasons, however, northerners were obligated to tolerate the southern system for as long as it possibly could.
Traditional historians make much of the fact that forced, unpaid labor was morally offensive, and assert that that motivated the north to seek the abolition of the southern system. For the sake of humanity, we would want that to be the case, but the fact is otherwise. Northerners at no time, even during the Civil War, advocated the abolition of the southern slave system. What northern businessmen wanted to do was keep slavery from spreading to other parts of the country. If northern and southern businessmen could have agreed on that point, slavery would have been accepted as a permanent American economic institution. Thus, the disagreement between the northern and southern businessmen was not about the moral issue of slavery, but the spread of slavery, which is an economic issue.
If the settlers who populated the north had populated the south instead, it is likely that they would have been huge supporters of forced, unpaid labor. Therefore, it is safe to say that among the colonizers of the new land, morality had some substance, but only within relatively minor contexts.