Rebel Yell: American Nations, The Deep South

LISTEN HERE.

Good discussion.

I didn’t hear anything that I disagreed with.

Michael Cushman summarizes the spread of the plantation complex out of Brazil to the Caribbean to the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry. This was all discussed in his book Our Southern Nation.

Musonius Rufus asks a few questions about the contemporary Deep South and wonders why the South has stayed the conservative part of the country in spite of the destruction of slavery over 150 years ago. Fulwar Skipwith chimed in to note that there was never really an aristocracy in the Old Southwest.

A few points:

1.) The Golden Circle theory is basically right about settlers from Barbados introducing their culture to early colonial South Carolina and how that evolved into the culture of the Deep South.

2.) There were very few settlers though who came from Barbados to South Carolina. The Lowcountry was settled by waves of settlers. From what I have read, there was an initial wave of Barbadians. There was a wave of English Dissenters. There was a wave of French Huguenots. There were other waves of immigrants, but the money was in the Barbadian model of slave-based plantation agriculture and white supremacy which was adapted to create rice plantations based on the task system. As Cushman notes, slavery in the Lowcountry was relaxed compared to the Caribbean. The day was often done by 1 PM!

3.) In my view, the Deep South is synonymous with the culture of the Cotton Kingdom, which stretched from South Carolina to East Texas and up the Lower Mississippi Valley into Arkansas and Tennessee. The cotton plantations had drivers.

4.) We haven’t paid enough attention to the South Carolina Upcountry. It was overwhelmingly settled by the Scots-Irish who came down out of Greater Appalachia. The settlers of the Upcountry originally grew corn and drove cattle like they did elsewhere in the Upper South. On the eve of the American Revolution, 75% of the population of South Carolina was in the Upcountry. In the 19th century, power shifted in South Carolina from the Lowcountry to the Upcountry as the Cotton Kingdom grew.

5.) There is a stereotype that the English settled on the coast and in the river valleys of the Lower South and the Scots-Irish settled in the mountains and hills of the Upper South. From what I have read though, a third of the settlers of Appalachia were English from the lowlands. Similarly, the Scots-Irish settled all over the Old Southwest and made it to Florida. The class structure of slavery was permeable.

6.) The Old Southwest (Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) was settled from both the north and the east. In Mississippi, White settlers came down the Natchez Trace from Nashville. They also came down the Mississippi River from Kentucky. The Mississippi Delta was settled after the 1830s by the wealthiest planters from all over the South. Tens of thousands of settlers from North Carolina and Virginia also came to the Old Southwest. My paternal ancestor came from Cumberland County, NC. Barbour County, AL where I am from is named after James Barbour who was a former governor of Virginia.

7.) There are white belts in the Piney Woods and Hill Country of Alabama and Mississippi and the Piney Woods and swamps of Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. Slavery was a middle class institution in the Old South. The typical slaveowner wasn’t a Black Belt planter.

8.) There were European immigrants and Northerners who settled in the Old Southwest too and who adopted the local culture and became planters. This hasn’t been fully explored.

9.) I think we need to spend more time explaining the Cotton Kingdom as it spread across the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Lower Mississippi Valley. The story is much more complex than it is presented in Woodard’s book American Nations. Also, Southern industrialization in the New South had little in common with the Northern experience except for maybe in Birmingham. The textile villages in small towns and rural areas was the normal pattern and was a continuation of plantation culture in some ways.

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9 Comments

  1. The settlers of the Upcountry originally grew corn and drove cattle like they did elsewhere in the Upper South.

    Lamar County Texas. Corn, wheat, hay and lots of cattle and horses. Little or no cotton. Most of the residents are descended from Virginians, Kentuckians and Tennesseans. Or Missouri refugees and Arkansans, after 1865. Like the rest of North/Northeast Texas.

  2. I can’t help but, think of Ralph Izard the wealthiest planter in South Carolina, who was of English ancestry, and underwrote the original American Navy.

    I don’t know that Izard had any direct connection with the Caribbean, except possibly a desire to shake off the British Mercantile System, and trade directly with Europe.

  3. There are white belts in the Piney Woods and Hill Country of Alabama and Mississippi and the Piney Woods and swamps of Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. Slavery was a middle class institution in the Old South. The typical slaveowner wasn’t a Black Belt planter.

    This was the point that I was sort of trying to make.

    49% of Mississippians owned at least one slave– that number doesnt get just too much lower in any of the old Southwestern states.

    The vast majority of “plantations” were a dogtrot house with nine or ten hands working about 100 acres of sandy soil.

    • You really should replace Dark Enlightenment with an actual southerner. Hunter here would be ideal, just to bring the statist populist perspective to the discussion, but anyone with a proper drawl would be a great improvement.

      • Dark has been running this whole American Nations series…on the other hand I am willing to do infinity more shows on just the Deep South. A lot of the ID guys are up in hill country and I think we dont spend enough time talking about the flatlands. In truth I’m more inclined to 1896 style populism than I am anything else, but I dont like getting in shouting matches about it on the air. That might be a fun time.

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