Lost Southern Custom.
February 12, 1868
The abolition of slavery has taken away the strong work force of the South and indirectly damaged northern manufacturers. The South was one of the northern manufacturers best customers yet now this trade market is almost nonexistent. The abolition of slavery injured the North more or just as much as the South.
Lost Southern Custom. The wails that come from the manufacturing communities of the North are caused by that general source of evils that now flood the country-the abolition of slavery. The South would not restore that institution. She will never consent to be the sufferer from such another infernal crusade as that which was carried on against her for thirty years by the northern people. But that slavery enriched the North, and that its abolition is inflicting the most injurious consequences on northern enterprise, are both facts too well known to be denied. The South was considered the plantations of the North, and southern planters but the stewards of northern merchants. The abolition of slavery has released the planter from his stewardship, but it has greatly damaged the northern manufacturers and merchants. The South was an immense market for goods and manufactures. Negro clothing was a large trade, and its exact style and the extent of the demand for it were so well understood that the trade in it was steady and certain, affording a regular business with handsome profits. So it was with the fabrics for the households of southern gentlemen, and the whole supply of goods needed for them. Now, this fine business, which was so uniform-so profitable has become nearly extinct. The poor negroes spend their wages in gewgaws and notions, and the supplies sent to the South to meet their wants, as understood before the war, find scarcely any demand. The white population have been without money, and have been compelled to economise in clothing, so that the trade with the South, which was so rich-so remune-rative-is now whittled down until it is contemptible compared with its former magnitude. So with iron manufactures and agricultural implements. The demand in the cotton and tobacco regions of the South for these was immense, and annually increasing. Northern forges and foundries found the South their richest field. Now, what does this trade amount to? The answer of the manufacturers will be sad enough-as sad for themselves as for us. This is not the worst for these merchants and manufacturers. The thrifty trade they once had with the South will never return to them. Slavery being gone, the southern people will necessarily withdraw, in a measure, from the cultivation of staple commodities and give a part of their labor to the production of the necessaries of life. This will be attended by a more economical mode of living, and a great variety of articles of household economy, which they before the war bought at the North, will be made at home. Besides, labor will seek occupation in manufacturing. Much of the cotton produced at the South will be there manufactured, and it will not be long before ail the agricultural implements used in the South will be made in the South. Therefore the abolition of slavery will, in the end, turn out to have injured the North more than the South. In time, the South will recover. Her white population will increase by remaining at home, instead of emigrating to make room for the slaves-and a new condition of industry and enterprise will ensue-one which, we have reason to believe, will increase the political power and aggregate wealth of the South.
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“Lost Southern Custom.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 18, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/837.