chapter  6
17 Pages

Conclusion

George Washington Cable wrote that in the antebellum period two fundamental and antagonistic principles underwrote the confl ict between slaveholding South and free labor North. Th e survival of these principles into the postemancipation period, moreover, explained the continued denial of civil and political rights to blacks in the South. Th e principle animating life in the North, as Cable described it, “declare[d] the only permanent safety of public society, and its highest development, to require the constant elevation of the lower, and thus of the whole mass, by the free self-government of all under one common code of equal civil rights.” Th e principle that animated the antebellum South, however, “declare[d] public safety and highest development to require the subjugation of the lower mass under the arbitrary protective supremacy of a unifi ed but hereditary privileged class, a civil caste.” It might seem obvious, Cable noted, that the Civil War had been motivated by a clash between these two principles, the surrender at Appomattox tantamount to the defeat of the second, and triumph of the fi rst. But this was not the case. “Emancipation,” thought Cable, “had destroyed private, but it had hardly disturbed public subjugation. Th e ex-slave was not a free man; he was only a free negro.” But free blacks were not new to the South in 1865, and the wholesale emancipation of black slaves only demonstrated to former masters that they had been wrong on one point: “personal enslavement,” it turned out, was not essential to subjugation.1