Origins of Modern Conservative Politics

From Eric Foner’s excellent “Reconstruction – America’s Unfinished Revolution”:

Carl Schurz and other Northerners who toured the South in 1865 concluded that white Southerners “do not know what free labor is.” To which many planters replied that Northerners “do not understand the character of the negro.” Free labor assumptions – economic rationality, internal self-discipline, responsiveness to the incentives of the market – could never, planters insisted, be applied to blacks. “They are improvident and reckless of the future,” complained a Georgia newspaper; the “inborn nature of the negro,” echoed a Louisiana planter, “cannot be changed by the offer of more or less money.” Nor was another free labor axiom, the opportunity for social mobility, applicable in the South. “you must begin at the bottom of the ladder and climb up,” Freedmen’s Bureau Commissioner O.O. Howard informed a black audience in New Orleans. At least he offered the opportunity to climb. A Natchez newspaper at the same time was informing its readers: “The true station of the negro is that of a servant.” Or, as a Texan put it, the “destiny of the negro race” could be summarized “in one sentence – subordination to the white race.” The conviction that preindustrial lower classes share an aversion to regular, disciplined toil had a long history in both Europe and America…”

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