In what ways did agricultural life in the South create conditions that did not mesh with the ideals of American life?
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This depends to a great extent on when in history you are asking about. Overall, the most likely answer comes from the time in the late 1800s, in my opinion. During this time, agricultural life in the South was not congruent with our ideals. Specifically, it was not congruent with the ideal of equality and independence.
During this time, there was a lot of sharecropping going on in the South. We did not have small farmers working their own land and being independent. Instead, we had sharecroppers and such who were exploited by big landowners. This is very much opposed to American ideals.
I assume you mean the Old South and slavery. I would make a different argument than the one your question seems to suppose.
The Declaration of Independence was written by a southern planter, Thomas Jefferson.
The U.S. Constitution of 1787 was proposed by a southern planter, James Madison, and worked into the form that was presented to the states for debate and adoption, by mercantilists, lawyers, capitalists, and argiculturists. The last were from both North and South.
Slavery existed before the Declaration or the Constitution.
As time passed, it was the North that became different, not the South. The North became more industrialized. Industrial workers moved from being independent craftsmen to being machine tenders, dependent upon big men for wages.
Northern opposition to slavery was (except for a small number of individuals) not because of the restriction on liberty. Northern industrial workers were no more free at the time than the southern slaves; numerous commentators said so, including Horace Greeley. Northern opposition to slavery was because of it being a source of wealth to southern planters and politicians whom northern industrialists and politicians battled in the halls of government in Washington, DC. Northerners wanted tarrifs, internal improvements, government subsidies to their railroads, and empire. Southerners opposed them. The northerners' hope was to destroy southern political power by destroying slavery.
So, it was not an ideal of American life that was in contention there, though it made good propaganda to say so.
A book that you should examine is "North over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era" by Susan-Mary Grant (2000).
Those are interesting point geosc, I had never really thought of it in that context. However it does make sense that the South was the one living the American Dream, so to speak and the northerners were changing the idea of The American Dream.
Jefferson envisioned an American agricultural utopia when he helped found the country, and the South was the antithesis of that idea as, just like Europe, the vast majority of the land was owned by a few very wealthy people, while the poor were their servants, slaves and tenant farmers. The South, in other words, did not represent the opportunity that America became known for. It did not necessarily matter how hard you worked or what your talent was, the American Dream was simply not as possible in that region, culture and economy.
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