Read the excerpts in The Old South from the trials of various slaves accused of fighting, resistance, and drunkenness in Anderson District, South Carolina in 1846, and explain your impression of the slave community during that time.

The impression of the slave community in Anderson District in 1846 is of a community divided. To a large extent, this was because of divisions created by the slaves' economy.

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In a section of The Old South dealing with the ambiguities of the slave economy, Smith introduces excerpts of trials of slaves in Anderson District, South Carolina in 1846. The slaves concerned were accused of various crimes such as fighting, drunkenness, and resistance. All were found guilty and whipped.

What is striking about these crimes is that they arose from divisions in the slave community created by the economy that slaves, despite their servitude, had created for themselves. Slaves bought and sold goods, including food and liquor. Although the authorities tried to crack down on such activities, their enforcement methods were always half-hearted because white traders and buyers were able to obtain goods at knock-down prices and had an interest in the continuation of the slave economy.

One of the trial transcripts deals with a case in which some slaves got into an almighty quarrel near a church while selling ginger cakes. The drunken riot that ensued was undoubtedly related to the commercial activity involved. Apparently, two men, Amos and Andrew, fell out over a debt contracted by Andrew over the purchase of some bread from Amos.

Capitalism, of its very nature, is a highly competitive system. And it would seem that on this particular occasion, it led directly to an unseemly street brawl over a debt. Although the men involved were punished, the white folk of South Carolina benefitted overall from the conflicts generated by the slave economy, which further served to keep slaves in a place of subordination.

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