Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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What were the social differences between the North and the South?

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There were indeed stark social differences between the North and the South in the years leading up to the American Civil War. The South was an agrarian society that largely relied on slave labor and a plantation system to drive its economy. Some of the wealthiest Americans lived in the South, but they were by no means the majority.

Wealthy southerners, many of them being plantation owners, formed a general aristocracy that governed much of the upper crust of southern society and dominated its politics. Beneath them were many poor white farmers who tended small farms or lived in the backwoods. There were also nearly four million slaves in the South by 1860. These people lived entirely separate from the rest of southern society and had none of the rights of citizens. About 80 percent of southerners worked in agriculture and only one in ten lived in a city. Southerners were more likely to pursue careers in the military than northerners.

Unlike the South, the North had a larger urban...

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