THE GROWTH OF SOUTHERN CIVILIZATION: 1790-1860 by Clement Eaton

THE GROWTH OF SOUTHERN CIVILIZATION: 1790-1860

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KIRKUS REVIEW

To some extent comparable to William R. Taylor's Cavalier and Yankee, this distinguished addition to the Harper New American Nation series presents a carefully annotated study of the economic, social, intellectual and sectional development of the by no means ""Solid South"" from 1790 to 1860. Basing his conclusions on ""the lives of people"" as shown in letters, diaries, newspapers and recorded speeches, the author states that in later years the ""growth"" of Southern Civilization was sometimes a retrogression, and that it was regional rather than national, some parts of the South remaining dormant while other parts progressed. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 turned slavery into big business and brought with it absentee ownership of cotton and rice plantations, which were worked by slave labor under overseers, and the doctrine ""Cotton is King"" which was accepted as gospel. Careless farming resulted in erosion, overplanting in soil exhaustion. Life on plantations was often uncomfortable rather than luxurious; in cities sanitation was primitive, streets were unpaved, and epidemics were both common and calamitous. On the other hand, by 1860 railroads were spreading across the South, and both factories and universities were being built; some slave owners even believed that Negores should be taught to read. Slavery was the basis of ante-bellum Southern civilization and with it the author deals in carefully documented detail, although he tells little of the domestic slave trade, the breeding of human beings for sale, or the problem of miscegenation. These are minor criticisms. The book, wide in scope, scholarly in concept and highly readable, will appeal to students and historians and to literate amateurs of the American past. For its fine bibliography, if for no other reason, it belongs in all comprehensive libraries of antebellum Americans.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1961
Publisher: Harper