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Mr. W. G. Brown, deputy keeper of the University Records, gave last night his third and last lecture on the Lower South. In his first two lectures Mr. Brown spoke of the gradual rise and ascendency of the cotton States. He pointed out first the difference which has always existed between the cotton States and the more northern States of the South.
The differences between the North and the South before the rise of the cotton States were not racial, but social and industrial. Hitherto the civilization of the South has been studied from the outside alone, and as a result the South has been put in a false light. The intellectual life of these States was limited, but not arrested. Their social life was unfruitful in philanthropy and literature, but it was then more charming than any other mode of life in America.
The main industry of the cotton States was thought to depend on slave labor. The demands of slave labor were two: economic and political. Economically its productions must be free from criticism, and politically it must be protected against social criticism and humanitarian reform. To enforce these demands the representatives of the plantation interest had to do more than stand on the defensive; they had to take the lead of the nation. In this way the whole tendency of American thought and life was for a long time withstood.
Last night in considering "The Final Struggle in the Union," Mr. Brown said in part: The struggle for ascendency was, in fact, a struggle for existence, as the lower South was, from the beginning, compelled either to control the national government or radically to change its own industrial and social system. The course of the lower South on all domestic questions debated between 1820 and 1850 was in accordance with the economic and political demands of its civilization and it must be said that its public men had their way on all of them. So long as the North did not revolt against declining tariff duties, or insistently demand internal improvements, or try to tear down the subtreasurers and clamor for a bank, it could not be said that there was any irrepressible conflict of any industrial sort. So far, then, as hindsight avails, the Southerners in 1850 could not have seen any threat to their civilization from specific material interests in the North. It was the North's moral awakening and not its industrial alertness, its free thought and not its free labor which the Southern planters had to fear. We can not, however, see what actually happened unless we go inside of the Southern civilization, observe the forces that threatened it, and humanly understand what purposes and impulses governed the Southerners themselves while they were fighting these as well as the enemies from without. Among the Southern people themselves there was a growing discontent but they did not even begin to question the wisdom or rightness of their life because the abolitionists attacked them from without. The leading men of the lower South displayed a constantly heightened pride and a more and more stubborn unwillingness to concede anything whatever to the outside opponents of their system. But no success attended the efforts of the Southerners, in the fifties, to improve and extend their industrial system without changing it. The actual process by which slavery was in the end overthrown was in fact quite foreign to the purposes of the avowed abolitionists. They contributed to the result only by exciting the North, not by devising any plan of action and getting the North to adopt it.
The immediate danger to slavery, came in the triumph of cotton and slavery in the Mexican war, the Kansas Bill, and the partiality of the Supreme Court to the South. When at last it grew clearer that the slave labor could not compete on equal terms with free labor and that it was impossible to give salve labor a free chance in the territories, the theory of secession became at once the foremost subject of discussion. So perfect was the unanimity and solidity of the people, that within a hundred days from the election of Lincoln they were seated in the provisional congress of a new government. Masters so long, they were masterful to the end.
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