New York Enriched by the South


The peaceful solution to African slavery in the United States escaped the gaze of the abolitionists who fomented violent slave insurrection until it forced secession, then open warfare. Those abolitionists could have achieved their humanitarian ends by closing the New England cotton mills hungry for the raw cotton of slave labor, and they could have leaned on the Manhattan banks and New York merchants who provided credit and goods to Southern (and Northern) planters to maintain and expand their plantations. But knowing little of their Southern neighbors, the average Northerner was easily misled toward war, “loaded with a pack of prejudices.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"


New York Enriched by the South:

“[In Philip S. Foner’s] study Business and Slavery, [The New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict, 1941, he] discloses the innumerable economic ties between New York and the South. “The influence of the South upon New York’s economic life started at the port, and proceeded uptown, touching every form of business activity on the way.”  Foner has pointed out that the cotton trade was dominated by New York, that often 30 or 40 per cent of the price of cotton went to New Yorkers.  In one year alone, 1849, the South purchased more than seventy-six million dollars worth of merchandise in New York.

Such a productive relationship was of course carefully guarded by merchants. Moreover, these economic ties, according to Foner, inevitably reflected themselves in social ties. New York merchants gave generously to Southern charities. Partnerships, friendships, even marriages joined New York and Southern families.

This attachment and loyalty to the South also extended back to the older generation of New York writers.  James Kirke [Paulding’s] ties with the South were the strongest. Paulding praised the “domestic education” which was given the daughters of the planters. In the “chaste simplicity of their manners….the cultivation of their minds….the purity of their hearts,” he believed them superior to Northern ladies.

He was impressed by the spontaneous laughter of the Negroes and by the excellence of their musical talents. “They are by far the most musical of any portion of the inhabitants of the United States, and in the evening I have seen them reclining in their boats on the canal at Richmond, playing the banjo, and singing in a style – I dare say equal to a Venetian gondolier. They whistle as clear as the note of a fife.”

In 1842 Paulding traveled through the deep South with Martin Van Buren…..[who] was beginning to seek the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. To his surprise, Paulding found New Orleans “one of the
most orderly, decorous cities in the world.” He liked the opulence of New Orleans and the wealth and independence of Louisiana, and he enjoyed the hospitality of the sugar planters along the Mississippi

Paulding said that, so far as he knew, the Negroes of the deep South were no more mistreated than they were in the Northern slave States.  In Slavery in the United States, Paulding argued that emancipation would bring greater evils than slavery itself, and maintained that the Negroes were for the most part happy and well adjusted as slaves. In [his previous] 1817 edition of his Letters he observed that the Northern, “loaded with a pack of prejudices as large as a pedlar’s” realized when he travelled South that he had been misled about Southern manners.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831-1861, Howard R. Floan, McGRaw-Hill, 1958, pp. 111-115)