Towards a Bourgeois Revolution? Explaining the American Civil War

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

This paper introduces arguments from Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum Republic1 to suggest that the Civil War arose ultimately because of class-conflict between on the one hand, Southern slaves and their masters and, on the other, Northern workers and their employers. It does not, however, suggest that either in the North or the South these conflicts were on the point of erupting into revolution. On the contrary, they were relatively easily containable. However, harmony within each section (North and South) could be secured only at the cost of intersectional conflict, conflict which would finally erupt into civil war. The Civil War was a ‘bourgeois revolution’ not only because it destroyed slavery, an essentially precapitalist system of production, in the United States but also because it resulted in the enthronement of Northern values, with the normalisation of wage-labour at their core.

Towards a Bourgeois Revolution? Explaining the American Civil War

in Historical Materialism

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References

AshworthJohn, ‘Agrarians’ and ‘Aristocrats’: Party Political Ideology in the United States 1837–1846, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1987).

AshworthJohn, Slavery Capitalism and Politics in the Antebellum Republic Volume 1: Commerce and Compromise 1820–1850, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1995).

AshworthJohn, Slavery Capitalism and Politics in the Antebellum Republic Volume 2: The Coming of the Civil War 1850–1861, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2007).

FreehlingWilliam W., The Road to Disunion Volume I: Secessionists at Bay 1776–1854, (Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991).

FreehlingWilliam W., The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854–1861, (Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007).

Fox-GenoveseElizabethGenoveseEugene D., The Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism, (Oxford University Press, Oxford 1983).

GenoveseEugene D., The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South, (Vintage, New York 1967).

JeffersonThomas, Notes on the State of Virginia, (Harper and Row, New York 1964 [1783]).

LebergottStanley, '‘The Pattern of Employment Since 1800’', in Seymour Harris (ed), American Economic History, (McGraw-Hill, New York 1961).

McPhersonJames M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The American Civil War, (Oxford University Press, Oxford 1988).

George Novack (ed), America’s Revolutionary Heritage, (Pathfinder, New York 1976).

PostCharles, '‘The American Road to Capitalism’' (1982) I(133) New Left Review: 30-51.

PresslyThomas J., Americans Interpret their Civil War, (Free Press, New York 1962).

StamppKenneth M., The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, (Vintage Books, New York 1956).

StoweHarriet Beecher, The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, (Jewett, Boston 1854).

SumnerCharles, The Works of Sumner, (Lee and Shepard, Boston 1870–83).

ThompsonEdward Palmer, The Making of the English Working Class, (Pelican, Harmondsworth 1968).

1

. Ashworth 1995; Ashworth 2007.

3

. Ashworth 1995; Ashworth 2007.

5

. Lebergott 1961pp. 290–1.

7

. Ashworth 1995pp. 21–40.

8

. Ashworth 1995pp. 80–121.

9

. Ashworth 1995pp. 157–68; Ashworth 2007 pp. 265–303.

10

. Ashworth 1995pp. 168–74.

11

. Sumner 1870–83 p. 404.

12

. Stowe 1854p. 257.

13

. Ashworth 1995pp. 174–81; Ashworth 2007 p. 238.

15

. Ashworth 1995pp. 142–3 464–6; Ashworth 2007 pp. 244–64.

17

. Ashworth 1995pp. 125–91.

18

. Ashworth 1995pp. 369–414.

19

. Ashworth 1995pp. 414–92.

21

. Ashworth 2007pp. 628–72.

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