The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 428
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the 1950s began questioning the earlier conclusions. Since then a
plethora of material has appeared, usually less sympathetic to the
South and depicting slavery as basically barbaric and inhumane. Al-
though more moderate in tone than certain earlier works, The Ruling
Race supports the Stampp tradition. Oakes presents a general discus-
sion of slaveholders and slaves, emphasizing such factors as religion,
migration, and plantation management. A central theme, that the
"slaveholders were a more diverse group than has generally been ap-
preciated" (p. ix), is well stated and supported.
Although Texas was a peripheral slave state, she was clearly a
daughter of the South. Famous names like Sam Houston, Gideon
Lincecum, Robert J. Kleberg, Sr., Oran M. Roberts, and Frederick
Law Olmsted abound in the book. Texas historians, including
Barnes F. Lathrop, Ralph A. Wooster, and others, are quoted. Texas
receives attention throughout, but especially in chapter three, "The
Slaveholders' Pilgrimage," in which Oakes attempts to correlate the
influence that migration had on slavery and that slavery had on
Oakes is at his best in broadly generalized, sometimes esoteric inter-
pretations. When he gets specific or attempts to psychoanalyse his sub-
jects he is less persuasive. The role religion played cannot be denied,
nor the impact of the evangelical movement, but the statement that
slaveholders' attitudes were derived from "deeply rooted psychological
ambivalence" (p. 1io) is questionable.
Chapter two, "Master Class Pluralism," is especially sound, and
stresses that slavery created wealthy, not poor, whites. "Factories in
the Fields," addressing the philosophy of the ideal plantation, incor-
porates contemporary sources and is thoughtfully reasoned. "The
question," Oakes maintains, "was never whether self-sustaining farms
were feasible" (p. 171), but whether they were expedient. This should
help lay to rest the myth that plantations could not be self-sufficient.
Unfortunately, certain stereotypes and misconceptions are pre-
sented as facts. For instance, it is doubtful that sugar production was
important in Louisiana before the 1790s, or that life was harsher on
Louisiana sugar plantations than on others. The statement that slaves
suffered from "poor diet, inadequate clothing and shelter, and miser-
able working conditions" (p. 1 io) seems at odds with the author's
admission that slaves had an increasingly high birthrate. Modern re-
search has shown that diet and fecundity are intimately connected.
The bibliography is impressive, but students of southern history
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/496/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.