The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 109

Book Reviews

In my opinion, this larger conclusion is essentially correct. Econometricians
may argue endlessly over technical measures of "efficiency" and what may have
happened to slavery if demand for cotton declined, but it seems almost un-
arguable now that slave labor brought profits to masters and contributed to ag-
ricultural development across much of the South, especially in newer areas
such as Texas. It has been unfortunate that many of those who opposed slavery
on moral grounds felt compelled to present their case in economic terms and
on the basis of the cruelty of the system in order to win political support be-
cause arguments over profitability and cruelty have drawn attention away from
the central issue of morality. The economics of slavery and the treatment ac-
corded slaves are important in numerous ways, but conclusions on those sub-
jects can never serve as defenses of slavery and are unnecessary to condemn the
institution. That assumption, which was implicit in Time on the Cross, is made
explicit in this volume. Perhaps by doing so Fogel will have better luck with the
reviewers this time around.
University of North Texas RANDOLPH B. CAMPBELL
Conflict and Compromzse: The Polzitical Economy of Slavery, Emancipation, and the
American Czvil War. By Roger L. Ransom. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 1989. Pp. xv+317. Preface, tables, graphs, maps, notes, epi-
logue, appendix, bibliography, index, $39.50.)
To use a favorite word of the econometricians, this is an attempt at "macro"
history-or, in more mundane terms, "big picture" history. Previously noted
for his cliometric studies of the postbellum South, usually in collaboration with
Richard Sutch, economist-turned-historian Roger Ransom has now retreated in
time to provide an interpretive analysis of slavery and emancipation during the
century between the Declaration of Independence and the end of Reconstruc-
tion. The result is a work based overwhelmingly on secondary sources-chiefly
of the quantitative genre-that offers a series of largely unremarkable
Ransom contends that the presence of slavery in a free society represented a
contradiction that could only be resolved through war. Not only did slavery
(the key issue being containment rather than abolition) precipitate that war,
but it also profoundly affected the outcome by exerting a unifying influence
on the North and a divisive influence upon the South. In addition to eschewing
the use of slave manpower until it was too late, the Confederacy was plagued by
the mounting resentment of nonslaveholders and by certain features of the
slave-based economy that sapped morale and contributed to ultimate defeat.
Finally, the changes wrought by emancipation presented the postwar genera-
tion with insoluble problems that left the chasm between North and South as
deep as ever. While Republican ascendancy promoted the triumph of Indus-
trial capitalism in the North, the South fell victim to the evils of sharecropping
and the lien system. Ransom terms the resulting economic backwardness of the
region "the legacy of 250 years of racial slavery " (p. 285).


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. ( accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.