Roulette

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Death to the King

If Southern industry and commerce were sick, King Cotton also was growing continually sicker, and in the end would fall into worse case than had ever been known in the past, even in the 1890s. As the demand for cotton goods over the earth receded and the mills all around the globe slowed down, the demand for the staple of course gradually declined too -- at a time when Southern production was hanging near peak levels, and when foreign production also was growing greater than it had ever been before. In 1929 the Southern crop totaled nearly 15 million bales, and the foreign crop eleven and a half million -- with the result that the price swooped down from twenty to twelve cents. Next year it came down to eight.
Then, in 1931... the quotation on the New York cotton exchange descended to five cents, and on the local Southern markets it went even lower than that.
It was the conclusive disaster for the South. Immediate disaster for farmer, planter, tenant, and sharecropper...
The banks, already tottering, now found themselves with vast stocks of mortgages which were entirely worthless...
And this growing collapse of the banking system meant, of course, a rapid curtailment of credit over and beyond what had already been made necessary by the depression in general... And planters and labor-employing farmers found themselves either unable to secure credit at all or unable to secure sufficient credit to maintain their old scale of operation. The number of acres planted in cotton in 1932 would be eleven million less than in 1929.
Many of the planters abandoned their lands altogether, or turned them over to their tenants to dig a living out of them if they could...Having always gone essentially hungry for a reasonably good diet, the great body of the sharecroppers, white and black, would begin to go hungry in the full sense of the word ... And hordes of these people who had neither employment, means of subsistence, nor any place to go were wandering along every road from county to county and state to state...
Everybody was either ruined beyond his wildest previous fears or stood in peril of such ruin. And the general psychological reaction? First a universal bewilderment and terror ... Men everywhere walked in a kind of daze. They clustered, at first to assure one another that all would shortly be well ... but in the end they fled before the thought in one another's eyes...
And along with this ... a slow wondering and questioning ... a gradually developing bitterness of desperation... they heard from the pulpit that it was a punishment visited upon the people from the hand of God as the penalty of their sins...
--W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South, pp. 369-371

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