Don’t Kick That Sleeping Dog

The Last Paragraph Is Golden

My wife and I moved to NC in 2014 from Central NYS. We heard more than a few jokes about Yankees. “Do you know what the city of CARY acronym stands for? Containment Area for Relocated Yankees”. I heard jokes about Southerners too before moving here but quickly learned why the stereotypes were inaccurate.

I heard an old timer from Alamance County use the expression, “Don’t kick that sleeping dog”. I don’t remember why he used it but I loved the expression. Still, I’m going to kick a sleeping dog breathing heavily in North Carolina and other states. It’s symbolized by a Confederate Soldier statue that was in front of a Courthouse, right in the center of town. A dozen protesters were arrested there recently before it was removed to storage while another display spot is found.

A lot of posts have been written on social media, in letters to the Editor, and voiced in other formats about what the statue honors . Some frame the debate as a misunderstanding of Southern heritage . Outsiders are, and always will be, invaders that should just GO BACK to where they belong. This attitude is perfectly appropriate for outsiders seemingly intent on exploiting the violent potential of deep emotions but doesn’t apply to all “non-natives”. I need to dare add my two cents to what caused the Civil War. It involved numerous things and a LOT of cash. Nearly FOUR billion DOLLARS! It seems like our most persistent problems are always about money.

Slaves first appeared in Virginia in 1619. Why was this? The Carolinas were a British Colony and slavery was common to all the British Colonies during that era. Virtually no farms in North used slaves 160 years ago but Plantations in the South often did. Small farms in the North, but in both regions, usually used family labor to tend their fields. Since agricultural machinery was primitive, Southern plantations used slaves to get labor-intensive tasks done. A court case in London stopped slavery in Britain and the Colonies in 1772 but the import of slaves in the US was not banned by Congress until 35 years later. In fact, the US Constitution sidestepped the morality of slavery entirely. With legal import banned, some Plantation owners shifted to encouraging slave pregnancies instead. THAT is a very creepy separate topic.

The purchase of a single slave in the South at the time it seceded from the Union was on average $92,000* in contemporary equivalent value according to a 2016 study (among many others). The value of slaves during the Civil War DOUBLED what it was just 15 years earlier. In 1860, 4 million slaves in the USA had an average cost of $800/each in the currency of that time! $800 was a LOT of money back then. So, South Carolina was the first slave state to secede in 1860.

It may sound obvious to note but slaves couldn’t “quit” their work. Slaves could NOT “quit” their work. PONDER THAT “business model“. The price for a female slave was greater than males. Skilled slaves like a Blacksmith, Carpenter, or Cook were even higher. The market price range (as if an indigenous human from Africa was basically an upright walking Ox) was between $12,500 and $205,000.

SO, what are the “kickers”?

Virtually all Southern natives have ancestors that originally came from the Kingdom of Great Britain or other European countries!

Plantations in the South grew enormous field crops requiring very hard labor that a majority of white people didn’t and don’t DO!

There was about 4 billion dollars invested in slaves when Abe Lincoln was elected. Abe’s anti-slavery views outraged many Southerners & especially Plantation owners determined to protect their businesses. Money was a HUGE motive for governments of the South to “fight to the death” for their Confederacy. BUT TOO MANY soldiers from the North AND South died in that awful war. Brave soldiers are recruited with emotional appeals that tend to skim over other motives. Over 600,000 died!

I don’t like or rely on labels. Call me a damn Yankee if you need to. I understand why folks say, “Don’t kick that sleeping dog”. But,let me point out-EVERYONE KEEPS TRIPPING OVER IT!

*From website, Measuring Worth” in an article- Measuring Slavery in 2016 Dollars by Samuel Williamson, Miami University & Louis Cain of Loyola and Northwestern University.

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