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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/534

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518
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

it appeared to those who were accustomed to close tillage as shiftless, was really well adjusted to the conditions. Not one fourth of the land of the Southern States that was well fitted for the work of slaves had been brought into use. The blacks who were carefully managed in all that regarded their health and in their morals, so far as might affect their breeding, were in admirable physical condition, and rapidly increasing in numbers. It is doubtful if ever a peasant class was so well cared for or so freed from avoidable diseases. The growing protest against the institution, so far as it operated in the South, was practically limited to the border States, mainly to Kentucky, where alone did a considerable number of well-born men set themselves against it. There is good reason to believe that if the civil war had not occurred the end of the nineteenth century would have seen a negro population in the South much more numerous than we now have there. Experience has shown that the American cotton crop is little affected by foreign competition, so that it would have maintained the success of the institution.

Although the system of slavery was by a chance of Nature so firmly planted on the cotton fields as to give it entire dominance in the South, and something like control of the Federal Union, there was one geographic condition that menaced its future, and in the end did much to insure its downfall in the events of the civil war, and most likely would have brought about its end even if the Confederacy had been established. This was the form and extent of the Appalachian uplands between the Potomac and the Ohio on the north and Alabama and Georgia in the South. In this area of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand square miles in extent the surface lies at an average height of some fifteen hundred feet above the sea; the good arable land is found mostly in narrow valleys suited only for household farms, totally unfit for the systematic agriculture in which alone negroes could be profitably employed as slaves. Into this area drifted the class of small farmers who by one chance and another had never been able to enter or to maintain themselves in the aristocratic class of slaveholders. These mountaineers—they may better be termed the hill people of the South—were an eminently peculiar people. They are not to be compared with the "poor white trash"—i.e., the downfallen and dependent whites, who were broken men in spirit, scarce above the slaves in quality. These poor whites were often, if not generally, either the weaker strains of the militant families or the descendants of the people who had been imported into this country by the land companies or sent out as peons.

Partly because of their separation from the slaveholding class