Economic Development, Slavery and Labor in American History The History of American Transportation and Communication Reading and Study Group

Chapter 3: The Growth of the Market and Labor’s Response :: Labor in America: A History by Melvyn Dubofsky

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Slave labor, then, underwrote economic expansion, the rise of capitalist markets, and embryonic industrial growth while creating a wealthy and powerful class of plantation lords, bankers, merchants, and industrialists.”
  • “What distinguishes the present from every other struggle in which the human race has been engaged is, that the present is, evidently, openly and acknowledgedly, a war of class.…It is the ridden people of the earth who are struggling to throw from their backs the ‘booted and spurred’ riders whose legitimate title to starve as well as work them ​to death will no longer pass current; it is labour rising up against idleness, industry against money; justice against law and against privilege.”

Thought Questions

  • Define: “King Cotton”
  • Describe the connection between the recovery from the depression of 1819 and “King Cotton”
  • How did the recovery impact the demographics of the North and South
  • Describe the forms of collection action workers took in reaction to changing labor conditions in the early nineteenth century
  • Describe the goals and attributes of “Workingman’s Parties”
  • In what ways did the economic changes after the depression 1819 impact the development of Jacksonian era political parties
  • What “internal divisions” and “external pressures” impacted the different workingman’s parties?
  • Who were Thomas Skidmore, Robert Dale Owen, Fanny Wright and George Henry Evans
  • Explain and Expand: “As popular support for the original aims of the workingmen’s parties gathered increasing force, the major parties responded.”
  • What role did education reform play in workingman’s parties
  • What role did mechanics’ lien laws and imprisonment for debt play in workingman’s parties
  • Affirm or Refute: “The rise of workingmen’s parties did not presage Marxian socialism, but it did signify a realization by many workers that capitalism bore down on them unfairly, and it did place in question society’s dominant property relations.”

Primary Sources

Further Reading