Friday, February 3, 2017

On the Outside Looking in: Corporations and the Southern Tradition before the War

One of the unchanging aspects of the Southern tradition has been Dixie’s mistrust of corporations.  As the Trump era of economic development, which relies heavily on big corporations ‘creating jobs’ for Americans, gets underway, it is important to be reminded of this.  We will be posting a few ensamples from the body of Southern literature to that end. 

More than anything, however, the railroads drew the fire of evangelicals.  They regularly condemned stockholders and managers of railroad companies for permitting cars to run on Sunday.  Companies, the editor of the Southern Presbyterian declared, were no more exempt from the law of God than individuals.  Investors and company officials who allowed cars to run on Sunday were setting the influence of their companies “against that righteousness which exalts a nation,” and were fathering “that sin which is the reproach and ruin of any people.”  The editor observed that while many of the stockholders would scorn to labor on Sunday on their plantations or in their stores or shops, in “their corporate capacity” they did “that which is a far more public, and consequently vastly more flagrant violation of [the] sacred day.”  The editor of the Southern Christian Advocate agreed as to the “demoralizing tendencies” of railroads and other corporations.  He termed them “bodies without souls” and declared that “railroads and steamboats (conducted as they are,) do more to corrupt the morals of the people, than could be done by all the deists, blacklegs and drunkards in the country, working by individual means. . . . If corporations, and the body politic, may perpetrate, by wholesale, the most shocking immoralities in the face of the sun, what shall restrain individuals from following their example?”  If something were not done to prevent such  “crying abuses,” it would not be long before “men will come to consider religion and good morals as things of the of the gone-by time, drivelings of the nursery, idle superstitions, pitiful prejudices—things unfit for the age of improvement, the epoch of steam, the glorious reign of the gold-headed god.”  In the editor’s mind at least, the demoralizing influence of the railroads raised questions about the wisdom of multiplying the number of corporations and extending internal improvements.  “It is melancholy in the extreme,” he wrote, “to think that we cannot advance in our schemes of profit and convenience, without retrograding as respects good morals.”--Anne C. Loveland, Southern Evangelicals and the Social Order, 1800-1860, Baton Rouge, La., LSU Press, 1980, p. 176.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð!

Anathema to the Union!

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