The Antebellum South’s version of Feudalism

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I’ve found it intriguing that my ancestors fought in the American Revolution and then went on to create their own “Lordships” here in America- setting themselves up as the Lord of the Manor. One of the things our Founding Fathers wanted was a society in which we didn’t have nobility, or an aristocracy so to speak. It is true that the large southern plantation owners could build a fortune without being born into wealth. But once that wealth was established, I was shocked at how much the families inter-married. It is strikingly similar to the European noble classes who didn’t want too much mixing of the gene pool. While researching to write Burning Prospects, I found that most of my ancestors married cousins. They also operated plantations that functioned as a sort of feudal system, with themselves as the noble ruling class.

History Professor Norman Cantor wrote a book Civilization of the Middle Ages in which he describes the feudal system that existed for centuries in Europe. I found this description of European nobility eerily comparable to the plantation system in the part of Mississippi where Burning Prospects is set.
…Lordship is the indispensable element in feudalism, which is a form of social organization in which most, or at least a great part, of the political, economic, and military power is in the hands of a hereditary nobility. The economic power of the nobility is based primarily on their lordship over large estates and a dependent peasant class.

It never ceases to amaze me how human nature shows itself again and again throughout history regardless of the time and place. There seems to be some element of mankind that seeks to categorize people into social classes, and many people over the ages who will always be scrabbling to get to the top and stay there. One of the more fascinating facts that I came across was that some of the slaves who did emigrate to Liberia went on the enslave the native Africans to work on the plantations they built there. The homes were even built in the same Greek inspired architecture.

Rosswood Plantation. Photo courtesy of The Writer's Porch Blog. Used with permission.
Rosswood Plantation. Photo courtesy of The Writer’s Porch Blog. Used with permission.

I see signs that this generation of young Americans has a new sense of equality where race, gender, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status seem to have much less relevance than they had to previous generations. Winston Churchill has been credited with saying, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” There is a great deal of truth to that statement. Please share your views and add your comments.

5 thoughts on “The Antebellum South’s version of Feudalism

  1. I do agree with all of the ideas you’ve presented in your post.
    They’re very convincing and will certainly
    work. Still, the posts are too short for starters.
    Could you please extend them a little from next time?
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Verna Jobe

    I agree, however how do you get the American people to read and understand American History. The truth needs to be told. Churchill had it right.

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