~Free Book ☢ River of Dark Dreams ♘ PDF or E-pub free
~Free Book ☩ River of Dark Dreams ♕ When Jefferson Acquired The Louisiana Territory, He Envisioned An Empire For Liberty Populated By Self Sufficient White Farmers Cleared Of Native Americans And The Remnants Of European Empires By Andrew Jackson, The Mississippi Valley Was Transformed Instead Into A Booming Capitalist Economy Commanded By Wealthy Planters, Powered By Steam Engines, And Dependent On The Coerced Labor Of Slaves River Of Dark Dreams Places The Cotton Kingdom At The Center Of Worldwide Webs Of Exchange And Exploitation That Extended Across Oceans And Drove An Insatiable Hunger For New Lands This Bold Reaccounting Dramatically Alters Our Understanding Of American Slavery And Its Role In US Expansionism, Global Capitalism, And The Upcoming Civil WarWalter Johnson Deftly Traces The Connections Between The Planters Pro Slavery Ideology, Atlantic Commodity Markets, And Southern Schemes For Global Ascendency Using Slave Narratives, Popular Literature, Legal Records, And Personal Correspondence, He Recreates The Harrowing Details Of Daily Life Under Cotton S Dark Dominion We Meet The Confidence Men And Gamblers Who Made The Valley Shimmer With Promise, The Slave Dealers, Steamboat Captains, And Merchants Who Supplied The Markets, The Planters Who Wrung Their Civilization Out Of The Minds And Bodies Of Their Human Property, And The True Believers Who Threatened The Union By Trying To Expand The Cotton Kingdom On A Global ScaleBut At The Center Of The Story Johnson Tells Are The Enslaved People Who Pulled Down The Forests, Planted The Fields, Picked The Cotton Who Labored, Suffered, And Resisted On The Dark Underside Of The American Dream
Walter Johnson s River of Dark Dreams Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom traces the development of an imperial ethos among southern planters and firebrands in the Mississippi River Valley between roughly 1820 and 1861 Throughout the volume, Johnson tries to detail a specific vision of empire held by southern planters that encompassed a common appraisal of race, sex, slavery, space, and time a vision that outlines what the world and the future looked like to slaveholders and other white men in the Mississippi Valley on the eve of the Civil War 418 Johnson steps back from the common narrative of causes for the Civil War, asserting that secession after the Election of 1860 was the lowest common denominator for most southerners Instead he presents a compelling, if sometimes overstated, argument that before secession southerners in the Mississippi Valley tried to remedy their growing dependence on the North by extending the Cotton Kingdom first into the Caribbean by trying to provoke a revolution on Cuba and later by filibustering the Nicaraguan government and pressing for a re inauguration of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Johnson advances his argument through a narrative that combines histories of slavery, capitalism, and imperialism during the nineteenth century with a sprinkling of environmental ecological history to freshen our understanding of the cotton plantation Steamboats, surveying crews, and land organization came to the Lower Mississippi before cotton plantations dominated the landscape The early chapters of the book detail the process of creating the region Steamboats allowed for faster commercial exchange up and down the river and surveyors, speculators, and the Land Office created private property allotments and provided the means for future planters to settle the region Johnson s chapters on the Steamboat are brilliant both in the level of technical detail and his attention to the diverse peoples that traveled by steamboat during the period For slaves, the steamboat might represent their road toward bondage if they traveled down river, but it might represent freedom if it traveled up stream Gamblers and confidence men used the steamboats as opportune times to scam unsuspecting planters out of their money, smuggle runaways, or rig card games And free peoples of color usually of a mixed race descent often passed for white aboard the steamboats and the fact that many could not distinguish a free person of color from a respectable white gentleman or lady only undermined social hierarchies based on racial difference The main thrust of Johnson s argument starts from chapter ten onward The Panic of 1837 and subsequent depression led southern planters, championed by Matthew Maury, to play with ideas of a direct trade with the global economy Rather than relying on New York City to trans ship cotton to Liverpool, England, southern planters began eying Cuba, Latin America, and the Atlantic to increase profits and expand their growing race based empire Maury s early machinations translated into New Orleans lauding and supporting Narsico Lopez s failed invasion of Cuba in 1851 By the late 1850s, southern yeoman desperate to make inroads in the slave economy followed William Walker into Nicaragua, where they temporarily overthrew the government Finally on the eve of Civil War, many in the South promoted re opening the trans Atlantic slave trade to serve two purposes First, it would alleviate the slave drain from the Upper South and unmoor perpetuation of the slave economy from the reproductive capacities of slave women Second, an infusion of slaves would depress slave prices and allow yeoman and middling whites to acquire slaves, have a stake in the cotton trade, and diminish class conflict Cuba, Nicaragua, and the slave trade represented alternatives from secession all of them rooted in ideas of white supremacy and pro slavery progressivism Before 1861, a distinct group of southerners mostly from the Lower Mississippi advocated a regional or sectional foreign policy distinct from the homogenous national foreign policy It was not yet a fully developed secessionist movement wherein extremists advocated total political separation from the Union Perhaps the biggest problem among academics today is the recourse to gibberish and obfuscating language, and historians are not exempt from this trend in their own writing For the most part Walter Johnson is an exception to this rule because he writes a lucid account of the nineteenth century Lower Mississippi that includes fine grained, stunning and horrifying accounts of slave punishment, cotton harvest, runaway slaves, and the novel steamboat In fact, his chapters on steamboat technology and transportation should be the example that all historians of technology and the market revolution should emulate His tactical narrative of Lopez s failed Cuba expedition rivals that of the best military historians Unfortunately, the middle chapters rest on an assortment of jargon Chapter 6, Dominion Chapter 7, The Empire of the White Man s Will Chapter 8, The Carceral Landscape Here you will find unexplained and often unnecessary buzzwords and phrases such as choreography of space, place theatrics and theatrical performances of domestic slavery space determining technology agents of their own actions subjectivity horses as a tool that converted grain into policing and techno enhanced visuality a phrase that sounds appropriate for a dystopia sci fi flick than a historical account of nineteenth century slave societies Other words are considerably overused in the volume human condition space place twinned agency that usually short cut full explanation of subordinate claims in certain chapters On the whole, these jargon phrases obscure than they reveal in certain sections of the work and often make over complex very qoutidian interactions that happened daily on plantations At one point Johnson describes a slave who had been harvesting not cotton but fish, which he had transformed into bacon by means of barter rather than stating directly that the slave secretly caught fish that he bartered for bacon.My quibble with jargon in these middle chapters is probably symptomatic of my broader critique of Johnson s employment of environmental history to add nuance to our understanding of plantation life Labor historians have wrestled with the usefulness of environmental history for understanding working class history for quite some time and the debate primarily centers on whether coupling an analysis of the natural environment with working class mobilization, activism, or oppression can actually tell us anything new about human experience In River of Dark Dreams, Johnson draws on environmental history to distinguish between work as human energy expended upon the natural world and labor as slaves relationship to their master, or a workingman s relationship to his employer Johnson thus describes the plantation as a landscape of labor where slaves dialectically engaged with an environment that they modified and that in turn changed their bodies Johnson does suggest a use for environmental history through work, because it provided indispensable skills for cotton picking and memorizing local waterways, woods, and off grid locations that allowed slaves to have pride and satisfaction with their own capabilities independent from the grueling labor performed for the master When Johnson describes the mundane and brutal aspects of plantation life toiling in the fields, hewing wood, constructing quarters, using whitewash, washing, sleeping, hunting he describes the power relations between slave and master and how the landscape and topography could tilt the balance of power one way or another Masters wielded power on the plantation because they constructed the house, fields, and sight lines so they could easily monitor slaves and spot punish potential runaways When slaves did escape into the woods, bayous, and swamps of the Mississippi they gained the upper hand because masters relied on dogs and sound to track men Despite Johnson s description of the plantation as a landscape of labor and trying to interpret the differences between the visual orientated cotton field and aural centered woodlands, his overall narrative of brutality on the plantation largely coheres with previous assessments of plantation life provided by Eugene Genovese, Herbert Gutman, Ira Berlin, and countless other historians of slavery, even if Johnson does reject the idea of paternalism as the essence of southern plantation culture The environmental methodology, despite the specialized vocabulary and jargon, doesn t provide anything profoundly different for understanding that narrative.Despite these criticisms, Johnson has written a solid narrative of nineteenth century slavery in the Lower Mississippi that will surely become the basis for future historians engagement with the subject His middle chapters excepted, the chapters on steamboat technology, the failed Cuban invasion, the botched Nicaragua coup, and vociferous debates to reopen the Atlantic slave trade are compelling additions to our understanding of southern identity before the Civil War and some potential causes of that conflict He leaves us with a thought provoking catalogue of antebellum racial imperial thought the chanting of freedom that concealed enslavement, pseudoscientific racism, and white supremacy that he suggests have some analogue in contemporary discussions of promoting freedom and democracy abroad p 420.3.5 stars. This is an extraordinary book a compelling history of the carceral empire of the Mississippi River valley and its inhabitants, written with a theoretician s eye for the social, political, and economic currents of imperial history, and a novelist s ear for the emotional and psychological subjectivities of those who built the Cotton Kingdom, justified it, and were enslaved by it Walter Johnson maintains a brilliant sense of relationality between the personal and the impersonal, ideology and lived experience, inevitability and contingency and in so doing is able to weave the seemingly disparate people, places, and events he describes into a single historical and cultural continuum The Mississippi River was the jugular vein of the American slaveocracy We often think of American slavery as the residual taint of the social regimentation of old Europe a type of neo feudalism which coiled its way into the American Constitution like the serpent, where it enjoyed an artificially prolonged life under the auspices of the United States before being at last defeated by the true American ideals nested in the Declaration of Independence Johnson tells a very different story, one in which the slave society of the Mississippi was a radical social innovation, created, strengthened, and legitimized by the modernizing forces emerging in the nineteenth century global mercantile capitalism, industrialization, biological or pseudo Darwinian racism, and progressive colonialism among them Slavery in the antebellum United States was not an antiquated social system on its last legs, struggling vainly against the forces of progress and humanity The Mississippi valley, with its hub at New Orleans, was the center of a dynamic and expansionary mercantile empire with global aspirations and enormous civilizational pretensions The stewards of the Cotton Kingdom believed or at least told themselves that they were the agents of progress, leading the world toward a necessary and inevitable future in which the dark skinned and heathenish peoples of the world would be united and improved under white tutelage Our contemporary ideals being what they are, we think of racism as a symptom of social primitivity a sort of inwardness and provincialism that prevents us from seeing ourselves in others But if we use the Mississippi valley as a case study, we find that racism or, exactly, the racialization which provides cogency for racist ideology was an ideological mechanism by which the Euro American project of economic expansion and accumulation perpetuated itself Racism was a conceit of Western cosmopolitanism While modernity was commodifying the world, racialization provided for the commodification of certain groups of people When the United States acquired the Mississippi as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Jefferson dreamed that it would become part of a vast, decentralized web of white independent yeoman farmers stretching across the American continent a continental republic of cincinnati But when the public land went on sale, the financial power of the land barons showed its hand Land speculators and venture capitalists bought up every parcel of land along the Mississippi the parcels were rectangular in shape, with the short sides of the rectangle adjacent to the river so that parcels could be sold , not to become self sufficient subsistence farmers, but to devote every inch of arable land to the cultivation of cotton for sale on the global market Slaves cleared the forests, planted and picked the cotton, and packed it into bales that were shipped down the river to New Orleans and from there to cities like Liverpool and Manchester, where they fed the European textile industry To some extent, the Cotton Kingdom may be thought of as an economic and political sphere quite distinct from that of the United States Its world was the world of the Black Atlantic, encompassing the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, the West Indies, and Central America It was only incidental that the valley was located within that amorphous, uncongealed cartographic mass known as the United States of America There was a real fear in the early decades of the nineteenth century that the Mississippi would become a breakaway republic in order to have fuller control over its economic and diplomatic affairs Reading this book will take you beyond the well intentioned but intellectually inept moralizing about American slavery You ll learn about the mechanics of how the system actually functioned You ll learn about the tension between the human agency of the slaves and their status as material objects in an economic order You ll learn about the dangerous but incredibly lucrative steamboat industry, which fed the American interior with capital before being threatened by the transcontinental rail system You ll learn about the alienation of poor whites in this racialized society, and how this influenced their interactions with runaway slaves You ll meet people like John Murrell, a highwayman and slave stealer who would lure slaves away from their masters, obscure the paper trail linking them to those masters, and then sell them to other slavers before repeating the process Solomon Northrup, who, of course, wrote one of the most important primary source documents on the life of a slave and a runaway and William Walker, a filibuster who led a private army of Kentuckians to Nicaragua and seized power there for the purpose of establishing white supremacy and expanding the Cotton Kingdom Most importantly, this book will help us look beyond superficialities in our present discussions about the nature and legacy of American racism and racial oppression. I enjoyed reading this book, in spite of several issues with it The book was generally very readable, but the author sometimes resorted to an academic style highfalutin language when simpler words would probably have done as well The larger structural issue was that the book read like a collection of essays, so I came away without a sense of an overall theme I felt that with a really good editor to impose some order, this could have been a great book.In spite of the above reservations, it is a very worthwhile book for anyone interested in the slave based economy and society of the antebellum lower Mississippi Valley The chapters are almost standalone, in the discussion of such issues as the tug of war between open and closed markets, fears of servile insurrection, financial risk taking like the steamboat bubble, the social issues of racial mixing, the commoditization of humans as well as the view of humans as farm livestock, accounting methods for slave raised cotton, annexationists and filibusterers like William Walker, and the pressure for a resumption of the Atlantic slave trade. This book ranks as one of the most entertaining and beautifully written scholarly works I have ever read Johnson s turns of phrase and coinages are sharp, accurate, contextual, and packed with so much insight.Each chapter covers a different aspect of the slave based economy social structure in the antebellum Mississippi Valley These topics include The technology and economics of steamboats, the attempts by pro slavery filibusters to invade and take over Cuba and Nicaragua for the United States, an examination of how credit and debt worked in the cotton economy, the importance of food as a tool of control on plantations, and many others.The narrative and analysis alone are excellent, but added to that Johnson s incredible use of language and wit, this was a thoroughly fascinating and engaging read from beginning to end.Several chapters were devoted to painting a picture of the lived experiences of slaves in the Mississippi Valley cotton empire, and Johnson s use of former slaves memoirs in these chapters is stunning and powerful The connections between intimate bodily violence, capitalism, imperialism and Manifest Destiny , white supremacy, technology, and ecology are illustrated in this book like no where else I have ever seen, and done so with remarkable clarity and insight.One chapter for example, entitled The Carceral Landscape, was haunting and disturbing in hwo it exposed the ways in which the reorganization of the land itself in service of one single export crop became a physical medium through which master oversaw, controlled, and inflicted violence on enslaved bodies Throughout the book, Johnson holds no punches when it comes to breaking slavery down into its most fundamental elements Black labor and Black flesh and Indian land were converted into bales of cotton and thus, white wealth The mechanism for this conversion was not complicated it was the torture of Black bodies, the destruction of Black families, the commodification of Black labor and the conversion of Indian land into white property.Johnson ends his study with an implication that reappears throughout the book That in American history, the very idea and reality of freedom may not be an inevitable outcome of human progress, but rather the consequence of intentional and systematic violence and extraction directed at others In other words, Black slavery and Indigenous removal were not incidental to White freedom, empire, and democracy they were its very foundation. Fantastic book It views the slave economy of the American South as part of a global economic system, and does not shy away from the inherent contradictions in the political philosophy involved or the horrifying conditions under which enslaved people lived their lives It offers a panoramic view and still manages to paint a portrait. Having read Walter Johnson s Soul By Soul Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, I was very eager to read his next work of historical genius Johnson is a pretty extraordinary writer, especially considering historians aren t trained to be writers and so many of them write dull stuff Johnson s prose is lovely, if lovely can be used to describe a book about slave holding imperialism in the Cotton Kingdom Johnson asks us to reconsider the Southern slaveholder he wasn t only concerned with his slaves and his land His wealth, his well being such as it was , his future was intimately tied to the Mississippi River, the steamboat, slave men and women, and the very real possibility of expanding slavery not west, but south Even small slaveholders, according to the author, were capitalist imperialists to the core Thank you, Walter Johnson, for another beautifully written history with theory that is accessible to all of us. Maybe the best way to describe this is as a brilliant and visceral illustration of the political and social economy of slavery, especially as it hit a point at which it had to expand Cuba Nicaragua Re opening the Atlantic slave trade or implode, and the warpings this wrought on the people who perpetuated it Johnson uses as an effective metaphor the Mississippi steamboats, which hit a saturation market about the same time slavery did, and adapted by pushing for speed and recklessness with equipment that often ended in catastrophe It is really at its best when Johnson uses overlooked sensory materials from existing primary sources smells, sounds, tastes of slavery to explicate the horrifying means by which white people convinced themselves that the human beings they starved, exploited and raped were lazy, stupid and sexually deviant. As a reviewer, I couldn t possibly do better than this The enlightening, progressive force of liberalism has carried us far from slavery, we like to think We are not those people and never could have been In River of Dark Dreams, we are reminded that between the slave empire and our own age lies only a handful of generations Johnson shows the historical meaning of this proximity We are connected not just through the shortness of time but through the persistence of the liberal capitalist tradition itself The form of freedom fantasized by the slaveholding South, in turn, is the freedom of our own society ensuring a standard of living sufficient to confirm our self image and limit domestic conflict built upon ecological degradation, the conquest of darker nations by international bureaucracies, their enslavement by debt, their forcible integration into a global commercial network enforced by our own armies of the night, surveilling, killing, torturing without oversight The myth of our great distance from slavery of the old South s fundamental illiberalism exists precisely to give us a way of managing our experience of this continuity, and to let us continue to enact it. If you wonder why things like Ferguson, Trayvon Martin and the out and out hatred of the current president are with us this book should help you understand that dynamic Also alludes to the fact that many contemplated a much larger and wider US empire even as far back as the 1840 s and 1850 s, which dovetails with our current situation separate from our race relations and yet how driven by a racist context that desire for empire seems to be.