Session 2: “The Future of Virginia and the South” (Part 2)
If you visited Richmond in 1859 you would have witnessed a great deal of change, including ships going down the James with wheat for Australia, an increasing number of railroads, and a noticeable immigrant population. Within this, slavery played a vital role and it was being utilized in a growing number of industrial settings within the region. [Was this the future of the South?] Insurance policies were more and more being taken out for slaves. Slaveowners wanted to protect their property and Richmond legislators supported it. Enslaved population of the South was worth more than all the railroads and factories in the North.
Va’s Role in the South: 1810 there were 22 congressman and in 1859 there were 11 – on a national level Va’s influence was in decline and its population did not have the prestige they was garnered, though Va still had more representation than other southern states. Virginians felt a sense of loss and influence of powere in the federal government. Important to note that other southern states still looked to Va for leadership – it had the largest slave population. Within this there was an increasing loss of power from the Upper to Lower South. A potential regional crisis might place Virginia in an awkward position. Richmond’s modernity was used to further the institution of slavery (especially the railroads and sales).
The panelists have done an excellent job of highlighting just how interconnected Richmond was with both the rest of the South as well as the North. We need to move beyond these static regional distinctions that fail to acknowledge the multiple connections that Richmonders experienced on a daily basis.