Saturday, October 22, 2016

Daniel Pratt - Part 3

SCV Camp 1524 Dragoons Compatriot Tyrone Crowley addressed the October 2016 camp meeting as Daniel Pratt presenting an autobiographical history of the life of this important 19th century industrialist. 

Largest manufactory of cotton gins in the world produced one-fourth of all gins in the world, as well as largest cotton mill in Alabama[1] (out of 12 in the state).  Beautiful, orderly village with an orderly, peaceful life--churches, schools, factories, even a lyceum for public gatherings.[2]  Our children attended the fine Male and Female Academy, built in 1859-1860, where the Prattville Dragoons, first unit to leave this county, gathered in April 1861 to go to the defense of the Confederate States (went to Montgomery, then to Pensacola).  My niece, Abigail Holt, presented them with a flag made by the local ladies, to carry into battle, and Lt A Y Smith, whom I had taught Sabbath School to when he was a boy, received the flag.  (Other industries established in Prattville before 1850, which I owned in whole or in part were the sash, door and blind factory, a horse mills factory, machine and blacksmiths shop, a wagon manufactory, a tin manufactory, and a flouring mill--), and was "dry" (all deeds prohibited the sale of spirits). If not for the war that came, I believe Prattville would have been a center of industry in Alabama. But then came the War of 1861-65...
MY VIEWS ON CERTAIN TOPICS (see Conquest of Labor, pp. 200-ff.)
Like Jefferson Davis, I was not in favor of secession, though I had no doubt it was permissible under the Constitution.  A look at leaders elected to the Confederate government shows that most were moderates, like Jefferson Davis and myself; we did not believe immediate secession was wise and in fact could lead to disaster for the South.  I thought the South should spend a decade building up its industry before asserting its constitutional right to secede.  Remember, the South would be fighting the only kind of war sanctioned by Christianity:  a war of self-defense.  But it required preparation…
My plan for the South before the War, as I described it in a letter to the American Cotton Planter in 1859, was that "the South ought to maintain her rights at all hazards", but that "I would pursue a somewhat different course from that of our politicians".  I believed that the South should spend ten years building up her manufacturing and other commercial enterprises, to stop making "flaming fiery speeches and threats" and instead "to go quietly and peaceably to work, and make ourselves less dependent on those who abuse and would gladly ruin us".[3]
In September 1863, while a state legislator trying to encourage my fellow citizens following the losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, I wrote a letter in the Autauga Citizen, asking Alabamians, "Are you willing to live under a government you can have no control over, and be taxed to the last dollar to pay for the loss of all that was near and dear to you?"[4]  This is what surrender meant, and we all knew it.
On the question of slavery:  There were three reasons for slavery, in my view--two practical and one religious.  1)  The South's economy would have collapsed without slavery to gather and ship cotton, a joint enterprise between the North which provided the slaves and the South which used them.  2) Slavery improved the lives of black people, from a primitive one to a more civilized one. I believe this is why the American Colonization Society, which Abraham Lincoln supported, did not achieve its goal of repatriating the Africans; the slaves saw the benefits they had received and did not wish to return to their native lands.[5]  3) Slavery was not prohibited by God's law.  I saw slavery as God's way of Christianizing Africans and bettering their lot in life; the Bible tells the servant to be faithful to his master, and nowhere does it condemn slavery neither in the Old Testament nor the New.[6]  As the Reverend James Henry Thornwell tells us, a system of absolute equality has never existed and cannot exist in this world, only in heaven.  To believe it can is communism, as Reverend Thornwell pointed out.  Remember too that originally slavery was legal in all states; it was only those states that found it unprofitable that eventually outlawed it.
Regarding Reconstruction, I was entirely opposed to it, to the end of my days.  Before all else, I am a practical man.  To take ex-slaves, many of them unable to read and write, and give them the vote, while at the same time disenfranchising all men who had served in the Confederacy in any capacity, which would mean almost all white men in the defeated states, was simply not a practical or just thing to do, and it was a better day when Reconstruction ended in Alabama about a year after I departed this earth.
I do not care for politics, but once I realized that I was recognized as a leader in industrial and political matters and was urged by men I respected to do so, I ran for office at the local and state level.  I was almost elected State Senator in 1855, but lost by a small margin, due to opposition from the "piney woods" yeomen in north Autauga County (Chestnut Creek area).  I was elected by a large majority to serve as representative for Autauga County in the Alabama Legislature 1861-1863.  I was also honored to be proposed as candidate for governor in 1870 but lost to a younger candidate (Lindsay).  Was elected Intendant of Prattville in 1866 and held that office until my death, when it was assumed by my nephew, Merrill.

[1] Ibid., p. 65.
[2] MacMillan, M.C.  op.cit. p. 6.
[3] Also see pp. 180-181 of Conquest of Labor plus letter on p. 215.
[4] Evans, op. cit., p. 215.
[5] Evans, op. cit., p. 183.  See also p. 204, letter to American Cotton Planter.
[6] See ThornwellJH and the Biblical Defense of Slavery.pdf, pp. 7, 16.

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