Slavery, Emancipation, and Tractors: Unanticipated Benefits of Doing The Right Things
As the story and true history goes, Confederate States of the United States felt they could not do without slaves, felt giving up of the right to own people as slaves would have too much of adverse effects on capacity for running farms or plantations.
The Federal Government of the United States vehemently disagreed with the Confederate States. The disagreement resulted in the American Civil War, a war which lasted between 1861 and 1865, a war decisively won by those who opposed slavery. While some people wonder at genuineness of the opposition to slavery, particularly in wake of events that transpired afterwards, an important principle of life is to not refuse to appreciate right actions merely because motives are not perfect.
If right actions are not appreciated merely because motives are not perfect, we end up with a world in which nothing right gets done.
Subsequent to the Civil War (1867) sharecropping was instituted for bridging of the path to full economic emancipation for former slaves. Even if it had been perfectly implemented, the sharecropping system had to be a temporary institution, an institution that provided economic relief for former slaves until something better could be instituted.
Asking people who are freed to remain dependent on former captors for livelihood perhaps is worse than slavery that is outlawed. Dependence on others is implied by slavery, but not by freedom.
As reasonably could be expected, former slaves would go on to suffer abuse in context of sharecropping contracts, would endure existences not much better, or perhaps even worse than had been the case in context of slavery. The sharecropping institution was so rife with abuse, by 1877 it had in essence been abolished.
What then happened?
Well, within 15 years, precisely in 1892, somewhere in rural Iowa, a farmer named John Froelich invented the tractor, initiating transformation of farming into a mechanized activity, an activity that no longer needed hundreds of slaves or sharecroppers, an activity that eventually could be handled by a 60 year old man sitting on tractors, tillers, harvesters etc.
It is as true today as it was then — necessity is mother of invention.
Absent outlawing of each of slavery and sharecropping, it perhaps is the case that John Froelich never takes any time to ponder how else to farm his land productively. In presence of the dilemma, in presence of the necessity, John Froelich takes the time to ponder, ends up with the tractor as his invention, as part of his legacy. The rest of course is history — since invention of the tractor, farming has not been the same in either of the United States or the rest of the world. Farming has become a respectable economic activity.
Absent mechanization of farming, modern day civilization hardly would be possible. It would not be possible for no more than 5% of a population to generate enough food for the rest 95 percent.
If you focus on all of the challenges that come with doing ‘right things’, such as outlawing of slavery, and facilitation of economic emancipation for former slaves, you perhaps never take steps necessary for arrival at pursuit and doing of right things.
History is full of evidence, however, of unanticipated innovations, benefits, and prosperity that are outcome of the decision to pursue and do right things. When the Greeks decided to take on the Chaldeans in war — a decision that led to emancipation of the then known world from strictures of superstition — the path to victory was not clear, yet there was conviction of the right course of action. If the Chaldeans had remained rulers of the then known world, the intellectual world we live in today — a world some seek once again to turn barbaric — never could have materialized.
Perhaps you think things are pretty good already. Well, so did those Confederate States. But if you polled those same people subsequent to invention of the tractor and asked them which they would prefer: to give up tractors and go back to owning of slaves; or to stick with tractors, they probably would have chosen to hold on to those tractors. The ‘Economics’ would support holding on to tractors. With more people having to buy their own food, and costs of farming down in response to mechanization, each of slavery and sharecropping had become inherently bad economics.
No matter how good things seem to be at the moment, there always is progress, innovation, and prosperity waiting to be discovered, waiting to be ushered in, in context of pursuit and doing of right things. As the world wavers on it’s direction, if you and I pursue and do right things, we make it easier for leaders of Towns, Cities, Counties, States, and Countries to pursue and do right things.
There are ‘tractors’ of innovation and prosperity waiting to be discovered, waiting to be ushered in because you and I and everyone else choose to pursue and do right things.