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Men Is CheapExposing the Frauds of Free Labor in Civil War America$
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Brian P. Luskey

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469654324

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654324.001.0001

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Bargains Worse than Fraudulent

Bargains Worse than Fraudulent

Chapter:
(p.44) 2 Bargains Worse than Fraudulent
Source:
Men Is Cheap
Author(s):

Brian P. Luskey

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654324.003.0003

Antebellum Americans’ experiences in and debates about intelligence offices reflected and shaped the broader debate about northern and southern political economy occurring in the years prior to the Civil War. As politicians worried—and comic publications laughed—about the consequences of the nation divided, intelligence offices and the intense conversations swirling around them revealed the ways Americans were confronting the fact that their households were divided between kitchen and parlor, upstairs and downstairs. The secession crisis and the beginning of the Civil War exacerbated these concerns, because respectable men of business as well as impoverished workers desperately sought safe and steady positions as sources of credit and capital ran dry. Intelligence office transactions illuminated what wage labor was in well-to-do households, popular culture, and political economy in critically important ways just as northerners and southerners came into conflict about labor—how it was recruited, moved, and exploited—in the Civil War. Even though Americans despised intelligence offices, they nevertheless adopted them as models upon which to speed the flow of soldiers and workers throughout the country during the war. Out of crisis, some northerners imagined opportunity in the movement of people to accrue credit and capital.

Keywords:   Intelligence offices, households, secession, credit, capital, wage labor

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