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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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Worthy of His Hire

Worthy of His Hire

Chapter:
(p.112) 4 Worthy of His Hire
Source:
Men Is Cheap
Author(s):

Brian P. Luskey

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654324.003.0005

In the second summer of the war, northern states and localities established committees to raise bounty funds by subscription or loan and petitioned the federal government to add its own resources to sweeten their offers. Otherwise, they would not obtain enough volunteers to meet the quotas assigned by the Lincoln administration. The bounties that enticed Union soldiers to demonstrate their civic virtue were the very things that enticed them to defraud their government. When soldiers did not receive the bounties promised by their contracts, they felt “deceived.” Soldiers who came to distrust the promises of contracts sought other avenues to seize greater autonomy. When President Abraham Lincoln sought to use emancipation to strengthen the Union’s war effort in ways that validated free labor’s commitment to the rights of those with capital, white northerners saw their chance. The demise of slavery gave them opportunities to envision a free labor future in which they would benefit at former slaves’ expense. White northerners envisioned mobilizing these black laborers’ “capital in self” to bolster their own wages and credit their claims to independence through the war for Union.

Keywords:   Bounties, Union soldiers, Abraham Lincoln, fraud, autonomy, capital, free labor, slavery, emancipation

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