22 / CHRONICLESnOPINIONSnIn the Land of Cotton by Clyde Wilsonn”The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and wenare not saved.”n—JeremiahnBreaking the Land: ThenTransformation of Cotton, Tobacco,nand Rice Cultures Since 1880 bynPete Daniel, Urbana, IL: Universitynof Illinois Press.nAs Rare as Rain: Federal Relief innthe Great Southern Drought ofn1930-31 by Nan ElizabethnWoodruff, Urbana, IL: University ofnIllinois Press.nWhen we write of Southern ruralnlife (as when we write of Southernnspeech, manners, history, or literature)nwe essay a phenomenon significantlyndifferent from that which wouldnnormally be suggested were the modifiern”Southern” to be replaced byn”American.”nIn the beginning, Southern agriculturenlaid the foundation for America.nIt was Southern tobacco, and to anlesser extent rice, indigo, cotton, andnnaval stores, which provided the economicnincentive and raison d’etre fornthe British settlement of North America.nAside from the fur trade, thenNorthern colonies had no function innthe British Empire except as a havennfor Dissenters. The adherence of thenSouth to the War for Independencenwas an act of sheer political idealism,nagainst self-interest and without theneconomic and religious motivations ofnNew England.nEven through the first half of then19th century, the Southern staplesnwere the core of American agriculture.nClyde Wilson is editor of The Papersnof John C. Calhoun and professor ofnhistory at the University of SouthnCarolina.nDuring most of that period cottonnmade up more than half the dollarnvalue of exports of the United States. Itntherefore provided the wherewithal fornour imports, and since the Federalngovernment was chiefly financednthrough the tariff on imports, cottonnprovided the government’s revenuenbase. The commercial greatness ofnNew York was built to a considerablenextent on the cotton-carrying trade.nAlabama was a flush outpost of a vitalninternational commodity when Indiana,nat the same longitude westward,nwas still a backward world of subsistencenfarmers. It was not until the lastndecade before the Civil War that thengreat Midwestern breadbasket cameninto its own, with the construction ofnrailroads to the Northeast and the productionnof machinery that could culti­nnnvate the virgin prairies and plains andnharvest on a grand scale.nThe great agricultural historiannLewis Cecil Cray has written that thenplantation system constituted the scenicnhighlands of the antebellumnSouthern economy, though most ofnthe land area was occupied by smallnindependent farmers. Though rice,nsugar, and hemp required the largencapitalization of a plantation, cottonnand tobacco were democratic cropsnthat could be grown and sold for anprofit as readily by the small farmer asnby the planter. A considerable portionnof the population, as has recently beennreemphasized, lived in the Old Southnon the large-scale open-range grazingnof livestock, an American adaptationnof traditional British border economynand the direct, legitimate sire of whatn