Lords of land and labour: a comparison of Antebellum Mississippi's John A. Quitman and Nineteenth-Century Ireland's Lord Clonbrock
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This study investigates similarities, differences, and connections between antebellum U.S. Southern slaveholders and nineteenth-century Irish landowners. In particular, it focuses on the comparison of Mississippi’s John A. Quitman (1799-1858) and Galway’s Robert Dillon, third baron Clonbrock (1807-1893). Quitman was a New York-born, first generation slaveholder who migrated to Natchez in 1821 and subsequently became a planter. He was also a prominent politician and is remembered by historians as a ‘fire-eater’ who advocated Mississippi’s secession from the United States in the late-antebellum era. Clonbrock was a member of the long-established Dillon family and inherited numerous landed estates throughout Ireland, mostly in east County Galway, when he turned twenty-one in 1828. Comparably to Quitman, Clonbrock was active in local and national politics, although he remained a committed supporter of Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom throughout his life. Taking these two individuals as case studies representative of their respective classes, this dissertation compares American planters’ and Irish landlords’ economic behaviours, ideologies, relationships with their labourers, and political histories. It suggests that Quitman and Clonbrock were representative of a particular type of economically progressive but socially and politically conservative landed proprietor that became increasingly common in the American South and Ireland during the nineteenth century. At the same time, Quitman’s and Clonbrock’s actions were also conditioned by the crucial differences between their contexts. By contrasting these contexts, we arrive at a better understanding of the reasons why American slaveholders and Irish landlords had such different relationships with their respective national governments—why Quitman became a proponent of Southern secession, whereas Clonbrock was always a British unionist. This dissertation also examines some of the direct and indirect transnational connections between antebellum American slaveholders and their Irish landed contemporaries. It shows that Quitman and Clonbrock were mutually influenced by many of the same international economic, intellectual, and political developments, while the mass migration from Ireland to the United States that occurred during the nineteenth century also had a dramatic effect on the Southern and Irish landed elites. Essentially, in its combination of comparative and transnational methodologies, this study constitutes a ‘cross-national comparative history’ of an American planter and an Irish landlord, which teaches us more about both the antebellum U.S. South and nineteenth-century Ireland.
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