In contrast to a slaveholder who may have bought or sold slaves locally and for a variety of reasons, traders earned a living primarily by purchasing enslaved people from slaveholders in the Upper South and selling them to buyers in the Lower South. In the popular imagination, according to Gudmestad, "The trader broke up families, emphasized profit above piety, manipulated reality, and ruined paternalism. The stereotype had all the qualities that slaveowners were supposed to control" (p. 190). Gudmestad argues that "when [the slaveholder] could not meet this idea, the speculator was one way to explain their failure.... [slaveholders] blamed all others--banks, debt, abolitionists, the slaves themselves--for the slave trade because to admit their own culpability would have undermined the whole basis of their society" (p. 190). The idea that slaves represented cash above any supposed membership in a slaveholder's extended family upset southerners and inspired reactions, from moral outrage to regulatory legislation. In response, traders joined southern politicians and other proslavery apologists to sanitize the image of the slave trade so that by the mid-1830s, southerners could defend slavery and slave trading in the same breath. Gudmestad argues compellingly that southerners ended up agreeing to ignore the realities of speculation in the interstate slave trade in order to preserve the social order it supported.
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