Property crimes in rural Louisiana customized essays
On analyzing the history of post-Civil War Louisiana and the unparalleled growth of crimes in the region, it should be pointed out that property crimes became a real burden of the state since it had grown dramatically and all the measures which were or could be undertaken turned to be not efficient. In fact, property crimes naturally were committed in Louisiana before the Civil War but not at such a mass scale. Moreover, the characteristic feature of the property crimes committed in Louisiana were brutal murders which often committed during robberies which were “a rather new phenomenon and were seen by contemporaries as the direct consequence of emancipation” (Vandal 127). For instance, Gilles Vandal draws an example of property crime committed in Louisiana of that epoch, notably he depicts the crime committed by four blacks who committed a double murder in Lafayette in 1873. They killed a Frenchman and a black justice of the peace who were business partners in the course of robbery and then set fire on the store but their crime was revealed. Terrible it was, but this was a crime of a new type that became typical in rural Louisiana.
In fact, the general trend to increase of violent crimes may be easily traced when the statistics of crimes against property committed in rural Louisiana is analyzed (Table 1). In this respect, it is worthy of note that robberies accompanied by personal violence were rated fourth, while robberies accompanied by murders were rated fifth by numbers of crimes committed. At the same time the number of property crimes committed in rural Louisiana was quite substantial and in total constituted 2386 crimes which were committed in the period from 1866 to 1876 that was quite a significant number for this region which used to be quite calm and peaceful in the past. It should be said that robbery and stealing were probably the most popular crimes of the epoch.
Naturally, such a radical change in rural Louisiana could not occur without any logical and objective reason. In this respect, it should be said that the Civil War had played probably the crucial role. To put it more precisely, the end of the Civil War, the victory of North, further abolishment of slavery and rigidness of Southern whites produced a socio-economic and political symbiosis that led to the unprecedented growth of social tension and crimes in rural Louisiana. It should be said that contemporaries viewed the growth of crimes as the result of the emancipation of former slaves, i.e. African American population of the region. The white population of the region was dominant because it had economic and political power, while African Americans, even being freed, still remained oppressed and practically deprived of opportunities to fully realize their civil rights. customized essays
In fact, the situation was quite paradoxical as if African American had got freedom and did not know what to do with it. In such a situation many whites strongly believed that the property crimes committed by blacks were the result of the situation when “no longer under the tight control of the whites, many blacks refused to submit any longer to the plantation discipline” (Vandal 128). To a certain extent, it was quite logical because the whites really did not directly control the blacks. However, the latter did not really have any choice but to leave the plantations and strive for survival in new socio-economic conditions. Obviously, they could not afford working in the plantations since the white owners were unwilling to pay for the job of former slaves wages that would be sufficient for survival of black population.
At the same time, the economic crisis that was a natural consequence of the civil in the result of structural socio-economic changes in rural Louisiana as in the US at large. In such a situation, former slaves could hardly find an alternative work for making a living. As a result, “petty thefts, grand larceny and robbery often became part of their day-to-day life” (Vandal 132) that was actually the only way they could survive. Otherwise, a substantial part of African Americans involved in criminal activities would simply starve to death.
Naturally, in such a situation white population of rural Louisiana felt insecure before the growing level of crimes committed in the region and inability of the local authorities to stop the growing wave of crimes that overwhelmed the region. As a result, “hundreds of whites periodically joined lynching parties as they saw mob violence as their only resort to correct intolerable situation” (Rable 98).
However, what was really intolerable in this situation was the attitude of the white population to the oppressed African American ethnic group. In this respect, it is worth of mentioning that the present data show that whites had greater propensity to commit property crimes than blacks (Table 2). To put it more precisely, according to Vandal, whites composed only 30% of the rural population, but committed 60% of all property offenses in country side parishes.
In such a way, it is obvious that emancipation could not be the only reasons for property crimes committed in rural Louisiana. At the same time, it is necessary to emphasize that crimes committed in the region were not limited by robberies only, among the most widely spread and ‘popular’ crimes may be named petty thefts, stealing horses, hogs, and mules for food consumption which were really typical for black criminals, while whites were more often charged with violent and aggravated property crimes. In this respect, it is possible to point out the fact that such a trend may be, on one hand, the result of the larger black population that simply needed food, while, on the other hand violence and aggression, from the part of whites could be the result of their presumably higher position compared to blacks. In order to better understand this statement, it is possible to refer to Haws and Namorato research where the authors stat that “while many blacks did not think it a crime to rob a white, most whites considered it even less of a crime to rob or kill a black” (146). Thus, racial antagonism had probably achieved its peak in the post-Civil War Louisiana when it was not even considered to be a crime to rob or even kill a representative of another race.
At the same time, racial antagonism was not the only reason for the growth of property crimes in rural Louisiana. In actuality, there were a number of quite objective reasons of the deterioration of the criminal situation in the region. Basically, they are of socio-economic origin, though political background was also quite substantial.
Obviously, after the end of the Civil War the socio-economic tension in rural Louisiana grew progressively because of the economic ruin and social disruption of the region. To a significant extent, it was economic regression and stagnation of the region that forced many blacks and whites to commit property crimes. Moreover, the growth of thefts in poor socio-economic situation is quite natural and it is a common trend for practically all societies that passed through military conflicts or profound economic crises. In fact, the Civil War had broken the balance in the region and, consequently, black population had to seek new ways to earn for their living, while many whites were deprived not only of their slaves but, in the result of it, the source of stable income.
However, it is important to underline that political situation in the region neither contributed to the improvement of the rate of crimes committed in rural Louisiana. For instance, during electoral campaign of 1874, white conservatives across the state, determined to carry their districts, did not hesitate to apply economic pressure to achieve their political goals. Consequently, calls were made on planters in several parishes to discharge all blacks who had voted republican. As a result, some 500 black families, an aggregate of about 2.000 people, were left roaming around Caddo parish during the winter of 1875 and contributing to much social chaos. In such a way, political interests of dominant whites led to the desperate economic position of blacks who had little choice but either to starve or start committing property crimes simply to survive.
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