Sammons, Franklin Calame
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This thesis explores the cultural history of ambition, indebtedness, and insolvency in antebellum Alabama. While historians have examined many of the social, cultural, and economic aspects of failure and debt, their studies have tended to neglect the South. However, concerns about indebtedness and insolvency consumed many white Alabamians, a result of social and cultural ideals that conflicted with the economic realities of a cotton economy dependent on credit. Elite men brought with them values and identities rooted in the traditions of more stable communities and economies that floundered amidst the chaotic commercial world of the cotton frontier. Networks of debt and credit that worked well to solidify social ties in the older states of the South, could not function the same where a competitive, acquisitive, and speculative spirit thrived. When elite white men failed, ideas about honor, manhood, and independence, all shaped the way they interpreted their failure.