Slavery Vs. Economics Essay, Research Paper
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”
–Declaration of IndependenceSlavery is a societal institution based on ownership, dominance, and exploitation of one human being by another and reciprocal submission on the part of the person owned. The owner may exact work or other services without pay and virtually without restriction and can deny the slave freedom of activity and mobility. Slavery is one of this country?s most debated topics. In America?s history slavery and economics go hand in hand. Most people think that the ban of slavery was a human rights issue in the south, where in fact it was a major economic one. The issue of slavery has been debated between the North and South since before the colonization of the thirteen colonies. It has been the instigator of many events throughout the history of the states. The North and the South obviously had very different views regarding the subject.
The debate over the economic advantages of slavery in the South has raged ever since the first slaves began working in the cotton fields of the Southern States. Initially, the wealth of the New World was in the form of raw materials and agricultural goods such as cotton, sugar, and tobacco. The continuing demand for slaves’ labor arose from the development of plantation agriculture, the long-term rise in prices and consumption of sugar, and the demand for miners. Not only did Africans represent skilled laborers, but also they were a relatively cheap resource to the South. Consequently, they were well suited for plantation agriculture. While white labor was used initially, Africans were the final solution to the acute labor problem in the New World.
The economic systems that dominated slavery reflected the transitions in Americas economic system. Initially, mercantilist views characterized the conduct of the slave trade. The primary purpose of mercantilism, an economic system that developed during the transition of America from colonies to states, was to unify and increase the power and financial wealth of a nation through strict government regulation of the national economy.
According to Carl Abbott, in the years following the American Revolution, slavery, which had never been so prevalent or economically important in the North as in the South, became the South’s “peculiar institution.” Between 1774 and 1804 all the northern states undertook to abolish slavery. In some states emancipation was immediate, but more often–as in New York and New Jersey–it was gradual, freeing slaves born after passage of the state’s emancipation act when they reached a given age, usually in their twenties.(Abbott)
Nevertheless, despite widespread questioning of its morality and a surplus of private liberation?s in the Upper South during the revolutionary era, bondage actually expanded in the southern states. The spread of cotton production following the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 sharply increased the demand for slave labor and made possible the emergence of a vast new slave empire as southerners moved west. At the outbreak of the Revolution, the United States contained about half a million slaves. Between the North and the South, on the eve of the Civil War the country held almost 4 million slaves, confined entirely to the South.
Southern slaves were viewed in economic terms of labor to capital. While the ownership of slaves was a source of pride in plantation owners, this interdependence created a vicious cycle of rashness that caused slave owners to become irrational. In the South, slaveholdings varied according to size, location, and crops produced. Slavery in cities differed substantially from that in the countryside. These slaves were very valuable to the slaveholding planter class. They were a huge investment to Southerners and if taken away, could mean massive losses to everyone.
Throughout history, slavery has created many issues. According to Abbott, from the beginning, slavery has divided the North from the South. When new territories became available in the West, the South wanted to expand and use slavery in the newly acquired territories. However, the North opposed to this and wanted to stop the extension of slavery into new territories. The North wanted to limit the number of slave states in the Union. Nevertheless, many Southerners felt that a government dominated by free states could endanger existing slaveholdings. The South wanted to protect their states rights. The first evidence of the North’s actions came in when Missouri asked to be admitted to the Union as a slave state.(Abbott)
After months of discussion Congress passed the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This compromise was legislative measures that regulated the extension of slavery in the United States for three decades. Now the balance of 11 free states and 11 slave states was in trouble. Maine also applied for statehood in 1819, in which it was admitted as a free state. To please the North, slavery would be prohibited forever from Louisiana Purchase territories north of 36? 30′. Southern extremists opposed any limit on the extension of slavery, but settled for now. Missouri and Maine were to enter statehood simultaneously to preserve sectional equality in the Senate. For almost a generation, this Compromise seemed to settle the conflict between the North and South.
In addition, another such event was when congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This served to further divide the North from the South. The act repealed the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery north of 36′30″. The bill said that slavery would be determined by popular sovereignty. The North was opposed to this bill, and the South supported it. After the bill was passed, settlers began pouring into Kansas to help determine whether Kansas would be pro-slavery or anti-slavery. Those who migrated to Kansas had strong feelings either one way or the other, and there were many secret organizations which sprung up, as well as much bloodshed.(Abbott)
Throughout the rest of time before the Civil War, slavery remained in the Southern states. Slavery was not abolished until 1865 when the 13th amendment was passed. Slavery has been around since the dawn of time, and it still exists today. Just because the Constitution says that slavery was outlawed, does not mean that the South followed the ?rules? so to speak. If you look at society today, you can still see small types of slavery. In reference to the quote from The Declaration of Independence at the beginning of the paper, where it says that ?We hold these truths to be self-evident?, ?all men are created equal?, and ?they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights?, but do we as a society view everyone as it is put in the constitution? Everyone in society has his or her own answer.