Slavery And Human Decency Essay, Research Paper
Discrimination is very old in its origins. From the earliest periods of human existence, groups developed prejudices toward others and then discriminated against those whom they regarded as different or inferior. Many attempts were taken to maintain or increase power, prestige, or even wealth; groups found it easy to invent or accept the idea that others were somehow inferior to them and thus not deserving of equal treatment. Among the many differences that could be used as a basis for discrimination, people quickly discovered that physical appearance was the easiest to identify. It required no subtle analysis, no careful contemplation, but only a superficial glance at those visual features that would later be used to identify ?race?. The shape of one?s nose, color of one?s hair, or even the color of one?s skin describes the universal nature of what we now call racial consciousness. Slavery is a perfect example. Racial animosity grew in both the North and South, and in many instances led to physical violence.
The era of slavery should have been called the era of inhumanity. Slavery was inhumane, barbaric, and ultimately disgusting. In 1800 the population of the United States included 893,602 slaves, of which only 36,505 were in northern states (Phillips 18). Slaves were treated as if they were a piece of meat. The defined characteristics of slaves are as follows, ? their labor or services are obtained through force; their physical beings are regarded as the property of another person, their master; they are entirely subject to their master?s or owner?s will? (Phillips 17). Slave life according to historians has never been and will never be classified as a so-called idyllic experience. There was little in the way of recreation and other forms of entertainment to pass the time. It must be remembered that, slaves had no time they could call their own. Rarely did slaves get any ?free time? at all, but when they did it was spent recuperating from long sixteen-hour workdays. Most slaves were not well taken care of. Many slaves went for days without eating, and in turn this caused their work pace to slow. According to Collier, plantation slaves worked sixteen-hour days in the summer, and were only given three pounds of bacon or pork and roughly twelve quarts of cornmeal a week (26). Many slave owners or overseers would peruse the plantations and lash out at any given slave particularly because they simply weren?t working hard enough. Although historians believe that not all slave owners were cruel, but they have no doubt that some slave owners frequently lashed out to their slaves to instill the idea of obedience and loyalty (Collier 28). The evidence clearly shows that slavery was wrong, and I believe the slaveholders knew it.
Guilt is an inevitable effect of slavery. The simple fact remains that men were enslaving men. Regardless of how much inferior a slaveholder may perceive his slaves, it is obvious that his ?property? looks similar, had similar needs, and has similar feelings. There is the necessary comparison of situations; the slaveholder is free, the slaves are in bondage – certainly a position that the slaveholder would find most disagreeable. So there is no doubt that any slaveholder with any measure of humanity within him would feel guilt. According to Webster?s dictionary guilt is defined as ?a feeling of responsibility for having done something wrong? (311). In other words, guilt creates such inner disturbance that a guilty man will vary from normal behavior. To illustrate this theory one would evaluate these two scenarios. First, a slaveholder that commits detrimental actions to himself or his family shows the slaveholder is in mental distress. Secondly, that the actions practiced simply illustrate the status of the slaveholder. With such overwhelming evidence, it is absolutely safe to say those southern slaveholders as a whole felt guilt because of their status as slave owners. I believe the reason that southern slave owners felt guilty is because they were human and had true human emotions. Slave owners who did not feel any guilt regarding slavery, felt slavery was ok, not because propaganda or society influenced them, but because they were immoral to begin with. I have no doubt slave owners were guilt stricken because they recognized themselves in their slave?s eyes, and understood, deep down, that slavery was wrong. Although, guilt weighed heavily upon many slave owners, slavery continued for hundreds of years.
Slavery was a profitable institution, and if it had been such a compassionate era as the propaganda declared, then there would be no reason to abolish it. Many slave owners felt this way. The creation of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney greatly increased the cotton production in the Southern states, thus increasing the demand for slaves. The number of slaves in the south nearly doubled to over one and half million (Collier 34). So why abolish slavery now? Production is higher than ever, the work is getting done more quickly, and plantation owners are making tremendous amounts of money. One can answer the simple question why, why abolish slavery? Because it is wrong, morally, ethically, politically, and it goes completely against what this country stands for today.
I believe that many Americans in the past felt as I do today concerning the issue of slavery, but I also believe many Americans did not. Which in turn caused a conflict between the North and the South called The Civil War. One country fighting against each other is that what America stands for? The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 when the first guns opened fire on Fort Sumter (Davis 12). There are many beliefs as to what started this bloody war ranging from differences of social systems between the North and the South to the disposal of public lands. All these contributed to the animosity between the North and the South that started the war, I believe slavery to be the main cause of the horrific battle that will never be forgotten.
Slaves were people just as slave owners were people and despite the difference of opinions throughout this great country; this was an inevitable conclusion that everyone should have been treated equally. The enslavement of humans obviously produced a difference of opinion among many Americans, which in turn I believe to be the start of The Civil War. African-Americans suffered through many hardships and losses over time. One must come to the realization that all humans should be treated the same no matter what their race, creed, or color. This is all in the past and Americans should treat it as such. We must never forget the hardships each and every American has gone through, Instead reflect on what has happened in the past and learn from it. Look to the future and remember all men are created equal.