Term Paper: Chattel Slavery and Race Relations

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Slavery and Race Relations

Slavery was inconsistent with the ideals incorporated in the Constitution and yet it was allowed by the founding fathers because they wanted to preserve the Union at all costs. We must here understand that it is absolutely impossible for a country or any institution to operate with conflicting values. Slavery was an abominable practice, which should have been abolished immediately after the formation of United States Constitution because it clashed with the ideals of freedom and liberty for all. However while North had some reasons to oppose it, South had numerous others to maintain this oppressive institution.

It is important to bear in mind the arguments that were given against and in favor of slave trade and this will help us see why it took so long and so much opposition to get rid of this practice. North would argue against slavery on the basis of civil rights and purely on humane grounds. They felt that since slavery violated the rights of black community in the country, it should be abolished completely. North had another reason not to support slavery. Since they had become more industrialized part of the country compared to South, they had no reason to favor slavery.. instead they were that if slaves were freed, they would come to industrial parts of the country and thus the demand for more manpower would be adequately met. This was the time when fugitive slave law was passed which further worsened the situation of slaves in the United States. "Article IV, Section 2, stipulated that any "person held to service or labor in one state" who escaped to another "shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor shall be due." (McPherson, 78)

This law was staunchly opposed by anti-slavery sections of the North and many slaves fled to Canada to avoid recapture. North had no reason to support slavery, they did not agree with economic reasons given by the South and then did everything in their power to protests against fugitive slave law. "...blacks and their white allies had done everything they could to nullify the law by flight and resistance. The quick seizures of blacks who had long lived in the North sent a wave of panic through northern Negro communities. Many black people fled to Canada -- an estimated three thousand in the last three months of 1850 alone. During the 1850s the Negro population of Ontario doubled to eleven thousand." (McPherson, 91)

South's was basically an agrarian economy. Farms and plantation were the major source of income. Before the industrial age, South was powerful and its economy was roaring. But this did not continue for long after the American Revolution. People started pouring into the Northern states from all parts of the world because North had become a rapidly developing industrialized economy. Not only did North's manpower increased, its economy also picked up so quickly that South was left far behind. But South needed a steady growth in its economy more than other part, that was because it had a huge army of slaves which was to be provided with food and shelter.

Around this time, South experienced a major boom in cotton trade and this was obviously attributed to slaves who worked on plantations in the South. Now South had reason to protect slave trade while the North was staunchly opposing it. they felt that more hands were needed on plantations and since the cotton boom, it was even more important to allow slave trade in order to increase economic contributions of the South. "Our Cotton is the most wonderful talisman in the world," declared a planter in 1853. "By its power we are transmuting whatever we choose into whatever we want." (McPherson, 100)

For this reason slavery and its protection became important objectives of the Southern elite. Some people openly wrote in favor of slavery while others used subtler tactics to advocate slave trade in the South. In 1857, politicians from the South firmly declared that the best way to keep economy in shape was to reopen African slave trade. (102) in 1856, a delegation was sent to commercial convention which openly spoke in favor of slave trade purely on economic grounds. They declared, "we are entitled to demand the opening of this trade from an industrial, political, and constitutional consideration.... With cheap negroes we could set the hostile legislation of Congress at defiance." (102)

Slavery was declared right and it was believed that the best way to support the waning economy of South was by reopening slave trade. South needed a large army of slaves to increase cotton production and at the same time provide enough food to all. This was possible only if there were no obstacles in their way and if supply of slaves continued without any obstruction from the North. Several attempts were made by the South to protect the institution of slavery and many rich politicians advocated reopening of this trade in the Congress. "For some defenders of slavery, logical consistency required a defense of the slave trade as well. "Slavery is right," said a delegate to the 1858 convention, "and being right there can be no wrong in the natural means of its formation." Or as William L. Yancey put it: "If it is right to buy slaves in Virginia and carry them to New Orleans, why is it not right to buy them in Africa and carry them there?" (McPherson, 102)

Abraham Lincoln's war initiative against the South that later came to be called the Civil War was actually more an effort to keep the 13 states united and less to abolish slavery. To thwart the plans of secession, Lincoln decided to use military force against the South that could also achieve the lofty objective of abolition of slavery. But it must be understood the unity of the Federation was more important a reason to Lincoln and Northern Army for going to war than anything else. Horace Greeley's open letter to Lincoln and Lincoln's reply to the same are evidence of the fact that emancipation was less important than unity of federation at the time of the Civil war. "In his reply, Lincoln stated his belief that the paramount object of the war was restoration of the Union. In August 1862, emancipation was not yet central to the northern war effort. But as Greeley's letter suggests, emancipation was becoming important to a growing number of northerners. Lincoln's reply indicated his willingness to back emancipation if it promised to aid the war effort." (Civil war and slavery)

The results of 1860 Presidential election triggered the secession movement whereby seven states of Cotton Bell South (South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama) decided to withdraw from the Union. These secessionists formed the Confederate States of America thus openly opposing the Union and its powers. However secession attempt was successfully thwarted by Lincoln administration that refused to accept secession, "believing it to be an imperative duty upon the incoming Executive, to prevent, if possible, the consummation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union." (Lincoln, Message to Special Session)

In his inaugural address, Lincoln firmly stood against secessionist movement saying, "No state upon its mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union...acts of violence... against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary, or revolutionary according to circumstances." Secession played an important role in triggering the Civil war as the division between North and South became more pronounced with the movement and its failure.

LETTER on the ISSUE of SLAVERY:

My research on the topic of slavery in the United States has resulted in some startling revelations. While most of us have always believed that slavery was just an abominable practice of the South and was simply a form of discrimination, I found out that those were simply not the only reasons why slavery had survived for so long in the U.S. A country that was built on the principles of freedom, equality and justice simply turned a blind eye to the ugly institution of slavery because abolition of slavery was not in the economic interest of the country. Unfortunate and ugly as it may sound, the truth of the matter is that North was as responsible for survival of slavery in the South as the South itself. This is because the Congressmen and important political figures in the country knew emancipation would result in major economic collapse in the South and thus the hues and cries of innocent black people fell on deaf ears.

Regardless of our tremendous amount of respect for President Lincoln, documents reveal that emancipation was never his sole purpose for going on war against the South. In all honesty, it was probably not even one of the reasons why Lincoln launched a military attack on the South. More important than emancipation of chained human beings was keeping the federation united and this is the whole truth. I accept that reality bites and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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