Slavery in the north and south Essay Example
Slavery in the north and south Essay Example

Slavery in the north and south Essay Example

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During the Atlantic slave trade, America received over two million slaves. The majority were settled in the southern region, representing 20% of the population and resulting in 90% of African Americans residing in southern states. Slavery's impact on American history remains significant and its legacy still affects modern-day America. The south's unique relationship with slavery created interdependence that led many southerners to oppose granting civil and political rights to black individuals. This has resulted in a negative view of the African American population as well as a conservative belief in white supremacy for the region.

Despite the North's prominent role in the abolitionist movement and establishment of Free states, they were not major supporters of slavery. In contrast, the South heavily relied on slave labor to maintain their agricultural-based plantations. This distinction arose from the North's economic emphasis on in


dustrialization and factory labor, resulting in a lower number of slaves. Nonetheless, according to Berlin (Ira) (68), nearly all colonies had a substantial amount of slaves during the American Revolution.

Between the late 1700s and the onset of the American civil war, there was a significant increase in the number of slaves. While northern states implemented emancipation laws leading to a decrease in slave population, southern states continued importing more slaves. Additionally, there were increased demands for complete abolition of slavery. Despite being viewed as unethical, slavery remained profitable and played a vital role in economic growth, causing many people to overlook its immorality.

The abolitionist movement was driven by both black and white individuals who were inspired by moral, religious, and economic reasons. Supporters of the movement believed that coerced labor was becoming inefficient with industrialization i

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the north and argued for wage employment instead of slave labor (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 29). Consequently, slavery underwent significant changes due to the shift towards industry from agriculture.

Indentured labor emerged as a result of the increasing demand for semi-skilled workers, rendering slavery unnecessary. This type of labor involved skilled migrants entering into an agreement with their employers to provide services within a specific timeframe and with restricted wages.

There has been ongoing debate surrounding the chronology of events that led to the rejection of slave labor in the north and increased advocacy for abolition. Some propose that acknowledging the unsuitability of slave labor may have catalyzed abolitionist sentiments, while others argue that such sentiments already existed but were suppressed until society's dominant belief system regarding slavery was confronted and dismantled, thus fortifying support for abolition. Nonetheless, it became apparent to most northern states that slavery was not sustainable in a rapidly developing and industrializing society.

Scholars generally agree that the role of slave labor in America's economic growth was crucial. Although some have acknowledged this contribution, particularly in the North, others have questioned it. In his book Capitalism and Slavery (169), Eric Williams argued in 1944 that slave labor used on Southern plantations played a vital role in driving the industrial revolution in the North. However, as Northern factories emerged, they required skilled and educated workers, resulting in a fusion of new ideas and training programs for the population. Despite doubts about slavery's role, its significant impact on early economic development cannot be denied.

The combination of abolitionist demands and unfavorable conditions made it impractical to maintain slavery (Clayton E. Jewett and John O. Allen, 14). Despite

this, the southern states had become reliant on slavery and many were strongly attached to it.

In the South, slavery was widely recognized as being crucial to their financial stability. Throughout the 18th century, the need for inexpensive labor made slavery the driving force behind the economy. However, this reliance on slave labor was threatened as soil depletion led to a decrease in production. Fortunately, the discovery of a new method for processing cotton revived the institution of slavery when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1792.

The separation of cotton from its seed became easier and more productive, generating significantly greater amounts of clean cotton compared to a single slave's daily output. This led to rapid growth in cotton exports to the north and factories in England, reviving the southern economy. Due to increasing demand, cotton was highly valued and an increased labor flow was required to sustain production.

While many northern states abandoned slavery due to economic impracticality, the southern demand for slaves intensified as cotton became a key product sustaining economic growth. As the north urbanized and industrialized, moving towards modernity, the south relied on traditional production methods. Thus, an examination of the economy and slavery structure reveals why the south required a larger number of slaves than the north. (David Brion Davis, 26)

The majority of slaves in the southern states worked on plantations where they performed menial tasks such as picking cotton or harvesting tobacco. A small proportion were employed as domestic workers or craftsmen. The southern states were primarily rural and lacked the opportunities for urbanization and industrialization that were prevalent in the north. Despite this, many southerners recognized the economic benefits

of slavery and were unwilling to give it up due to the income it generated, which outweighed the expenses of feeding and housing the slaves (Fogel, Robert W, 39).

Although depletion led to a decrease in profits, the South witnessed a consistent surge in profits during the 19th century due to an increase in demand and prices for crops. Despite this, the expenses involved in maintaining slaves remained constant. The South and slave traders viewed owning slaves as a lucrative venture (Genovese, Eugene D,33). However, it is a misconception that all Southerners owned slaves; in reality, most did not.

The ability to purchase and care for multiple slaves was limited to the wealthy elites due to the high cost of acquisition and maintenance. This group included prosperous agrarian businessmen who held privileged social positions, in contrast to small-scale farmers who also utilized slave labor. These affluent individuals strongly opposed the emerging belief that slavery was morally unacceptable and continued its practice within southern culture, ultimately contributing to the Civil War against Free states in the north (Blassingame, John W, 19).

A comparison of slave ownership in the north and south may lead to the misconception that the north did not utilize slaves. However, slavery was still present in the north, albeit not to the same degree as in the south. Emancipation efforts began earlier in the north with less opposition. The concept of indentured servants presented a compromise between the unethical practice of slavery and the economic advantages of low-cost labor (Stowe 18). The primary disparity in slave necessity between the north and south was rooted in their respective economies.

The southern economy became reliant on slave labor due

to its cheap cost and lack of necessary skills for the rapidly industrializing and urbanizing region. However, the agricultural focus of the south necessitated a large supply of labor to fulfill the increasing demand for cotton and other crops in plantations. Therefore, although slave labor was ideal for the southern economy, it was not enough to fully meet their requirements.

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