History Hr. 2-3
24 November 1998
Transformation of Slavery’s Defense
During the early 1800’s the demand for cotton had risen and it was now “King” of plantations in the southern region of the United States, where the climate was best suited. Now more then ever, slavery had become an essential component of most every cotton producing plantation. The Southerners knew slavery was wrong, but made justifications for it; within a span of 30 years these justifications had changed due to abolitionist movements (in the northern half of the county) and economic reasons which made cotton and slavery more profitable than ever.
In the 1830’s the Southerners thought, or made themselves think, slavery was a necessary evil. They thought that the Negroes were as helpless as children, without foresight or faculties that would enable them to depended upon anybody else but the white race. Southerners saw themselves as the great people who helped accelerate the transition process of this inferior tribe; the process from barbarianism to civilization. They felt enslavement benefited slaves; heaven forbid slaves were free, they would have to work in the Northern factories in terrible conditions. They thought slavery was humane and one man went as far as to say Negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in the the same since, the freest people in the world.
This view of slavery changed as the Southerners began to get persecuted from Northern abolitionist. The abolitionist tried to get slavery on the stand point that it was theoretically and morally wrong, backed by the Bible and by the Declaration of Independence Constitution. With this as their argument the abolitionist worked the conscience of slave owners with little success. Other ideas were to buy the slaves and send them back to Africa or to emancipate them. The purchase and release of the slaves would prove too costly, so the only other idea was to free them.
At about this same time Eli Whitney had invented the cotton gin. Though his original intention was to ease the slave’s tasks, the cotton gin did exactly the opposite. Cotton was as profitable than ever, were as before it would take a slave a day to remove the seeds from a pound of cotton it now took maybe a couple minutes. Slaves were worked harder and harder and were as vital of an element to the plantation as cotton itself.
Roughly about the late 1850’s, with the pressure from the North mounting, and slavery as profitable as it was, the South found itself between a rock and a hard place. Doing the right thing, and freeing the slaves, would prove disastrous for its booming agrarian economy, so it would simply have to change its stance on slavery. It was no longer a “necessary evil”, as proved by abolitionist, but a “positive good” and their right. Southerners now turned to the Constitution and earlier legislation, the three-fifths Compromise, to defend their new idea. As agreed to in the Three-fifths Compromise, slaves were three-fifths property, and as property it was protected by the fifth amendment, in the Constitution, (... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property ... without just compensation.).
So within about 30 years the South’s defense for slavery had evolved. At first they calmed anti-slavery people by telling them stories of feeble-minded slaves who would be lost without their white master; some went as far as to get Bible verses and twist them to mean slavery was practically created by God. Then when confronted by abolitionist with stronger arguments they were forced to take up the powerful “law of the land” to defend themselves and their actions because at a time farming was main source of income, and without slaves there was no farming.
Word Count: 629