Effects Of Slavery Essay

essay on impact on slavery

Effects of Slavery

Nelson | 5/6/2013 | Joanne Jahnke The Effects of Slavery Olivia Nelson May 6th 2013 Joanne Jahnke The Effects of Slavery Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobson both write their compelling stories on what life was like as slaves during 19th century America. Both narratives define the harsh life of slavery and the unforgiving effects that occurred during their time as slaves. In the same way, both stories reveal the theme of the evils of slavery but also given their different gender roles

Slavery And Its Effects On Slavery

research and taking the Slavery footprint quiz I realized just how much my life and lifestyle depended on slavery. I, like most people, do not think about where my clothes came from or where the diamond in the engagement ring came from; subsequently, I alone depend on 43 slaves. 43 individuals somewhere in the world are being forced to work or work for little to nothing. I cried after reading about present time slavery because like most people in today’s age, I believed slavery ended in President Lincoln’s

Slavery Slaves suffered within a system characterized by undernourishment, overwork, harsh punishment, ill health, and despair. The purpose of this paper is to address the significant problems slavery caused the world in which talk of rights and liberties were increasingly popularized. Slavery divested lives of many African Americans who were sold into enslavement for many years. The Start of Slavery Slavery began when the African American people were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Hundreds

Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property. The people in the time of Renaissance enslaved people to use them as labourers and or do other types of labour. Should that be the reason of our change of knowledge towards slaves and how we perceive them. A slave is a human being or an “animal” (The Mission) classified as property and who is forced to work for nothing (The Abolition of Slavery Project, October 11, 2014). The word Slavery has a bitter taste flowing off the tongue. Immediate

Slavery And Its Effects On Slavery Essay

This was the period of post-slavery, early twentieth century, in southern United States where blacks were still treated by whites inhumanly and cruelly, even after the abolition laws of slavery of 1863. They were still named as ‘color’. Nothing much changed in African-American’s lives, though the laws of abolition of slavery were made, because now the slavery system became a way of life. The system was accepted as destiny. So the whites also got license to take disadvantages and started exploiting

Effects And Effects Of Slavery In Africa

Effect of slavery on Africa By: Sharoo A. Abdulrazzaq slavery was a common practice among the empires, especially the Europeans in between 15th to 19th century. In ancient times slaves were used as religious sacrifice, but the Europeans used them to increase their own wealth or to overpower their rivals. Africa which was full of prestigious and wealthy empires became permanent in the Atlantic slave trade. Millions of its people were moved from their own homeland, and across the Atlantic by force

Effects Of African Slavery

Around the altlntic world time in history, african slavery had become a problem for many years. Leading up to the african slavery there was many things that led to the effects of african slavery. There was a great impact on the world from using africans as slaves. Most slave owners only really wanted them is for profit and workers so they don't have to work. They just want to make money and not work, they even found out how long that they would have to keep a slave just to make profit. If a slave

Cause And Effect Of Slavery

were so few people, how would everything get done? Perhaps more laborers were needed to accomplish the tasks ahead. For many, the answer was slavery. There were many causes of the sharp increase of African slavery in the Atlantic World. While many new settlers had arrived, they did not have the numbers required to fulfill the jobs that must be done.

Slavery And Its Effects On Society

Slavery spans to nearly every culture, nationality, and religion and from ancient times to the present day. Slavery was a legal institution in which humans were legally considered property of another. Slaves were brought to the American colonies, and were utilized in building the economic foundations of the new world. In the 18th century, new ideas of human rights and freedom emerged out of the European Enlightenment stretching across the Americas and Europe. By the era of the American Revolution

Effects of Slavery on America

Effects of Slavery on American History Andrew Avila US History 1301 Dr. Raley April 18, 2013 The U.S. Constitution is primarily based on compromise between larger and smaller states, and more importantly, between northern and southern states. One major issue of the northern and southern states throughout American history is the topic of slavery. Although agreements such as the Three-Fifths Compromise in 1787, and the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 were adapted to reduce and outlaw

Causes And Effects Of Slavery

As more people came to the Americas, it grew tremendously. In order for them to keep up with their farming, they needed someone to do the labor for them. The causes and effects of slavery in the Atlantic World were good for Europeans and bad for Africans and Native Americans. European colonies were expanding and the demand for cheap labor grew in the Americas. Africans were traded for manufactured goods. They were traded through Triangular Trade which wouldn’t have happened without slave trade.

Americas and many other countries. This was the progress of what is today called the Atlantic world and the horrible creation of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Slavery had multiple causes and had caused many horrible effects in the Atlantic world and made a world good for the Europeans and bad for the Africans and the Native Americans. Slavery for the Europeans all started in Europe in the 1550’s right after Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and found what is today the Bahamas. From there

African Slavery Effects

In the Atlantic World, millions of slaves were captured for working from Africa. The causes and effects of the African Slave Trade during the Atlantic World, were very influential in later history. Around the 1650’s many Europeans were looking for free labor to work in fields and mines. The Native Americans who they have been using as slaves, most of them died from new diseases introduced by Europe like smallpox and malaria. The Europeans started looking for slaves to capture and work. The first

The Atlantic Slave trade started small then grew into something enormous. In the atlantic World slaves were traded to other countries for work. Harsh, terrible work that was inescapable. During the 1550s through the 1850s the causes and effects of slavery were horrific for africans and natives but very beneficial to europeans and the new settlers in america. When the first americans arrived to America they needed people to work for them. The Native people were used to farm so that the new settlers

Effects Of Slavery In The Caribbean

Slavery has taken many forms throughout history and still exists in a few forms to the day. The Caribbean has had a painful history regarding the slavery of two cultures. The slavery of the region ultimately led to racism against africans and to the industrial revolution. Communities of the Caribbean have been haunted by their history of slavery and colonialism which fueled colonial European capitalism. The impact that the plantation system had on the region has left a lasting scar on underdeveloped

Negative Effects Of Slavery

colonize, this led to the need for workers to build cities, farm, and other things. These workers were slaves from Africa that were forced into labor form losing a war or being conquered. During the 1550s to 1850s African Slavery was building the new world, slavery had catastrophic effects on the Native Americans and the Africans that were forced to sail the Atlantic Ocean and work for Europeans in the New World. The African slaves were used instead of the Natives and Indentured servants because of one

Slavery And Its Effect On Society

Slavery reached its highest level of infamy in eastern Europe and persisted for a time in the American colonies. Throughout history the best recollection of slavery appeared during the time when the African people first arrived to Europe and when the colonies had first developed into the earliest roots of the United States of America. Based on that statement one would believe that slavery had not existed before that time period or that the consequences and relevance of it had little historical, social

The causes and effects of slavery in the 16-19th century were good for Europeans and terrible for Native Americans and Africans. To start it all of the slave trade was started for, so that the europeans didn’t have to do much of the work. Europeans got sick so easily that they couldn't work in the hot temperatures for too long because their bodies would give out from heat exhaustion, also they would end up dying from common diseases. So they thought why not use someone else to do our work for us

What Were The Effects Of Slavery In Slavery

were forced into slavery and forced to experience years of mental, physical and sexual abuse. The following illustrates the capture, transportation and experiences of African slaves in the New World. Many Africans were captured during the Industrial Revolution as the need for labour increased so they needed many ways to capture slaves. Some ways African people were captured were that they were either captured and enslaved when they lost the battle against the Europeans to stop slavery, or they were

Effects Of Slavery On African American Slavery

and also like to take credit for numerous things as well. We also learn that they like to kidnap others to do their hard labor while that stand back and making a living off of others hard labor. During this process I do believe it was the start of slavery for the African Americans. For the Europeans it meant the freedom to treat people any kind of way rather than treating someone like another human being. The Europeans have always been seen as the start of everything yet and still we have to remember

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Effects Of Slavery

essay on impact on slavery

Show More The Lingering Effects of Slavery During the 16th century, there occurred a vast emergence of slave owners. People were confined to the venomous belief of slavery being a natural, God-sent form of labor. They believed that it was fair for African peoples (mostly African Americans) to be forced into horrific extents of labor without pay. The slaves were given no rights or freedom; they were dehumanized. They were treated as commodities, meaning they were bought and sold as property. The central or primal reasoning behind the emergence and progression of slavery was due to economic development in Europe and North America (as well as other regions of the world). Slave owners used slaves as contributing aid to build an extensively ample export-“producing” …show more content… The slave trade was one of the most horrific events that took place in human history. People from mainly West Africa were exploited from their lands and were forced to work for slaveholders in most of the Americas and different parts of Europe. The slaves were used to exploit raw materials like sugar and cotton, which were then manufactured in various European regions. The Atlantic slave trade occurred in a cycle of stages. First, the metropolis colonized the African regions. This stage was one of the most damaging stages to the state of Africa and its’ people; it changed and disrupted people’s lives causing a cycle of uneven development. The metropolis intentionally divided people from one …show more content… The third stage is simply an ongoing cycle of abuse, creating more instability in satellite regions. This stage is defined by what Gunder Frank; a dependency model theorist, called the “Triangle of Trade”. During the Triangle of Trade, this route involved the carrying of slaves, cash crops and manufactured goods between Europe, West Africa, Caribbean or American colonies and back again to European colonial powers (Frank, 1996). They were also used as human or slave labor to produce raw materials. The raw materials were then shipped to industrial centers in Europe, where they were turned into manufactured goods. These manufactured goods were then sold in Africa to purchase more Africans who were then enslaved. Due to this circuit, the prices of raw materials decreased, which caused the prices of manufactured goods to increase. This process is known as the import/export dilemma. As this continued to occur, it helped put in place a perpetual cycle of uneven development (Allain, 2015, pg. 39). This is how the many regions of the global South became underdeveloped. Some get richer while others become disposed of their lives, homes, wealth, resources and “human

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Slavery Impact on Modern American Society


Slavery casts a dark shadow on the history of the United States, and knowing about the devastating impact it had on generations of people is fundamental. As the practice was heavily supported by the idea of the superiority of one race over another, its traces are still felt to this day. Racism is alive in modern society and fuels some peoples’ sense of entitlement and a complex of inferiority in others (Li, 2017). This may explain why the movements that fight for the rights of diverse populations continue their work. The focus of this paper is to investigate the impact of slavery on modern society.

Brief History of Slavery

The topic of slavery has never left anyone indifferent to it. While the practice of using people for forced labor began with civilization, slavery in the United States will be examined further. Most of the slaves in the country lived in the South and worked on farms and plantations, completely dependent on their masters. A formal system of limits and codes was enforced upon slaves; they were refused education and even limited in their movement. Marriages between slaves were considered illegal, and masters often took some sexual liberties with their female ‘possessions.’ In order to divide slaves and decrease the likelihood of rebellions, they were classified into different ranks (from the most privileged to the least).

Types of Slavery

Slavery took different forms based on numerous factors. According to Sperling and Winthrop (2015), slavery can be classified into three different types. Chattel slavery, also known as traditional slavery, was one of the most popular types before the practice was abolished (Black, 2015). In this case, a slave was viewed as personal property. They could be bought and sold at the sole discretion of the owner. Children of slaves were expected to assume the same status and would be owned by slave masters. This form of slavery is illegal, and it is extremely rare in modern society. It is the primary focus of this paper. However, it is necessary to look at the other common types of slavery.

Bonded labor, also known as debt bondage, is a form of slavery where one pledges self against a loan (Black, 2015). The person acknowledges that he or she cannot pay the loan in cash, and as such, pledges to work for the lender within a specified period. The borrower is expected to be at the service of the lender whenever it is necessary. Sperling and Winthrop (2015) note that debt bondage can be passed from one generation to another, especially if the borrower passes on before paying the loan in full. The practice is common in South Asia, where many view it as a legal practice because both parties get into the agreement willingly.

Forced labor is another common type of slavery that is still common in modern society. It may be in the form of conscription where people are compulsorily enlisted into the national services, especially in the military, against their will. Sometimes it may come in the form of penal labor where prisoners are forced to undertake manual labor as part of their punishment. In war-torn regions such as parts of North African and the Middle East, rebels sometimes kidnap and force civilians to work for them without pay (Black, 2015). Such practices are still common to this day.

Only in 1865, slavery in the United States was abolished when Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It stated, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction” (13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of slavery, 2016, para. 1). However, despite the abolition, the country still had to go through decades of progressive development and overcome segregation, which was banned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a century after the Thirteenth Amendment was passed.

Impact of Slavery

Traditional slavery had a lasting impact on modern society. According to Black (2015), although slavery was abolished in North America and the rest of the world, its consequences are still being felt in various aspects of modern society. It is necessary to look at the implications of the practice.

Unequal Distribution of Resources

According to Sperling and Winthrop (2015), one of the lasting consequences of slavery is the unequal distribution of resources. From the unequal distribution of educational resources to police brutality, folks of the color fight against the odds to become accomplished in life. Most of the African Americans in the country are descendants of slaves. They have inherited poverty from the previous generation, making it difficult to achieve economic success in the country. When slavery was abolished, the rich Whites were left in control of the country’s resources. The Blacks are still forced to work for them to earn a living.

Racism remains one of the lasting consequences of slavery in modern society. While many people may believe that racism ceased to exist when slavery and segregation were abolished, the reality shows that there is social inequality attributed to race. For instance, young Black men are afraid of walking in the neighborhoods and catch the eye of police officers because of such infamous cases as Freddie Gray’s shooting.

Women of color are under-represented in the media, while single mothers are blamed for many issues that the community faces (Fountain, 2016). When slavery was abolished, the impression that Blacks are inferior to Whites remained. In many instances, African Americans and other minority groups are treated as second-class citizens in the country who are not expected to enjoy equal rights and opportunities as Whites.

According to Black (2015), a new form of homegrown terrorism and extremism are emerging in the United States and can directly be attributed to slavery that has promoted racial hate in the country. Cases where lone gunmen attack civilians or the police are becoming increasingly common in the country. On July 7, 2016, a heavily armed veteran joined a group of peaceful demonstrators in Dallas who were protesting against the increased cases of police execution targeting Blacks (Sperling & Winthrop, 2015).

After the demonstration, the veteran went and hid in one of the buildings and opened fire on police officers. Five officers were killed and several others seriously wounded before the threat could be neutralized. Such cases are often attributed to racial hate and mistrust. Such incidences have caused mistrust between law enforcement agencies and a section of society. There is a constant fear that either side can use deadly force. It is also difficult for the intelligence agencies to get the necessary support from members of the public in cases where mistrust becomes common.

Broken Tradition

Slavery is largely blamed for the broken tradition of most of the groups that were directly affected. According to Davidson (2015), some of the families in North America that were not directly affected by the traditional slavery, such as the Jews and Chinese, have maintained their tradition despite having stayed in the country for many years. Chinese restaurants and other food outlets, which are uniquely Asian, are common in the United States. However, the same cannot be said of African Americans (Black, 2015). Many years spent on slavery made it impossible for them to embrace their tradition. They had to acquire names of their masters and practices of Whites, including religion. Most of them do not even understand or value the cultural practices of their ancestors.

Fortunately, the struggles of people of color have been getting the attention of filmmakers, musicians, actors, writers, social activists, and other prominent members of the society who show solidarity and support. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement has been heavily advertised and supported by such celebrities as Kanye West, Prince, Beyonce, Samuel L. Jackson, Katy Perry, and multiple others. Many celebrities, for the absence of Black nominees, boycotted the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony while the viral Childish Gambino song This Is America shed light on the violence against the community (Gajanan, 2018).

Talking about the impact of popular culture is important in the context of past slavery and racism. Despite the fact that modern society still has a long way to go when it comes to removing all stereotypes and prejudices, the positive developments should never be overlooked. To overcome the negative effects of slavery, people should come together and make changes despite the political or social climate in the country.

13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of slavery . (2016).

Black, J. (2015). The Atlantic slave trade in world history . New York, NY: Routledge.

Davidson, J.O.C. (2015). Modern slavery: The margins of freedom . London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fountain, R. (2016). Black single mothers are more than scapegoats . Huffington Post.

Gajanan, M. (2018). An expert’s take on the symbolism in Childish Gambino’s viral ‘This Is America’ video . Time.

Li, H. (2017). What slavery left to the modern society? Medium.

Sperling, G.B., & Winthrop, R. (2015). What works in girls’ education ? Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

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essay on impact on slavery

Handout F: Slavery Essay

essay on impact on slavery

For nearly 250 years, the existence of slavery deprived African Americans of independent lives and individual liberty. It also compromised the republican dreams of white Americans, who otherwise achieved unprecedented success in the creation of political institutions and social relationships based on citizens’ equal rights and ever-expanding opportunity. Thomas Jefferson, who in 1787 described slavery as an “abomination” and predicted that it “must have an end,” had faith that “there is a superior bench reserved in heaven for those who hasten it.” He later avowed that “there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy reproach in any practicable way.” Although Jefferson made several proposals to curb slavery’s growth or reduce its political or economic influence, a workable plan to eradicate slavery eluded him. Others also failed to end slavery until finally, after the loss of more than 600,000 American lives in the Civil War, the United States abolished it through the 1865 ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

American slavery and American freedom took root at the same place and at the same time. In 1619-the same year that colonial Virginia’s House of Burgesses convened in Jamestown and became the New World’s first representative assembly-about 20 enslaved Africans arrived at Jamestown and were sold by Dutch slave traders. The number of slaves in Virginia remained small for several decades, however, until the first dominant labor system-indentured servitude-fell out of favor after 1670. Until then indentured servants, typically young and landless white Englishmen and Englishwomen in search of opportunity, arrived by the thousands. In exchange for passage to Virginia, they agreed to labor in planters’ tobacco fields for terms usually ranging from four to seven years. Planters normally agreed to give them, after their indentures expired, land on which they could establish their own tobacco farms. In the first few decades of settlement, as demand for the crop boomed, such arrangements usually worked in the planters’ favor. Life expectancy in Virginia was short and few servants outlasted their terms of indenture. By the mid-1600s, however, as the survival rate of indentured servants increased, more earned their freedom and began to compete with their former masters. The supply of tobacco rose more quickly than demand and, as prices decreased, tensions between planters and former servants grew.

These tensions exploded in 1676, when Nathaniel Bacon led a group composed primarily of former indentured servants in a rebellion against Virginia’s government. The rebels, upset by the reluctance of Governor William Berkeley and the gentry-dominated House of Burgesses to aid their efforts to expand onto American Indians’ lands, lashed out at both the Indians and the government. After several months the rebellion dissipated, but so, at about the same time, did the practice of voluntary servitude.

In its place developed a system of race-based slavery. With both black and white Virginians living longer, it made better economic sense to own slaves, who would never gain their freedom and compete with masters, than to rent the labor of indentured servants, who would. A few early slaves had gained their freedom, established plantations, acquired servants, and enjoyed liberties shared by white freemen, but beginning in the 1660s Virginia’s legislature passed laws banning interracial marriage; it also stripped African Americans of the rights to own property and carry guns, and it curtailed their freedom of movement. In 1650 only about 300 blacks worked Virginia’s tobacco fields, yet by 1680 there were 3,000 and, by the start of the eighteenth century, nearly 10,000.

Slavery surged not only in Virginia but also in Pennsylvania, where people abducted from Africa and their descendants harvested wheat and oats, and in South Carolina, where by the 1730s rice planters had imported slaves in such quantity that they accounted for two-thirds of the population. The sugar-based economies of Britain’s Caribbean colonies required so much labor that, on some islands, enslaved individuals outnumbered freemen by more than ten to one. Even in the New England colonies, where staplecrop agriculture never took root, the presence of slaves was common and considered unremarkable by most.

Historian Edmund S. Morgan has suggested that the prevalence of slavery in these colonies may have, paradoxically, heightened the sensitivity of white Americans to attacks against their own freedom. Thus, during the crisis preceding the War for Independence Americans frequently cast unpopular British legislation-which taxed them without the consent of their assemblies, curtailed the expansion of their settlements, deprived them of the right to jury trials, and placed them under the watchful eyes of red-coated soldiers ­as evidence of an imperial conspiracy to “enslave” them. American patriots who spoke in such terms did not imagine that they would be forced to toil in tobacco fields; instead, they feared that British officials would deny to them some of the same individual and civil rights that they had denied to enslaved African Americans. George Mason, collaborating with George Washington, warned in the Fairfax Resolves of 1774 that the British Parliament pursued a “regular, systematic plan” to “fix the shackles of slavery upon us.”

As American revolutionaries reflected on the injustice of British usurpations of their freedom and began to universalize the individual rights that they had previously tied to their status as Englishmen, they grew increasingly conscious of the inherent injustice of African-American slavery. Many remained skeptical that blacks possessed the same intellectual capabilities as whites, but few refused to count Africans as members of the human family or possessors of individual rights. When Jefferson affirmed in the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal,” he did not mean all white men. In fact, he attempted to turn the Declaration into a platform from which Americans would denounce the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This he blamed on Britain and its king who, Jefferson wrote, “has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s [sic] most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere.” The king was wrong, he asserted, “to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold.” Delegates to the Continental Congress from South Carolina and Georgia, however, vehemently opposed the inclusion of these lines in the Declaration of Independence. Representatives of other states agreed to delete them. Thus began, at the moment of America’s birth, the practice of prioritizing American unity over black Americans’ liberty.

Pragmatism confronted principle not only on the floor of Congress but also on the plantations of many prominent revolutionaries. When Jefferson penned his stirring defense of individual liberty, he owned 200 enslaved individuals. Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and future first president, was one of the largest slaveholders in Virginia. James Madison-who, like Jefferson and Washington, considered himself an opponent of slavery- was also a slaveholder. So was Mason, whose Virginia Declaration of Rights stands as one of the revolutionary era’s most resounding statements on behalf of human freedom. Had these revolutionaries attempted to free their slaves, they would have courted financial ruin. Alongside their landholdings, slaves constituted the principal asset against which they borrowed. The existence of slavery, moreover, precluded a free market of agricultural labor; they could never afford to pay free people-who could always move west to obtain their own farms, anyway-to till their fields.

Perhaps the most powerful objection to emancipation, however, emerged from the same set of principles that compelled the American revolutionaries to question the justice of slavery. Although Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and Mason considered human bondage a clear violation of individual rights, they trembled when they considered the ways in which emancipation might thwart their republican experiments. Not unlike many non-slaveholders, they considered especially fragile the society that they had helped to create. In the absence of aristocratic selfishness and force, revolutionary American governments relied on virh1e and voluntarism. Virtue they understood as a manly trait; the word, in fact, derives from the Latin noun vir, which means “man.” They considered men to be independent and self-sufficient, made free and responsible by habits borne of necessity. Virtuous citizens made good citizens, the Founders thought. The use of political power for the purpose of exploitation promised the virtuous little and possessed the potential to cost them much. Voluntarism was virtue unleashed: the civic-minded, selfless desire to ask little of one’s community but, because of one’s sense of permanence within it, to give much to it. The Founders, conscious of the degree to which involuntary servitude had rendered slaves dependent and given them cause to resent white society, questioned their qualifications for citizenship. It was dangerous to continue to enslave them, but perilous to emancipate them. Jefferson compared it to holding a wolf by the ears.

These conundrums seemed to preclude an easy fix. Too aware of the injustice of slavery to expect much forgiveness from slaves, in the first decades of the nineteenth century a number of Founders embarked on impractical schemes to purchase the freedom of slaves and “repatriate” them from America to Africa. In the interim, debate about the continued importation of slaves from Africa stirred delegates to the Constitutional Convention. South Carolina’s Charles Pinckney vehemently opposed prohibitions on the slave trade, arguing that the matter was best decided by individual states. The delegates compromised, agreeing that the Constitution would prohibit for twenty years any restrictions on the arrival of newly enslaved Africans. As president, Jefferson availed himself of the opportunity afforded by the Constitution when he prohibited the continued importation of Africans into America in 1808. Yet he had already failed in a 1784 attempt to halt the spread of slavery into the U.S. government’s western territory, which stretched from the Great Lakes south toward the Gulf of Mexico (the compromise Northwest Ordinance of 1787 drew the line at the Ohio River), and in his efforts to institute in Virginia a plan for gradual emancipation (similar to those that passed in Northern states, except that it provided for the education and subsequent deportation of freed African Americans). Of all the Founders, Benjamin Franklin probably took the most unequivocal public stand against involuntary servitude when, in 1790, he signed a strongly worded antislavery petition submitted to Congress by the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. This, too, accomplished little. The revolutionary spirit of the postwar decade, combined with the desire of many Upper South plantation owners to shift from labor-intensive tobacco to wheat, created opportunities to reduce the prevalence of slavery in America-especially in the North. Those opportunities not seized upon-especially in the South-would not soon return.

Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793 widened the regional divide. By rendering more efficient the processing of cotton fiber-which in the first half of the nineteenth century possessed a greater value than all other United States exports combined-Whitney’s machine triggered a resurgence of Southern slavery. Meanwhile, the wealth that cotton exports brought to America fueled a booming Northern industrial economy that relied on free labor and created a well­-educated middle class of urban professionals and social activists. These individuals kept alive the Founders’ desire to rid America of slavery, but they also provoked the development of Southern proslavery thought. At best, Southerners of the revolutionary generation had viewed slavery as a necessary evil; by the 1830s, however, slaveholders began to describe it as a positive good. African Americans were civilized Christians, they argued, but their African ancestors were not. In addition, the argument continued, slaves benefited from the paternalistic care of masters who, unlike the Northern employers of “wage slaves,” cared for their subordinates from the cradle to the grave. This new view combined with an older critique of calls for emancipation: since slaves were the property of their masters, any attempt to force their release would be a violation of masters’ property rights.

Regional positions grew more intractable as the North and South vied for control of the West. Proposals to admit into statehood Missouri, Texas, California, Kansas, and Nebraska resulted in controversy as Northerners and Southerners sparred to maintain parity in the Senate. The 1860 election to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican who opposed the inclusion of additional slave states, sparked secession and the Civil War.

“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,” Jefferson had prophetically remarked, for “his justice cannot sleep for ever.” Americans paid dearly for the sin of slavery. Efforts by members of the Founding generation failed to identify moderate means to abolish the practice, and hundreds of thousands died because millions had been deprived of the ability to truly live.

Robert M.S. McDonald, Ph.D. United States Military Academy

Suggestions for Further Reading:

Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, reprint, 1992.

Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Jordan, Winthrop D. White Over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.

Miller, John Chester. The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, reprint, 1991.

Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery – American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.

Tise, Larry E. Proslavery: A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701-1840. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987.

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