Proponents of slavery try to convince American society that slaves in the South can live better than workers in the North. Moreover, they use pseudoscientific discoveries to justify the slavery of blacks. Finally, they point to the recognition of slavery by US Constitution and the lack of open condemnation of slavery in the Bible. However, all these tricks cannot obscure the undeniable fact that slavery is morally wrong and should not exist in the modern United States. The institution of slavery should be banned entirely on the territory of the country, and all slaves should be gradually freed.
Development of Slavery in Recent Decades
The fact that in recent decades, slavery developed instead of declining showed that all hopes about the collapse of this institution without external interference are useless. Slavery should be banned throughout the United States by law. Moreover, the prohibition of slavery must be enshrined in the US Constitution through an appropriate amendment. Any compromises are unacceptable because they can lead to undesirable consequences in the future (Of the People p. 413). Slave owners should be deprived of the right to dispose of their slaves in all states in order to prevent the possibility of reselling of slaves to other states or countries. Such measures could undermine the economy of the Southern States. Therefore, the release of slaves must occur gradually. For example, banning the spread of slavery into new territories can be an effective measure to reduce the impact of this peculiar institution.
Southern Defenses of Slavery
Defenders of the slavery place particular emphasis on the legality of this institution in the United States because the US Constitution contains a clause that requires to take into account the number of slaves in the distribution of seats in Congress. This argument is of little use in today’s context because the Founding Fathers of the United States have accepted such a compromise since they believed that slavery was doomed to extinction. Slavery was in decline at the end of the eighteenth century. Therefore, the Founding Fathers hoped that this institution would disappear over time under the pressure of more effective free labor. Unfortunately, they were unable to anticipate the effects of the unprecedented increase in cotton demand.
The Industrial Revolution in Europe and the Northern States led to a sharp increase in the demand for cotton in the first half of the nineteenth century. Therefore, cotton has become a staple of US exports. For example, cotton accounted for over fifty percent of exports in the 1840s and about sixty percent in 1860 (Slave Society). Most of the cotton was grown on large plantations in the Southern States. These plantations depended on slave labor (Of the People, p. 394). As a result, the demand for slaves increased along with the demand for cotton. In 1850, more than half of the slaves worked in the cotton industry (Slave Society). Southern planters make huge profits from the exploitation of slave labor. Therefore, they oppose any proposal to eliminate the institution of slavery. At the same time, industrialists in the North also benefit from slave labor, but in an indirect way (Of the People, p. 398). The production of cotton fabrics has increased hundreds of times in less than half a century (Slave Society). As a result, slavery declined only in areas where the cultivation of cotton, rice, and other colonial commodities proved to be unprofitable. However, most slave owners in these territories did not release their slaves. They sold the slaves; they did not need to plantations in the Deep South.
The potential economic benefits of slavery for slave owners, and even slaves, constitute one of the main arguments of the proponents of slavery. They claim that slaves are more economically protected than workers in the Northern States are, because the masters have to take care of them until their death (Fitzhugh 13.2). Proponents of slavery claim that slave owners take care of their slaves much better than industrialists of their workers. It can be true in some cases. However, owners are not required by law to provide even minimal benefits to their slaves. At the same time, the law protects them from being accused of killing or raping slaves. As a result, slaves are entirely dependent on the owner. Good owners can provide a certain level of prosperity for their slaves. However, bad owners have the opportunity to exploit their property without fear of any punishment. Therefore, all statements about the benefits of slavery are very controversial. Many factory workers receive meager wages. However, they have personal freedom. These workers may change jobs or even try to organize a trade union to protect their interests. Slaves cannot even dream of such opportunities. Any form of self-organization of slaves for the protection of their interests is prohibited by law in the Southern States.
Moreover, any protests of slaves are cruelly suppressed by the white population.
Proponents of slavery are finding new arguments in favor of this peculiar institution. Pseudoscientific racial theories gave them a chance to reuse the argument about the inferiority of the black race. These theories point to the existence of individual traits that are inherent to different races. In addition, proponents of slavery give pseudoscientific arguments that racial features rendered blacks ineligible for freedom in American society (Of the People, p. 404). However, they did not carry out independent and impartial observations of black slaves. The institution of slavery created an impenetrable wall between the white and black populations in the Southern States. Nevertheless, slaves learned to survive even in such circumstances. They have their customs, moral norms, and forms of religiosity that are somewhat different from those of the white population. Eventually, these customs are no less effective means of self-regulation of human communities.
Proponents of pseudoscientific racial theories emphasize the natural superiority of one race over another. Moreover, they indicate the need for maximum isolation of these races from one another to maintain racial purity. However, the presence of a large number of mulattoes indicates that the slave owners themselves did not observe these principles. Moreover, some mulattoes have so few African features in the exterior that they can easily integrate into the white communities, with the concealment of their origin. These facts make all pseudoscientific racial theories about specific traits that are inherent in particular races wholly irrelevant.
Actual Slave Experiences
Most black slaves live and work on cotton plantations. Growing cotton is a physically demanding job. Moreover, living conditions on these plantations are usually deplorable. Particularly difficult living conditions can be found on new plantations in the Deep South. New planters strive to get rich at any cost. They buy undeveloped land and force their slaves to work hard to turn the virgin land into prosperous plantations (Of the People, p. 397). Such planters usually work hard themselves and force their slaves to work strained to the limit. Increasing demand for cotton has stimulated the emergence of new plantations, and an increasing proportion of slaves are forced to work in such harsh conditions.
Home servants usually live in better conditions. Sometimes they even enjoy the status of a younger family member. However, such material comfort is often directly linked to the loss of control over their bodies. For example, the considerable number of mulattoes is clear evidence of frequent sexual intercourse between white men and black women. Slave women are entirely disenfranchised, and so these contacts are rarely voluntary. Courts do not consider the rape of slaves by their owners as a crime. This vicious system can only be overcome by freeing slaves and giving them civil rights so that they can choose their place of work and defend their rights and honor in courts.
The Value of Freedom
All the propaganda of slavery proponents is incapable of hiding the simple fact that slaves are not free and cannot decide on their destiny. A free man cannot understand all the hardships and difficulties that a slave faces daily. Slaves depend on the will of their masters, and therefore they are forced to plan all actions, taking into consideration the position of another person who has complete authority over their lives. All spheres of slave life are riddled with dependence on the will of others. Work, marriage, family life, and other areas of the slave’s life are entirely dependent on the will of the owner. A slave owner can divide a family of slaves at any time. Marriage between slaves has no legal force in the Southern States. All these threats have detrimental effects on the mental health of the slaves. Non-free people cannot have confidence in tomorrow because they cannot manage their life. Most slaves do not see the point of making long-term plans for life because they do not own their own lives.
In the end, most Southerners defend the institution of slavery with the help of a variety of arguments. They claim that slavery is allowed by the US Constitution. In addition, they try to convince the people that slavery is mutually beneficial, since slave owners are more concerned about the needs of slaves than industrialists about the needs of the workers. However, all of these arguments cannot conceal the cruel reality of slavery. Lack of freedom means complete dependence on the will of the master. This fact destroyed any hopes of slaves for a better future.