Introduction to Slavery (Chap 1 Mid Nineteenth Century USA)


Background of Slavery

  • Slavery is when a person owns another person and uses them to carry out work without paying them. They also use vicious tactics to help keep them under their control. The slave has no rights and is treated as property. 
  • Slaves came from Africa- they were most resistant to desieses in the South. 
  • The Middle Passage was a trade route. were slaves were transported from Africa to where they were going. 
  • Seasoning was the process where slaves were stripped of there identity and were given new names, new clothes and had to speak English. 
  • In the end Slavery was abolished. 
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Slavery and the Founding Fathers

  • In 1776 slavery existed in all of the 13 colonies. However it was only of major importance in the South as the Northern section was unsuitable for plantation agriculture. In the last decades of the 18th Century radical Protestants condemned slavery as morally evil but,enlightened ides that stressed liberty, equality and free enterprise. 
  • The Declaration of Independence was one of the most famous declarations of freedom ever written. However the section condemning slavery was ommitted from the final draft... The author was Thomas Jefferson who owned 200 slaves himself.
  • The founding farthers were aware of the anomaly between equality and the existance of slavery. 
  • After the revolution the Northern States abolished slavery however it continued in the South. In the consitution slaves were defined as 3/5 of a person. 
  • Then in 1787 congress passed the Northwest Ordinance which kept slavery out of the North West territory. 
  • In 1808 the US banned slave trade with Africa- some expected slavery to die out however it did not. 
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Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin

  • In 1790 only 9000 bales of cotton were produced in the USA. Picking cotton was a slow process as it had to be picked by hand. 
  • However this changed when Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin in 1793 that revolutionised Southern Agriculture. It enabled short-fibre cotton to be quickly separated from its seeds. 
  • It suddenly became highly profitable to grow cotton. By the 1830's the South was producing two million bales per year. 
  • It earned the name 'King Cotton' as it soon outstripped all other plantation crops in economic importance. 
  • Cotton production needed a large amount of unskilled labour. Slaves were ideal therefore cotton and slavery were interlinked. 
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The Harsh Reality of What Slavery was Like

  • The diets of enslaved people were inedequate to meet the demands of their heavy workload. They lived in crude quaters that left them vulnerable to bad weather and disease. 
  • Unsanitary condistions, inadequate nutruition and unrelenting had labour made slaves highly susceptible to desease. Slaves were oftened force to work when sick and there healthcare was inadequate. 
  • Child mortality was extremely high on rice plantations, generally around 66%- on one rice plantation it was as high as 90%. 
  • Families were oftened separated or forcibly scattered as a form of punishment. 
  • Punishments included whipping,tortue, imprisionment and being sold away. 
  • Slaves throughout the South had to live under a set of laws called Slave Codes. The basic idea was that slaves were considered property, not people and were treated as such. Patrols were set up to enforce these codes. 
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Was Slavery an Exploitation or a Benign System?

  • As Slavery was attacked in the Mid 19th Century, Southerners sought to defend slavery. They argued that Slavery was a force of good and that Slaves were protected by their Slave Masters they were therefore better off then working men in Northern Factories. 
  • Historians continued this debate. In the early 20th Century Ulrichh Philips argued that most slaves were content with there lot the relationship between a master and his slave was 'gentleness,kind-hearted friendship and mutual loyalty.'
  • In 1950's Kenneth Stampp argued that Slavery was very harsh. The plantation is an area of conflict and Slaves were 'Troublesome Property.'
  • In 1974 a pair of economic historians called Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman argued in The Time of the Cross t. hat slave condistions were good and through research concluded that Slavery was an efficent and mild system of Labour and that Slaves enjoyed a standard of living comparable to that Northern Industrial Workers. 
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