Essay #3Slavery played a dominating and critical role in much of Southern life. In thestruggle for control in America, slavery was the Souths stronghold and the hidden motivebehind many political actions and economic statistics. By dominating Southern life, slaveryalso dominated the economic and political aspects of life in the South from 1840 to 1860.
By the 1840s and 50s the Southern economy had almost completely becomeslave and cash crop agriculture based. Without slaves in the south a person was left eitherlandless and penniless or struggling to get by on a small farm.
However, even thoughslaves dominated the southern economy, slaveholders only included about 2 to 3 percentof the population. This small percentage was the amount of people successful in a slavebased, cash crop agricultural, Southern economy. Therefore, the Southern economy wascontrolled and dominated by those who did and did not have slaves. Furthermore, with thehigh demand for Southern items in Europe and Northern America more slaves wereneeded in the South to produce these cash crops.
Without slaves there would be nocotton, tobacco, or sugar production and without these integral items the Southerneconomy would absolutely fail. The South depended on slaves to fuel their economy andtherefore slavery dominated their economy.
Between 1840 and 1860 many political issues, debates, and actions were inflamedby slavery. As America grew, the South wanted more slave states and the North wantedmore free states to increase their hold in politics. One important act that fueled the slaverydominated political world of 1840 to 1860 was the Kansas and Nebraska act written byStephen Douglas. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and called forpopular sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska which under the Missouri Compromise hadbeen free. The Missouri Compromise was originally an act to settle disputes about freestates and slave states entering the Union. To repeal this was to almost beg for revolution;hence “Bleeding Kansas” which included the John Brown riots and caused politicaluproar. The Kansas and Nebraska act was a disruptive and shortsighted solution to acomplicated and commanding political issue. The Compromise of 1850 was another weaksolution to the dominating problem of run-away slaves and the issue of slavery in newterritories. This Compromise created stronger fugitive slave laws which satisfied Southernslave catchers and enraged Northern abolitionists. The compromise also made California afree state, the Mexican Cession subject to popular sovereignty, and dictated that therewould be no slave trade in Washington D.C., but it would remain a slave state. All of thesethings under the Compromise and the reaction they caused led to slavery becoming aneven more dominating issue in 1850 America. Another significant political issue was theDred Scott decision. Dred Scott was a slave who had been taken into a free territory byhis owner. A “Free-Soiler” then convinced Scott to sue his master for his freedom. In1857, Supreme Court Justice Robert Taney declared that Dred Scott was property and nota citizen, and property can not sue. Taney went even further in his decision to declare theMissouri Compromise unconstitutional and rule slavery could not be forbidden anywhere.
Many Northerners, Abolitionists, and “Free-Soilers” were infuriated by this decision. From1820 to 1860 slavery was a “hot topic” in Congress and the House of Representatives. Ina way, it even caused the Civil War and in the end was perceived as the main reason forfighting it. All political issues during this time could not be discussed without the topic ofslavery behind it. Slavery dominated all political issues.
A Georgia editor in 1860 commented; “Negro Slavery is the South, and the Southis Negro Slavery”, an absolutely true statement. Slavery lead and dominated the Southseconomy and political actions. Nothing was ever handled in the South without slaverybeing a part of it. Through good times and bad, slavery was the “dominating reality of allSouthern life”.
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