Slavery Is The South Essay

Essay #3
Slavery played a dominating and critical role in much of Southern life. In the
struggle for control in America, slavery was the South’s stronghold and the hidden motive
behind many political actions and economic statistics. By dominating Southern life, slavery
also dominated the economic and political aspects of life in the South from 1840 to 1860.

By the 1840’s and 50’s the Southern economy had almost completely become
slave and cash crop agriculture based. Without slaves in the south a person was left either
landless and penniless or struggling to get by on a small farm. However, even though
slaves dominated the southern economy, slaveholders only included about 2 to 3 percent
of the population. This small percentage was the amount of people successful in a slave
based, cash crop agricultural, Southern economy. Therefore, the Southern economy was
controlled and dominated by those who did and did not have slaves. Furthermore, with the
high demand for Southern items in Europe and Northern America more slaves were
needed in the South to produce these cash crops. Without slaves there would be no
cotton, tobacco, or sugar production and without these integral items the Southern
economy would absolutely fail. The South depended on slaves to fuel their economy and
therefore slavery dominated their economy.

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Between 1840 and 1860 many political issues, debates, and actions were inflamed
by slavery. As America grew, the South wanted more slave states and the North wanted
more free states to increase their hold in politics. One important act that fueled the slavery
dominated political world of 1840 to 1860 was the Kansas and Nebraska act written by
Stephen Douglas. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and called for
popular sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska which under the Missouri Compromise had
been free. The Missouri Compromise was originally an act to settle disputes about free
states 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 political
uproar. The Kansas and Nebraska act was a disruptive and shortsighted solution to a
complicated and commanding political issue. The Compromise of 1850 was another weak
solution to the dominating problem of run-away slaves and the issue of slavery in new
territories. This Compromise created stronger fugitive slave laws which satisfied Southern
slave catchers and enraged Northern abolitionists. The compromise also made California a
free state, the Mexican Cession subject to popular sovereignty, and dictated that there
would be no slave trade in Washington D.C., but it would remain a slave state. All of these
things under the Compromise and the reaction they caused led to slavery becoming an
even more dominating issue in 1850 America. Another significant political issue was the
Dred Scott decision. Dred Scott was a slave who had been taken into a free territory by
his owner. A “Free-Soiler” then convinced Scott to sue his master for his freedom. In
1857, Supreme Court Justice Robert Taney declared that Dred Scott was property and not
a citizen, and property can not sue. Taney went even further in his decision to declare the
Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and rule slavery could not be forbidden anywhere.

Many Northerners, Abolitionists, and “Free-Soilers” were infuriated by this decision. From
1820 to 1860 slavery was a “hot topic” in Congress and the House of Representatives. In
a way, it even caused the Civil War and in the end was perceived as the main reason for
fighting it. All political issues during this time could not be discussed without the topic of
slavery behind it. Slavery dominated all political issues.

A Georgia editor in 1860 commented; “Negro Slavery is the South, and the South
is Negro Slavery”, an absolutely true statement. Slavery lead and dominated the South’s
economy and political actions. Nothing was ever handled in the South without slavery
being a part of it. Through good times and bad, slavery was the “dominating reality of all
Southern life”.


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