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Vianna Bassani

Mr. Jones

AP US History

15 December 2017

Differing Views of Slavery in North and South 1830-1860

Prior to the Civil War, the United States faced an era known as the Second Great

Awakening and Antebellum Market Revolution, in which reforms emerged that affected the lives

of many. The North began to take advantage of industrialization, while the South continued to

increasingly rely on slaves to work on fields and plantations. The South tried to justify their use

of slaves with an excuse of the positive good theory. As the North increasingly gained anti-

slavery sentiments, the views of slavery increasingly began to differ in the North and South

because of the role of work and God, and the deepening the sectional divide within America.

The majority of the South tried to justify slavery on the basis of work, and a slave’s

necessity in the Southern economy. The Southern economy was reliant on cotton, which became

known as the “Cotton Kingdom.” William Harper, in Memoir on Slavery 1837, wrote on the

importance of slaves in the Southern economy. He describes how abolition “would... put an end

to the cultivation of [their] great Southern staple [cotton]” as it would not survive “in any portion

of [the] country where there are no slaves” (Doc 2). This was a debated point of whether or not

slaves were most essential to the Southern economy. Some people believed that immigrants from

Europe could do the same work as slaves. However, since the majority of immigrants went to the

North to work, they were not introduced to Southern slave labor. In “Harvesting Cotton” printed

by Currier and Ives, a plantation is shown, with many slaves in the field (Doc 5). In the

foreground of the image, there are people dressed nicely, assuming they are wealthy planters
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because of the number of slaves shown in the picture. A majority of whites did not even own

much land, let alone slaves. This image romanticizes slavery showing the planter elite, an

oligarchy, and how they were able to monopolize slaves and non-slaveholding whites with their

wealth and power. Whites near the bottom of the social pyramid who owned no slaves continued

to support the institution because they felt superior to the black race. Finally, many Southerners

tried to justify slavery by comparing working conditions with the North. Governor George

McDuffie wrote to the South Carolina legislature in 1835, about the advantages of work in the

South compared to the North. He asserts that “the comforts of our slaves are greatly superior to

those of the English [factory] operatives” where “millions of paupers [are] crowded together in

those loathsome receptacles of starving humanity [and] the public poorhouses” (Doc 1). This

idea was similarly portrayed in George Fitzhugh’s book Cannibals All!. The North is being

criticized for the working conditions they employed on their workers, in order to lessen the harsh

reality of slavery in the South. John Calhoun, from South Carolina instituted the positive good

theory in this way. In this same year, the South Carolina post office was burned in order to stop

the spread of anti-slavery propaganda, and the Gag Resolution was passed to prohibit anti-

slavery legislation.

The North and South used God in different contexts to oppose and support the institution

of slavery, respectively. The South preached to slaves that God told them to work. In “A

Catechism for Slaves (1854)” a series of questions are being asked, and then answered by slaves.

When asked “Who says you must obey them [master and mistress]” the slave responds “God

says [he] must” and “What does God say about your work?” is answered with “That they who

will not work shall not eat” (Doc 7). This was reported by Douglas, an abolitionist figure in the

North. He tries to demonstrate the Southern influence on slaves, since they are being forced to
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believe that God is making them work and live like this. Slaves were not taught how to read or

write, so the only way they could get information was from what their masters told them. The

North, however, used God in a different approach to combat slavery. Henry Highland Garnet in

“Address to the Slaves of the United States of America” at the National Negro Convention in

Buffalo, New York in 1843, explains how slavery goes against God. He claims “slavery,

commits the highest crime against God and man” (Doc 4). The idea of slavery is being attacked

by the North in order to show that God does not approve. The North’s view on slavery involving

God was influenced by the Second Great Awakening and reformers, since they realized the need

for humanitarian reform.

The North began to challenge slavery in increasing numbers, as more people began to

support the abolitionist cause. At first, the majority of abolitionists societies were concentrated in

the South, however the North began to embrace reforms and read abolitionists works, such as

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1838

published an image captioned “Tearing of Free Papers”, which demonstrates the limited

freedoms slaves had (Doc 3). They were in constant danger of having their rights abridged and

once they were free, they could be recaptured. Additionally, a combination of Northern and

Southerners tried to help slaves escape the South through the Underground Railroad.

“Conductors,” such as Harriet Tubman, would help move slaves to the North. When the Fugitive

Slave Law of 1850 passed to punish runaway slaves, it even jailed or fined whites who tried to

help them. Before elected president, Abraham Lincoln wrote a speech that slavery “undermin[es]

the principles of progress and fatally violat[es] the noblest political system the world ever saw

(Doc 6). Lincoln did not fully support abolitionism outright, however he believed the institution
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was flawed, and destroyed the ideas of liberty, freedom, and democracy. Lincoln won the

Northern states in the Presidential election, and as a result, the South seceded.

The North and South had such different views on slavery because of the influence it had

on their livelihood. The South depended on slaves so greatly because of their cotton economy.

The North on the other hand, was more industrial, seeing no need for slaves. The Second Great

Awakening also influenced their beliefs, leading many in the North towards abolition and the

South towards secession.