In the 1840’s slavery was very common because of the booming cotton industry in the south, slaves were cheap and skillful, and there were plenty of them to go around, hence the reason the southern economy relied on them so heavily. However, because the North was economically sound and economically more advanced than the south, they saw the wrong behind slavery. Slavery in the south was so common that southerners began to grow used to the idea of slaves, and therefore placed most of their economy and way of life on that of a slave filled state.
They saw slavery as an opportunity for the African Americans to make a life in America. “In all respects the comforts of our slaves are greatly superior to those of the English [factory] operatives, or the Irish and continental peasantry, to say nothing o the millions of paupers crowded together in those loathsome receptacles of starving humanity, the public poorhouses. . . .
From this excess of labor, this actual want, and these distressing cares, our slaves are entirely exempted.
” (Document A) Because southerners felt that what they were doing for and to slaves was beneficial for the southern and slave communities they saw no wrong in what they were doing, and therefore had no reason to stop slavery. When slaves worked on a plantation they had free health care, housing, and food, all things that were necessary and cost money, something that African Americans would not have had a lot of if they had come to America as immigrants. During that time there was still racial stereotypes and judgment, white land owning Americans thought of themselves as superior to African Americans and many other minority races that immigrated to America. African Americans would not have been taken seriously in the south even if slavery had not existed, they were a minority, and to the south minorities were the dirt beneath their shoes.
Because the south’s main staple crop was cotton, and cotton was not a cash crop, the use of slaves made cotton prosperous. The south relied on slave labor to make money out of cotton, with slaves working the fields for little to no pay, most of the money made out of the cotton industry was circulated through the white landowning male community, which made up a very large majority of the south. slave labor being so cheap, and a large amount of slaves could be acquired at one time, made it easy for the south to place everything on slaves and cotton. William Harper in a Memoir on Slavery, 1837, stated that “the cultivation of the great staple crops [cotton] cannot be carried on in any portion of our country where there are not slaves.” This statement shows that slave labor was the largest contributor to the southern economy during the 1830’s, and therefore a reason to fight for slave labor.
In a speech that Abraham Lincoln gave in Peoria, Illinois in October f 1854 he stated that “In our greedy chase to make profit of the Negro, let us let us beware lest we ‘cancel and tear in pieces’ even the white man’s charter of freedom.” This statement was a warning given by Lincoln, he thought of slavery as unprofitable and unsuited to America’s growing industrial and manufacturing industries. Hinton Helper, in The Impending Crisis, 1857, had a similar view on slave labor in the south, but a different idea on how ti abolish it. “What about Southern commerce? Is it not almost entirely tributary to the commerce of the North? Are we not dependent on New York, Philadelphia, Boston,and Cincinnati for nearly every article of merchandise, whether foreign or domestic? Where are our ships, our mariners, our naval architects? . . .
We must begin to feed on a more substantial diet than that of pro-slavery politics.” Helper’s book The Impending Crisis was banned in the south and used as anti-slavery propaganda by republicans in the north. He believed that landowning white men in the south who did not own slaves were the key to the abolitionism of slavery, but he was also racist throughout The Impending Crisis. In the above quote he states that the north’s economic prosperity comes from the reliance on ports and major cities Slavery was the south’s main source of economic prosperity, therefore the south would have done anything to keep slavery alive. However, the north did not believe in slavery because it was unjust and unneeded. Abolitionists fought to destroy slavery, but the south fought to keep it alive.