Slavery in the North Failed Because of Its Economic Structure

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Slavery in the North Failed Because of Its Economic Structure

Slavery was a disgraceful part of our history for many years. Its start grew from a need for a labor source in the new and growing America. The Southern economy thrived from slave labor whereas the North did not rely on the labor of slaves. This paper will prove that slavery failed in the North because in the North there was no need for large labor to support the economic structure compared to the South where slavery was needed to support their economy. There are three main points that will be used to support this.

They are; Northern industry and Southern industry were very different, the slave population was smaller in the North because of the different economy in the North, and the smaller slave population and less need for slavery in the North led the North to abolish slavery before the South. Northern industry and Southern industry were very different: The Northern and Southern industry were two very different industries. The northern states include Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In these states, the major economic industry was fishing, whale products, timber and wheat products (Aboukhadijeh, 2013) . These industries did not require a large labor source. The Southern states would be Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. In the Southern states, the major economic industry was tobacco, wheat, indigo and rice (Aboukhadijeh, 2013). According to the U. S. Census, the population of the United States in 1860 was approximately 31,443,321. Approximately 23,000,000 were from the North and 9,000,000 were from the South. Out of the 9,000,000 population from the South, 3,500,000 were slaves.

In the North, money was made from manufacturing and industry. The North produced 75% of the nation’s wealth. In the South, there was not much manufacturing. Instead, most of the people were farmers. Money in the South came from agricultural crops, like cotton, rice, sugar cane and tobacco. Slaves were a very important part of this agricultural society (Sheldon) . All of these crops rely heavily on large amounts of labor. There were two views of slavery that stemmed from the North and the South. In the North, there were many more abolitionists because they did not rely eavily on slaves to make a living and to support their economy. Abolitionist argument for freeing slaves was that slavery was immoral and cruel, they were fearful of revolts of slaves and there was an irony that the colonist were fighting for their freedom from Britain, yet they were enslaving and not giving basic human rights to African Americans (Garcia, 2013) . Although these were all sound arguments, it took centuries for slavery to finally end. It took so many years for slavery to end because there were many people against slavery but there were also defenders of slavery.

Those who defended slavery used five main arguments. First, they argued that the economy would fall if slavery were ended. Next, they argued that there would be widespread chaos and unemployment. They also argued that it was not morally wrong because it happened all through history and even in the bible. Defenders of slavery argued that the Dred Scott case decided that slaves were property. Lastly, defenders of slavery argued that it was actually helping civilize Africans and introducing them to civilized life and Christianity (Independence Hall Association, 2013).

Thomas Jefferson described slavery as “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go (The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2012) . ” Jefferson explanation of slavery is an explanation of the institution of slavery and why it was able to last so long in America. The slave population was smaller in the North because of the different economy in the North: There was less of a need for slavery in the North because the economy was different in the North. There were still slaves in the North but they had different roles in the North than in the South. African Americans were treated differently in the North than in the South.

African Americans in the North could live a much more productive life than in the South whether they were free or slaves and the slave population was not as important and not a necessity because the number of immigrants in the North was much larger in the North. Slaves were found primarily in the South but there was slavery in the North. The overall population was 2-3 percent but in Boston and Newport, 20-25 percent of the population was slave labor. The enslaved were not needed as agricultural workers. Instead, many of the slaves held other positions such as domestic servants, artisans, crafts men, ailors, dockworkers, laundresses and coachmen (Rosenzweig, n. d. ) . Fredrick Douglas escaped from slavery and moved north. While he was in the North, Fredrick wrote: “The fifth day after my arrival, I put on the clothes of a common laborer, and went upon the wharves in search of work. On my way down Union Street I saw a large pile of coal in front of the house of Rev. Ephraim Peabody, the Unitarian minister. I went to the kitchen door and asked the privilege of bringing in and putting away this coal. ‘What will you charge? ‘ said the lady. ‘I will leave that to you, madam. ‘ ‘You may put it away,’ she said.

I was not long in accomplishing the job, when the dear lady put into my hand two silver half-dollars. To understand the emotion which swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I had no master who could take it from me,– that it was mine — that my hands were my own, and could earn more of the precious coin — one must have been in some sense himself a slave (Douglass, n. d. ) . ” The North did not rely on slavery like in the South instead all men could enjoy the freedom of working for a living as shown by Fredrick who in the South was a slave and owned by a white slave owner and in the North could work for his own money.

Immigrants came to America in search of religious and economic freedom. Number of immigrants to Northern cities were larger than in the South. The total number of immigrants that came to American ports from 1846-1855 was 796,000. Sixty-eight-percent of these immigrants came to New York City. There were 553,000 immigrants to New York City, 55,000 to Boston, 32,000 to Philadelphia, 23,000 to Baltimore and 94,000 to New Orleans (Immigrants Entering American Ports) . These ports and cities drew immigrants because there were more job opportunities.

Due to this surplus in laborers, there was less of a need for slaves. It made more sense to pay immigrants than to have to feed and house the workers (Bankston & Hidalgo, 2006) . Slavery was smaller in the North because slave laborer was not a necessity. African Americans played different roles in the North, they were treated differently by whites and free African Americans and immigration in the North played a role in the lack of need for slavery. The smaller slave population and less need for slavery in the North led the North to abolish slavery before the South:

It was easier for the North to get rid of slaves because they relied less on slaves than in the South. The Southern economy relied almost entirely on the institution of slavery. Abolitionist argued that slavery was unjust, yet there were still many defenders of slavery. Each had an argument for why slavery was moral or immoral. After the American Revolution, many people began to take what they were saying about freedom seriously and decided that slavery was unjust. Many slave owners freed or manumitted their slaves. Northern states passed laws that eliminated slavery immediately or to eventually extinguish slavery.

The North had created ports and cities. This is partially because of the North’s geographic setting and partially because they relied more on commerce than agriculture for their economy. The North had urban centers for trade, finance and industry. The North had diversified economies that engaged in international trade. There were approximately 1. 3 million industrial workers compared to 110,000 in the South. Nine-tenths of industrial goods came from the North and the North had detailed transportation networks compared to the South.

In the North, there was a higher rate of literacy. Less than 1 percent of the population in the North was illiterate compared to 20 percent in the South in 1850. The wealth was also spread across the population in the North. In the South the wealth was more stratified (Digital History, 2013) . All of these things helped the North to completely extinguish slavery. They did not only rely on slave labor to support their economy instead, they had over doubled the amount of industrial workers making goods to export.

The spread of wealth and knowledge also allowed the North to free their slaves quicker than in the South. Unlike the North, the South had much deeper economic investment in slavery. After the Revolution there was no legislation passed to end slavery. This helped to lead to the division of the North and South. If anything, slavery grew and became worse in the South after the Revolution. The invention of the cotton gin made growing cotton a profitable crop. Instead of freeing slaves and a decrease in slaves, there was a 70 percent increase of slavery rom the 1790 census and the 1810 census (PBS. org, 2013) . The South did not develop urban centers for commerce. The South mainly grew crops and exported it. There were those who were abolitionists who were against slavery and tried to end it (mainly found in the North) and there were those who were for slavery and fought to keep the institution of slavery (mainly slave owners in the South). The pro-slavery argument was that ending slavery all at once would negatively influence the economy. They believed the cotton, tobacco and rice economy would fail.

They believed there would be wide spread unemployment and chaos and this would lead to anarchy. Pro-slavery argued that slavery was okay because it has been present throughout history and was not condemned in the bible. Pro-slavery also argued that it was better for the slaves because the slaves were being built physically, morally and intellectually and were no longer savages living in tribes (U. S. History. org, 2013) . Yet many slave owners believed it was dangerous for their slaves to have an education. While Fredrick Douglass was enslaved his masters wife started to teach him how to read.

Douglass wrote: “Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master. Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read… It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with the utmost confidence on the results which, he said, would flow from teaching me to read (Douglass, n. d. ). ” When Douglass’s master prevents his wife from teaching him how to read he is even more intrigued with learning.

This shows that owners of slaves were not interested in helping their slaves become less of a “savage” (in their eyes). Instead, they wanted to break them and train them to be perfect workers. Those against slavery argued that it was not Christian to treat people this way. Thomas Jefferson wrote “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever… (Popular Forest, 2013) . ” Jefferson is acknowledging that if God does judge us then those who kept slaves (like Jefferson) would pay for their behaviors.

This is also against what Jefferson had written in the Declaration of Independence. Which many argued was another contradiction. Those against slavery argued that slavery was against what the country was founded on. That all men are created equal. Abolitionists also argued that owning slaves corrupted the slave owner morally and that the South was only built on fear and instability and nothing more (U. S. History. org, 2013). It was easier for those in the North to be against slavery and get rid of slaves because they did not rely economically on slavery.

The South’s economy relied heavily on slavery and it was harder for the South to get rid of the institution of slavery. Conclusion: Slavery lasted for hundreds of years. Its source was based on a need for a labor source to fuel industry in the South. The aim of this paper was to prove that slavery failed in the North because its economic structure did not rely on slavery rather there was commerce in the North. This led to a smaller slave population in the North and less of a need for slavery making it easier to end slavery than in the South.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 11 November 2016

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