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Proponents Of Slavery

Proponents Of Slavery

The debate over slavery began with the first importation of African Americans to America, and still continues today among historians. Because the Southern economy depended on slave labor, pro slavery arguments were common throughout the nation. While many Northerners as well as the British thought slavery to be morally wrong, the proponents of this “peculiar institution” cited numerous reasons why slavery was in fact beneficial to Africans in America. The articles “Thomas R. Dew, The Virtues of Slavery, The Impossibility of Emancipation” (1831) and “John C. Calhoun, Defending Slavery to the British Minister in Washington” (1844) in the American History text relay the points of view of two esteemed men pertaining to slavery in the South, and their reasoning on the matter.

In his argument, Dew makes four main points. The first is that slave labor is a better investment than free labor, and that if emancipation were to occur the country’s economy would suffer. This, however, is the most obvious and self-explanatory rationale of them all. Not only is it more economically sound to have slaves, some argue that it is also more humane than free labor. He goes on to say that slaves are not morally fit for freedom. They know not what to do with it, and would be left to self-destructive behaviors as a result. Slavery is protecting blacks from crime and poverty. More importantly, Dew believed that whites and blacks could not live harmoniously as free men in the same society. There would undoubtedly be a sudden surge of uprisings and murders. Even those who opposed slavery still felt that Africans were inferior, therefore relations between the races would be tense at best. In Dew’s final point, he portrays the relationship between master and slave as comparative to that of mother and daughter, or brother and sister. A slave learns to look up to his master as a revered figure, and is proud of his master’s wealth. In addition, masters kept slaves under better control than laws or a police force ever would. Others say that slaves are much happier working under their conditions than free workers are working in factories. In any case, Dew pulls from all angles to prove that slavery is an institution to be kept in America for its betterment.

Keeping with this sentiment, John C. Calhoun, senator from South Carolina, also believed strongly in retaining slave labor. In 1844 his duty was to convince British ministers Lord Aberdeen and Richard Pakenham of the advantages of slavery in America so as to have Texas admitted as a slave-holding state. His task was a difficult one, knowing that Britian wholeheartedly opposed slavery and wished to abolish it worldwide. However his position was this: he thought it to be evident within the states that by majority they do not wish to end slavery, or change in any way relations between the two races. Many of slavery’s proponents throughout that time felt that Negroes were an inferior race, too childish and ignorant to be on their own. He also points out that those who have altered the association between whites and blacks have worsened the conditions of blacks by making them poor and subject to consequential ailments such as deafness, blindness, insanity, and idiocy. Slavery improves conditions. It has been argued that slavery is the only condition for Africans; any other condition would be unnatural. In closing, Calhoun makes the same point as Dew, one that is universally felt. The two races cannot exist peacefully side-by-side. . Not only that, but the competition created by freedom would make enemies out of the American people, and slavery prevents this. Calhoun felt he was only trying to protect the safety and tranquility of the nation. However, he needed Britain’s cooperation to do so.

Throughout slavery’s tumultuous era, the debate dragged on. In this case, pro slavery arguments dominated the battlefield, but abolitionists finally won the war. Despite the passionate feelings of slavery proponents, the demolishing of that particular institution advanced America on an infinite scale.


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