Opposition to slavery existed since before the American Revolution and increased as northern states abolished it by 1820. In the 1830s the abolitionist movement became more vocal, commencing with the establishment of a newspaper, the Liberator, edited by William Lloyd Garrison. As support for abolition increased it preoccupied the nation to the point that it ultimately resulted in the Civil War in 1861. In the 1850s abolitionists denounced the institution of slavery, while many southern writers and newspapers defended it and compared it favorably to the conditions faced by free white workers in the north.
The following documents of the period put forth the anti-slavery and pro-slavery arguments of the time.
William Lloyd Garrison No Compromise with Slavery 1854
Harriet Beecher Stowe Excerpt from Uncle Toms Cabin 1852
George Fitzhugh Excerpt from Cannibals All!! 1857
Defense of Slaveholding The Spectator, December 6, 1859
Nehemiah Adams Excerpt from A Southside View of Slavery 1854
Based on these readings,defend one of the following theses, both of which were argued before the Civil War:
1)Slavery in the United States was inhumane and immoral and needed to be ended unconditionally.
2)Slavery in the United States was humane, beneficial to the slaves, essential for the nation, and superior to the conditions faced by northern workers.
Consider the following questions as you support your thesis:
How do the two groups view the treatment of slaves and their contentment?
What moral grounds does each group use to support its views?
What comparisons do the pro-slavery proponents make between the lives of slaves and free white workers
in the north?
How do the two groups describe racial attitudes and treatment of blacks in the north as compared
to the south?
* What groups and forces do the two groups believe are responsible for supporting or opposing slavery?
How do the two groups differ in their analysis of the positive or negative impact of slavery on the nation as
Utilize classroom lectures and the textbook to support your thesis; you may also want to consider the following:
conditions of slave life during colonial times
the Revolutions impact on slaves and free blacks and the expectations of African-Americans
the revival and growth of slavery in the early 19th century and its impact on slave families and
the conditions of slave life and culture in the south, both on the plantations and in southern cities before
the Civil War
the causes of and prevalence of slave revolts and resistance
the purpose and nature of the slave codes
the growth of the underground railroad
working and living conditions in the North during the Industrial Revolution
the growth of the factory system and its impact on both native – born Americans and immigrants
northern attitudes towards blacks
living conditions of free blacks in both the north and the south
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