Slavery is the South Essay #3 Slavery played a dominating and critical role in much of Southern life. In the struggle for control in America, slavery was the Souths stronghold and the hidden motive behind many political actions and economic statistics. By dominating Southern life, slavery also dominated the economic and political aspects of life in the South from 1840 to 1860. By the 1840s and 50s the Southern economy had almost completely become slave and cash crop agriculture based. Without slaves in the south a person was left either landless and penniless or struggling to get by on a small farm.
However, even though slaves dominated the southern economy, slaveholders only included about 2 to 3 percent of the population. This small percentage was the amount of people successful in a slave based, cash crop agricultural, Southern economy. Therefore, the Southern economy was controlled and dominated by those who did and did not have slaves. Furthermore, with the high demand for Southern items in Europe and Northern America more slaves were needed in the South to produce these cash crops. Without slaves there would be no cotton, tobacco, or sugar production and without these integral items the Southern economy would absolutely fail. The South depended on slaves to fuel their economy and therefore slavery dominated their economy.
Between 1840 and 1860 many political issues, debates, and actions were inflamed by slavery. As America grew, the South wanted more slave states and the North wanted more free states to increase their hold in politics. One important act that fueled the slavery dominated political world of 1840 to 1860 was the Kansas and Nebraska act written by Stephen Douglas. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and called for popular sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska which under the Missouri Compromise had been free. The Missouri Compromise was originally an act to settle disputes about free states and slave states entering the Union. To repeal this was to almost beg for revolution; hence “Bleeding Kansas” which included the John Brown riots and caused political uproar. The Kansas and Nebraska act was a disruptive and shortsighted solution to a complicated and commanding political issue.
The Compromise of 1850 was another weak solution to the dominating problem of run-away slaves and the issue of slavery in new territories. This Compromise created stronger fugitive slave laws which satisfied Southern slave catchers and enraged Northern abolitionists. The compromise also made California a free state, the Mexican Cession subject to popular sovereignty, and dictated that there would be no slave trade in Washington D.C., but it would remain a slave state. All of these things under the Compromise and the reaction they caused led to slavery becoming an even more dominating issue in 1850 America. Another significant political issue was the Dred Scott decision.
Dred Scott was a slave who had been taken into a free territory by his owner. A “Free-Soiler” then convinced Scott to sue his master for his freedom. In 1857, Supreme Court Justice Robert Taney declared that Dred Scott was property and not a citizen, and property can not sue. Taney went even further in his decision to declare the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and rule slavery could not be forbidden anywhere. Many Northerners, Abolitionists, and “Free-Soilers” were infuriated by this decision. From 1820 to 1860 slavery was a “hot topic” in Congress and the House of Representatives. In a way, it even caused the Civil War and in the end was perceived as the main reason for fighting it. All political issues during this time could not be discussed without the topic of slavery behind it. Slavery dominated all political issues.
A Georgia editor in 1860 commented; “Negro Slavery is the South, and the South is Negro Slavery”, an absolutely true statement. Slavery lead and dominated the Souths economy and political actions. Nothing was ever handled in the South without slavery being a part of it. Through good times and bad, slavery was the “dominating reality of all Southern life”.