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Definition Of American Democracy


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Definition Of American Democracy Essay, Research Paper

Slavery in America stems well back to when the new world was first discovered and was led by the country to start the African Slave Trade- Portugal. The African Slave Trade was first exploited for plantations in that is now called the Caribbean, and eventually reached the southern coasts of America (Slavery Two; Milton Meltzer). The African natives were of all ages and sexes. Women usually worked in the homes, cooking and cleaning, whereas men were sent out into the plantations to farm. Young girls would usually help in the house also and young boys would help in the farm by bailing hay and loading wagons with crops. Since trying to capture the native Indians, the Arawaks and Caribs, failed (Small-Pox had killed them), the Europeans said out to capture African slaves. They were shipped from Africa by the Europeans in what was called The Triangular Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. This was an organized route where Europeans would travel to Africa bringing manufactured goods, capture Africans and take them to the Caribbean, and then take the crops and goods and bring them back to Europe. The African people, in order to communicate invented a language that was a mixture of all the African languages combined, called Creole. This language now varies from island to island. They also kept their culture which accounts for calypso music and the instruments used in these songs. Slavery was common all over the world until 1794 when France signed the Act of the National Convention abolishing slavery. It would take America about a hundred years to do the same (Slavery Two; Milton Meltzer). George Washington was America’s hero. He was America’s first president. He was a slave owner. He deplored slavery but did not release his slaves. His will stated that they would be released after the death of his wife (The Volume Library; 1988). Washington wasn’t the only president to have slaves. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “All men are created equal” but died leaving his blacks in slavery. In 1775 black Americans were sent to fight in the revolutionary army. The British proposed that if a black man was to join their army, they would be set free afterwards. America originally planned not to let the blacks fight in the army, but when hearing this, let them enlist. Only Georgia and South Carolina refused to let them enlist, but paid for their racism when each lost 25,000 blacks to the British. The slaves returned on an honourable discharge after securing America’s freedom, but not their own (Software Toolworks Encyclopedia; 1992). Slavery continued and so did the numbers of slaves trying to escape to the free states or into Canada. A runaway slave would be found by bloodhounds, trained to find black slaves. Then the slave, upon returning, would be executed or severely whipped. The “Underground Railroad” was a project that helped black slaves escape into Canada, especially Amherstburg. The system involved 3,000 white helpers and freed an estimated 75,000 people after the civil war. Slavery in the middle of the 1800’s was abolished except for the rebellion states in the south. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued which made slavery illegal in the states that had rebelled and allowed black slaves to serve in the army and get other jobs, or continue to work on the plantations, as employees making money. The nightmare of slavery was over but a new one was to begin. One that was worse for it was prevalent but was secret and silent. One that exists today. One that does not shrink but rather grows. Racism was and is upon us.

Slavery in the Eyes of the South It was during the 19th century that differences on the issue of slavery built to it’s peak level in United States history. The people in the northern states who were opposed to slavery had a valid argument in that slavery went against the American sentiment that all men are created equal. There were also religious arguments that said to do unto others as you would have them do unto. Today, with all the events that have occurred in the 20th century to improve race relations, this is the side that the American people support. The arguments that the southern states made in the 1800’s in defense of slavery are known to be wrong and inhumane today. But that fact wasn’t so clear back in the 19th century. Slavery in American history is usually associated with the 1860’s, because that was the decade of southern secession and the Civil War. But the Confederate States of America and the Civil War were really a dramatic climax to all the arguments and disagreements on slavery that had been building up in the preceding decades. The United States Declaration of Independence clearly states that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But the men who wrote and supported this revolutionary declaration of separation from the British did not believe that this equality applied to the slaves. This statement is supported in the Dred Scott decision. This is something that the Southern states would argue, that the men who built this nation like George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and John Marshall all had slaves. They would argue that men like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, defenders of American democracy, owned slaves. Even though it’s not said in American history books, the rebelling American colonists were in some ways radicals for rebelling against England. It could be said that men like Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Alexander Hamilton Stephens were rebelling radicals just like Washington, Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were 90 years earlier. But it was not the Confederates who were the radicals of the Civil War, instead it was the abolitionist northerners that were. In 1860, slavery was something that was prevalent in and, whether they wanted to admit it or not, very much a part of American culture. Why would the north want to abolish something that had been with America from the start? Slavery had been around a lot longer than the United States. In the years prior to the Civil War, the Southerners probably wished that men like Jefferson and Jackson could rise out of their graves to defend slavery and marvel at some of the radical new ideas of Abraham Lincoln and John Brown. Lincoln wasn’t the total abolitionist that some other people were, but he was anti-slavery enough for the south that when he was elected president, the southern states left the Union. The northern criticism of slavery became sort of an annoyance to the Southern states who wondered why the north would oppose something that economically was to their benefit. In short, the southerners wanted the anti-slavery northerners to mind their own business. Like Jefferson Davis said, “All we want is to be left alone.” There were slaveholders in the south who recognized that slavery was wrong, but it was seen by some southerners as a necessary evil. By the time the Civil War came, the South was too committed to slavery to turn back. Society in the south was different from the north. The entire economy of the south was dependent on slavery. Anyone who wonders how any human being could ever defend something as ugly as slavery has to know that for these Americans who lived in the South, the food that they ate and the clothes that they wore on their backs came from the plantation fields that were maintained by the slaves. By 1860, slavery was very much in the culture of the South. There was an entire generation of men who wore gray in the Civil War who as infants had been cared for by slave maids before they could even take care of themselves. A life with slavery was the only life that they had ever known. So the southerners would have said that the anti-slavery chants that came from the north came from people who had no idea what the South was like. To defend slavery, the South would have said that slavery cannot be outlawed because of the Dred Scott decision which basically said that a slave is property, something that you own. There aren’t many cases where someone’s property is outlawed. The Dred Scott decision ruled that the Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional, that slavery cannot be banned from a certain area. Southerners would have pointed to the 5th Amendment, which clearly forbade Congress to deprive people of their property. Slavery was also beneficial to the American economy of that timeperiod. Cotton was used for trade with the British and the north. Again, the southern economy was absolutely dependent on slavery. The abolition of slavery in the South would have been a major downgrade in the quality of life for the Southerners. A contemporary parallel is if there was a permanent loss of electricity. Another argument the southerners would have made was that the working conditions and unsanitary environments in some of the industrial factories of the north were inhumane and in many ways, worse than slavery. So how could they be pointing their fingers at the south? The Southerners would also have mentioned John Brown, the radical abolitionist. They would have said that John Brown was a mentally unstable fanatic and that him and his supporters should be confined instead of being able to commit atrocities and murder innocent people. The Bible Belt south would also have looked in the Bible to defend slavery. There isn’t really a strong religious argument to justify slavery. But the southerners would have mentioned a few references to slavery in the Bible to justify it. They would have said that a lot of people from the Bible had servants and slaves. In conclusion, the South defended slavery by saying it was beneficial to the Southern economy and that the abolition of slavery would be detrimental to the quality of life in the South. The new radical anti-slavery feeling that was spreading in the north seemed revolutionary and unbelievable to the Southerners. Their southern arguments in defense of slavery would lead these Americans to take a revolutionary/rebellious stand to defend their homeland, culture, and the only life they had ever known, a stand similar to the one that their Founding Fathers had taken almost a century earlier.

During Ancient Roman history slaves played a huge role in society. They served as accountants, secretaries, doctors, architects, and even held positions in the government bureaucracy. A typical stereotype of slaves is a low-level, low-intelligence form of society, yet this is clearly not the case in ancient Rome. In ancient Rome society slaves didn’t have to remain slaves forever. They had the opportunity to eventually become a part of free society and even attain the right to vote! Even in their “slave” state they were feared silently by their masters. Although slavery is evident throughout the ancient world, Romans possessed and depended on slaves more than any other culture. There were slaves for even the common farmer. They were dealt and traded like used cars, “and slaves were, it appears, sold, as cars of nowadays, with equivalent of a logbook, initiated at first sale and attesting successive changes of ownership” (Gardner 206). The Romans went as far as to sell “guaranteed” and “not guaranteed” slaves to the equivalent of buying a car “as is”. Slaves were dealt in outrages numbers, “Delos, a major trade center, could handle 10,000 slaves a day in its market” (Spielvogal 118). The treatment of Roman slaves is hard to generalize. Stories of kind treatment and even times slaves would fight to defend their owners are numerous. Then there are those cases of horrendous Treatment towards slaves, torture, abuse, hard labor. These treatments drove several slaves to runaway and even revolt and kill their masters. “Slaves were branded, beaten, fed inadequately, worked in chains, and housed at night in underground prisons. It took three years to crush a revolt of 70,000 slaves, and took an army of 17,000 Roman men to suppress it” (Spievogal 152). Many masters lived in fear of their slaves. Revolts were not uncommon especially when dealing with extremely cruel owners. The treatment of slaves became a frequent discussion amongst the Romans. There was those such as Cat the Elder, who believed that it was cheaper to work slaves to death and then replace them by buying new ones. Then the argument of slaves being very cognitive beings and the abusive treatment being a catalyst for conspiracy to revolt and kill their owners. When once free slaves could attain citizenship from Rome, although not complete was their citizenship, it allowed them to go as far as vote. They could vote just like any other Roman and express their beliefs like any other Roman, but they could not run for office. Unlike most societies roman slaves held high positions in the Roman society. Most times teachers and artists were in high demand, and so many Greeks were made slaves and given full teaching rights. Slave were allowed in certain cases of ownership to even serve as a representative of the Roman Empire to other countries, they were skilled employers and quite intelligent, very contrary to more modern thinking on the intelligence of slaves throughout history. It would seem strange to see a whole empire run by slaves in most working levels and cultural jobs yet have to answer to a master. Would you ever think of a doctor as a slave and having to answer to an owner, similar to that of a child to a parent? Yet this was very common in ancient Rome. Slaves ran businesses, and were architects who helped design cities! Owners feared slaves for these reasons, slaves were smart and for the most part, even though not documented as so, seemed to be running the country! The most cases of misuse and bad treatment of slave is evident in the higher ranks of Roman society, especially due to the fact that the number of slaves you owned was like a status symbol. “The rich, of course, owned the best and most. In the late Republic, it became a badge of prestige to be attended by many slaves” (Spielvogal 152). The common farmer might have one or two slaves and they were commonly Italian and for most part were regarded as part of the family. Women were often left in charge of slaves, in a sense making the slaves a vicaria or “slave to a slave”. The women were known as vilicus, meaning female bailiff. A bailiff was similar to a supervisor or a housecleaner, as far as their job title would go. They had the responsibility of keeping a look over the slaves and sometimes even running branches of businesses. It is often difficult to trace the records as far as businesses went. Slaves were very important assets to the Roman Empire in all fields of life. Roman slaves, as compare to a used car in our modern society in my opinion would be a fairly accurate analogy. It would be easy to assume that Romans couldn’t function without their slaves. You could say that it was a brilliant way to develop and govern a huge empire, or just plain laziness, but at any length you would have to agree that Romans used all resources in building a massive empire unequal to any other of the ancient world. But in the end it was still built by the workhorse of every family, the “used car”. Just like the Romans we as a society could not function without our used cars of today. Which in many ways makes the slave population a mental force to be reckoned. It sounds as though the “great” city of Rome was run by the slaves who let a few believe that they were in control and built this historical city.

The issue of slavery has been touched upon often in the course of history. The institution of slavery was addressed by French intellectuals during the Enlightenment. Later, during the French Revolution, the National Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which declared the equality of all men. Issues were raised concerning the application of this statement to the French colonies in the West Indies, which used slaves to work the land. As they had different interests in mind, the philosophes, slave owners, and political leaders took opposing views on the interpretation of universal equality. Many of the philosophes, the leaders of the Enlightenment, were against slavery. They held that all people had a natural dignity that should be recognized. Voltaire, an 18th century philosophe, pointed out that hundreds of thousands of slaves were sacrificing their lives just so the Europeans could quell their new taste for sugar, tea and cocoa. A similar view was taken by Rousseau, who stated that he could not bear to watch his fellow human beings be changed to beasts for the service of others. Religion entered into the equation when Diderot, author of the Encyclopedia, brought up the fact that the Christian religion was fundamentally opposed to Black slavery but employed it anyway in order to work the plantations that financed their countries. All in all, those influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment, equality, liberty, the right to dignity, tended to oppose the idea of slavery. Differing from the philosophes, the political leaders and property owners tended to see slavery as an element that supported the economy. These people believed that if slavery and the slave trade were to be abolished, the French would lose their colonies, commerce would collapse and as a result the merchant marine, agriculture and the arts would decline. Their worries were somewhat merited; by 1792 French ships were delivering up to 38,000 slaves and this trade brought in 200 million livres a year. These people had economic incentives to support slavery, however others were simply ignorant. One man, Raynal, said that white people were incapable of working in the hot sun and blacks were much better suited to toil and labor in the intense heat. Having a similar view to Raynal, one property owner stated that tearing the blacks from the only homes they knew was actually humane. Though they had to work without pay, this man said slave traders were doing the blacks a favor by placing them in the French colonies where they could live without fear for tomorrow. All of these people felt that the Declaration of the Rights of Man did not pertain to black people or their descendants. All people were not ignorant, however. There was even a group of people who held surprisingly modern views on slavery; views some people haven’t even accepted today. In his Reflections on Black People, Olympe de Gouges wondered why blacks were enslaved. He said that the color of people’s skin suggests only a slight difference. The beauty of nature lies in the fact that all is varied. Another man, Jacques Necker, told people that one day they would realize the error of their ways and notice that all people have the same capacity to think and suffer. The slavery issue was a topic of debate among the people of France. The views of the people, based on enlightenment, the welfare of the country or plain ignorance were tossed around for several more years until the issue was finally resolved. In the end the philosophes, with their liberated ideas, won out and slavery was abolished.

Slavery: A Justified Institution As the nineteenth-century emerged, the infamous institution of slavery grew rapidly and produced some surprising controversy and rash justification. Proslavery, Southern whites used social, political, and economical justifications in their arguments defining the institution as a source of positive good, a legal definition, and as an economic stabilizer. The proslavery supporters often used moral and biblical rationalization through a religious foundation in Christianity and supported philosophic ideals in Manifest Destiny to vindicated slavery as a profitable investment. They also examined the idea of popular sovereignty and the expansion of slavery in territorial plans like the Kansas-Nebraska scheme to support their arguments. The proslavery advocates even went far enough to include the Constitution as a fair legal justification for their practices. Clear-cut attempts to bend the rules on the legality of slavery in documents like the Lecompton Constitution made some rationalizations look weak and rash in concept. With the South’s slavery dependent and fragile economy, Southerners were ready to fight for their survival with whatever means were necessary. Proslavery whites launched a defensive against slavery which explained the “peculiar institution” as a positive good, supported, in fact, by the sacred words of the Bible and the philosophy of the wise Aristotle. The moral and biblical justification surrounding their belief that the relations between slave and man, however admitting to deplore abuses in it, was compatible with Christianity, and that the presence of Africans on American soil was an occasion of gratitude on the slave’s behalf before God – basically, the slaves should have been grateful for their bondage. Plantation owners even stressed religion by teaching the slaves the principles of Christianity and by brainwashing the slaves into thinking they were blessed by God to be given a master who cares for them and a Christian family to live with. In accordance with religion, proslavery Southerners used the idea of Manifest Destiny – the belief that God predestined the United States for a hemispheric career – to defend their fragile position by explaining that slavery promoted territorial expansion, thus adhering to the expansionist principles of Manifest Destiny and promoting slavery as a positive good. Southerners used this argument timely – right in the middle of an era of domestic expansion led by President Pierce and supported by people like Stephen Douglass. Douglass proposed the controversial Kansas-Nebraska scheme – a plan to resolve a sectional imbalance in newly surveyed territory – which directly relied on the idea of popular sovereignty to be compromised. Due to the fact that popular sovereignty is an ideal based on the tenets of democracy which support the “people’s will,” Southerners used popular sovereignty to justify their slavery practices – ultimately slavery is supported through popular sovereignty since it is the “people’s will” to enslave blacks, or at least the “Southerners’ will.” Another social aspect of rationalization in the slavery institution is derived from the Southern argument which contrasted the “happy” lives of their slaves to the overworked and exhausted Northern black wage workers. In the South, they claimed, the slaves worked in the sunshine and fresh air with secure lifetime benefits; whereas in the North blacks were caged in dank and dark factories and were released after their usefulness had served its purpose. Why work in the North when there are safe, comfortable plantations to work on in the South? Though the social aspects of slavery helped to directly support the moral arguments of proslavery Southerners, the legal aspects of slavery more or less served as visible victories and defining events in Southern philosophy. The Dred Scott Case is a prime example of the legal side to the Southern defensive arguments and the Southern definition of popular sovereignty. The Supreme Court decreed that because a slave was private property, he or she could be taken into any territory and legally held there in slavery. The court’s reasoning lied in our own Constitution. The Fifth Amendment clearly forbade Congress to deprive people of their property without due process of law. Moreover, proslavery Southerners used legal arguments rooted in the Constitution to defend their position on slavery by merely stating that the “Supreme Law of the Land” did not even mention the word “slavery,” at least not up until that time. So by this fact, slavery was legally justified and, therefore, should and could be practiced. Southerners further used their arguments in 1857 when proslavery forces devised a tricky document known as the Lecompton Constitution, which mainly dealt with the statehood of Kansas. The constitution could not be voted down or approved by the people; rather, the people voted for the Constitution “with slavery” or “without slavery.” If the antislavery forces prevailed in the vote, there was a protective clause which secured slaves already in Kansas; so either way the South won, thus further defining the South’s view of popular sovereignty and further providing a legal justification for slavery. The South’s agriculturally driven economy was the main reason slavery remained in existence for so many years, and because no principles or morals were compromised (just the pocket books of many Southern farmers), it was the prime justification for slavery. The cotton industry controlled many aspects of American society during the nineteenth century, even the stability of the Union solely rested on “King Cotton.” The triangle of reliance formed between the dependent economies of the North, South, and Britain created a central furnace where sectional tension could boil. Both the North and Britain relied on the Southern cotton industry for materials used in textile mills, the South relied on the North for grain, and Britain was the market for both American economies. One argument surrounds the fact that the North was actually supporting the slavery institution because for so many years they pumped money into the industry by investing in the cotton. The fragility of the triangle was tested as controversy surrounding the labor methods used by the South was questioned and criticized. The controversy reached a high and the Civil War commenced, proving to be the ultimate imbalance and destructor of the economy. Meanwhile, the South also saw a war that was not winnable without foreign intervention; thus, the third party comes into play. It is obvious the South had to enforce slavery at this point based on their dependence on cotton as a source of revenue and foreign intervention as a pathway to victory. Surely, if they had no slaves, there would be no cotton, and without cotton, there was surely to be no help from Britain. Thus, the economy proved to be a viable source of justification toward slavery as a profitable institution in the minds of the Southerners. By analyzing the social, political, and economic reasons in which Southern proslavery advocates vindicated and justified their position on the issue of slavery, we are given the unique opportunity to look deep at the Southern philosophy on war, peace, and bondage, the raw side of human nature where survival is the only option. Perseverance is what the pro-Southerners are respected for, but they are remembered for their fault in judgement and rash justifications in their defense of slavery as a profitable institution. Perhaps it would have been an injustice to society if slavery had not existed since so many moral lessons have been learned from it.

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