Slavery affected the south on two levels. It affected individual people, their attitudes and everyday life, and it affected the south as a whole socially and economically. Slaves’ lives were of course governed by a lifetime of servitude, but the slave owners were also changed by the acceptance of slavery. Slave labor also caused the economic status of the north and the south to grow apart.
The most drastic affects of slavery were of course felt by the slaves themselves. In the early 1800’s the importation of slaves was outlawed in the United States. At first glance this seems as if it would have impeded the growth of slavery in the United States. However, when one takes a closer look, the ban on importation of slaves does not grant freedom to those enslaved, nor does it prevent unborn children from being sold into slavery upon their birth. As a result of this law, slaves were usually bred, instead of being purchased illegally. “?shocking as is the fact, he bought her, as he said, for a breeder.” (The Life of Frederick Douglas, p.74) Newborn slaves were sold or traded to break the natural bond between a mother and her child. “My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant- before I knew her as a mother.” (The Life of Frederick Douglas, p.22) Slaves were commonly whipped and treated as property. They were appraised like livestock or land. “We were all ranked together at the valuation. ?There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank?” (The Life of Frederick Douglas, p.59, p.60) Slaves were poorly clothed, housed and even poorly fed. To educate a slave was forbidden. “Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.” (The Life of Frederick Douglas, p.49) For an entire lifetime, all a slave could understand was to perform the labors of his master.
Slavery affected the slave owner too, but in a different way. To attempt to drive and beat a man while holding a clear conscience, robs one of the purity and sense of judgement that all are born with. “?a cruel man, hardened by the long life of slaveholding.” (The Life of Frederick Douglas, p.24) Sometimes the Master of a slave was also his father. The mistress was quick to find fault with these slaves, as they were an insult to her and to her family. “The master is frequently compelled to sell this class of slaves, out of deference to the feelings of his white wife; cruel as the deed?for a man to sell his own children?” (The Life of Frederick Douglas, p.23) For a man to willfully raise his own child into slavery under his order or to sell that child is today unthinkable.
Slavery had other negative effects on the south as a whole. Free physical labor did not cause the south to grow and thrive. In fact, slavery retarded the development of the south. Farmers were drawn to the opportunities that slavery could provide in the southern states. Free workers drove the profits of an agricultural life into very comfortable levels. Plantation owners built riches growing cotton and tobacco, especially after the invention of the cotton gin. Plantations took up much land and were widely spread. This prevented cities from growing. In addition, immigrants could not compete with the free labor of the south, so they settled in the north for paying factory jobs. This caused a higher growth rate of population in the north compared to the south and in greater density. The south’s northern neighbors were forced to build cities and move west. Population was growing so fast that cities were built before anyone could inhabit them. To fill a city, it is said that one only needed to start a local newspaper. These cities were intellectual gems, filled with factories and colleges. Industrialization had arrived, and its rewards were coming out at the assembly line. The tools used on southern plantations were pumped out of northern factories. Both the slave owner’s wagon and clothes came from a factory in the north. The nails that built the new cities were made in factories. Railroads sprang up and trade exploded. The south had only agricultural goods, mainly cotton and tobacco, to sell. The factories of the northern cities made goods that could reap continental profits.
There is clear evidence of the results of slavery in the United States today. Racial tension remains in much of our country, especially in the south. Only a few years ago did Mississippi pass a law to ban slavery. Until then Mississippi was under order of the Union to abolish slavery as a result of losing the civil war. Cities still are more frequent in the north. Within the tiny northeast are big cities like Boston, Providence, New York and Hartford. The effects of slavery are still felt and will be for many years to come.