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Expansion For Protection’s Sake Essay

1111 words - 5 pages

Civil war: many students in America associate those two words with a particular period in our history. They think of a time when people, once united in revolution, split apart and held bloody battles. Thousands of soldiers never left those bloody fields and hillsides, forever lost to their families and friends. What had caused a country that had fought together for its independence, to turn against itself? The most crucial issue that caused a division between the North and the South was based in the institution of slavery. The two clashed over the expansion of slavery into western territories; would western territories be allowed to enter the union as slave states? Many people in the ...view middle of the document...

Slave owning southerners benefitted socially from slavery in other ways. Slaves were considered legal property (Norton, 257). In essence, they were seen as any other tool or merchandise, and as a result owning slaves became a way to boost one’s status in the South. Many prominent, respected, and powerful men in southern society were slave holders. Thomas R. Dew was a respected professor of history and law as well as a slave owner (Norton, 257). Many politicians and wealthy property owners were slaveholders. Owning a slave testified that the owner had money and status above that of the average person; that boost would disappear if slavery lost its power.
Yet slave owners were not the only southerners who were affected by the addition of slaves to the social order of the South. This living property of the South gave even the poorest of white citizens a boost in status. Slaves were the lowest on the social ladder, followed often by free men and then landless white men. A white man might not own the land he worked, but at least he was considered a person and a citizen. As a result, rich and poor shared one important common trait: they were white and not black (Module 12: Class Divisions in the South). Even the poorest white man was considered intellectually and racially superior to an African slave (Norton, 257). Without slavery, poor whites would lose a notch off of their status belt and be that much closer to the same social level of living property.
The concept of slaves being living property also corresponds with two of the economic reasons why the South sought to expand slavery into western territories. The South was a slave society, where a large portion of the economy was supported by slave labor. Slaves were considered tools for making money. They were purchased to work for the owners gain until the day that they died. Slaves worked in the fields; they harvested and processed crops to be sold. It was here that the wealthy, the politically powerful, benefitted most from protecting slavery. Without slavery, plantation and farmer owners would have to hire workers and laborers to plant and harvest, but hiring a person cost a steady supply of money from year to year. There was no...

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