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Missouri Compromise 1820

Northerners finally were receiving the outcome that they had wished for with slavery slowly declining at the end of the 18th century. Southern economical dependency on slavery was slowly withering away due to the Act of 1808, stating that by that time slavery would not be allowed. Due to this Southerners were forced to change their means of production and the use of slaves. When the 19th century arrived it brought the invention of the Cotton Gin. This invention, created by Eli Whitney, assisted in speeding the picking of cotton by removing the seed. The only flaw in this was that it relied on even more unskilled labour. Slaves were found perfect for the handling of this machine: it was easy to manufacture and as easy to work..

From this, Southerners found it now more than ever necessary to halt the abolition of slavery due to the economic prosperity that lied ahead because of the Cotton Gin. In Southern eyes, slavery was a better choice than free labour. IN the case of using free labour Southerners couldn’t be totally dependent on the person because they might demand things such as higher wages. If free labourers were refused what they asked, Southerners faced the risk of them stop working. Because you owned a slave Southerners would never have to worry about such a situation. This threat of prolonging slavery enabled the major conflict between The North and South to arise. The Southern view of this conflict was that due to the economical advantages that slavery brought and the economical disadvantages that abolition with bringing to the states, that the issue of slavery should be considered “a necessary evil”.

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Not only this, but some even believed that slavery was doing blacks a favour. They believed that even in Africa blacks had owners, that they are always fed, and are treated better as slaves than they would be as free blacks. Northerners disregarded any attempt in justifying such a matter and stood by their point that slavery was not right. Northern abolitionists fought back and said that slavery went again the fundamental principle on which America was built; Equality and freedom. Not only immoral and sinful but went again the Declaration of Independence which clearly states that “all men were created equal” with no exceptions. The North’s morality and Souths Economic self-interest, and both sides refusal to compromise left the issue in a stalemate. By the North fueling the fire with such articles like The Liberator, inspiring slaves to revolt, and other abolitionist moves, the North forced the south to fight back in order to protect themselves from future revolts and incidence fueled by enraged slaves.

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The Missouri Compromise made the divide between the North and the South more evident than it had ever been. This compromised, proposed by Henry Clay, declared that Missouri would enter the union as a slave state, but every other state that was North of the Ohio River and Mason-Dixon line. Though this did stop slavery it gradually decreased it. In addition to this, another factor was that all states would be admitted into the union in pairs in order to balance the slave states as well as the free states. Still enraged, Northerners demanded the instant abolishment owed to the moral breach that slavery encompassed. They believed that slaves were being treated and stripped of their rights as humane being.

In American Slavery As It Is the author, Theodore Weld, describes his view on how it “really is” for the slaves of the south and the treatment they are forced to endure by their slave owners. “…That their ears are often cut off, their eyes knocked out, their bones were broken, their flesh branded with red-hot irons; that they are maimed, mutilated and burned to death over slow fires…that self-interest would prompt them to treat their slaved with kindness…” By writing such things, Weld just encouraged abolitionists to fight harder and harder for their cause. Such cases as the ones he mentions cant be said never happened but are surely rare if so. Due to the tone in writing that is used though, well makes his words harsh and strong which justly, the Southerners take their place to fight back at.

In actuality, most southerners were not as Weld describe because they realized that the better you treated a slave and healthier it was the more work that it could accomplish for you. Not only this but due to the harsh rigid tone of his words, Weld gives whoever is reading this no option towards working out some sort of compromise between North and South but instead just relies on getting things done. Abolitionist works, such as The Liberato, raided in aggravating the South. William Loyd Garrison’s The Liberator was printed as a Boston abolitionist newspaper in which Garrison refers to Southerners as being sinners and that slaves should do anything to get out of the miserable situation that they are in, even if that means blacks revolting against them. He as well brings up the issue of blacks being equals with whites. : Assenting to the “self-evident truth, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights-among which are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”

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Garrison, here, clearly explicates how by having slaves not be free we are going against everything that the declaration stands for and represents. Some say that Garrison’s The Liberator might have even sparked the rebellion led by Nat Turner in which Turner gathers up a group of slaves and killed over fifty white southerners. Southerners were so fearful of more rebellion that it led them to create even harsher rules for slaves. In Federick Douglass’ Independence Day Speech at Rochester Douglass writes of how white southerners are fearful of blacks and that is the reason why there are such harsh laws against them reading and writing. “What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is amoral, intellectual, and responsible being?” Douglass’s Articular only further depicts that Southerners were in fear or the capability that blacks would have if they were learned. By keeping slaves ignorant they prevented slaves from reading such abolitionist articles which could fuel an angry mob.

Due to a fear of angry mobs and revolts, Southerners were forced to lay stricter rules as Civil Codes and the restriction on abolitionist literature. In Thomas Dew’s Review of the Debate in Virginia, Legislature Dew discusses how the white race and black race could never coincide because if blacks were free there would just be an array of massacres led by angry blacks. Southerners Spent more time on the issue of protecting themselves from the threat of slave rebellions due to abolitionist literature sparking rebellions than any other matter. In George Fitzhugh’s Slavery Justified he discusses further the matter of slave rebellions and how if black weren’t slaves their anger would just lead to more crimes and violent incidents. In the matter of slave abuse, he states that it’s ridiculous; “His feeling for his slave never permits him to stint him in old age. The slaves are all well fed, well clas, have plenty of fuel, and are happy.”

In response to the accusation of slave owners abusing their slaves, other Southerners replied by saying that incidents such as the ones which Weld discusses are isolated and uncommon. In fact, in most cases, it is the opposite of circumstances. In Solon Robinson’s De Bow’s Review, Robinson takes the opposite stance that Weld takes and says on the contrary that slave owners would never do such abuse to their slaves because they were too valuable to them. Robinson says ” The Two things that are most despised and hated in the South are masters that abuse and starve and ill-treat their slaves, and abolitionists, who seize upon every isolated case of the kind…” As stated before, abolitionist kept on exaggerating the slave situation in order to attempt to speed up the process of getting rid of slavery when they were only furthering it because Southerners needing to defend themselves against false accusations.

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Finally, besides the matter of slave abuse and the morality of the situation, the South argues that due to the mass production of cotton that slaves help produce if we abolish slavery America would be in an economic crisis. Because of the low production of cotton that there would be after an emancipation, labour would be inconsistent because free workers would be inconsistent and require more and we wouldn’t be able to fulfil our international demand for cotton. In William Harper’s Source Problems in the United States History Harper says “…The cultivation of the great crops cannot be carried on in any portion of our own country where there are no slaves…And what would be the effect of putting an end to the cultivation…annihilating, at a blow, two thrids or three-fourths of our foreign commerce?…” From this, we can see that slavery was no easy matter and that it took much more economic thinking to get rid of Slaves. Perhaps more than the North thought.

Though both the South and the North make a legitimate reason for their not wanting or wanting the emancipation of slaves, it seems that due to the North the processor reaching compromise was delayed unnecessarily. Instead of thinking about the economical blow emancipation would cause the North ruthlessly kept attacking the South’s morality. The South realized that without slaves for a bit longer they wouldn’t be able to make a full economic recovery once emancipation was enacted. But because of the attacks and harsh literature being published by abolitionists, the South spent more time in trying to protect themselves from slaves getting ideas from these works than trying to figure out a plan to resolve the issue with the North. It seems as if the issue could have been quickened if the North hadn’t made such quick and damaging attacks.

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Missouri Compromise 1820. (2021, Apr 17). Retrieved June 29, 2022, from