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Antebellum Era Change And Reform Essay

3159 words - 13 pages

Antebellum Era Change and Reform
During the 19th century, the United States of America expanded westward through land purchases and war. The expansion of America brought slavery and women’s rights into question as the country struggled to agree on how to proceed. The debate in the expansion of land was if the expanding of slavery would proceed, causing friction between the North and South. Even the abolition of slavery was discussed for the first time since the creation of the Union. The Second Great Awakening caused many Americans to move west to become missionaries and allowed anyone who felt moved to be able to preach. Many women moved westward to mission to Indians and other people ...view middle of the document...

This amendment was the start to a new practice of thought for Americans. As expansion continued the question now was whether or not slavery was going to expand too.
The issue of slavery in the antebellum era divided the new nation into two. The southerners wanted slavery to expand while the northerners sought for slavery to be halted at the states in which it already existed and to go no further. The southerners moved westward, planting cotton which rested on the backs of slaves, who grew 75 percent of the crop on the plantations. Even though the North was opposed to the growth of slavery, they did rely on plantation slavery for their economy. But the North had a mixed economy, while the South relied mainly on agriculture and slavery. The North claimed that slavery was an outdated and hopeless labor system, but few Southerners perceived economic weakness in their region. For one of the first times in the Union, the South no longer had the strongest economy. This was brought on by the expansion of America and the South’s need to stay within agriculture-based economy instead of industrializing.
The slaves did not suffer passively but engaged in daily resistance against their masters. Some slaves tried to run away as an act of protest, but escape from the lower-South was quite difficult. If they were caught trying to run away, their punishment was grim. Moses Roper, a slave who successfully ran away, wrote in his autobiography that after he was caught trying to escape his master “gave [him] a hearty dinner […] but it was to keep [him] from dying before he had given me all the flogging he intended.” The only reason Roper was spared his life was the master’s wife begging to not kill him, the only time he had ever experienced sympathy from a white person. The number of free blacks did increase after the Revolution as the Northern states joined the Union as free states. Northerners argued that the Declaration of Independence’s natural rights idea and the democratic message of evangelical Protestantism merged the argument of slavery. But state legislatures did act to slow the growth of the free black population and shrink the liberty of blacks who had already gained freedom, thus keeping them in poverty and dependence. In the first time in the history of the United States some African Americans were free. But with the increasing number of enslaved people, the idea of a democratic nation was conditional to what race and gender you were.
As temperance and moral reform movements emerged in the 19th century, so did a very radical movement: the abolition of slavery. When the Constitution was written, it left the issue of slavery to the individual states to decide but the issue in U.S. territories proved contentious. As the North supported the bar of slavery in Mexican territory, the South was outraged at the thought. The Fugitive Slave Act in the compromise of 1850 infuriated the North who had passed “personal liberty laws” to provide run-away...

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