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Clash Of Arguments On Slavery Essay

2861 words - 12 pages

There are hundreds of different views about ‘slavery’. As Paul Finkelman says; few subjects in American history have been as compelling as slavery. Actually the reason, of why this is one of the most compelled and debated issue, is “slavery is not only one of the most ancient but also one of the most long-lived forms of economic and social organizations” . All antebellum Americans, in north and south, were affected directly or indirectly by slavery. When we look at the economic aspect of slavery, I can say that slavery helped the economic growth and development of the United States. It was a harsh but profitable system. Contrary to the arguments that see slavery as inefficient and detriment ...view middle of the document...

Of course, there are not only black and white (against and favor of slavery) opinions in the debate; some historians represent the “gray” color of opinion like Eugene Genovese and Kenneth Stampp. I am going to discuss different interpretation of slavery from the words of Phillips who was against slavery, Fogel and Engerman who were favor of slavery and besides these clear-cut opposers and defenders of slavery, as the mild facets of the debate, I am going to touch upon the Genovese and Stampp’s arguments on slavery.
Ulrich Bonnet Phillips was a Southerner by birth, and a professor of history at the Universities of Wisconsin, Michigan and Yale. In his book “American Negro Slavery”, Phillips wrote about the old South and black people’s inferiority. He thought that slavery was an unprofitable institution. He believed in white supremacy. In his other book “The Slave Economy of the Old South”, he focuses on slave economy and the inefficiency of slave labor. Phillips thought; “slavery became an economic burden in America, and that the purchase of the un-free laborers made a great drain upon the earnings of the community that imported them. American slaveholding was essentially industrial in character; and industry under the slave-using system was essentially capitalistic. For the sake of controlling the labor, a very large portion of the capital was invested in the legal ownership of the labor itself. This system was expensive not only to the individual planter, but also to the whole community. The burdensomeness of the slaveholding and slave trade in the South was a very general phenomenon”. Also he added that planters shouldered the burden of slavery because they supported and maintained the institution for other reasons. In his both books, Phillips provided numerous examples intended to demonstrate the inefficiency of slavery and the inherent laziness, docility, and incompetence of blacks, whether enslaved or free.
Slavery had hurt rather than profited the economy of the South. It had hurt not just the blacks but also whites, not just the nonslaveholders but also the slaveholders. Phillips argues that slavery was not only “immoral” but also it was an inefficient and wasteful economic system. Phillips drew up the all the economic detriments of slavery. He says; “it was an inefficient and unprofitable economic system which degraded labor, led to misallocations of investment, stifled technological prgress, inhibited industrializaton, and thwarted urbanization”.
Phillips made an argument on data that he collected with respect to the prices of slaves and prices of cotton. In his article ‘The Economic Cost of Slaveholding in the Cotton Belt’, he made an argument that; “ the inefficiency of slave labor made it a profitable investment only when there was a conjunction of three conditions. These conditions were; an extreme scarcity of, and a high price, for free labor; a system of agricultural organization and a set of crops that permitted the...

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