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Slavery had been one of the most controversial and important issues in the history of the United States. The distinction between the whites and the African American slaves could be rooted way back in the past events of the country even when the United States was still under the British rule. Because of this, the turn of events in the country is also related with slavery. The changes in the social and economic factors of the country greatly influenced the situation of slavery in the south. The desire for independence by the Americans has been the primary motivating factor that droved the social changes in the country.
However, slavery was regarded as the biggest irony in America’s battle for freedom because their existence is a clear proof that the idea of liberty is more of a privilege rather than an inherent and equal right for all. This is proven by the fact that during the revolution, slavery was already considered as part of the old institution in America. Slavery was present in every colony and became the basis for the economy and social structure from Maryland southward. At the very least, 40 percent of Virginia’s population and at even higher numbers in Georgia and South Carolina had been slaves (Foner 230).
Being the case, slavery created a huge impact in the south because their source of living and there very lifestyle have been dependent upon the work that slaves give. This is also the reason that the initiatives to abolish slavery greatly threatened the south. In 1840s, the expansion to the west played an important role as it moved slavery in the center of American politics. The depression that started in 1837 paved the way for the large migration of settlers in further west. The years between 1840 and 1845, about 5,000 emigrants traveled the 2,000 mile journey by wagon train to Oregon.
The settlement of some Americans in Oregon perpetuated the southern attitude of patronizing slaves since some of them brought their slaves with them. Nevertheless, the settlement in Oregon is not the main reason for the emergence of the issue of slavery; rather the nation’s acquisition of Mexico caused it. The primary part of Mexico that was settled by a substantial number of Americans was Texas. This could be attributed from the fact that the Mexican government allowed Moses Austin, a farmer born in Connecticut, to permit the Americans to colonize it.
In 1820, Austin received a large land grant, which he sells in small portions to Americans settlers. The issue of slavery arises because Mexico already abolished slavery. In April 1836, Sam Houston and his forces defeated the army of Santa Anna, which brought about the independence of Texas. The interest of the South was triggered by this event because they believed that including Texas in the Union and even dividing it to several states could increase their power in the Congress (Foner 465-466).
The Compromise of 1850 was created in order to maintain peace within the Union. This helped the south in the sense that the compromise still allows the slavery and only abolished slave trade. The Compromise also left the white inhabitants in the territories of Mexico to decide whether they will continue with slavery or not. In the same manner, the Fugitive Slave Act also aided the south in capturing run-away slaves without the interference of local authorities. Southern leaders support measures that sent federal agents to states in the north in order to capture fugitives.
It is also regarded that the Fugitive Slave Act is an example of how the government abided by the interests of the south (Foner 477-479). However, the Fugitive Slave Act also made many people especially from the North realize that this kind of law infringes upon the rights of the citizens as well as of the state. Being the case, this started the changes in the concept of state’s right. The leadership of Stephen A. Douglas helped the states to resolve its dispute regarding the issue of slavery.
He hoped to solve the dispute among the northerners and southerners in Congress by applying the principle of popular sovereignty. Sovereignty would allow the local settlers of every state to vote whether they are in favor of slavery or not instead of the Congress. Douglas deemed that popular sovereignty symbolizes the idea of local self-government and it also created a middle ground between the North and South (Foner 479-480). The discussions above show that the underlying concern of the southern sector is to protect their interests.
They were very keen in acquiring the necessary power in Congress in order for them to prevent the abolition of slavery, wherein they are greatly dependent upon in terms of their means of income and the overall development of their agricultural sector. Because of this, they are very vigilant of the social and economic changes that are happening in the country in order to make sure that their stakes and interests are safeguarded.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty: An American History. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2007.