Opposition to slavery existed since before the American Revolution and increased as northern states abolished it by 1820.  In the 1830s the abolitionist movement became more vocal, commencing with the establishment of a newspaper, the Liberator, edited by William Lloyd Garrison.  As support for abolition increased it preoccupied the nation to the point that it ultimately resulted in the Civil War in 1861.  In the 1850s abolitionists denounced the institution of slavery, while many southern writers and newspapers defended it and compared it favorably to the conditions faced by free white workers in the north.

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The following documents of the period put forth the anti-slavery and pro-slavery arguments of the time.


      William Lloyd Garrison  No Compromise with Slavery 1854

      Harriet Beecher Stowe  Excerpt from Uncle Toms Cabin  1852


      George Fitzhugh  Excerpt from Cannibals All!! 1857

      Defense of Slaveholding  The Spectator, December 6, 1859

      Nehemiah Adams  Excerpt from A Southside View of Slavery  1854

Based on these readings,defend one of the following theses, both of which were argued before the Civil War:

1)Slavery in the United States was inhumane and immoral and needed to be ended unconditionally.


2)Slavery in the United States was humane, beneficial to the slaves, essential for the nation, and  superior to the  conditions faced by northern workers.

Consider the following questions as you support your thesis:

      How do the two groups view the treatment of slaves and their contentment?

      What moral grounds does each group use to support its views?

      What comparisons do the pro-slavery proponents make between the lives of slaves and free white workers

      in the north?

      How do the two groups describe racial attitudes and treatment of blacks in the north as compared

      to the south?

*      What groups and forces do the two groups believe are responsible for supporting or opposing slavery?

      How do the two groups differ in their analysis of the positive or negative impact of slavery on the nation as

      a whole?

Utilize classroom lectures and the textbook to support your thesis; you may also want to consider the following:

      conditions of slave life during colonial times

      the Revolutions impact on slaves and free blacks and the expectations of African-Americans

      the revival and growth of slavery in the early 19th century and its impact on slave families and

        individual stability

      the conditions of slave life and culture in the south, both on the plantations and in southern cities before

      the Civil War

      the causes of and prevalence of slave revolts and resistance

      the purpose and nature of  the slave codes

      the growth of the underground railroad

      working and living conditions in the North during the Industrial Revolution

      the growth of the factory system and its impact on both native – born Americans and immigrants

      northern attitudes towards blacks

      living conditions of free blacks in both the north and the south

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