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Slavery: Paternalism and the Market Revolution

Document-Based Question #2
Aadil S. Malik Mr. Schneider United States History

Key:
DBQ 1 Paternalism DBQ 2 Market Revolution DBQ 3 Antebellum Era

Malik 1 Aadil Malik Mr. Schneider United States History 31 December 2011 Were American slaveholders callous, wealth-seeking, malevolent persons who took pleasure in the enslavement of Africans, or were they merely captives caught up in a paternalistic system? Without a doubt, slavery has become one of the many controversial aspects in American history. The universal truth remains clear enslavement was undeserved and systematically brutal (DBQ 1, Doc 8 and DBQ 3, Doc 8). However, are slaveholders held responsible for the actions committed through enslavement, or were they themselves held slaves of a system seeming lawful for their time? Perhaps American slaveholders felt paternalism truly justified their acts; perhaps their intentions were pure and beneficial: to achieve a utopian, white America (DBQ 2, Doc 5 and DBQ 1, Doc 5). Perhaps there is an underlying importance of slavery rarely considered: the fact that if it were not for slavery, the market revolution wouldnt have prospered, and America wouldnt be what it is today. To slaveholders, paternalism was an attempt to relieve the contradiction in slavery that slaves would never be able to become what they were meant to be. Paternalism defined the involuntary toil of the slaves as rational service to their masters for protection and safety. One of the most common arguments against paternalistic accounts on slavery is that slaveholders didnt view them as people, but instead as possessions. In the case of State v. Boon (1801), J. Johnston states: The murder of a slave, appears to me, a crime of the most atrocious and barbarous nature. (DBQ 1, Doc 1). However, Boons lawyer makes this interesting statement: Slaves in

Malik 2 this country possess no such rights; their condition is . . . abject [miserable]; . . . they are not parties to our constitution; it was not made for them. Legally, this was made true in 1857 after the Supreme Court ruling during the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford. The decision was made that people of African descent brought into the United States as slaves, including their descendants slaves or not were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S. Citizens. With this in mind, was it not the right of the slaveholder to be superior to their slave? In a paternalistic review called The Stability of the Union, it is stated The black race, in its servitude to the whites, has undergone an improvement, which the African freedom has failed to manifestPhysically and morally, the blacks of the United States are superior to the nude cannibals of Africa. That process of improvement has not ceased, but is ever progressive in the train of white advancement. (DBQ 1, Doc 5). This train was the goal of the wealthy class in America who afforded slaves: to accomplish economic and political superiority. The slave trade provided economic stability to Americans whether they held slaves or not. This was a time where industry and agriculture was booming across the globe, and Americans simply didnt want to fall behind. During the market revolution, America prospered from a rich economy and a revolutionized transportation system (DBQ 2, Doc 9 and Doc 10). Henry Clay, a proponent for the American System, an economic plan to strengthen and unify the nation, stated that Americans were out of debt; land rose slowly in value, innumerable flocks and herds browsed ten thousand hills and plains, covered with rich and verdant grasses, cities expanded (DBQ 2, Doc 2). The market revolution was described by most as an unmitigated good for the American people; however, this was at the expense of the slaves.

Malik 3 We as a humane and sane society are quick to assume the intent of slaveholders, comparing it to our current status of life. It should be considered that the idea of slavery, despite its cruelty, was by some considered appropriate for the society of the 19th century. DBQ 1, Document 7 and DBQ 2, Document 7 both propagandize that everyone, including slaves, benefited from the market revolution. Although it is propaganda, this depiction may have accurately described the pure view of the slaveholder. In his article, Notions of the Americans, James Cooper discusses the impact of the market revolution on Americas future by stating, Immense resultsrender the American sanguine, aspiring, and confident with anticipations. (DBQ 2, Doc 4). America as a whole benefited from the market revolution, though slaves along with women, who were also at the bottom of the class system in America, suffered from either serving their holders or working until they literally couldnt (DBQ 2, Docs 3 and 8). This was simply the system that existed in America at the time: a system that enforced superiority over inferiority as described by their Declaration of Independence - and at the time the white man was superior and the slave was inferior. Slavery was justifiable to these extents politically, and while it wasnt justified morally, it delivered the political results desired by many Americans of the time: an economically rich nation. If we consider the universal truth that slavery was inhumane and harsh, we must also consider the truth that if it were not for slavery and the inferiority of African slaves - America wouldnt develop as an economically superior nation. Was slavery brutal? Definitely. Was it justified? Questionably. Was it necessary? A humanitarian would argue not, but the fact it is clear: enslavement acted as a major factor in the pure intentions to achieve a utopian America. The society of the 19th century desired a utopia and nothing less, and if this accomplishment would be at the expense of slaves, they would find every reason to justify slavery politically,

Malik 4 economically, and paternalistically. We are quick to judge slaveholders as evil persons who took pleasure in their harsh treatment of slaves, that we fail to realize the fact that at that time, slavery and paternalism were politically correct and were justifiable by political means. As Gerry Spence, author of From Freedom to Slavery, once said, Once slavery in America was not seen as radical. It became, instead, a revolutionary idea that slaves should be freed. When we have lived under a pernicious power long enough, no matter how oppressive, we grow so accustomed to the yoke that its removal seems frightening, even wrong. Slavery played an important role in the development of America, and if we continuously connote the experiences of slaves to our current status of life, we as Americans will never understand the true intention of the slaveholder; furthermore, we will hide behind our assumptions of peoples intentions rather than figuring out the true intentions of any person in general.

Malik 5 Works Cited "Amazon.com: From Freedom To Slavery: The Rebirth of Tyranny in America (9780312143428): Gerry Spence: Books." Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & More. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. <http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-Slavery-Rebirth-Tyranny-America/dp/0312143427>. "America Past and Present Online - State v. Boon (1801)." Web. 10 Oct. 2011. <http://occawlonline.pearsoned.com/bookbind/pubbooks/divine5e/medialib/timeline/docs /sources/theme_primarysources_Slavery_10.html>. Boston, Nicholas. "Slavery and the Making of America . The Slave Experience: Living | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/living/history.html>. "Dred Scott Case." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2933.html>.