Event Title

The Slavery Controversy in the United States During the Antebellum Period

Presenter Information

Michael GrahamFollow

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Colin Snider

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Date of Publication

April 2021

Abstract

The world view articulated by pro-slavery thinkers in the American south during the antebellum period allows the institution of slavery to exist as a morally viable socioeconomic system. Although the scope and focus varied among these thinkers, there seems to be little disagreement between them. Many talking points resurface across their works and collectively from an ideological mosaic. This ideology interacted with and came into conflict with both radical abolitionists as well as advocates of gradual phasing out of slavery. Despite efforts to maintain the Union between free and slave states, the incompatibility between the south's proslavery position and the north's vision for the nation led to the succession of the southern states and the American Civil war. Many pro-slavery thinkers including Thomas Roderick Dew, William Harper, Thorton Stringfellow, and James Henry Hammond, obscured the moral issues associated with American slavery by arguing that the notion of inalienable human rights is an ungrounded moral principle. They argued instead that often, morals are relative and merely conventions that serve society. The exception to this moral relativism is the Christian Bible which is referenced frequently by pro-slavery thinkers and used to support their argument that slavery is not inherently evil. Pro-slavery intellectuals often argue that slavery in the Bible is not only not condemned by God, rather, it is implicitly approved of as a legitimate institution. There is some disagreement surrounding whether or not slavery is evil in the abstract. Some argue that it is not while others argue that there are evils associated with it that could at best exchanged for other evils in a society that did not

Keywords

Slavery, arguments, controversy

Persistent Identifier

http://hdl.handle.net/10950/3108

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The Slavery Controversy in the United States During the Antebellum Period

The world view articulated by pro-slavery thinkers in the American south during the antebellum period allows the institution of slavery to exist as a morally viable socioeconomic system. Although the scope and focus varied among these thinkers, there seems to be little disagreement between them. Many talking points resurface across their works and collectively from an ideological mosaic. This ideology interacted with and came into conflict with both radical abolitionists as well as advocates of gradual phasing out of slavery. Despite efforts to maintain the Union between free and slave states, the incompatibility between the south's proslavery position and the north's vision for the nation led to the succession of the southern states and the American Civil war. Many pro-slavery thinkers including Thomas Roderick Dew, William Harper, Thorton Stringfellow, and James Henry Hammond, obscured the moral issues associated with American slavery by arguing that the notion of inalienable human rights is an ungrounded moral principle. They argued instead that often, morals are relative and merely conventions that serve society. The exception to this moral relativism is the Christian Bible which is referenced frequently by pro-slavery thinkers and used to support their argument that slavery is not inherently evil. Pro-slavery intellectuals often argue that slavery in the Bible is not only not condemned by God, rather, it is implicitly approved of as a legitimate institution. There is some disagreement surrounding whether or not slavery is evil in the abstract. Some argue that it is not while others argue that there are evils associated with it that could at best exchanged for other evils in a society that did not