Frederick Douglass

Posted: October 17th, 2013





Frederick Douglass

The slave society during the antebellum period was focused on slave trade as the main economic activity. Slavery was essentially a labor system, which was used to drive the agricultural revolution. Slavery was an institution, which was influential in shaping the state of affairs such as the economy, politics and culture of a given state in the United States. Majority of the slave trade took place in the south of the United States given the presence of large farms, which required labor for production of raw materials.

Slavery was primarily influenced by the growth in agriculture necessitating for labor to increase production in the large plantations, which characterized the south of the United States. This was driven by the ability of the farmers to access large and controllable labor in comparison to the small controllable labor before the beginning of slavery. The daily lives of the salves were marked by the provision of labor to the large-scale farmers. The slaves usually existed in the formations of large families, which were used as a survival mechanism by the slaves given the extreme inhumane living conditions (McCurdy, & Frederick, 19).

The antebellum slave society was marked by the presence of numerous incidences of inhumane treatment of slaves because they were essentially considered as property by the slave traders and owners. The slaves experienced unfathomable cruelty from their masters because they were considered as less human. They were driven by the use of the whip with the aim of ensuring that they were adequately intimidated to fight for their rights and privileges from their masters. In addition, this was also used to encourage the ignorance, which existed amongst the slaves.

2.         Power wielded by the white salve masters gave them the ability to influence the conduct of the trade as well as the ability to control large labor in their farms. The whips made from cow skins were used as the tools for inculcating fear through intimidation by whipping the slaves to respect the commands of their masters. The ability of the white slave traders to engage in the sale and purchase of slaves was an indication of the power, which they yielded over the slaves. This enabled them to term the slaves as property, which could be sold and pushed to provide maximum benefits using the whip as the tool of driving the slaves (Tise, 19).

            Additionally segregation was another form of power, which ensured that the slaves who were all black remained in ignorance and misery. They were separated in all social aspects, which were brought about by the denial of their basic liberties such as the liberty to move and access to basic amenities. For instance, a slave was not warranted the ability to sit while his master was talking. In addition, a slave was also unable to give opinion of provide defense for mistakes or incidences in the conduct of his or her duties in the farm. This was usually followed by whipping to ensure that intimidation of the slaves was actualized (Schneider, & Carl, 29).

Power of the slave owners was exhibited by their ability to own large numbers of slaves. This was also in part determined by the size of land owned by a slave master. This was relevant in that a large tract of land was usually marked by the presence of large numbers of slaves to provide the much-needed free labor as well as ensuring that the white masters were able to exhibit power over the slaves. The ability of the slave masters to control large numbers of slaves is an express indication that this was aimed at showing the slaves that the white masters were inherently powerful.

3.         Douglass and other salves were able to resist the rule of their white masters and subject to hard labor as other slaves through taking advantage of the anti-slavery reform. Some of the slaves were also able to escape from the captivity of their slave masters by escaping the persecution exercised by the masters with an aim of instilling fear by intimidation. Douglass was of the opinion that enlightenment of the slave was the appropriate means of ensuring that the slaves were able to accrue knowledge, which would enable them rise, form their levels of ignorance and begin a quest for freedom from the captivity of persecution by the slave masters (Guelzo, 34).

Because of his ability to accrue wages , Douglass was able to pay for his privileges to live in freedom such enabled him to exercise numerous liberties such as the ability to exist in freedom by exercising liberties such as ease of movement, private means of boarding, and individual ability to determine his load of work. This was however granted at a cost, he was to make weekly payments to the master for exercise of such privileges.  He was able to seek employment elsewhere and was owned by another master to whom he gave dues on a weekly basis. However, he had a specific focus, which was to ensure that he would run away from the slaving conditions in the state into another part of the country. He was able to flee into New York with the use of his saving which he had accrued in the conduct of his duties for his slave master.

4.         Power exercised by the slaveholders was essentially used to ensure that the slaves were bound by the fear of escape, which was actualized by the slave masters through intimidation using the whip. The civil war between the union and the states in the south was expressly driven by the calls for abolishment of slave trade by the government. Slave trade was the largest trading activity, which enabled white slave traders to accrue immense wealth. In addition, the notion of the presence of freedom for the slaves was a translation to the loss of free labor, which was availed to the slave masters. Hence, the loss of labor would result in losses in their farms in terms of lack of labor to take care of the large farms and vineyards, which characterized the south of the United States (Tise, 41).

The deep divisions between the states form the union and those in the south were driven by the economic conditions. The south generated a lot of its wealth from the use of slave labor to amass wealth for the slaveholders though the use of free labor. In addition the deep divisions which were based on race were also among other drivers of the civil war in that the freedom to the slaves would amount to loss of majority of the wealth of the slaveholders as they held on to slaves as part of their wealth or property. Hence, calls to free slaves translated to return to poverty for numerous slave traders in the south.

In addition, it was also unfathomable by the white people to exist in a country where all white and slaves were essentially black, to access similar privileges and liberties. The north was marked by the presence of access to liberties by freed slaves similar to liberties, which were accessible to the white people or the slave masters and their families. In addition, agriculture was the main economic activity, which was directly related to the legalization of slave trade in the south of the United States (Douglass, 37).

The reduced economic activity was a translation to the loss of power, which was held by the white people in the south. Their inability to give command because of freeing of the slaves was a translation to the loss of numerous privileges such as hiring labor to service the extensive farms, which had been traditionally manned by the slaves at no cost by the farmers who held large numbers of slaves. In essence, it was a fear for the attainment of equality between the slaves and their masters and the subsequent loss of the power over the slaves and its privileges.





Work Cited

Douglass, Frederick. Autobiographies: Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave; My bondage and my freedom; Life and times of Frederick Douglass. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1994.Print.

Guelzo, Allen C. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.

McCurdy, Michael and Frederick Douglass. Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words. New York: Knopf, 1994. Print.

Schneider, Dorothy, and Carl J. Schneider. Slavery in America: From Colonial Times to the Civil War: an Eyewitness History. New York: Facts on File, 2000. Print.

Tise, Larry E. Proslavery: A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701-1840. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987. Print.

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