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The American Revolution’s Effect On The Institution Of Slavery

912 words - 4 pages

Slavery allowed the American economy to flourish for over 300 years. It allowed many Southern states to grow at a furious pace without significantly diversifying their economy. The South relied on the harvesting of cash crops such as tobacco and cotton, which were very labor intensive. Without much cheap labor, slaves were relied on to harvest the crops; this provided enormous value to farmers and plantation owners in the region. However, the institution of slavery was challenged in the 18th century by decades of Enlightenment thought, newfound religious ideals, and larger abolitionist groups. After the American Revolution many states would ban the practice of slavery completely and only a few would maintain the “peculiar institution”.
Before the American Revolution, significant opposition to slavery already existed. James Otis, a Massachusetts lawyer emblemized this strain of thought when he wrote about the rights of natural born citizens and men. He argued that a man, black or white, should be guaranteed, as British subjects, the same rights and liberties. These liberties should protect men from slavery and afford them the rights guaranteed by the British Crown. Many other American colonists shared this attitude of abolitionism, however their reasoning relied on religious beliefs rather than modern political theory. A letter written by Phillis Wheatley to a Reverend exemplifies this justification for abolition. The letter expressed appreciation for the Reverend’s abolitionist views, but also compared the current situation to those of the Israelites when the Egyptians enslaved them. A parallel to the Bible furthered the view for many that slavery was unjust. This combination of Enlightenment ideals of natural rights and newfound religious narratives created a strong argument for the abolition of slavery from American society.
The American Revolution was the catalyst for change that the colonies needed to effectively stamp out slavery. The British, in their struggles to maintain control over unruly colonies would draft troops from the ranks of thousands of abused and enslaved African laborers. As a result, over 10,000 slaves would fight against the Americans in exchange for their freedom from bondage. , This would strike an important blow against the American economy and weaken the already debilitated militias. When the war ended, trade with Great Britain fell of sharply. This again was a blow to the American economy as it shrunk tobacco prices and exports. As a result, substantial crop diversification took place in the South, reducing slavery’s role in society. As slavery’s role was waning, growing numbers of abolitionist groups opened up in the South, at one point, these societies out numbered those in the more progressive...

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