Antebellum Era: Redefining Liberty

Topics: United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass Pages: 4 (1356 words) Published: February 20, 2013
Redefining Liberty
The Antebellum Era issued forth tumultuous changes in newly-founded United States of America. While during the transition into the Antebellum Era in the 1830s, socioeconomic havoc ensued in America as antebellum reformers: White Labor Activists, Women’s Rights Activists, and Black Abolitionists fought to restore their individual definition of liberty entitled to them as cited in the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln stated, “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.” Although the concept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were entitlements given to the citizens of America, its literary benefits were deprived for poor white laborers, black slaves, and women, thus gave rise for antebellum reform groups. The meaning behind the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” resonated differently for each reform group—White Labor Activists, Women’s Rights Activists, and Black Abolitionists—and it is behind that differentiated meaning of the phrase which propelled the reform groups to protest for freedom from laborers to employers, wives to husbands, and slaves to master, and altogether brought about the Antebellum Era of America.

Shifting from a pastoral structure to an industrial structure, the American workplace introduced a wage system which invoked outrage in the white laboring class. The introduction of the wage system transformed the relationship between the employer and employee through rather than depending on their employers for clothing, food, and shelter, laborers were forced to live   Wang 2

independently on their wages. Majority of white laborers deemed their wages insufficient to support a single person—let alone a family, and called for an overthrow of the wage system. A labor activist, Orestes Brownson claimed, “so long as the wage system...
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