Antebellum Slavery Was Primarily Economic in Nature

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ANTEBELLUM SLAVERY WAS PRIMARILY ECONOMIC IN NATURE
Slavery formed the backbone of the South economically. It was just as much the political and social basis of Southern identity, too. With the invention of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, southern plantation owners had to buy more slaves to keep up with the demand for cotton. There was an ever-present demand, particularly by Northern states, for cotton. There became a growing economic dependence on slavery. James Henry Hammond’s manual, Instructions to His Overseer (c. 1840-1850), was designed for use on his large South Carolina estate. He was a strong supporter of slavery and the originator of the famous line, “Cotton is king.” Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery in February 1818, in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland. Frederick would later change his name to Frederick Douglass after his escape from slavery in September 1838, and settle in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He did this to protect his identity, as he was a fugitive. He never saw his mother, Harriet Bailey, no more than four or five times in his life. Frequently, before a child reached his twelfth month, its mother is taken from it. She is hired out on a farm a considerable distance off to hinder the natural affection of the mother for her child. His father was white. He never knew him; but, it was whispered that it was his master. His mother died when Frederick was about seven years old. He was not allowed to be present during her illness, at her death, or burial. Later in life, he came to realize that slaveholders had ordained, and by law established, that the children of slave women would follow the condition of their mothers. In his opinion, this was done to administer to their own lusts to make a gratification of their wicked and evil desires profitable as well as pleasurable. Such slaves would suffer greater hardships and cruel punishment because they were a constant offense to their mistress. Thus, the master was frequently compelled to sell this class of slaves who were his own children to appease his white wife. In 1824, Frederick was sent to live on Lloyd Plantation on the Wye River in the house of his master, Aaron Anthony, who was Colonel Lloyd’s clerk and superintendent. It was during this time that Frederick witnessed the horrible exhibition of beatings. He had never seen the bloody scenes that were to become a part of his life during his time of slavery. The home plantation of Colonel Lloyd appeared to be a country village with all of the farms’ operation of businesses being performed there. The slaves called it the “Great House Farm”. Frederick recalls in his writing of his book that he sensed the slaves’ abilities to make the most of their daily lives and of the political and moral economy of slavery. When Frederick was between seven and eight years old, he was sent to Baltimore to live with Hugh Auld, brother to his old master’s son-in-law, Captain Thomas Auld. Hugh’s wife was Sophie Auld. Frederick was sent to take care of their son, Little Thomas. Mrs. Auld was from the north and had never owned a slave. She began to teach Frederick his ABC’s and how to spell words of three or four letters. Mr. Auld soon found out and instructed his wife that it was unlawful to teach a slave to read. Slowly, Mrs. Auld became corrupted and even worse than her teacher, her husband. For Douglass, learning to read and write allowed him to reach his goals of freedom, education, and self-reliance. Education would become his pathway to freedom. He devised a plan to make friends of all the little white boys that he met in the street. When he was sent to run errands, he took his book with him and bread to give to the hungry boys who would in turn teach him to read. In 1831, Douglass came upon a book entitled “The Columbian Orator”. Through the reading of this book, he...
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