Land of the Free, Home of the Slave
Our national anthem chants “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” My challenge is although this is indeed the land of the free; it is more the home of the slave than the brave. The reasoning behind this logic is that it was the slave whose muscle built the soul of America, and whose uncanny intrusion branded an indelible mark upon U.S. history.
It is not fourscore, but seven score and five years later that the controversy which comprised the American Civil War still smolders, the ashes of which still leave a bitter taste in the proverbial mouths on both side of the Mason-Dixon Line. I will present several arguments which lend support that this great land of Lady Liberty and her children are indebted to the cause of the slave.
It is generally consensual that the American Civil War was the most important and perhaps the most defining event of United States history. “It altered the internal structure of American society more profoundly than had the Revolution.” (Levine, 1992) The controversy in a nutshell was over the South’s desire to be independent from its northern counterpart, and to be free to conduct commerce in the way that best suited the southern colonies. However, one major problem existed that proved to be a paradox in the American ideal of life. Immigrants, who came to this country to escape some form of bondage, be it political, economic, or otherwise, now refused to see the irony in enslaving their brethren in like manner. Virginia, the leading colony was home to a third of all the slaves in the United States. Statesmen like Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, ousting slavery from their lips, simultaneously owned slaves. The ownership of slaves was synonymous with prestige and stood to generate much profit.
“Nearly 4 million slaves with a market value of close to $4 billion lived in the U.S. just
before the Civil War. Masters enjoyed rates of returns on slaves comparable to those on
other assets; cotton consumers, insurance companies, and industrial enterprises benefited
from slavery as well.” (Wahl, 2010)
It is therefore not surprising to surmise how difficult it was for the mindset of southern landowners and masters to be transformed to a new way of thinking. Beginning in the eighteenth century, migration to the New World country that would become the United States brought change among other things. New freedoms sprang up, doing away with old customs of the Old World from which they came. Where to live, what faith to observe, or what sort of work to do, were among choices that faced the new cultural pioneers. However, such choices were not at the disposal of the Negroes in this new country, particularly those that were slaves. (Johnson, 2009)
The slave was considered property as much as owning cattle or farming equipment. Partly due to the harsh treatment that some slaves received, and partly due to the simple human nature to be free from other men, slaves often ran away. A lot of advertisements consequently showed up in the local newspapers, masters hoping to regain and secure “their property.”The advertisements gave insight to the contemporary views of the South about their respective runaway slaves. One such advertisement in a South Carolina paper called the South Carolina Gazette read as follows in the February 2-9, 1738 edition of the periodical:
Run away from Tho: Wright, about two Years since, a Negro Man named Trampuse,
branded on the right Shoulder TW in one, he could not speak English when he went
away. If any Person gives any Intelligence of him so that he may be apprehended or
discover’d shall receive upon Demand 50£ reward. Also run away in August last, a Negro
Man named Paul, who had been one Year in my Plantation near Silk-Hope, he spoke
little or no English. Whoever brings him to said Plantation, or can give any Intelligence
of him, shall have 10 £ paid upon Demand. Also run away in November last, a Negro
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