By the start of the American Civil War in 1861, slavery had been an accepted practice in the United States of America for 200 years. Slavery is the buying and selling of human beings, so that they belong body and soul to a person and can be used in any way the owner wants. The majority of slaves in the United States lived in the South in areas like Virginia and Georgia where they were used to work on large plantations. However for as long as there had been slavery in America there had also been an
anti-slavery movement, a group of people who felt slavery was wrong and should be stopped. Even at
the founding of the nation during the writing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Thomas
Jefferson, who owned slaves himself, wrote a scathing paragraph about the horrors of the slave trade
describing it as that, “execrable commerce” (West 1) and called for an end to it. But although several signers of the Declaration such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton agreed with Jefferson, the paragraph was removed because it offended the delegates from South Carolina and Georgia, who refused to sign if the paragraph remained. The unity of the new nation was at this time more important to the delegates than the end of slavery. And although over the next decade, slavery was abolished in all Northern states and a ban was placed on importing foreign slaves, the institution of slavery flourished and grew in the South so that by 1861 there were about three and a half million slaves in the United States (Boyer 366). As we can see, since the birth of America there has always been some political will to end slavery and certainly a social will in the form of the abolitionist movement to abolish it, but it was not until Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican president in 1860 on an anti-slavery platform that we see any real chance that the slaves might be freed. Because he became president seven slave owning states... [continues]
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