The enslavement of African Americans was undoubtedly a cruel institution. Nowadays, it is looked upon with shame. However, there was a time when it had its staunch supporters. Southern slave owners would always defend this institution, despite the firestorm of criticism it faced, justifying it with legal, religious, and economic arguments.
Supporters of slavery believed that they had the legal right to own slaves. This is largely due to the decisions of the courts, which set precedents that defended the legality of slavery. The decisions of the Supreme Court were greatly influenced by Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice at the time and a supporter of slavery. The most notable of these decisions was the Dred Scott v. Sanford case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that all blacks – not just slaves – would be seen in court as property, rather than as humans. The Constitution protects the rights of citizens to their property, meaning that people had the right to own slaves.
People also justified slavery with religious reasons. They believed that slavery was a divine institution, and was truly a good thing for those who were enslaved. The “heathens” from Africa could learn about Christianity by coming to America, even if they were doing so as forced laborers. Slavery’s supporters also quoted one of the Ten Commandments (“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house… nor his manservant, nor his maidservant.”) and pointed out numerous parts of the Bible as mentioning slavery. Since Jesus never explicitly spoke out against it, it could be believed that slavery was not an unholy institution.
Defenders of slavery could also make several economic arguments. They claimed that putting an end to slavery would cause the Southern economy to completely collapse, since the agricultural production sustained by slavery was the very foundation of it. Cotton, tobacco, rice, and other crops provided almost all of the South’s income, and these crops were planted and harvested by...
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