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Proud Pa wrote:
The point is the same. Yes, some folks were beginning to question it, mostly in Europe and New England, but the overwhelming majority of Americans, Northern and Southern, viewed blacks as inferior beings and viewed slavery as little more than a necessary evil, and were perfectly content to let it exist in the South until it threatened to hinder the advancement of white settlers looking to head west. Even the most die-hard abolitionists didn't think blacks should be treated as equals.
"when was it ever known that liberation from bondage was accompanied by recognition of political equality?"
-William Lloyd Garrison
The issue of slavery in this country, of course, is long, complicated, embarrassing, hypocritical and involved.
It's also difficult to remove a 19th century viewpoint and criticize it in the 21st century. We are still dealing with with issues of race to this day. Being imperfect humans, I suspect most likely we always will.
We can see now that Garrison was clearly (and ironically) wrong. He made his statement in 1864. And yet, only six years later, the 15th amendment is ratified.
This country has long recognized the horror and indignity of slavery and sought ways to resolve the issue. In 1776, the Quakers (of which Garrison could trace roots) required their members to free their slaves or face expulsion; in 1777, Vermont's constitution prohibits slavery; 1785 Alexander Hamilton joins John Jay's Manumission Society of New York; in 1780, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts begin gradual emancipation, setting off a string of similar actions by most of the northern states well into the 1800s.
Ignobly, slavery was protected by the U.S. Constitution (Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3) in states where it existed, pretty much handcuffing (in my view) presidential administrations up to and including Lincoln in dealing with the slavery question.
My point being that, yes, blatant prejudice existed in all areas of the country. But it was also recognized by many as a hypocrisy and attempts were made to alter the situation through legislation as early as the 1770s, if not earlier. Somebody was paying attention.
Emancipation in the North can be largely attributed to the ARW. As New England was attacked by Tories for demanding freedom while enslaving a whole race was seen as obviously hypocritcal to many Loyalists, to gain support for the cause many New Englanders began to free their slaves not entirely because it was seen as morally repulsive. Additionally, the price of importing slaves went up in the 1770s and the war itself saw many blacks fleeing to the British side. My point is, that emancipation only occured in the North after they had no economic stake in the institution. Following emancipation, the North inacted numerous policies designed to keep black folks oppressed and most northern states inacted laws designed to prevent blacks from entering them. This is not to say there were no Americans in favor of equality for blacks, but I still believe they were unfortunately a minority.