What Led To The Abolition Of Slavery

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During the end of the eighteenth century, the North had nearly abolished slavery while the South showed no signs of abolition. Driven by the international demand for cotton, which was boosted by the invention of the cotton gin, slavery had become a staple of the Southern economy. Southerners were eager to take advantage of this opportunity for profit, which led to the rapid growth of the domestic slave trade. As a result, the slave trade evolved into a cash nexus in which slaves became commodities and sources of wealth. Slave owners cruelly objectified their slaves, which restricted the personal freedoms they had. Nonetheless, the economic ambitions of owners also resulted in new forms of agency that slaves could utilize. Thus, while the …show more content…
When slaves were to be separated from loved ones, many slaves “tried to save themselves from the trade by threatening self-destruction.” One such example is of a slave named Ednoull, who was able to delay his separation from his wife by threatening suicide. Due to their commodification, slaves were valued by their physical condition, the amount of work they could perform, and the skills they possess. If they became injured, their value would decrease and their owners would make less money. Thus, by suggesting self-harm or suicide, many owners and traders were faced with a threat they could not ignore. The agency slaves had over their situation in cases like these, are a direct consequence of capitalism. Furthermore, in an attempt to keep their families together, many slaves also pleaded loyalty or diligence to their owners or potential buyers. In his memoir, Solomon Northrup describes such a case about a fellow slave named Eliza who promised to be “the most faithful slave that ever lived” to prevent separation from her son. Aware that slaves were considered chattel, Eliza tries to prove her self-worth by appealing to the slave owner’s desire for profit in the hopes that he would see her as a valuable asset he might want to buy. Despite her lack of success, her pleading still causes the slave owner to …show more content…
During their slave’s servitude, “masters wanted more from their slaves than the grudging performance of only enough work to avoid being beaten.” Consequently, slave owners tried to motivate their slaves through the development of an incentive system that rewarded performance and punished wrongdoings. Trying to boost performance, and thereby wealth and profit, slave owners sought to keep their slaves content by catering to their desires. They would give up parts of their power, and the slaves would earn some in return. For example, as a means of reward, master sometimes “purchased hogs, poultry, produce, or cord word from [slaves],” which gave slaves additional responsibility, power, and money the owners did not need to permit. However, because owners sought out economic gain, they made this concession to keep their slaves productive. Nonetheless, owners would also punish slaves who rebelled or refused to work. According to Joyner, “punishment seems to have been administered most commonly for failure to finish tasks.” Rather than punishing for mastery, it is exhibited how owners punished slaves for economic reasons. This furthers the point that the incentive system was created for economic gain, which in turn gave their slaves a greater influence over their daily lives.
Therefore, the economic ambitions of slave owners went beyond the context of capitalism

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