In the nineteenth century, American society was virtually divided into two opposing camps with different interests, values and strategies of development. Those were Northern and Southern states correspondingly. The main factors contributing to the division of interests consisted in different types of economies and social order imposed in those regions. Thus, the North was oriented to the industrial development, implementation of scientific and technological achievements, and the expansion of transportation and communication systems. At the same time, the South was strongly concerned about the development of agriculture, which was closely connected with the slave labor. In fact, the treatment of slavery was another drastic difference between the North and the South, which resulted into many political and social conflicts and inaccuracies. Moreover, the issue of slavery was one of the principal reasons, leading to the Civil War.
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In fact, a controversial attitude to the issue of slavery was always a matter of heated debates and discussions in the American government. The elected representatives of official authorities considered slavery to be the principal question to solve. Indeed, it divided the state into opposing regions and damaged its unity and democracy as well. However, solutions to this problem were not always effective and productive. Emerging conflicts very often remained unsolved and threatened the stability and security of the U.S. The following cases should be considered as the most prominent and noticeable instances of the conflict over the issue of slavery.
Obviously, the most evident instance of the slavery conflict is the emergence of the abolitionism movement. This tendency received great support from the people living in the Northern states, which demanded the abolition of slavery and its prohibition on the entire territory of America. The leaders of abolitionism considered slavery to be an anti-democratic, amoral and asocial phenomenon, which caused evil and ruined the very system of social life. Such famous leaders of abolitionism as F. Douglas, J. Brown, H. W. Beecher, S. Truth and others appealed to the public consciousness, attempting to spread the negative image of the slavery life and the necessity to follow the principles of human equality and protection.
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To a great extent, the abolitionists applied to the media and literature to express their opinions. The first anti-slavery novels and stories attracted many readers and changed the American attitude to this problem. For example, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Cabin of Uncle Tom considerably changed the American notion of slaves. As a result, the conflict became even more prominent and urgent. The Southern states decided to solve the emerging conflict by publishing novels and depicting slavery as a normal and healthy phenomenon, which gave benefits to both owners and slaves. Obviously, such a solution to the conflict could not satisfy the demands of the whole society, asking for alternative ways out.
The conflict over slavery also revealed itself in the discussion of the distribution of power in the government. The Southern states realized they had been losing influence because of their population was smaller than the one in the North. According to the rules, one slave was counted as 3/5 of a person. Such a situation provided Southern leaders with few possibilities to gain support of the population. Therefore, the South fought for balancing the number of “free states” and “slave states”. The situation became more complicated after purchasing Louisiana and regarding it as a free state (Forbes, 2009).
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The conflict ended with signing the Missouri Compromise in 1820. It divided Louisiana into two parts, with the one being free and the other preserving slavery. However, such a solution was regarded as temporary since it did not have any theoretical background to fall back on. Besides, such a decision did not reflect principal social opinions and values.
The Second Missouri Compromise (1850) and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 are another instances of the slavery conflict and temporary solutions to it in the USA. At that time, thousands of slaves escaped from their owners to the North, where they could be free and independent. It caused great concerns among plantation owners and Southern political leaders. They tried to stop this tendency by adopting the Fugitive Slave Act, which forced every citizen to return the escaped slaves to their masters. In this situation, it is possible to see the impact of the slavery question on the moral behavior and legal regulations in the entire country. It led to the acceptance of new laws and the formation of new outlooks among citizens.
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However, the question of slavery was not merely an issue of morality and democracy. When the North emphasized the amoral and unethical character of slavery, it also meant to protect its own economy and prosperity from cheap imports and labor of the South. Thus, it is possible to say that the North was mainly oriented to gaining its own advantages as well. Not surprisingly, the South perceived the Tariffs of 1828 and the Nullification Crisis so negatively as these were adopted by the Northern leaders with the main purpose of protecting its industries (Ratcliffe, 2000). In fact, the Southern states also tried to maintain their economic stability. However, their industries demanded the slave labor, which caused so many social and political contradictions.
Actually, the indeterminacy of the slavery conflict directly influenced the beginning of the Civil War. In my opinion, the war became unavoidable after the Secession of seven slave states. Obviously, there were many pre-reasons for this occasion, although the creation of the Confederacy was a sharp and radical violation of the Constitution and American laws. It witnessed to the failure of the government to control the country and protect its stability. The main factor influencing the creation of the Confederacy consisted in the refusal of the South to prohibit slavery and lose its agricultural strength in such a way. Thus, slavery was a driving force, which caused the unsolved conflict between the North and the South.
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To sum up, the conflict over slavery found many evident manifestations throughout the history of the USA. Although the government attempted to solve this issue legally, the key element of its solution consisted in the public awareness and treatment of this problem. Such temporary political solutions appeared to be ineffective leading to the increasing conflict and the Civil War.