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Crystal Eshraghi

APUSH ~ Period 5
Practice ~ DBQ #1

Analyze the causes of growing opposition to slavery in the United States from 1776 to 1852. In
your response consider both underlying forces and specific events that contributed to the
growing opposition.

Slavery, the so-called peculiar institution of the United States, has long been the subject
of heated debate and the culprit of intense sectionalist divide. Despite the fact that the business of
human bondage remained well at large until the mid nineteenth century, gradual opposition to
slavery had been mounting across the nation throughout the near-century prior. Among the
numerous underlying forces and specific events that contributed to this growing opposition were
the moral disagreement with the system of human chattel maintained by millions of American
reformers, as well as the predominance of personal interests in the matter, which often
encouraged white Americans to protest against slavery primarily because its existence impacted
their own lives negatively in some way.

Moral opposition to slavery was evident since the colonial period, and only grew in
strength and power as time went on. As demonstrated by the fact that Northern states such as
New York and Pennsylvania provided for the gradual emancipation of slaves (Doc A), northern
industrialists and manufacturers who did not depend on slavery nearly as heavily as did the
Southern plantation farmers argued against the indefinite continuance of slavery, paving the
way for the energetic abolitionists of the coming decades, most of whom hailed from these
Northern territories. This anti-slavery sentiment was recognizable from the colonial period, as
the Quakers of the Pennsylvania colony established the first anti-slavery organization in the New
World. In addition, a court decision upholding the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts claimed
that all men are born free and equaland every subject is entitled to liberty (Doc B).
Clearly, northern territories such as Massachusetts were the birth place of the abolition
movement, as talk of moral opposition to the immoral human bondage so freely practiced in the
South quickly spread and the concern over the loss of American liberties at the hands of selfish
slaveholders became a central focus of regional debate. A specific event that occurred in 1810
clearly illustrated the growing moral opposition to slavery: an African American minister was
gifted $500 by the residents of Philadelphia so that he could build himself a church (Doc C).
Evidently, these northern citizens must have felt that whites and blacks were more or less
fundamental equals, because they claimed that the ministers personal success would benefit the
entire community, regardless of skin color. Many opponents of slavery and supporters of black-
rights believed that the races should coexist in harmony because they were interdependent and
reaped social and economic benefits from intercommunication. Many whites also felt that
investment in free blacks was a healthy cause, because it would potentially further their standing
and empower African Americans throughout the nation. William Lloyd Garrison, renowned
radical abolitionist, called for the unconditional end of slavery throughout the country, claiming
that he would do all he could to help secure to the colored peopleall the rights and privileges
that belong to them as men, and as Americans (Doc E). Garrison was the editor of the anti-
Crystal Eshraghi
APUSH ~ Period 5
slavery newspaper, The Liberator, and he called for the immediate and uncompromisable end
of slavery on the grounds that it was entirely immoral and stripped rightful Americans of their
birthright. Garrison represented the growing radical abolition movement, which arguably reached
its peak with the violently legendary raid on Harpers Ferry initiated by the radical John Brown,
who believed that slavery was inherently evil and that God had commissioned him to spell its
end. Angelina Grimke, another abolitionist, invoked American fears of human suffering by
emphasizing the terrible separations and physical torture endured by virtually all slaves (Doc F).
Many white Americans connected to the slaves plight by recognizing the immorality of their
circumstance and by criticizing the intense cruelly they suffered at the hands of their masters.
Harriet Beecher Stowes revolutionary novel, Uncle Toms Cabin (Doc J), epitomized the
growing sectional conflict over slavery by encouraging embittered whites to voice their opinions
against slavery on the basis of the immoral suffering and inhumanity it wrought on its victims
through its vivid depictions of a family of slaves suffering through just that.

In addition to moral opposition, the anti-slavery crusade also took flight due to the white
populations desire to guarantee only the best for their own self-interest, and for many, the
continuance of slavery seemed to hinder that. The American Colonization Society, predominately
led by middle-class white men, encouraged the return of black Americans to Africa, claiming that
this description of persons are not, and cannot be, either useful or happy among usthere
should be a separation. These white abolitionists were only against slavery because of their
inherent prejudice against the black people, and due to an underlying sentiment of white
supremacy maintained by many white citizens. These reformers believed that blacks were not
the equals of whites, and although slavery was not the appropriate solution, African-Americans
did not belong in the United States whatsoever. David Wilmot, perhaps most noted for the failed
Wilmot Proviso which proposed the permanent forbiddance of slavery in all territory seized as a
result of the Mexican-American war, was in fact only against the spread of slavery because of his
commitment to his own personal interests in the matter. He declared that he plead the cause of
the rights of White freemen (Doc H) rather than those of the slaves themselves, and was
primarily motivated to advocated for free soil because the lack of slavery in western territories
would provide many more opportunities for poor, white farmers and laborers, who often had to
compete with the much more desirable slaves for work.

The debate over slavery has helped to define much of American history, and the growing
opposition to this peculiar institution of human bondage emerged in part by the mounting
moral opposition to such blatant human suffering as well as by personal grievances by the
somewhat threatened white majority.