Published 23 Aug 2016
After the forming of a new government expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Americans held up their new constitution as proof of their capability for self-governance according to Tocqueville. The most notorious events of the revolution were retold by countless authors while others were determined to preserve a balance of power. The Declaration of National Independence is a doctrine that supposedly signifies the birth of freedom from political, religious and moral oppression according to Hartz. Freedom in the essence of an individual or groups’ liberty to voice out one’s opinion; to work and enjoy prosperity; to do all things within the bounds of justice as a basic right for every American according to Tindall and Shi. The question of moral ascendancy, however, plagued our American brethren (circa 1787-1850) as one rule is made for separate individuals of different colors.
For other American citizens, however, freedom remained a distant dream according to Tindall and Shi. As an old human history, slavery existed within the American heartlands. Douglass once questioned, “what to the slaves is the fourth of July?” Astonishingly while the American society sought freedom in the interest of justice, they have forgotten that the mere fact of maintaining slaves to tend and work on their lands and the mere treatment of colored individuals as less civilized citizens reeked of social injustice towards one’s own fellow American. Slavery based on race became unthinkable accepted, reinforced and even justified among the rich landowners capable of maintaining numerous slaves. The Quakers were actually in opposition to slavery where they first questioned the inhumane treatment but their double standard of morality upheld the belief that the blacks were inferior or barbaric in nature.
A few steps slowly worked towards antislavery as the northern states worked towards its emancipation. The division between the North and South as Georgia and South Carolina pushed for the inclusion of slaves as part of the American population o determine the number of representatives for each state. The rest of the Southern hemisphere, however, insisted that no barriers should be placed against slave trade which the Constitution, therefore, specified that such could not be prohibited within the next twenty years as related in Hartz.
Sooner than expected, the American slaves who were ill-treated began to resort to acts of violence like burnings barns, arson, and even murder. The famous acts of rebellion in Saint Dominique (1790’s) and Virginia (1800’s) paved the way for the 1831 rebellion that killed sixty whites in Virginia tougher slave codes and prohibitions for the slaves that were heavily emphasized in William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator as provided in Tocqueville. South Carolina Senator John Calhoun in 1837 according to Tocqueville, provided that “the relation now existing in the two slaveholding states between the two races is a positive good”. The Southerners sanctioned the acceptance of slavery based on the biblical scriptures as “God’s plan to Christianize” them.
White women also never offered intercession for the maltreated black women that apparently showed the stark absence of gender solidarity during the period. Slave marriages faced vulnerability and forced separation during the period as their masters faced some calamity that allowed the slaves to be sold to new masters usually to another state. Children of slaves faced psychological traumas upon parental separation or upon realizing that they needed to stop playing with their masters’ children as soon as they get strong enough to do work.
Pro-slavery used difference arguments to uphold the benefits of slave labor while using all divisive means. Scientific experiments were used to demonstrate the superiority of the whites and the inferiority of the blacks. Nature and environment were used to explain that skin color allows the darker race to withstand hard labor under the sun. The brain and other anatomical proportions were discussed to justify blacks doing hard labor which upon careful contrast does not measure up to the actual inequalities committed within the period.
The abolitionists centering on the natural rights and religion pointed out its stark contrast to slavery. Religion was employed that morally upheld the equality of all men in the eyes of God. The South, however, was categorical in its stance to firmly uphold slavery as part of its economic, social and cultural life according to Hartz. As the debate on slavery grew, disrespect for the law rose also. No amount of compromise could weed it out from the institution except upon the culmination of Lincoln’s election according to Tocqueville in the 1850’s during the Civil war.
It is totally ironic when people begin to insist on their rights and strive to uphold its moral ascendancy and at the same time deny it to others by virtue of a difference in skin color or origin. In the struggle for democracy and independence, there were no separate laws for a group of the different belief. Together, men fought for freedom alongside one another with the same dream of equally benefiting from such when victory is won. The same set of rule applies to every American individual regardless of color, race, affiliation or origin. No amount of diversity can separate one from the other as every person born and bred in America is considered an American.
Clearly race and class were more divisive in separating the black from the white. In upholding its stance to segregate one from the other, it has employed various means and ways to maneuver a wide gap that economically and socially place an imagined separator. Such actions do not contend with a morally upright society who desire to uphold equal rights and freedom for everyone.
- Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America, eds. J.P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence. New York: Harper Collins, 1969.
- Hartz, Louis. The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Thought Since the Revolution. New York: Harcourt, 1955.
- Tindall, George Brown and Shi, David. America, A Narrative History (brief sixth edition volume one)