Order Description;

Select an important American individual, constitutional amendment, historical document, law/act, or event that influenced Antebellum American history between 1785 and 1845.


Slavery in the United States was the legal institution that existed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavery had been practiced in North America since the early colonial days, and was well recognized in the thirteen states during the declaration of independence. After the revolutionary war, abolitionist laws gradually spread across America, mostly across the Northern States to counter the slave trade. The rapid expansion of the cotton industry had increased slavery by a big percentage because a lot of labor was needed.

Between 1790 and 1860, American slavery expanded on a great scale. In fact, the federal census indicates that the 1790 slave population of around seven hundred thousand rose to almost four million slaves in the 1860’s. The inhabitants of the South attributed the rise in the number of slaves to the phenomenal increase in cotton cultivation. One of the factors that led to the emergence of the cotton kingdom in 1793 was the invention of the cotton gin. The gin could be used in separating the cottonseed from its fiber. The industrial revolution, which began in the 1770’s in England also contributed to the increase in the number of slaves in the northern states of America. Since the first commodity to be produced during that period was cotton cloth, England demanded a lot of cotton for its mills. Later on, creation of mills in the northern states such as Massachusetts and Rhode also increased the demand for the growth of cotton.

Rapid growth of slavery was mostly experienced in the fertile lands of the New and lower South while it continued to decline in the Northern states. For instance, New Jersey became the last Northern state to abolish slavery after the passage of the Abolition Act in 1804. Under the provisions of the abolition law, all children born of slaves after July 4, 1804, were to be set free after serving as apprentices to their mother’s masters. Later in 1846, the New Jersey’s abolition act superseded the earlier law and declared that all slaves should be released and that slavery had been fully abolished by law. However, the law also stated that by force and virtue of the act, the slaves at that time would all become life apprentices in their master’s homes who would continue to support them. This demonstrated a modified form of slavery that made New Jersey to be the last state to do away with slavery (Franklin, Hope, and Moss 2011).

The termination of the Trans Atlantic slave trade resulted to an increase in the domestic slave trade that forced the migration of around one million slaves by 1860. Nearly all the states in the new south participated in the slave trade deals. Later on, other strict laws with greater penalties were passed to ban the export of slaves in the southern states. The elites owned the majority of the slaves and symbolized a high-class lifestyle that most of the people in the south desired. The size of the of the elite’s slaveholdings meant that the typical slave owner had less than twenty slaves and a typical slave lived among more than twenty bondsmen.

The American colonization movement was one of the early advocates of the idea of resettling American born slaves. It was founded in 1816 by Charles Fenton Mercer and was divided into two groups comprising of the abolitionist or the philanthropists who advocate d for the freeing of African slaves and their descendants back to their native land, Africa. The other group comprised of slave owners who feared the Africans and wanted them expelled out of America. The American colonization society sponsored the return of slaves to their ancestral lands and by 1847; they founded Liberia where freed slaves would be taken.

Another movement introduced in America to counter slavery was the abolitionists’ movement. The main goal of the movement was the immediate liberation of all slaves and the culmination of segregation and racial discrimination. The abolitionist distinguished itself from the moderate anti-slavery advocates who were for gradual emancipation because it advocated for the immediate liberation. Radical abolitionism was motivated by the religious zeal of the Second Great Awakening, which made many people to advocate for the freeing of slaves through religious grounds. The ideas of the abolitionists became more prominent in the northern churches and politics in the 1830s increased the enmity between North and South leading to the Civil War. Between 1830 and 1870, the abolitionist movement made all attempts to achieve immediate freeing of all the slaves and the end of discrimination and racial segregation. The increase in disagreements and hostilities made the northerners fear for their own civil liberties, and hence voted for the antislavery politicians mostly after the murder of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy in 1837 (Newman, Richard 2002).

President Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation on January 1863, as the country continued to suffer under the bloody civil war. The proclamation stated that all individuals held as slaves within the rebellious states had been set free. Despite the orders contained in the Emancipation Proclamation, it had some limitations because the orders only applied to the states that had seceded from the union, leaving slavery intact in the loyal Border States. It also exempted parts of the confederacy that had already joined the northern control. Although emancipation proclamation failed to end slavery, it greatly helped in transforming the characters of the civil war. In addition, the proclamation announced the acceptance of black people into the union army where they continued to fight for their union and liberation.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were vital in abolishing slavery in America (Friedman, Lawrence2005). The Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution of United States officially abolished slavery in the country. The Fourteenth Amendment to the constitution of the United States declared that all persons born or naturalized in the US should be American citizens including the African Americans. Finally, the fifteenth Amendment to the US constitution prohibited the government from denying a citizen the right to vote based on the person’s race, previous condition off servitude or color. The three amendments were known as the reconstruction amendment meant to cater for the needs of the freed slaves in the American nation. Abraham Lincoln also made great fight against slavery although he was not a complete abolitionist. Abraham mobilized forces that used force to claim the freedom of the slaves. He used the Republican Party to vie for presidency, which further increased his efforts of antislavery (Jones, Howard 2002).

In conclusion, slavery in the antebellum America had many negative effects such as the civil warts that led to the fall of the American economy. Many individuals fought and advocated for antislavery that existed between 1785 and 1845. This was one of the hardest things to do at that time due to the increased demand for slaves. The emancipation of slaves in American history remains one of the most distinct phenomenal.

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