Tuesday, June 21, 2011


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Slavery and the Civil War Paper Assignment

The abolitionists and Barry Goldwater were both grappling with political events that required the support of many. The abolitionists were dealing with the immorality of slavery and Barry Goldwater was dealing with the immorality of the modern welfare state. They both differed in their techniques for gaining support for their political issues, yet suffered the same fate from history defects.

The abolitionists viewed the system of slavery as “not just a sin, but an extraordinary sin.” (Fogel, p.70) And it was their Christian duty to promote immediate emancipation. But, the problem was how to convince the Northern and Southern states to give up this lucrative system of slavery. The Northern consumers benefited from the low prices of cotton cloth and the Southern landowners benefited from using their land to its most productive use. The Constitution indirectly supported the slave system as well. The /5ths Compromise counted each slave as /5ths a person for determining representation. It allowed Congress to use military force to stop any slave rebellions. And it required states to return runaway slaves to their masters. (Fogel, p.45) Therefore, abolitionists had to contend with economic benefits of slavery to both the North and the South, as well as the legitimacy of slavery provided in the Constitution.

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At first, the abolitionists tried to attract support by making slavery a religious issue. It hoped to appeal to the people’s spiritual side and to treat slavery as a sin. However, this tactic wasn’t catching on so they resorted to publicizing falsehoods about the nature of the slave system. They didn’t feel bad about distorting the truth because they felt that end justifies the means. They distributed a “book of horrors” to show proof that the slaves were “treated with barbarous inhumanity.” This book claimed that the slaves were “overworked, underfed, . . .flogged with terrible severity. . .cut with knives, torn in pieces by dogs. . .burned to death over slow fires” and on and on. (Fogel, p.78) However, this couldn’t possibly be true. Where was the economic incentive for the slave owners to do this? The slave owners wanted to maintain their “expensive machinery” for peak physical condition. The slaves were well fed and were given simple housing and clothing. If the slave owner didn’t maintain the slaves as productive assets, he would show an economic loss because they don’t start making their money back from their investment until the slave reaches age 8. But, this technique of illustrating abuse to appeal to the emotions of people was working to gain support for emancipation. The end result was that the abolitionists were successful in their plight to end slavery.

Barry Goldwater had a different political plight, the modern welfare state. In a book called, The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater claims that the expansion of the welfare state “was an unfortunate and dangerous development and that New Deal liberalism marked the first step on the road to totalitarianism.” He felt that too much government involvement was reducing individual freedom for Americans. His problem however, was conveying this idea to the “moderate, wishy-washy conservatives.” (Dalleck, p.5) The Republican Party had a lack of unity and wasn’t viewed as a serious force because they “squabbled among themselves.” (Dalleck, p.) But, instead of using some phony tactic to gain support from all the Republicans, he just believed that all he had to do was expose Americans to conservative notions and this would be enough to appeal to the liberal Republicans. The end result was unsuccessful. He lost his campaign to the Democrats.

History dealt with these two political events almost the same. Once the abolitionists were able to convince the North to fight to end slavery based on the propaganda of abuse, the myths were never corrected after the civil war. After a war ends, usually the victors of the war write the history, therefore, the North continued advocating the myths of the abolitionists. And the historians in the Southern universities depicted the North as misguided “devils” that devastated the South. Historians like Ulrich B. Philips and Charles Ramsdell felt that the war was unnecessary because they claimed that slavery would’ve ended on it’s own as it eventually became unprofitable. Some people also had an incentive to keep the history distorted. Black radicals and Pan African Studies scholars claim blacks were victims therefore the government should redistribute income to blacks and give them political positions. This distortion also helped blacks attain legislative gains, such as with Civil Rights issues, affirmative action, and so forth. As a result of all the distortion of the slavery system and the Civil War, the true understanding of slavery has been radically changed.

Now, in the case of Barry Goldwater, history distorts, or rather fails to offer a more balanced and accurate point of view of the rise of American conservatism. Like the abolitionists, conservatives were viewed as fringe groups with no hope of winning political power. However, during 160-168 the Republican Party transforms into a successful political force. However, history didn’t accurately capture the rise of this transformation until Mary Brennan’s study called Turning Right in the Sixties. She shows how Barry Goldwater contributed to the advancement of the conservative cause in several ways. Even though he lost the presidential election, conservatives learned from his mistakes. They turned Barry Goldwater’s defeat into a success by creating “a well organized, experienced movement that was more determined than ever to win political power.” (Dalleck, p.5) Unlike the issue of slavery, the issue of conservatism has been brought to light. Historians have attempted to correct the flaws of the analysis of conservatism. In this case, history was distorted due to the lack of scholars and journalists writing about the rise of the right in the 160’s, not due to false propaganda.

Similarities and differences can be drawn from these two political events. The abolitionists and Barry Goldwater both used different techniques to express their political agendas. The abolitionists depicted the slave system as poor as possible to generate support for the war and Barry Goldwater just hoped Americans would harmonize to his conservative ideas regarding the modern welfare state. Both had different results. The abolitionists achieved their goal, whereas Barry Goldwater lost his presidential campaign. History defects were immanent in both political events, however slavery has yet to overcome the defects.


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