The balance of power was beginning to shift as the antebellum South’s dependence on free labor economically tied their existence to the heinous practice of owning slaves. Slavery was in many ways a dream come true for southern culture in its ability to relieve the issue of finding labor and keeping costs low, but this inhumane practice became the downfall of the antebellum South in how its practice became so common in its culture that it became more of an economic addiction. Their entire economy was seemingly tied to this need for free labor under the impression that slavery was there to stay, shamefully allowing the gruesome, inhumane, nature of slavery to transcend societal values to the point of widespread acceptance. This accepting culture marked the downfall of the antebellum South.
The relationship between the growth of capitalism and slave labour is historically connected. Nevertheless, slavery does fundamentally differ from capitalism; in that capitalism requires free or cheap labour, where as slavery requires forced labour. However, slavery cannot be conceptually separated from the development of capitalism. Hence, slavery was the foundation of colonial trade amongst the triangular trade region, as well as the foundation for colonization in the islands (Robinson; 1984: 154). As slaves were legal property and a part of capital.
The two class rivals in Marx's Manifesto are the bourgeoisie, or middle class, and the proletariat, or wage-laborers. According to Marx, the proletariat was alienated. Frederick Douglass also faces extreme alienation through the practice of slavery. During this time in American history, black slaves were considered property rather than human beings. They didn't have any of the rights or privileges of their white masters.
Slavery was like an addiction that the south could not break. Although it provided economic benefits to both the north and the south, the addiction or “curse” bound the people to the downfalls of slavery as well. Slavery created an oligarchy of which a small aristocracy of slave-owners would dominate political, economic, and social affairs of both blacks and whites. The institutions negative impact on the South, and even the entire nation would eventually lead to a great tragedy: the civil war. Although the institution of slavery oppressed enslaved individuals, the effects were felt beyond the large slave population.
The South was built politically, culturally, and economically on slavery. In the Antebellum South, the most important factor was not wealth but power. One theme of the Antebellum South was white supremacy and slavery ensured this through the control of labor which also worked as a system of racial adjustment and social order. Slave ownership elevated the status of the wealthy planters and this allowed the institution of slavery to be accepted due to the paternalistic culture of the South. This paternalistic master-slave relationship was important for slaveholders to maintain their power.
He viewed slaves as the means by which the master secures his livelihood. He defends slavery by noting that nature generally consists of ruling and ruled elements. Therefore he authorized his theory in Book I which is "some people are naturally slaves and others are naturally masters". However, then he asks is there anyone intended by nature to be a slave. Thus it is unjust to enslave, through war or other means, those who are not slaves of nature.
The chapter “Slavery in the Antebellum South” depicts life inside the antebellum slave market through the eyes of "soul drivers" and those they enslaved. Depending on who was asked, slaveholders were either "men of humanity" or "slave drivers". Slaves were considered nothing more than “commodities”, mere pieces of property. At the end of the day, the mutually beneficial relationship existing between the slave and his owner was one that would forever change our country. The introduction makes mention of the masters freeing their slaves outright and in some cases, provided for manumission in their wills.
Through the 16th to the 19th century, slavery was closely intertwined on a global scale on the basis of economics. Slavery, especially in the Americas, became a colonial and empirical institution, which then made those societies dependent on coerced, forced labor for many economical activities based on racial hatred and violence. At each stage in the transatlantic slave trade, African people experienced systematic violence and oppression, shaped by racist capitalistic ideas that white opportunists profited from. Slavery was never an inevitable outcome of African and European encounters, but it developed in this way because of the search for wealth and money, combined with severe white supremacy and ethnocentrism. As slavery continued to develop, and many countries, such as the emerging United States in the late 18th century, had slaves as a major part of their economic model.
In “Slaves and the ‘Commerce’ of the Slave Trade,” Walter Johnson describes the main form of antebellum, or pre-Civil War, slavery in the South being in the slave market through domestic, or internal, slave trade. The slave trade involves the chattel principle, which said that slaves are comparable to chattels, personal property that is movable and can be bought or sold. Johnson identified the chattel principle as being central to the emergence and expansion of slavery, as it meant that slaves were considered inferior to everyone else. As a result, Johnson argued that slaves weren’t seen as human beings and were continually being mistreated by their owners. Additionally, thanks to the chattel principle, black inferiority was inscribed
Society is formed into a hierarchical format demonstrated by the relationship between slaves and slave owners. Douglass refers to this concept of racial formation in the following statement, “my faculties and powers of body and soul, are not my own. But property of a fellow mortal” (199). This statement refers to the master who has power to compel his slaves in any format that he or she may desire to a point of controlling every single movement the slave makes. Douglass utilizes his knowledge of language to expose the psychology of the slave masters and the complex mechanisms that are created in order to systematically enslave African-Americans.