Lincoln, Labor and Liberation Essay example

Lincoln, Labor and Liberation Essay example

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Lincoln, Labor and Liberation


The free labor ideology of the nineteenth century was grounded in the beliefs that Northern free labor was superior to Southern slave labor. The key factor that made this system unique was “the opportunity it offers wage earners to rise to property-owning independence.” [1] It was this free labor ideology and not the republicanism of the Revolutionary War era that caused slavery to be problematic by the time of the Civil War. This ideology was comprehensive—it had economic, social, moral, and political aspects. All facets of the theory need to be explored in order to fully understand how and why slavery became such an important issue.

Free labor became the center of the Republican ideology in 1852, with the foundation of the Republican Party. It was the result of the economically expanding, enterprising, and competitive society of the early nineteenth century. The word “labor” had slowly begun to take on new meaning. Previously, it meant only those who were involved in the production of goods. Society was strictly divided into two main groups, those who worked and those who profited from the work of others. By the 1840s, the wage-earning labor class was defined as the entire North. It was made up of those men who owned their own farms, worked their own soil, were educated, and most importantly, were independent. Free labor ideology drew few distinctions between classes. A laborer was a craftsman, a merchant, a small businessman, or a farmer. Northern society offered opportunities to all who sought them, and enabled most to achieve independence and property. Northerners believed this economy would lead to a more equal distribution of wealth, rather than aid the development of a...


... middle of paper ...


...onville, “The Abolitionists”, December 3, 2001

[10] Foner, 111

[11] Foner, 235

[12] Richard D. Brown, Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, 1760-1791
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 409

[13] Brown, 410

[14] Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: the Revolutionary Generation (New York: Alfred
A. Knoph, Publisher, 2000) 158

[15] Kevin Tanner, “Sectionalism: 1850s”, lecture given at Binghamton University
December 5, 2001

[16] Brown, 274

[17] Brown, 281

[18] Brown, 282

[19] Ellis, 81

[20] Ellis, 158

[21] McConville, “Slavery From Rebellion to Revolution”, November 5, 2001

[22] McConville, “From Jacksonian Democracy to Sectional Conflict”, November 28, 2001

[23] James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: the Civil War Era (New York: Ballantine
Books, 1988), 28

[24] Foner, 309

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