Slavery was a profitable business between 1500 and 1900. People from other continents such as Africa and Latin America were captured forcefully and transported to be sold in America or other places. These people would be enslaved and forced to work in industrial firms, cash crop farms and even as household employees. Latin American nations such as Brazil and Cuba became the target grounds where slaves were captured. These people started resisting this degrading activity. This was the start of the journey to the abolition of lave trade. The manner in which slave trade was abolished in different countries was not similar. Countries such as Cuba and Brazil engaged in different actions and actions in the process of liberating themselves from slave trade.
In Cuba, the fight to abolish slave trade had an interesting twist. Slaves in Cuba were mainly used to provide labor on tobacco and sugar cane plantations. The owners of the plantations found the supply of slaves to be less than the demand. Therefore, they looked for other ways of getting more slaves to work on plantations. The natives were increasingly becoming resistant to being enslaved. In 1868, a war broke out and lasted ten years. At the end of the war, the Zanjon pace was signed. Part of the terms of the pact was that all slaves who fought in the war be freed. Slaves who did not fight in the war were subjected to an extra decade of slavery. However, the Spanish Cortes agreed to abolish slave trade in 1880. Slaves were given orientation for 8 years to learn to be like their masters. In 1886, slave trade was abolished completely when a royal decree declared slave trade illegal.
In Brazil, slavery had thrived to the extent that its slave population was the largest in the world. The Portuguese merchants brought slaves from Africa and the indigenous people to work on sugar cane, cotton and coffee farms.
They also worked in mines. Abolition politics started with a group of evangelical reformers to discourage slave trade. When Brazil gained independence in 1822, the fight against slavery peaked. The first step taken by the Brazilian independence leaders were to gradually emancipate existing slaves and to end slavery altogether. In 1831, slavery in Brazil was banned by law. However, the importation of slaves from Africa continued. However, the foreign slave trade was banned in 1850 through the enactment of new laws. By 1871, the existing sons of slaves were freed. This was followed by the freeing of slaves over 60 years in 1885. During the Paraguayan War contributed to the end of slavery in Brazil. This was because slaves who enlisted themselves were freed.
Between 1877 and 1878, there was a severe drought in northeast Brazil. It caused poverty, starvation and migration. Plantation owners sought to sell their captive workers to the merchants in the southern Brazil. It caused resistance and resentment as the slaves and the societies in the south did not like this move. This move caused many emancipation societies. It contributed to the end of slavery in that in Ceara province, slavery was banned by 1884. Finally, slavery ended in Brazil in 1888 when the Golden Law was passed. This act was signed by the royal leader, making Brazil the last western nation to abolish slavery.
The politics of abolition of slavery in Brazil and Cuba differ from those in USA. The Brazilian and Cuban slaves did not stage any significant resistance against their masters. Slavery in Cuba and Brazil was ended because the colonizers of these countries granted the natives independence. This led to the gradual process of the end of slavery. However, the USA experienced hostile and massive resistance from slaves. There emerged several groups advocating for the abolition of slavery. Activists, some of whom were themselves slaves at some point, became vocal in their campaign to end slavery.
Slavery in the US is said to have been the main cause of the civil war. The emancipation proclamation served to convince most Americans in the southern states that the war for slavery would be a war for freedom. The southern states were strong advocates for slavery because the states were agricultural based. They required labor force hence; they advocated for slavery. This was because slavery had become part of the American culture. The rich and well educated members of the American society believed that slavery was their right. In the build up to the civil war, the northern states were dominantly industrial based. The northern societies viewed slavery as oppression and inhuman because these societies were dominantly educated and religious. On the contrary, the southern states were dominantly agricultural based. Agriculture was booming business in the southern states where cotton growing had just picked up after the invention of the cotton gin. Southerner quickly realized that slavery was profitable business. This clash in opinion about slavery became the first cause of the civil war.
Northern intelligentsia started to advocate for the abolition of slavery. Contrasting views and hostility grew between the northern and southern states over the absence or presence of slavery in the society social order. This continued tension between the south and north was always averted by political and democratic individuals. New territories developed and people of same ideologies started to demand statehood. With the issue of slavery unaddressed by several governments, the tension evolved into hostility. For instance, any state that desired to be admitted to the Union of States, the issue of slave or non-slave came into play.
The battles and tensions on slavery were mainly between the high classes in society. The rich people who supported slavery and those who did not support it clashed sharply. The middle class and the poor had no significant in this raw. This is because the middle class and the poor in the southern states did not own slaves. However, they approved of slavery because the black slaves were an inferior race. The rich in the north were against slavery but did not like black people either. Their hatred for black people made them wary of blacks being brought to America.
The profitability of cotton made the southern leaders wary of ending slave trade. As pressure mounted on them to stop slavery, they resorted to only one way. They decided to quit the union and start their own independent country. The elections held around that time saw Abraham Lincoln elected as president. Lincoln was an abolitionist, making the southern suspicious of his intentions. They feared he could stop slavery and ruin their society by killing the cotton industry. The southern states, none of which had voted for Abraham Lincoln declared their departure from the union. This was the turning point in that ended up in the civil war.
The civil war had been waged by the minority rich people in the north and the southern states. These people’s ideas and interests had led them to the civil war. Slavery caused the civil war in that it caused massive tension between the southern and northern states. It was Abraham Lincoln’s stand on abolishing slave trade that led the southern states to announce their intentions to get out of the union of States. The civil war became a to stop slavery in that the northern states were against slavery while the southern states supported it. The southern states were against Abraham Lincoln because he was an abolitionist. The war was entirely tension between the north and the south because of slavery.
According to Robert Fogel, there are principal elements that should have been used to deal with slavery rather than the political approach used by abolitionists to fight slavery. In his book, ethical indictment of slavery, Robert argues that these principals could have been used to fight slavery in a more effective way than the abolitionist approach. The first principal was that there was a group of individuals whose excessive power should have been reduced in order to stop slavery. One group of people, the rich people to be precise, had excessive power over the rest of the society. These people were able to dictate major decisions in society, for example, they could decide how slaves were to be used. These individuals had self-interests, which they forced other people to put up with.
The minority powerful were able to counter any form of abolitionist efforts. For instance, when Christian missionary groups started abolitionist campaigns to stop slavery, this group secularized their campaign hence; animating the antislavery groups in the political scene. The rich were also capable of dictating the political environment to suit them. Before the civil war, the southern states were able to announce their secession just because they felt Abraham Lincoln, an abolitionist would end slavery. However, this could be dealt with by ensuring justice was done for everyone in society. if slavery had been made a capital one offense where all offenders would be punished, it would have been easy to deal with the small minority group of people who advocated for slavery.
The second principal was the economic opportunity denial. Had the slaves been made simple employees and not slaves, they would have performed well. Slaves lived in very poor conditions, making them demoralized and weak. This meant that even though they worked under supervision, their productivity was way worse than if they had been free laborers. Freedom would have helped the merchants earn more. Therefore, one way of dealing with slavery would have been to free the slaves and give them some privileges. This principal is based on the idea that merchants would benefit more if they stopped practicing slavery and freed their subjects because freedom would motivate the slaves to work efficiently.
Slaves were not given any chance to have individual advancement. This means there was no incentive for them to try and improve their productivity or skills. Had the masters provided slaves with individual advancement incentives, their economic benefits would also be high. Furthermore, slaves were not allowed to take part in collective action.
The masters feared conspiracies and resistance from the slaves. However, this move would have improved productivity because slaves would feel that their rights are fulfilled.
The third principle of Robert Fogel was that denying slaves citizenship was against their rights hence making slavery a violation on human rights. It is internationally accepted that if someone works, lives in a country for a certain amount of time, they qualify to be citizens of that nation. Some slaves were born in the US yet they were not allowed to become citizens. The abolitionists should have fought for the illegalization of slavery on the basis that slaves had been denied a basic human right, to become citizens. The treatment of slaves in the southern states as if they were a form of property was dehumanizing. The masters launched an attack on slaves based on their race because most slaves were blacks. This principal would have helped slaves earn respect and recognition.
The fourth principal was that slaves were denied cultural self-identification. The slaves had come to a new land and they could not be allowed to identify themselves with their culture. This was an infringement on their fundamental human rights. Robert preferred this approach to the one applied by the antebellum era abolitionists because it focused on the real issues that slaves were going through. The approach by Robert Fogel is more realistic and effective compared to the traditional approach. The Robert Fogel approach would also benefit the merchants and help end slavery. The implementation of the Fogel approach would be cheap and would not cause tension like the one caused by the abolitionists.
Baronov, D. (2007). The abolition of slavery in Brazil: the "liberation" of Africans through the emancipation of capital. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Bergad, L. (2007). The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Berlin, I. (2003). Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (illustrated, reprint ed.). Chicago: Harvard University Press.
Fogel, R. W. (1989). Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of Slavery. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Rodriguez, J. P. (2007). Slavery in the United States. New York: ABC-CLIO.