A look at the inherent characteristics and differences between the south and the north would particularly paint a grim picture for slave labor. The differences in culture and economy can be clearly tabulated. The southern states were predominantly agricultural relying mostly on cotton. They required slave labor to sustain and propel their economy. To them slave labor was a necessity and almost their source of livelihood. The northern states on the contrary were largely industrial, the operations in the factories could not be run by slave labor and hence their advocacy for free labor.
Whereas the North was fast urbanizing, the southern states still maintained their conservatism and rural nature. This explains why the northern states economy was growing and expanding at a far much better rate than in the south. Fredrick Douglas vehemently opposed the held notion that slavery was advocated in the bible. In his “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” he talks of the ills of slavery opposing those who hid behind the religion cloak and yet were Slave owners. This was a common practice among the Methodists who rarely condemned the vice.
To most southerners, free labor was not better off than slave labor, a fact which Lincoln disputed with facts. In the south, slavery was a permanent class and slaves rarely dreamt of rising up the income ladder to be like their masters. This was unimaginable. In the north however, there was “no permanent class of hired laborers” as Lincoln put it. These slaves could not be as productive as the free laborers as “free labor has the inspiration of hope; pure slavery has no hope. ” (Delbanco, 1999).
The North had always put up a spirited debate on the cost benefits of free labor compared to the cost benefits of slave labor. To them the cost of holding and maintaining slaves were much higher than that of free laborers. In the North, labor was obeying the market forces which brought forth efficiency and increased productivity. This was relatively lacking in the south. Lincoln espoused a society where both whites and blacks could climb up the economic hierarchy. He reiterated that he himself had been a laborer one day.
In a free society all men know that their situation is not fixed and hence would work towards improving it. In a speech in Connecticut, Lincoln visualized a situation where black Americans would give their labor willingly in a free labor system. In such a system, they would be under no obligation to work and would quit if it deemed them fit to do so, as he put it, “…where they (blacks) are not obliged to worked under all circumstance and are not tied down and obliged to labor whether you pay them or not. I like the system which lets a man quit when he wants to, and wish it might prevail anywhere.
” Here, Lincoln was urging the whites in Connecticut to introduce the free labor system (Gene Leach, n, d) The Northerners’ quest for free labor was strengthened by the economic prosperity exhibited in the north compared to the south. The argument being made for example in Wilmington was that better working conditions of the laborers were the key to productivity. The slave laborers were exhibiting carelessness and inefficiency to a higher degree than evidenced in the Northern Free States. This was the argument that led to the passing of a slavery abolition bill in Delaware, 1845.
(William H. N. , 1996) Brownson remains the key opponent of free labor, despite being an abolitionist himself. He termed wages as “a cunning device of the devil, for the benefit of tender consciences who would retain all the advantages of the slave system without the expense, trouble and odium of being slaveholders,” (http://www. albany. edu/faculty/gz580/His316/Brownson. html) This is a view held by a number of reformers who regarded the wage labor as nothing more than redefined oppression and exploitation.
The proponents of slave labor were citing the past successes of the southern farmers and the shaky economy propelled by slave toils. Most of the southern were conservatives who mainly believed in the supremacy of the whites and wanted to carry on with the tradition of oppression and subjugation of the blacks. The success of free labor could be clearly seen in the rapid expansion and industrialization of the Northern states. The free labor was playing well with the economy as it was on bedrock of market forces under which capitalism thrived.
However, it did not mean that it was less oppressive to laborers, as Tocqueville and Brownson observed. References Andrew Delbanco, 1999. The Real American Dream. Cambridge. Harvard Up. Gene Leach. Glimpses of Lincolns Brilliance. Hog River Journal. http://www. hogriver. org/issues/v03. 04/Lincolns-brilliance. htm William H William, 1996. Slavery and Freedom in Delaware. 1639-2865, Williamington Del: Scholarly Resources WGBH Education Foundation, 2000. The slaves south. A Biography of America. Retrieved on 06/01/08 from http://www. learner. org/biographyofamerica/prog09/transcript/page02. html