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Slave and Free Laborers: Advantages and Oppression Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021

A system of the compulsory labor

The slavery of the Southern regions was a system of the compulsory labor integrated into the society of free people. The slave was considered the private ownership and personal assets of the master. The slavery that took place in the United States of America can be represented as the capitalistic regime that possesses a rational basis, as the slaveholding plantation was the result of commodity farming, and the basic principle of such farming was cost efficiency.

Labor of women

First of all the work was observed from the point of view of working hands, profitable capital investments; thus the slaves were treated as animals or machinery. The governing of the slaves and taking care of them was very important from the point if view of profitable investments. Thus the workers agreed to work under conditions stipulated in the contract, but those conditions were a kind of voluntary slavery. The workers were obliged to work for the wages “the Company may fit to pay”; according to the contract they allowed the Company to deduct some per cent of the weekly wages “for the benefit of the sick fund”; the worker agreed not to be engaged in unions in order not to injure the Company’s interest (Kennedy 322).

The slavery plantations were compared to some kind of industry, meanwhile the free laborers of the Northern regions had to fight for salaries, working conditions and other important aspects of the free laborer. The workers were forced to sign different long-term contracts, according to which they became a kind of slaves for the employers for some period of time stated in the contract. As the workers were obliged to fulfill the conditions of the contract, they were forced to work at a low cost or in the inhuman conditions.

The labor of young women took place everywhere, as they were hired to work at cotton mills. But these girls believed in high wages and very good conditions of work; they were deceived as for the use of machinery on the factories. The conditions of their work were awful: thirteen hours of labor a day, stuffy unventilated rooms, no time or space for personal things to be done. The rooms where the young women had to live were not very cozy, “the manner in which the young women – the operatives – in their boardinghouses, six sleeping in a room, poorly ventilated” (Kennedy 312).

The young women were forced to work thirteen hours a day as well as children, though the children under age twelve were permitted to work not more than ten hours a day. Consequently, there was neither opportunity nor time for children to become educated, and there was no time for improvement among adults, as they had to work during thirteen or even fourteen hours a day in summer and from the daylight till the daybreak in winter. The children were driven up with the cowhide, and the adult workers were in abusive manner stimulated to be more punctual. And as the information was not spread, was not full or correct, so nobody could form the correct judgments; the lack of information can be considered the weak point of the industrial or commercial feudalism (Kennedy 312).

“In slavery, the southerners had a bear by the tail: to hang on was embarrassing; to let go would be costly and seemingly dangerous” (Kennedy 371). Thus the slaveholders were not free to make their choice, as the have accustomed to use the labor of slaves, and some of them could not afford to hire free laborers. The state of being a slave also depended upon the master, as some slaves considered their masters as employers, who gave them food and allowed them normal facilities to work and live; others were considering the planters as monsters.

Orestes Brownson argued that slave labor in the South is less oppressive than free labor in the North. And he is absolutely right, as the slaves from the south had nothing to fight for accept their freedom, because they had habitual working conditions; some of the slaves were a constant working force.

Southerners represented slavery as a good direction of development of the country

The inhabitants of the Southern regions have accustomed to have a free-of-charge working force, and did not believe in the technical progress or reforms, that were called not only to improve the standard of living, but to keep abreast of the times. These people were opposed the most against the homestead laws that suggested to give the people free farms in the western regions as they were afraid of the small farmers who could become the strongest oppositionists of the plantation slavery that obviously took place on most of the territories of the South. Actually, the position of being against the homestead laws was common in contrast to the position against high tariffs. The inhabitants of the Southern regions described slavery as a positive direction of further development of the country’s economy; the slavery was considered a positive state, and that slaves could become intellectually and morally improved, more punctual, as it meant the implicit submission to the master.

The ideas about free labor were peculiar characteristic of the North predominantly, which emphasized different opportunities of the economic growth. The inhabitants of the Southern regions had a prejudiced opinion as for the free labor, as the labor of slaves was free of charge, and the technical progress was called to make all the working forces if not very expensive, than the installation of the new equipment seemed to be a great deal of costs: maintenance costs, some costs to teach the workers and to pay for their job, as free laborers would not agree to work for food, home or cloths. The inhabitants of the Southerner regions considered the work of free laborers to be an image of untidy greasy mechanics, dirty operators of different machines, people crazy about theories and farmers with inefficient harvests.

Works Cited

Kennedy, M. David, and Thomas A. Bailey. The American Spirit: United States History as Seen by Contemporaries. Massachusetts: D.C. Heath, 1994.

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