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The Civil War Dilemmas: Slave-Owner Relations Expository Essay


In the middle of the 1800s, slavery and interpersonal relations between people with different social conditions were considered to be one of the most burning issues for consideration. Different families introduced absolutely different attitudes to the idea of slavery and owner-slave relations.

The vast majority of rich people did not find it necessary to respect their slaves and introduce appropriate treatment. However, there were many cases when families took unbelievable care for their slaves and realized that human questions should go first if it was necessary.

Nowadays, it is very hard for modern people to imagine how it is to be a slave and to be dependent on other people’s wishes and demands. It is impossible to comprehend what made people demonstrate their power over other people. However, it is also difficult to believe that many people were eager to protect their slaves and provide them with necessary treatment in respect to their assistance in house keeping or other duties.

Slavery has to be regarded as an obscure question in the Civil War that divided people into groups, made them fight against each other, and forgot about the amenities of human life that was given to everyone; and in this paper, an attempt to evaluate slavery and to define its strong and weak sides under different conditions will be made.

The question of slaves’ role in society turned out to be crucial in the development of interpersonal relations and played an important role in the history considering as one of the main reasons of the Civil War. In one of the letters written during the times before the Civil War, there was mentioned a true nature of slavery: it was said that “each & every difficulty now growing out of the subject of slavery” (Estill 4).

From other letters, it becomes clear that the vast majority of people could not realize a true essence of slavery and properly define the reasons of why people had to be divided into slaves and free. “I can never subscribe to the doctrine that Congress must protect slavery in the Territories; never. We must repudiate that vagary” (Stuart 2).

Unfortunately, such attitude to slavery was not inherent to all representatives of society. People could not define what position they had to have, this is why numerous discussion concerning slavery and conditions under which people should live took place. The general state of affairs was of double nature in all states before the war, this is why there was a need to evaluate slavery and make it similar in all states.

This dilemma was hard to solve even from a religion perspective according to which all people were equal before God: Southern representatives could not support an idea of preaching gospels in those states where slavery was spread because these people did not deserve the right to have any kind of connection to God; and Northern representatives in their turn tried to support this idea unanimously (Staunton Spectator 2).

The development of slavery ideas touched upon numerous people in different ways. Slavery existed, and it means that there were enough people who supported this idea and tried to create appropriate conditions to develop slavery all over the world. However, from the personal diaries of people, it became clear that the vast majority of people just had unbelievable fears in regard to slavery and people’s participation. Joseph Addison Waddell was a confederate who was obliged to stay at home and observe the events from there.

He admitted that “slavery itself is extremely repulsive to my feelings” (Waddell n.p.), however, even his opposition to slavery meant nothing in comparison to his fear to what could happen to people who rejected slavery.

Other owners of slaves demonstrated different attitude to their slaves and care of their conditions: slave’s complaints as for poor health and the necessity to call for a doctor (Smith 1) or owner’s refusal to impress her slave because of Confederates’ demands (Ott 2).

So, another slave dilemma appears soon: how should slaves treat to those owners who respect their feelings and want to save proper relations with them? War times created numerous difficulties for people, however, one of the most difficult things was to go against personal demands and interests and take into consideration the requirements posed by society.

In the movie Gone with the Wind, the director made a successful attempt how the relations between owners and slavers could develop: Scarlet’s slave had to leave their family in order to protect his rights, but still, he wanted to come back because it was his home and his family. Of course, this movie is far from true emotions and events during the period of war. However, it is a good chance to see how people suffered.

Though slavery was not the only cause of the Civil War, it still had a considerable imprint in history. By means of the African slave-trade, Americans were able to supply necessary material and living means (Franklin Repository 1). Early colonial times were characterized by a long and cruel process of slavery establishment.

People could not agree to the conditions under which slavery was offered. However, they could also do nothing in order to protect their own interests. People believed in one truth: all of them are born to be free and equal, but still, people supported slavery and even made it legal in 13 colonies.

Those people who supported an idea of slavery supported an idea of creation of the device that would kill millions of people. The outcomes of their ideas and demands to make their lives better lead to negative results. The process of buying slaves was as ordinary as buying a new dress: relatives with high ranks were eager to suggest each other how to buy a proper slave and how to make use of him/her (Gilkeson 3).

At the same time, many owners did not want to believe in the idea that slavery could lead to wars and misunderstanding because they treated to their slaves with love and care: “I fell in love with dear old Aunt Charity, the cook, and Amanda, the laundress” (Sterrett para.5).

One of the silliest mistakes made by people before the Civil War is thoughtlessness to such important details as self-respect, personal ambitions, evaluation of ethical norms, and attention to labor. The representatives of high classes lost their way.

They opposed an idea of slavery but still they did not want to support the government that was able to improve the situation (Staunton Vindicator 2). To become different, to become better, or to achieve new peaks – all these purposes turned out to be crucial in everyday people’s life. They did not want to take care of ethical truths and norms which usually formulate relations between people.

The experience of people demonstrated in their letters proved that before the Civil War, people became angrier, more selfish, and one-sided. They did their ordinary things, wrote letters, and share their thoughts with each other. However, they forgot about the necessity to develop relations and did something for their future generations.

They left homes to join wars because they got orders and follow them. People did not think that they could influence something. And slaves, in their turn, wanted to achieve respect from their owners, this is why their attempts were more or less successful.

At the end of the Civil War, the number of deaths was impressive indeed. People lost their lives in order to protect their rights. However, they could not guess that their actions and inabilities were the causes of their losses. Slavery is the debatable question that could not be opposed or supported only. Much depends on the conditions people prefer to create. Life of ordinary people who did not want to participate in public affairs underwent considerable changes during the war.

The relations between slaves and owners faced a number of dilemmas in accordance to which it was hard to define the truth. On the one hand, if the war did not occur, people could never realize the worth of the lives and the necessity to improve slave-owner relations. On the other hand, people had to use their experience and abilities to solve problems in more peaceful ways. So that, such dilemmas could never be solved but still they could be understood.

Works Cited

Estill, B. “The Valley of the Shadow. Web.

Gilkeson, A. “The Valley of the Shadow. Web.

Staunton Spectator. Web.

Ott, Margaret. “Valley Personal Letters.” The Valley of the Shadow. Web.

Smith, Joseph. “The Valley of the Shadow. Web.

.” Staunton Spectator. Web.

Sterrett, Alansa, R. “Diary of Alansa Rounds Sterrett (1860-1913)”. . Web.

Stuart, Alexander. “Valley Personal Letters.” . Web.

Franklin Repository (31 Aug 1859): 1. Web.

Waddell, Joseph, A. “The valley of the Shadow. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, January 29). The Civil War Dilemmas: Slave-Owner Relations. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-war-dilemmas-slave-owner-relations/

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"The Civil War Dilemmas: Slave-Owner Relations." IvyPanda, 29 Jan. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-war-dilemmas-slave-owner-relations/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Civil War Dilemmas: Slave-Owner Relations." January 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-war-dilemmas-slave-owner-relations/.


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IvyPanda. "The Civil War Dilemmas: Slave-Owner Relations." January 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-war-dilemmas-slave-owner-relations/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Civil War Dilemmas: Slave-Owner Relations." January 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-war-dilemmas-slave-owner-relations/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Civil War Dilemmas: Slave-Owner Relations'. 29 January.

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