Why did the North oppose slavery?

Mar 2019
1
Berlin
#1
I'm trying to understand the causes of the American Civil War. Apart from the North not wanting the South states to secede, the desire to end slavery in the South is often stated as the major reason. However, from what I've read, Lincoln didn't intend to abolish slavery in the South when he became President.
Also, yes, I know that there was a difference in economic sources of wealth between North and South: North was industrialized, while the South was agrarian. However, it doesn't answer the question why would the North oppose slavery. Why oppose it, if you can make slaves work on factories? Didn't the North have to recruit Europeans to make up for work force deficit? Why wouldn't business/factory owners want some free labor? After all, they didn't mind opposing unions and paing their workers very little, so they would hardly care about being humanists.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
14,253
SoCal
#2
I think that moral factors were very important in determining Northerners' attitudes towards slavery. In other words, many Northerners simply considered it immoral to have slaves even if one would be better off as a result of having slaves.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,608
Sydney
#3
intelligentsia in the North East were opposed to slavery for moral reasons
in the north West the locals were opposed to slavery as a form of competition for cheaper wages
a Southern writer promoted slavery as more humane than the misery of the Chicago and New England working class
he stated that they would be better off as slaves , at least their lives and health would be worth something
that didn't get him many plaudit north of the line even if in fact it was true
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
14,253
SoCal
#4
intelligentsia in the North East were opposed to slavery for moral reasons
in the north West the locals were opposed to slavery as a form of competition for cheaper wages
a Southern writer promoted slavery as more humane than the misery of the Chicago and New England working class
he stated that they would be better off as slaves , at least their lives and health would be worth something
that didn't get him many plaudit north of the line even if in fact it was true
Lynching Blacks was much rarer in the antebellum South due to the fact that Blacks were viewed as being valuable property back then (something like 90% of U.S. Blacks were slaves in 1860), correct?
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,949
#5
Abolitionism was the first political mass movement, with a quarter million organised, paying members by the 1840's, and effectively all of them in the north, particularly Massachusetts.

Abolitionism was also the first international political movement. That one initially really had governments confused about how to deal with citizens of multiples nations voluntarily organizing to confront an institution in various countries. Should that even be legal?

And the opposition to it was primarily on principle, that slavery is simply wrong. Slavery was in a way an anomaly. The Europeans abolished it in Europe in the Middle Ages, then allowed it back but only in its overseas colonies, and directed at a group that could be massively "othered", Africans. The profit motive was huge but always at odds with the rank hypocrisy of it all, which even with herculean efforts to provide ad hoc justifications for, was never actually solid. And then the colonial societies that managed to ensure their independence were landed with the institution of slavery and some rather glaring disconnects and self-contradictions between ideals and practices. Simon Schama described the British situation over imperialism and slavery as the British ending up with "the wrong empire", and the US inherited that wrongness and had to deal with it.
 
Jul 2012
736
Australia
#6
Motives around the Civil War were mixed. The north opposed slavery on moral grounds - but that did not mean they treated the Negroes as equals, and certainly would not offer to die to get their freedom. It helped that the north did not have any economic activity suitable for slave labour.

The south understood that a system of slavery was only possible through government protection. While the South dominated the presidency and Congress, which they could as Negroes were counted towards the electoral constituency at 0.6 of a white, slavery was secure. But by the late 1850's the population of the North had grown ahead of the South to the extent that the South would lose its advantage in congress and the Presidency. Slavery had to expand - to the new states in the west and if possible into the northern states - to maintain the pro-slavery numbers in the government. Lincoln's election signalled the dominance of the pro-slave lobby was over. will never again dominate Congress and the Presidency and that it would decline.

The north was developing along the lines of free capitalist industrial production in the cities supporting independent family farms and their supporting craft industries in rural areas, quite a different socio-economic structure to the South's agrarian based industries, dominated by demense-type establishments and supplemented by family enterprises depending on slave labour. At the time of the Civil War the South were probably wealthier that the North, but with commodity price cycle already rolling out of its bull phase, the days of wealth were numbered. On the other hand the North's economic fortunes were still rising.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,148
#7
The Europeans abolished it in Europe in the Middle Ages, then allowed it back but only in its overseas colonies, and directed at a group that could be massively "othered", Africans.
No, it was no longer important in cultural terms because European society had created serfdom which gave you virtual enslavement over your fiefs. Further, the economic basis of slavery had dwindled in late Roman times and Christian morality was against it. However, I would point out that although enslavement in Britain was illegal from the 1830's, it only became illegal to own a slave in Britain in 2010.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,771
#8
The north didn't oppose it. Most ordinary people in the north wanted the western territory not to have slavery, so that it would be available for small farms rather than plantations, and so that they would not have to compete with slave labor. The south was losing political power as slave states were becoming a smaller minority. There were some abolitionists who added fuel to the fire.

Slaves were freed as a war measure. The British had done the same thing in the American Revolution and War of 1812. The situation exploded into war and war resulted in the end of slavery. Only a few extremists were advocating ending slavery before the war.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,485
Dispargum
#9
... However, from what I've read, Lincoln didn't intend to abolish slavery in the South when he became President.

Also, yes, I know that there was a difference in economic sources of wealth between North and South: North was industrialized, while the South was agrarian. However, it doesn't answer the question why would the North oppose slavery. Why oppose it, if you can make slaves work on factories? Didn't the North have to recruit Europeans to make up for work force deficit? Why wouldn't business/factory owners want some free labor? After all, they didn't mind opposing unions and paing their workers very little, so they would hardly care about being humanists.
Lincoln was always an abolitionist, but as a lawyer he knew that slavery was legally protected in the Constitution. He ran on a platform of containment in part because he thought that was the most the North could do within the confines of the Constitution. Also, containment was a more moderate position at a time when many Northerners were opposed to abolition.

I don't know how viable it would have been to employ slaves in factories. To my knowledge, no one ever tried it, at least not to any large extent. Factories tend to work on a cycle of expanding and contracting business cycles. A factory owner can cut costs by laying off free workers, but you can't really save money by giving your slaves a week or a month off from work. They still have to be fed and housed and if the slaves were purchased on credit, as many slaves were, then those loans would still have to be repaid.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,608
Sydney
#10
a case in point was "Black jack" Logan , a war democrat
ferociously opposed to emancipation and fighting for the union not for the Negroes
he was the spokesman for the upper Midwest , before the war illinois had a statute stating than slaves were forbidden to set foot in their state
Lincoln knew his constituency pretty well and treated Logan like a bundle of dynamite with the fuse lighted
needing his electoral power for the 1864 election ,
Lincoln went out of his way to smooth his feeling against his greatest enemy ...Sherman ,
who thwarted his intent to torch wade Hampton mansion by moving a convent full of orphans inside , much to jack disgust

at the victory parade , since Sherman was receiving the army of the west salute ,
Logan as second in command led the troops to rapturous cheers of ...black jack !! black jack !!
the man was a political animal , a pretty good general and for years promoted the "bloody shirt" to be re-elected