Just as the rest of the world expanded in territory, trade, and economy, so did the demand for human labor. The use and trade of African slaves proliferated worldwide as the profits from their labor proved too valuable to ignore. The terrible transformation, or "the enslavement of people solely on the basis of race" (Kelley and Lewis, pg 63) was inevitable because of the ongoing explorations, rapid growth of wealth and territories, and increasing demand for labor. The insatiable hunger of the colonists to expand and find natural resources required a massive amount of manpower, which was used to compensate for the lack of technological advancements at that time.
The Spanish and Portuguese chose to use slaves of African descent because it was an idea and practice that was deeply accepted and rooted in their respective societies. They recognized racial and class distinctions, thus, the use of African slaves was a natural manifestation of this social thinking. The other reason why they used African slaves was because of their physical strength. Compared to the Indians, African slaves assumed the most strenuous tasks with better efficiency. This resulted to increased production and thus viewed as more profitable.
Existing slaves were also used to subjugate the native people in other African areas. Their ability to communicate and also to earn their trust made it easier for these colonists to gather more slaves.
The United States was not exempt from this as the Europeans explorers brought the slaves to American colonies. Slaves were used extensively in mines, plantations, and farms and by the time the War with Great Britain broke and Independence were achieved; slaves were very much a part of this nation.
SLAVERY AND MODERNIZATION OF NORTH AND SOUTH: TWO SEPARATE PATHS
After the War of 1812, the United States experienced a growth rate unparalleled in modern history. This growth occurred in three dimensions: territory, population, and economy (McPherson, pg 1). During this period, the North and South took two separate paths in their quest to further their economic goals.
SOUTH-Slavery and agriculture were interrelated institutions in the South. The Southern economy was based on agriculture and farming. It was labor-intensive due to the massive slave labor system and plantation economy. The increased labor force resulted to increased production and profits but did not produce any significant commercial or industrial developments.
Slaves were expensive commodities, who were treated as both capital and labor. Instead of investing on land and improvements to ensure efficiency and future development, people in the South used profits to invest on buying more slaves. As the economy progressed, the demand for slave labor increased. The use of slaves was therefore promoted and coveted in the South. Slave population increased as slave owners encouraged good health and natural reproduction as a means of maintaining and increasing their "slave stock".
NORTH-People from the North took a different approach, compared to the South. The economic growth in the North was considered capital-intensive, meaning investments were made on land, technology, infrastructure, and machinery that yielded long-term gains. Investments on internal improvements or social overhead capital were tremendous. These refer to infrastructures such as roads that take a long period of time to make and do not result to immediate profitable gains. Through these internal improvements, the ability of its people to trade expanded, too as they can reach farther places, in shorter amount of time. With all these improvements, education and literacy improved also. Food production was enough to sustain the increasing population and there were more for trade purposes. The attitude and value system changed, too as people became more open to change and willingness to try new things, as manifested in various innovations and inventions. As results, market economy and skilled labor force increased and there was minimal or no need for slaves. People from the North therefore developed a different attitude and approach towards slavery. They did not believe in the use of slaves to further economic gains because for them, slave labor was viewed as inefficient. A slave was considered as an unwilling worker, forced to perform strenuous tasks against his will without direct benefit to himself. On the other hand, a free worker in the North was more productive, as he understands that he can reap the fruits of his labor, as his work can be rewarded through earned wages and possible upward mobility in the workforce. Slavery was therefore not promoted nor coveted as a means to prosper and advance their economic goals.
SLAVERY AND POLITICS
Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, the political powers that ruled during this era were slave-owners from the South. Hence, majority of the "compromises" and bills enacted were nothing but ways to preserve, pursue and expand the slave trade. Slavery was a way of life as well as an end to their means and the South was not willing to give it up.
In the contrary, reformists and abolitionists permeated the North, although they did not have the political clout to affect legislation and political reforms. With the two opposing ideals, concern over balance of power, and addition of states and territories into the Union, both sides strived to maintain an equal number of "slave" and "free" states through a series of compromises such as the Missouri Compromise and Compromise of 1850. But the balance between free and slave states was never maintained as the differences between the Congress and individual states continued.
The actions of the federal government caused further resentment and threat to the South's way of life. Southerners believed that individual states should decide for themselves whether or not to keep slavery instead of the federal government interfering with state functions and dictating slavery provisions as condition for admission into the Union.
The Southern states seceded when they did because they felt threatened by the overwhelming victory of Abraham Lincoln. There were incidents leading up to this election, such as the John Brown issue, that have awakened the spirits of the slaves as well as encouraged the determination of the people who opposed slavery. I believe that this election was the last straw that made the South realize that their most coveted property and way of life --- slavery, as well as the thought of being equal to the inferior race, may forever be changed and thus a drastic countermeasure had to be adopted. Their control on the government was also lost, and they felt that to maintain control, they must secede and form their own government.
Based on my answer above, I believe that slavery was the primary issue of the Civil War. But I don't think that the slavery issue ALONE could have caused the Civil War. There were too many things going on during this period that contributed to the war. Maintaining slavery depended on control of government so the quest for government control was just as intense as that to either maintain or abolish slavery. Another was the profits at stake. Between an agricultural and industrial economy, it was just a matter of time before one will take over the other in order to have more profits.
The philosophical ideals of Enlightenment as well as the religious beliefs of Protestantism supported both calls for the abolition of slavery and arguments in defense of it because different people interpreted the ideals to justify their respective positions.
Protestantism believes in the ideas of equality of men and free will. Abolitionists argued that slavery is a violation of the first as this clearly shows inequality. Obviously, the slaves cannot exercise free will as they were subjected to the terms of their bondage. On the other hand, other Protestants who favored slavery reasoned that since they are Christians, they are the chosen ones. Therefore, the non-Christian slaves are inferior to them and deserved their social condition.
Enlightenment ideals that focused on notion of natural equality and belief in basic goodness of humankind were championed by the abolitionists. For them, slavery is wrong and does not conform to the natural tendency of humankind to be good. They believed slavery should be abolished as a way to reform and restore this basic goodness. Pro-slavery people used the same ideals. For them, man is good and maintaining slavery is their way of keeping the goodness of man. Keeping the status quo and the perceived natural order of things, slave owners being the superior and slaves the inferior is in keeping with the ideals of human reason, rejections of ignorance and superstition, and certainty that society can be perfected.