Argumentative Essay on Slavery

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The debate over slavery can be a very sensitive topic to read about but it is very informative to read both sides and gain all the information you can about a topic. Reading both sides of an argument, especially in history, can give you more insight into why things happened the way they did. This debate in particular is quite interesting to read both sides of the argument because it can be difficult to read things you don’t personally agree with. When this is done though you have all the information about a subject instead of just one side and this is more beneficial when creating an opinion and becoming knowledgeable about difficult and sensitive topics.

The first article to take a look at is “The Universal Law of Slavery,” by George Fitzhugh. This is a Pro-Slavery article that makes many points about why slavery should exist. He starts the article by saying “He the Negro is but a grown-up child and must be governed as a child, not as a lunatic or criminal. The master occupies toward him the place of parent or guardian.” Fitzhugh also believed that the African American race would become a burden to society and society had the right to prevent it. Fitzhugh believed that the only way to prevent this was by subjecting people to domestic-based slavery. He then goes on to say that “We would remind those who deprecate and sympathize with negro slavery, that his slavery here relieves him from a far more cruel slavery in Africa.” After he says this he makes a bunch of points of why American slavery is better than African slavery. These points include cannibalism, the killing of females, and moral condition. The last point that Fitzburg makes in the article is “The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world.” He said this because they are not oppressed, the women didn’t work hard, the males work in good weather for no more than nine hours, and they have holidays including the sabbath off from work. These are the points that George Fitzhugh made about why slavery was not a bad thing.

The next article that promotes slavery is “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race” by Dr. Cartwrig. This article talks about diseases and other peculiarities that made the negro people act the way they did. This article first talks about diseases that cause slaves to run away. This disease was called Drapetemonia and was the reason that slaves would run away according to Dr. Cartwrig. Dr. Cartwig made the point that this disease was triggered when the slave owner did anything such as “by being cruel to him, or punishing him in anger, or by neglecting to protect him from the wanton abuses of his fellow servants and all others, or by denying him the usual comforts and necessaries of life, the negro will run away” Cartwig also made the point that if the owner treated the slaves well they would stay, but if they were treated badly they had to try and run away because of the mental illness they had. Overall this article talked about how slavery is perfectly fine if the slaves are treated okay.

The last article to go over on the pro-slavery side of the debate over slavery is “The ‘Mudsill’Theory,” by James Henry Hammon. This article comes from a speech given to the U.S. Senate on March 4, 1858. The speech starts off by saying that there is a need for someone to do menial duties in all social systems. He claimed that the people best fit to do that is “a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill” He then proceeded to say that the South had found a perfect way of doing things because a whole race had adapted to the needs of the social system. Later he made the point that no matter if you call a slave a slave they are a slave if that is the work they are doing. Hammond made points of why american slavery was so great. He said that “None of that race on the whole face of the globe can be compared with the slaves of the South. They are happy, content, unaspiring, and utterly incapable, from intellectual weakness, ever to give us any trouble by their aspirations.” Hammond made points that because slaves weren’t white they weren’t the people's blood and brothers, slaves don’t have any political power, and that there was balance in the social system because of this. These are the points James Henry Hammond made about why slavery shouldn’t be abolished.

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The first article analyzed from the abolitionist's point of view is “David Walker’s Appeal”. This is a very passionate article with a lot of bible metaphors used to make his points. He compares slaves in America to the Egyptians and the Roman slaves. He makes the point of the American people being Christians but yet they are treating people inhumanely. Walker says, “The whites have always been an unjust, jealous, unmerciful, avaricious and blood-thirsty set of beings, always seeking after power and authority.” These are the points David Walker makes about why slavery should be abolished.

Next on the list of articles from the view of the abolitionists is “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? By Frederick Douglass. He starts by defining the Fourth of July by saying exactly what it is, a celebration of political freedom. He then goes deeper into it though. He states, “his Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You May rejoice, I must mourn.” Douglass then explains that they have to mourn because as slaves they do not have any political freedom so there is no point in rejoicing during this celebration of political freedom. He explains while all these white Americans are celebrating all he hears is the mourning of millions of slaves who wish to be free. He goes on to make points about why black people should be considered equal. These points he makes include all the wonderful skills the slaves had such as mechanical skills, construction skills, writing abilities, lawyers, doctors, and so much more. He also argues that “There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.” He finishes his speech by saying “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” These are the points Frederick Douglass made about why slavery should be abolished.

The last article about why slavery should be abolished is the “Declaration of Sentiments” from The American Anti-Slavery Society. This article starts with the argument that “'all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.” The article then goes on to talk about how one-sixth of the american people are enslaved. This article also makes the argument that “freeing the slave is not depriving them of property, but restoring it to its rightful owner; it is not wronging the master, but righting the slave—restoring him to himself.” These are just some of the points made about why slavery should be abolished in the eyes of The American Anti-Slavery Society.

All of the arguments made in these six articles reviewed had their points to make. Everyone may not agree with the points made by one side but that's just how life is. The pro-slavery articles had their arguments about what they believed was right and the abolitionists did too. Everyone can benefit from reading both sides of this debate even if it is difficult to do so. I am glad I got the opportunity to look further into both sides of the debate over slavery because it is something I never would have done on my own and I have definitely learned a lot.


    1. American Anti-Slavery Society, DECLARATION OF SENTIMENTS OF THE AMERICAN ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION. , Philadelphia, December 6th, A. D.1833.
    2. Cartwrig, Dr., “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race,” De Bow's ReviewSouthern and Western StatesVolume XI, New Orleans, 1851AMS Press, Inc. New York, 1967
    3. Fishel Jr., Leslie H., and Benjamin Quarles, Scott, Foresman, and Company“The Universal Law of Slavery” by George Fitzhugh, The Black American A Documentary History, Third Edition, Illinois, 1976,1970
    4. Foner, Philip S., Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1999), 188-206
    5. Hammon, James Henry, The ‘Mudsill Theory,”, March 4, 1858
    6. Hill, Sean Wilentz and Wang, David Walker's Appeal, In Four Articles: Together With A Preamble To The Coloured Citizens Of The World, But In Particular, And Very Expressly, To Those Of The United States Of America, Revised Edition, New York, 1995A Division of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
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