Who is more to blame for slavery continuing -- the presidents or the people?don't be shy

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Have to hand it to the people on this one.  While President James Monroe tried compensated emancipation - buying slaves' freedom and then returning them to Africa, it was not a popular policy or a successful one.

Other Presidents who might have leaned towards abolition had to be very careful.  I would compare it, just for the sake of comparing, to gay marriage today as an issue.  That is, right or wrong, many people in the United States oppose making it legal, so if I was to campaign for that issue, it would be difficult to get elected, especially in certain states.

Presidents at that time knew they could not get elected with a majority if they were openly for abolition.  The only reason Lincoln won - and remember, he did not campaign for abolition, only stopping slavery's spread - was because there were two Democrats running against him, and they split the vote.  He only had 41% of the final vote.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to agree that the fault for slavery continuing lay on the shoulders of those who did not speak out against it.  Certainly, one could argue that the President, any of them before its abolition, should have had the courage to act in defiance of slavery.  However, the President acts at the behest of the people and should the people allow it to continue, the President must execute the will of the people.  In the end and in my mind, the blame for slavery constituting the "original sin" of America has to rest with the people who profited from it, did not actively reject it, or lacked the courage to stop it.  These individuals allowed it to continue and while leadership should guide, it does not absolve people of their fundamental responsibility as both citizens and people to speak out against injustice.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no question that it was the people.

First of all, you say that it was the presidents' fault for letting it go on.  That ignores two things:

  • It ignores the fact that Congress is the one that makes the laws, not the President.  And in those days, Presidents didn't even go around trying to make Congress do stuff -- they thought it was not their place to do that.
  • It ignores the fact that the Constitution allowed slavery.  It would have been very hard to abolish slavery without an amendment, and the President can't do that either.

The peope generally were okay with slavery.  That is true of people in the South and in the North.  Most Northerners were fine with slavery if it just stayed in the South.  So it's their fault it went on.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not all of the Presidents did let it go. President Abraham Lincoln did not agree with slavery and spoke about the injustices of slavery very openly. This was one of the major causes for the Civil War.

Slavery was a normal practice in the United States. It was common for white people to own slaves and most of the time they were not looked down upon for doing so. This would make it the fault of the people. Slavery was an acceptable practice back then so many did not view it in a negative way.

mkcapen1 | Student

Slavery was continued because people are afraid of change and due to the need for the labor force as well as the inability or desire of persons to recognize that slaves were humans deserving of rights.  Slavery has been ogoing in many societies and still continues in other countries as I write this.

The Egyptions used the Jews as slaves because they needed a cheap work force.  They could feed them badly, work them hard, and dispose of them when they were done.

The slavery of Africans was the way in which man in other parts of the world as well as America identified a cheap means of labor.  Those who used slaves were well aware of the years of mistreatment that slaves had undergone.  Initially, there was not much fear of slaves because the owners held the power.  They beat and mistreated them and brought them to an unfamiliar place to live with no way to get back across a large ocean.

As generations of slaves had children, the children were more acclimated to American life and knew no other place.  They had heard of places like the north and freedom.  Many had managed to educate themselves or secretly become educated.  As a result of the years of brutality, masters were afraid of what would happen if the slaves should be freed.  It was as much fear of stopping slavery from the people as commerce.