Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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How and why did slavery end in the nineteenth century?

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During the eighteenth century, a growing abolition movement forcefully argued that it was unequivocally morally wrong for one human being to own another. This movement also shone a light on the many abuses of slavery. As a result, during the eighteenth century, several nations began to abolish or curtail both enslavement and the slave trade. For example, Portugual began to abolish slavery in 1773, while in England slavery on English and Welsh soil was made illegal in 1772. France, in 1793, after the French Revolution, freed its slaves. In 1794, slavery (serfdom) was abolished in Poland and Lithuania.

While the northern colonies or states of the United States gradually abolished slavery during the eighteenth century, the American South stood out in basing its agrarian economy on slave labor. In the nineteenth century, abolitionism grew in the United States, especially after Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin outlined the many horrors of slavery even for those slaves in "good" situations. However, it took the Civil War to finally end slavery in the states. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 was a first step, and after Lincoln's death, the Constitution was amended to ban slavery for good.

Moral issues concerning the inhumanity of one human being having complete power over another drove the abolition of slavery, but economics also played a role. As industrialism brought mechanization and labor-saving devices into homes, businesses, and agricultural enterprises, the need for human labor fell, making it financially feasible to do without slavery.

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