John Calhoun on Slavery Essay

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John Calhoun on Slavery
Calhoun's view was that slavery ought not to be considered, as it exists in the United States, in the abstract; but rather as a political institution, existing prior to the formation of the government and expressly recognized in the Constitution. The framers of that instrument regarded slaves as property, and admitted the right of ownership in them.
Calhoun's fundamental enterprise was to defend the institution of slavery. To do so, he first had to overturn the principles of the American Founding. He started with the Declaration of Independence, arguing that the proposition all men are created equal as now understood, has become the most false and dangerous of all political errors. Thus Calhoun transformed the
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Calhoun believed the liberty Southerners enjoyed depended on slavery. Contrary to the writings of those who unabashedly celebrated the North's free labor system, antebellum Southern society, though definitely stratified, was highly fluid. Fortunes could be and were made in a single generation. Agriculture, specifically cotton, was what made that society so mobile. Cotton was a labor-intensive crop, and as a farmer acquired greater cotton wealth, he required a greater number of field hands to work his expanding fields. So the ownership of slaves became a measure of status and upward mobility. To destroy slavery, according to Calhoun, would be to destroy a powerful symbol of what motivated the Southern man to improve himself, but in turn, slavery had to continue.
In the end, Calhoun supported the institution of slavery for many reasons, but at the bottom of all his argument was this: he believed the African race was inferior. He shared the prevailing prejudices of the day -- held in both the North and South -- which black people were mentally, physically, and morally inferior to whites. This inferiority necessitated that they be slaves. He pointed to the impoverished living conditions of Northern free blacks as proof that black people lacked the ability to exercise their freedom positively.
In Calhoun's twisted view, slavery benefited black people Slavery provided black people with a quality of existence Calhoun believed they were incapable…