Essay about Lincoln, Labor and Liberation

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Lincoln, Labor and Liberation

The free labor ideology of the nineteenth century was grounded in the beliefs that Northern free labor was superior to Southern slave labor. The key factor that made this system unique was “the opportunity it offers wage earners to rise to property-owning independence.” [1] It was this free labor ideology and not the republicanism of the Revolutionary War era that caused slavery to be problematic by the time of the Civil War. This ideology was comprehensive—it had economic, social, moral, and political aspects. All facets of the theory need to be explored in order to fully understand how and why slavery became such an important issue.

Free labor became the center of the Republican ideology in
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This concept of the dignity of labor was not new. Most Americans came from a Protestant background, in which “nobility of labor was an article of faith.” [3] In Calvinist theology, each man had a divine calling. In order to properly live life, each man should provide evidence that he was predestined to enter heaven. Wealth became a way of serving God on earth in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Labor was a religious value and many aspects of a successful work ethic were obligations. These beliefs were more concentrated in the Northeast. In Rochester, New York, in the 1830s for example, Charles Finney, an evangelist during the Second Great Awakening, took part in this spiritual revival. The Second Great Awakening is known as “a missionary crusade that transformed America”. [4] People who wished to slow the social and political change of the Industrial Revolution and reinforce social control through Christian values organized this resurgence. They wished for modernity with Christian self-control. [5] Charles Finney’s arrival in Rochester provided a solution to the “social disorder” and “moral confusion” the town was facing. [6] The town was encountering much uncertainty with its adjustment to a free labor economy. Therefore, industrial capitalist beliefs of the free labor ideology became attached to visions of a perfect moral order based on individual freedoms.


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