Slavery’s Scar on the United States

Slavery’s Scar on the United States

August 16, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


If you’ve ever spent an entire lunch hour
just staring at a map of the United States – what, people do that right? – you’ve
probably noticed this one line that seems to run right across the middle of the country. Why is that line there? Well to figure that out, we’re going to
have to go back to the beginning. When the United States gained independence
and the founding fathers got together to write a Constitution, it was pretty much assumed
that slavery was going to naturally die out… soon. Let me be clear, not because of any altruistic
reason or movement towards equality. But because it simply wasn’t profitable. That’s right, even 200 years ago, all anyone
cared about was their bottom line. But because it was dying out and because the
US wanted to at least appear to be on the right side of history, they wrote it into
the Constitution that the importing of slaves would be allowed only until 1808 – at which
point it was made illegal. Although that didn’t really stop it either
for reasons I’ll get to later. Slavery was up to the states, they could decide
whether to abolish or allow it. And coincidentally, it had been abolished
in the northern states. Again, not because racism was over, but because
it was simply more trouble than it was worth, literally. So let’s take a look at a map and see what
the South was really worried about. The problem with looking at modern maps like
this in order to explain slavery is that it isn’t an accurate representation of what
the US was going through. So let’s take a look at what the US looked
like in 1813. We had just started a war with Great Britain,
had bought the Louisiana Territory a few years earlier, and had 18 states. 9 free, shown in blue, and 9 slave in red. At this point, there were just over a million
slaves in the United States, and only 7 million people total, so about 16% of the population. And slavery had just become profitable. When the Constitution was written, slaves
were really only used for one crop. And it’s not the crop you’re thinking
of. It was tobacco. And sugar in the Caribbean, but sugar doesn’t
grow so well in the United States, so tobacco. The crop you were thinking of, cotton, was
extremely unprofitable. This is what cotton looks like, those seeds
are not easy to remove. It took one slave an entire day to pick the
seeds out and process one pound of cotton. To put that into perspective, an average cotton
t-shirt weighs half a pound, so a slave could make enough cotton to make two shirts a day. You obviously didn’t have to pay them wages,
but you did have to house and feed them, which was extremely difficult on only two shirts
a day. So really, slavery was on its way out, at
least until Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin, easily one of the most important inventions in history. Because it kept slavery alive. Now, instead of one slave making one pound
a day, they could make 50 pounds. It’s pretty easy to justify the cost of
keeping slaves when their profitability increases fifty times over. From the time the cotton gin was invented
until the Civil War, the number of slaves in the United States quintupled. From just under 700,000 in 1790 to nearly
4 million in 1860. So even though the importing of new slaves
was banned in 1808, that law was passed before slavery was profitable, so while a combined
US and British naval task force gave it their best college try, the trade continued. Thanks Eli Whitney. But let’s go back to the map. Tobacco and cotton were the big products in
the south and the main economic driver of slavery. You couldn’t grow those in the north, you
could really only grow corn and wheat, which you needed animal labor for, not human. So nobody really wanted to expand slavery
northwards. But we did have all of this fun new land to
the west, which most people estimated would take several hundred years for America to
expand into. As a wise man once said, if there’s one
thing we’re worse at than not murdering each other, it’s predicting the future. Anyway, after the Louis and Clark expedition,
it was pretty much figured out that the land wasn’t going to be very useful when it came
to cash crops… but it was pretty useful in the fur department. By 1817 we had evened the teams up to ten
on ten with Mississippi and Indiana. But fast forward to 1819. At this point we had agreed to jointly occupy
the Oregon Country with the British, further leading to the genocide of the buffalo, beaver,
and… some people. We uhhh… permanently borrowed Florida from
Spain, which wasn’t very useful for cash crops either. And we added Alabama and Illinois, bringing
us to 22 states. But now we had a problem. It was becoming pretty obvious to the south
that the space left for the US to expand into wasn’t very useful for slavery. And while the US House of Representatives
is apportioned by population, the Senate makes every state equal. At this point there were 22 slave-state senators
and 22 free-state senators. The Senate was what kept slavery at least
legally safe. So they wanted to maintain that equality. So in 1820, they struck a deal known as the
Missouri Compromise. Which legally mandated what the US had already
sort of been doing… *always two there are* a free state, and a slave state. The next two territories up to bat statehood
were Missouri and Maine, AND no new slave states would be admitted above this line. 36 degrees, 30 minutes latitude. This is Slavery’s Scar on the United States. Roll Credits. Before we get too deep into the compromise,
those of you with a keen eye might have noticed that Maine was already colored blue in the
1813 map. Was it already a state? Yes, but it was part of Massachusetts. Which is why it’s part of the expansion
in Fallout 4. But they wanted to break away and become their
own state, how did they come up with the name for this state? Well first, you have to understand that very
few people lived in Maine proper, they mostly lived on islands off the coast. And anyone who lives in or grew up in Hawaii
will understand that when you live on an island, the part of the country that’s on the continent
is known as the “Mainland”… and that’s how they came up with the name. Maine. Not very creative but… still interesting…
right? So back to the map. In 1837, Arkansas and Michigan were added,
whatever, but the real interesting addition to this map is Texas, which got its independence
from Mexico in 1836. And while it really, really wanted to be part
of the United States, the United States didn’t want it, because it’s divorce with Mexico
was extremely messy and anyone who has dated a recent divorcee knows that it comes with
a lot of baggage, not least of which is trouble with the ex. But I’ve talked about Texas enough in my
previous videos… so I don’t really want to give them too much screen time now… Not to mention, you can’t really grow anything
in Texas. So while Texas did have slaves, they were
mostly ranching country. Anyway, in 1846 Florida and Iowa were added…
and then in 1848 Wisconsin and… oh for.. fine. Texas was added. But wait, what happened to all that Texas
territory that went up into Wyoming? Well, Texas was a slave state, and that was
above the line. So the cut it off and gave it to what would
become Oklahoma. Which is why Oklahoma has a panhandle… there… I finally answered it… you happy? But we had also gained all of this new territory
from Mexico that year. Unfortunately, it’s not very good for growing
any cash crops… or anything else for that matter. In fact, the US had pretty much state-ified
all of the good cotton growing land. So in 1850, when California became a state,
they ran into a new problem. They had thought about dividing California
in two, California and Colorado, which I talked about in a previous video. But California didn’t really want to be
divided up… So instead they decided that California had
to send one free- senator and one slave- senator. *always two there are* Which was difficult
because there really wasn’t much slavery going on there. California is good farming land for fruits
and vegetables, not really for anything where slavery would be profitable. But they went with it… at least until 1854. Kansas and Nebraska were up for statehood,
but both of them were above the magic line. One was good for growing corn, the other for
wheat. Again, not really suited for slavery crops. So they did away with the compromise and instead
decided that the people IN that state should decide whether they are free or not. An idea known as Popular Sovereignty. The problem with this, of course, was that
suddenly, Kansas was being flooded with people from other states, slave owners and abolitionists,
hoping to sway the vote one way or another. Which, if we’re going to talk about the
actual start of the Civil War, this is where the fighting began, in what became known as
Bleeding Kansas. In 1860, Kansas decided to become a free state,
and their constitution passed the House, but was stalled in the Senate over the issue of
slavery. Four months later, the Civil War started. Which, by the way, is why Washington DC now
looks like this… rather than like this. But this also happened to coincide with Lincoln
taking office, and it’s a commonly held belief that he is why the Confederacy broke
away. But Lincoln never campaigned for abolition
and never said anything about wanting to free the slaves. It’s kind of the 1860 version of people
saying Obama wants to take your guns. Lincoln wants to take your slaves… despite
all evidence to the contrary. In fact, a year into the war, Lincoln wrote
a letter saying “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and
if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing
some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” That last one, coincidentally is what he ended
up doing with the Emancipation Proclamation. It only freed the slaves in any area in active
rebellion. So the slave states which were loyal to the
Union, occupied Tennessee, and the Union occupied areas of New Orleans and Virginia were able
to keep their slaves. It wasn’t until the war was ended and the
Thirteenth Amendment was passed that slavery ended completely. So was the Civil War about slavery? Yes. And to say otherwise is simply wrong. For the North, it was about preserving the
union and ending a rebellion. But for the South, it was a last ditch effort
to keep slavery because it was becoming increasingly obvious that western expansion was eventually
going to end it for them. The Civil War was not inevitable. That saying is part of the Lost Cause myth,
which tries to explain it away as part of the growing pains of the United States…
and they were just acting out. You know, like a teenager. It’s the end of slavery that was inevitable. So while even people like Robert E Lee acknowledged
that… actually, I’ll let him speak for himself. “The blacks are immeasurably better off
here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing
is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope,
for better things. How long their servitude may be necessary
is known and ordered by a merciful Providence… This influence, though slow, is sure. … While we see the course of the final abolition
of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the
progress as well as the results in the hands of Him who, chooses to work by slow influences,
and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day. Although the abolitionist must know this,
must know that he has neither the right nor the power of operating, except by moral means;
that to benefit the slave he must not excite angry feelings in the master.” So to paraphrase, slavery will end eventually
*now don’t be hasty* but it’s not our place to end it before God wills it. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during
this instructional transition. Also, in order to benefit the slave, you shouldn’t
anger the master. Yeah, this goes out to all the people who
think that Robert E Lee was one of the good ones and didn’t actually fight for slavery. So the next time someone tries to tell you
that the Civil War was fought over state’s rights or that the Civil War was inevitable,
hopefully now, you’ll know better. Hey guys, tomorrow is my one year anniversary,
so stay tuned for a video with some special announcements. But if you enjoyed this video or you learned
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