Chapter 16 13 Themes
The South and the Slavery Controversy
Big ideas matter. Here are the most important themes for this chapter.
The over-arching theme of chapter 16 is that antebellum (pre-Civil War) society in the South was built on slave labor.
- Cotton ran the South before the Civil War— it was "King Cotton." The entire southern economy was based on cotton.
- The South had developed a pyramid-like social structure. From top-to-bottom: planter aristocrats, small farmers, the white majority (who owned no slaves), free blacks, slaves.
- Life as a slave could be wildly varied—some slave owners were kind toward their slaves, some were immensely cruel. In all situations, slaves were not free to do as they pleased.
- Abolition (move to abolish slavery) began with the Quakers. Frederick Douglass became the main spokesman against slavery. And William Lloyd Garrison printed "The Liberator", a radical abolition newspaper.
- Southerners countered that northern workers were treated even worse than slaves. Slave owners, they said, had a vested interest in their slaves. Northern factory workers exploited then fired their workers.