Abstract: West Indian Emancipation, Slavery, and Expansion in the Antebellum South
Mentor: Dr. Michael Conlin, History
British abolitionists won a significant victory when Britain liberated 800,000 slaves in their West Indian colonies in 1838. The trajectory ofJamaica, the largest slave economy among Britain’s holdings, inspired American abolitionists and alarmed American slaveholders. In the course of emancipation, Britain had compensated owners and freed slaves after a brief time of apprenticeship. By the 1840s and 50s the economy of Jamaica was dismal, many British planters had fled the island, and sugar production had crashed. White Southerners adduced the example of Jamaica, and to a lesser extent Haiti, where slaves liberated themselves in 1804, to show that emancipation would have disastrous consequences for the South in particular and the U.S. in general. This paper explores the link between AntiBritish sentiment, fears of emancipation, and the expansion of slavery into southwestern territory from 1844 to 1861. The perceived failure of “The Great Experiment,” of British abolition increased white Southern fears that the British sought to abolish slavery in the Western Hemisphere, including the Texas Republic, Cuba, and even the American South, in order to regain footing in the international market and to weaken the United States. Marrying Anglophobia, a staple value in the United States since the Revolution, with the maintenance of slavery became an expression of American patriotism among Southern planters in the years before the Civil War.
10th Annual Research & CW Symposium, EWU, May 16,2007
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