An Antislavery Slogan

Americans who hated slavery formed organizations to try to end it and to embarrass slave owners.

One group's slogan was the question "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" The members tried to force masters to admit that slaves were not farm property, but people like themselves.

More captives on the afterdeck

More captives on the afterdeck

Slaves The British Army

"what rights does a state enjoy? Can it ignore a federal law with which it does not agree? Americans had been arguing about the powers of the national government versus the rights of states longer than they had been arguing about slavery. The issue of states' rights had caused shouting matches when America's founders were writing the U.S. Constitution in the late 1700s. During the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson had argued with South Carolina's legislators over a tariff law they did not want to enforce. Years later, the bickering revolved around the legality of slavery in new Western territories. If slaves were property and the right to own property was protected by the Constitution, could slave owners take their human property into territories or states where slavery was prohibited? In the 1850s, the argument erupted into guerrilla warfare between settlers in pro-slavery Missouri and their antislavery next-door neighbors in Kansas. Missouri Border Ruffians rode across the state line to burn farms and murder antislavery men. Kansas guerrillas, called Jayhawkers, retaliated. In time, the U.S. Army was called out to curtail this bloodletting. Some slave state patriots believed Southerners could never make peace with a strong national government. They called for states to leave the Union, a process called secession. In the prewar years, these secession advocates were called fire-eaters.

A SECESSION PROPHET Virginia agriculturist Edmund Ruffin believed the South had a different culture from the rest of the country.

The publisher of a farming journal, he turned to writing articles that promoted the establishment of a separate Southern nation. In the 1850s, he became a leading fire-eater, and in 1860 helped South Carolinians organize their secession campaign. He was given the honor of firing the cannon shot at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, that began the Civil War. After the conflict, he committed suicide rather than live under Union rule.

Emaciated captives

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