Antebellum Rights for Blacks

The antebellum period is generally considered the time between 1820
and the beginning of the war in 1865.Slavery was an integral component of
the culture in the United States at that time.Abolitionists abounded in
the North while thetrade’ continued to flourish in the south.Three
documents from that era present the social as well as legal perspective
Thefirst is an article by a prominent doctor, Dr. Samuel Cartwright,
entitled, Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race.It was his purpose
to validate the ownership of slaves as a means of providing shelter and
industry to a race handicapped to such a degree that they could not prosper
on their own. The second document is the opinion of Justice Taney in the
Dred Scott versus Sanford case of 1857.Here, it is legally determined
blacks of the pre-Civil War era do not have the rights of an American
citizen.The third document is a speech presented to the United States
Senate on March 4, 1858 by James Henry Hammond wherein he argues that the
black race are slaves through natural law.All of these documents were
written in the belief that slavery was a legitimate social institution
based on the inferiority of the black race.
The Southern plantation system was socially and economically dependent
on slave labor to continue.The chattel slave was owned and had absolutely
no rights, including the right to life, that was not controlled by the
owner.The plantation owners did not consider slave labor to be ‘free’
inasmuch as the care and upkeep of the slaves was their responsibility.
In the 1840’s a physician, Samuel Cartwright, created a psychiatric
diagnosis called “drapetomania” that was specific to slaves – most notably
found among freed slaves.The disorder was characterized by “a partial
insensibility of the skin, and so great a hebetude of the intellectual
faculties, as to be like a person half as…