Lawrence R. Tenzer,White slavery and the civil war

Essay by A.R.DIAMONDUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2002

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Lawrence R. Tenzer has devoted a great deal of time and energy to

studying what he believes is a sadly overlooked aspect of the slavery issue

and its impact on the minds of Northerners and Southerners alike. This is

the topic of white slavery. Tenzer argues that many contemporaries knew it

existed and were deeply shocked. This helped to lead them to oppose the

extension of slavery into the western territories and thus was a significant

cause of the Civil War. Tenzer emphatically states that the possibility of

white slavery is a definite contribution to tensions of civil war.

White slavery resulted from the strict laws and social practices of

the South. There was so little tolerance of racial mixing and such a

desperate effort to protect slavery that the South strove to ensnare all

people of even slightly dark blood in the institution. Anyone who had at

least one eighth black blood in their veins was defined as a negro or a

mulatto. If the mother was a slave then the offspring was defined as a slave

regardless of how little black blood they may have. Observers often noted

seeing slaves with facial features and skin color that were indistinguishable

from whites.Tenzer assembled a great deal of evidence.

He has the historical documentation to show that the eroding line

between slave and free was much on the mind of the average person and

contributed to the country's willingness to take up arms over an issue that

had so far only risen to the level of a disagreement. He surveyed personal

accounts, travel literature, published essays, census data, the activities of

the illegal slave trade after 1808, and abolitionist newspapers and

pamphlets to amass a mountain of proof that Northerners and Southerners

(including Abraham Lincoln) discussed white slavery at...