American Literature

The Effects of Slavery’s Abolition on Modern-Day America

Slavery was abolished in the U. S in 1862 through the enactment of the 13th amendment, and in 1863. The 13th amendment ensured that neither involuntary servitude nor slavery would be allowed in its jurisdiction. By then, about three million slaves were freed (Carnahan). The Abolition of slavery had positive effects on the structure, demography, and economy of the modern-day U.S.

The southern states did not agree to abolish slavery, and did not agree with the northern states as to the expansions of slavery into areas which were not yet under their jurisdiction, this lead to the civil war. The southern states differed on the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in areas that had not yet been declared states. The civil war had a significant impact on the future of the United States. The southern states seceded for the union to form a confederate that supported slavery (McPherson).This lead to bitter confrontations with the north, but in order to balance power in congress, they enacted the Missouri compromise. The Missouri compromises allowed slavery to be practiced in Missouri but not in Maine (Drexler). Most of the southern states that seceded from the union relied heavily on slavery for their agricultural activities—mostly cotton farming.  Thus according to Roos the abolition of slavery was the main trigger for the Civil war, which lead to the largest number of deaths in the U. S history—about 600,000 to 800,000 people died.

Since the northern United States fought to liberate slaves, most of the slaves that were freed joined the union against the confederate states. This had a significant influence on the civil war since, by 1862, about 180,000 African American troops entered the war and served in the Union Army. For instance, the first people of color to join the war defeated the confederation army attack at Island Mound Missouri. The entire United States Army consisted of about 10% African Americans (American Battlefield Trust). Thus it can be deduced that the abolishment of slavery inspired African Americans to join the war and helped the union to win the war (Shafer). So subsequently led to the states that had seceded from the union to return after their defeat. The modern-day United States would have less seven states if they did not win the civil war with the help of the freed slaves.

The northern states were more industrialized and prosperous than the southern states. The southern states were predominantly agricultural heavily relying on cotton production by the 1860s. Though they produced about two-thirds of the world’s cotton supply, they had little manufacturing capability. For instance, they had only 29 percent of railroad tracks and only 13 percent of the nation’s banks (Arrington). Compared to the north, they were significantly behind in terms of economic development. The south relied on slaves’ labor while the North relied on paid workers and machinery. This lead to huge disparities in economic production. Due to inefficient and ineffective slave labor, the south could not match up the highly effective and efficient productivity of machinery in the north. When slavery was abolished the south started to catch up with the north, though it took some time due to the devastating effect if the civil war (Roger L. Ransom).

By 1860, the nation’s manufacturing output came from the northern states (about 90 percent). For example, the north produced 17 times more woolen and cotton textiles than the south. The states of the Union also produced 32 times more firearm than the southern states and 30 times more leather goods. Overreliance on slave labor seemed to have resulted in the slow economic growth of the southern states. For every 100 firearms produced by the southern states, the northern states produced 3,200 firearms: that is about 32 times what the south produced (Arrington). By and large it can be implied that the north was more prosperous due to industrialization, and the south lagged due to overreliance on slavery.

However, after the civil war, the southern states rejoined the northern states, and through the subsequent years, their economic started to increase. The combined resources of the north and the southern states increased the wealth of the United States to become a world economic giant. The modern United States economic success can be attributed to the abolishment of slavery in all its regions (Sumner). This is because abolition of slavery eliminated the overreliance on slave labor for economic development, which seemed to stagnate and drag the economic development of the southern states.

It can be assumed that slave labor discouraged innovation, as there was no need since free labor was available. As the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ when things are in abundance, people relax, which slows their progress. This is evidenced in the southern states where free labor was available and thus relied on it for economic production even though it was not reliable. When slavery was removed, the northern states shared their inventions with the south to increase their productivity (Arrington). Therefore as the southern states became more productive after the civil war, it translated to more economic development for the whole country.

During the civil war, the north became more innovative to produce more resources so that it could win the war. Therefore the North’s economic and industrial development soared during the war, as they increased their innovative technological development, which enhanced their economic production (Arrington). This increase in the northern states commercial and industrial growth can be attributed to the economic developed seen in the modern-day United States.

Mechanization of farming enabled a single farmer to plant and harvest any crop faster than several people would. Therefore more land could be cultivated using very few people, and more agricultural productivity could be achieved using the least amount of resources possible. The north had developed rail lines that could be used to transport agricultural products within a short period (Arrington). After the war, the southern states embraced mechanization farming, and based on the immense amount of resources available in the south, they became exceedingly prosperous, and this can be evidenced in the modern-day United States.

The abolishment of slavery led to the advancement of the transportation network. As discussed above, the civil war was due to the abolition of slavery. Moreover, during the civil war, the union had a better ability to construct rail lines, and they expanded the rail lines to the south to transport their troops. The union armies traveled further south using the new rail lines to fight and occupy confederacy territories. During this time the U. S War Department established the United States Military Railroads (Arrington). They were to design and build rails to transport troops and supplies. The department was also created to operate and manage captured rail lines in the south. By the time the civil war ended, the U. S had the most extensive railroad system in the world (Arrington). One critical component of a thriving economy is a transport network. Thus it can be deduced that the development of the railroad system in the U. S had a part to play in the growth and development of the modern-day United States. The railroad network, transports not only goods but people also, encouraging trade among all the states. This coupled with a capital-based economy that was primarily based on a free market; the U. S was set out to be a superpower. Therefore, the abolishment of slavery led to the development of the most advanced and expansive rail system at the time, which was a catalyst for economic growth.

After the north decision to abolish slavery in all its territories, the southern states seceded, and this provided the union with an opportunity enact laws that were previously opposed by the southern states. These laws provided a framework for the United States enormous economic potential.  The absence of the southern states (when they seceded) allowed the northern states that were mostly industrious and economically developed than the south to dominate the U. S economic future and industrial revolution. Some of these legislations are the Homestead Act that was enacted by the Union during the civil war (in 1862). The law allowed people to occupy land on federal land that was not part of the 13 colonies—of up to 160 acres (Arrington). The southern states rejected this legislation because it would hamper their plans to develop slavery and plantations into these areas. However the northern states led by Abraham Lincoln saw the law as an opportunity to have more people getting access to resources that they could use to improve the economy of the United States. As the people were fighting, Abraham Lincoln enacted the law that allowed people to own land in federal areas that were not part of the colonies (Carnahan). This legislation allowed the United States to expand westwards.

After the civil war, the American constitution was amended, leading to the 13th, 14th, and the 15th amendments. These amendments were added to deal with people of color, African Americans, and slavery. For instance, the 13th amendment was the one that was used to abolish slavery (Campbell). This gave way to a multicultural modern-day United States where the constitution protects people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The modern-day U. S would be very different without the 13th amendment (Arun).

The end of slavery was motivated by the American dream that promotes the idea that all men are equal and that they have equal rights and liberties, some of which are life and the pursuit of happiness (Cullen). This means that it did not promote slavery and was expected to provide equal opportunities to all people to pursue their happiness.  The federal government had a responsibility to uphold the requirements of the American dream. By doing so doing, they provided a conducive environment for people to thrive and make the U. S be the economic giant it is today. When slavery was abolished, about 3 million freed slaves were given resources and an opportunity to thrive. This additional workforce, with civil liberties and capital based economy gave way to one of the greatest nations on earth.

In summary, the abolishment of slavery had a significant impact on modern-day America. This is because it led to considerable changes in the constitution that protected different ethnic and cultural groups. Moreover, it led to the development of multiethnic and multicultural nation. Also, freed slaves became part of the United States citizens and this provided enough workforce to drive the nation’s economy that was based on capitalism. Motivated by the American dream, more and people were free to be innovative and productive to lead to the formation of the most powerful nation in the world. Slavery curtailed the development of the southern states, and after it was abolished these states became industrialized and more productive for the benefit of the whole nation. The abolishment of slavery had a significant impact on modern-day America.

Works Cited

American Battlefield Trust. “Civil War Facts.” American Battlefield Trust, 16 Aug. 2011,

Arrington, Benjamin T. Industry and Economy during the Civil War (U.S. National Park Service). 23 Aug. 2017,

Arun. 10 Major Effects of the American Civil War | Learnodo Newtonic. 31 May 2018,

Campbell, Joseph E. Gale Researcher Guide for: Constitutional Amendments 13, 14, 15, and 19. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2018.

Carnahan, Burrus. Act of Justice: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War. University Press of Kentucky, 2007.

Cullen, Jim. The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Drexler, Ken. Research Guides: Missouri Compromise: Primary Documents in American History: Introduction. 7 Mar. 2019, //

McPherson, James M. “Out of War, a New Nation.” National Archives, 15 Aug. 2016,

Roger L. Ransom. The Economics of the Civil War. 2018,

Roos, Dave. “One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Freed Slaves.” HISTORY, 24 May 2019,

Shafer, Ronald G. “Lincoln Moved to End Slavery on New Year’s Day 1863. It Went on for Three More Years.” Washington Post, 1 Jan. 2019,

Sumner, Scott. “Ending Slavery Made America Richer.” Econlib, 13 Sept. 2014,