Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Slavery in the United States
John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau confronted slavery as an intellectual problem; Thomas Jefferson, John C. Calhoun, and Frederick Douglass lived it. This is what led C. L. R. James to say that what Europeans faced as a philosophical question, the Americans faced as an empirical one. Slavery was the defining issue of American politics in the nineteenth century. Its legacies—segregation, civil rights, and racial discrimination—have profoundly shaped its twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Slavery's influence on American political thought has been no less profound, though not always recognized. Louis Hartz (1955) famously argued that slavery had little impact on American political thought due to the pervasiveness of liberal and egalitarian views. The ubiquity of liberal ideas and the absence of feudal institutions reduced class conflict and produced a common, almost unconscious, political philosophy among Americans that emphasizes moral and political equality, individual liberty, and private property. Given this climate, the elitist ...