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Vincent Prior
AP American History
Quiz #13

" Perhaps no period in American history genuinely reflects the truth in the statement: The government will never be able to legislate morality."


    Throughout the history of the United States, the government has never been able to effectively legislate morality. They have tried many times, including the prohibition of alcohol in the early parts of the 20th century.
    There is one example of this which stands out among all others during this period of time. That is the freeing of the black slaves, and the issues which surround it. The problem was a moral one. Were the whites who owned black people on the right side of morality? They did everything they could do to prove that they were, including medical studies. However, the abolitionists held it to be true that Blacks were of the same scientific standing as all white people.
    When the Civil War first commenced, neither side thought that they were fighting for the sole purpose of the slave issue. Instead, the South believed they were fighting to preserve their way of life and the North were simply fighting to preserve the union. However, with the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln seemed to change the purpose of the war in many eyes. The North now thought that they were fighting for the freedom of the slaves and the Confederates believed that they were now fighting to protect their slaves, and their right to own them.
    After the war, the Black people were freed from bondage. They were now exposed to a world which they had not yet seen, a world in which one had to work in order to make a living. These people were accustomed to working and then receiving all that they would need to keep them healthy; shelter, food, clothing, etc.. Now they were being forced to provide for themselves. They also had no means of education and, thus, were doomed to lives as sharecroppers, still working under the tyranny of people of a higher social standing than themselves.
    While it is fairly difficult to break a law such as this, as slavery is hard to hide, actions were taken by some to protest in very loud ways. Examples of this being the white supremacy groups that tormented the black people of the south. They wanted to give black people the message that whites were still in control of the situation and to discourage the black population from doing anything productive with their freedom. In fact, some white politicians because of the so called need for "wholesome compulsion" to make a Black work, proposed a policy of forcing blacks to sign labor contracts.
    While this legislation on morality was a just one, it still had results that were unfavorable. It was not repealed, nor debated after it's passage, except among very few people. However, roots to the problems presented are still in existence today. The morality of future societies was changed by such a forced act as the abolition of slavery in parts of the country where it was a staple in the way of life. I government may legislate morality, however, it may never do it without opposing views, and without problems being created for all of those influenced by the legislation.