===The Question of Political Economy===
One does not need to be a historical materialist to recognize the ways that economics shapes decision-making. Such was especially the case in the modern world. The argument advanced by many was that the Age of Europe created rationales for exploration that were lodged in the acquisition of land and thus of wealth. The enslavement of Africans was part of this matrix and it is crucial to make those connections. While moral arguments about abolition were critical, it is unlikely, as Eric Williams argued, that enslavement would have been abolished without the shift in the industrial and imperial ambitions of one of the major powers: Great Britain.
Enslavement’s hegemony was challenged by declining rates of profits as well as new explorations to the Pacific that would lead to the colonization of large swaths of the globe. Here, African enslavement was replaced by a form of exploitative labor, and together they provided the basis for the industrial revolution of the 1800s and the emergence of the factory. The erosion of the soil of the sugar plantations in the Caribbean was the leading cause of this strategic shift. The “opening” of new lands to exploit in the East, however cannot be overlooked as critical. All in all, it meant that capital was willing to concede the moral argument as it ultimately did not have an adverse effect on already declining bottom lines.
Things were slightly different, however, in the United States. With the advent of King Cotton in the nineteenth century, the American level of productivity and profit increased, leading directly to the sectional conflict that would result in the Civil War. The dispute was economic and was based on the questions of efficiency and commercial relationships with the larger world. Many abolitionists joined those who believed that wage labor was a more efficient form of accumulation.
===The Threat of Violence===