Great question and one to which I have given a lot of thought and entirely changed my mind.
For many years, I believed allowing slavery was a “necessary evil” to forming the United States as a nation. Without the slave states, there could be no union of both north and south. Since then, I have come to realize that allowing slavery was morally wrong and evil. If it was necessary to form that north-south union, then we would have been better off forming separate nations rather than having slavery as the bottom line for this country.
Even during the Constitutional Convention, many delegates thought it terribly wrong. It made the south a far more powerful section than it should have been. If they had been required to hire people to work the lands, they would have been on par with the rest of the nation. I notice that the north managed to have a lot of industry without slaves to run the factories. True we treated those workers badly, but they were not slaves. They could not be bought, sold, and if someone felt like it, killed. Slavery was ugly, cruel, and absolutely evil.
Moreover, everyone at the Convention knew there would be a blood price to pay for including slavery in the union. Everyone knew it. How do we know they knew it? Because they kept diaries, letters, notes to themselves and each other. This was not a secret to anyone. They were all glad they’d be dead by the time that bill came due.
Indeed the butcher’s bill was paid during the civil war. It still remains, per capita, the bloodiest war we ever fought. The evil that was done to America’s fundamental principals has never been redressed. That bill is hundreds of years old. It remains a vicious, ugly debt. Will it ever be paid? Probably not. It would cost too much. When in doubt, follow the money.
There is no such thing as a necessary evil.
There is only evil. If no one can see an alternative that is better, maybe the whole concept is wrong. When you bump into a wall of evil versus what you think might be “a little less evil,” it’s time to rethink the question. Because evil is. There is no such things as a greater or lesser evil. No amount of rationalization is going to turn a bad thing into a “good” thing. Like those chickens coming home to roost, the evil that was done will always, always, and forever come back. When it comes home to roost, it will have grown long fangs and bite the hell out of everyone.
Saying: “Hey, my ancestors hadn’t even come to this country yet” doesn’t get you off the hook. Those fangs will bite you anyway.