U.S History - Reproduced Documents Written by Southerners Preceding the Civil War Defending Slavery

U.S History - Reproduced Documents Written by Southerners Preceding the Civil War Defending Slavery

Reproduced below are documents written by Southerners in the decades preceding the Civil War for the purpose of defending slavery. Please note that the Southern authors of these articles defending slavery frequently refer to free white workers in the North as “slaves.” There were, in fact, no real slaves, black or white, in the Northern states. Rather, what the Southern authors were saying was that working conditions in Northern factories were so bad, the hours so long, the work so hard, and the pay so low, that poor, white workers in the North might just as well have been slaves.

John C. Calhoun “Slavery a Positive Good” (6 February 1837)
I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together … [Slavery] … is, instead of an evil, a good -- a positive good.
… there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other. Broad and general as is this assertion, it is fully borne out by history.
…I may say with truth that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him [as is true for Southern slaves], or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in … Europe -- look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse.
… [Slavery] forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to [build] free and stable political institutions. It is useless to disguise the fact. There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North…
John C. Calhoun, "Speech on His Slavery Resolutions in Reply to James F. Simmons"
Where wages command labor, as in the non-slaveholding States, there necessarily takes place between labor and capital a conflict, which leads, in process of time, to disorder, anarchy, and revolution, if not counteracted by some appropriate and strong constitutional provision. Such is not the case in the slaveholding States. There labor and capital are identified [by race]. There the high profit of labor, but increases the means of the master to add to the comfort of his slaves, and hence in all conflicts which may occur in the other portions of the Union between labor and capital, the South will ever be found to take the conservative side.

John C. Calhoun, “Speech on Oregon” (June 27, 1848)
Now, let me say, Senators, if our Union and system of government are doomed to perish, and we to share the fate of so many great people who have gone before us, the historian, who, in some future day, may record the events tending to so calamitous a result, will … trace it to a proposition which originated in a hypothetical truism, but which, as now expressed and now understood, is the most false and dangerous of all political error. The proposition to which I allude … is, that “all men are born free and equal.”
… Instead … of all men having the same right to liberty and equality, as is claimed by those who hold that they are all born free and equal, liberty is the noble and highest reward bestowed on mental and moral development... Instead, then, of liberty and equality being born with man; instead of all men and all classes and descriptions being equally entitled to them, they are high prizes to be won, and are … not only the highest reward that can be bestowed on our race, but the most difficult to be won, and when won, the most difficult to be preserved.
They have been made vastly more [difficult to preserve], by the dangerous error I have attempted to expose, that all men are born free and equal, as if those high qualities belonged to man without effort to acquire them, and to all equally alike, regardless of their intellectual and moral condition. …
We now begin to experience the danger of admitting so great an error to have a place in the Declaration of our Independence. For a long time it lay dormant; but in the process of time it began to germinate, and produce its poisonous fruits. It had strong hold on the mind of Mr. Jefferson, the author of that document, which caused him to take an utterly false view of the subordinate relation of the black to the white race in the South, and to hold, in consequence, that the latter, though utterly unqualified to possess liberty, were as fully entitled to both liberty and equality as the former, and that to deprive them of it was unjust and immoral. To this error … may be traced … [the abolitionist] agitation which now threatens to engulf … our political institutions, and involve the country in countless woes.

George Fitzhugh Sociology for the South, or The Failure of a Free Society (1854)
Liberty and equality are new things under the sun. The free states of antiquity [in Ancient Greece and Rome] abounded with slaves. The feudal system that supplanted Roman institutionally changed the form of slavery, but brought with it neither liberty nor equality. France and the Northern States of [the USA] have alone fully and fairly tried the experiment of a social organization founded upon universal liberty and equality of rights. … In France and in our Northern States the experiment has already failed, if we are to form our opinions from the discontent of the masses, or to believe the evidence of the Socialists, Communists, Anti-Renters, and a thousand other [disruptive groups] that have arisen in these countries, and threaten to subvert the whole social fabric. .. Add to the evidence … the condition of the working classes, and we have conclusive proof that liberty and equality have not conduced to enhance the comfort or the happiness of the people. Crime and pauperism have increased. Riots, trades unions, strikes for higher wages, discontent breaking out into revolution, are things of daily occurrence, and show that the poor see and feel quite as clearly as the philosophers, that their condition is far worse under the new than under the old order of things.
… There is no equality except in theory, in [the North], and there is no liberty. Then men of property, those who own lands and money, are masters of the poor -- masters, with none of the feelings, interests or sympathies of [Southern slave] masters; they employ them when they please, and for what they please, and may leave them to die in the highway, for it is the only home to which the poor in free countries are entitled.

George Fitzhugh Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters (1857)
He the Negro is but a grown up child, and must be governed as a child... The master occupies toward him the place of parent or guardian...
Secondly. The negro is [irresponsible, and] will not store up in summer for the wants of winter; will not accumulate in youth for the [needs] of [old] age. He would become an insufferable burden to society. Society has the right to prevent this, and can only do so by subjecting him to domestic slavery.
In the last place, the negro race is inferior to the white race, and living in their midst, they would be far outstripped or outwitted in the chaos of free competition. Gradual but certain extermination would be their fate. We presume the maddest abolitionist does not think the negro's [working] habits and money-making capacity at all to compare to those of the whites. This defect of character would alone justify enslaving him, if he is to remain here. In Africa or the West Indies, he would become idolatrous, savage and cannibal, or be devoured by savages and cannibals. At the North he would freeze or starve.
We would remind those who deprecate and sympathize with negro slavery, that his slavery here relieves him from a far more cruel slavery in Africa, or from idolatry and cannibalism, and every brutal vice and crime that can disgrace humanity; and that it Christianizes, protects, supports and civilizes him …
The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care nor labor. The women do little hard work... The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, not more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with so much of license and liberty, would die of [boredom]; but negroes luxuriate in [bodily] and mental [rest]. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. “Blessed be the man who invented sleep.” ‘Tis happiness in itself -- and results from contentment with the present, and confident assurance of the future.

James Henry Hammond, “Speech of Hon. James H. Hammond of South Caroline, on the admission of Kansas, under the Lecompton Constitution” (4 March 1858)
In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very [foundation] of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other [without] this [foundation]. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves.
[Anti-slavery Senator Seward] … said yesterday that the whole world has abolished slavery. Aye, the name, but not the thing; all the powers of the earth cannot abolish that. God only can do it when he repeals the [law], "the poor ye always have with you;" for … your whole hireling class of manual laborers … [i.e, in the North] … are essentially slaves. The difference between us is that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, and no want of employment among our people. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street in any of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South.
We do not think that whites should be slaves either by law or necessity. Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them by being made our slaves. None of that race on the whole face of the globe can be compared with the slaves of the South. They are happy, content, [lazy], and utterly incapable, from intellectual weakness, ever to give us any trouble ... Yours are white, of your own race; you are brothers of one blood. They are your equals in natural endowment of intellect, and they feel galled by their degradation.
Our slaves do not vote. We give them no political power. Yours do vote, and, being the majority, they are the depositories of all your political power. If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot-box is stronger than “an army with banners,” and could combine, where would you be? Your society would be reconstructed, your government overthrown, your property divided, not as they have mistakenly attempted to initiate such proceedings by meeting in parks, with arms in their hands, but by the quiet process of the ballot-box.

Richard Furman Exposition of the Views of the Baptists Relative to the Coloured Population in the United States in Communication to the Governor of South-Carolina (1838)
The right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept (law) and example. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were directed to purchase their bond-men and bond-maids [male and female slaves] of the Heathen nations. And it is declared, that the persons purchased were to be their "bond-men forever;" and an "inheritance for them and their children." .... In example, they are presented to our view as existing in the families of the Hebrews as servants, or slaves, born in the house, or bought with money: so that the children born of slaves are here considered slaves as well as their parents.
Under both [the Greek and Roman] empires, the countries they possessed and governed were full of slaves. Many of these with their masters, were converted to the Christian Faith, and received, together with them into the Christian Church, while it was yet under the ministry of the inspired Apostles. Had the holding of slaves been a moral evil, it cannot be supposed, that the inspired Apostles, who feared not the faces of men and were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of their God, would have tolerated it for a moment in the Christian Church. If they had done so on the principle of accommodation, in cases where the masters remained heathen, to avoid offences and civil commotion, [that would be one thing]. Yet, surely, where both master and servant were Christian, as in the case before us, they would have enforced the law of Christ, and required the master to liberate his slave. But, instead of this, they let the relationship remain untouched, as being lawful and right, and insist on the relative duties.

George W. Freeman The Rights and Duties of Slaveholders: Two Discourses Delivered on Sunday, November 27, 1836, in Christ Church, Raleigh, North-Carolina (1837)
Such were the nature and extent of slavery in the world, when [Jesus] appeared, to proclaim "peace on earth, and good will to men" -- to preach the glad tidings of salvation to a ruined world -- to redeem us from sin and everlasting death, and to "open the kingdom of Heaven to all believers." And how did he regard it? What had he to say of this institution, as he found it existing among the people he came to save? Did he condemn it as anti-scriptural and unjust? Did he enjoin on his disciples an immediate emancipation of their slaves? Did he so much as caution his followers against purchasing them in the future? Not a word, disapproving the practice, ever fell from his lips. As a settled civil institution of the Empire, he meddled not with it, of course -- for his "kingdom", as he declared "was not of this world." He came not to remodel the governments -- he came not to reform the civil institutions of the world -- he came "to seek and to save that which was lost."
But in the course of his ministry, he must have come in contact with many individuals who were holders of slaves; and surely, had he regarded them as living in the habitual commission of a 'moral wrong,' he would scarcely have forborne, on some occasion, to express his indignation. And did he never rebuke them for holding their fellow-men in bondage? Did he never give them to understand that, if they would be his disciples, they must set their slaves at liberty?
No, Brethren, nothing of the kind occurs in his whole history. On the contrary, it appears that he habitually inclined to discountenance the dissevering of those ties which he found binding society together. He sought to reform the hearts and lives of men, and to fit them for Heaven; not to change their relative condition on earth. Indeed, so far was he from [denouncing] those who were owners of slaves, it seems he once passed a very high [praise] on one of this class -- on a Heathen Slave-holder!
…Indeed we are furnished with one remarkable instance, in which an Apostle appears to have been instrumental, not in setting at liberty, (as some over-benevolent persons in our day are forward to do) but in reclaiming and sending back to his master, A FUGITIVE SLAVE! I allude to the case of Onemsimus. Phileon, it appears, was a Christian -- a convert of St. Paul's -- and a slaveholder. His slave Onesimus had eloped from his master; but meeting St. Paul in his travels, he became a convert to the Christian Faith, and now, under the influence of Christian principle set home to his conscience, doubtless by the faithful exertion of the Apostle, he resolved on returning to his master's service. This occasion sees to have led to the writing of the "Epistle to Philemon," of which this very Oensimus was the bearer.
"Slavery in the Light of Social Ethics," by Chancelor Harper, in Cotton is King, and Pro-Slavery Arguments (Augusta, GA: Pritchard, Abbott & Loomis, 1860)
In one thing I concur with the abolitionists; that if emancipation is to be brought about, it is better that it should be immediate and total. But let us suppose it to be brought about in any manner, and then inquire what would be the effects.
The first and most obvious effect, would be to put an end to the cultivation of … [cotton]. And this would be equally the result, if we suppose the [freed] negroes to be in no way distinguished from the free laborers of other countries, and that their labor would be equally effective... Imagine an extensive rice or cotton plantation cultivated by free laborers, who might perhaps strike for an increase of wages, at a season when the neglect of a few days would insure the destruction of the whole crop. Even if it were possible to procure laborers at all, what planter would venture to carry on his operations under such circumstances? I need hardly say that these staples cannot be produced to any extent where the proprietor of the soil cultivates it with his own hands. He can do little more than produce the necessary food for himself and his family.
And what would be the effect of putting an end to the cultivation of these staples, and thus annihilating, at a blow, two-thirds or three-fourths of our foreign commerce? Can any sane mind contemplate such a result without terror? I speak not of the utter poverty and misery to which we ourselves would be reduced, and the desolation which would overspread our own portion of the country. Our slavery has not only given existence to millions of slaves within our own territories, it has given the means of subsistence [i.e., jobs], and therefore, existence, to millions of freemen in [the northern] States; enabling them to send forth their swarms to overspread the plains and forests of the West, and appear as the harbingers of civilization.
Does not self-defense, then, demand of us steadily to resist the [destruction] of that which is productive of so much good? It is more than self-defense. IT is to defend millions of human beings, who are far removed from us, from the intensest suffering, if not from being struck out of existence. It is the defense of human civilization.

William John Grayson The Hireling and the Slave (1855)
If Slavery is subject to abuses, it has its advantages also. It establishes more permanent, and, therefore, kinder relations between capital and labor. It removes what Stuart ill calls "the widening and embittering feud between the class of labor and the class of capital." It draws the relation closer between master and servant. It is not an engagement for days or weeks, but for life. There is no such thing, with Slavery, as a laborer for whom nobody cares or provides. The most wretched feature, in hireling labor, is the isolated miserable creature who has no home, no work, no food, and in whom no one is particularly interested. This is seen among hirelings only.
I do not say that Slavery is the best system of labor, but only that it is the best, for the negro, in this country. In a nation composed of the same race or similar races, where the laborer is intelligent, industrious and provident, money wages may be better than [food and shelter]. Even under all advantages, there are great defects in the hireling labor system... In hireling [Northern] States there are thousands of idlers, trampers, poachers, smugglers, drunkards and thieves, who make theft a profession. There are thousands who suffer for want of food and clothing, from inability to obtain them. For these two classes -- those who will not work, and those who cannot -- there is no sufficient provision.
Among slaves there are no trampers, idlers, smugglers, poachers, and none suffer from want. Every one is made to work, and no one is permitted to starve. Slavery does for the negro what European schemers in vain attempt to do for the hireling. It secures work and [food] for all…
The master is a Commissioner of the Poor, on every plantation, to provide food, clothing, medicine, houses, for his people. He is a police officer to prevent idleness, drunkenness, theft, or disorder… There is, therefore, no starvation among slaves. There are, comparatively, few crimes. If there are paupers in slave States, they are the hirelings of other countries, who have run away from their homes.

“The Banditti” The Richmond Examiner (30 August 1831)
This article describes a slave rebellion that killed 55 white Virginians.
… What strikes us as the most remarkable thing in this matter is the horrible ferocity of these monsters. They remind one of a parcel of blood-thirsty wolves rushing down from the Alps; or rather like a former incursion of the Indians upon the white settlements. Nothings is spared; neither age nor sex is respected -- the helplessness of women and children pleads in vain for mercy. The danger is thought to be over -- but prudence still demands precaution. The lower country should be on the alert. The case of Nat Turner warns us. No black man ought to be permitted to turn a Preacher through the country.
A fanatic [slave] preacher by the name of Nat Turner who had been taught to read and write, and permitted to go about preaching in the country, was at the bottom of this infernal brigandage. He was artful, impudent and vindictive, without any cause or provocation that could be assigned. He was the slave of Mr. Travis. He and another slave of Mr. T., a young fellow by the name of Moore, were two of the leaders. Three or four others were first concerned and most active.
They had 15 others to join them. And by importunity or threats they prevailed upon about 20 others to cooperate in the scheme of massacre. We cannot say how long they were organizing themselves -- but they turned out on last Monday early upon their nefarious expedition. ... They were mounted to the number of 40 or 50; and with knives and axes -- knocking on the head, or cutting the throats of their victims. They had few firearms among them -- and scarcely one, if one, was fit for use... These wretches are now estimated to have committed sixty-one murders!
… It is believed that all the brigands were slaves -- and most, if not all these, the property of kind and indulgent masters. It is not known that any of them had been the runaways of the swamps and only one of them was a free man of color.
Nat, the ringleader … [who] pretends to be a Baptist preacher … and declares to his comrades that he is commissioned by Jesus Christ, and proceeds under his inspired direction … is among [those] not yet [captured].

“Danger of Insurrection” The Staunton Spectator (29 November 1859)
This article was written after white abolitionist John Brown tried unsuccessfully to ignite a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in November 1859.
While the crazy fanatics of the North imagine that the poor negro, smarting under a galling sense of his degradation, and inspired by a noble impulse of resistance to tyranny, is ready at a moment's warning to grasp the murderous pike and fight for his freedom, the people of the South feel the most perfect security in the full assurance that they possess not only the willing obedience but the strong attachment of their slaves. It is a most egregious blunder to suppose that we who live in the enjoyment of all the benefits of the “peculiar institution,” live also in constant dread of insurrection and rebellion, and go to our beds at night with the terrible apprehension that our throats may be cut before morning. Not a bit of it. We sleep as soundly and sweetly as though we were surrounded by an armed body guard of chosen defenders, in the confident belief that our ebony friends will not feel the slightest disposition to “rise”. . .
This fact has been demonstrated beyond a cavil by the experience of the negro-lovers at Harper's Ferry... . With the hour of deliverance at hand, surrounded by [those who were] prepared to lead them to the Canaan of deliverance, with arms and ammunition in abundance within their reach, there [the slaves] snored, and in defiance of entreaties and exhortations and commands positively refused to “rise.”
The state of public feeling at present establishes the fact that no apprehension of danger from servile insurrection is felt by the people of the South. The danger is apprehended outside of the State, from the insane crew who entertain such unfounded opinions in regard to the condition of the slaves, and their disposition to free themselves from bondage. In the prospect of further invasion of our State for the purpose of rescuing those who have already stained its soil with blood, we see the people of Virginia leaving their wives and children in the hands of their faithful domestics, and [moving] to the borders of Virginia, far away from their homes, to repel the insolent foe. They leave their families behind without an apprehension of danger from those who are supposed at the North to be ready to massacre them at the first favorable opportunity. …

“Freedom and Slavery” The Staunton Spectator (6 December 1859)
We have never entertained a doubt that the condition of the Southern slaves is the best and most desirable for the negroes, as a class, that they have ever been found in or are capable of. There is abundant evidence to prove that the black man's lot as a slave, is vastly preferable to that of his free brethren at the North. A Boston paper of recent date tells of a likely negro man, twenty-eight years old, who purchased his freedom in Virginia and removed to Boston. He is sober, industrious and willing to work, but instead of meeting with sympathy from the Abolitionists, he had been deceived, cheated and driven from their presence. The writer describes him as bemoaning his hard lot, weeping like a child, lamenting that he had ever left his former master, and declaring that if he had the means he would gladly return to the old Virginia plantation. And this, we have reason to believe, is not an isolated case, but the experience of a large majority of emancipated slaves and run-away negroes in the Northern States.
But the most remarkable testimony on the subject, is borne by no less a personage than the notorious [abolitionist] Henry Ward Beecher. In a recent sermon, Mr. Beecher says the free colored people at the North “are almost without education, with but little sympathy for ignorance.” “They cannot even ride in the cars of our city railroads. They are snuffed at in the house of God, or tolerated with ill-disguised disgust.” The negro cannot be employed as a stone mason, bricklayer, or carpenter. “There is scarcely a carpenter's shop in New York in which a journeyman would continue to work if a black man was employed in it.” There is scarcely one of the common industries of life in which he can engage. “He is crowded down, down, down, through the most menial callings to the bottom of society.” "We heap upon them," says Beecher, “moral obloquy more atrocious than that which the master heaps upon the slave. And notwithstanding all this, we lift ourselves up to talk to the Southern people about the rights and liberties of the human soul, and especially the African soul.”
…The intelligent, Christian slave-holder at the South is the best friend of the negro. He does not regard his bonds-men as mere … property, but as human beings to whom he owes duties. While the Northern Pharisee will not permit a negro to ride on the city railroads, Southern gentlemen and ladies are seen every day, side by side, in cars and coaches, with their faithful servants. Here the honest black man is not only protected by the laws and public sentiment, but he is respected by the community as truly as if his skin were white. Here there are ties of genuine friendship and affection between whites and blacks, leading to an interchange of all the comities of life. The slave nurses his master in sickness, and sheds tears of genuine sorrow at his grave. When sick himself, or overtaken by the infirmity of age, he is kindly cared for, and when he dies the whites grieve, not for the loss of so much property, but for the death of a member of the family. …

“Northern Free Negroes and Southern Slaves” The Staunton Spectator (6 December 1859)
The New York Herald publishes the speech of one of the [abolitionists]," relative to the runaway slaves in Canada, together with an account of the unfortunate fugitives in Nova Scotia. The condition of both, says the Herald, is miserable and degraded in the extreme. ... The wretched lot to which these poor fugitives are abandoned by the abolitionists, after they are stolen away from their comfort and the protection of their Southern homes, is the most pitiable to which their race is condemned, outside of the original savage state from which they have been rescued.
On the other hand, in regard to the treatment of Virginia slaves, the Norfolk Herald mentions a fact or two. It states that a gentleman of Norfolk County, whose name is given, lately paid to his servants $550, for corn raised by them for their own benefit on his land. Another gentleman paid to his servants $600, earned in the same way; and another paid $300. Such treatment of slaves is not peculiar to Norfolk County, but is practiced more or less all over the State. We know it is not uncommon in this region.
The negroes alluded to, says the [Norfolk] Herald, like millions in the Southern States, are not only plentifully provided for in every way, but they are saving money to use as they may find best in coming years -- and withal they seem as happy as lords. They work well and cheerfully in the day, and at night, during the holidays they sing, dance and smoke, eat sweet potatoes, drink hard cider, sit around big kitchen fires, "laugh and grow fat," regardless of all the "tomfoolery" and nonsense about the "poor oppressed slaves."