Bradley K. Sherman wrote
> | In Texas, a Battle Over What Can Be Taught, and What Books
> | Can Be Read
> | A new state law constricts teachers when it comes to race
> | and history. And a politician is questioning why 850 titles
> | are on library shelves. The result: "A lot of our teachers
> | are petrified."
> | ...
Just teach the children that the south won the civil war and we can
celebrate that by owning black people and making them do our work for
God wants us to own black people as our slaves.
Southern slaveholders often used biblical passages to justify slavery.
Those who defended slavery rose to the challenge set forth by the
Abolitionists. The defenders of slavery included economics, history,
religion, legality, social good, and even humanitarianism, to further
Defenders of slavery argued that the sudden end to the slave economy would
have had a profound and killing economic impact in the South where
reliance on slave labor was the foundation of their economy. The cotton
economy would collapse. The tobacco crop would dry in the fields. Rice
would cease being profitable.
Defenders of slavery argued that if all the slaves were freed, there would
be widespread unemployment and chaos. This would lead to uprisings,
bloodshed, and anarchy. They pointed to the mob's "rule of terror" during
the French Revolution and argued for the continuation of the status quo,
which was providing for affluence and stability for the slaveholding class
and for all free people who enjoyed the bounty of the slave society.
The Negro's Place in Nature
Some slaveholders believed that African Americans were biologically
inferior to their masters. During the 1800s, this arguement was taken
quite seriously, even in scientific circles.
Defenders of slavery argued that slavery had existed throughout history
and was the natural state of mankind. The Greeks had slaves, the Romans
had slaves, and the English had slavery until very recently.
Defenders of slavery noted that in the Bible, Abraham had slaves. They
point to the Ten Commandments, noting that "Thou shalt not covet thy
neighbor's house, ... nor his manservant, nor his maidservant." In the New
Testament, Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master, and,
although slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, Jesus never
spoke out against it.
Defenders of slavery turned to the courts, who had ruled, with the Dred
Scott Decision, that all blacks — not just slaves — had no legal standing
as persons in our courts — they were property, and the Constitution
protected slave-holders' rights to their property.
Defenders of slavery argued that the institution was divine, and that it
brought Christianity to the heathen from across the ocean. Slavery was,
according to this argument, a good thing for the enslaved. John C. Calhoun
said, "Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of
history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so
improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually."
Defenders of slavery argued that by comparison with the poor of Europe and
the workers in the Northern states, that slaves were better cared for.
They said that their owners would protect and assist them when they were
sick and aged, unlike those who, once fired from their work, were left to
fend helplessly for themselves.
James Thornwell, a minister, wrote in 1860, "The parties in this conflict
are not merely Abolitionists and slaveholders, they are Atheists,
Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans, Jacobins on the one side and the
friends of order and regulated freedom on the other."
Nat Turner's revolt
The violence of Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt frightened many southern
slaveholders. Such unrest was used by many as a reason to continue
When a society forms around any institution, as the South did around
slavery, it will formulate a set of arguments to support it. The
Southerners held ever firmer to their arguments as the political tensions
in the country drew us ever closer to the Civil War.