You are on page 1of 7

George Fitzhugh, "The Blessings of Slavery" (1857)

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 or labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, no 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 som muh of license and abandon, would die of ennui; but negroes lu uriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and !uiet sleep is the gretest of human enjoyments. "Blessed be the man who invented sleep." #Tis happiness in itself$and results from contentment in the present, and confident assurance of the future. We do not know whether free laborers ever sleep. They are fools to do so; for, whilst they sleep, the wily and watchful capitalist is devising means to ensnare and e ploit them. The free laborer must work or starve. %e is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end. %e has no liberty and not a single right. . . . &ntil the lands of 'merica are appropriated by a few, population becomes dense, competition among laborers active, employment uncertain, and wages low, the personal liberty of all the whites will continue to be a blessing. We have vast unsettled territories; population may cease to increase slowly, as in most countries, and many centuries may elapse before the !uestion will be practically suggested, whether slavery to capital be preferable to slavery to human masters. But the negro has neither energy nor enterprise, and, even in our sparser populations, finds with his improvident habits, that his liberty is a curse to himself, and a greater curse to the society around him. These considerations, and others e!ually obvious, have induced the South to attempt to defend negro slavery as an e ceptional institution, admitting, nay asserting, that slavery, in the general or in the abstract, is morally wrong, and against common right. With singular inconsistency, after making this admission, which admits away the authority of the Bible, of profane history, and of the almost universal practice of mankind$they turn around and attempt to bolster up the cause of negro slavery by these very e ploded authorities. (f we mean not to repudiate all divine, and almost all human authority in favor of slavery, we must vindicate that institution in the abstract. To insist that a status of society, which has been almost universal, and which is e pressly and continually justified by %oly Writ, is its natural, normal, and

necessary status, under the ordinary circumstances, is on its face a plausible and probable proposition. To insist on less, is to yield our cause, and to give up our religion; for if white slavery be morally wrong, be a violation of natural rights, the Bible cannot be true. %uman and divine authority do seem in the general to concur, in establishing the e pediency of having masters and slaves of different races. (n very many nations of anti!uity, and in some of modern times, the law has permitted the native citi)ens to become slaves to each other. But few take advantage of such laws; and the infre!uency of the practice establishes the general truth that master and slave should be of different national descent. (n some respects the wider the difference the better, as the slave will feel less mortified by his position. (n other respects, it may be that too wide a difference hardens the hearts and brutali)es the feeling of both master and slave. The civili)ed man hates the savage, and the savage returns the hatred with interest. %ence West (ndia slavery of newly caught negroes is not a very humane, affectionate, or civili)ing institution. *irginia negroes have become moral and intelligent. They love their master and his family, and the attachment is reciprocated. Still, we like the idle, but intelligent house$servants, better than the hard$used, but stupid outhands; and we like the mulatto better than the negro; yet the negro is generally more affectionate, contented, and faithful. The world at large looks on negro slavery as much the worst form of slavery; because it is only ac!uainted with West (ndia slavery. But our Southern slavery has become a benign and protective institution, and our negroes are confessedly better off than any free laboring population in the world. %ow can we contend that white slavery is wrong, whilst all the great body of free laborers are starving; and slaves, white or black, throughout the world, are enjoying comfort+ . . . The aversion to negroes, the antipathy of race, is much greater at the ,orth than at the South; and it is very probable that this antipathy to the person of the negro, is confounded with or generates hatred of the institution with which he is usually connected. %atred to slavery is very generally little more than hatred of negroes. There is one strong argument in favor of negro slavery over all other slavery; that he, being unfitted for the mechanic arts, for trade, and all skillful pursuits, leaves those pursuits to be carried on by the whites; and does not bring all industry into disrepute, as in -reece and .ome, where the slaves were not only the artists and mechanics, but also the merchants. Whilst, as a general and abstract !uestion, negro slavery has no other claims over other forms of slavery, e cept that from inferiority, or rather peculiarity, of race, almost all negroes re!uire masters, whilst only the children, the women, and the very weak, poor, and ignorant, /c., among the whites, need some protective and governing relation of this kind; yet as a subject of temporary, but worldwide importance, negro slavery has become the most necessary of all human institutions. The 'frican slave trade to 'merica commenced three centuries and a half since. By the time of the 'merican .evolution, the supply of slaves had e ceeded the demand for slave labor, and the slaveholders, to get rid of a burden, and to prevent the increase of a nuisance, became violent opponents of the slave trade,

and many of them abolitionists. ,ew 0ngland, Bristol, and 1iverpool, who reaped the profits of the trade, without suffering from the nuisance, stood out for a long time against its abolition. 2inally, laws and treaties were made, and fleets fitted out to abolish it; and after a while, the slaves of most of South 'merica, of the West (ndies, and of 3e ico were liberated. (n the meantime, cotton, rice, sugar, coffee, tobacco, and other products of slave labor, came into universal use as necessaries of life. The population of Western 0urope, sustained and stimulated by those products, was trebled, and that of the ,orth increased tenfold. The products of slave labor became scarce and dear, and famines fre!uent. ,ow, it is obvious, that to emancipate all the negroes would be to starve Western 0urope and our ,orth. ,ot to e tend and increase negro slavery, pari passu, with the e tension and multiplication of free society, will produce much suffering. (f all South 'merica, 3e ico, the West (ndies, and our &nion south of 3ason and 4i on#s line, of the 5hio and 3issouri, were slaveholding, slave products would be abundant and cheap in free society; and their market for their merchandise, manufactures, commerce, /c., illimitable. 2ree white laborers might live in comfort and lu ury on light work, but for the e acting and greedy landlords, bosses, and other capitalists. We must confess, that overstock the world as you will with comforts and with lu uries, we do not see how to make capital rela its monopoly$how to do aught but tantali)e the hireling. 6apital, irresponsible capital, begets, and ever will beget, the immedicabile vulnus of so$called 2ree Society. (t invades every recess of domestic life, infects its food, its clothing, its drink, its very atmosphere, and pursues the hireling, from the hovel to the poor$house, the prison and the grave. 4o what he will, go where he will, capital pursues and persecutes him. "%aeret lateri lethalis arundo7" 6apital supports and protects the domestic slave; ta es, oppresses, and persecutes the free laborer.

8ohn 6alhoun#s Senate speech on the benefits of slavery.

Slavery a Positive Goo

John C. Calhoun 2ebruary 9, :;<=

( do not belong, said 3r. 6., to the school which holds that aggression is to be met by concession. 3ine is the opposite creed, which teaches that encroachments must be met at the beginning, and that those who act on the opposite principle are prepared to become slaves. (n this case, in particular ( hold concession or compromise to be fatal. (f we concede an inch, concession would follow concession$$compromise would follow compromise, until our ranks would be so broken that effectual resistance would be impossible. We must meet the

enemy on the frontier, with a fi ed determination of maintaining our position at every ha)ard. 6onsent to receive these insulting petitions, and the ne t demand will be that they be referred to a committee in order that they may be deliberated and acted upon. 't the last session we were modestly asked to receive them, simply to lay them on the table, without any view to ulterior action. . . . ( then said, that the ne t step would be to refer the petition to a committee, and ( already see indications that such is now the intention. (f we yield, that will be followed by another, and we will thus proceed, step by step, to the final consummation of the object of these petitions. We are now told that the most effectual mode of arresting the progress of abolition is, to reason it down; and with this view it is urged that the petitions ought to be referred to a committee. That is the very ground which was taken at the last session in the other %ouse, but instead of arresting its progress it has since advanced more rapidly than ever. The most un!uestionable right may be rendered doubtful, if once admitted to be a subject of controversy, and that would be the case in the present instance. The subject is beyond the jurisdiction of 6ongress $ they have no right to touch it in any shape or form, or to make it the subject of deliberation or discussion. . . . 's widely as this incendiary spirit has spread, it has not yet infected this body, or the great mass of the intelligent and business portion of the ,orth; but unless it be speedily stopped, it will spread and work upwards till it brings the two great sections of the &nion into deadly conflict. This is not a new impression with me. Several years since, in a discussion with one of the Senators from 3assachusetts >3r. Webster?, before this fell spirit had showed itself, ( then predicted that the doctrine of the proclamation and the 2orce Bill$$that this -overnment had a right, in the last resort, to determine the e tent of its own powers, and enforce its decision at the point of the bayonet, which was so warmly maintained by that Senator, would at no distant day arouse the dormant spirit of abolitionism. ( told him that the doctrine was tantamount to the assumption of unlimited power on the part of the -overnment, and that such would be the impression on the public mind in a large portion of the &nion. The conse!uence would be inevitable. ' large portion of the ,orthern States believed slavery to be a sin, and would consider it as an obligation of conscience to abolish it if they should feel themselves in any degree responsible for its continuance, and that this doctrine would necessarily lead to the belief of such responsibility. ( then predicted that it would commence as it has with this fanatical portion of society, and that they would begin their operations on the ignorant, the weak, the young, and the thoughtless $$and gradually e tend upwards till they would become strong enough to obtain political control, when he and others holding the highest stations in society, would, however reluctant, be compelled to yield to their doctrines, or be driven into obscurity. But four years have since elapsed, and all this is already in a course of regular fulfilment. Standing at the point of time at which we have now arrived, it will not be more difficult to trace the course of future events now than it was then. They who

imagine that the spirit now abroad in the ,orth, will die away of itself without a shock or convulsion, have formed a very inade!uate conception of its real character; it will continue to rise and spread, unless prompt and efficient measures to stay its progress be adopted. 'lready it has taken possession of the pulpit, of the schools, and, to a considerable e tent, of the press; those great instruments by which the mind of the rising generation will be formed. %owever sound the great body of the non$slaveholding States are at present, in the course of a few years they will be succeeded by those who will have been taught to hate the people and institutions of nearly one$half of this &nion, with a hatred more deadly than one hostile nation ever entertained towards another. (t is easy to see the end. By the necessary course of events, if left to themselves, we must become, finally, two people. (t is impossible under the deadly hatred which must spring up between the two great nations, if the present causes are permitted to operate unchecked, that we should continue under the same political system. The conflicting elements would burst the &nion asunder, powerful as are the links which hold it together. 'bolition and the &nion cannot coe ist. 's the friend of the &nion ( openly proclaim it$$and the sooner it is known the better. The former may now be controlled, but in a short time it will be beyond the power of man to arrest the course of events. We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions. To maintain the e isting relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the &nion, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. (t cannot be subverted without drenching the country or the other of the races. . . . But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the e isting relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil@$$far otherwise; ( hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition. ( appeal to facts. ,ever before has the black race of 6entral 'frica, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civili)ed and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually. (n the meantime, the white or 0uropean race, has not degenerated. (t has kept pace with its brethren in other sections of the &nion where slavery does not e ist. (t is odious to make comparison; but ( appeal to all sides whether the South is not e!ual in virtue, intelligence, patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high !ualities which adorn our nature. But ( take higher ground. ( hold that in the present state of civili)ation, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now e isting in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good$$a positive good. ( feel myself called upon to speak freely upon the subject where the honor and interests of those ( represent are involved. ( hold then, that there never has yet e isted a wealthy and civili)ed 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. This is not the proper

occasion, but, if it were, it would not be difficult to trace the various devices by which the wealth of all civili)ed communities has been so une!ually divided, and to show by what means so small a share has been allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the non$producing classes. The devices are almost innumerable, from the brute force and gross superstition of ancient times, to the subtle and artful fiscal contrivances of modern. ( might well challenge a comparison between them and the more direct, simple, and patriarchal mode by which the labor of the 'frican race is, among us, commanded by the 0uropean. ( may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little e acted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. 6ompare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civili)ed portions of 0urope$$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. But ( will not dwell on this aspect of the !uestion; ( turn to the political; and here ( fearlessly assert that the e isting relation between the two races in the South, against which these blind fanatics are waging war, forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions. (t is useless to disguise the fact. There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civili)ation, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South e empts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which e plains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and !uiet than that of the ,orth. . . . Surrounded as the slaveholding States are with such imminent perils, ( rejoice to think that our means of defense are ample, if we shall prove to have the intelligence and spirit to see and apply them before it is too late. 'll we want is concert, to lay aside all party differences and unite with )eal and energy in repelling approaching dangers. 1et there be concert of action, and we shall find ample means of security without resorting to secession or disunion. ( speak with full knowledge and a thorough e amination of the subject, and for one see my way clearly. . . . ( dare not hope that anything ( can say will arouse the South to a due sense of danger; ( fear it is beyond the power of mortal voice to awaken it in time from the fatal security into which it has fallen.

!uestions on the te"ts# 2it)hugh#s "The Blessings of Slavery" AB 2it)hugh argues metaphorically that sleeping is e!uivalent to happiness and contentment and that slaves can enjoy "sleep" more than free white ,orthern$ workers. %e writes, the free worker "is more of a slave than the negro . . . " 4o

you agree with this+ AB Why does 2it)hugh believe that "negro slavery has become the most necessary of all human institutions"+ ABWhat is his economic argument against emancipation+ AB %e asserts that slaves in the South are "the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world." %ow can a slave be happy and free+ AB%e argues that it is hypocritical to condemn "white slavery" while free whites are suffering yet at the same time black and white slaves live in "comfort." 4o you agree with this argument that material condition can justify slavery+

6alhoun#s "Slavery a Positive Good." AB 6alhoun writes that consessions to the abolitionists# demands would be "fatal." What does he mean by "fatal"+ What e actly would be killed+ AB 6alhoun says that the spirt of ,orthern abolitionism has infected the vital institutions of society that prepare the minds of the ne t generations. What are these institutions+ AB%e uses the phrase "fell spirit of abolition." What do you think he means by this and why+ ABWhat e amples does 6alhoun give to prove his claim that slaves live better than free whites+ AB6alhoun argues that Southern slavery has produced the conditions best suited to create "stable political institutions." Why would the ,orth not produce such conditions+ That is, what does 6alhoun think about the impact of capital and capitalism on society+