Steph Spraitz 11/30/2010 History 201 Essay set #2

#7. Why did the institution of slavery command the loyalty of the vast majority of antebellum southern whites, despite the fact that only a small percentage of them owned slaves? Attacks on slavery after 1820-from blacks and a handful of ,white antislavery advocates within the south and from abolitionists outside-jolted southern slave holders, into a distressing awareness that, they lived in a dangerous and fragile world. In response, southern leaders initiated fresh efforts to strengthen slavery. State legislatures constructed slave codes (laws) that required the total submission of slaves to the masters and to the white society in general. As the Louisiana code stated, a slave “owes his master… a respect without bounds, and an absolute obedience.” Any white could “correct” slaves that did not stay “in their place”. Intellectuals joined legislators in the campaign to strengthen slavery. The south’s academics, writes, and clergy constructed a proslavery argument that sought to unify the regions whites around slavery and provide ammunition for the emerging war of words with northern abolitionists. With the intellectuals’ guidance, white southerners gradually moved away from defending slavery as a “necessary evil” - the half hearted argument popular in Jefferson’s dayand toward a full-throated, aggressive defense of slavery as a “positive good. Some proslavery spokesman went on the offensive and attacked the economy and society of the North. George Fitzhugh of Virginia argued that behind the North’s grand slogan of free labor lay a heartless philosophy. “Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost, Gouging capitalists exploited wage workers unmercifully, Fitzhugh declared, and he contrasted the North’s vicious free-labor system with the humane relations that he claimed prevailed between masters and slaves because slaves were valuable capital that masters sought to protect. But at the heart of the defense of enslavement was both necessary and proper, antebellum defenders argued, because Africans were lesser beings. Rather than exploitative, slavery was a mass civilizing effort that lifted lowly blacks from barbarism and savagery, taught them disciplined work, and converted them to soul-saving Christianity. Because of racial slavery, Georgia attorney Thomas R.R cob observed, every white southerner “feels that he belongs to an elevated class> It matters not that he is no slave holder; he is not of the inferior race; he is a free-born citizen,” consequently, the “poorest meets the richest as an equal; sits at his table with him, salutes him as a neighbor, meets in every public assembly, and stands on the same social platform.” In the south, cob boasted,” there is no war of classes.”

But by providing every antebellum white southerner membership in the ruling race. slavery did not create perfect harmony among whites. Only about 12 percent of slave owners owned twenty or more. only about a quarter of the white population lived in slave-holding families. white superiority. and white equality. slave plantations increasingly dominated southern agriculture. the number of slaves that historians consider necessary to distinguish a planter from a farmer. As important as slavery was in unifying white southerners. Most slaveholders owned fewer than five slaves.In reality. slavery helped white’s bridge differences in wealth. education and culture. Although slavery was dying elsewhere in the New World. . Slavery meant white dominance.

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