Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Even political speeches were printed and passed around to support the institution of slavery. Without the technology of television and radio, speeches were limited in audience until they were printed as small pamphlets and passed around from person to person. It became a regular act to take one’s speech even before it was given and have it printed to be distributed to the public so everyone was aware of what was being said in the political rooms around the country. The power of the written word was used by politicians to sway the minds of the people and create legislation to support slavery.
Prior to the Civil War, Jefferson Davis was a senator in the United States Congress before becoming the president of the rebellious states known as the Confederacy. In one of his speeches before Congress, he argued that slaves were better off on their plantations under the care of their masters as it was only when they were away from that protection that they faced cruelty and evil which blossomed more from the abolitionists than from the slaveholders of the South. Slavery was not seen as a means to keep a race down but to protect them and give them what they could not have otherwise. This view gave the slave owner the image of protectorate of the slaves. It was not as much of a prison as it was a way to protect the race and give them a better chance.
Politicians looked to history as well to justify slavery. Congressman Charles Jared Ingersoll noted that the English participation in slavery moving the Africans from their native land to other tropical climates and beyond was actually taking them from “African barbarism to civilized emancipation” gave them “manifest improvement” in their conditions. The act of slavery was a move in a positive action for the African natives. It took them from a land that was backwards to lands that were advanced and more civilized.
The view that slavery was more civilized than the world of free workers was argued by many politicians as it was “far more cruel” than the slavery of the African “because it exacts more of its slaves, and neither protects nor governs them.” The freeman lived without the protection of the slave owner. He had to fend for himself which, in the eyes of slavery supporters, was much harder as it leaves “the laborer to take care of himself and family out of the pittance which skill or capital have allowed him to retain.” The argument was the establishment of slavery was the best form of capitalism while at the same time aided the growth and development of the African.
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Brown, William Wells. Clotelle, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/241/241-h/241-h.htm.
Buckingham, Goodsell. “The Bible Vindicated from the Charge of Sustaining Slavery.” Columbus: The Temperance Advocate Office, 1837. http://antislavery.eserver.org/religious/biblevindicatedrevisedfinal/.
Cobb, Thomas Read Rootes. “An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America.” Archive.org.
Davis, Jefferson. “Speech of Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, on the Subject of Slavery in the Territories,” Archive.org, 1850.
Douglass, Frederick. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, (Boston: Anti-Slave Office, 1848), 2-3.
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Lewis, Evan. “Address to Christians of All Denominations on the Inconsistency of Admitting Slave-Holders to Communion and Church Membership”. Antislavery Literature, 1831, http://antislavery.eserver.org/religious/addresstochristians/addresstochristians.html.
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