Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Politicians were just as loud on the anti-slavery side as they were on the pro-slavery line. It was not just individual politicians but entire parties who used the written word to promote their thoughts on slavery. The Liberty Party in 1844 declared in its platform that it would “demand the absolute and unqualified divorce of the General Government from slavery” and publically recognize that “as sound, the doctrine maintained by slaveholding jurists, that slavery is against natural rights.” Men were pulling together to take a stand politically against slavery and were willing to sign their names to the fact. Daniel Webster gave a speech, later printed and distributed, to the Senate in August 1848 in which he also argued the unique status of the American slave system and how it was not one that was taken from the Old World or the ancients:
It is a peculiar system of personal Slavery, by which the person who is called ‘Slave’ is transferable, as a chattel, from hand to hand. I speak of this as a fact, and that is the fact, and I will saw further, that although Slavery as a system of servitude attached to the earth exists in various countries of Europe, I am not at the present moment aware of any place on the globe in which this property of man in a human being, as a slave transferable as a chattel, exists, except America.
Slavery itself was not so much the argued topic as it was the unique system in the New World and where it had taken the young country. Using history and great nations to support it could not hold water as seen here. Politicians were not keeping quiet.
Economically, politicians, merchants and more were chiming in. In the Hinton Rowan Helper’s The Impending Crisis of the South published in 1857, it was written that the causes which have impeded the progress and prosperity of the South, which have dwindled our commerce, and other similar pursuits, into the most contemptible insignificance; sunk a large majority of our people in galling poverty and ignorance, rendered a small minority conceited and tyrannical, and driven the rest away from their homes; entailed upon us a humiliating dependence on the Free States; disgraced us in the recesses of our own souls, and brought us under reproach in the eyes of all civilized and enlightened nations – may all be traced to one common source, and there find solution in the most hateful and horrible word, that was ever incorporated into the vocabulary of human economy – Slavery!
To those who supported slavery, it was vital to the economy. To those who saw it has an evil, it was seen as the “most expensive and unprofitable institution.” The Impending Crisis of the South also gave many statistics it used to support the reasons why slavery as not helping the American economy but actually hurting the nation as a whole.
The combined free states produced more of America’s agricultural than the slave states. Even without slavery, the free states were able to more than compete with the South in that regard. To use economy as an argument for slavery was met with written proof that it was actually a more solid argument to abolish the institution.
A Texan. The Yankee Slave-Dealer. Nashville, Archive.org, 1860, http://archive.org/details/yankeeslavedeal00abolrich.
“Arguments and Justifications.” The Abolition Project. http://abolition.e2bn.org/slavery_112.html
Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: the first two centuries of slavery in North America. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1998.
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.
Elliott, E.N., ed. “Cotton is King.” Archive.org. http://archive.org/details/cottoniskingandp28148gut.
Exodus 22: 21-24. King James Bible. BibleGateway.org,
Fitzhugh, George. Cannibals All!, or Slaves Without Masters. 1857. http://archive.org/details/cannibalsallorsl35481gut.
Genesis 9. King James Bible. BibleGateway.com, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%209&version=KJV.
Helper, Hinton Rowan. “Why the North Has Surpassed the South.”
The Impending Crises of the South. http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/helper/helper.html.
“History of Slavery.” History World. http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/plaintexthistories.asp?historyid=ac41.
Hunt, James. On the Negro’s Place in Nature. London: Trubner, 1863.
Ingersoll, Charles Jared. “African Slavery in America.” Antislavery Literature. http://antislavery.eserver.org/proslavery/african-slavery-in-america/, 1856.
Leviticus 25. The King James. Bible Gateway.com. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=leviticus%2025&version=KJV.
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.
Liberty Party Platform. 1844.
Ross, Dr. F. A. “Position of the Southern Church in Relation to Slavery.” Archive.org. 1857.
Sawyer, George S. Southern Institutes. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1859.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gutenberg, 1852, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/203/203-h/203-h.htm
Webster, Daniel. Speech Before the Senate of the United States, 1848. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi/bin/query/r?ammem/rbaapc:@field(DOCID+@lit(rbaapc3310 0div3))
Wilson, William. “The Great American Question”. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/rbaapc:@gield(DOCID+@lit(rbappc34000div0)), 1848.