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Teaching American History Erie College Sessions July 9, 2007. Cotton, Slaves, and Arrogance: David Walker and George Fitzhugh. Get Some Questions Out of the Way. I have no idea why flammable and inflammable are synonyms No, it is NOT a perm. Yes, I have proof.

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Teaching american history erie college sessions july 9 2007 l.jpg

Teaching American HistoryErie College SessionsJuly 9, 2007

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Cotton, Slaves, and Arrogance:David Walker and George Fitzhugh

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Get Some QuestionsOut of the Way

  • I have no idea why

    flammable and

    inflammable are


  • No, it is NOT a perm.

  • Yes, I have proof.

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Paradoxes: Racist Abolitionism

Antebellum America faced three interrelated problems in dealing with slavery.

First, although many Americans believed slavery was terrible, they also feared that freeing the slaves would be disastrous.

Second, although the nation was (at least rhetorically) founded on notions of the sovereignty of the body politic, debates regarding the status of slaves frequently revolved around “strict constructionist,” contractarian claims of the intentions and thoughts of the founders. Textual interpretation was central. Legalistic, not democratic. “But you said....” “But you promised.....” But the Constitution guarantees….”

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Paradoxes: Racist Abolitionism

Third, although slavery was a central topic of discussion, people focused not on slaves and slavery per se but rather a metaphor for larger issues, including the supposed encroachment of “the slave power” over free white Northerners, the tension between political liberty and economic inequality, the unprecedented geographic expansion, and the crumbling of hierarchy as America faced the industrial revolution.

Each of these three problems evoked white fear regarding the potential catastrophes of emancipation. Each also illustrated profound, unsettling levels of commitment to white supremacy. Something happened briefly, 1863-1878, to change that, but it snapped back, and supported segregation and Jim Crow for nearly another century.

(adapted from S. J. Hartnett, Democratic Dissent and the Cultural Fictions of Antebellum America, U of Illinois Press.)

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Why Emphasize “Racist” Abolition?

  • Not clear that political elites in the North had pure motives. Redirect political forces, win on tariffs, credit, trade policy.

  • Simply not true that there was a large difference of opinion about the nature or humanity of blacks. Impossible to understand Reconstruction, and Jim Crow era, without this recognition.

  • Mr. Lincoln?

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Lincoln: Separation

"What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races." (Abraham Lincoln, spoken at Springfield, Illinois on July 17th, 1858; from Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works, 1894, Vol. 1, page 273).

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Lincoln: Debates in IL, 1858

  • "I will say, then, that I am not nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races---that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the White and black races which will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior,and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race." (4th Lincoln-Douglas debate, September 18th, 1858; Collected Works Vol. 3, pp. 145-146).

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Lincoln: White House, 1862

"See our present condition---the country engaged in war! Our White men cutting one another's throats! And then consider what we know to be the truth. But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or another.

"Why should the people of your race be colonized, & where? Why should they leave this country? … You & we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence… If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why …it is better for both to be separated." (Spoken at White House to black community leaders, August 14th, 1862, from Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol 5, page 371).

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You Already Know….

  • A lot about slavery.

  • More than I know about slavery.

  • Enough about slavery that a broad overview will be a waste of your time.

    So, I decided to focus on two vivid personalities. Get some insights into the background, thought, and larger context of slavery.

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Two Racial Revolutionaries

  • David Walker (1785-1830)

  • George Fitzhugh (1806-1881)

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Short Bio: David Walker

“If I remain in this bloody land, I will not live long.As true as God reigns, I will be avenged for the sorrow which my people have suffered.” (On leaving NC, in 1815)

David Walker was born on September 28, 1785, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father was an enslaved African who died a few months before his son’s birth, and his mother was a free woman of African ancestry. Walker grew up to despise the system of slavery the American government allowed in America.

In 1826 Walker settled in Boston, Mass., where he became the agent for Freedom's Journal, the black abolitionist newspaper, and a leader in the Colored Association. For a living he ran a secondhand clothing store.

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Short Bio: David Walker

Walker’s revulsion toward slavery led him to do something dangerous: He published his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in September 1829. The Appeal was smuggled into the southern states, and was considered subversive, seditious, and incendiary by most white men in both northern and southern states. It was, without a doubt, one of the most controversial documents published in the antebellum period.

Appeal: a bitter denunciation of slavery, those who profited by it, and those who willingly accepted it. Walker called for vengeance against white men, but he also expressed the hope that their cruel behavior toward blacks would change, making vengeance unnecessary.

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Short Bio: David Walker

Walker was concerned about many social issues affecting free and enslaved Africans in America during the time. Precursor for variety of what would later be black nationalist platform: unified struggle for resistance of oppression, reparations (land, for Walker), self-government for people of African descent in America, racial pride, and a critique of American capitalism.

Southern elites hated Walker, but were also frightened by him. Several states, and some individuals, put a price on his head. In 1829, 50 unsolicited copies of Walker's Appeal were delivered to a black minister in Savannah, Ga. The frightened minister, understandably concerned for his welfare, informed the police.

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Short Bio: David Walker

The police, in turn, informed the governor of Georgia. As a result, the state legislature met in secret session and passed a bill making the circulation of materials that might incite slaves to riot a capital offense. The legislature also offered a reward for Walker's capture, $10,000 alive and $1,000 dead.

Still, David Walker employed clever and inventive ways to circulate his Appeal. His network of free black seamen who served as "authorized agents" helped to develop circulation far beyond Massachusetts and into the South

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Short Bio: David Walker

Other Southern states took similar measures. Louisiana enacted a bill ordering expulsion of all freed slaves who had settled in the state after 1825. The slaveholding South was frightened by men like Walker, and their harsh reactions to the threat they saw in Walker's Appeal seemed justified when black slave Nat Turner led his bloody rebellion in 1831. But Frederick Douglass and Henry Garnett (for example) were not convinced. They saw the problem as being too little black outrage, not too much.

Walker was mysteriously found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in June 28,1830, at age 45, some people believed he was poisoned. More plausible was that he died of tuberculosis.

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Outline of the Appeal

  • Article I: Collective Action—Rise!

  • Article II: History of Misery—Self-defense, not murder, will be death of slave lords. No hope the Whites will help (Jefferson!)

  • Article III: God is just, but Christianity a tool of Whites to subjugate Blacks

  • Article IV: (Re)colonization is a Trick, to separate Free Blacks from Slaves, and Keep Slaves Docile. This land is more Ours than it is the Whites’ who “own” it. (Locke?)

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His Goal: Overcome the Collective Action Problem

  • The primary object of this institution, is, to unite the colored population, so far, through the United States of America, as may be practicable and expedient; forming societies, opening, extending, and keeping up correspondences, and not witholding anything which may have the least tendency to meliorate *our* miserable condition. 

    David Walker’s statement on forming the Massachussetts General Colored Association (MGCA) in 1828

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Walker’s Goal: Overcome the Collective Action Problem

His goal: That “the world may see that we, the Blacks or Coloured People, are treated more cruel by the white Christians of America, than devils themselves ever treated a set of men, women and children on this earth.

     It is expected that all coloured men, women and children**, of every nation, language and tongue under heaven, will try to procure a copy of this Appeal and read it, or get some one to read it to them, for it is designed more particularly for them. Let them remember, that though our cruel oppressors and murderers, may (if possible) treat us more cruel, as Pharoah did the children of Israel, yet the God of the Etheopeans, has been pleased to hear our moans in consequence of oppression; and the day of our redemption from abject wretchedness draweth near, when we shall be enabled, in the most extended sense of the word, to stretch forth our hands to the LORD our GOD, but there must be a willingness on our part, for GOD to do these things for us, for we may be assured that he will not take us by the hairs of our head against our will and desire, and drag us from our very, mean, low and abject condition.”

** Who are not too deceitful, abject, and servile to resist the cruelties and murders inflicted upon us by the white slave holders, our enemies by nature. (Emphasis added)

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From the “Appeal”

...to my no ordinary astonishment, [a] Reverend gentleman got up and told us (coloured people) that slaves must be obedient to their masters -- must do their duty to their masters or be whipped -- the whip was made for the backs of fools, &c. Here I pause for a moment, to give the world time to consider what was my surprise, to hear such preaching from a minister of my Master, whose very gospel is that of peace and not of blood and whips, as this pretended preacher tried to make us believe. What the American preachers can think of us, I aver this day before my God, I have never been able to define. They have newspapers and monthly periodicals, which they receive in continual succession, but on the pages of which, you will scarcely ever find a paragraph respecting slavery, which is ten thousand times more injurious to this country than all the other evils put together; and which will be the final overthrow of its government, unless something is very speedily done; for their cup is nearly full.-Perhaps they will laugh at or make light of this; but I tell you Americans! that unless you speedily alter your course, you and your Country are gone! ! ! ! !

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From the “Appeal”

The Americans say, that we are ungrateful-but I ask them for heaven's sake, what should we be grateful to them for -- for murdering our fathers and mothers ? -- Or do they wish us to return thanks to them for chaining and handcuffing us, branding us, cramming fire down our throats, or for keeping us in slavery, and beating us nearly or quite to death to make us work in ignorance and miseries, to support them and their families. They certainly think that we are a gang of fools. … But do slave-holders think that we thank them for keeping us in miseries, and taking our lives by the inches?

Let no man of us budge one step, & let slave-holders come to beat us from our country. America is more our country, than it is the whites-we have enriched it with our blood & tears. The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood & tears: -- & will they drive us from our property & homes, which we have earned with our blood? They must look sharp or this very thing will bring swift destruction upon them. The Americans have got so fat on our blood & groans, that they have almost forgotten the God of armies.

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From the “Appeal”

Do the colonizationists think to send us off without first being reconciled to us? Do they think to bundle us up like brutes and send us off, as they did our brethren of the State of Ohio? Have they not to be reconciled to us, or reconcile us to them, for the cruelties with which they have afflicted our fathers and us? Methinks colonizationists think they have a set of brutes to deal with, sure enough. Do they think to drive us from our country and homes, after having enriched it with our blood and tears, and keep back millions of our dear brethren, sunk in the most barbarous wretchedness, to dig up gold and silver for them and their children? Surely, the Americans must think that we are brutes, as some of them have represented us to be. They think that we do not feel for our brethren, whom they are murdering by the inches, but they are dreadfully deceived.

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His Goal: Overcome the Collective Action Problem

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Vivid Personality II: George Fitzhugh

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Short Bio: George Fitzhugh

George Fitzhugh was born November 4, 1806 in Prince William County, Virginia to an established southern family in financial decline. His physician father, also named George Fitzhugh, and his mother, Lucy Stuart, would later struggle as small-scale planters when the family moved to a plantation near Alexandria, Virginia. Young George was then six years old.

Though he attended a local field school, Fitzhugh was largely self-educated. In 1829 he married Mary Metcalf Brockenbrough and moved near Port Royal, Virginia, where he had obtained a small plantation through marriage and practiced law. Fitzhugh subsequently worked as a law clerk in Washington, D.C. (1857-1858) at the office of Attorney General Jeremiah Sullivan Black in the land claim department.

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Short Bio: George Fitzhugh

Relocating to Richmond in 1862, he also clerked for the Confederacy's Treasury Department. Following the Civil War, Fitzhugh was appointed a judge in the Freedman's Court (part of the Freedman's Bureau) but left in 1866. Despite later publications in De Bow's Review (in 1867) and Lippincott's Magazine (in 1869 and 1870), George Fitzhugh's postbellum life, like the lives of other proslavery apologist writers, was characterized by relative obscurity. Shortly after his wife's death in 1877, Fitzhugh retired to Frankfort, Kentucky to live with his son. Two years later in 1880, he moved near his daughter's residence in Huntsville, Texas, where he died July 30, 1881.

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Short Bio: George Fitzhugh

Major Writings:

  • Slavery Justified (1849)

  • Sociology for the South; or, The Failure of Free Society (1854)

  • Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters (1857)

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Short Bio: George Fitzhugh

In Sociology for the South, Fitzhugh sets out to demonstrate what he perceives as the overwhelming failure of free society. Opening with a critique of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, he also rejects Locke's theory of the social contract. Fitzhugh details the essential flaw of free trade, which, in privileging the wealthy and further subjecting the poor, puts society at war. Divinely instituted and universally practiced, slavery, he argues, promotes community, morality, and protection for the disadvantaged. Laissez-faire, on the other hand, manufactures human degradation, oppression, and selfishness. The pursuit of capital gain through free trade, Fitzhugh suggests, results in an overall moral decline. In triumphing individual self-interest and sacrificing the communal good, free competition yields only hostility.

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Short Bio: George Fitzhugh

Citing the turbulence in England and France as examples, Fitzhugh bemoans the suffering of free laborers who, toiling under the myth of liberty, equality, and fraternity, actually become society's slaves. By comparison, slaves in the South enjoy the paternalistic favor and care of their masters, making their condition far superior to the lives of their free laboring counterparts. According to Fitzhugh, while the white race remains innately superior in morality and intellect, slavery does function as a civilizing force that elevates the enslaved.

Ardently defending life in the South, Fitzhugh itemizes those problems prevalent in free society, which he argues range from the moral decline reflected in changing marital practices to the insidious psychological effects of mounting worker anxieties. Without such antagonisms, southern life under slavery connects human beings to one another and appears characterized by stability, peace, and brotherhood.

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Cannibals All!

“We are, all, North and South, engaged in the White Slave Trade, and he who succeeds best, is esteemed most respectable. It is far more cruel than the Black Slave Trade, because it exacts more of its slaves, and neither protects nor governs them. We boast, that it exacts more, when we say, "that the profits made from employing free labor are greater than those from slave labor." The profits, made from free labor, are the amount of the products of such labor, which the employer, by means of the command which capital or skill gives him, takes away, exacts or "exploitates" from the free laborer.

The profits of slave labor are that portion of the products of such labor which the power of the master enables him to appropriate. These profits are less, because the master allows the slave to retain a larger share of the results of his own labor, than do the employers of free labor.”

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Cannibals All!

But we not only boast that the White Slave Trade is more exacting and fraudulent (in fact, though not in intention,) than Black Slavery; but we also boast, that it is more cruel, in leaving the laborer to take care of himself and family out of the pittance which skill or capital have allowed him to retain. When the day's labor is ended, he is free, but is overburdened with the cares of family and household, which make his freedom an empty and delusive mockery.

But his employer is really free, and may enjoy the profits made by others' labor, without a care, or a trouble, as to their well-being. The negro slave is free, too, when the labors of the day are over, and free in mind as well as body; for the master provides food, raiment, house, fuel, and everything else necessary to the physical well-being of himself and family. The master's labors commence just when the slave's end. No wonder men should prefer white slavery to capital, to negro slavery, since it is more profitable, and is free from all the cares and labors of black slave-holding.

(Wal-Mart, anyone? Claim is that capital will always abuse labor, if it can. Only slavery aligns incentives of capital with welfare of labor.)

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Cannibals All!

“Probably, you are a lawyer, or a merchant, or a doctor, who have made by your business fifty thousand dollars, and retired to live on your capital. But, mark! not to spend your capital. That would be vulgar, disreputable, criminal. That would be, to live by your own labor; for your capital is your amassed labor. That would be, to do as common working men do; for they take the pittance which their employers leave them, to live on. They live by labor; for they exchange the results of their own labor for the products of other people's labor. It is, no doubt, an honest, vulgar way of living; but not at all a respectable way. The respectable way of living is, to make other people work for you, and to pay them nothing for so doing - and to have no concern about them after their work is done. Hence, white slave-holding is much more respectable than negro slavery - for the master works nearly as hard for the negro, as he for the master. But you, my virtuous, respectable reader, exact three thousand dollars per annum from white labor, (for your income is the product of white labor,) and make not one cent of return in any form. You retain your capital, and never labor, and yet live in luxury on the labor of others. Capital commands labor, as the master does the slave. Neither pays for labor; but the master permits the slave to retain a larger allowance from the proceeds of his own labor, and hence "free labor is cheaper than slave labor." “

(Summary: Free labor is cheaper than slaves. More profits for owners IMPLIES worse treatment, more exploitation of labor. Slavery is better for workers, for anyone whose nature makes them a slave, as Aristotle intended the “slave by nature.”)

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Cannibals All!

“You, with the command over labor which your capital gives you, are a slave owner - a master, without the obligations of a master. They who work for you, who create your income, are slaves, without the rights of slaves. Slaves without a master! Whilst you were engaged in amassing your capital, in seeking to become independent, you were in the White Slave Trade. To become independent, is to be able to make other people support you, without being obliged to labor for them. Now, what man in society is not seeking to attain this situation? He who attains it, is a slave owner, in the worst sense. He who is in pursuit of it, is engaged in the slave trade. You, reader, belong to the one or other class. The men without property, in free society, are theoretically in a worse condition than slaves. Practically, their condition corresponds with this theory, as history and statistics every where demonstrate. The capitalists, in free society, live in ten times the luxury and show that Southern masters do, because the slaves to capital work harder and cost less, than negro slaves.”   (Emphasis added) 

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Cannibals All!

“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 nor 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, not more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays.”

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Cannibals All!

“White men, with so much of license and liberty, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. "Blessed be the man who invented sleep." 'Tis happiness in itself - and results from contentment with 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 exploitate them. The free laborer must work or starve. He 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. He has no liberty, and not a single right. We know, 'tis often said, air and water, are common property, which all have equal right to participate and enjoy; but this is utterly false. The appropriation of the lands carries with it the appropriation of all on or above the lands, usque ad coelumm aut ad inferos. A man cannot breathe the air, without a place to breathe it from, and all places are appropriated. All water is private property "to the middle of the stream," except the ocean, and that is not fit to drink.” (Emphasis added)  

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Cannibals All!

These socialists, having discovered that skill and capital, by means of free competition, exercise an undue mastery over labor, propose to do away with skill, capital, and free competition, altogether. They would heal the diseases of society by destroying its most vital functions. Having laid down the broad proposition, that equal amounts of labor, or their results, should be exchanged for each other, they get at the conclusion that as the profits of capital are not the results of labor, the capitalist shall be denied all interest or rents, or other profits on his capital, and be compelled in all cases to exchange a part of the capital itself, for labor, or its results. This would prevent accumulation, or at least limit it to the procurement of the coarsest necessaries of life. They say, "the lawyer and the artist do not work so hard and continuously as the ploughman, and should receive less wages than he - a bushel of wheat represents as much labor as a speech or portrait, and should be exchanged for the one or the other." Such a system of trade and exchange would equalize conditions, but would banish civilization. Yet do these men show, that, by means of the taxation and oppression, which capital and skill exercise over labor, the rich, the professional, the trading and skillful part of society, have become the masters of the laboring masses: whose condition, already intolerable, is daily becoming worse. They point out distinctly the character of the disease under which the patient is laboring, but see no way of curing the disease except by killing the patient.

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Cannibals All!

In the preceding chapter, we illustrated their theory of capital by a single example. We might give hundreds of illustrations, and yet the subject is so difficult that few readers will take the trouble to understand it. Let us take two well known historical instances: England became possessed of two fine islands, Ireland and Jamaica. Englishmen took away, or defrauded, from the Irish, their lands; but professed to leave the people free. The people, however, must have the use of land, or starve. The English charged them, in rent, so much, that their allowance, after deducting that rent, was not half that of Jamaica slaves. They were compelled to labor for their landlords, by the fear of hunger and death - forces stronger than the overseer's lash. They worked more, and did not get half so much pay or allowance as the Jamaica negroes…. The Irish became the subject of capital - slaves, with no masters obliged by law, self-interest or domestic affections, to provide for them. The freest people in the world, in the loose and common sense of words, their condition, moral, physical and religious, was far worse than that of civilized slaves ever has been or ever can be - for at length, after centuries of slow starvation, three hundred thousand perished in a single season, for want of food. Englishmen took the lands of Jamaica also, but introduced negro slaves, whom they were compelled to support at all seasons, and at any cost. The negroes were comfortable, until philanthropy taxed the poor of England and Ireland a hundred millions to free them. Now, they enjoy Irish liberty, whilst the English hold all the good lands. They are destitute and savage, and in all respects worse off than when in slavery. (Emphasis added)

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Cannibals All!

“It seems to us that the vain attempts to define liberty in theory, or to secure its enjoyment in practice, proceed from the fact that man is naturally a social and gregarious animal,subject, not by contract or agreement, as Locke and his followers assume, but by birth and nature, to those restrictions of liberty which are expedient or necessary to secure the good of the human hive, to which he may belong. There is no such thing as natural human liberty, because it is unnatural for man to live alone and without the pale and government of society. Birds, and beasts of prey, who are not gregarious, are naturally free. Bees and herds are naturally subjects or slaves of society. Such is the theory of Aristotle, promulged more than two thousand years ago, generally considered true for two thousand years, and destined, we hope, soon again to be accepted as the only true theory of government and society.” (Emphasis added)

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From photographs by T. B. Bishop, these images of "the escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in Harper's Weekly during the Civil War. Antislavery literature continually emphasized slaves' virtue and agency: their willingness to run away from slavery and to fight for their freedom. If slaves could make good soldiers, as these images in the northern press suggested, they must be worthy of freedom. Reprinted from Harper's Weekly, July 2, 1864. In the original, "the escaped slave" appears above "the escaped slave in the Union Army."

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Themes: Anti-Capitalist Views escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in


  • The idea of “property” needs more content. Pre-exisiting distribution of wealth and power are crucial for claims that trade or exchange in anything are “just”.

  • A Lockean theory of property: slaves worked the land, improved it, they should own it.

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Anti-Capitalist Views escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

Marx, Chapter 26, Capital:

...[C]apitalistic production presupposes the pre-existence of considerable masses of capital and of labour-power in the hands of producers of commodities. The whole movement, therefore, seems to turn in a vicious circle, out of which we can only get by supposing a primitive accumulation (previous accumulation of Adam Smith) preceding capitalistic accumulation; an accumulation not the result of the capitalistic mode of production, but its starting point.

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Anti-Capitalist Views escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

Marx, Chapter 26, Capital:

This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone-by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living.... Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work....

[A]s soon as the question of property crops up, it becomes a sacred duty to proclaim the intellectual food of the infant as the one thing fit for all ages and for all stages of development. In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part. In the tender annals of Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial. Right and “labour” were from all time the sole means of enrichment, the present year of course always excepted....

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Anti-Capitalist Views escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in


  • All labor is enslaved. Better to be enslaved to a master, who owns your value.

  • Competition is destructive, and competition for property is corrosive to society and social capital. Better to be settled, and have community.

  • Subsistence wage in capitalist system may not guarantee survival. No schooling, no social mobility. So “freedom” is a cruel illusion.

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Anti-Capitalist Views escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in


  • Predicts collapse of laissez-faire capitalism

  • Decries “social Darwinism.” Competition and social “nature, red in tooth and claw” actually destroy fabric of culture, make happiness impossible. For him, slaves were the freest of all, because they had no responsibilities. Very similar to passages in Marx, describing the proletariat after the revolution.

  • Worries about atomistic individualism. Values communities, even among slaves

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1. Human nature is fixed, and immutable.

Fitzhugh: Aristotelian hierarchy, with many only fit to serve others. Cannot rise

Walker: Whites are completely socialized to keep blacks repressed. With only a very few exceptions, all whites are inherently and irredeemably racist. Only African power, and white blood, will give freedom to blacks.

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Commonalities escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

2. Rejection of Locke, or at least claim Locke is irrelevant.

Walker: Pre-existing rights don’t. Or else they reify illegitimate power relations. The way to get rights is to seize power. Rules are made to protect the powerful

Fitzhugh: Even more complete rejection of Locke. Robert Filmer, Thomas Carlyle were his icons. “Free” trade benefits only the wealthy, those with access to the market. Hierarchy is not only natural, but necessary, natural. Slaves are the freest, and free labor is slavery to capital.

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Commonalities escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

3. Rejection of Jefferson.

Walker: “Has Mr. Jefferson declared to the world, that we are inferior to the whites, both in the endowments of our bodies & of minds? It is indeed surprising, that a man of such great learning… should speak so of a set of men in chains. I do not know what to compare it to, unless, like putting one wild deer in an iron cage, where it will be secured, & hold another by the side of the same, then let it go, & expect the one in the cage to run as fast as the one at liberty…

Mr. Jefferson's very severe remarks on us have been so extensively argued upon by men whose attainments in literature, I shall never be able to reach, that I would not have meddled with it, were it not to solicit each of my brethren, who has the spirit of a man, to buy a copy of Mr. Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," & put it in the hand of his son. For let no one of us suppose that the refutations which have been written by our white friends are enough—they are whites—we are blacks. We, & the world wish to see the charges of Mr. Jefferson refuted by the blacks themselves, according to their chance: for we must remember that what the whites have written respecting this subject, is other men's labors and did not emanate from the blacks.

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3. Rejection of Jefferson (cont): He Had NOTHING to Do With ’76, EVERYTHING to do with ‘61.

Fitzhugh: "All the bombastic absurdity in the Declaration of Independence about the inalienable rights of man, had about as much to do with the occasion as would a sermon or oration on the teething of a child or the kittening of a cat . . . Our institutions, State and Federal, imported from England where they had grown up naturally and imperceptibly . . . would have lasted for many ages, had not thoughtless, half-informed, speculative men, like Jefferson, succeeded in basing them on such inflammable materials. . . . The Revolution of 76 was, in its action, an exceedingly natural and conservative affair; it was only the false and unnecessary theories invoked to justify it that were radical, agrarian and anarchical." (Fitzhugh, “Revolutions of ’76 and ’61 Contrasted,” 1863).

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My own work: Larger Project…. escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

  • Cases Involving Negro Slavery: Catterall (1927)

  • Legislative voting and ideal point estimation

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Did Southerners escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in Favor Slavery?

  • Not asking if they thought it was a necessary evil. “Wolf by the Ear” (Jefferson)

  • Disturbing realization for me, second time.

  • First was on reading about the Milgrom experiments.

  • Second was on reading the letters, papers, and writings of southern slave-owners.

  • In both cases, I was brought up short by a realization: (1) I would have administered the shocks.

    (2) I would have defended, and favored, slavery.

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Did Southerners Favor Slavery? escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

I am not proud of either of these facts. We tend to think of prison camp guards, and slave-owners, as simply being innately evil, incomprehensible monsters. They are not. They are us, in a different time and place.

Southerners favored slavery, by and large. They were raised in a culture that gave them the intellectual infrastructure that their minds could use to explain slavery. And they valued belonging to that culture.

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Did Southerners Favor Slavery? escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

“But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the existing relations between the races in the slaveholding states is an evil—far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far been proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition.

We now believe it has been a great blessing to both of the races—the European and African, which, by a mysterious Providence, have been brought together in the Southern section of this Union. The one has greatly improved, and the other has not deteriorated; while in our political point of view, it has been the great stay of the Union and our free institutions, and one of the mains sources of the unbounded prosperity of the whole.” (John C. Calhoun, speech before Congress, 1837).

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Did Southerners Favor Slavery? escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

Robert Walsh (1819) argued in terms of material benefits:

“The physical condition of the American negro is, on the whole, not comparatively alone, but positively good, and he is exempt from those racking anxieties-the exacerbations of despair, to which the English manufacturer and peasant are subject to in their pursuit of their pittance.... Where the institution of slavery does not exist, there are other institutions generating an hundred fold more vice, misery, and debasement, than we have ever witnessed in the same compass in America” (emphasis in original; quoted in Tise 1987, pp. 98).

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Did Southerners Favor Slavery? escaped slave" and "the escaped slave in the Union Army" appeared in

Ultimately, Southerners made a virtue of necessity, chose to believe it, and condemned American blacks to more than a century of oppression. And, interestingly, the white south itself paid a huge cost in foregone development, just so it could ensure control….

“In the free black, the principle of idleness and dissipation triumphs over that of accumulation and the desire to better our condition; the animal part of the man gains the victory over the moral, and he, consequently, prefers sinking down into the listless, inglorious response of the brute creation, to rising to that energetic activity which can only be generated amid the multiplied, refined, and artificial wants of civilized society.” (Dew, 1832, p. 30, after Virginia abolition debates in legislature.)