How did James Henry Hammond feel about slavery?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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James Henry Hammond was an ardent defender of slavery, which he characterized as a superior form of labor, and social organization, to northern wage labor. Hammond was the first to articulate what was known as the "mudsill" theory of social organization, in which society needed a lower class to rest upon so that elites might be free to contribute to the progress of society. In the South, Hammond argued in a famous speech before the US Senate, blacks were best suited to the forms of labor that undergirded plantation culture:

In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill...[Y]ou might as well attempt to build a house in the air...except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves. 

So Hammond argued that black slaves, by virtue of their supposed inherent inferiority, were natural slaves. Without a labor force of socially inferior people, he claimed, society would collapse. Most of his other defenses of slavery were fairly typical of southern apologists. He claimed that slaves were well-fed, clothed, and cared for in their old age, while northern "operatives," who he characterized as "essentially slaves," were forced to labor to make enough money to scrape by. He further argued that oppression of whites, with immoral, quite different than the South's extraction of labor from slaves, who were "happy, content, unaspiring, and utterly incapable, from intellectual weakness, ever to give us any trouble by their aspirations."


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