Chapter 1 Preface
When the founding fathers assembled at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, slavery was firmly established in the five southernmost states. But as Stanford University historian Don E. Fehrenbacher notes,
Slavery was an institution under severe scrutiny, both as a matter of conscience and as a matter of public interest. Many Americans were finding it difficult to square slaveholding with the principles of Christianity, and many were troubled by the contrast between the celebration of human freedom in the Declaration of Independence and the presence of human servitude throughout so much of the Republic.
Despite these concerns, in the nation’s first decades slavery was only abolished where it was unprofitable. And as Harvard historian Nathan Irving Huggins writes, “The Founding Fathers . . . did not address frankly and openly, in any of their official documents, the conspicuous fact of racial slavery.” The U.S. Constitution, for example, does not mention the words slave or slavery at all. Proslavery sentiment was rooted deep in racism and in Southern social and economic interests, and antislavery sentiment was simply not, in Fehrenbacher’s words, “intense enough to become a prime motive force.”
It took eighty more years for slavery to become the focus of American politics, and when it did, it plunged the nation into a bloody civil war. Though it cost over six hundred...
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Slavery Is a Positive Good
We of the South will not, cannot surrender our institutions. To maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the country in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races. Be it good or bad, it has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them, that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people. But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil:—far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition.
A Benefit to Blacks
I appeal to facts. Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually. It came among us in a low, degraded, and savage condition, and in the course of a few generations it has grown up under the fostering care of our institutions, reviled as they have been, to its present comparatively civilized condition. This, with the rapid increase of numbers, is conclusive proof of the general happiness of the race, in spite of all the exaggerated tales to the contrary.
In the mean time, the...
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Slavery Is Evil
Reader, you are impaneled as a juror to try a plain case and bring in an honest verdict. The question at issue is not one of law but of fact—What is the actual condition of the slaves in the United States? A plainer case never went to a jury. Look at it. TWENTY-SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND PERSONS in this country, men, women, and children, are in SLAVERY. Is slavery, as a condition for human beings, good, bad, or indifferent? We submit the question without argument. You have common sense, and conscience, and a human heart—pronounce upon it. You have a wife, or a husband, a child, a father, a mother, a brother, or a sister—make the case your own, make it theirs, and bring in your verdict.
The Verdict Is Guilty
The case of Human Rights against Slavery has been adjudicated in the court of conscience times innumerable. The same verdict has always been rendered—“Guilty”; the same sentence has always been pronounced, “Let it be accursed”; and human nature, with her million echoes, has rung it round the world in every language under heaven, “Let it be accursed. Let it be accursed.” His heart is false to human nature who will not say “Amen.” There is not a man on earth who does not believe that slavery is a curse. Human beings may be inconsistent, but human nature is true to herself. She has uttered her testimony against slavery with a shriek ever since the monster was begotten; and till it perishes amidst the execrations of...
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Slavery Was Oppressive and Dehumanizing
By 1860, when the last census prior to the Civil War was taken, there were just under four million slaves in the United States. That figure reveals the truly fantastic growth of slavery in this country. There had been 700,000 in 1790. The million mark was reached in 1810. Twenty years later there were two million slaves, a figure which doubled again in the next three decades. The same census counted only 488,000 free Negroes in the United States, thus clearly showing how thoroughly the black race was subjugated in this country. . . .
To understand the institution of slavery as practiced in the United States, one must appreciate the magnitude of it. There were four million slaves spread over an area of more than 700,000 square miles, from Delaware to Florida, the Atlantic coast to Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.
With so many slaves living on isolated farms and plantations over so vast an area, almost any statement made about slavery, slave conditions, slave attitudes, and treatment of slaves is true. For example, it is true, as the apologists for slavery loved to trumpet, that some slaves were treated kindly by their masters and enjoyed better housing, clothing, food, and working conditions than immigrant white workers in the North. It is also true that some slaves owners inflicted the most inhuman treatment on their slaves. A Georgia slave owner, Thomas Sorrell, was found guilty of killing one of his slaves with an axe, but the jury recommended...
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The Harshness of Slave Life Has Been Exaggerated
In many respects the blight of slavery constitutes one of the most lamentable chapters in the history of the American republic. For, more than any other institution in the two hundred years of our existence as a nation, it has served to divide our people and to tarnish the lofty principles upon which this country was founded. Indeed, even now the legacy of slavery continues to engender strife and bitterness.
Yet, there is another side to the ledger. Despite the debilitating influence of slavery—especially upon blacks—the plantation society of the Old South was not without its virtues. The export trade in southern staples played a vital role in the development of commerce and industry, not only in the United States but throughout the Western world. Moreover, the civilization of which slavery was an integral part spawned a remarkable galaxy of political leaders who, in large measure, laid the foundations of our democratic republic. It would be difficult to imagine the path which this nation would have traveled without the services of such slaveholders as George Mason, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Marshall, and Andrew Jackson—to name but a few of the most obvious. Subsequent generations, both white and black, have benefited from the monumental contributions which these men rendered to the American political system.
Historians have long been fascinated by the subject of slavery. It is doubtful whether any other...
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The U.S. Government Should Pay Reparations to Blacks for the Harms Caused by Slavery
We are in a period of history where morality and ethics are emphasized as the primary ingredients of civil virtue. However, one of the most immoral acts in the development of the United States was the enslavement of Africans, compounded by (1) failure to acknowledge that the grandeur of this country was based, in substantial part, upon the monumental resources made possible by unpaid slave labor, and (2) refusal to make reparations for this crime. Most Americans have rejected the strength of America’s slave heritage, and in so doing they devalue its contribution to the country’s economic strength.
For example, the factory system emerged as an outgrowth of slavery when in 1790 Samuel Slater, an English immigrant who knew the secrets of English textile machinery, built a cottonspinning mill at Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for a merchant named Moses Brown. This mill, with 72 spindles, became the first successful American factory. By the end of the War of 1812, hundreds of factories, with an estimated 130,000 spindles, were in operation, and by 1840 the number of spindles reached 2 million. Enslaved Africans in the South picked the cotton that fed these spindles and fueled the growth of the textile industry in New England.
This led to larger and more sophisticated manufacturing institutions known as corporations, until in 1865, at the end of the Civil War, a group of businessmen—including Frances Cabot Lowell, Nathan Appleton, and Patrick Tracy...
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The U.S. Government Should Not Pay Reparations to Blacks for the Harms Caused by Slavery
The activist campaign demanding payment of “slavery reparations” to today’s black Americans probably strikes some readers as too far-fetched to take seriously. Better stop and look afresh. I myself realized that the concept had moved beyond faculty lounges, radical salons, and afrocentric pamphlets and into the realm of serious political struggle when I looked over the roster of a legal group convened to plot practical strategy for winning such compensation. It included not only DreamTeamer Johnny Cochran, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, and other ideologically predictable backers, but also one Richard J. Scruggs.
Scruggs is a white Mississippi trial lawyer with a single interest: causes which have a good chance of winning him lots of money. He is in the process of collecting billions of dollars (literally) for his part in the 1998 tobacco settlement. He is next trying to shake down HMOs and other unpopular businesses with the threat of legal action. He has his finger in dozens of other polemicized classaction suits. Scruggs also happens to be the brother-in-law of Republican Senator Trent Lott. When legal vultures like Scruggs, Dennis Sweet (hyper rich from Fen-phen diet pill suits), and classaction specialists Willie Gary and Alexander Pires begin to circle— they’re all currently members of a “Reparations Assessment Group” which has both government and major corporations in its sights—some juicy carcass is usually about to...
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