According to The Old South by Mark M. Smith, how was the pro-slavery argument communicated to poorer yeoman and non–slave holders in South Carolina?

The pro-slavery argument was communicated to poorer yeomen and non–slave owners in South Carolina by means of an analogy of marriage. Just as married women were expected to be subordinate to their husbands, so too were slaves subordinate to their masters.

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In The Old South by Mark M. Smith, there is an extract from an article in the Journal of American History by Stephanie McCurry, a history professor specializing in the American Civil War. In this excerpt, McCurry examines the ways in which pro-slavery arguments were constructed and pitched at yeomen farmers and nonslave owners in South Carolina.

As well as justifying slavery through selective quotations from the Bible, pro-slavery ideologues justified the “peculiar institution” by drawing a highly contentious analogy between marriage and slavery. In relation to both slaves and wives alike, white men, of whatever economic or social status, were held to be the undisputed masters. Just as women were subordinate to their husbands, so too were slaves subordinate to their masters.

As McCurry reflects, this was a very successful strategy because

No other relation [marriage] was more universally embraced as both natural and divine.

Virtually every white man, irrespective of his position in South Carolina society, instinctively understood the language of subordination. The appeal of pro-slavery ideologues was therefore highly effective as it talked to yeomen farmers and non–slave owners in a language they could understand, and invested the defense of slavery with the ongoing survival of existing gender relations.

This concerted attempt to establish an unbreakable link between the institution of marriage with that of slavery meant that, in the eyes of Southern men, the abolition of slavery was akin to the abolition of marriage, and that the consequences of such a measure would therefore undermine the very foundations of Southern society.

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