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How did white southerners defend the institution of slavery from the 1820s through the Civil War?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When abolitionist attacks on slavery as an absolute moral evil grew more vehement and frequent after 1820, many southern slaveholders moved away from the idea of slavery as a "necessary evil." Instead, led by wealthy slave-owner John Calhoun, they began to assert that slavery was a "positive good." Calhoun, for example, argued that large plantation owners provided their slaves built communal values and therefore fortified the communal aspects of the republic. He also insisted that slaves were well cared for, especially in infirmity and old age, and that the natural inferiority of black people meant they were better off in slavery. While all of these arguments could be easily refuted, and while Calhoun had his own slaves beaten, this insistence on the "positive good" of slavery was a mark of the increased polarization between north and south.

Christianity was also used to justify slavery. Both Old Testament and New Testament verses appeared to endorse slavery as an acceptable social...

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Some southern defenses of slavery claimed that slavery was supported by the authority of the bible and the wisdom of Aristotle. It was good for the Africans, who were lifted from the barbarism of the jungle and clothed with the blessings of Christian civilization. Slavery was so significant in the South. It was part of a chain. At one end it had the Southern economy. If you were to take out slavery, the chain would be broken. The South relied on slave labor. The cotton economy would collapse. The southern defenses of slavery also claimed that Blacks mostly toiled in the fresh air and sunlight, not in dark and stuffy factories; they did not have to worry about slack times or unemployment, as did the “hired hands”. Also that they were provided with a form of Social Security, they were cared for in sickness and old age, unlike the northern workers, who were set adrift when they outlived their usefulness.