Among the numerous arguments that plantation owners in the US South offered to rationalize the continued enslavement of their fellow human beings were arguments were based on economic, social, and racial grounds. The slaveholders often claimed that the slavery system was necessary for the economic well-being of the entire United States, not just of the Southern states. Slaveholders addressed social concerns, including religion, to bolster arguments based in benevolent paternalism. They said that slavery was not only necessary but beneficial to those who were enslaved, because of their alleged inability to properly care for themselves.
Both material and moral uplift, often supported by religious beliefs, were presented as the responsibility of white, European Americans to help Black people. Ideas about innate racial inferiority supported such claims. People of African heritage were often alleged to be naturally less intelligent and, therefore, incapable of properly caring for themselves or their families.
The economic rationale for slavery included the extreme dependence of the South on agriculture, much of which was conducted under the plantation system. The large landowners explained that low-cost labor was imperative for them to produce agricultural goods at reasonable prices. Keeping costs low also benefitted the industrial North, which was heavily dependent on crops such as cotton.
A variety of arguments for social benefits of slavery included everything from individual well-being to general social welfare. Arguments claiming white people were naturally superior to those of other races were linked to the supposed moral obligation to help those that white people deemed inferior. Along with justifications about providing stable homes for workers and their families, the owners suggested that free African Americans would present a danger to society as well as to themselves. Images of idleness and laziness were promoted to support the alleged threat of lawlessness among the formerly enslaved.