Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

Start Your Free Trial

What did John C. Calhoun mean when he said slavery was a "positive good"?

Expert Answers info

Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,282 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

By calling slavery a "positive good," John Calhoun meant that slavery was not only something that had to be defended, but that slavery was defensible as positive for southern society. He stated that slaves were treated more fairly and better than laboring classes were treated in other societies. According to Calhoun, sick and old slaves were treated kindly and benevolently, and they were surrounded by friends and family and cared for by their slave master and slave mistress. In Calhoun's view, the infirm and elderly in Europe were, in contrast, sent to poorhouses and were subject to ill treatment. Calhoun's statements were not based in fact, as slaves who were sick and infirm were not in fact treated well, but Calhoun used this argument to suggest that slavery was beneficial to slaves and was in fact a "positive good."

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write9,483 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

As abolitionists became increasing more vocal in their condemnation of slavery as a moral evil that must be ended immediately, people like John Calhoun, who served as a...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 598 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Queen Langosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,594 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial