Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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Why did John C. Calhoun claim slavery was a positive good?

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There were two main strands to Calhoun's defense of slavery. The first was political. As an ardent defender of states' rights, Calhoun believed that the South, with its numerical minority in the Union, needed to be protected from Northern tyranny, from having alien ideas such as abolitionism imposed upon it.

Calhoun was part of a long-standing republican tradition in American political history stretching right the way back to the Declaration of Independence. This tradition was deeply suspicious of majoritarian rule, seeing it as a potential instrument of tyranny, thus undermining the very foundations of the American Republic. Calhoun was concerned that the North would use its superior numbers to abolish slavery, and that this would merely be the prelude to further encroachments on state sovereignty.

The second strand of Calhoun's defense of slavery was based on wider moral and racial grounds. Like almost all of his contemporaries, Calhoun believed in the inherent superiority of the white...

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