Washington (DC) National Era, “The Pro-Slavery Press of the South,” February 26, 1857

    Source citation
    “The Pro-Slavery Press of the South,” Washington (DC) National Era, February 26, 1857, p. 36: 1-2.
    Original source
    Richmond (VA) Enquirer
    Newspaper: Publication
    National Era
    Newspaper: Headline
    The Pro-Slavery Press of the South
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Meghan Allen, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    From the Richmond Enquirer, Jan. 23.

    It is within the memory of very young persons, when nobody in this country ventured to defend Slavery on principles of abstract justice and moral propriety. People of all classes and conditions united in stigmatizing it as a wrong and an iniquity. The slaveholder himself joined in the cry; and when pushed with the question, “Why, then, do you practice and profit by the wrong and iniquity!” would reply, that he tolerated the evil because it was incapable of cure. This was not a direct and satisfactory answer—for two reasons: first, because though the evil were irremediable, as an institution, each individual might very easily have renounced any responsibility for it, as indeed did many well-meaning and consistent persons, to their subsequent regret and reproach; and, secondly, because to affirm that any sin or moral disease is incapable of cure, is to utter an absurdity, in impeaching the justice and power of the Ruler of the Universe.

    To this dilemma, then, was the slaveholder drive n by the arguments of the Abolitionists; acknowledging the inherent injustice of Slavery, he confessed himself a conscious transgressor of the laws of God; and the only escape from the untenable position was in retracing his steps and retracting his admission. Then, for the first time, did the people of the South begin to study Slavery by the light of philosophy. It was a difficult thing to throw off the weight of the accumulated prejudices of ages. It was hard to dispute and defy the authority of the most eminent and illustrious names in history since the revival of letters and the “reformation” of religion. Man is the creature of education and habit; and it is like wrenching nature form its course, to pluck from his mind deep-rooted prejudices which have become a part of his very consciousness. It was nothing less than an attempt (so he thought it) to debauch his judgment and pervert his conscience; and he resisted the operations of reason with all the seductive scruples of pride and hypocrisy.

    This pervading prejudice against Slavery, in ancient and modern times, is an almost if not entirely inexplicable moral phenomenon. When Harmudius and Aristogiton delivered Athens from the Tyrant, Slavery existed throughout Greece in its worst and most repulsive form. When the old driveller Cato fell upon his sword, out of a despairing love for the violated goddess of Liberty, a majority of the Roman people were in bondage to masters no better than themselves and the hair-brained Brutus was assisted in his foolish self-sacrifice by a slave. Instructive inconsistency! As in classic, so in these latter times, men have professed one thing and practice another. While Wilberforce was dealing out Clapham cant to a hypocritical House of Commons, the slave trade throve apace, and he himself was the beneficiary of its bounty. When Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he was a master of many negroes, and in twelve out of the thirteen Colonies Slavery existed at the moment that all men were proclaimed “free and equal.” When Magna Charta was extorted by Barons and Prelates at Runnymede, the mass of the English people were in abject servitude. In the present day, England is the zealous propagandist of Abolitionism among all people except her hundred millions of slaves in the empire of the Great Mogul. All Europe is up in arms against African Slavery in the South, at the same time that all Europe is itself under bondage to a half dozen Kings and Kaisers. And even here among us, who hold slaves and profit by their toil, there has been if there is not now a vague idea that Slavery is a moral wrong and an offence against humanity.

    These, we say, are remarkable inconsistencies betwixt conduct and conviction, or rather between practice and professions, for, it is absurd to suppose that men believe one thing when they universally and persistently act the opposite.

    It is very generally agree that the classic idea of liberty was a barren conception, incapable of application to human affairs. Yet it held supreme sway over the literature though not the governments of contemporary times; and what is more, its power has been propagated through all succeeding ages. Christianity developed an altogether different theory of human freedom—a theory which was and is perfectly compatible with the practical existence of Slavery; yet, strange to say, men have clung to the sterile Pagan error, instead of adopting the fruitful truth of Christian civilization.

    This was the origin of the predudice against Slavery—a prejudice which, if resting upon reason, is inapplicable to the system of Slavery in the South, because that system does not violate the theoretical equality of men, but grows out of the natural and irremediable inequality of races because, instead of restricting the rights of the negro, it gives him rights of which he had no conception, much less practical enjoyment in the savage solitude of his primitive state. But, as the prejudice was of artificial origin, and as it has always been in conflict with the relations of human society, so is it likewise incompatible with the conclusions of sound reason. And the best service ever performed in the interest of African Slavery, has been rendered by the very men who profess the greatest anxiety to destroy it—by the Abolitionists themselves, who, in attacking the institution, compelled its advocates to explore its foundations, to ascertain its supports, and to develop its practical effect upon society and civilization. Discussion dispels the mists of prejudice and restores the bright reign of reason; and the result of the Slavery controversy, even at this early stage, is most satisfactory to the cause of truth and the interests of the South. So much at least we may affirm with confidence, that we have delivered our minds form the bondage of prejudice, and have brought our conscience and the convictions of our judgment to the support of Slavery. Instead of a silent submission to the censure of our adversaries, or a hypocritical protest against a confessed but compulsory evil, we have come to defend Slavery on grounds of moral propriety, and in all its relations to society and religion, and so have justified our conduct to the world and our own conscience. Slavery in the South no longer exists by sufferance of an insincere moral sentiment, but finds an impregnable stronghold in the affections, convictions and interests of our people.

    For this result, we repeat, our acknowledgments are due to the impertinent interference of the Abolitionists, which provoked us to argument and investigation, and resulted in the end in delivering our minds form the yoke of prejudice, and in rallying some of the foremost minds of the South to the defence of its institutions. A few years since, nobody would venture a word in apology for Slavery; now its advocates are as abundant as its assailants, are no less bold in spirit, and are as much stronger in argument as they stand more upon fact and reason. We have, indeed, a Pro-Slavery literature, embracing every form of literary production, whether book or pamphlet, whether the ponderous speech in the Senate of the light newspaper paragraph. In every mode of argument, the champions of the South excel, with the single exception that they have produced no roman quite equal to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” And for this inferiority we may account with Edmund Walker’s explanation of the failure of his address on the Restoration. When taxed by Charles II with the superiority of his panegyric on Cromwell, “Sire,” answered the self-possessed courtier, “poets succeed better in fiction than in truth.” Mankind have a natural taste for the terrible and Mrs. Stowe’s fancy is a Medusa’s head of horrible things. In every other field of controversy, the triumph of the South is easy and complete.

    Encouraged by their successes the advocates of Slavery have abandoned the defensive system, and they are no carrying the war into Africa with a spirit of enterprise and an impetuosity of attack, which the Abolitionists vainly endeavor to withstand. As the foremost leader in this gallant band of Pro-Slavery champions, George Fitzhugh, of Virginia, deserves the chief glory of their achievements. He it was who first turned upon the pursuers, and compelled them to beat an inglorious retreat. The opening chapter of his earliest work was devoted to a vigorous assault upon the institutions of the North; and his affirmation of the “failure of free society” was supported by an array of facts and a power of argument to which the Abolitionists offer but a feeble resistance. Our intrepid champion drove them form their position, and turned their guns upon their own retreating columns. But he is not yet content. It is a war f extermination; the cry is, “no quarter,” and he keeps up the pursuit with unflagging energy and an insatiable spirit of vengeance. He has another book in press, the title of which (“Cannibals All”) is significant of its character. Through the courtesy of the publisher, Mr. Adolphus Morris, we have had the pleasure of perusing some of the chapters of the work in “proof,” and we do not hesitate to pronounce it the most slushing in style, the most cutting in sarcasm, the most vigorous in invective, and, at the same time, the most original in argument, of any production of the class that has yet grown out of the Slavery controversy. It is a small volume, and may be read in a winter’s evening; but it is brimful of fact and thought. The chapter or two which we propose to insert in our columns will give a taste of its quality, and justify the character of our criticism.

    How to Cite This Page: "Washington (DC) National Era, “The Pro-Slavery Press of the South,” February 26, 1857," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/613.