Defending the Defenseless
During the American Revolution, slavery was in the process of being abolished in
Europe and in the Northern states of America. Even though parts of the world were
willing to free slaves, the Southern states found ways to defend slavery. In Paul
Finkelman’s book Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South, Finkelman
provides the writings of many white leaders from the South who believed that slavery
was essential to America’s society. The white leaders who spoke about proslavery
included a broad range of defenses to justify themselves because they wanted Americans
to believe that slavery had a lasting impact economically, religiously, ...view middle of the document...
In his speech he says,
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations
are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to
the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and
normal condition” (Finkelman, 91).
It is clear that Stephen is arguing that the superior race naturally is responsible for those
inferior. In this case he meant that slavery was good and natural for African Americans.
Stephens believed that slavery was the basis of the Confederate system.
Likewise, James Henry Hammond justified slavery in his “Mudsill Speech” by
comparing the success of the South from the North. He mentioned, “the recorded exports
of the South now are greater than the whole exports of the United States in any year
before 1856” (Finkelman, 84). Hammond believed that the South had been able to keep
high revenue because they have not abolished slaves. The African American slaves made
a big impact in America financially and the South had proved that they helped save them
a great amount of money. The Northern states had free slaves therefore their exports
were low. Hammond believed that the Northern states “produce no great staple that the
South does not produce; while we produce two or three, and these the very greatest, that
she can never produce” (Finkelman, 84). Hammond made it clear that he did not think
the Northern states were capable of being successful as the South, where all the
slaveholders are at.
Another defense of slavery comes from an essay from De Bow’s Review with
support from the Bible. The writings mention that the teachings of slavery are evident in
the Bible. For example the essayist wrote, “Abraham, the chosen servant of God, had his
bond servants, whose condition was similar to, or worse than, that of our slaves”
(Finkelman, 109). Since the teachings in the Bible appeared to accept the use of slavery,
the essayist believed it was morally right to pursue slavery. The essayist argued that
since God seemed to permit slavery, Southern slaveholders were simply practicing the
teachings. Since Christianity played a dominant religion in America, the teachings of the
Bible seemed to be beneficial to the slaveholders in the South and it was essential in
Another defender of slavery was a leading physician named Samuel A.
Cartwright. Since Cartwright had a proper medical education, he was able to invent
mental illnesses to explain why African American slaves behave a certain way. One of
the diseases Cartwright invented was drapetomania which meant “a runaway slave, and
mad or crazy” (Finkelman, 165). His diagnosis of the illness claimed that it is
accompanied with unusual or peculiar behavior. Cartwright mentioned that “they have
only to be kept in that state, and treated like children, with care, kindness, attention and
humanity, to prevent and cure them from running away”...