Theoretically, political reform could have supplied the proslavery puzzle’s missing piece. If southern states had imposed Christian limits on limitless authoritarians, democracy and dictatorship might have been eased toward reconciliation. But democratic reform requires open discussion. Slaveholders could not calmly debate internal corrections, they reiterated, while outside agitators advertised their supposed monstrosities.
Southerners may have sincerely believed that Yankee scapegoats inhibited slavery’s improvement. Defensive zealots rarely consider internal reform while a hated enemy screams about appalling perversions. Still, to credit the sincerity is not to accept the diagnosis. Even if outside agitators had been silenced, unlimited dictators would have been squeamish about discussing or accepting democratic limits. Authoritarians’ gingerly discussions about a reformist future reveal a culture at a frustrating crossroads—and enraged about scapegoats who supposedly precluded reconciliation of the unreconcilable.
– 1 –
Thomas R. R. Cobb, an evangelical zealot who codified Georgia’s laws, called limits on masters “of exceeding nicety and difficulty.” Laws, “if possible,” should prevent the “wanton separation of … husband and wife.” But “to fasten upon a master …a vicious, corrupt negro, sowing discord and dissatisfaction,” would make slaveholding “a curse.” Cobb hoped the state would prevent bankruptcy sales from separating families. But to go “farther, the lawgiver … requires … all the deliberation and wisdom of … Christian philanthropy.”1
George Fitzhugh wished to go farther, despite his published declaration that unlimited power guaranteed selfless paternalism. Fitzhugh had asked why selfish patriarchs would devastate their own family and their own possessions. James Hammond’s cuckolded wife and pair of slave mistresses could have answered Fitzhugh. The Virginian scarcely needed their instruction. After bragging about his ancient family in his most revealing De Bow’s Review essay, Fitzhugh condemned less scrupulous families. The head of the family, Fitzhugh regretted, “is often deficient in temper, in wisdom, in morals, and in religion.” Although he “corrupts …and oppresses” his household, no “law” exists “to check or correct his misrule.” We now call popes fallible. Yet we transfer “infallibility from the Vatican to the cottage.” The “crying defect in modern social organization,” concluded this two-paragraph outburst against uncontrolled patriarchs, is “the want” of “family supervision and control from without.”2
Brilliantly said—and never again publicly said so bluntly. In his other public writing, Fitzhugh only warily and infrequently criticized unlimited domestic power, and only under the cover of contempt for Yankee critics. “Domestic slavery,” he would occasionally concede, “has its imperfections.” We should “correct such as can be corrected, and we would do so if the abolitionists would let us alone.”3
Privately, Fitzhugh was more candid. “I assure you, Sir, I see great evils in Slavery,” he whispered, “but in a controversial work I ought not to admit them.” The Virginian added that “black slavery” is “an odious thing,” and “liable to great abuses.” Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was “right” concerning the “bitter treatment of slaves. …Law, Religion, and Public Opinion should be invoked to punish and correct those abusers.” He differed “widely with slaveholders generally as to the proper treatment of slaves—I think they [the slaves] should be educated, and that the Law should compel masters to feed and clothe them well and to treat them humanely.”4
While George Fitzhugh knew that selfishness did not alone prevent familial abuse, James Henley Thornwell doubted that preachers alone could preclude patriarchal selfishness. Like Fitzhugh, Thornwell wanted state governments to preserve slaves’ families and their right to read the Bible. Only “adequate protection,” as “defined by law and enforced by penalties,” could preserve “the real rights of the slave.”5
In 1847, Thornwell chaired a committee of the South Carolina Presbyterian Synod, charged with petitioning the state for slaves’ adequate protection. “We shall probably recommend,” he privately wrote, “that a law may be enacted, to protect the family relations of the slave; and that the disgraceful statute, which prevents them from learning to read, may be repealed.”6 But Thornwell never publicly called the existing statute “disgraceful.” Nor did he publicly protest when the South Carolina legislature ignored his petition.
In the mid-1850s, some Virginians and North Carolinians, bolder than Fitzhugh and Thornwell, developed statewide petition campaigns, demanding that state legislatures restrain masters. The petitions, sometimes signed by over a hundred would-be reformers, urged the legislature to prohibit slave sales from breaking up families and to require slaves to be taught to read and write. Without these restraints on absolute power, wrote the petitioners, masters would brutalize “the race to a degree that should cause even our selfish interests to shudder.” State legislatures instead shuddered at discussing checks on absolute authority, at the moment when northern abolitionists called unbounded power ungodly. The petitioners’ request, lamented a sympathizer, is alleged to be too “exceedingly nice & delicate” to “be agitated at so critical a time.”7
Several years after slaveholders silenced this delicate debate, South Carolina Episcopalians reopened the subject. In early 1859, Christopher G. Memminger, the prominent Charleston lawyer and future Confederate secretary of the treasury, chaired the Committee on Marriage of Servants for the state’s Episcopalian Convention. Memminger’s committee report called “absolute authority … wise and expedient.” But the statewide church must awaken absolutists’ “conscience” against shattering slave marriages.8
Memminger, opposing regulation, urged only a religious awakening. Still, cries of “heresy” greeted his report. The Episcopalian Convention swiftly tabled the subject. One anonymous Charleston newspaper correspondent protested that this “morbid intolerance of the discussion of slavery” remained the Slave South’s “greatest weakness.” Discussion could only be legitimately smothered if we have “no evils” or if “we are afraid or unable to reform them.”9
Memminger’s “damnable heresy,” answered the Charleston Standard, demanded imprisonment, not discussion. A church convention must keep unholy hands off masters’ holy power. As for the supposed sin of selling children from parents, a black sold away weeps “more from grief at parting with the white children of the family than the black.”10
Memminger scorned that dubiously Christian verdict. The next year, he again asked the South Carolina Episcopalian Convention to condemn sales that severed Christian families. Memminger called debate on an institution’s defects perfectly safe, as long as no debater wanted to level the defective institution. Colonel John Phillips, a prominent Charlestonian, retorted that discussion would bring out the wrecking crews.
Even in South Carolina, worried Phillips, “the anxiety to free slaves” remained as “great as it was many years ago.” While less “loose” public talk now occurred, softhearts “often” consulted lawyers about “how the law may be defeated, by leaving slaves free” in last wills and testaments. Should such wanderers “be told that they shall make no contract, except what the Church authorizes?” Should a slave be invited “to ask his master to stand by the law” of the Church convention? And “if you commence in the Church, where is it to end?”11
Calling discussion of these questions “fraught with mischief,” Phillips insisted that the subject be retabled. The convention concurred. The Charleston Courier’s editor, a member of the Memminger committee, issued one last feeble protest: “A Carolinian should scorn to acknowledge” that a godly “institution … has anything to fear from free, full, and unreserved discussion.”12
– 2 –
The only southern book that unreservedly discussed state limitations of masters contained murky disguises. Perhaps young Henry Hughes of Mississippi deliberately developed camouflaging jargon, lest his book be damned as heresy. Or perhaps personal confusions impelled the dreamy misfit’s foggy rhetoric. Whatever the reason, Mississippi’s most fascinating neurotic found the obscuring language to come right out with the state regulation heresy.
Henry Hughes’s unpublished adolescent diary reveals a lonely, tormented, and rich young gentleman. Hughes aspired for control over his sexual urges and over the universe; “I would be statesman & soldier, master & servant: a despot,” he told his diary. “Almighty God, let me be a despot.” And how would this son of a slaveholding despot use his despotic power? “The chief aim of my life,” answers his diary, “shall be to unite the great powers of earth in one Republic.” He would then “reform the system of human laws and human philosophy.” He would finally “abolish slavery.”13
The unlimited despot who would forge a worldwide limited republic and use it to abolish masters’ unlimited power! That adolescent vision impelled Hughes, as a young adult, toward republican limits on absolute power. At age twenty-five, Hughes publicized his panacea in Treatise on Sociology (1854). With this book, Hughes joined George Fitzhugh as the first American to use “sociology” in a book’s title.
Where Fitzhugh usually publicly omitted his hope that republics would restrain uncurbed masters, Hughes’s language disguised the hope. In Hughes’s opaque terminology, a “warrantor” (the guarantor of social health) must “warranty” (guarantee) that all “warrantees” (those who receive a guarantee) will live decently. Hughes’s jargon foreshadowed modern automobile terminology. Just as the car manufacturer (the warrantor) guarantees (issues a warranty) that the warrantee (the purchaser) has received an adequate vehicle, so a warrantor’s guarantee of laborers’ adequate treatment must be “unvarying, positive, absolute, and unconditional.”
In a free labor society, Hughes lamented, neither governments nor employers warrant employees’ welfare. A free labor society thus becomes “a live murder machine. It is organized homicide.” It “is atrocious. It is revolting. It is supreme and horrible.”14
Most proslavery writers, when discoursing in this colorblind vein, called slave labor far from horrible, because masters, unlike employers, guaranteed laborers a decent life. Hughes insisted instead that southern “governments,” not masters, must guarantee subsistence and order. The government’s role would be obscured because a “capitalist” (Hughes’s word for slaveholder) would ostensibly govern the slave. But the state, the “supreme warrantor,” should allow the “capitalist,” its “deputy warrantor,” to control slaves only if the “agent” carried out the state’s guarantee of subsistence and order.15
The state as supervisor, Hughes insisted, must allow its agent no “power to punish” slaves, “except after a trial or hearing,” and “no power to separate families,” except when separation “is essential to the subsistence of all,” and no “power to separate mothers and children under the age of ten years,” without exception. Whenever an “agent” violated the state’s warrant, the “supreme warrantor” must fine or jail its deputy warrantor. If the state’s corrected “agent” then defied the state’s guarantees, the state must force the irresponsible master to sell his slaves to a more responsible “capitalist.” Servants guaranteed a stable tomorrow, Hughes affirmed, “are not slaves. They are warrantees. …They are insured.” They are guaranteed a “chicken in every man’s pot.”16
Just as Hughes wished southern government to warrant a chicken for every slave, so he wanted northern government to warrant a meal for every free laborer. An activist, social welfare government should prevent employers from turning the economy sour, move the unemployed to areas of employment, warrant that employers pay employees decently, and ensure that the unemployable receive unemployment compensation. Labor unions should also act as deputy warrantors, guaranteeing that hard labor will earn fair wages.17
Henry Hughes, premodern Southerner, here advocated postmodern capitalism. By urging Big Government and Big Labor to contain Big Capitalists, Hughes anticipated John Kenneth Galbraith and Franklin D. Roosevelt. This nineteenth-century southern racist, however, gave latter-day progressive security a reactionary twist. The North, said Hughes, because largely inhabited by one race, needed only economic warranteeism. But the South, home of two races, also needed racial warrants. The presence of superior and inferior “ethnical” groups, as Hughes called the white and black races, demanded “warranteeism with the ethnical qualification” (Hughes’s jargon for black slavery) to establish “hygienic order.”18
Hughes, like Josiah Nott, considered racial mixture a hygienic disaster. “Hybridism is heinous,” he shuddered. “Mulattos are monsters.” To avoid the monstrous, Hughes, like George Fitzhugh and every other would-be colorblind proslavery writer, ended up defending only racial slavery.19
As Hughes summed up American Warranteeism, the North, largely inhabited by only one race, needed only governmental economic warrants. But in the South, two “ethnical” groups with a “hygienic problem” required “WARRANTEEISM WITH THE ETHNICAL QUALIFICATION.”20Or to put it in mercifully non-Hughes language, blacks must be owned, and the state must regulate the owners.
– 3 –
To step beyond Hughes—to argue that regulated slavery could generate regulated emancipation—demanded even more protective cover than Hughes’s cloudy vocabulary. The new disguised heresy, frequent in Upper South polemics but rare in Lower South arguments, built on an old undisguised orthodoxy. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many Upper South masters had hoped to terminate slavery, if free blacks could be colonized in Africa. But in the 1830s, governments such as Virginia’s and Maryland’s had barely financed only a little state colonization. South Carolina, by threatening to secede, had stifled debate on funding national colonization. African colonization, the hope of Upper South apologists from Thomas Jefferson to Henry Clay, became an underground political chimera.21
It resurfaced as a theological goal. When the colonization dream passed from the most prominent Upper South politicians’ hands in the 1830s to the most prominent Upper South preachers’ hands in the 1850s, it became vaguer (and thus more politic) in its perceived time to be accomplished. It also became more evangelical (and thus more compelling) in its Christianity to be realized. Now, southern evangelicals would bring ex-Africans to Christ. Later, ex-slaves would bring Christianity to Africa.
In the presecession decade, Virginia’s William A. Smith especially celebrated this double triumph. This Methodist preacher and president of Randolph-Macon College described his civilization as still “in a state of great embarrassment” over how to reconcile slavery and liberty. The reconciliation required patience. In blacks’ “present state of mental imbecility, moral degradation, and physical inferiority, they should be placed under that more decided form of control called domestic slavery.”
The Virginia Methodist emphasized “present state” because he could not “affirm—nay I do not believe”—that blacks are inferior “in the original structure of their minds.” Rather, evangelists’ preaching, in the slow “process of time,” would “greatly elevate the race” from “ages of barbarous and pagan” African life. Then blacks, converted in America, would “improve the privilege of civil liberty” in Africa. Thus would “Divine Providence” serve “the civilization of the African in America, and the redemption of his fatherland.”22
The Reverend Mr. Richard Fuller, a wealthy South Carolina planter who became an important Maryland preacher, asked slaveholders for only one concession: “that slavery is not a good thing, and a thing to be perpetuated.” Few Southerners, claimed Richard Fuller in 1851, “would hesitate about making this concession.” For “the Gospel,” cheered the reverend, “is love. This love is now altering the relation between master and slave. It will gradually melt off all servile bonds.” Then masters will send freed slaves to Christianize Africa, “the sublimest enterprise which ever employed the wisdom and power of a great empire.”23
Professor Albert Taylor Bledsoe of the University of Virginia, also in the highest echelons of Upper South proslavery writers, still more mistily called for slavery’s eventual termination. In his Liberty and Slavery (1856), Professor Bledsoe decried northern abolitionists for proposing that “this frightful mass of degradation” should “be blotted out at once.” He was, Bledsoe hedged, “in favor of slavery,” so long as blacks “remain unfit for freedom.” As to whether southern slaves would become fit for African liberty, he referred his readers to an obscure colonizationist in an out-of-the-way colonization journal (who urged that slaves would become fit colonizers).24
Lower South gentlemen seldom publicly agreed that the good of slavery could be temporary. But in a priceless 1852 private letter, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, E. S. Dargan, asked Virginia’s U.S. Senator Robert M. T. Hunter for “your individual opinions or conclusions as to the final result of slavery.” Chief Justice Dargan wished to know “when it will terminate” and with “what troubles?” He assumed “that you see it must ultimately end, for to me it is as manifest as any fact can be that still remains in the womb of futurity. This expression of course is confidential, as would be the expression of any opinion of yours.”25
In the safety of private expression, Stephen Elliott, Episcopalian Bishop of Georgia, boldly asserted that preachers and masters are elevating “the negro population … both spiritually and physically; they will soon be our equals as regards morals, and when they become our equals, they can no longer be our slaves.” In public, however, Bishop Elliott put that heresy mistily: “We are educating these people as they are educated nowhere else,” thereby “working out God’s purposes, whose consummation we are quite willing to leave in His hands.”26
Sometimes Lower South preachers called His future plans too cloudy to consider. Southerners must “do what He so clearly defines to be present duty,” urged Georgia’s Charles Colcock Jones, and let Him reveal “our future duty.” More often, Deep South clergy ambiguously hinted at future emancipation. “We do not see why it might not be perpetual,” declared South Carolina’s Reverend Thomas Smyth, utilizing a dodging double negative. “Yet we do not see reason to say it will be so.” On the next page, he left “it to God to remove, when His time comes.”27
A Lower South lawyer rather than preacher, Charleston’s Edward Pringle, gave the uncertain future theme its most sophisticated treatment. Pringle’s underappreciated 1853 pamphlet, Slavery in the Southern States, exuded that rarity among fierce provincial polemics: a calm synthesis, grounded in a cosmopolitan’s understanding of the human predicament and appealing to the measured sensibility of all men of goodwill.
Like Josiah Nott, Pringle came from a wealthy South Carolina family. Both clans had long featured South Carolina insiders but had moved inside from outside regions—the Notts from Connecticut and the Pringles from Scotland. Both the latest heirs enjoyed New England higher educations, Josiah Nott at Yale and Edward Pringle at Harvard. Both savored transatlantic intellectual connections, Nott in the polygenesis movement and Pringle from two postgraduate years in London and Paris. Both left South Carolina to pursue nonslaveholding professions, Nott as a Mobile physician and Pringle as a San Francisco lawyer. Both published their proslavery masterpieces outside the South, Nott in Philadelphia and Pringle in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
But where Josiah Nott’s cosmopolitan science advertised provincial racism, Edward Pringle’s Slavery in the Southern States exuded cultivated poise. Instead of castigating Yankee abolitionists as intolerable meddlers, the South Carolinian dryly noted that to preach at “distant” communities “is very cheap philanthropy,––the cheaper in proportion to the distance. The feeling of self-satisfaction exists without the necessity of personal sacrifice.” So too, instead of proclaiming slavery a divine institution, Pringle regretted that Yankees’ emphasis on slavery’s “exaggerated horrors” had interfered with southern “calmness of judgment on many points of slavery.” Slaveholders must renounce “a war of recrimination,” where victory goes “not to the strongest, but to the most vulgar.” We must remember that slavery, like “all social systems,” contains “many errors.” Only “time, and caution, and serious thought can correct” our defects. Southerners must be true to the most “splendid career, intellectually speaking”: that of a slaveholder “who is thoroughly awakened to the difficulty of his position.”28
In some ways, continued Pringle, slaveholders displayed “a solemn sense of responsibility.” Blacks’ food, clothing, shelter, and medicine abounded. So too, churches multiplied “every day for the simple worship of the negro.” Still, Pringle gloomed that slave sellers caused “the destruction of family ties … more than is necessary.”29
Moreover, the question of “how far slavery will prove conducive or antagonistic to the development of” Christian slaves remained unanswered, “for the South has not put forth her strength in her task of regeneration.” Both “the difficulties of this whole subject” and the “bitterness caused by the fanatics at the North” had made Southerners “fearful,” neglectful, “oversensitive.” Many slaves could not hear the Gospel, and still fewer slaves could read the Bible. Erring slaveholders reminded Pringle of English capitalists, who also “feared to touch …the question of the poor and their education, …lest a wrong step might involve inextricable ruin.”30
Would slaveholders ultimately outperform employers in providing “the great mass of laboring men” with “intellectual or religious education”? Upon the answer to “this question,” wrote Pringle, “depends the future of slavery.” Pringle admitted that enslavement, perhaps more than employment, encouraged dependency and discouraged literacy. Still, he thought that slaveholders possessed one advantage over employers: The southern patriarch has “always before him the effects of his act.” He “will be moved to pity by the sight of the misery that is caused by his thoughtlessness or violence.” In contrast, the employee, because “out of view” of the employer, arouses no “conscience,” no “duty,” no “responsibility.”31
Edward Pringle here touched hands with George Fitzhugh; slave labor, not free labor, better ensured conscientious superiors. Then why not enslave white laborers? Pringle answered in the manner of Fitzhugh: America has no “excess of labor,” the “great problem of the day in older countries.”32 Yet despite America’s excess of virgin land, Pringle joined Fitzhugh in concurring with Josiah Nott and Samuel Cartwright: Hapless blacks still must be enslaved.
Unlike convinced racists such as Nott and Cartwright, however, Pringle remained uncertain why blacks were now hapless. Future scientists, he speculated, might disprove black innate inferiority and “place the two races” on an equal “level.” Now, however, blacks were inferior, whether because of heredity or environment. So now, the slaveholder must uplift blacks, not “brush the slave away from his path, as the white man in America has done the Indian.”33
How far could the black be uplifted? Again, Pringle wondered. Perhaps as those who rate a black “lowest suppose,” he must always be “driven to unwilling labor.” Or perhaps, as whites who rate a black highest suppose, he “is destined to rise to an equality with the white man, and to break the fetters which bind him.” Perhaps some freedmen would assume “the noble mission” of civilizing Africa.
Pringle could “not forejudge” these issues. He could hold only “this for certain”: that “amidst all the perplexities and uncertainties which shroud the future,” slavery, to be moral, must serve “a great purpose for the negro.” Blacks’ “dependence” must inspire more slaveholders “to teach and to elevate.” Then mankind would applaud “an institution, which, if it disappears because of an increased energy and higher character in the blacks, will have had its day of usefulness, as the source of that energy and that elevation of character.”34
Edward Pringle’s sophistication, candor, and stylistic ease showed how far the proslavery argument had advanced in the mere seven years since James Hammond’s coarse outburst to Thomas Clarkson. Muted was the siege mentality, the defensive hysteria, the hypocrisy of describing slaveholders’ sexual transgressions as Yankee do-gooders’ fantasy. Slaveholders emerged, in Pringle’s synthesis, as improving although imperfect patriarchs, kinder to their workers than Old World capitalists, uplifting their blacks better than Yankee racists, showering Christ’s Word on blacks more promisingly than white missionaries to Africa, and perhaps someday developing the best sort of paternalism: the one that prepares children to grow up and leave home.
During the Civil War, an unforgettable tableau illustrated the most mature proslavery polemicists’ fresh self-assurance. The star this time, Virginia’s Reverend Thornton Stringfellow, seemed to have been born to believe in southern paternalism. His father was a wealthy slaveholder. His first wife’s dowry included many bondsmen. The double inheritance lent Stringfellow a steward’s mentality. To him much was given. Of him much was expected. He would give back by training slaves and slaveholders to fulfill Christ’s plan for saving Africa.35
Our Lord, the Reverend Mr. Stringfellow emphasized in one of the most important Upper South proslavery books published in the 1850s, “singled out the greatest slaveholders of that age, as the objects of his special favor.” Then as now, the institution furnished “great opportunities to exercise grace and glorify God,” whenever “its duties are faithfully discharged.” In our times, “it has brought within the range of gospel influence, millions of Ham’s descendants among ourselves, who but for this institution, would have sunk down to eternal ruin.” Slaveholders “did not seek or desire the responsibility, and the onerous burden, of civilizing and christianizing these degraded savages.” But once the Lord brought the heathen to us for instruction, we could not cease accomplishing His work “if we would—and ought not, if we could.” We can “put an end to African slavery,” Stringfellow concluded, only when “God opens a door to make its termination a blessing, and not a curse. When He does that, slavery in this Union will end.”36
During the Civil War, Yankee troops carried their war to end disunion inside Stringfellow’s house. When he first beheld the muddy invaders, the preacher wondered if God had deserted him. Then he realized what the Lord must desire. Ungodly bullets having failed, God’s steward must repel Satan’s monsters with the holy truth. Stringfellow strode to his library. He found his proslavery book. He marched back to the invaders. He thrust his book at them.37 See, the gesture said, I am right, you are wrong; you must read my words and flee. There was a convert’s—a converter’s—faith that paternalists marched against the infidel.
– 4 –
Like Thornton Stringfellow, the Southerners of the 1850s did not mindlessly regurgitate a stale faith that had been perfected twenty years agone. These pilgrims enjoyed a lately refurbished justification. The colorblind polemics of the George Fitzhughs generated deeper conviction that Yankee free labor capitalism exuded rank individualism. The racist polemics of the Josiah Notts and Samuel Cartwrights spread firmer belief that biologically depraved blacks needed patriarchal direction. The holy polemics of the James Henley Thornwells inculcated biblical faith that slavery per se was no sin, only a calling to serve Christ’s future design.
But frustration accompanied exhilaration, for slaveholders’ limitless authority to defy the Word undermined secular as well as biblical justifications. Allegedly, slavery lifted Northerners over Southerners in perfecting the home. But if uncurbed masters savaged households, black and white, no claim for southern domestic superiority could pass muster. Again, slavery supposedly raised the South over the North in establishing social hierarchies that restrained irresponsible individualists. But if unrestrained despots deployed unchristian rule, the Southerner would be America’s ugliest individualist.
Ugly imperfections made Yankee critics doubly insufferable. Outside agitators not only sneered at proslavery’s advances. The fiends also allegedly inhibited the further advances that would end the theoretical frustration.
Furthermore, an incompletely justified black belt faith offered nothing to white belt folk. In the spottily enslaved hinterlands of the slavocracy’s northern peripheral areas, racists thanked the Lord that blacks were largely another South’s problem. Nor did the torrid South’s case for unperfected paternalism convince the many patriarchs in coolish Delaware and Maryland, who congratulated themselves on perfecting a paternalism that taught blacks to be freedmen. Nor did the orderly, productive work of the freed black proletariat in the upper Chesapeake, a hundred thousand liberated laborers strong and more numerous than the area’s slaves, further the case that Maryland and Delaware must move backward toward the Lower South’s social order (though, as we will see, a fascinating rearguard crusade sought exactly that).
The omnipresence of unconvinced Border South voters, together with the greater danger that borderland slaves would flee, made a free and open democratic debate over slavery seem especially menacing in the South’s northern peripheral areas. There, outnumbered reactionaries (lamely) sought to close down challenges to the regime. The hinterland slavocracy also (lamely) strived in Congress to keep further antislavery challenges from seeping over the Mason-Dixon line from the borderland North. Black belt congressmen always rushed to defend white belt closures.
But whatever happened to their half-open outposts, proslavery apostles inside slavery’s core would not tolerate Yankees’ insults, not when slaveholders felt more godly than the insulters, not when the insults brushed the sore places, not when the ugliest sores allegedly could not be cured while fanatics ranted. So slavery’s partially thwarted ideological defenders massed politically, to charge at northern defamers. They thereby invited still more frustrations.