Saturday, September 08, 2007

An Unexpected Advocate of the International Slave Trade

Christopher C. Danley comes across in James M. Woods' Rebellion and Realignment: Arkansas's Road to Secession (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press 1987) as one of the more interesting figures in pre-War Arkansas. Danley assumed the editorship of the Whig Arkansas Gazette, based in Little Rock, in 1853. He became a Know Nothing, and the Gazette became the leading Know Nothing paper in the state.

In the late 1850s, Danley opposed both the regular Democratic party, known as the Dynasty, and Thomas Hindman and the faction he assembled. In the secession crisis, Danley was a staunch unionist, albeit a conditional one. Only after Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for troops did Danley endorse secession.

What makes Danley particularly interesting, however, is that this conservative unionist was also an advocate of reopening the international slave trade. His arguments included traditional justifications (slavery was sanctioned by the Bible and brought the benefits of civilization to blacks, raising them from their barbarous and degraded conditions and habits in Africa, etc.).

However, the core of his argument was that slavery and the slave trade would help combat disunion by bringing prosperity the south:
As a conservative, Danley believed an answer to the sectional crisis lay in economic, not political independence. The Gazette editor proposed that the South boycott Northern goods and develop Southern industry. He called for vigorous interstate trade among slaveholding states and more direct trade with England and Franc, which meant that the cotton South could bypass Yankee merchants and middlemen. If the South became economically and educationally independent of the North, Danley reasoned, it could then stay in the Union without having to worry about Northern attitudes and opinions. Far from being a disunionist, the Little Rock editor planned to keep the states united by having the Old South become more independent of the North.

I could not find a photograph of Danley. The photo at the top is of David Walker, another conservative unionist who chaired Arkansas' secession convention.

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