Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"The first defense of slavery as a positive good ever to be heard on the floor of Congress"

In The Old Republicans: Southern Conservatism in the Age of Jefferson, Norman K. Risjord identifies an argument by North Carolina Senator Nathaniel Macon, made on Thursday January 20, 1820, during the Missouri debates, as “the first defense of slavery as a positive good ever to be heard on the floor of Congress”:
It is a fact, that the people who move from the non-slaveholding to the slaveholding States, when they become slaveholders by purchase or marriage, expect more labor from them than those do who are brought up among them.

To the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Burrill) I tender my hearty thanks, for his liberal and true statement of the treatment of slaves in the Southern States. His observations leave but little for me to add, which is this, that the slaves gained as much by independence as the free. The old ones are better taken care of than any poor in the world, and treated with decent respect by all their white acquaintances. I sincerely wish that he, and the gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Roberts,) would go home with me, or some other Southern member, and witness the meeting between the slaves and the owner, and see the glad faces and the hearty shaking of hands. . . .

The owner can make more free in conversation with his slave, and be more easy in his company, than the rich man, where there is no slave, with the white hireling who drives his carriage. He has no expectation that the slave will, for that free and easy conversation, expect to call him fellow-citizen, or act improperly.


  1. Interesting bit of history, especially for someone in NC. Just curious, where did you get that horrible image of Macon? He looks pretty hideous in that image and I've never seen that one.

  2. Andrew,

    The portrait is of Rhode Island Sen. James Burrill, Jr., not Sen. Macon. I think I have posted a portrait of Macon before and I like to mix it up as much as I can. Also, I enjoyed the portrait 'cause it's so terrible.


Related Posts with Thumbnails