Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow, lieutenant of David Rice Atchison and spokesman for the Platte County Self-Defense Association defended slavery on religious grounds. He went to the 1850 census to find proof that it benefited the slaves, finding there that free blacks suffered all manner of difficulty their enslaved counterparts did not. Then he proceeded to note that slavery brought benefits to the white race in the form of more churches per person. They built those churches for less and to accommodate more than did the holier than thou New England abolitionists, a clear win for slave labor. Furthermore, the slaveholding states built solid, orthodox churches not given to heretical doctrines like Adventism, Mormonism, Unitarianism, or Universalism. One might add Abolitionism to the list, as Stringfellow surely intended his readers to do.
The benefits to whites did not end at the church door:
We find in the census the first great test of the superior condition of our own over other countries, is in the larger proportion of our dwellings, to our families. It needs no argument to show that country the happiest which has most homes for its people. Not only is their physical condition, their mere comfort promoted, but there is nothing which more certainly conduces to health and good morals. The watchful care of the home circle, the cheerful happy fireside, preserve not alone the body from disease, but the mind, the heart from corruption and vice. We turn then to the census, and compare the homes and families of New England with the homes and families of these old slave States.
Me., N. H., Vt., Mass., R. I., Conn., 518,532 Families. 447, 789 Dwellings. Md., Va., N. Ca., S. Ca., Georgia, 506,868 Families. 496,369 Dwellings.
With equal population, New England has 11,564 more families, these Southern States 48,580 more dwellings! New England has 70,743 families without a home! In New England, the land whose “homes” the abolitionists delight to praise, one in every seven of the families is homeless! while in these Southern States but one family of fifty-two is without a home. Taking the average of the number composing a family, and New England has 373,700 of its population thrown upon the world, who have no place for a home!
Not only can those Yankees not church themselves properly, they can’t even manage regular houses. If they do so well without slavery, then why do so many of them lack a roof over their heads? Even with all those big cities, New England comes up short to the plain folk of the south with their humble cabins and opulent plantation houses.
One might argue back that Stringfellow neglects population growth. The North did grow faster than the South and one can’t expect new houses to just pop up on the occasion of every birth. Stringfellow anticipated that and had an answer: The North did not, in fact, grow faster than the South.
Anybody looking at the population aggregates in the census knows otherwise, but Stringfellow zeroes in on natural increase. His measure of the health of society depends on the growth rate of people adding to the population by the hallowed tradition of childbirth. Immigration does not count, as immigrants come from different environments. Their condition has to do with where they came from as well as their current residence. Taking the immigrants out of the equation, Stringfellow finds
With equal population, with 11,564 more families, New England has 16,535 less annual births: the natural increase by birth being 27 per cent. greater in the Southern States than in New England! Estimating the number of families, the proper mode of estimating natural increase, and these Southern States increase by birth more than 29 per cent faster than New England. Here again we find the laws of nature vanquished; the rule reversed: the North, instead of supplying population to the South, is far behind in natural increase.
Those figures include South Carolina and Georgia in the South, two states that many nineteenth century Americans saw as downright toxic, malarial swamps entirely unfit for the white race to inhabit and toil within. Only black people could work safely in such disease-haunted lands.