Stringfellow’s Defense of Slavery, Part Eight

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

“Negro-Slavery, No Evil.” Full text. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

The Bible on Slavery, Hebrew and Christian Scriptures

Defense of Slavery, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

According to Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow, everybody benefited from slavery. The Bible endorsed it. Enslaved black people behaved better than free black people. Slavery led to more and larger churches to give a greater portion of the population, blacks included, access to religion. Slavery produced more homes and fewer homeless. Slavery produced a more fruitful native population, multiplying at a greater rate than Northern whites did. Even the slaves multiplied faster. Given all these spectacular advantages, the abolitionists had to have something gone wrong in their heads to damn it.

Slavery may have brought great wealth to whites, which also didn’t harm its appeal, but Stringfellow had some honest misgivings about great wealth:

That country, which has greatest wealth, is not necessarily the happiest or most prosperous. On the contrary, excessive wealth too often brings in its train vice and degradation. Real happiness is rather to be found where wealth is distributed; where each is above want, all are able to live free from the harassing exactions of poverty. This is it, which has ever presented the striking contrast between town and country; which has so fully warranted men in regarding towns as “sores on the body politic,” has given rise to the adage “God made the country, man made the town.” In the latter, great wealth gathered in the hands of the few, the toiling millions struggling for bread; the one class is corrupted by luxury, the other debased by destitution. In the country it is the reverse: there though there be no excessive wealth, there is no poverty: fortune is distributed, if not with exact equality, yet in such fair proportions, that none can oppress another, with neither luxury nor idleness to corrupt, nor want nor oppression to tempt and degrade, the people are happy, virtuous and prosperous.

While in New England, we admit there are more overgrown fortunes, more towns, more seeming wealth and prosperity, in (that distributed wealth, which marks real prosperity, in exemption from poverty with its ills, we assert that the slaveholding States are far in advance. Of necessity, a slaveholding people must mainly be an agricultural people. Among such, whatever wealth there be, must be better distributed than among the inhabitants of the cities: there must be fewer paupers. The census proves this.

Slavery makes for better societies because it forces a more equitable distribution of wealth. Returning to the census figures, Stringfellow proves he operates on more than bare assertion:

New England, with all her boasted prosperity, has nearly double 135 per cent. more paupers than these Southern States, which abolitionists would represent as impoverished by slavery. In New England, the land of thrift, 1 in 81 is a pauper, while in these Southern States there is but 1 in 191.

These numbers do not include the slaves who legally owned nothing in the comparison, of course.

The Yankee might answer back that Stringfellow found in the census poor immigrants. He would have none of it. Those immigrants built the North’s railroads and canals. They worked in its factories. They created the very wealth which abolitionists boasted of in damning slavery as economically backward. Furthermore, even if one did neglect the immigrants the census told a similar story about native-born northern paupers:

New England has of her sons almost double the number, nearly 70 per cent. more paupers than these impoverished slaveholding States.

Northern whites further advertised the greatness of free labor through the larger proportion of them counted by the census as blind, deaf, mute, or mentally ill. Something went badly wrong to bring all this about and Stringfellow held freedom responsible.

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