“We love the white woman so much…”

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, 8, 9, 10

Gentle readers, we have almost finished with Stringfellow’s pamphlet. I could certainly extract more meaning from it, but I think I’ve captured the high points. Much of what remains involves a reiteration of past points. But Stringfellow, after listening the benefits of slavery to the black and white man, comes around to consider just how wonderfully white women benefit as well. In so doing, he expresses some exceptionally horrific ideas. I will reach them in full toward the end of the post. If any of you find discussion of sexual violence especially traumatic, please don’t ruin your day here.

Slavery, Stringfellow asserted

ennobles woman. Relieved by the slave from the abject toil, the servile condition to which the white woman is so often subjected by necessity where negro slavery does not exist, and which strip her of woman’s greatest charm, modesty; which make of her the rude drudging, despised servant of a harsh master; the white woman becomes, as she is fitted to be, not the slave, but the queen of her house, fit mate for a sovereign.

Virtuous, modest, sensitive, retiring, her only ambition to merit the love of her husband, her only pride to point to her children and say, “these are my jewels”; worshipped in her sphere, her gentle sway undisputed, the white woman in the slave-holding States needs no conventions to give her, her rights. Whether she be the mistress of a mansion, or the humble tenant of a cabin, to her the seat of honour is ever accorded — at home or abroad, every son of the south deems himself her champion.

Women, as decent, reasonable, male person knew very well, had only one rightful use: as help-meets to their husbands. Slavery permitted white women that role by taking from them many toils which they had to endure in the free states. But slavery gave them more than just occasion to fulfill their divinely ordained role. It saved them from far worse horrors:

Negro slavery has a further effect on the character of the white woman, which should commend the institution to all who love the white race more than they do the negro. It is a shield to the virtue of the white woman.

So long as man is lewd, woman will be his victim. Those who are forced to occupy a menial position have ever been, will ever be most tempted, least protected: this is one of the evils of slavery; it attends all who are in that abject condition from the beautiful Circassian to the sable daughter of Africa. While we admit the selfishness of the sentiment, we are free to declare, we love the white woman so much, we would save her even at the sacrifice of the negro: would throw around her every shield, keep her out of the way of temptation.

Providing black women as slaves to white men gave them someone acceptable to rape, thus sparing the virtue of white womanhood. Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow wrote that for public consumption. He had it published. It came out as the official manifesto of the Platte County Self-Defense Association. The members approved it. They all knew very well what the words meant and accepted them as a statement of their principles for anybody in the nation to read. They might not like to talk about rape, but they accepted that it happened and preferred it happen to slaves.

Abolitionists damned the whole South as a great brothel, filled to the brim with degenerate masters forcing themselves on their human property. After pages of carefully answering antislavery arguments, Stringfellow comes up dry. He says it himself: “we love the white woman so much.”  Just them. Nothing of the sort should befall a white woman.

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

I can think of no better answer to this than that Sojourner Truth gave in other circumstances a few years before:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ar’n’t I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ar’n’t I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?

I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

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One comment on ““We love the white woman so much…”

  1. Sean O'Keefe says:

    This general idea had cut a deep and ancient channel into moral thought by the time Stringfellow arrived at it.

    Compare the words of Augustine, that fountainhead of Western philosophy, while keeping in mind that Augustine wrote in a period in which the chief supplier of the brothel was the slave trade. And keeping in mind that, like Stringfellow, he spoke not just for himself but for a community.

    “Quid sordidus, quid inanius decoriset turpitudinis plenius mereticibus, lenonibus caeterisque hoc genus pesttbus dici potest? Aufer meretrices de rebus humanis, turbaveris omnia libidinibus…”

    (“What can be said to be baser, more devoid of honor, more laden with disgrace than prostitutes, pimps, and other vermin of this type? [But] remove prostitutes from human society and you will throw everything into confusion through lusts.”)

    -De Ordine (translation by way of McGinn, brackets mine)

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