The Kansas Census, Part Three

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Looking into the origins of Kansas’ settlers, as reported in the first territorial census, turned into much more of an undertaking than I expected. From looking at national censuses, I expected a by-district tabulation of who came from where. The Howard Report does not appear to include any such thing. Instead the full lists of qualified voters, separated by district, appear with where each voter hailed from listed right after his name. Counting them all up takes quite a bit of time. To help preserve my sanity and eyesight, I’ve thus opted to make a smaller project of it using the breakpoints I sketched out yesterday.

Today then brings the censuses of the second, fourth, sixth, seventh, and eleventh districts. Those five led the pack in level of vote fraud perpetuated at their polling places in the November election for delegate. By February, they had only twenty slaves between them as befitting districts where we would expect a majority of antislavery settlers.

Do the numbers back that up? No.

Overview of the place of origin of Kansas' voters

Overview of the place of origin of Kansas’ voters

One would expect a decisive northern inclination to match the presumed antislavery inclination in the districts that had the greatest number of fraudulent votes, but the top five give only two districts with such populations, the notorious seventh and the almost evenly split sixth. At least for these districts, if the Missouri filibusters moved in based on where the people who truly resided there hailed from, they did not operate with the best information. The second and fourth districts come up with a clear southern majority and the eleventh possessed voters entirely from the South.

Many of the Southerners in those numbers hail from Missouri, which accounts for 280 of the 573 voters (48.87%) all by itself. We know that Stringfellow and others feared for the future of slavery in the Show Me state. It had sent Thomas Hart Benton, famously silent on the subject, to the Senate for decades. Furthermore, much of Missouri looked demographically quite northern. Many of those Missourians probably did not care all that much about slavery one way or the other. They could accept it or do without, so long as they got to decide on the fact themselves. But some of them would have loathed the abolitionists as outside interlopers or out of old fashioned racism. Thus, especially in light of these figures, we shouldn’t presume that everybody from Missouri came over with South Carolinian or Mississippian ideas, or as a covert free soiler. The numbers just don’t give us enough information to make that call.

One could combine this with the numbers of slaves present in the same districts as a rough metric, but that too has problems. One need not own slaves to support slavery and making Kansas into a slave state. A settler could easily come to Kansas from a slave state with dreams of striking it big and then becoming a slaveholder. Likewise the filibuster votes could have come to these districts not because they housed free soilers in great numbers, but because they lay near the border and had few enough people to make stealing the election for delegate an easier matter. Outnumbering seven legal voters requires less effort than outnumbering hundreds. Of course those same small numbers also permit subsequent settlement to change the polity of a district with equal ease in the months between the election and the census.

The Kansas Census, Part Two

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Reeder ordered up his census of Kansas and, as one would have trouble fraudulently residing in Kansas for a few weeks and one could always come back over for the elections instead, we can consider it a fairly good picture of settlement at the time,. In doing so, we must keep in mind that the census deliberately excluded the Indians that still lived in the territory in considerable numbers. Nineteenth century Americans thought little about that, but we need share all their biases.

Incidentally, the New York Times Disunion blog had a good piece about American Indian soldiers from my neck of the woods yesterday. I particularly liked how it highlighted the Indians’ motives for signing on with the Union:

Raymond J. Herek, in his regimental history “These Men Have Seen Hard Service,” explained, “Many of the Indians joined because they believed the South was out to enslave all of them. The young warriors were going to fight for their own freedom, their homes, and their lands, where the graves of their families were located.”

Herek taught the one Civil War history class I’ve had back in 1999. His book seems to have gone out of print. I regret now that I didn’t get a copy back in the day. Anyway, the Indians’ motives sound extremely American. The white North held many convinced that the South aimed to enslave everybody, or do the next best thing to it. We can easily slip into imagining that white American and Native American lived in vastly different worlds and rarely interacted, but here we have a clear sign that they shared some of the same space mentally as well as physically.

But back to Kansas. In March of 1855, the territory had 8,601 inhabitants. That number included 192 slaves and 151 free blacks. The great majority claimed native birth, with only 408 registering themselves as foreign-born.

The Kansas census returns (click for a larger version)

The Kansas census returns (click for a larger version)

I apologize for the slightly grainy image. You can see the original here.

Slaves have come to Kansas, whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise permitted it or not. On the ground, the proslavery men had their way in more than just the election. Keeping slaves out would have required Reeder’s tiny territorial government to do something about it and any such act, as well as challenging its capabilities, would constitute a radical provocation. Voting with their feet, proslavery Missourians had done more than force their choice of delegate on Kansas. They had enacted their interpretation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Less than two hundred slaves might not make a permanent mark on the territory, but it gave them a far more consequential win in practical terms than their non-voting delegate John W. Whitfield did. They had made Kansas into a de facto slave territory.

In seeing the number of slaves broken down by district, I wondered how their concentrations compared with the vote fraud back in November. Intuitively, one would expect the less enslaved areas to have more fraud, since the Missouri men needn’t steal the election in districts they knew they had well in hand. The population grew, and very well could have moved around within Kansas, in the three months between November’s polls and February’s census, but we can use the census figures as at least an approximation. A district safe for slavery three months previous, and thus not requiring much fraud, would probably remain safe in February.

The November vote and February census returns

The November vote and February census returns (click for a larger version)

By percent illegal votes, the eleventh (97.14%), seventh (96.69%), second (86.21%), fourth (81.27%), and sixth (76.19%) lead the pack. We would expect to find few slaves in them come February. The seventh and fourth had just one each. The second district had seven. The sixth leads the pack with eleven. The eleventh had none. Together those twenty slaves made up 10.15% of the territory’s slaves.

That all sounds right. At least on the extreme end, the pattern matches expectations. But does the converse hold as well? Did the districts with the least fraud end up with the most slaves? The census found the most slaves, as a percent of the total population, in the seventeenth district (15.33%), followed by the eighth (11.36%), the ninth (9.30%), thirteenth (4.93%), and twelfth (4.86%). None of those districts had a single illegal vote cast in November.

What about the least enslaved districts? Those would likely hold the most voters that the Missouri filibusters would have had to worry about in November. Four districts had no slaves at all, but the eighteenth did not exist for the election and so we must set it aside. This leaves the first, tenth, and eleventh districts. The eleventh had the greatest percent of fraudulent votes cast. The first and tenth had no illegal votes. Widening the net to include districts with just one slave adds the fourth and seventh districts to the list. In the fourth district, 81.37% of the votes cast came from non-residents. In the seventh, 96.69% did. The pattern doesn’t match exactly, but a trend seems present. Unfortunately, I don’t have a map of Kansas’ districts at the time to compare and see if proximity to Missouri played a role.

I speculate that the filibusters might have conceded distant districts or districts where they knew a large majority of northerners lived. They voted for the delegate at large, so if the proslavery voters concentrated in a few places it didn’t harm their chances. One’s district just decided one’s polling place.

Without the map I can’t look at proximity. If anybody knows of one, I’d love to see it. I have the boundaries Reeder set for each district, but no cartographical skill with which to make my own. I can, however, delve into where the settlers hailed from originally. That will come tomorrow.

The Kansas Census, Part One

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

John W. Whitfield would have won the election for delegate to Congress with or without the help of the Missourians who crossed the border to vote fraudulently for him. Most actual Kansans didn’t care much either way, quite reasonably considering that Whitfield’s election would have very little to do with how the territory developed into a state. He would go to Congress and do little of import for a very short time. If men from Missouri wanted to raise a huge fuss and perpetrate a blindingly obvious fraud over that, more power to them.

When Andrew Reeder ordered up a census, that did matter to local Kansans. The census takers would come to them, going door to door. Their returns would help Reeder apportion seats for the first territorial legislative elections. Here one had a profound chance to influence the fate of the territory, but also one hard to hijack. Coming over the border to vote took a one-time engagement and a bit of daring. To make it on the census, one would have to stay in Kansas, possibly for weeks as the census takers made their rounds. Reeder sent out instructions and materials at the end of January, but did not get the last of the returns until the third of March. Nobody who didn’t already want to come to Kansas for good would likely bother staying so long. The Howard Report includes no mention of any such person.

Fraud or no, Reeder took the census very seriously. He sent instructions that remind us of how nineteenth century white Americans viewed the world:

You will not include army officers or soldiers of the army, or persons attached to troops in the service of the United States, unless they intend to remain and reside in the Territory when not on service, nor will you include any Indians or persons of Indian blood.

An Indian could not be a citizen. Nor could anybody who had Indian blood. If one had a child with an Indian, that child could not be a citizen. Like the full-blooded Indians, the child would literally not count. This stands out in part because so many Indians still lived in Kansas, according to contemporary accounts. The census counted 8,601 people, including men, women, and children. It counted slaves and free blacks. It counted the foreign-born. But it had no room whatsoever for Indians. A slave had some place in the white man’s world, if only as a piece of property.

But Reeder did not write out just military men, who did not really count as settlers since the War Department ordered them to go to their posts, and Indians:

As this is an enumeration of inhabitants and not property, you will enter the name of no man by reason of owning or claiming land here, or of his intention to remain here, but only those who actually dwell here at the time of taking the census.

We can understand that provision all too well, but should keep in mind that to Reeder and his census someone crossing from Missouri to vote and an Indian who lived on the land for generations equally ought have nothing to do with Kansas and its governance. Such matters did not concern them.

The census required a tally of qualified voters and here, as in the previous, Reeder must have had in mind some of the shenanigans of the November election:

In noting the qualified voters you must ascertain from your own observation, and the best information you can procure, who are entitled to be thus considered and designated. A qualified voter must be free, of white blood, twenty-one years of age, an actual resident of the Territory, welling here with the bona fide intention of making it his home, and a native or naturalized citizen of the United States, or a declarant who has sworn to support the Constitution of the United States and the act organizing the Territory.

Non-citizens who had taken such oaths could vote in many states at the time. They had a path into the political process. No such door opened for Indians, or women, or slaves.

“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?

Stringfellow’s Defense of Slavery, Part Ten

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

The wonders of slavery that Stringfellow laid out in Negro-Slavery, No Evil. revolved mostly around economics. That does make them sound especially cynical, but we should remember that Stringfellow had in mind critics who made economic arguments against slavery. Answering them would necessarily involve recourse to census figures and sectional comparisons. The morality of slavery hangs around the margins and occasionally takes center stage, but even then Stringfellow largely defends it by means of nineteenth century social science. He spends some time with the Bible, but his defense involves comparing the condition of slaves and whites between the sections and finding the South better off.

From all of that, excepting the Biblical exegesis, one might think Stringfellow had a mind of metal and wheels. The grew up in a time and place that tuned that machinery a bit far from our preferences, but his argument runs mostly on facts and figures. Twenty-nine pages into the pamphlet, Stringfellow finally gives his softer side a fuller display:

But there are effects procured by negro slavery, which are not exhibited in the census, can not be set down in figures, of far more importance than the acquisition of wealth, as mere increase of population. These are, its tendency to elevate the character of the white race, to give to that race a more exalted tone of moral sentiment; and in a republic of vital importance is its influence in giving to the white race a higher, holier, more stern and unyielding love of liberty; in making the white race emphatically a race of Sovereigns, fit members of a free government.

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke

Calhoun said similar things, but Stringfellow did not reach back to old Calhoun in his grave. He had a dustier grave in mind and exhumed no less than Edmund Burke, the father of anglo-american conservatism. Burke never held slaves, but he had offered some rhetorical support to the American independence movement.

“There is however a circumstance attending these southern colonies, which fully counterbalance this difference and makes the spirit of liberty still more high, and haughty, than in those to the Eastward. It is, that in Virginia and the Carolines, there is a vast multitude of slaves. Where this is the case in any part of the world, those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom. Freedom to them is not only an enjoyment, but a kind of rank and privilege. Not seeing there that freedom, as in countries where it is a common blessing, and broad and general as the air, may be united with much abject toil, with great misery, with all the exterior of servitude, liberty looks among them like something that is more noble and liberal. I do not mean Sir, to commend the superior morality of this sentiment, which has at least as much pride as virtue in it; but I can not alter the nature of man. The fact is so; and these people of the southern colonies are much more strongly and with an higher and more stubborn spirit attached to liberty than those to the northward. Such were all the ancient commonwealths; such were our Gothic Ancestors; such in our day were the Poles; and such will ever be all masters of slaves, who are not slaves themselves. In such a people, the haughtiness of domination combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies it, and renders it invincible.”

Burke said all that, and more, back in 1775. The idea that slavery makes people more jealous of their freedom naturally follows, just as wars and other calamities inspire us to appreciate our good fortune if we don’t suffer from them. In a slave society, every free person has an example of how their lives could run much worse in front of them day in and day out.

Stringfellow expanded on the point:

History attest the truth of every word uttered by him. Not only does the institution of slavery elevate the character of the master, and where the master is free render his devotion to liberty a high and holy feeling, fortify it and render it invincible, but, where, as in our country, the slave is of a different race, marked and set apart by his colour, it elevates the character not only of the master, the actual owner of slaves, but of all who wear the colour of the freeman. With us, colour, not money marks the class: black is the badge of slavery; white the colour of the freeman: and the white man, however poor, whatever be his occupation, feels himself a sovereign. Though his estate be but an empty title, he will not disgrace his station by stooping for moneys’ sake to become the slave of another: he will treat with others as his equals, exchange his labour for their money, not honoured by their service, but reciprocating the favour of equal to equal. His class respects him, with the jealousy of rank will stand by him, and for the sake of their order will sustain him.

Love of liberty and civic virtue trickled down from the prosperous slaveholder to the poor white, flowing through the color of their skin. Whatever his woes, the poor white man could imagine that his race ennobled him and made him just as good as the rich man. He would not and never could become a slave, but may with good luck win the ability to hold slaves and have that power over them. Even without the material prosperity, he participated together with the slaveholder in the social and economic system that set them both infinitely above the slaves.

Stringfellow’s Defense of Slavery, Part Nine

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

To hear Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow of the Platte County Self-Defense Association tell it, slavery had God’s approval. It uplifted people black and white alike. It produced more churches with more seats in the pews. It created more homes and fewer homeless. It produced a faster growing native population. It even led to less income inequality. It even, Stringfellow finally came around to saying outright, made for great fortunes:

The poor worn out slave-holding States, have in fact $417,523,392, more wealth than New England with all its boasted prosperity!

This is result is the more extraordinary because it reverses again all our experience. Since the days or Tyre and Sidon, commerce and manufactures have been regarded as sources of greater wealth, agriculture of least profit. In Europe tariffs are made to protect the farmer; commerce and manufactures are able to protect themselves. With us on the contrary, the farmers are not only richer than the trader, the merchant, the manufacturer, but tariffs are enacted to protect the latter — Agriculture not only protects itself, but carries on its shoulders commerce and manufactures. In despite of oppressive legislation, we find these agricultural, slave-holding States, in wealth, far in advance of New England, with its unequalled commerce, its unrivalled manufactures.

Slavery did not just bring all these social goods. It brought them in a handy package that invited you to come get rich. Step right up, by your slaves, put them to work, and watch them bleed money.

Stringfellow had it right that slavery produced great fortunes. If Southerners as a whole really had thrown their money away on slave property, they would soon have stopped or run out of money to throw away. They got returns on their investment, even if the nature of the market meant that often they ran cash poor. But Stringfellow got it wrong on the tariffs. Antebellum tariffs protected American cotton. They sustained virtually the entire American sugar industry. The New England manufacturer and the Carolina cotton magnate both reaped the benefits.

That said, Stringfellow got ahead of an obvious objection:

But we will be told that in this estimate we include our slaves that they should not be counted its property, but rated as persons, entitled to a share!

So Stringfellow ran the numbers counting slaves as both property of their masters and people entitled to a share of the wealth. The South still came out ahead. He declined, however, to take the wealth held as slave property out of the numbers and keep the slaves as legitimate stakeholders in the question. One might suspect deception here, or at least some kind of strategic omission, but the 1850 census lacked a line item for the value of slave property. It didn’t even track the names of enslaved individuals, though for the first time it did aspire to get the full names of every free person. Finding the value of all the slaves in a state would take more doing than just looking it up like Stringfellow could the number of churches or the blind. Modern economic historians have done the work, but Stringfellow might simply have lacked the tools.

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.

Stringfellow’s Defense of Slavery, Part Seven

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

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.

Stringfellow’s Defense of Slavery, Part Six

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

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow defended slavery on religious and benevolent grounds. How could the abolitionists censure what the Bible endorsed and which so benefited the slaves? His claims reached farther than that, though. Stringfellow also insisted that slavery benefited the white race. At this point, a modern reader immediately thinks that of course whites benefited. The profits made with the theft of black labor flowed into white pockets. Surely Stringfellow meant not that whites benefited in a materialistic sense. One could not defend slavery just by saying how rich one got from it or how it funded fine civic projects.

Yet he did. Abolitionist and antislavery Americans of the age viewed slavery as an economically backwards, unproductive enterprise. It retarded progress and put a millstone around the nation’s neck. Nineteenth century Americans loved progress above most other concepts. Believing in America meant believing in progress. That progress could come through territorial expansion, the opening of new lands to white settlement, or technological development, but it all fed into the spirit of the time. They rode the railroad and telegraph into the future. Calling slavery a retrograde impediment to progress also called it unpatriotic and unwelcome in the future of iron and steel that seemed just around the corner.

Stringfellow would have none of that:

We have now the statistics furnished in the census: they are in reach of all; their truth can not be disputed, and we are now enabled to determine beyond controversy the effects of negro-slavery. The men of the north are peculiarly, a “calculating” people, accustomed to deal with facts and figures; and a large majority of them we believe disposed to be just, to listen to fair argument, to yield to the force of truth: to them we submit with confidence the startling evidence furnished by the census.

Listen up, Yankees. You like your numbers and B.F. Stringfellow has some numbers for you. Taking pains to make fair comparisons, he chose to weigh the statistics for the New England states against their similarly developed slaveholding peers: Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Going through the census, Stringfellow found

These five Southern States, with a free population of only 2,198 greater than the six New England States, have nearly double the number of churches, capable of accommodating a million more worshippers, at but little over half the cost!

Godly New England seems awfully disinterested in building houses of worship, even though it had more towns in which to situate them. The slaveholding states built more churches, for more people, for less money. They surely could not have done the last without the benefit of slave labor. The blood and sweat and toil of black slaves made for godly white men. And they even let the slaves worship with them, contrary to abolitionist claims that slaveholders kept back from their property the benefits of religion:

These Southern States contain a population, including slaves, of 720,410 more than New England: yet in New England there are 200,000 more who cannot find a seat in the house of God! These Southern churches can not only accommodate every man that could be crowded into the temples of New England, but would then give room to more than a million of slaves!

The picture grew even worse for New England when accounting for the fact that more than two hundred of its churches called themselves Unitarian or Universalist, and thus not really Christian at all. In all the South, the census found only eight such dens of heterodoxy.

Something about the northern air sent people to imagining dubious religious innovations in general:

Out of the census, we can point to Mormonism with its polygamy; Millerism, Spiritualism, as taking their birth, flourishing alone where abolitionists are found. The Stowes, and Beechers, with the Fanny Wrights, and Abby Folsoms, are to be found alone in that land which produced Joe Smith, Miller, the Misses Fox.

What is it which has thus reversed the condition of these people, set at naught all our experience; has converted the indolent thoughtless Southerner into the humble orthodox Christian; while the men of the north, the world over noted for religious enthusiasts, the sons of the Puritans, have fallen from their simple stern devotion, become setters up of strange doctrines?

The abolitionist movement did draw a great deal of support from Upstate New York’s Burned-Over District, known for its religious innovations. One can’t argue with those facts, though one need not share Stringfellow’s suspicion of new, novel religious ideas.

Stringfellow’s Defense of Slavery, Part Five

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

Stringfellow hammered the point that the census showed slaves as better off in terms of physical and mental health than free blacks, neglecting any difference in their ability to access what the nineteenth century had to offer in terms of social welfare for those so afflicted.  Stringfellow pressed on from there. He had the Bible on his side. He had the census. But he had still more statistics to advance his thesis that slavery benefited the slave and slaveholder alike.

Even in slaveholding Missouri, free black people just did little to no good. They had slaveholding whites and faithful slaves all around them, but appeared to take little from their good example. Stringfellow knew because he lived in their company:

There were among us, too, a large number of free negroes, most of, them, as usual, of bad character

It did little to just assert that free black ne’er-do-wells rampaged across the South, though. People of the time would probably not call him a racist for it, but they would know all too well that a proslavery man has a strong motivation to exaggerate or outright invent sins of those who slipped slavery’s noose. Stringfellow went to the crime statistics to back himself up.

Of the moral condition of the slave, as contrasted with that of the free negro, the census also gives us no information. But so full are the annals of crime, of evidence on this head, we would waste time in making the contrast. Of the slave we fearlessly assert that as to all the higher grades of crime, he will contrast favorably even with the white man. But “children of a larger growth,” kindly, affectionate in their dispositions, their wants all simple, amply supplied, they have neither the temptation nor the inclination to commit crime. They may be led astray, they are easily ruled, they may commit a petty trespass; but let alone, with none to corrupt them, they pass through life happy, contented and innocent.

Slaves behaved themselves, absent some abolitionist giving them bad ideas. Free black people? Not so much:

On the other hand, the unhappy free negro, thoughtless and improvident, driven from the society of the good and the virtuous, an outcast among the vicious, is regarded as a nuisance even by the abolitionist! He is not a mere nuisance, but the criminal statistics of the North show, that crime of the highest grades, offences which are punished by confinement in the penitentiaries, prevail among the free negroes to an unheard of extent. In Massachusetts, composing less than one-hundredth part of the population, they furnish one-tenth of the convicts. In other States, the proportion is even greater. In the South, on the other hand, offenses of this character are even more rare than among the whites.

I wish Stringfellow gave a source for his numbers. Despite his proud declaration that he has them, we receive only this one from his text.

That said, let’s grant for the sake of argument that Stringfellow spoke the general truth. He ignores, and can’t have missed the fact having lived in a slave society, that slaves had little to no access to the criminal justice system. If they committed a grievous crime, it might make a sensation in the newspapers and be on everyone’s mind for a while. That slave or free black person, however, stood little chance of coming before a court, facing trial, and receiving a sentence. The white South, seeing its survival at stake, dealt with these things brutally but informally.

Lincoln in the 1840s

Lincoln in the 1840s

Abraham Lincoln told the story of one such case in Stringfellow’s own Missouri back in the 1830s:

Turn, then, to that horror-striking scene at St. Louis. A single victim was only sacrificed there. His story is very short; and is, perhaps, the most highly tragic, if anything of its length, that has ever been witnessed in real life. A mulatto man, by the name of McIntosh, was seized in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree, and actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time he had been a freeman, attending to his own business, and at peace with the world.

McIntosh murdered a prominent citizen of St. Louis. Even on its chilly frontier, where cotton did not grow, the white South dealt with that kind of thing far more often by means of private violence than the courts.