Negro-Slavery, No Evil

Author: Benjamin F. Stringfellow  | Date: 1854

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Slavery a Positive Good (1854)


WE assert that negro-slavery, as it exists in the United States, is neither a moral nor a political evil, but on the contrary, is a blessing to the white race and to the negro. . . .

Slavery is no evil to the negro. If we look at the condition of the negro in Africa, the land of his nativity, we find the most pitiable victim of a cruel master, the most wretched slave in America, when contrasted with a prince of his tribe in the deserts of Africa, is as a man contrasted with a beast! The mightiest of the negro race, in his native land, not only sacrifices his human victims to his Gods of stone, but is so loathsome in his filth and nakedness, that Giddings, or Gerrit Smith, would fly from his presence. Mrs. Stowe could not in fancy picture him a kinsman of poor Topsy; Fred Douglass would disown him as a countryman. It is not for us to question God’s purposes, but it is certain that from our first knowledge of the negro race, those only have been rescued from the lowest stage of heathen barbarity, who have been made slaves to the white man—those only have learned to know the God of the Christian, who have been instructed by their masters. Ages have roiled on, and still the labour of the pious missionary has been in vain; the African in his native land is still an idolator! Even now the only hope of his elevation in the scale of humanity, is by means of the liberated slave. . . .

But we go further and say that, wherever the negro has been the slave of the white man, his condition has been better, not only than that of his race in the deserts of Africa, but better than when freed from the control of the white man, in whatever land the comparison be made. . . .

Negro slavery is no evil to the white race. . . .

. . . 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 [or] 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. . . .

. . . 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.

Not only does negro slavery thus elevate the character of the white man, it 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 womans’ 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 household, 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. . . .

. . . Where negro slavery exists, money is not necessary to make the freeman; the white man takes rank by his colour; it is his patent of nobility, and until forfeited for dishonour, entitles him and commands for him all the privileges of his class.

Not so can it be, where "all the exterior of servitude" attaches to the nominal freeman: there of necessity money must distinguish the classes—mark the master, separate him from the servant. There colour gives no privilege, but the white man and the white woman driven to "service," are excluded from the presence of their masters, dare not claim to be their equals. Where money gives honour, poverty is looked upon as disgrace. To those who envy the negro his position, we urge no argument; but to those who would see their race respected, fit to be free, we confidently appeal to reflect upon the difference which is thus effected in the condition of the white race. With all the pride and haughtiness attributed by the abolitionist to the slave-holder, we challenge a comparison of the rank in society held by the poor white man in the slave-holding, and non-slave-holding States. The northern mechanic, who has once put foot within the limits of a slave-holding State, has felt this vast difference, and can bear witness to it. The humble seamstress, the despised chambermaid, whose fortune has led her to the home of the slave-holder, has had cause to remember his courtesy to woman. Slave holders are proud of their colour, they can not but respect it.

But the influence of negro-slavery on the future destiny of our Republic, is even more potent than its effects upon the character of those who compose the government. We have said that the preservation of our Republic in its purity, depends on the institution of slavery. . . .

Politically the pauper, and the man of wealth are equal: labour has thus the power of numbers; while on the other hand wealth has the power of money, the command of talent. The contest has ever proved unequal; the brute force of numbers may prevail for a time, it effects a mere convulsion: Agrarian laws may be called for, a distribution of property demanded; in the end talent and wealth will conquer; and then, to protect itself, to guard against a like convulsion, strong laws will be enacted, a government of force be established. The scenes of the French revolution but illustrate the issue of this contest: Anarchy under the cry of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," rules for a day, to be followed on the morrow by an Empire! . . .

Let the influx of foreign labourers continue, daily reducing the rate of wages; let, as is threatened, the prisons and poorhouses of Europe be emptied on us; let thus labour be consumed by its own strength, capital be thus still further monopolised by the few, until the thousand famished victims of excessive population cry out for bread, rise in the power of numbers and demand their "equal rights," their "equal share;" what then shall save the Republic from wreck? . . .

Upon the South, as upon the strong arm of a brother, so long as negro slavery exists, the North can rely; it will furnish materials to its workshops, a market for its manufactures; wealth to its capitalist, wages to the labourer. In the South no struggle between labour and capital can arise. Where slavery exists, capital and labour are one, for labour is capital. There the capitalist, instead of exhausting his labourer, must strengthen, protect and preserve him, for he is his money. The interest of the labourer and the capitalist, the slave and his master, are identical; they cannot conflict. The prosperity of the master is the happiness of the slave, for his condition is improved as his master prospers; the master prospers, as his slave is healthy, vigorous and happy.

To negro slavery is the South indebted for its unrivalled prosperity, its exemption from the fearful struggle of wealth and poverty; the happy equality in the condition of its people; its practical enjoyment of the full blessings of republican government.

Let abolitionists succeed, let slavery be abolished, the negroes turned loose: the whites, driven from their homes, will seek a refuge among the crowded population of the North; or else the whites victorous in the conflict which would follow, the miserable negroes would fly to their professed friends; the northern labourer would find a ruinous competitor; the northern capitalist a fearful addition to the strength of his enemy. In either event the struggle would be hastened to an issue. The fall of the South would bring ruin on the North; the Republic would give place to Anarchy, to be followed by the rich man’s rule, a despotism.

B. F. Stringfellow, (St. Louis, 1854), 9–35 passim.

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Chicago: Benjamin F. Stringfellow, Negro-Slavery, No Evil, ed. St. Louis in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2023,

MLA: Stringfellow, Benjamin F. Negro-Slavery, No Evil, edited by St. Louis, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Stringfellow, BF, Negro-Slavery, No Evil, ed. . cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2023, from