Although the North held a contemptuous view of slavery, it was neither sympathetic nor supportive of the blacks. The predominant view in the North was: 1) the blacks were an inferior race, 2) it is the duty of the whites to educate them, 3) political authority belonged solely to the whites, and 4) slavery was an unnatural social arrangement. This view of slavery had certain effects. Many people in the North held discriminatory views against blacks. Blacks should, by nature, be segregated from the whites.
Blacks should be regarded as second class citizens.
In the South, however, slaves were not seen as contemptuous creation of nature. Rather, slaves were regarded with care and subtlety. Many people in the South neither held discriminatory views against slaves nor rejected the possibility of assimilation. As Morison argued, “A white lady in the South would not hesitate to sit beside a fat black, supposing of course that all people in the train knows that the latter belonged to the former” (591).
Eric McKittrick provided a comprehensive defense of slavery.
He argued that the need to abolish slavery before 1850 was untimely in three respects (according to Southern politicians) (McKittrick, 192). First, much of the Southern economy depended on slave labor for its survival. Second, to give slaves social equality was considered political suicide. The slaves lacked the training and education to benefit from that social equality. And lastly, the slaves would find themselves in a very difficult situation with the whites; that is, they would not be accepted as equal citizens in the American nation.
McKittrick argued that it was better to allow slavery to decay, as evident in many countries (McKittrick, 219). Slavery was a temporary state of nature, which was destined to decay in the annals of history. Slavery could not function if it lost its social utility. McKittricka noted that if slavery was abolished then it is preferable to allow the whites to live in the North than in the South.
This was due perhaps to the differing attitude of Northern and Southern society towards slaves in general. As been argued earlier, although the North rejected slavery, it held no favorable opinion of the blacks. In the South, discrimination was a matter of preference. Most people accepted the slaves as at least partial members of Southern society (in fact, necessary members).
Most Southern politicians accepted these views about slavery. They argued that slavery was by no means conflicting with the ideals of liberty, equality, and moral virtue. Slavery was a temporary social arrangement that will soon wither away. Time was needed to train slaves for self-determination, not as a separate nation, but as part of the American society.
The ideals of liberty, equality, and moral virtue were themselves not absolute concepts. Each ideal carried the essence of responsibility which every American must accept. To injudiciously reject slavery was a backlash of personal responsibility to empower the slaves. Slavery was a positive force in society because it taught the master to be responsible, and the slave to be patient. Here one can clearly see the foundation of a Christian or rather Protestant defense of slavery.
McKittrick, Eric. Slavery Defended: The Views of the Old South. New York: Prentice Hall, 1963.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Oxford History of the American Nation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954.