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Southern Slavery: As It Was
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So you have to hand it to the authors of "Southern Slavery: As It Was" for not falling for this equivocation. Because if the Bible is wrong about slavery, it could be wrong about anything - therefore, the Bible must be correct with regard to slavery. The authors draw a distinction between "slave trading" (which the Bible forbids, and according to them, the Northerners engaged in) and "slave owning," which the Bible allows, as long as masters treat their slaves well. "Treating them well," of course, does not include setting them free and giving them their back pay; apparently, it only means giving them free room, board, and medical care, and speaking politely to them. Along the way, the authors take shots at the trifecta of liberal ideology; abortion, feminism, and gay rights, while conveniently avoiding the many examples in the Bible where children and the unborn were massacred without criticism, which would imply divine approval of this practice. And they probably never heard the alternative reading of Matthew 8:5-13 that suggests approval of homosexuality. But their brief condemnation of modernity is a side note, mentioned only to confirm their conservative bona-fides. Like most religious fundamentalists, they read the Bible selectively. I would be surprised, for example, to learn that they follow the Old Testament dietary laws, especially since the antebellum South was hardly known for its kosher cuisine.
They rely heavily on a 1940s-era record, the "Slave Narratives," where actual former slaves discussed their experiences. It was not a life of continuous whippings, runaways' feet being cut off, rape, and torture to death for the master's amusement. It was, in some ways, like a job - except the "employee" was not paid, and could not quit. Otherwise, the authors point out that some slaves lived better than some poor whites, although there are no examples of white people offering themselves as slaves for the room and board and supposedly improved conditions. Race relations were good, since "everyone knew their place," and of course, there were no black plantation owners with white slaves. The authors have no problem with a hereditary, race-based system. The antebellum South was the closest thing to a Christian republic that had ever existed in human history, according to the authors' selective memory, and conveniently, the authors never had to live as slaves themselves, so they are free to wax romantic on how wonderful life was for the "well-treated" slave. But it wasn't perfect (maybe because no one kept kosher?), so just as God had allowed the Ancient Hebrews to be conquered by their pagan neighbors to teach them a lesson, so God allowed the sinful North to vanquish the righteous South. It is referred to as "(with the possible exception of Cromwell's army) the Confederate Army was the largest body of evangelicals under arms in the history of the world." This is somewhat of a backhanded compliment, like calling the British army "the largest body of white people under arms since Nazi Germany." Cromwell, who Leon Trotsky admired as a class revolutionary, was a genocidal maniac - so of course he appeals to the authors. In the revisionist tradition of American racism, the authors see themselves as the continuation of "the Chosen People." And according to the authors, the "lesson" to the South should have been to return to an even more regressive society than the antebellum.
I have no reason to doubt their explanation of the conditions slaves lived under, not because there was anything good about slavery, but because of the effect enslavement has on human dignity. Slaves are not constantly trying to escape or kill their masters. Most of the time, they endure their lot. I know this because I have met actual slaves. Slavery still exists in many parts of the world, and even in the U.S. What happens is that the slave sees no way out, either because slavery is a cultural norm, or because they have no hope of escape. They accept their condition because they see no alternative. The situation is not that different from an abused wife who is afraid to leave her husband - she doesn't have anywhere to go, she doesn't know how she will support herself (or her children), and besides, it's not that bad all the time. The destruction of the human spirit when someone is subjected to slavery may be the most evil effect of the institution. And the authors do not gloss over this - they applaud it.
The authors are heavily involved in the Christian Reconstruction movement, which seeks to convert the U.S. into an Old Testament theocracy. This pamphlet is a good primer for anyone unfamiliar with the movement, that is unaware of the danger it poses. "Southern Slavery" should dispel any doubts any rational person has as to the threat of theocracy to human freedom.
I had long suspected that the modern narrative concerning Southern Slavery had been skewed by the politics of race in our own day. Even during my own lifetime (I'm now 66) I've seen the unmistakable demise of black families by their enslavement to the welfare state. I agree with the author's conclusion that "We are forced to say that, in many ways, the remedy which has been applied has been far worse than the disease ever was." It is plain to me that the hostility between the races today (that is, racism) is much greater than it was in antebellum America. This seems to me an indisputable fact. After reading this booklet, it is understandable just how justifiably enraged Southerners were at the publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." It was an abolitionist hit piece intended to magnify occasional abuses as though they were normal every day occurrences. The authors also correctly point out that the secularization of the North was much more underway than it was in the South.
I do disagree, though, with the author's implication that the South lost the war because of a Divine judgement. They lost because they were out-manned, out-gunned, out-produced and out-generaled and nobody came to their aid.
"To say the least, it is strange that the thing the Bible condemns (slave-trading) brings very little opprobrium upon the North, yet that which the Bible allows (slave-ownership) has brought down all manner of condemnation upon the South." (page 22)
* "As we have already mentioned, the 'peculiar institution' of slavery was not perfect or sinless, but the reality was a far cry from the horrific descriptions given to us in modern histories." (page 22)
* "Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence." (page 24)
* "There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world." (page 24)
* "Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care." (page 25)
* "But many Southern blacks supported the South because of long established bonds of affection and trust that had been forged over generations with their white masters and friends." (page 27)
* "Nearly every slave in the South enjoyed a higher standard of living than the poor whites of the South -- and had a much easier existence." (page 30)
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