H105, American History I

George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! or Slaves without Masters (1857).

Chapter 1, The Universal Trade

We are, all, North and South, engaged in the White Slave Trade, and he who succeeds best, is esteemed most respectable.  It is far more cruel than the Black Slave Trade, because it exacts more of its slaves, and neither protects nor governs them .... But we not only boast that the White Slave Trade is more exacting and fraudulent (in fact, though not in intention,) than Black Slavery; but we also boast, that it is more cruel, in leaving the laborer to take care of himself and family out of the pittance which skill or capital have allowed him to retain.  When the day’s labor is ended, he is free, but is overburdened with the cares of family and household, which make his freedom an empty and delusive mockery.  But his employer is really free, and may enjoy the profits made by others’ labor, without a care, or a trouble, as to their well-being.  The negro slave is free, too, when the labors of the day are over, and free in mind as well as body; for the master provides food, raiment, house, fuel, and everything else necessary to the physical well-being of himself and family.  The master’s labors commence just when the slave’s end.  No wonder men should prefer white slavery to capital, to negro slavery, since it is more profitable, and is free from all the cares and labors of black slave-holding.

Now, reader, if you wish to know yourself — to “descant on your own deformity” — read on.  But if you would cherish self-conceit, self-esteem, or self-appreciation, throw down our book; for we will dispel illusions which have promoted your happiness, and shew you that what you have considered and practiced as virtue, is little better than moral Cannibalism.  But you will find yourself in numerous and respectable company; for all good and respectable people are “Cannibals all,” who do not labor, or who are successfully trying to live without labor, on the unrequited labor of other people: — Whilst low, bad, and disreputable people, are those who labor to support themselves, and to support said respectable people besides.  Throwing the negro slaves out of the account, and society is divided in Christendom into four classes: The rich, or independent respectable people, who live well and labor not at all; the professional and skillful respectable people, who do a little light work, for enormous wages; the poor hard-working people, who support every body, and starve themselves; and the poor thieves, swindlers and sturdy beggars, who live like gentlemen, without labor, on the labor of other people.  The gentlemen exploitate, which being done on a large scale, and requiring a great many victims, is highly respectable — whilst the rogues and beggars take so little from others, that they fare little better than those who labor.


The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world.  The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them.  They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care nor labor.  The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters.  The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, not more than nine hours a day.  The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays.  White men, with so much of license and liberty, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose.  With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments.  “Blessed be the man who invented sleep.”  ’Tis happiness in itself — and results from contentment with the present, and confident assurance of the future.  We do not know whether free laborers ever sleep.  They are fools to do so; for, whilst they sleep, the wily and watchful capitalist is devising means to ensnare and exploitate them.  The free laborer must work or starve.  He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end.  He has no liberty, and not a single right.  We know, ’tis often said, air and water, are common property, which all have equal right to participate and enjoy; but this is utterly false.  The appropriation of the lands carries with it the appropriation of all on or above the lands, usque ad coelumm aut ad inferos.  A man cannot breathe the air, without a place to breathe it from, and all places are appropriated.  All water is private property “to the middle of the stream,” except the ocean, and that is not fit to drink.

Free laborers have not a thousandth part of the rights and liberties of negro slaves.  Indeed, they have not a single right or a single liberty, unless it be the right or liberty to die.  But the reader may think that he and other capitalists and employers are freer than negro slaves.  Your capital would soon vanish, if you dared indulge in the liberty and abandon of negroes.  You hold your wealth and position by the tenure of constant watchfulness, care and circumspection.  You never labor; but you are never free.

Where a few own the soil, they have unlimited power over the balance of society, until domestic slavery comes in, to compel them to permit this balance of society to draw a sufficient and comfortable living from “terra mater.”  Free society, asserts the right of a few to the earth — slavery, maintains that it belongs, in different degrees, to all....

Chapter 26, Christian Morality Impracticable in Free Society — But the Natural Morality of Slave Society

It is strange that theories, self-evidently true so soon as suggested, remain undiscovered for centuries.  What more evident, obvious, and axiomatic, than that equals must from necessity be rivals, antagonists, competitors, and enemies.  Self-preservation , the first law of human and animal nature, makes this selfish course of action essential to preserve existence.  It is almost equally obvious, that in the natural, social, or family state, unselfishness, or the preference of others’ good and happiness, is the dictate of nature and policy.  Nature impels the father and husband to self-abnegation and self-denial to promote the happiness of wife and children, because his reflected enjoyments will be a thousand times greater than any direct pleasure he can derive by stinting or maltreating them.  Their misery and their complaints do much more to render him wretched than what he has denied them can compensate for.  Wife and children, too, see and feel that in denying themselves and promoting the happiness of the head of the family, they pursue true policy, and are most sensibly selfish when they seem most unselfish.  Especially, however, is it true with slaves and masters, that to “do as they would be done by” is mutually beneficial.  Good treatment and proper discipline renders the slave happier, healthier, more valuable, grateful, and contented.  Obedience, industry and loyalty on the part of the slave, increases the master’s ability and disposition to protect and take care of him.  The interests of all the members of a natural family, slaves included, are identical.  Selfishness finds no place, because nature, common feelings and self-interest dictate to all that it is their true interest “to love their neighbor as themselves,” and “to do as they would be done by,” — at least, within the precincts of the family.  To throw off into the world wife, children, and slaves, would injure, not benefit them.  To neglect to punish children or slaves when they deserved it, would not be to do as we would be done by.  Such punishment is generally the highest reach of self-abnegation and self-control.  ’Tis easy and agreeable to be indulgent and remiss — hard to exact and enforce duty.  Severe disciplinarians are the best officers, teachers, parents, and masters, and most revered and loved by their subordinates.  They sacrifice their time and their feelings to duty, and for the ultimate good of others.  Easy, lax, indulgent men are generally selfish and sensual, and justly forfeit the respect and affection of those whom they neglect to punish, because to do so would disturb their Epicurean repose.  Christian morality is neither difficult nor unnatural where dependent, family, and slave relations exist, and Christian morality was preached and only intended for such.

The whole morale of free society is, “Every man, woman and child for himself and herself.”  Slavery in every form must be abolished.  Wives must have distinct, separate, and therefore antagonistic and conflicting interests from their husbands, and children must as soon as possible be remitted to the rights of manhood.  Is it not passing strange, wonderful, that such men as Channing and Wayland did not see that their world of universal liberty was a world of universal selfishness, discord, competition, rivalry, and war of the wits.  Hobbes did see it, and supposing there was no other world, said “a state of nature was a state of war.”  But the family, including slaves, which the Abolitionists would destroy, has been almost universal, and is therefore natural.  Christian morality is the natural morality in slave society, and slave society is the only natural society.  Such society as that of the early Patriarchs of Judea, under Moses and Joshua, and as that of the South, would never beget a sceptic, a Hobbes, a Wayland, nor a Channing.  In such society it is natural for men to love one another.  The ordinary relations of men are not competitive and antagonistic as in free-society; and selfishness is not general, but exceptionable.  Duty to self is the first of duties: free society makes it the only duty.  Man is not naturally selfish or bad, for he is naturally social.  Free society dissociates him, and makes him bad and selfish from necessity.

It is said in Scripture, that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  We are no theologian; but do know from history and observation that wealthy men who are sincere and devout Christians in free society, feel at a loss what to do with their wealth, so as not to make it an instrument of oppression and wrong.  Capital and skill are powers exercised almost always to oppress labor.  If you endow colleges, you rear up cunning, voracious exploitators to devour the poor.  If you give it to tradesmen or land owners, ’tis still an additional instrument, always employed to oppress laborers.  If you give it to the really needy, you too often encourage idleness, and increase the burdens of the working poor who support every body.  We cannot possibly see but one safe way to invest wealth, and that is to buy slaves with it, whose conduct you can control, and be sure that your charity is not misapplied, and mischievous.

Chapter 27, Slavery — Its Effects on the Free

....Now, at first view it elevates those whites; for it makes them not the bottom of society, as at the North — not the menials, the hired day laborer, the work scavengers and scullions — but privileged citizens, like Greek and Roman citizens, with a numerous class far beneath them.  In slave society, one white man does not lord it over another; for all are equal in privilege, if not in wealth; and the poorest would not become a menial — hold your horse and then extend his hand or his hat for a gratuity, were you to proffer him the wealth of the Indies.  The menial, the exposed and laborious, and the disgraceful occupations, are all filled by slaves.  But filled they must be by some one, and in free society, half of its members are employed in occupations that are not considered or treated as respectable.  Our slaves till the land, do the coarse and hard labor on our roads and canals, sweep our streets, cook our food, brush our boots, wait on our tables, hold our horses, do all hard work, and fill all menial offices.  Your freemen at the North do the same work and fill the same offices.  The only difference is, we love our slaves, and we are ready to defend, assist and protect them; you hate and fear your white servants, and never fail, as a moral duty, to screw down their wages to the lowest, and to starve their families, if possible, as evidence of your thrift, economy and management — the only English and Yankee virtues.

In free society, miscalled freemen fulfill all the offices of slaves for less wages than slaves, and are infinitely less liked and cared for by their superiors than slaves.  Does this elevate them and render them happy?

The trades, the professions, the occupations that pay well, and whose work is light, is reserved for freemen in slave society.  Does this depress them?

The doctor, the lawyer, the mechanic, the dentist, the merchant, the overseer, every trade and profession, in fact, live from the proceeds of slave labor at the South.  They divide the profits with the owner of the slaves.  He has nothing to pay them except what his slaves make.  But you Yankees and Englishmen more than divide the profits — you take the lion’s share.  You make more money from our cotton, and tobacco, and sugar, and indigo, and wheat, and corn, and rice, than we make ourselves.  You live by slave labor — would perish without it — yet you abuse it.  Cut off England and New England from the South American, East and West India and our markets, from which to buy their food, and in which to sell their manufactures, and they would starve at once.  You live by our slave labor.  It elevates your whites as well as ours, by confining them, in a great degree, to skillful, well-paying, light and intellectual employments — and it feeds and clothes them.  Abolish slavery, and you will suffer vastly more than we, because we have all the lands of the South, and can command labor as you do, and a genial soil and climate, that require less labor.  But while in the absence of slavery, we could support ourselves, we should cease to support you.  We would neither send you food and clothing, nor buy your worse than useless notions.

Chapter 28, Private Property Destroys Liberty and Equality

....Set your miscalled free laborers actually free, by giving them enough property or capital to live on, and then call on us at the South to free our negroes.  At present, you Abolitionists know our negro slaves are much the freer of the two; and it would be a great advance towards freeing your laborers, to give them guardians, bound, like our masters, to take care of them, and entitled, in consideration thereof, to the proceeds of their labor.