Sound Bites

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence)

I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind. (Thomas Jefferson 536)

When freed, he [the slave] is to be removed beyond the reach of mixture. (Thomas Jefferson 537)

I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really is.  Only by experience can any one realize how deep, and dark and foul is that pit of abominations.  May the blessing of God rest on this imperfect effort in behalf of my persecuted people! (Harriet Jacobs 1)

To us, the proposition that the Negro is equal by nature, physically and mentally, to the white man, seems to be so absurd and preposterous, that we cannot conceive how it can be entertained by any intelligent and rational white man. (Matthew P. Deady, Finkelman 4)

Slavery has raised the Negro incomparably higher in the scale of humanity.  (Nathan Lewis Rice, Finkelman 5)

American slavery has produced and cultivated more African intellect, more social affection, more Christian emotion in two hundred years than all Africa [has produced in] two thousand years.  American slavery is a redemption, a deliverance from African heathenism…. The best thing that could be done for Africa, if they could live there, would be to send [to Africa] a hundred thousand American Slaveholders, to work [the Africans] up to some degree of civilization.  (Joseph C. Lovejoy, Finkelman 6)

The rapid extinction of the colored race will follow….  Slavery may multiply the colored population till its number shall become alarming; but if we will give freedom to the black man, we have nothing to fear from his increase….  When by the act of emancipation the Negro is made a free laborer, he is brought into direct competition with the white man…and he soon finds his place in [the] lower stratum…where he can support himself in tolerable comfort as a hired servant, but cannot support a family.  The consequence is inevitable.  He will either never marry, or he will in the attempt to support a family, struggle in vain against the laws of nature, and his children will, many of them at least, die in infancy.  Like his brother, the Indian of the forest, he must melt away and disappear forever from the midst of us.  (Julian M. Sturtevant, Finkelman 10)

The only principle that can maintain slavery [is] the principle of fear.  (Freehling, Finkelman 40)

No planter hereabouts has any of his slaves, but I have seen within the short time I have been in this part of the world, several dreadful accounts of murder and violence, in which masters suffered at the hands of their slaves.  There is something suspicious in the constant, never ending statement that “we are not afraid of our slaves.”  The curfew and the night patrol in the streets, the prison and watch-houses, and the police regulations, prove that strict supervision, at all events, is needed and necessary.  (William Howard Russell, Finkelman 41)

If there are sordid, servile, and laborious offices to be performed, is it not better that there should be sordid, servile, and laborious beings to perform them?  If there were infallible marks by which individuals of inferior intellect, could be selected at their birth—would not the interests of society be served, and would not some sort of fitness seem to require that they should be selected for inferior and servile offices?  And if this race be generally marked by such inferiority, is it not fit they should fill them?  (Chancellor William Harper, Finkelman 156)

In all social systems, there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life.  That is a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill.  Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity.  Such a class you must have….  It constitutes the very mud-sill of society….  Fortunately for the South we have found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand….  We do not think that whites should be slaves either by law or necessity.  Our slaves are black, of another, inferior race.  The status in which we have placed them is an elevation.  They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them by being made our slaves.  (James Henry Hammond, Finkelman 157)

The whole scope of the English languages is inadequate to describe the horrors and impieties of Slavery, and the transcendent wickedness of those who sustain this bloody system.  (William Lloyd Garrison, Finkelman 163)

Permit to say that I think most of your facts must have been drawn from the West Indies, where undoubtedly slaves were treated much more harshly than with us.  (James Henry Hammond, Pro-Slavery 128)

Slavery anticipates the benefits of civilization, and retards the evils of civilzation (Chancellor Harper, Pro-Slavery 19)

[The defense of slavery is] the defense of a domestic institution, which we hold to be not simply within the sanctions of justice and propriety, but as constituting one of the most essential agencies, under the divine plan, for promoting the general progress of civilization, and for elevating, to a condition of humanity, a people otherwise barbarous, easily depraved, and needing the help of a superior condition—a power from without—to rescue them from a hopelessly savage state.  (The Southern Literary Messenger, Pro-Slavery 1837).

Often did I think many of the inhabitants of the deep much more happy than myself.  I envied them the freedom they enjoyed, and as often wished I could change my condition for theirs.  Every circumstance I met with, served only to render my state more painful, and heightened my apprehensions, and my opinion of the cruelty of the whites.  (Olaudah Equiano, Narrative 119)

Copyright (c) 2000  by Sean Patrick Magee, Graduate student at Lehigh University.

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