DeBow's Review urging Non-slaveholders to fight for slavery:
James Dunwoody Brownson DeBow was the founder and editor of the highly influential DeBow's Review, which he published on and off from 1846 until his death in 1867. A secessionist, and an advocate of Southern development and industrialization, DeBow opposed Lincoln in the 1860 election and was an ardent supporter of the Davis administration during the war.
This article appeared in the January, 1861, issue of the Review (pages 67-77)
ART. VI.-THE NON-SLAVEHOLDERS OF THE SOUTH:
THEIR INTEREST IN THE PRESENT SECTIONAL CONTROVERSY
IDENTICAL, WITH THAT OF THE SLAVEHOLDERS.
My Dear Sir: While in Charleston recently I adverted, in conversation with you, to some considerations affecting the question of slavery in its application to the several classes of population at the South, and especially to the non-slaveholding class who, I maintained, were even more deeply interested than any other in the maintenance of our institutions, and in the success of the movement now inaugurated for the entire social, industrial, and political independence of the South. At your request, I promised to elaborate and commit to writing the points of that conversation, which I now proceed to do, in the hope that I may thus be enabled to give some feeble aid to a cause which is worthy . . .
When in charge of the national census office, several years since, I found that it had been stated by an abolition senator from his seat, that the number of slaveholders at the South did not exceed 150,000. Convinced that, it was a gross misrepresentation of facts, I caused a careful examination of the returns to be made . . . [I]t would be safe to put the number of families at 375,000, and the number of actual slaveholders at about two millions and a quarter.. . .
It will thus appear that the slaveholders of the South, so far from constituting, numerically, an insignificant portion of its people, as has been malignantly alleged, make up an aggregate greater in relative proportion than the holders of any other species of property whatever, in any part of the world; and that of no other property can it be said, with equal truthfulness, that it is an interest of the whole community. . . .
The fact being conceded, that there is a very large class of persons in the slaveholding States who have no direct ownership in slaves . . . I think it but easy to show that the interest of the poorest non-slaveholder among us is to make common cause with, and die in the last trenches, in defence of the slave property of his more favored neighbor.
The non-slaveholders of the South may be classed as either such as desire and are incapable of purchasing slaves, or such as have the means to purchase and do not, because of the absence of the motive-preferring to hire or employ cheaper white labor. A class conscientiously objecting to the ownership of slave property does not exist at the South: for all such scruples have long since been silenced by the profound and unanswerable arguments to which Yankee controversy has driven our statesmen, popular orators, and clergy. Upon the sure testimony of Godís Holy Book, and upon the principles of universal polity, they have defended and justified the institution! . . .
. . . Are not all the interests of the merchant, and those whom he employs, of necessity upon the side of the slaveholder? The products which he buys, the commodities which he sells, the profits which he realizes, the hopes which sustain him of future fortune, all spring from this source, and from no other. The cities, towns, and villages of the South, are but so many agencies for converting the products of slave labor into the products of other labor obtained from abroad, and, as in every other agency, the interest of the agent is, that the principal shall have as much as possible to sell, and be enabled as much as possible to buy. In the absence of every other source of wealth at the South, its mercantile interests are so interwoven with those of slave labor as almost to be identical.
What is true of the merchant, is true of the clerk, the drayman, or the laborer, whom he employs-the mechanic who builds his houses, the lawyer who argues his causes, the physician who heals, the teacher, the preacher, etc., etc. . . .
I will proceed to present several general considerations, which must be found powerful enough to influence the non-slaveholder . . .
1. The non-slaveholder of the South is assured that the remuneration afforded by his labor, over and above the expense of living, is larger than that which is afforded by the same labor in the free States. . . .
2. The non-slaveholders, as a class, are not reduced by the necessity of our condition, as is the case in the free States, to find employment in crowded cities, and come into competition in close and sickly workshops and factories, with remorseless and untiring machinery. . . .
3. The non-slaveholder is not subjected to that competition with foreign pauper labor which has degraded the free labor of the North, and demoralized it to an extent which perhaps can never be estimated. . . .
4. The non-slaveholder of the South preserves the status of the white man, and is not regarded as an inferior or a dependant. He is not told that the Declaration of Independence, when it says that all men are born free and equal, refers to the negro equally with himself. It is not proposed to him that the free negroís vote shall weigh equally with his own at the ballot-box, and that the little children of both colors shall be mixed in the classes and benches of the schoolhouse, and embrace each other filially in its outside sports. It never occurs to him that a white man could be degraded enough to boast in a public assembly, as was recently done in New-York, of having actually slept with a negro. And his patriotic ire would crush with a blow the free negro who would dare, in his presence, as is done in the free States, to characterize the father of the country as a "scoundrel." No white man at the South serves another as a body-servant, to clean his boots, wait on his table, and perform the menial services of his household! His blood revolts against this, and his necessities never drive him to it. He is a companion and an equal. When in the employ of the slaveholder, or in intercourse with him, he enters his hall, and has a seat at his table. If a distinction exists, it is only that which education and refinement may give, and this is so courteously exhibited as scarcely to strike attention. The poor white laborer at the North is at the bottom of the social ladder, while his brother here has ascended several steps, and can look down upon those who are beneath him at an infinite remove!
5. The non-slaveholder knows that as soon as his savings will admit, he can become a slaveholder, and thus relieve his wife from the necessities of the kitchen and the laundry, and his children from the labors of the field. . . .
6. The large slaveholders and proprietors of the South begin life in great part as non-slaveholders. . . .
7. But, should such fortune not be in reserve for the non-slaveholder, he will understand that by honesty and industry it may be realized to his children. . . .
8. The sons of the non-slaveholder are and have always been among the leading and ruling spirits of the South, in industry as well as in politics. . . .
9. Without the institution of slavery the great staple products of the South would cease to be grown, and the immense annual results which are distributed among every class of the community, and which give life to every branch of industry, would cease.
10. If emancipation be brought about, as will, undoubtedly be the case, unless the encroachments of the fanatical majorities of the North are resisted now, the slaveholders, in the main, will escape the degrading equality which must result, by emigration, for which they have the means, by disposing of their personal chattels, while the non-slaveholders, without these resources, would be compelled to remain and endure the degradation. . . .
This is a startling consideration. In Northern communities, where the free negro is one in a hundred of the total population, he is recognized and acknowledged often as a pest, and in many cases even his presence is prohibited by law. What would be the case in many of our States, where every other inhabitant is a negro, or in many of our communities, as, for example, the parishes around and about Charleston, and in the vicinity of New-Orleans, where there are from twenty to one hundred negroes to each white inhabitant? Low as would this class of people sink by emancipation in idleness, superstition, and vice, the white man compelled to live among them would, by the power exerted over him, sink even lower, unless, as is to be supposed, he would prefer to suffer death instead.
In conclusion, my dear sir, I must apologize to the nonslaveholders of the South, of which class I was myself until very recently a member, for having deigned to notice at all the infamous libels which the common enemies of the South have circulated against them, and which our every-day experience refutes, but the occasion seemed a fitting one to place them truly and rightly before the world. This I have endeavored faithfully to do. They fully understand the momentous questions which now agitate the land in all their relations. They perceive the inevitable drift of Northern aggression, and know that if necessity impel to it, as I verily believe it does at this moment, the establishment of a Southern confederation will be a sure refuge from the storm. In such a confederation our rights and possessions would be secure . . . and we should become the freest, the happiest, and the most prosperous and powerful nation upon earth.
Your obedient servant,
To R. N. GOURDIN, Esq., Charleston, S. C.