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~The full quote, taken out of context, is:
" I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good a positive good." ... "I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other." ...
Calhoun said it on February 6, 1837, is voicing his opposition to sending the issue of abolition to a Senate committee for study, noting that "The subject is beyond the jurisdiction of Congress - they have no right to touch it in any shape or form, or to make it the subject of deliberation or discussion." The jurisdiction issue was so obvious that he did not deign to explain it. Had he felt the need of explanation, he would have simply referred to Article I, Sections 2 and 9, Article IV, Section 2, and Amendments IV, V, IX and X of the Constitution of the USA, all of which in one way or another guarantee the right to own slaves as a basic, fundamental right under the constitution. As Calhoun (and Abe Lincoln) well knew and as each repeated constantly throughout the antebellum period, abolition of slavery could be achieved only by state law or constitutional amendment and neither congress nor the president had any right or authority to address, let alone act upon, the matter as a matter of federal constitutional law.
As to why Calhoun determined slavery as a positive good, he touches upon the idea only superficially. His reasoning coincides with similar ideas expressed at various times by folks like Lincoln. He does not deal, in that speech, with the practical economical and social reasons why slavery had become a necessity not only in the south but also for the federal government and the northern economies that relied so heavily on southern goods for there very survival. By 1860, fully 75% of federal revenues were raised in the south, mostly by tariff and similar laws enacted by the northern controlled Congress. At the same time, 75% of federal spending occurred in the north. The federal government could not survive financially without the revenue raised from taxation of the southern cash crops. Because of the virtually non-existent labor pool in the south, those crops could not be sown, tended, harvested and gotten to market without a guaranteed work force. Due to the filthy, backbreaking nature of the work, the inhospitable climate and the nominal wages that could have been paid to a free workforce, enslaved labor was the only means by which the large tobacco, cotton, flax and rice plantations could survive. Free farmhands could not be counted on; they would have quit with little or no notice when some better opportunity presented itself, or when the work became too much and not worth the pittance they received for it, and the crops would have never been planted, or would have been neglected and would have rotted in the fields. Worse, as the crops rapidly wore out the soil, new fields could not have been cleared to replace those that had become unproductive. The plantations needed the slave to operate and the federal government and northern industrial, banking, financial and money interests needed the plantations and the southern cash cow to maintain their existence and their fortunes. That is why the abolitionists, vocal as they were, never represented anything even remotely approaching a majority.
The illegal and unconstitutional Confiscation Acts and the equally illegal and unconstitutional and redundant Emancipation Proclamation were not promulgated as moral, humanitarian civil rights measures. They were weapons of war. The ratification of Amendments XIII, XIV and XV were coerced after the war solely for the purpose of...
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