The purpose of this paper is to discuss the issue of African slavery in America in the antebellum by late eighteenth century and before the antebellum crisis as discussed in Paul Finkelman’s book: Defending Slavery. This paper will summarize the first part of book taking as a main topic racial aspects of the slavery. After the introductory summary , this paper will focus in two specific sections found in the second part of the book: “Religion and Slavery” and “Racial Theory and Slavery”. Lastly, this paper will analyze these two themes used as a justification of African Slavery in early history of America
In his book “Defending Slavery”, Finkelman presents a collection of historical documents written by politicians, lawyers, clergymen and an anonymous author supporting proslavery. In the first part of the book, Finkelman, gives a briefly introduction to the arguments supporting pro slavery in America during the Antebellum. The thoughts defending slavery have in common that slavery in America was justified based on racial aspects. The sociological term “mudsill theory” was first used by James Henry Hammond, a South Carolina Senator. This term was placed as a strong racial argument in favor of slavery. The basic premise of this theory was that all great societies must have someone to do the menial labor, in order to create a distinction between social classes. In addition, according to this theory this low class labor must be assigned to blacks who were considered an inferior race. Under this context slavery did contribute to create an ample social gap between the “white” and “black” races. Religion and Slavery:
In this section of the book, Finkelman gathered four documents written by three representatives of the Baptist and Protestant religion and by an anonymous person and edited by De Bow’s Review, a well circulated magazine in the South part of America within 19th century. The first document of this section is “The Duties of Christian Masters” written by Reverend A. T. Holmes in 1851. This document won a price offered by the Alabama Baptist State Coveention for the best essay. Holmes called the slaveowners as “Christian masters” and avowed that “the masters” had the responsibility to hold slaves of an inferior race and should guide and protect the servants. In addition, Holmes noted that white race masters were of “a superior intellect” and that blacks were “ignorant”.
The essay “Slavery and the Bible” written by an anonymous author and edited by De Bow’s Review. The author states that the teachings of the Bible are taken as moral truth and because the Bible describes clearly the presence of slavery, therefore it must also be regarded as moral truth.
The report “Duty of Clergymen in Relation to the Marriage of Slaves” from the Protestant Episcopal Convention of South Caroline asserts that slaves could get married by the clergy but if the slave owner considered a necessary separation of the couple, he had the authority to separate them to comply with the “divine right” from God to master their slaves’ lives.
Thornton Stringfellow wrote “The Bible Argument: Or Slavery in the Light of Divine Revelation”. This report is a synopsis of the theological argument defending slavery as stated in the Old and New Testaments.
Religion used to justify slavery had as a core support the Bible teachings but its interpretation was certainly influenced but their solid conviction that God not only allowed slavery but also ordained.
Since racial defenders of slavery relate religious arguments based on Bible citations it is necessary to analyze the documents grouped in the “Racial Theory and Slavery” section. Racial Theory and Slavery:
The section entitled “Racial and Theory and Slavery” in the second part of the book contains four documents written by Samuel A Cartwright, a South Caroline physician; William Grayson, a South Caroline...