- Jul 1, 2004
An Excerpt from William John Grayson's The Hireling and the Slave, second edition (Charleston: John Russell, 1855):
Slavery is that system of labour which exchanges subsistence for work, which secures a life-maintenance from the master to the slave, and gives a life-labour from the slave to the master. The slave is an apprentice for life, and owes his labour to his master; the master owes support, during life, to the slave. Slavery is the negro system of labour. He is lazy and improvident. Slavery makes all work, and it ensures homes, food and clothing for all. It permits no ideless, and it provides for sickness, infancy and old age. It allows no tramping or skulking, and it knows no pauperism.
This is the whole system substantially. * * * *
If Slavery is subject to abuses, it has its advantages also. It establishes more permanent, and, therefore, kinder relations between capital and labour. It removes what Stuart ill calls "the widening and embittering feud between the class of labour and the class of capital." It draws the relation closer between master and servant. It is not an engagement for days or weeks, but for life. There is no such thing, with Slavery, as a labourer for whom nobody cares or provides. The most wretched feature, in hireling labour, is the isolated miserable creature who has no home, no work, no food, and in whom no one is particularly interested. This is seen among hirelings only.
I do not say that Slavery is the best system of labour, but only that it is the best, for the negro, in this country. In a nation composed of the same race or similar races, where the labourer is intelligent, industrious and provident, money wages may be better than subsistence. Even under all advantages, there are great defects in the hireling labour system, for which, hitherto, no Statesman has discovered an adequate remedy. In hireling States there are thousands of idlers, trampers, poachers, smugglers, drunkards and thieves, who make theft a profession. There are thousands who suffer for want of food and clothing, from inability to obtain them. For these two classes--those who will not work, and those who cannot--there is no sufficient provision. Among slaves there are no trampers, idlers, smugglers, poachers, and none suffer from want. Every one is made to work, and no one is permitted to starve. Slavery does for the negro what European schemers in vain attempt to do for the hireling. It secures work and subsistence for all. It secures ore order and subordination also.* (*One of the best arrangements for the relief of the hireling labourer, is the provision made in France, of houses where the children of labourers are taken in when the labourers go to work in the morning, are carefully attended during the day, and restored to the parents on their return t night--a similar provision for the care of children is found on every plantation.) The master is a Commissioner of the Poor, on every plantation, to provide food, clothing, medicine, houses, for his people. He is a police officer to prevent idleness, drunkenness, theft, or disorder. I do not mean by formal appointment of law, but by virtue of his relation to his slaves. There is, therefore, no starvation among slaves. There are, comparatively, few crimes. If there are paupers in slave States, they are the hirelings of other countries, who have run away fro their homes. Pauperism began, with them, when serfage was abolished.
What more can be required of Slavery, in reference to the negro, than has been done? It has made him, from a savage, an orderly and efficient labourer. It supports him in comfort and peace. It restrains his vices. It improves his mind, orals and manners. It instructs him in Christian knowledge.
* * * *
All Christians believe that the affairs of the world are directed by Providence for wise and good purposes. The coming of the negro to North America makes no exception to the rule. His transportation was a rude mode of emigration; the only practicable one in his case; not attended with ore wretchedness than the emigrant ship often exhibits even now, notwithstanding the passenger law. What the purpose of his coming is, we may not presume to judge. But we can see much good already resulting from it--good to the negro, in his improved condition; to the country whose rich fields he has cleared of the forest and made productive in climates unfit for the labour of the white man; to the Continent of Africa in furnishing, as it may ultimately, the only means for civilizing its people.
For those that skipped the text above and started reading here, you are really missing out on the point I intend to make with this thread. If you aren't going to read it, you might as well click the "back" button and move along.
If you have come this far, you may be wondering why I posted this. Others who know me a little are more likely to be a step ahead.
First off, I didn't post this because I support slavery. Nor are the mentions of religion relevant.
I have posted this because the basis for the arguments above were not new at the time it was written, nor did it die. In fact it is still very abundant today even in a somewhat juggled form.
We sometimes like to believe that when our nation was founded, the ideas of individual freedom and liberty zapped into existence. That those ideas were immediately understood, and implemented. That the vast majority of people in this new nation understood that these ideals, this way of life, was so grand, that they were better than life itself. Freedom knocked off wealth as the new true measure of the quality of life.
Of course that wasn't the case. And I'm not here to offer a history lesson.
I posted this because those arguments written above in 1855 are still being used today. I posted this because some would like you to believe that we tried freedom, social and economic, and we failed. I posted this because those people are wrong. I posted this because the fight for individual freedom and liberty carries on to this day. I posted this because I wanted you to ask yourself which side you're on.