A Pro-Slavery Argument, 1857

Objective: This is an exercise in skills critical to a historian: analyzing and organizing information. You will read and analyze a primary source document in order to understand how proponents of slavery in antebellum America defended it as a positive good and answer the question that appears below. Directions: 1. For this assignment students will read A Pro-Slavery Argument, 1857 created by America in Class from the National Humanities Center. It can be found online at http://americainclass.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ProSlavery-StudentVersion.pdf and it is also attached. It includes excerpts from Fitzhugh. The interactive Activity Review will help you to analyze the document. 2. Read an excerpt from Frederick Law Olmsted’s Cotton Kingdom (provided below). 3. Prepare a well-developed essay (essay means multiple paragraphs) responding to the question: Would Frederick Law Olmsted agree or disagree with the argument that Fitzhugh makes in Cannibals All!? To fully answer this question requires you to explain Fitzhugh’s argument and his view of slavery, Olmsted’s argument and his view of slavery, and to use information from both author’s to support your answer. Upload your essay by clicking on the assignment. Grading: This assignment will be graded using the Assignment Rubric. The following passage comes from The Cotton Kingdom, an 1861 volume in which journalist Frederick Law Olmsted compiled the dispatches he sent back to New York newspapers as he travelled through the South in the 1850s. As a general rule, the larger the body of negroes on a plantation or estate, the more completely are they treated as mere property, and in accordance with a policy calculated to insure the largest pecuniary returns [profits]…. It may be true, that among the wealthier slave-owners there is oftener a humane disposition, a better judgment, and a greater ability to deal with their dependents indulgently and bountifully, but the effects of this disposition are chiefly felt, even on those plantations where the proprietor resides permanently, among the slaves employed about the house and stables, and perhaps a few old favourites in the quarters. It is more than balanced by the difficulty of acquiring a personal interest in the units of a large body of slaves, and an acquaintance with the individual characteristics of each. The treatment of the mass must be reduced to a system, the ruling idea of which will be, to enable one man to force into the same channel of labour the muscles of a large number of men of various and often conflicting wills. Frederick Law Olmsted, The Cotton Kingdom: A Traveller’s Observations on Cotton and Slavery in the American Slave States, 1853–1861 (New York: Mason Brothers, 1861), p. 192.

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