God's Will: Proslavery, the Bible, and Preserving the Patriarchal Social Order of the South, 1831-1861
ABSTRACT: Few issues in American history perplex the twenty-first century mind more than a people going to war to defend their ability to keep other people in bondage. Hundreds of thousands of white Southerners fought in the Civil War for their freedom to deny black slaves from being free. “Many scholars have felt uncomfortable contending with zealous defenses of a social system that the twentieth century judges abhorrent...” explains Drew Gilpin Faust. There is a tremendous volume of scholarship focused on the abolitionists who argued for manumission. Former slaves Frederick Douglas and Sojouner Truth, preacher William Channing, publisher William Lloyd Garrison, and novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe are just some of the many well-known abolitionists in history books on the period leading up to the Civil War. Very little is known, however, about the proslavery voices on the other side of the debate. South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, Professor Thomas Roderick Dew, Baptist minister Thornton Stringfellow, and essayist Louisa S. McCord were just some of the many writers and orators across the South defending slavery with as much vigor as their counterparts to the north were attacking it. Recently, historians have shifted from considering proslavery ideology “as evidence of moral failure and more as a key to wider patterns of beliefs and values.” In this wider context, the reasons for white Southerners’ proslavery ideology and the arguments they used that so convinced them to go to war over it, can provide a deeper understanding of the causes of the seminal event in American history and, perhaps, get at the roots of racial inequity that continues today.
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