previous next

[83] fact to expand, if it were to hold its own; and thus Calhoun's doctrine of the individual rights of the individual states must so be turned, by infinitely cautious curves of logic, as to justify the protection of slaves on the high seas, the existence of slavery in the District of Columbia, national guardianship of slavery in the national domain, the denunciation of free speech on the subject at the North. No one save a giant among clever logicians and a devotee among enthusiasts could have played the role with success. His arguments and assertions are cogent and philosophical, keen, yet exhibiting a certain breadth and firmness of grasp. He early recognized the danger of a moral agitation against slavery; he did not say that the Union could not exist half slave and half free; but he did announce (1837) that ‘Abolition and the Union cannot co-exist’; the fell spirit of abolitionism, based as it was, or pretended to be, on moral grounds, was irreconcilable with the safety of slaves. To meet the attack of moral crusaders, he laid down the philosophy of slaveholding and above all its value in America:
I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by colour, 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.

He also declared—what may perhaps appear today to be a gruesome fact, or at least something near the fact—that, as social and political equality between the races was impossible, ‘to change the present condition of the African race . . . would be but to change the form of slavery.’ If the black race must exist among us deprived of social equality, political rights, and, largely, of industrial opportunity, have the former slaves become freemen or have they passed into a new form of servitude?

Calhoun's written treatises on government and the rights of the South do not differ essentially from his spoken words on the same subjects. They are often metaphysical and subtle; but his doctrines rested on certain philosophical conceptions; and in presenting his theories he used language that

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Calhoun, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (2)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1837 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: