South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XL
THE LOOMING OF THE SLAVERY AND TARIFF CONTROVERSIES, 1815-1839

TURNING now to slavery, to which the manufacturing developments traced in the last chapter were inherently injurious, we find that in 1816 the rushing enthusiasm for more Negroes engendered by the cottongrowing era was subsiding sufficiently for philosophical minds to recognize the fallacy of the assumption that the slave could be relied on to remain nothing but a labor machine without the interests or possibilities of a human being. "Montesquieu" in the Telescope of December 3, 1816, lamented the hordes of Negroes being brought from Maryland and Virginia. Even a mind warped from virtue cannot but condemn slavery, he said. "It is to be regretted that when British tyranny was expelled from America slavery was not also abolished. The planters butcher their land and with the proceeds acquire more land and more Negroes, and so on in endless round. In the meantime, South Carolina is the victim." This is typical of several anti-slavery utterances in the early 1820's.

Southern opinion was tolerant on slavery, and generally acknowledged it an evil passively to be endured without much conclusive thinking on what the future would be, until roused by that "fire bell in the night," the Missouri debate. What was said then the South could not forget and accordingly assumed an alarmed attitude of self-defense. Charles Pinckney, performing in Congress his last public service, foresaw that the South was really defeated while winning a temporary victory in the Missouri Compromise, for she thereby acceded to the principle that Congress could exclude slavery from the territories.

Slave Conspiracies. --Local slave conspiracies were disagreeably frequent throughout the South, but rarely broke into action. A plot was feared in Charleston in September, 1793, and another in December, 1795.1 A plot was discovered near Columbia in 1805, and in 1816 one at Ashepoo, and in June of that year another of more serious character near Camden. The Camden conspirators were possessed of "wild ideas about the rights of man and misconception of Bible passages." Two of the

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1
E. P. Link, Proceedings of South Carolina Historical Association, 1943, p. 33. Thhat slave conspiracies were more frequent than is usually supposed is shown by J. Q. Carroll, Steve Insurrections in the United States, 1800-1865.

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