Pro-Slavery Thought in the Old South

Pro-Slavery Thought in the Old South

Pro-Slavery Thought in the Old South

Pro-Slavery Thought in the Old South

Excerpt

Long before the first settlements were made in the western hemisphere the arguments in justification of the social institution of domestic slavery had become hackneyed. Slavery, as ancient in the history of the world as society itself, early became the subject of philosophic inquiry. The greatest of the Greek thinkers justified slavery in logic as conforming to nature. The legalistic thought of the Romans constructed a basis for it both in the jus civile and in the jus gentium. The patristic writers of the early Christian era surrounded the institution with the sanction of religion and the church; and, throughout the long span of the Middle Ages, it remained securely embedded in the customs and practice of the nations of the world. Justified in the mind of mankind at the outset of the modern era, the royal ordinances of Spain prepared the way for its introduction into the New World; and installation began when Las Casas, with benevolent motives, ordered that Negroes be imported to work in the mines of the Indies. Before the advent of American history, Aristotle, Ulpian, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pufendorf and many other great names among the philosophers had contributed ideas which formed a large body of pro-slavery thought.

It is true, then, that pro-slavery thought did not have its inception in America; it is doubtful, indeed, that any distinct aspect of it was indigenous to the peculiar system of human bondage that was planted in America. With so full a heritage from the Old World, the American controversialists of slavery freely drew upon ancient and medieval sources in constructing their opposite cases. As all the basic types of argument were inherited, it was necessary only to restate, re-

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