". . . The Necessity of Bondage"
In the winter of 1845, John C. Calhoun penned a letter as secretary of state to J. W. Jones, speaker of the House of Representatives, in which he reflected back to the Census of 1840, the first to have surveyed the state of mental health in the nation. Calhoun wrote with particular reference to the higher level of insanity reported "among . . . free blacks" in northern states as compared with slaves in the Old South. His argument was direct. Freedom for the "negro or African race . . . would be, indeed, to them a curse instead of a blessing." It would cause an alarming rise in the number of black mental cases, and thereby inconvenience society at large, as well as the black community. 1
Calhoun was merely confirming in this letter a stand he had taken several years earlier when the survey first appeared. Its findings had struck him even then as most noteworthy: "Here is proof of the necessity of bondage. The African is incapable of self-care and sinks into lunacy under the burden of freedom. It is a mercy to him to give him the guardianship and protection from mental death." 2 Relying heavily on the Census Bureau's findings, Calhoun concluded that the slave's mental development, even as an adult, was as delicately balanced as a child's and needed constant