American Slavery was not the Vast Evil it is Portrayed as
I will take the position american slavery was not the vast evil it is portrayed as.
Thanks. I assume that the first round is for acceptance.
I'll be arguing that slavery was just as evil as it's portrayed.
Of course, not all slaves were treated the same. But go on.
Thank you Danielle for tacking the con in this debate I look forward to it. My goal is simply to show slavery in America was not the vast evil it is portrayed as. Of course I am not saying this is true of each and every case, but that it is generally true of slavery as a whole. I dont think it is needed to describe what we are told slavery was like so I will not waste any time hear. I will simply challenge some of what we is genrally believed.
Note- Many quotes will come from former slaves from the slave narratives, the language is unaltered for authenticity.
The slave’s diet and living quarters
“Dey had to feed us an plenty of it, cause us couldnt wuk if dey dident feed us good.”
-Alec Bostwick Georgia Slave Narratives
To purchase an expensive slave and not feed them, would not give the purchaser a return on their purchase. As owners knew, slaves need energy to work. If you underfed them, then you would lose out on their potential production. Slave’s food consumption passed the free man’s consumption of 1879 by 10%. They averaged 6oz of meat a day (1 oz below free whites) and ate a variety of fruits/vegetables/grains. The slave’s diet exceeds the modern  recommended daily intake. Poor whites use to come to large plantations and beg for food from the slaves.
The federal census of 1860 determined that the ordinary plantation was well quartered with 5.2 slaves per house compared to 5.3 for whites. Since the family unit was often encourages by owners, slave’s families often got or would get, if they married and started a family, a house of their own on the plantation. The slave’s material condition was greater than the northern industrial worker of the time. Scientist, Sir Charles Lyell, said of the slave quarters “Neat as the greater part of the cottages in Scotland”.
“The slaves were well provided for”
-Northern abolishionist Frederick Law Olmsted
-T.J Stiles, author of “Jesse James last Rebel of the Civil War”
Laws were in place to ensure that the owner's must care for and meet the needs of the slaves. Plantation owners spent more money on slaves than freemen did on their children decades after the civil war. Often on larger plantations they would have their own mini-hospital, with an on-site doctor. Smaller plantations would often have an on-site nurse. In the decades following the war, when the slaves were freed, African American’s life expectancy dropped by 10% and sickness rose by 20%. They received better medical care while in slavery under the care of an invested master.
-Rachael Adams Georgia Slave Narratives
Condition of the slave in the South / Work all day, no play?
“To say that they are under worked and overfed and are far happier than the labors of great Britan would hardly convey a sufficiently clear notion of their actual condition. They put me much more in mind of a community of grown children, spoiled by to much kindness, than a body of dependents. Much less a community of slaves”
-Louis F Tasistro of Great Britain
“The slaves do not go around looking unhappy, and are with difficulty, I fancy, persuaded to feel so. Whips and chains oaths and brutality are as common, for all that one sees, in the free as the slave states. We have come thus far, and might have gone ten times as far, I dare say, without seeing the first sign of negro misery or white tyranny”
-Bostonian Charles Elliot Norton, while in South Carolina
“One might almost imagine one's self to be in Hayti [Haiti] and think that colored people had got possession of the town and held sway, while the whites were living among them as sufferance”
-Englishmen James Silk Buckingham, visited Virginia in 1840's
Many thought that slavery was beneficial to the negro, especially the removal from Africa. By leaving Africa, their quality of life increased in every way. Southern slaves worked 10% less than northern farmers on average, because crop production took less time than animal and dairy farming common in the north. In the 1840's Scottish observer William Thompson said slaves don't work “One fourth so much as a scotch.” Some plantations had 5 hour work days and others were always done by 2-3 in the afternoon. Because of sick slaves old and young, usually around 1/3 of slaves on a given plantation were not working or doing very light work.Slaves’ income varied, and with good effort would be rewarded with higher level jobs, such as running the plantation. 7% of slaves were in some managerial job. Slaves had down time as well as their own money to spend. Often they had their own business on the side to make extra cash to spend. Slave “renting” was common, this is where a skilled slave [carpentry, blacksmith etc] would advertise their services, negotiate their own contracts, and own their own place of business. Slaves in America learned more skills than anywhere in Africa. Slaves started dominating certain trades in cities. This caused some southern whites to get upset at the slave owners because the slaves were taking all the carpentry, blacksmith, and cabin making jobs.Slaves often owned property of their own on the plantation. In typical slave owning Germantown, LA, slaves maintained their own accounts at stores and freely made purchases at the stores. During free time Slaves worked at local stores, earning the same wages as whites according to store records. Slaves sold goods to the store that they made or grew in their downtime and from their own property. At the store, slaves purchased “luxury” and “snack” items, as basic needs were cared for by their owner. The slaves also bought gun powder, knives, and writing utensils. In the book,Time on the Cross, they estimated slaves received as much as 90% of the wages they earned (with modern tax rates, few earn that much today.
“Slaves received on average better and more certain compensation [for work] than any laboring people”
-R.L Dabney, A Defense of Virginia and the South
Many would purchase their own freedom, other slaves, and land. Some would become prosperous slave owners themselves, or tradesmen and business owners. Often slaves and free blacks worked a plantation owned by a white that was residing in other part of country; the owner would only be their seasonally.
“De young folks don't know nothing about good times and good living, dey don't understand how come I wish I wuz still in slavery."
-Adam Smith, Mississippi Slave Narratives
"Wen I sit and think of all the good things we had to eat an all the fun we had, 'course we had to work, but you knows, when a crowd all works togather and sings and laughs, first thing you know--the works all done."
-Ellen King, Mississippi Slave Narratives
“That was a happy time, with happy days. I’ll be satisfied to see my Savior that my old marster worshiped and my husband preach about. I wants to be in heaven with all my white folks, just to wait on them and love them, and serve them, sorta like I did in slavery time. That will be enough heaven for Adeline"
-Adeline Johnson Slave Narratives
"Lawsey man, dem were de days! We usta have some good times. We could have all the fun we wanted on Sa'dday nights, and we sho had it, cuttin monkey shines, and dancing all night long. Sometimes our mistis would come down early to watch us."
-Sidney Bonner, Alabama Slave Narratives
“Miss, us niggers on de Bennett place [Plantation] wuz free as soon as we wuz bawn. I always been free”
-Hannah Irwin, Alabama Slave Narratives
“Cotton pickin was big fun too, and when dey got through pickin de cotton dey et and drank and danced till dey could dance no more”
-Rachael Adams Georgia Slave Narratives
“Slavery times wuz sho good times. We wuz fed an' clothed an' had nothin to worry about”
-Sarah and Tom Douglas, Alabama Slave Narratives
“In slavery days the negroes had quilt tings, dances, picnics and everybody had a good time”
-Arrie Binns Georgia slave narratives
“Dem days fore de war was good old days, speically for de colored folks..oh missy dem was good old days us would be lucky to have em back. You could hear niggers singin in de fields cause dey diden't have no worries lak dey got now...dat cornshukin wuz easy wid everyone sigin and havin a good time together...old times when folkes loved one another den dey does now.”
-Jasper Battle Georgia Slave Narratives
“How they sang; how they laughed and grinned...heard amongst the black folks endless singing, shouting and laughter; and saw on holidays black gentlemen and ladies arrayed in such splendor and comfort as freeborn workmen in our english towns seldom exhibit”
-English novelist, William M. Thackeray
"I think slavery was a good thing. I never suffered for nothin'."
-Perry Sheppard, Slave Narratives
“My white people dey good tuh me....why, ah was jes lak dey's chullun [Children] ah played wid em, et wid em an' eb' n slep wid 'em.....Dem was good ol times, ah tel yuh, honey....”
-Mrs. Candis Goodwin, Virginia Slave Narratives“
"I think slavery was a mighty good thing for Mother, Father, me and the other members of the family, and I cannot say anything but good for my old marster and missus, but I can only speak for those whose conditions I have known during slavery and since. For myself and them, I will say again, slavery was a mighty good thing.”
-Slave Mary Anderson, North Carolina Slave Narratives
-Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
- - -
First and foremost, we must consider what it means to be a slave. Before the Civil War, slaves were considered personal property, and they and their descendants could be sold or inherited like any other personalty . In other words, while they had very few rights, the two most important rights were not guaranteed to slaves: the right to life and the right to freedom.
The resolution of this debate calls for me to defend that slavery was EVIL.
Then comes the part of the resolution "as it is portrayed as." In other words, I have to defend that slavery is just as evil as we (school, the media and society) contend that it is. This doesn't mean I have to ignore that slaves were in fact cared for in certain ways, i.e. being provided food, shelter and medical care. However, I'm arguing that the institution of slavery in itself (legally viewing people as property) is in fact as evil as we suggest, and that the treatment of slaves including the rampant abuses we mention did in fact occur.
- - -
"The treatment of slaves in the United States varied by time and place, but was generally brutal and degrading. Whipping and sexual abuse, including rape, were common... Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, beating, mutilation, branding and/or imprisonment. Punishment was most often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but masters or overseers sometimes abused slaves to assert dominance" .
Let me be clear. Even if masters decided to give slaves food and shelter as an investment of their property, that does NOT discount any of the atrocities that slaves had to endure. Consider a scenario where a woman is the victim of domestic violence. Ray Rice's fiance presumably lived a very privileged life. She was not only given food and shelter by her partner, but accommodations in a multi-million dollar mansion. She was given designer clothes, expensive luxuries and did not have to work at all.
Yet when video surfaced of Rice hitting his fiance in an elevator, we acknowledged that his actions were just as evil as the video surveillance portrayed. In other words, despite the fact that Janay Rice lived and lives an incredibly privileged life, with tons of luxurious accommodations, we still recognize that what was done to her by Ray was evil. Similarly, just because slaves were given bare minimum provisions, it doesn't mean that what was imposed upon them was not horrendous.
- - -
Thus far I've mentioned that slaves were beaten, burned, hanged, branded and mutilated. My opponent will not be able to deny that these things definitively occurred [3, 4, 5]. Thus he will attempt to distract you by saying "At least they didn't starve to death!" as if that's a good point. Indeed by Pro's own assertions, slaves were provided for only because they were valued as an investment (human capital) and not because the government or their masters recognized them as fellow people with rights who deserve care. The fact that slaves had "masters" and owners in the first place is morally abhorrent, and that is pure evil regardless of how Pro tries to present it.
In addition to being physically assaulted, slaves were sexually assaulted as well. Rape was rampant across plantations. Slave women were forced to comply with sexual advances by their masters on a very regular basis and became their concubines, even if they were married to others . Male slaves were also raped.
Historian Nell Irvin Painter describes the effects of this abuse as "Soul murder, the feeling of anger, depression and low self-esteem," never mind the physical scars and effects. Not only did slaves get STDs from their masters  but often became pregnant and had their master's children. These mulatto babies served as stark reminders to the master's wife that her husband was unfaithful with slaves, and in turn, many wives treated the concubines even more wretchedly.
The fact is the government legally permitted raping these slaves as well . And it goes beyond that; masters were intentionally cruel. It wasn't just about a sexual release but a complete and utter display of control, dominance, aggression, force and lack of rights. "Slave masters even beat pregnant women, devising ways to do it without harming the baby. Slave masters would dig a hole big enough for the woman's stomach to lie in and proceed with the lashings" .
- - -
My opponent has included a lot of quotes in the last round; I will wait until later rounds to provide first-hand accounts and descriptions of the brutality that occurred. On the other hand, Pro has presented completely biased and unreliable testimonies. In a ridiculous display of ignorance, Pro quoted three WHITE OBSERVERS saying that a slave's life was too easy. Are we really going to believe that (at best) some minimal time for leisure somehow discounts the complete and utter evil that occurred on slave plantations? That's absurd.
Perhaps what these three white observers didn't see during their short visits were how slaves were treated on a regular basis and what their daily labor looked like. Labor was more difficult for some slaves than others, for example working on rice plantations was notoriously hard and their labor was incredibly demanding. Slave working conditions were often made worse by the plantation's need for them to work overtime to sustain themselves in regards to food and shelter. I'm also curious as to when slaves had time for fun, considering they worked 15 hour days and presumably needed time to sleep.
It's no secret that my opponent is exaggerating the "benefits" of slavery including medical care. For example while he boasts about the fact that slaves were treated while ill (ignoring the fact that slaves were equally beaten and tortured), what Pro failed to mention was that medical care was usually provided by *fellow slaves* or by slaveholders and their families, and only rarely by physicians . Further, researchers performed medical experiments on slaves without consent, which often had a detrimental impact on their health and well-being .
- - -
Pro writes, "Many thought that slavery was beneficial to the negro, especially the removal from Africa. By leaving Africa, their quality of life increased in every way." Yet that is a fallacious description that uses manipulative information. While it might be true that slaves were given food, shelter and shoddy medical care by their masters, they very much had to work for it. People in Africa could work for their food and shelter the way they do and always have. Plus, living in Africa these people would be free.
Not only would they have freedom, bodily autonomy and not be forced to work in deplorable conditions against their will, but free Africans would not be made to suffer the incredible brutality that slaves endured. They would not necessarily be cramped in close quarters with minimal provisions and they would have choices. They would not be considered property with their children being plagued to the same fate, and their marriages might be recognized along with not being raped... or branded, beaten, hanged, whipped, shackled or permissibly murdered in cold blood. Indeed while laws to protect slaves existed, in practice, white people could get away with murdering slaves who were considered subhuman -- it was *extremely* rare that masters were punished for their treatment of slaves, despite the laws that allegedly protected them .
It is completely inaccurate to suggest that because slaves were somehow given bare-minimum things (to ensure they provided labor without dying) that somehow they would have been worse off and unable to obtain the exact same things... except so much better and without suffering extensive unjust harm... in Africa. Thus in conclusion, Pro's entire argument is rooted in absurdity. Just because people have SOME positive things in their life does not in any way whatsoever discount the evil or injustice they experience overall.
- - -
 Gray White, Deborah (2013). Freedom On My Mind: A History of African Americans. Bedford/ St. Martins.
Thanks for the great post and arguments. Since this debate goes five rounds I wish not to respond here, I will add to the content from my original post instead.
-Dr Henry A. White, History professor at Washington and Lee University in 1900
Often the relationship was more like a family than one owning the other. Most all slaves were born in America. They grew up with, played with, worked with, and often ate with their future masters (the children of the current master). It was normal for future masters to use family names, such as aunt or uncle for the slaves. Slave narratives speak of future masters as children (these future white masters) being shown to use guns, fish, hunt, etc. by their slaves and forming family like relationships with them. Most white children on plantations were “raised as much by black woman as a white woman.” Slave women often worked in the house, cooking, cleaning, and also raising and schooling the master’s children.
-John Randolph, slave owner in 1814
-Former slave of CSA president Jefferson Davis of Mississippi
-Dave Walker, Mississippi Slave Narratives
"My young marster used to work in de field wid us, til he went to de war, an' he'd boss de niggers. dey called him bud, but we all called him Babe. I sho did love dat boy. I loved him."
-Lightin' Mathews, Alabama Slave Narrative
-John Smith, Alabama Slave Narratives
-Slave L. Betty Cofer Slave Narratives
-Slave owner Jane Gill of Missouri
“I loved him, and I can say that every colored man he ever owned loved him”
-Former slave of CSA president Jefferson Davis Mississippi
-Georgia Backer Georgia Slave Narratives
-Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison Biography
After the war, very few slaves left for the north, as they felt their treatment was better in the south than it would be in the north. During the war the slaves could have easily raised up and freed themselves as the north called them to do, but as slave owning Kate Stone said “we would be helpless should the negros rise since there are few men left at home. It is only because negros do not want to kill us that we are still alive.” During the war, the south was first to use blacks in the military and gave them equal pay, while the north did not. The south was first to appoint black officers in the war. A slave from Missouri said “colored people and whites associate more in the south than in the north. They go to parties together, dance together, colored people enjoy themselves more in the south.”
“The prejudice of color is not nearly as strong in the south as the north [in the south] it is not at all uncommon to see black slaves of both sexes shake hands with white people when they met. And interchange friendly personal inquiries, but at the north I do not remember to have witnessed this once neither Boston, NY, Philadelphia would white persons generally like to be seen shaking hands with black in the streets”
-Frenchmen Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America
-1824, Mary Helan Herring Middelton
“Our plan is more profitable [non slave factory workers] we take care of no children or sick people, except as paupers, while owners of slaves have to provide for them from birth till death”
“Negro woman are carrying black and white babies together in arms, black and white children are playing together out of doors, to see the train go by”
My opponent begins with a quote from Woodrow Wilson claiming that slavery wasn't that bad.
In fact, Woodrow Wilson is known as one of the most racist presidents in modern history . He said that segregation was humiliating and did not allow black people to serve in WWI. He firmly disagreed with black people having civil rights, and Wilson sympathized with the KKK while serving as an apologist for Southern racism. People note that he opposed slavery for economic and not moral reasons . In other words, Woodrow Wilson is yet another useless source. He wasn't even alive during the time of slavery, and based on his other racist observations, we can tell that he was completely biased and misinformed.
Pro then quotes another white person saying in 1900 that slavery "engendered a bond of personal affection" in a strong way which is unfounded and not at all based in reality. Has this source (history professor Dr Henry A. White) have any proof of this claim? In fact, we can presume this is 100% false considering masters were constantly afraid their slaves would run away or fight back. Indeed many slaves DID run away and fight back in multiple slave rebellions .
No longer do academic historians downplay the tragedy of slavery. It was popular in the past to do so which is why Pro quoted a historian from 116 years ago. They simply regurgitated the same talking points that was used by pro-slavery advocates from a few years earlier. But in fact millions of people died unjustly under the institution .
If it's true that slavery breeded such strong affection, why were their runaway slaves risking their life to flee? Why did masters and the government work so hard to keep slaves oppressed and with little to no rights, if the relationship between slave and master was that of mutual affection? Quite obviously, that makes no sense and there is not a shred of historical evidence to validate this claim. Pro has only cited a history professor saying as much, but all facts point to the exact opposite. In the next round, I'll cite some first-hand accounts and testimonials of slaves. The audience can decide if the slaves felt "affection" toward their masters or not.
Pro argues that a cruel slave owner was the exception and not the rule. He writes that most slave owners were benevolent. First, Pro must offer proof of these claims, and quotes from fellow white people (especially those who were not alive at the time) don't count. I've mentioned that slaves were treated differently; however, on balance slavery was a cruel institution.
My opponent writes, "Slaves and their master typically had a good relationship that was beneficial to both parties." This is a bare assertion without evidence. The very fact that slaves had a master and OWNER proves the relationship is very one-sided. If it weren't, the slave would voluntarily agree to provide their labor without the threat of force, violence, aggression and coercion. Furthermore, let's not forget that the slaves were taken captive to the U.S. (in horrible conditions) against their will. So even if it behooved the slaves to work on plantations while here, they never should have been brought here in the first place.
Pro writes that slaves were treated like "family." Just because they were referred to with affectionate names in no way whatsoever changes their status, role and duties. Did white slave owners make their FAMILY members work 15 hour days in the fields under harsh labor conditions without choice or pay? Did they beat, brand, burn, rape, beat and mutilate their family members? If not, then we have no reason to accept this statement by Pro. Calling someone "auntie" doesn't mean you also aren't treating them like a subhuman animal with little to no rights at the same time.
The rest of Pro's round consists of many quotes trying to convince us that slaves were treated with kindness and respect. Pro even cites a quote that describes the slaves and their masters as FRIENDS... "slaves would come to be cherished not only as property of high value but as loving if lowly friends." Once again this is absurd and unfounded. Did white plantation owners rape and mutilate their friends?
Pro seems to deny that these things occurred, or perhaps he's suggesting that it wasn't popular and thus doesn't matter. That is incorrect. All of those things not only happened and not sparingly, but the fact that they occurred under slavery at all (and NOT on a very minimal scale) proves these things are just as evil as they are portrayed. Keep in mind that just because movies may focus on certain types of plantations doesn't mean it didn't happen or is any less evil. Pro has the burden of proof and is responsible for proving how the majority of slaves weren't treated poorly. Yet that is self-defeating, as being a slave at ALL is already evil.
Note that I don't have to speak on freed slaves. Yet my opponent cites a quote, "They [slaves] fare better than the poor of any of our citizens are more warmly clad, work less, and are a thousand-fold more cheerful and contented." I've addressed this at length in the last round: just because slaved received bare minimal provisions for excessive labor, doesn't discount the fact that they could have voluntarily labored to earn those things - food, clothes, etc. Obviously poor whites would be without work since white people could just force slaves to work for free. Had there been no slavery and poor whites were able to compete with their labor for provisions, slaves wouldn't have been "better off."
And again, in exchange for the food and clothes that slaves received, they were raped, beaten, mutilated, whipped, hanged, harassed, burned, branded and forced to labor in the blistering heat (in some cases) with little to no rights. Pro is trying to convince us that being given an "affectionate name" or receiving shoddy medical care from fellow slaves somehow makes this a not-too-bad lifestyle.
Thanks con. There is much more I wish to get to, however I think I must start by addressing your objections as short as I can. I first am concerned with your sources, they are entirely from Internet websites and mostly wiki. I think first hand accounts are best and original sources, you have not provided any. You than attack my position with a starting asumtion that slavery was a nearly universal evil practice. However you wont be able to find original sources in large numbers to support this. Your sources will likely originate in abolitionist work, or over a hundred years later. If we allow the slaves themselves and those who viewed slavery at the time to speak, than your view does not hold up, that is why your sources come from most often wiki and Internet articles you accept without seeking the original source. Your post is also full of logical fallacies see
The Fallacy of Begging the Question
This fallacy is committed when a person merely assumes what he is attempting to prove, or when the premise of an argument actually depends upon its conclusion.
Appeal to motive- a conclusion is dismissed by simply calling into question the motive of the person or group proposing the conclusion. You’ll often see political organizations use this tactic.
Straw man- an argument based on an misrepresentation of an opponent’s position
A red herring fallacy is where someone tries to divert your attention away from the subject or argument by introducing a new topic. This is a defense technique often employed when the person realizes you have a logical and sound argument forming. This can even develop as an unconscious technique employed by one who wishes to protect their beliefs from any scrutiny, truly a strong self delusion
Round 2 Objections
I would say the right to life was better cared for the slave than the free black in America. Life expectancy and population growth was higher for the slave, if for no other reason than they were valuable.
The evils of slavery rape, beatings,mutilation etc 2 and 3
Yes evils happened. However they happen if slavery is around or not. If I were to selectively point to thousands of cases where within a family husbands murder wives, wives kill children etc that does not make the family unit evil, simply misused or abused. If you look at the African American crimes today, murder, rape etc the are at higher levels than ever under slavery. To claim this was the norm is simply to misunderstand what slavery was actually like, these were rare cases and slaves had laws to protect them as well. As for sexually assaulted this was far less common that supposed. The federal census kept data of mulattoes they generally were in high numbers in only three states. Also rape is an assumption. You claim laws allowed rape that is simply false. for statistics see
The skin tone of an abolisnoist from Europe, the north, or a historian does not neglect his account and what he viewed. That should be obvious and an attempt to dismiss first hand observation of slavery by con using race tactics. Somehow con has missed the vast majority of my quotes come from former slaves, not whites. That is why con focuses only on whites and ad homin at their skin tone.
Work 15 hours?
Simply not true, see my first post under work all day no play.?
Slavery was benifical to the slave in that his slavery while in Africa [source of slaves in America] was in every way worse off than servitude in America. This was universal belief at the time from Americans, Europeans and slaves themselves.
-Professor Edward C. Smith
Sometimes the picture portrayed is that slaves all wanted to run away from their masters and would do so any chance they got. While there is no question that many slaves ran away from bad conditions and bad masters, this occurrence was infrequent. During the decades leading up to the war, 1850's and 60's, only 1 out of every 4,919 slaves ran away. During the war a perfect opportunity for those who wanted to run presented itself, and those who wanted to could have done so. By the middle to end of the war, nearly all male whites were in service in the CSA army. The north invading the south and winning provided a great opportunity for slaves to run away, yet very few slaves chose to do so. According to Lincoln and secretary seawards numbers, 95% of slaves stayed home during the war.
Historians downplayed slavery "millions of people died unjustly under the institution"
I would say historians who interviewed slaves, and obersved slavery had the correct idea of slavery working off first hand accounts. The claim millions died in American slavery is why Internet articles should not be taken seriously.
“Does yo' know de cause of de war? Well hyar's de cause, dis Uncle Tom's Cabin wuz de cause of it all an' its' de biggest lie what ever been gived ter de public.”
-Alice Baugh North Carolina slave narrative
“Negroes as a mass have shown no friendship to the union, have neither sought to achieve their liberty nor subdue their masters. The few thousand who have come into our lines at the expanse of whites rather seek a life of laziness and self dependence. Their sympathies are with the rebels.... The truth is there is nothing more humbling than to speak of negro loyalty. Abolition has accerted it from the beginning of the war, but every fact of the times proves its a mere accretion.”
As well as Blackwoods magazine of England said 1862:
“The negros bear the yoke [slavery] cheerfully and heartily join their fortunes to their masters in the great struggle they are know engaged.”
Union officer Charles Francis Adams Jr. (great grandson of President John Adams) wrote in a letter home to his father in 1864 on how seeing slavery first hand versus what was believed in the north before the war said
“The conviction is forcing itself upon me that African slavery, as it existed in our slave states, was indeed a patriarchal institution, under which the slaves were not, as a whole, unhappy, cruelly treated or overworked. I am forced to this conclusion.”
New Yorker Joseph Holt Ingram while visiting new Orleans said:
“They all appear contented and happy, and highly elated at their sweet anticipations. Say not that the slavery of the Louisianan Negroes is a bitter drought.”
A private from New Hampshire wrote:
“After now having seen slavery for myselff , I firmly believe that we yanks have been fooled. It is nothing like we were taught. Why just the other day I saw slaves going to church who were as happy and cheerful as can be.”
Was based on the thousands of slaves interviewed in the federal writers project and multiple first hand accounts. Your claim masters were evil comes from your arbitrary opion. Yes the master was the owner, yet it worked better on both ends if the slave and master got along, apply to work area you will find this so.
Family? "Just because they were referred to with affectionate names"
You select one sentence and argument out of dozens and multiple personal testimony than falsely claim my argument is based on that alone. I would say that appears a sigh of desperation. I already made the argument for family as that is what was viewed, the slaves told us and the masters.
No. That is why rape and mutilation was exceedingly rare.
My opponent critiques using Wikipedia as a source which is intellectually lazy. Sure anyone can edit a Wiki, but Wikipedia cites and sources all of their claims with links and references to other scholarly works. In the next round, I will go back and present the scholarly sources, books and/or "more credible" websites to verify every single claim that I've cited with Wikipedia (which I've linked to for convenience). This will entirely negate Pro's point about source credibility so we can move on. However it's not enough to say "Wikipedia isn't accurate." Pro must specify which of my claims that he's actually challenging, or else we can chalk this up to an irrelevant red herring. For if Wikipedia's claims are true, what's the point?
Speaking of fallacies, Pro lists a handful of fallacies but in no way whatsoever explains how I've (allegedly) used them. For instance he mentions ad hominem (attacking a person and not an argument). Clearly I have never attacked or criticized my opponent, so he's just name dropping fallacies for no reason. This proves nothing. The audience should completely disregard this list unless Pro explains how I've specifically used fallacious reasoning (which arguments of mine are fallacious) in which case I'll point out how he is wrong. Until then, this list is useless.
Pro writes, "I would say the right to life was better cared for the slave than the free black in America."
A freed slave might have a shorter life expectancy, but the right to life has nothing to do with life expectancy at all. It has to do with your right to remain free from the aggression of other people. Slaves were *constantly* aggressed against by other people, so their right to life was not respected at all -- nor was their right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Slaves were considered property and thus the rights extended to other Americans did not apply to them.
In fact, millions of people died and had their lives taken as they crossed the "Middle Passage" on their way to slavery before they even got there . Thus it's nonsensical for Pro to say that slaves had their "right to life" respected because they lived longer under slavery. That's a non-sequitur. The killing of slaves was almost never considered murder .
In his next point, Pro admits that slavery was completely evil and essentially loses himself the debate. He writes, "Yes evils happened. However they happen if slavery is around or not." Ladies and gentlemen, this is a contention in my favor. I don't have to argue that "evil wouldn't exist without slavery." I simply have to prove that slavery was really evil - just as evil as it's portrayed, in fact. So by acknowledging that slavery was savagely abhorrent, Pro concedes. Even if it were true that evil things in this world would still occur, i.e. rape and murder, that does NOT negate the fact that all of those things happening under slavery weren't just as evil!
Moreover, slavery was a legal institution that was specifically derived to oppress and aggress against people over generations. Pro said some families have domestic violence and we don't write off all families as a result. That's true, but family units aren't legally set up in such a way where the abuser in the family has FULL AUTHORITY to abuse others and is given legal protections under the law which allows continuous and perpetual, violent abuse.
My opponent repeats that since the abuse "didn't happen that often" it's somehow not as outrageous. It happened far too often and in the next round I will present quotes and first-hand testimonials from slaves and other witnesses as promised. Pro says slaves had laws to protect them but I've already addressed that in previous rounds; Pro should respond to those points about the masters rarely being punished for mistreating their slaves.
Pro says that "the assumption of rape is false" which is nonsense. He presents an Amazon link which shows us the title of a book. Of course from this Amazon page, we cannot read a single claim that is made in the book (let alone verify the claim) so it's very interesting that my opponent would critique my Wikipedia sources when they had claims you could actually read and look up. Pro's source here does not.
Rape was frequent between master-slave; consider the court case of Celia the 19 year old slave who was put on trial for murdering her master -- someone that raped her repeatedly . Many slave women were raped . Like I said last round, male slaves were also raped . Free (or white) women could charge their perpetrators with rape, but slave women had no legal recourse; their bodies legally belonged to their owners .
Pro writes, "Slavery was beneficial to the slave in that his slavery while in Africa [source of slaves in America] was in every way worse off than servitude in America. This was universal belief at the time from Americans, Europeans and slaves themselves." Once again Pro defeats his own argument. He's arguing that slavery in Africa was really evil, and thus, slavery in America somehow couldn't be evil...? Obviously that makes no sense. I'm sure slavery in Africa was really disgusting just as slavery in America was really disgusting. Even if African slaves had it worse -- which is a claim that Pro has not proven anyway, but it doesn't matter -- does not change or negate the fact that slavery in America was evil.
It's also ridiculous to suggest that because slaves might have preferred American slavery to African slavery, that somehow American slavery wasn't evil. That's like saying if I had to choose dying between different types of cancer. Some forms of cancer might be worse, but that doesn't mean that dying from cancer in general doesn't suck regardless of the type of cancer.
My position in this debate is not to prove that American slavery was worse than African slavery. It's to prove that American slavery was in fact really evil and I have. Pro says that most of his quotes came from former slaves and not whites. I will scrutinize his sources further in the last round when I have more time. I will also provide quotes from slaves in first-hand testimonials as promised.
The argument that more slaves would have ran away if they didn't like it has been thoroughly debunked. "Runaway slaves and indentured servants were a persistent problem... As early as 1643, the General Assembly passed laws that established penalties for runaway slaves and servants, regulated their movement, identified multiple offenders (by branding them or cutting their hair), and provided rewards for their capture... In 1705 a sweeping new law allowed planters to discipline slaves to death or, in some cases, to kill runaways without penalty. Robert King Carter sought and received permission to dismember his runaways. Beginning in 1736, landowners advertised in the Virginia Gazette for their runaways; they describe more than 3,500 fugitives from 1736 until 1783. These advertisements affirmed a lingering desire for freedom on the part of slaves" .
Pro concludes by repeating that black slaves were allegedly grinning and smiling around the plantations. Please extend my argument from the last round which Pro has dropped. Even if slaves did not suffer 24/7 does not negate the fact that they had few rights, legal protections and were subservient because of that fact and because slave owners were essentially allowed to do whatever they wanted to keep them in line.
I asked Pro if white slave owners raped and mutilated their other friends (since he claimed the masters were "friends" with the slaves). He said, "No. That is why rape and mutilation was exceedingly rare." Even if rape was rare (which isn't true) it still proves that white masters did NOT view their slaves as "friends." Pro completely dropped the fact that slaves were routinely beaten, whipped and otherwise abused to keep them in line. The point here is that slaves weren't seen as friends and family but inferior subjects with little to no rights, as evidenced by law, whose main purpose was providing labor for little to no cost against their will.
My opponent claims that slavery didn't destroy families. Slave families were often shattered by auction block (let alone the slaves that were transported from Africa). It's true the plantation owners had an incentive to allow slave families, but let's not forget that white slave owners were allowed to rape female slaves that had husbands and the husbands couldn't do anything about it.
"Slaves were allowed to have families, but the owners ultimately had control on what the families did with their lives. Mothers and their young were often separated. Ebenezer Davies observed many horrors, 'She had at her breast an infant boy three months old. The slaver did not want the child on any terms. The master sold the mother, and retained the child'" . Female slaves were sometimes forced into perpetual pregnancy/childbirth to ensure the masters had a continuous cycle of slaves they didn't have to keep paying for.
Final Round = Quotes and Conclusion
 Mancke, Elizabeth and Shammas, Carole. The Creation of the British Atlantic World, 2005, pp. 30–31.
 Getman, Karen A. "Sexual Control in the Slaveholding South: The Implementation and Maintenance of a Racial Caste System," Harvard Women's and Law Journal, 7, (1984), 132.
 Foster, Thomas (2011). "The Sexual Abuse of Black Men under American Slavery." Journal of the History of Sexuality 20 (3): 445–464 [p. 459].
 Block, Sharon. "Lines of Color, Sex, and Service: Sexual Coercion in the Early Republic," Women's America, p 129-131.
 Ebenezer Davies, American scenes and Christian slavery; a recent tour of four thousand miles in the United States (London: J. Snow, 1849).
Thanks for presenting the con in this debate.
Wiki may use good sources at times, however we must assume wiki is using these sources properly. There is no good reason to assume this is done. That is why I have given direct sources from slaves and observes of slavery to support my points. You have yet to use a direct source.
I think if the audience were to reread your first two responses, they would be able to connect the fallacies. Space is always limited.
"millions of people died as they crossed the "Middle Passage"
That is why this debate is on American slavery. Not the slave trade that was outlawed in 1807.
"Pro admits that slavery was completely evil"
This debate it simply to show that slavery was not the evil as portrayed, not that evil did not exist at any time.
The point was that American slavery elevated the African slave, thus American slavery was beneficial to the African slave.
I said the vast majority of slaves did not run away nor wanted to. Yes thousands ran away, millions chose not to. In fact many slaves wished slavery never ended and wanted back in slavery.
“I' seems to think us have more freedom when us slaves”
-Abmstead Barrett Texas narratives
“Freedom is all right, but de negro was better off befo' surrender”
-Temple Durham,North Carolina Narratives
“Before two years had passed after the surrender, there was two out of every three slaves who wished they was back with their marsters.
--Slave Patsy Mitchner Narratives
“Things sure better long time ago then they be now. I know it. Colored people never had no debt to pay in slavery time. Never hear tell about no colored people been put in jail before freedom. Had more to eat and more to wear then, and had good clothes all the time ’cause white folks furnish everything, everything. Had plenty peas,rice, hog meat, rabbit, fish, and such as that.”
-Sylvia Cannon, South Carolina Narratives
" I wish times were like they use to be when we belonged to the white folks; we had better times then."
-Ben Wall, Mississippi Narratives
“I was happy all de time in slavery days, but dere ain’t much to git happy over now…”
-Mary Rice, Alabama Narratives
For more See
Look Away! a Politically Incorrect History of Slavery
Slaves were raped, beaten, no protection
Con has said I have ignored her proof that slaves were commonly raped, beaten and all kinds of evils done. I must be clear, I do not take any source you have presented as support of your position. While they may be correct in some places, they are not first hand observation. Every single claim you have made about universal rapping, beatings etc are refuted by first hand observation and testimony by slaves themselves. You can for sure point to hundred or even thousands of evils done over the course of hundreds of years of American slavery. However it still ignores millions of slaves that were treated well. But since you have claimed so many times I must respond.
Laws recognized slaves as both property and persons with rights. There were laws to protect the slave from beatings, rape, and murder or “Threat to life and limb.” Rape laws in Virginia gave equal protection to slaves as any white woman would receive. Slaves had equal rights to defend themselves “life and limb,” and could (and did) by law kill a master in defense of life. In Virginia, a master was convicted of murder in the first degree for whipping his slave that resulted in death, even though it was unintended to result in death, he still received first degree instead of manslaughter. Laws made the master provide for all the medical needs of a slave “as own child.” Slave’s children’s care was the master’s responsibility as well. The master was responsible to take care of the slave’s well being after their work life was completed. If the slave worked hard during their life, the master would repay them with care. If the master did not take care of sick and old slaves, the others would not work hard; that is why so few older slaves ever ran away. The master, by law, had to care for sick and old slaves.
Corporal punishment was the typical mode of correction in American society of the day. It was used by slave parents on their children and white parents on their own children. In Virginia (and other states in south) slave parents had a reputation for being more severe in punishment of their children than the slave masters were. Masters at times had to come in and stop a slave parent from the excessive punishment of their children. Whites viewed slave mothers as lesser parents because of their harsh punishment of children. At the same time, England and the North used whips on kids and wives as legal corporal punishment. Whippings were used in military discipline as well. Black soldiers during the war whipped white civilians, Blacks whipped their wives, and teachers used a rod/whip in schools; it was common practice within the laws in America. Whippings produced nearly crime free societies. Yes, it was abused and overused, but these cases were rare and illegal. Charles Lyell noted how Negro crime in the 1830's was almost nonexistent; he said the Irish in a few years had done far worse than Negroes had through a hundred years
“Crime was practically unknown and Mr. Ross slaves never heard of a jail until they were freed”
-Della Briscoe Georgia narratives
Corporal punishment could be used on slaves, but not as to harm to “life or limb.” Some masters would not use the whip at all and fire any overseer who used one. The majority of surviving plantation manuals either did not allow whipping, or only did under dire circumstances. Others had laws such as: no whippings until a 24 hour period passed from the time of the crime. Some said, “Not to cut the skin when punishing, nor punish with passion.” Usually a trial was held on the plantation with other slaves as witnessesbefore any whipping could take place. Many slaves had never received a whipping in their entire life; whippings were uncommon. Normally rewards were given to promote good work, rather than punishments which tied to force good behavior. Such rewards could come in the form of cash bonuses, whiskey, tobacco, land, and food. Overuse of the whip caused negative effects and production. Whip marks show an uncontrollable slave and reduce their value; it decreases the moral of that slave and thus others production drops.
In the slave narratives, many slaves say they deserved the whippings they got for stealing and other wrong doings. Some say they were thankful for the lesson; many others were not bitter because the punishment either taught them to not steal, be “wild,” or because they thought they deserved the ones they got. Often times slaves were in control of the plantation and even the punishments. The owners generally were busy in advertising the product, the purchase of equipment, buying new land, constructing new buildings, negotiations, etc. On large plantations, 70% of overseers who were in charge of punishments were black, meaning that more blacks than whites used the whip for punishments on larger plantations. One observer from Scotland said, “The driver is always a black man.” These overseers were often “consulted” by owners for suggestions to improve plantation life and production. However the most common ill treatment of slaves involved heavy punishment; in most cases to which there were laws in place to protect against it.
‘The Overseer must never on any occasion–unless in self-defense–kick a negro, or strike with his hand, or a stick, or the butt-end of his whip.’ Throughout the South, publicists denounced as un-Christian masters who mistreated those placed under their authority, and stressed the need for ‘moderate’ predictable punishment for offenses that were clearly spelled out. Such guidelines were dictated not simply by the much-vaunted ‘love’ that masters felt for their slaves, but also by intensely practical considerations: observant slave owners learned by experience that continual, random, or extreme punishment was likely to be counterproductive, producing confusion and seething resentment rather than cheerful and orderly deportment.
-Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877
I have presented my case from original sources including those who directly obersved slavery, historians, and slaves themselves. Hopefully with the small space I have had available I have begun to show that American slavery is not the vast, universal evil as is commonly presented.
To object cons arguments can really be summed up in either to call some of my observers white, or to make the case evil things did happen. To this I agree evil things happened in slavery as in any institution ever made. If we accept that any evil within makes itself evil, than there is nothing that is not evil, I used the family as an example. Con wants us to believe that because hundreds or thousands of cases of evil where done over hundreds of years, that the millions of slaves that were treated fairly, don't count. In cons responses you will find this over and over The Fallacy of Begging the Question. Con has not dealt with the direct historical observation of slaves, nor the slaves testimony themselves. Con will claim with no first hand backing, than assume its true and so therefore anything against this must be wrong, because con assumes so on the outset.
-Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project
-Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery by Robert William Fogel and Stanley Engermann 1974 W.W Norton and company NY,NY.
-Myths & Realities of American Slavery John C Perry 2011
-Everything You Were Taught About American Slavery Is Wrong Lochlainn Seabrook 2014
-Myths of American slavery Walter D Kennedy 2003 Pelican publishing company
I asked Pro to single out which Wikipedia claims he wanted sources for. He failed to do so. He also failed to defend my criticism of his sources (like the link to the place where you could buy the Amazon book...)
Pro also failed to single out the fallacies I've used. I have not used any fallacies, and he simply name dropped them without making a connection to my arugments at all whatsoever. Talk about a waste of space; the audience should disregard this.
- The Middle Passage was very much a part of American slavery and should be considered in the scope of this debate. See last round connection.
- Pro writes, "The point was that American slavery elevated the African slave, thus American slavery was beneficial to the African slave." Even if American slavery benefitted the African slave, it doesn't mean that American slavery wasn't the evil it is portrayed as (it would just mean that African slavery was even more evil) so this is not an arugment in Pro's favor at all.
- On runaway slaves, Pro notes that many slaves did not run away or regretted running away. Once again, that just proves that some slaves preferred the provisions and safety of being instituionalized. They had little to no opportunites or rights as freed black people, so of course some would prefer to get beaten, raped, etc. as slaves while still having food/shelter/family -- as opposed to dying or being completely oppressed as freed people. But that doesn't mean that getting beaten, raped and being considered property isn't evil. It simply means it's better than a possible alternative. This is the same bad, fallacious argument as the previous one on African slavery. Just because some slaves may have preferred being American slaves to freed or African slaves doesn't mean American slavery wasn't evil.
- Pro repeats that slaves (allegedly) had legal rights. I've proven with quotes and citations in previous rounds that the slave's legal protections were pretty much ignored, and that because slaves were considered property, masters pretty much were never prosecuted. Rape wasn't even a legal possibility which Pro does not contest. Laws punishing whites for punishing their slaves were weakly enforced or easily avoided. In Smith v. Hancock, the defendant justified punishing his slave to a white jury; the slave was attending an unlawful meeting, discussed rebellion, refused to surrender and resisted the arresting officer by force. The rare cases in which penalties were enforced occurred when a white person harmed ANOTHER person's slave.
- Pro then talks about how slaves supposedly weren't allowed to be beaten to death. Yet it happened. Please refer to previous round citations.
- My opponent says historians have backed some of his claims. I've pointed out how he cited historians from 100+ years ago when they were notoriously repeating the same rhetoric as those who were pro-slavery in general (since it was still very close to the legal existence of slavery time-wise, and racism was incredibly rampant -- it was decades before the Civil Rights movement). Indeed slave narratives were believed to be largely watered down and edited by early historians (like the one Pro quotes). Because of the participation of abolitionist editors, influential historians suggested that "their authenticity was doubtful" .
- "The treatment of slaves was harsh and inhumane. During work and outside of it, slaves suffered physical abuse, since the government allowed it. Treatment was usually harsher on large plantations, which were often managed by overseers and owned by absentee slaveholders. Small slaveholders worked together with their slaves and sometimes treated them more humanely. Besides slaves' being vastly overworked, they suffered brandings, shootings, and floggings. Flogging was a term often used to describe the average lashing or whipping a slave would receive for misbehaving. Many times a slave would also simply be put through "wanton cruelties" or unprovoked violent beatings or punishments" .
- On slaves, "They were punished with knives, guns, field tools and nearby objects. The whip was the most common instrument used against a slave... he knew several who were beaten to death for offenses such as 'sassing' a white person, hitting another negro, 'fussing' or fighting in quarters" . In other words, they were often punished for frivolous offenses.
- "The branding of slaves for identification was common during the colonial era; however, by the nineteenth century it was used primarily as punishment. Mutilation (such as castration, or amputating ears) was a relatively common punishment during the colonial era and still used in 1830. Any punishment was permitted for runaway slaves, and many bore wounds from shotgun blasts or dog bites used by their captors" .
Pro has said that none of my claims on the treatment of slaves have merit because they did not come from slaves themselves. As promised, I will present quotes from slaves themselves here. I have repeatedly acknowledged that not all slaves were treated the same. The labor was different depending on the type of slave you were, and surely some masters were harsher than others. But it is true that slaves were universally considered property; that they universally had their legal protections ignored; that they were routinely raped; and that they had poor lives that were only worth as much as they could produce.
If beatings weren't frequent, it's only because they served as successful deterrenets for suppression and oppression -- not because the slave owners were "friends" with the slaves. I have successfully refuted Pro's claims that slaves did not want to run away or did not try to rebel which they did (see: Underground Railroad). My opponent has never denied that the awful things I've claimed happened, included being hanged, etc. he simply says that it was on balance less likely to occur. Yet even if some of the harsher things were less likely to occur (such as being mutilated) for lack of economic convenience, it doesn't change some of the other universally EVIL aspects of slavery such as being void of rights, and perpetual rape and pregnancy (so that masters did not have to pay for new slaves -- something Pro completely dropped in this debate, because he can't deny the facts).
On begging the question, I have included cited and sourced evidence throughout this debate verifying the claims of evil that I've made: being considered property; having little to no rights; perpetual rape and forced pregnancy/childbirth; living in close, cramped quaters; working 15 hours a day by law, so probably more in practice which Pro did not deny; masters raping slaves with husbands; frequent beatings and whippings to keep slaves in line -- which Pro admits was common at the time; some mutilation, burning, hanging and extensive labor in the hot sun and other difficult chores all year round; being separated from familes and inspected/treated like livestock; etc.
Pro has not proven that any of these things were not pretty much universal to American slavery.
Quotes and Photos From First Hand Accounts Disproving Pro's Claims
“If I had my life to live over I would die fighting rather than be a slave again. I want no man’s yoke on my shoulders no more.”
—Robert Falls, age 97, Knoxville, Tennessee
“If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun an’ jus’ end it all right away. Because you’re nothing but a dog. You’re not a thing but a dog.”
—Fountain Hughes, age 101, Baltimore, Maryland
“I sure has had a hard life. Jes wok an’ wok an wok. I nebbah know nothin’ but wok . . . No’m I nebbah knowed whut it wah t’ rest. I jes wok all de time f’om mawnin’ till late at night . . . Lawdy, honey, yo’ cain’t know what a time I had. All cold n’ hungry. No’m, I aint tellin’ no lies. It de gospel truf. It sho is.”
—Sarah Gudger, age 121, Asheville, North Carolina
“Talkin’ ‘bout somethin’ awful, you should have been dere. De slave owners was shoutin’ and sellin’ chillen to one man and de mamma and pappy to ‘nother. De slaves cries and takes on somethin’ awful. If a woman had lots of chillen she was sold for mo’, cause it a sign she a good breeder.”
—Millie Williams, age unknown, Texas
“I remember when they put ‘em on the block to sell ‘em... The auctioneer he stand off at a distances and cry ‘em off as they stand on the block. I can hear his voice as long as I live.”
—W. L. Bost, age 87, Asheville, North Carolina
“Course dey cry; you think dey not cry when they was sold lak cattle? I could tell you ‘bout it all day, but even den you couldn’t guess de awfulness of it.”