George Fitzhugh on Liberty & Free Society

A presentation of Fitzhughian thought on liberty through quotations by George Fitzhugh

“There were no poor houses, and few or no public charities, in the world, until late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
For many centuries before that date there were Poor Laws, it is true, in England; laws that made poverty and want
of employment the gravest and most common of crimes; laws to punish the poor, but none to relieve their wants,
or to preserve them from starvation. Laws for whipping, branding, and even hanging them, for the mere offence
of quitting their parishes. Let us not suppose, however, that our ancestors were more cruel or unfeeling than we.
Poverty was really then a crime, and a crime that disturbed and harassed society more than all other crimes.
Most of the poor were abundantly provided for by their feudal lords, or masters. The monasteries clothed and fed
many of them, and lands were cheap, rents low, and employment abundant. The poor of that day were fugitive
or emancipated villains, thieves, incendiaries, sturdy robbers, murderers, and romantic beggars-or, in fine, (to
borrow the words of the Westminster Review, the great champion of the poor), “Pauper Banditti” There was
then no need of poor houses, but pressing necessity for laws punishing vagrancy, and compelling the poor to
work. The poor, then, were all a vicious outgrowth of society, like,the Gypsies of the present day-who are, no
doubt, their descendants. Stocks, and jails, and branding irons, and the gallows, were very properly provided
for them instead of poor houses. Before the abolition of serfdom, whilst slavery was universal, there were no
poor houses, no public provision for, the poor, because none were needed. Private charity amply sufficed to
take care of the few destitute who were without masters, without employment, or too feeble to labor.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Poor House System, page: 1, 1867

“In free society it is impossible to determine who has lived in affluence, or grown rich from the profits derived
from their labor, yet, certain that all wealth is created or produced by them, and but exacted or exploited, and
accumulated and amassed by those above them-by the cunning, the skillful and the rich who employ them.
Certain, and on all bands admitted, that their labor is more heavily taxed by the superior classes, than that
of slaves by their masters, and hence, as Mr. Greeley shows, they are worse provided and more destitute
than slaves, although they work harder and more skillfully; and hence it is very truly said by their employers,
that “free labor is cheaper than slave labor.” Cheaper, only because the slave lives in plenty, idleness and
ease, and consumes almost all that he produces, whilst free laborers produce an enormous surplus, which
is filched or exploited by their employers, and which makes the few wealthy and pauperizes the masses.
Hence the great prosperity and rapid progress of free society; and hence, also, the little wealth and slow
progress of slave society. But, as free society progresses, improves and grows rich under this industrial
high pressure system, paupers multiply by the million, and the employers, who have grown rich from the
profits derived from their labor, are bound to support them just as masters are bound to support their
slaves, whenever, from any cause, they can no longer support themselves.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Poor House System, page: 3, 1867

“Liberty, in the abstract, liberty, standing alone, unrestrained, unrestricted, or unbalanced by
law or government, is simply pure anarchy; that is, the absence of all rule and control. Liberty,
then, in the abstract, or in excess, is altogether evil. The freest of all possible governments
would be the worst of possible governments, because it would approach nearest to anarchy.
Liberty, to be good or beneficial, must be balanced and restricted by its antinomes-law and
government. It is a very prevalent popular fallacy to hold, that Liberty, per se, in itself and by
itself, is a good. Like everything in the moral and in the physical world, Liberty is, in itself, evil; so
law and government in excess are equal evils, for unlimited despotism that controlled every
action of life would be as intolerable as anarchy that left all free-to act, under all circumstances,
as they pleased. The ever varying, undiscovered, undefinable line of truth or rectitude in
politics is a mean between too much liberty and too much government.”
– George Fitzhugh, Liberty Versus Government, pages: 1-2, 1867

“As civilization advances liberty recedes, because laws become more complex and numerous, public opinion more stringent
and dictatorial, religion and morality more dominant and restrictive, fashion more exacting in its requirements, human wants
and luxuries more numerous, and the labor needed to supply them greater. Hence it will even be found that in large cities, the
great centres and foci of civilization, there is least of liberty. Not only the laws of the State and of the Union, but the corporate
laws, more restrictive than either, curtail men’s liberties in such cities. But, white men, especially good men, are extremely
averse to that degree of liberty which law and government still leave to thorn. They contract marriage and have families, and
both husband and wife become almost slaves to their children, for whom they are legally, morally, and religiously bound to
labor, take care of, and educate. Besides, they become members of a church, and thus incur new obligations, and further
lessen their liberty. But this does not suffice; whilst white men dislike liberty they love security, and very properly are not
satisfied with that loose and imperfect kind of security that mere law and government afford. They labor from morn to eve
to amass property, and whilst so laboring, if not slaves, are performing the part of slaves. But wealth is easier to lose than
to make, and to provide against such losses and the various contingencies and misfortunes of life, they enter into temperance societies, freemason and odd-fellow societies, and many other such that provide for their sick and unfortunate members,
and for their destitute families after their deaths. Trades Unions are another fashionable and most efficient way of parting
with liberty in order to beget security. We highly approve of them. Think them a great and beneficent discovery in social
science; nevertheless, they abridge liberty to acquire security.”
– George Fitzhugh, Liberty and Civilization, pages: 1-2, 1866

“We like especially the eight-hour rule, which, if it is secured, will pretty well give the “coup de grace” to the liberty of the
masses; but it will infinitely promote their well-being, and human well-being is cheaply purchased by the sale or sacrifice
of human liberty, when such liberty stands in the way of its enjoyment. But the most all-pervading, thorough and efficient
way in which civilization destroys liberty is through the agency of its servants and offspring, capital or property. Although
we cannot trace back civilization to its origin, the whole of the white race having been more or less civilized, as far back
as history (written or monumental) or tradition extends; yet observation and reflection will readily convince us that the
appropriation of the lands by the few was the first great step in the progress of civilization.”
– George Fitzhugh, Liberty and Civilization, Pages: 1-2, 1866

“The laboring poor whites created all these improvements, all this wealth, yet, by popular, democratic,
governmental and social arrangements, are permitted to enjoy none of them. They are nominally
the freest people in the world, yet actually the most enslaved; for there, free competition, free
trade, and political economy rule supreme, unchecked and unrestricted by an established church
or an hereditary aristocracy, under whose wings and protection, the poor, in other countries, find
a shelter. Give political economy, and its offspring, free competition, full play, and they at once
kick liberty and equality out at the door. But., they increase rapidly national wealth, and promote
what is called Human Progress, by overworking and under-feeding the laboring poor.”
– George Fitzhugh, Freedmen and Free Men, pages: 4-5, 1866

“We agree with the agricultural societies. There is no vermin so vile or mischievous as man, when not
under the dominion of law. But we are no demagogue. God makes nothing in vain. Man, left to himself, is
the vilest of the brute creation, but well governed (and it is only in cities that he can be well governed) he
is the noblest of animals. “That government is best which governs most,” for most government is required
in the wealthiest and most civilized communities. The savage state is the state of least law and government.
Law and government cannot well reach the scattered population of the country. In cities, everything is
regulated by law. Men are compelled to associate and act in concert, and hence labor becomes far more
efficient and productive than in the country. Man is in his natural state in his hive in the city, because
he is naturally social; in an unnatural state in the country, because he is helpless when alone.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Republic of New-York, page: 3, 1861

“The contemptible age was just setting in, the age which saw little or no difference between virtue
and vice, between religion and irreligion, and which was tolerant of all heresies and differences
of faith and opinion, because it had no faith or opinion of its own. Boswell boasted that he was
a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world, with no prejudices, no convictions, no peculiar or national
opinions. Such a fashionable monkey is the most contemptible of all the animals formed by Deity.
He is adopted and belongs to no place, no time, no circumstances. Shakespeare, Byron, and
Johnson, the great intellects of England, were preeminently Englishmen. Their national prejudices
and peculiarities are their greatest merit. No modern can write like a Greek or a Roman, and his only
chance for distinction or usefulness is to write of what the Greeks and Romans knew nothing about.”
– George Fitzhugh, Johnson, Boswell, Goldsmith, Etc, page: 6, 1860

“The ordinary relations of men are not competitive and antagonistic as in free society; and selfishness is not general, but exceptionable. Duty to self is the first of duties: free society makes it the only duty. Man is not naturally selfish or bad, for
he is naturally social. Free society dissociates him, and makes him bad and selfish from necessity. It is said in Scripture,
that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. We
are no theologian; but do know from history and observation that wealthy men who are sincere and devout Christians
in free society, feel at a loss what to do with their wealth, so as not to make it an instrument of oppression and wrong.
Capital and skill are powers exercised almost always to oppress labor. If you endow colleges, you rear up cunning,
voracious exploitators to devour the poor. If you give it to tradesmen or land owners, ’tis still an additional instrument,
always employed to oppress laborers. If you give it to the really needy, you too often encourage idleness, and increase the
burdens of the working poor who support every body: We cannot possibly see but one safe way to invest wealth, and that
is to buy slaves with it, whose conduct you can control, and be sure that your charity is not misapplied, and mischievous.”
– George Fitzhugh,Cannibals All!, page: 318, 1857

“We do not conceive that there can be any other moral law in free society, than that which teaches “that he
is most meritorious who most wrongs his fellow beings:” for any other law would make men martyrs to their
own virtues. We see thousands of good men vainly struggling against the evil necessities of their situation,
and aggravating by their charities the evils which they would cure, for charity in free society is but the tax
which skill and capital levy from the working poor, too often, to bestow on the less deserving and idle poor.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 48, 1857

“It seems to us that the vain attempts to define liberty in theory, or to secure its enjoyment in practice,
proceed from the fact that man is naturally a social and gregarious animal, subject, not by contract or
agreement, as Locke and his followers assume, but by birth and nature, to those restrictions of liberty
which are expedient or necessary to secure the good of the human hive, to which he may belong.
There is no such thing as natural human liberty, because it is unnatural for man to live alone and
without the pale and government of society. Birds, and beasts of prey, who are not gregarious, are
naturally free. Bees and herds are naturally subjects or slaves of society. Such is the theory of Aristotle,
promulged more than two thousand years ago, generally considered true for two thousand years, and
destined, we hope, soon again to be accepted as the only true theory of government and society.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 107, 1857

“What is falsely called Free Society, is a very recent invention. It proposes to make the
weak, ignorant and poor, free, by turning them loose in a world owned exclusively by
the few (whom nature and education have made strong, and whom property has made
stronger,) to get a living. In the fanciful state of nature, where property is unappropriated,
the strong have no weapons but superior physical and mental power with which to
oppress the weak. Their power of oppression is increased a thousand fold, when they
become the exclusive owners of the earth and all the things thereon. They are masters
without the obligations of masters, and the poor are slaves without the rights of slaves.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 108, 1857

“All writers agree there were no beggars or paupers in England until the liberation of the
serfs; and moreover admit that slaves, in all ages and in all countries, have had all their
physical wants sufficiently supplied. They also concur in stating, that crime was multiplied
by turning loose on society a class of men who had been accustomed to and still needed
the control of masters. Until the liberation of the villeins, every man in England had his
appropriate situation and duties, and a mutual and adequate interest in the soil. Practically
the lands of England were the common property of the people of England. The old Barons
were not the representatives of particular classes in Parliament, but the friends, and faithful
and able representatives of all classes; for the interests of all classes were identified.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, pages: 159-160, 1857

“It is the maddening cry of hunger for employment and bread, and more resembles the howl of the
wolves of the Pyrennes, as they start in quest of prey, than the Anthem of Liberty. It truly represents,
embodies and personifies the great Socialistic movement of the day. Whilst statesmen and philosophers
speculate, the mass agitate, organize and threaten. Winter before last, they took possession of the
streets of New York, and levied enforced charity. This spring, they meet in the Park and resolve,
“that there were fifty thousand men and women in vain seeking employment during the last inclement
winter. America echoes to France, “Vivre en travaillant, ou mourir en combatant!” ‘Tis the tocsin
and the watchword of free society. ‘Tis the grumbling noise of the heaving volcano, that threatens
and precedes a social eruption greater than the world has yet witnessed.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 224, 1857

“The exploitation, or unjust exactions of skill and capital in free society, excite the learned and philanthropic
to devise schemes of escape, and impel the laborers to adopt those schemes, however chimerical, because
they feel that their situation cannot be worsted. They are already slaves without masters, and that is the
bathos of human misery. Besides, universal liberty has disintegrated and dissolved society, and placed men
in isolated, selfish, and antagonistic positions-in which each man is compelled to wrong others, in order to be
just to himself. But man’s nature is social, not selfish, and he longs and yearns to return to parental, fraternal
and associative relations. All the isms concur in promising closer and more associative relations, in establishing
at least a qualified community of property, and in insuring the weak and unfortunate the necessaries and
comforts of life. Indeed, they all promise to establish slavery-minus, the master and the overseer.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page:333, 1857

“We (for we are a Socialist) agree with Mr. Carlyle, that the action of free society
must be reversed. That, instead of relaxing more and more the bonds that bind
man to man, you must screw them up more closely. That, instead of no government,
you must have more government. And this is eminently true in America, where
from the nature of things, as society becomes older and population more dense,
more of government will be required. To prevent the attempt at transition, which
would only usher in revolution, you must begin to govern more vigorously.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 370, 1857

“The institution of domestic slavery, as it exists at the South, as it has existed, until recently, throughout the world, and
as it now exists in nine-tenths of the world, is the commonly assigned cause for these impending disasters. But the true
cause of quarrel lies deeper. It is not mere negro slavery, but the slavery principle; slavery in every form, that the great
moral and intellectual movement of the day proposes to remedy and remove. Those who feel so much for the negroes
of the West Indies and of America, begin to feel quite as much for wives, children, apprentices, wards, sailors, soldiers,
and hirelings-nay, for all the weak and the poor, for they begin to discover that the principle and the practice of slavery
is found interwoven with all human relations and human institutions as now existing, and with unflinching philanthropy
they have resolved to “cut sheer asunder” all those relations. They most consistently and courageously wage war
against, slavery in every form. The principle and the practice wherever found must be eradicated, and a transition
effected from the present state of society, to a millennial, an agrarian, or communistic status. Government, they
agree, is but slavery variously modified, from slavery to law, down to jails, penitentiaries, stocks, manacles, and
the gallows all human government, must, therefore, be abolished and the “sovereignty of the individual,” “free
-love,” “attractive labor,” and “passional attraction” supply its place.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Conservative Principle, pages: 2-3, 1857

“The best governed countries, and those which have prospered most, have always been distinguished for the
number and stringency of their laws. Good men obey superior authority, the laws of God, of morality, and of
their country; bad men love liberty and violate them. It would be difficult very often for the most ingenious casuist
to distinguish between sin and liberty; for virtue consists in the performance of duty, and the obedience to that
law or power that imposes duty, whilst sin is but the violation of duty and disobedience to such law and power.
It is remarkable, in this connection, that sin began by the desire for liberty and the attempt to attain it in the
person of Satan and his fallen angels. The world wants good government and a plenty of it – not liberty.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, page: 30, 1854

“In free society none but the selfish virtues are in repute, because none other help a man in the race of competition.
In such society virtue loses all her loveliness, because of her selfish aims. Good men and bad men have the same
end in view: self-promotion, self-elevation. The good man is prudent, cautious, and cunning of fence; he knows
well, the arts (the virtues, if you please) which enable him to advance his fortunes at the expense of those with
whom he deals; he does not “cut too deep”; he does not cheat and swindle, he only makes good bargains and
excellent profits. He gets more subjects by this course; everybody comes to him to be bled. He bides his time;
takes advantage of the follies, the improvidence and vices of others, and makes his fortune out of the follies
and weaknesses of his fellow-men. The bad man is rash, hasty, unskilful and impolitic. He is equally selfish,
but not half so prudent and cunning. Selfishness is almost the only motive of human conduct in free society,
where every man is taught that it is his first duty to change and better his pecuniary situation.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 24-25, 1854

“There is no disguising from the cool eye of philosophy, that all living creatures exist in a state of natural
warfare; and that man (in hostility with all) is at enmity also with his own species; man is the natural enemy
of man; and society, unable to change his nature, succeeds but in establishing a hollow truce by which
fraud is substituted for violence.” Such is free society, fairly portrayed; such are the infidel doctrines of
political economy, when candidly avowed. Slavery and Christianity bring about a lasting peace, not “a
hollow truce.” But we mount a step higher. We deny that there is a society in free countries. They who
act each for himself, who are hostile, antagonistic and competitive, are not social and do not constitute
a society. We use the term free society, for want of a better; but, like the term free government, it is an
absurdity: those who are governed are not free-those who are free are not social.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 33, 1854

“In free society the sentiments, principles; feelings and affections of high and low, rich and poor, are equally
blunted and debased by the continual war of competition. It begets rivalries, jealousies and hatreds on all hands.
The poor can neither love nor respect the rich, who, instead of aiding and protecting them, are endeavoring to
cheapen their labor and take away their means of subsistence. The rich can hardly respect themselves, when
they reflect that wealth is the result of avarice, caution, circumspection and hard dealing. These are the virtues
which free society in its regular operation brings forth. Its moral influence is therefore no better on the rich than
on the poor. The number of laborers being excessive in all old countries, they are continually struggling with,
scandalizing and underbidding each other, to get places and employment. Every circumstance in the poor
man’s situation in free society is one of harassing care, of grievous temptation, and of excitement to anger, envy,
jealousy and malignity. That so many of the poor should nevertheless be good and pure, kind, happy and high
-minded, is proof enough that the poor class is not the worst class in society. But the rich have their temptations,
too. Capital gives them the power to oppress; selfishness offers the inducement, and political economy, the moral
guide of the day, would justify the oppression. Yet there are thousands of noble and generous and disinterested
men in free society, who employ their wealth to relieve, and not to oppress the poor. Still these are exceptions
to the general rule. The effect of such society is to encourage the oppression of the poor.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 38-39, 1854

“Liberty and free trade. These are convertible terms; two names for the same thing. Statesmen, orators, and
philosophers, the tories of England, and the whigs of America, have been laboring incessantly for more than
half a century to refute the doctrine of free trade. They all and each failed to produce a single plausible
argument in reply. Not one of their books or speeches survived a month. Not one ever was, or ever will be,
quoted or relied on as authority to disprove the principles of political economy. The reason is obvious enough;
they were all confused by words, or afraid to make the proper issue. They first admitted liberty to be a good,
and then attempted, but attempted in vain, to argue that free trade was an evil. The socialists stumbled on
the true issue, but do not seem yet fully aware of the nature of their discovery. Liberty was the evil, liberty
the disease under which society was suffering. It must be restricted, competition be arrested, the strong be
restrained from, instead of encouraged to oppress the weak – in order to restore society to a healthy state.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 169-170, 1854

“Liberty is an evil which government is intended to correct. This is the sole object of government.
Taking these premises, it is easy enough to refute free trade. Admit liberty to be a good, and
you leave no room to argue that free trade is an evil, – because liberty is free trade. With thinking
men, the question can never arise, who ought to be free? Because no one ought to be free. All
government is slavery. The proper subject of investigation for philosophers and philanthropists
is, “Is the existing mode of government adapted to the wants of its subjects?”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 170-171, 1854

“Men are not created or born equal, and circumstances, and education, and association, tend to increase and
aggravate inequalities among them, from generation to generation. Generally, the rich associate and intermarry
with each other, the poor do the same; the ignorant rarely associate with or intermarry with the learned, and all
society shuns contact with the criminal, even to the third and fourth generations. Men are not “born entitled to
equal rights!” It would be far nearer the truth to say, “that some were born with saddles on their backs, and others
booted and spurred to ride them,” – and the riding does them good. They need the reins, the bit and the spur.
No two men by nature are exactly equal or exactly alike. No institutions can prevent the few from acquiring rule
and ascendency over the many. Liberty and free competition invite and encourage the attempt of the strong to
master the weak; and insure their success. “Life and liberty” are not “inalienable;” they have been sold in all
countries, and in all ages, and must be sold so long as human nature lasts. It is an inexpedient and unwise,
and often unmerciful restraint, on a man’s liberty of action, to deny him the right to sell himself when starving,
and again to buy himself when fortune smiles. Most countries of antiquity, and some, like China at the present
day, allowed such sale and purchase. The great object of government is to restrict, control and punish man “in
the pursuit of happiness.” All crimes are committed in its pursuit. Under the free or competitive system, most
men’s happiness consists in destroying the happiness of other people. This, then, is no inalienable right.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 179-180, 1854

“The author of the Declaration may have, and probably did mean, that all men were created with an equal title
to property. Carry out such a doctrine, and it would subvert every government on earth. In practice, in all ages,
and in all countries, men had sold their liberty either for short periods, for life, or hereditarily; that is, both their
own liberty and that of their children after them. The laws of all countries have, in various forms and degrees,
in all times recognized and regulated this right to alien or sell liberty. The soldiers and sailors of the revolution
had aliened both liberty and life, the wives in all America had aliened their liberty, so had the apprentices and
wards at the very moment this verbose, newborn, false and unmeaning preamble was written.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, page: 180, 1854

“The Catholic Church did much to preserve the sanctity and purity of the family circle,
by making marriage a religious sacrament; the Episcopal Church something in making
it a holy ordinance; and in its ritual, which reminded the parties of the solemn and sacred
engagements into which they were about to enter. But as liberty, equality and fraternity
advanced, it was reduced, at the free North, to a mere civil contract, entered into with
no more thought, ceremony or solemnity than the bargain for a horse.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 194-195, 1854

“Has the world “supped full with horrors,” or a mere caprice of fashion brought about new modes of
manifesting attachment? Frenchmen kiss and hug, Americans shake hands, and Englishmen scowl and
bow; yet they all mean the same thing – ’tis fashion rules the hour. So it may be that cheating and starving
our fellow beings is now the rage, instead of shooting, and burning them. Those three hundred thousand
starved in Ireland, show clearly enough that Liberty, Equality and Fraternity have lost none of their energy,
however much they may have quieted their manners. “Nil admirari” is the perfection of good breeding in
England, and a real gentleman would sooner cheat in a horse trade than express sympathy for the millions
who are pining with hunger and nakedness in the fields and factories and mines of old England.”
_ George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, page: 198, 1854

“But political economy is the necessary result of Free Society – it is the only moral code which it can inculcate –
and yet all its precepts are at war with morality. But for Christianity, Free Society would be a wilderness of crime;
and Christianity has not fair play and a proper field of action, where government has failed to institute the peace
-begetting and protective influence of domestic slavery. It is one of the necessary parts of government, without
which men become enemies instead of brethren. There is no love between equals, and the divine precept,”Love
thy neighbor as thyself,” is thundered vainly in the ears of men straining for the same object. The maxim, “every
man for himself,” embraces the whole moral code of Free Society; and Miss Bremer, and all the other philanthropists
in the world, with their thousand schemes and institutions, will never be able to neutralise the immoral and
death dealing tendency of that maxim and of the antagonism and social war that it generates.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 200-201, 1854

“Liberty, infidelity, and abolition, are three words conveying but one idea. Infidels who dispute the
authority of God will not respect or obey the government of man. Abolitionists, who make war upon
slavery, instituted by God and approved by Holy Writ, are in a fair way to denounce the Bible that
stands in the way of the attainment of their purpose. Marriage is too much like slavery not to be
involved in its fate; and the obedience which the Bible inculcates, furnishes a new theme for infidelity
in petticoats or in Bloomers to harp on. Slavery, marriage, religion, are the pillars of the social fabric.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 205-206, 1854

“Liberty is the great hobby of this money-making age, and the over-ruling argument in its
favor is borrowed from the arithmetic. “Free labor is more productive than slave labor. It
is cheaper to hire the laborer, when you want him, and turn him out to starve when you
have done with him, than to buy a slave and support him through all the seasons of the
year, and through all the periods of his life. Besides, the free man whose very life depends
on it, will work harder than the slave, who is sure of a support, whether he works or not.”
– George Fitzhugh, What Shall be Done with the Free Negroes?, pages: 9-10, 1851

“Is there any good reason why men should not be allowed to sell their liberty? Is it wise, politic or humane,
to prevent the man, who sees his family starving around him, from hiring himself so as to bind his person,
even for a day, a week, or a month, to save himself and family from death? Could the poor Irish sell
themselves and families for a term of years, to the farmers of our Northwestern States, in order to pay their
passage to this country, and secure them from want on their arrival, would there be any thing unwise or
unmerciful in the laws which permitted it? The law did once permit it, for Virginia was in great part settled
by indented servants, and by the descendants of girls bought up in London and sold to the planters here
for wives. Indeed, all women literally sell their liberties when they marry, and very few repent of the bargain.
Among the civilized States of antiquity, the right to sell one’s liberty, we believe, was universal. Is it not a
curtailment of liberty to deny the right? The starving poor would often think so. To the victim of intemperance
who has just recovered from an attack of delirium tremens, such a right would be worth all the temperance
societies in the world. His enervated will can no longer control him, and the law will not permit him to adopt
the will of another. The law thus murders thousands annually, pretending all the while to guard and protect
their rights. The army, the navy and the merchant service are filled with men of this description. It is the
only refuge the law allows them. Those who were fitted for liberty would not sell it, or if in some moment
of misfortune they did, they would buy that liberty again by the exercise of great economy and industry.
The right to purchase their own liberty has, in other countries, been a common privilege of slaves.”
– George Fitzhugh, What Shall be Done with the Free Negroes?, pages: 13-14, 1851

“The enlightened citizen of New York daily feels the operation of the laws of the Union, the
laws of the State, and the laws of the corporation; he is probably a member of a church, a
club, of a Masonic society, and of a board of trade – he is controlled in his conduct by the
rules, regulations and laws of all these institutions; besides, he is the slave of fashion,
and cannot, like the savage, dress and appear as he pleases: he has a wife and children
to attend to and provide for, and all his spare moments must be devoted to them. Does
such a man enjoy one moment of liberty? No; every moment has its appropriate duties,
which he must slavishly perform, or he is a disgraced man. It is true, his slavery is self
imposed in a great measure. This only shews that civilized man does not desire liberty.”
– George Fitzhugh, What Shall be Done with the Free Negroes?, pages: 25-26, 1851

“The rich men, in free society, may, if they please, lounge about town, visit clubs,
attend the theatre, and have no other trouble than that of collecting rents, interest
and dividends of stock. In a well constituted slave society, there should be no idlers.
But we cannot divine how the capitalists in free society are to put to work. The master
labors for the slave, they exchange industrial value. But the capitalist, living on his
income, gives nothing to his subjects. He lives by mere exploitations.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Universal Law of Slavery, page: 2, 1850

“Liberty and equality are new things under the sun. The free states of antiquity abounded with slaves. The
feudal system that supplanted Roman institutionally changed the form of slavery, but brought with it neither
liberty nor equality. France and the Northern States of our Union have alone fully and fairly tried the experiment
of a social organization founded upon universal liberty and equality of rights. England has only approximated
to this condition in her commercial and manufacturing cities. The examples of small communities in Europe
are not fit exponents of the working of the system. In France and in our Northern States the experiment has
already failed, if we are to form our opinions from the discontent of the masses, or to believe the evidence of
the Socialists, Communists, Anti-Renters, and a thousand other agrarian sects that have arisen in these countries,
and threaten to subvert the whole social fabric. The leaders of these sects, at least in France, comprise within
their ranks the greater number of the most cultivated and profound minds in the nation, who have made government
their study. Add to the evidence of these social philosophers, who, watching closely the working of the system
have proclaimed to the world its total failure, the condition of the working classes, and we have conclusive
proof that liberty and equality have not conduced to enhance the comfort or the happiness of the people.”
– George Fitzhugh, Slavery Justified, page: 1, 1849

“When we look to the vegetable, animal and human kingdoms, we discover in them all a constant conflict, war, or
race of competition, the result of which is, that the weaker or less healthy genera, species and individuals are
continually displaced and exterminated by the stronger and more hardy. It is a means by which some contend
Nature is perfecting her own work. We, however, witness the war, but do not see the improvement. Although
from the earliest date of recorded history one race of plants has been eating out and taking the place of another,
the stronger or more cunning animals been destroying the feebler, and man exterminating and supplanting his
fellow, still the plants, the animals and the men of to-day seem not at all superior, even in those qualities of
strength and hardihood to which they owe their continued existence, to those of thousands of years ago. To
this propensity of the strong to oppress and destroy the weak, government owes its existence. So strong is
this propensity, and so destructive to human existence, that man has never yet been found so savage as
to be without government. Forgetful of this important fact, which is the origin of all governments, the political
economists and the advocates of liberty and equality propose to enhance the well being of man by trammeling
his conduct as little as possible, and encouraging what they call free competition. Now, free competition is
but another name for liberty and equality, and we must acquire precise and accurate notions about it in
order to ascertain how free institutions will work. It is, then, that war or conflict to which Nature impels
her creatures, and which government was intended to restrict.”
– George Fitzhugh, Slavery Justified, 1849

“The king’s office was a trust, so are your lands, houses and money. Society permits you to hold them, because private
property well administered conduces to the good of all society. This is your only title; you lose your right to your property
as the king did to his crown, so soon as you cease faithfully to execute your trust; you can’t make commons and forests
of your lands and starve mankind; you must manage your lands to produce the most food and raiment for mankind, or
you forfeit your title; you may not understand this philosophy, but you feel that it is true, and are trembling in your seats
as you hear the murmurings and threats of the starving poor. The moral effect of free society is to banish Christian virtue,
that virtue which bids us love our neighbor as ourself, and to substitute the very equivocal virtues proceeding from mere
selfishness. The intense struggle to better each one’s pecuniary condition, the rivalries, the jealousies, the hostilities
which it begets, leave neither time nor inclination to cultivate the heart or the head. Every finer feeling of our nature is
chilled and benumbed by its selfish atmosphere; affection is under the ban, because affection makes us less regardful
of mere self; hospitality is considered criminal waste, chivalry a stumbling-block, and the code of honor foolishness;
taste, sentiment, imagination, are forbidden ground because no money is to be made by them. Gorgeous pageantry
and sensual luxury are the only pleasures indulged in, because they alone are understood and appreciated, and they
are appreciated just for what they cost in dollars and cents. What makes money, and what costs money, are alone
desired. Temperance, frugality, thrift, attention to business, industry, and skill in making bargains, are virtues in high
repute, because they enable us to supplant others and increase our own wealth.”
– George Fitzhugh, Slavery Justified, 1849

“Look to the situation of woman when she is thrown into this war of competition, and has to support herself by her
daily wages. For the same or equally valuable services she gets not half the pay that man does, simply because
the modesty of her sex prevents her from resorting to all the arts and means of competition which men employ. He
who would emancipate woman, unless he could make her as coarse and strong in mind and body as man, would
be her worst enemy; her subservience to and dependence on man, is necessary to her very existence. She is not
a soldier fitted to enlist in the war of free competition. We do not set children and women free because they are
not capable of taking care of themselves, not equal to the constant struggle of society. To set them free would be
to give the lamb to the wolf to take care of.Society would quickly devour them. If the children of ten years of age were
remitted to all the rights of person and property which men enjoy, all can perceive how soon ruin and penury would
overtake them. But half of mankind are but grown-up children, and liberty is as fatal to them as it would be to children.”
– George Fitzhugh, Slavery Justified, 1849

“It is the boast of the Anglo-Saxon, that by the arts of peace under the influence of free trade he can march to
universal conquest. However true this may be, all know that if Englishmen or Americans settle among inferior
races, they soon become the owners of the soil, and gradually extirpate or reduce to poverty the original owners.
They are the wire-grass of nations. The same law of nature which enables and impels the stronger race to oppress
and exterminate the weaker, is constantly at work in the bosom of every society, between its stronger and weaker
members. Liberty and equality rather encourage than restrict this law in its deadly operation.”
– George Fitzhugh, Slavery Justified, 1849

“We proceed to show that the war of the wits, of mind with mind, which free competition or liberty and equality
beget and encourage, is quite as oppressive, cruel and exterminating as the war of the sword, of theft, robbery,
and murder, which it forbids. It is only substituting strength of mind for strength of body. Men are told it is their
duty to compete, to endeavor to get ahead of and supplant their fellow men, by the exercise of all the intellectual
and moral strength with which nature and education have endowed them. “Might makes right,” is the order of
creation, and this law of nature, so far as mental might is concerned, is restored by liberty to man. The struggle
to better one’s condition, to pull others down or supplant them, is the great organic law of free society. All men
being equal, all aspire to the highest honors and the largest possessions. Good men and bad men teach their
children one and the same lesson-“Go ahead, push your way in the world.” In such society, virtue, if virtue there
be, loses all her loveliness because of her selfish aims. None but the selfish virtues are encouraged, because
none other aid a man in the race of free competition. Good men and bad men have the same end in view, are
in pursuit of the same object-self-promotion, self-elevation. The good man is prudent, cautious, and cunning of
fence; he knows well the arts (the virtues, if you please,) which will advance his fortunes and enable him to
depress and supplant others; he bides his time, takes advantage of the follies, the improvidence, and vices of
others, and makes his fortune out of the misfortunes of his fellow men. The bad man is rash, hasty, and unskillful.
He is equally selfish, but not half so cunning. Selfishness is almost the only motive of human conduct with
good and bad in free society, where every man is taught that he may change and better his condition.”
– George Fitzhugh, Slavery Justified, 1849

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