Justifying Property in Man – George Fitzhugh, 1857

Justifying Property in Man – George Fitzhugh, 1857

Note: This is from Fitzhughs’ second work “Cannibals All!” chapter 32: “Man Has Property in Man!” This
is most of that chapter taken and presented for the original intention but modified slightly, each individual
point was separated where I felt two points were co-conveyent of the same message I combined the two,
amongst other small modifications.

In the Liberator of the 19th December, we observe that the editor narrows down the slavery contest to the
mere question, whether “Man may rightfully hold property in man?” We think we can dispose of this objection
to domestic slavery in a very few words.

Man is a social and gregarious animal, and all such animals hold property in each other. Nature imposes
upon them slavery as a law and necessity of their existence. They live together to aid each other, and are
slaves under Mr. Garrison’s higher law. Slavery arises under the higher law, and is, and ever must be,
coëval and coëxtensive with human nature. We will enumerate a few of its ten thousand modifications.

The husband has a legally recognized property in his wife’s services, and may legally control, in some
measure, her personal liberty. She is his property and his slave. The wife has also a legally recognized
property in the husband’s services. He is her property, but not her slave. The father has property in the
services and persons of his children till they are twenty-one years of age. They are his property and his
slaves. Children have property, during infancy, in the services of each parent.

Infant negroes, sick, infirm and superannuated negroes, hold most valuable property in the services and capital
of their masters. The masters hold no property in such slaves, because, for the time, they are of no value.

Owners and captains of vessels own property in the services of sailors, and may control their personal liberty.
They (the sailors) are property, and slaves also. The services and persons, lives and liberty of soldiers and
of officers, belong to the Government; they are, whilst in service, both property and slaves.

Every white working man, be he clerk, carpenter, mechanic, printer, common laborer, or what else, who
contracts to serve for a term of days, months, or years, is, for such term, the property of his employer. He
is not a slave, like the wife, child, apprentice, sailor or soldier, because, although the employer’s right to his
services be equally perfect, his remedy to enforce such right is very different. In the one case, he may resort
to force to compel compliance; in the other, he is driven to a suit for damages. Every capitalist holds property
in his fellow men to the extent of the profits of his capital, or income. The only income possibly resulting from
capital, is the result of the property which capital bestows on its owners, in the labor of other people.

All civilized society recognizes, and, in some measure, performs the obligation to support and provide for
all human beings, whether natives or foreigners, who are unable to provide for themselves. Hence poor
-houses, &c. Hence all men hold valuable property, actual or contingent, in the services of each other.

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