Twenty Points Against Abolishing Slavery
– George Fitzhugh, A controversy on slavery, Pages: 5-14, 1857
The 20 points are taken from the published debate between George Fitzhugh and the abolitionist A. Hogeboom,
in which Fitzhugh set out to pose a list of challenges for, and arguments against, abolition. Through this method
he concisely provides a strong basis for Fitzhughian slavery advocacy, objections to free society, and the historical
and contemporary ideals of freedom. The original title for these twenty points was: “Objections to Abolition”
First-It should prove that domestic slavery is a violation of the dictates of man’s nature, for it is fair to presume that
a benevolent and beneficent and all-wise God has not given to man, His favorite creature, made after his own image,
a nature that impels him, in the general, to practices destructive of his own happiness and well-being. Abolition should,
in the first place show that domestic slavery is contrary to common usage, and therefore, unnatural and wrong; yet it
has been almost universal, and therefore, natural and right.
Secondly-Abolition, failing in this, should prove that as man rises in civilization, in religion, and general inteillgence, he
-dispenses with domestic slavery. Yet the contrary is true. Until three centuries ago, slavery was universal among the
virtuous, religious and civilized; universal liberty only existed among savages and Cannibals. The Athenians-the most
highly civilized people that ever existed-had most slaves. Civilization and Slavery, with slight exceptions, have gone
hand in hand. Now, Mexico and South America (except Brazil) are barbarous, because they have abolished slavery
-and even Northern and Western Europe would starve or become barbarous if they were not fed, clothed and sustained
by the profits of trade with slave countries.
Thirdly-The Abolitionists ought to show that the Bible condemns slavery. They cannot do so, because slavery was
instituted by God’s express command, and is recognized, approved and regulated throughout the Bible. Hence
abolition and free society are coextensive in time and space with infidelity. Henry Ward Beecher says four-fifths of
the intelligent and moral young men of the North are infidels. Mr. Hogeboom could not find in a month a single
young intelligent man born and reared at the South who is an infidel.
Fourthly-They should show that emancipation has improved in Europe (where society is in its common and normal
condition) the physical comforts of the laboring class; yet so far from proving this, they well know that the preambles,
recitals and enactments of the English poor laws, and the concurrent testimony of all English historians, prove that
mendicity, pauperism and vagrancy commenced with free society, and have increased as it increased, till three hundred
thousand of the emancipated starved to death in Ireland in a single season, whilst famine, and death from famine,
raged in England and Scotland at the same time. They also know that famine has become the normal condition of
the whole laboring class of Western Europe, because they are free, whilst slaves in all ages and in all countries have
been comfortably fed, clad, and, housed.
Fifthly-The abolitionists should prove that the liberation of slaves increases their morality but the reverse is true
.-There is double as much crime in free society as in slave society, as all history, censuses and statistics exhibit.
Sixthly-They should prove that free society is more religious than slave society; but religion, faith, conviction have
disappeared from free society as effective agencies. Everything is at sea-nothing fixed or established in morals,
religion, or in government, whilst in slave society all men are conservatives and believers in christianity. All are
enjoying physical comfort-all opposed to insurrection-all comparatively contented.
Seventhly-Government is inadequate and insufficient without slavery. Hence, so soon as the serfs were liberated in
Europe, there appeared in society a numerous class of nomadic beggars, pickpockets, gypsies, highwaymen, and
robbers, and mobs, riots and revolutions commenced; and hence, the ordinary police was increased, and standing
armies became necessary. Masters supply the place of a police and standing armies and of a criminal code. Rome
had scarcely any criminal code, because the masters ruled that class who commit crimes, and thus prevented crime.
Law, mere law, is inadequate to govern the mass of mankind; they need masters, or censors, or Spanish inquisitions,
or King Alfreds, tithing-men, or the early witch-hanging and Quaker-hanging clergy of New England. The mass must
have masters of some sort-must have men about them whose “will stands for law.” The proletariat of France, the lasaroni
of Italy, the gypsies of Spain and of all Western Europe, the nomadic beggars and pauper banditti of England, and
the leperos of Mexico, are the loathsome outgrowth of free society, and all need masters to govern them. Slavery
is quite as indispensible to govern the vicious as to protect and provide for the weak.
Eightly-Agriculture being the worst paid and compensated labor, the world must continually starve and go naked without
slavery. Now slave society, by its agricultural surplus, foods, and clothes free society in Europe or America. Every body
in free society avoids agricultural labor, because, though the most meritorious, it is the worst paid of all labor. Not so in
slave society. The farming negro has double the allowance of the English or Yankee hireling, and none of his care and
anxiety. There is no animal in the world so badly treated, or as badly situated in all respects, as a free hireling farm laborer
in Europe or America-probably none so well situated as a Southern farm slave. He is sure to labor no more than will
promote his health, for he is too valuable to have his health or strength endangered; and for the same reason he is sure
of plentiful feeding, clothing and house room. He has no cares for the present or the future, and labors just enough to
prevent ennui and promote health. His morals are safe-first, because he has no temptation to immorality, and secondly,
because the master’s interest secures the enforcement of morality. An immoral slave is worth nothing; an ill-fed, ill
-housed, ill-clothed slave is worth nothing; a discontented, unhappy slave is worth nothing.
Ninthly-Christian morality is impracticable in free society, because any man being thrown on his own merits, any man
having his selfish interests opposed to those of all other men, finds that he can only “be true to himself by doing wrong to
others.” Competition, rivalry, antagonism, social war become from necessity universal. The Christian dispensation was
preached to slave society, when in the general we most advance our selfish interest by promoting the interests of others.
There is no clashing of interests, no rivalry, no competition or antagonism in the family composed of wife, children,and
slaves. Each finds his own good most advanced by promoting the good of others. The master, father and husband is
happiest and most prosperous when he consults the happiness and well-being of wife, children, and slaves, and “does unto
them as he would be done by;” and they are happiest and best conditioned when they follow his example. Christian morality
is natural and profitable in slave society-unnatural, suicidal and impracticable in free society, for free society is always in
a state of competitive war, a war of the wits-a war far more ignoble, selfish and ungenerous than the war of the sword.
Tenthly-The abolitionists are all socialists and communists and, as such, assert that the experiment of free society is an
intolerable failure. All agree with Carlyle and Andrews, “that we must have a new world if we are to have any world at all.”
So far as I am advised, not one abolitionist is satisfied with the system of society in which he lives. Some would have all
property in common; some would have no religion; some no churches or priests; some no marriage; some no law; some
no government. None, not one, asks us of the South to imitate their present institutions. Each one says they are intolerable.
In France, Germany, England and Northern America, whilst all agree that the form of ” free society” which you have established
is intolerable, you require of us of the South to. change, to do something to abolish slavery. Now agree upon something
that we shall do after having abolished slavery.-Show us that you of New York, New England, and Western Europe, have
discovered something WITH WHICH YOU ARE SATISFIED, AND WHICH IS BETTER THAN DOMESTIC SLAVERY. I will
advocate abolition if you can show that universal liberty, that your form of society promotes general happiness and well
-being. Attached, as I am, to the “King’s division,” believing that the good of one of the great and gifted is rather to be
consulted than the good of many of “Natick cobblers and Waltham factory hands” of the Garrisonian stripe, I will agree
and consent that slavery is wrong, and should be abolished, if you can prove that the “greater number of featherless
bipeds” will be physically better off by its abolition. I think that nine-tenths of mankind are best off when they are ridded
with a tight rein, and plentiful applications of the whip and spur. I give you a great advantage, for I believe such is the
-opinion of all Southern men whose opinion is worth consulting.
Eleventhly-All government should be adapted to the wants and necessities of the governed and to the good of society. But
much the larger portion of mankind are either too modest and delicate and weak, like woman, for the rough-roll-and-tumble competition of the world; like children, too weak and ignorant and improvident for such competition; or like the mass of the
adult males, both too improvident and too vicious for self-government, or the government of mere law. Such, embracing
nine-tenths, probably nineteen-twentieths of mankind, require masters as well to protect and to provide for them as to govern
them. Without such masters, husbands and guardians, they become the oppressed substratum of society, like the “thirty
thousand middle women” of London, the beggars; the thieves, the gypsies, the lazaroni, the factory hands, the agricultural
laborers, the nomadic banditti, the unemployed poor, the leperos, the proletariat of your society, and other common day
laborers. Slavery protects, provides for and elevates the mass. The fifty thousand unemployed laborers in New York last
winter, with their fifty thousand starving children, would have been better off with masters. We see that a meeting in the Park,
last spring, “Resolved, that there were fifty thousand males seeking employment.” Last winter the slaves of the South were generally unemployed, but it was a feast and holiday time with them. No slave was short of clothes, food, or house room.
Twelfthly-Charity is a dangerous if not impracticable virtue in free society, for if we cannot control the conduct and expenditure
of our beneficiaries, we but levy taxes from the virtuous and laboring poor to give to the idle and vicious poor. We may safely
be charitable and generous to our slaves, because we can see that our gifts are employed to promote their welfare; but what
we give to the free is very generally promotive of idleness, improvidence and crime. Hence, good men are all ambitious, and
desire power, for without power, despotic-power, no one can be safely and securely beneficient or charitable.
Thirteenthly-Universal liberty is contrary to the course of nature. Order, adaptation and subordination are found throughout
the material and moral world. Equality prevents order and adaptation, and begets chaos and anarchy. Each seeks and
claims the same place, and actual war and conflict is the consequence. The riots, mobs, famines, heresies, superstitions,
infidelities and revolutions of free society prove that this competition, antagonism, rivalry, war and anarchy are begotten
by such society, without any hopes of settlement or permanent peace, order, subordination, faith, or contentment. The
advocates of free society allege that lands are dearer and labor cheaper than with us. This is a double assertion that
free laborers are less free than negro slaves. The profits of land constitutes its value and regulates its price. The profits
are what the land owner extracts from the hireling or slave laborer, and where the laborer is permitted in any form to
retain and enjoy most of those profits, there lands are cheapest. ‘Tis because we allow more of those profits to our
slaves than you do to your white laborers, that your lands are dearer than ours. They sell still higher in Europe, where
laborers work longer hours, and are kept half starving and half housed and clothed. “Free labor is cheaper than slave
labor,” because the employer pays or allows the hireling less of the products of his own labor than we allow our slave.
Dear lands and cheap labor indicate, nay, demonstrate the harsh and grinding slavery of the laboring class. Despite
of names, that society is freest where lands are cheapest-that most enslaved where lands are dearest.
Fourteenthly-“Land monopoly” is felt to be an intolerable evil, and “land reform” is a favorite scheme in New York. -That
is, Mr. Hogeboom, you see that slavery to capital, as it exists among you, is too harsh and exacting for human beings to
bear. Mr. Goodell, your great abolition author, expressly says it is more cruel and “murderous” than feudal slavery. You
have not the name slavery among you, but you have the thing in its most cruel form. Read the work of your a philosopher,
Stephen Pearl Andrews, on the “Science of Society,” and you will see how slavery does exist in (so called) free society.
Fifteenthly-All socialists, indeed I might say, all men agree that the common laboring class and all the weaker members
of society require more of protection than is now afforded them. But, to protect men, we must have the power of controlling
them. We must first enslave them before we can protect them. This is done in the instances of lunatics and idiots, wives,
children, wards and apprentices. Is it not equally humane and necessary in the case of negroes, who, as a class, require
protection as much as white women or white children over fifteen?
Sixteenthly-Socialism, which is almost universal in free society in America as well as Europe, is but a confession of social bankruptcy, an almost universal assertion that “free society is a failure.” ‘Tis the half-way house between such society and
slavery. Mr. Carlyle, a socialist, already proposes slavery as the remedy. He sees that society is all unstrung, and needs
screwing up-that “the world is too little governed.” After a few more social experiments like Fourier’s and Owens’, and
Andrews’ Free Love, and Oneida Perfectionism, and Mormonism, and Shakerism, &c., &c., all ending in total failures,
your socialists and abolitionists will confess that domestic slavery is the true remedy. “All, all agree that free society,
as now existing, is a hopeless failure.” And America echoes back to Europe the appalling words of Carlyle-“We must
have a new world if we are to have any world at all!”
Seventeenthly-Socialism and communism agree with slavery, and are right in repudiating the anti-social principles of Lock’s
social contract and Adam Smith’s “let alone and competition doctrines.” These philosophers have mistaken man’s nature.
He is a social or gregarious animal, born in society to which he belongs. Society is the being-individuals its members
Aristotle’s is the true philosophy, (see his Politics and Economies,) which is founded on the assumption of man’s social
nature, and which shows slavery to be natural and necessary to protect and govern the weaker members of society.
Free society disintegrates and reduces to separate and conflicting monads, or human atoms, the natural associations,
even the family itself-first by freeing the slaves, next the wives, and finally, we suppose, the children. Slavery, besides
associating men more closely as the socialists propose, also associates labor and capital, and thus renders them
more productive. It also agrees with communism in supplying each one according to his wants, and not according to
his labor. It is far superior to either in this, that the head of the association owning its members is impelled alike by
domestic affection and self-interest to take good and kindly care of them. Man takes the best care of that property
which is most valuable. Slaves are not only the most valuable property, but they are weak and dependent human
beings, and we can’t help loving what is frail and dependent.-Free laborers are at constant war with their employers.
They seek high wages-the employers struggle to depress wages-and also at war with each other, by underbidding
to get employment. Hence, the free laborer is treated worse and fares worse than any other animal on an English
farm; and hence the slave always fares and is treated far better than mere brute animals.
Eighteenthly-I will now attempt to expound more philosophically the theory, the practice and “modus operandi” of (so
called) free society. Every man in such society (and it is, to a limited extent, the case in slave society) is trying, might
and main, to enslave his white fellow men, to enjoy the profits of their labor without being burdened with taking care
of them, providing for them, protecting or governing them-for every man is trying to become independent, endeavoring
to accumulate property, whose property shall support him without labor. But all the profits of capital or of property are
purely and merely the results of some one’s labor. The capitalist or property holder intends, and generally does; retain
his principal or capital intact, and live upon his rents, profits and interest. Now rents, profit and interest are but the tax
which capital exacts from labor. Capitalists or property holders pay labor nothing, but only allow the laborers a part of
their own earnings, less than we allow our slaves-and hence, “free labor is cheaper than slave labor.” The man who
has amassed in capital or property fifty thousand dollars, who retains it, and yet derives from it an income of three
thousand dollars, is just as much a slave owner as a Southern planter. He employs it to command, to tax, or exploitate
laborers of that amount annually. Property or capital neither breeds nor increases. Hence, the Bible forbids all “usury,”
interest, or “increase.” See 23 Duet, and 25 Leviticus. The man with fifty thousand dollars owns about fifty white slaves,
taking them in families, for three thousand dollars a year is as much as fifty such can produce, after barely supporting
themselves and families. These fifty laborers are compelled to work or starve. They have as little liberty in this respect
as slaves-in fact less, for they have to labor harder and longer, and fare worse. But the capitalist, whose whole revenue
and support are derived from their labor, cares nothing for them-in fact, generally hates them, and is under no legal
obligation to protect, govern and provide for them. He is a master without the cares, anxieties and responsibilities of
a master. “They are slaves without the rights of slaves”-“Slaves without (legal) masters.”
Capital forces laborers to work for nothing. Skill exchanges a very little light labor for a great deal of hard, coarse labor.
The lawyer, the doctor, the merchant, the dentist, the manufacturer and the skillful mechanic make slaves of their fellow
men by exchanging the results of one day’s light labor for the results of ten or twenty days’ coarse labor. Thus, the lawyer
owns twenty or thirty common laborers-the skillful mechanic five or six. All men in free society are busily engaged in the
white slave trade, and he who succeeds best is considered most meritorious. The millionaire, who commands and
exploitates the labor of a thousand, is almost worshiped-the great lawyer, who makes his hundreds dollars a day, and
owns, therefore, a hundred laborers, is highly respected-but the poor laborers, whom every body lives by, and whom
every body exploitates, are despised. Your scale of merit (I wish it were not too true every where) is like the Indian’s
-“He is most meritorious who can show most scalps.” I like best the Indian mode of taking them-the “aut cita sur, aut
victoria Laeta,” to the more ignoble and cruel war of the wits and free trade. There is, however, but little of this competition
or exploitation in slave society. It does not exist within the family.-Masters, wives, children and slaves do not compete
with one another, but in the general “love one another, and do unto each other as they would be done by.” There is
just enough of it to incite to enterprise and progress.
Nineteenthly-In slave society, the master and mistress must labor in superintending, governing and taking care of the
slaves and of the farm. All the cares, anxieties and responsibilities of life are incurred by them. The slaves have no
cares, and are the happiest people in the world-much happier than their owners. But in free society the rich have
nothing to but lounge about the streets in the day, and go to Free Love saloons or the theatre at night. Slave society
makes all men working men. You will find that Paley, in his Moral Philosophy, in the chapter on The treatment of our
domestics and dependents,” .holds my doctrine, that labor produces every thing; that the rich pay the laborers nothing
for their labor, but only “distribute what others produce.” But this whole subject is handled in the most masterly
manner by Stephen Peale Andrews in his “Science of Society.” I think it, so far as its philosophy is destructive,
the greatest book of the ages-so far as it is constructive, the wildcat and most chimerical. But Mr. Andrews is
on the right track. Atter the failure of a few more of his experiments, he will find that domestic slavery is the
great moral and social and religious panacea.
Twentiethly-Slaves emancipated from the dominion of separate human masters are at once remitted to the dominion,
the exaction and exploitation of skill and capital. They have to work harder and longer, and fare worse, as the history
of free society invariably shows. They are less free and worse off in all respects after liberation than before.