Theorists of Racial Inequality

Vocabulary 1

Vocabulary 1

Lauro Orozco

Thomas Roderick Dew

At this time, the pro-slavery thoughts were composed of different viewpoints, but for the purpose of this analysis, were are only going to examine three of them: the religious, the abstract and the ideological. Standing apart from these was Thomas Roderick Dew, who played a dominant role in the defense of slavery, because his ideals were very respected and spoke to the beliefs of the people of his time. In the Antebellum South, people were starting to take a more “ideological” approach to the issue of slavery. The writings of Thomas Roderick Dew takes a more realistic side.

The beginning of the 1800’s were considered to be a decisive time in Southern attitude toward slavery. Even before this time period, there was something ambiguous in pro-slavery views. These views were suddenly becoming more acute. What triggered the change of mentality into a firm position of the emancipation of slaves and colonization of free Negroes, was a series of debates in the Virginia Legislature. One of the chroniclersof these debates was a pamphlet made by Thomas R. Dew, who was a professor of political economy. Dew first published  Review of the Debate in 1832.   The purpose of this text was to influence the atmosphere, and create a theoretical justification of slavery. It was then later on quoted greatly by Dew’s intellectual successors from William and Mary College. Dew’s intention was to view slavery from a dispassionate  approach.  Dew’s efforts were mainly to explain what might occur if slavery were to be abolished. His views were to be traditional instead of aggressive: “the institutional disruptions of emancipation” could not equal the benefits of the institution (Eric L. McKitrick 20).  Dew wanted to affirm to the general public what his intentions were by providing a perfectly logical reason for his actions. Till this day his treatise (pamphlet) remained useful because it reflects the opinions of the majority of the south, and defends the reasons to keep slavery. Dew’s discussions are better understood when reading his own words: "The evils of yesterday's growth may be extirpated today, and the vigor of society may heal the wound; but that which is the growth of ages may require ages to remove." (Derek Pecheco, online).

To Dew, the proposal on abolition was virtually impossible. The main propositions were banishment, abrogation, freedom without deportation, and monetary values, regardless if adopted by the state: indefensible positions, in his opinion. What is most interesting is that in his argument he also states that slavery is a “moral evil,” implying that, even though he knows that slavery is immoral, there is nothing he can do about it. 

Samuel Cartwright

Samuel Cartwright was born in 1793 and died in 1863. He was a man of many hats. A successful physician, skilled writer on medicine, and also known to be a “scientific” race theorist.  He was known to take the side of the race arguments for granted, and by his habit of describing “Negroes” as a “species.” Cartwright was well known for his essay which was publish in 1850 on this subject. It takes the position that Negroes have a naturally “servile relationship towards the white race.”(The Cause of the South 139).

Cartwright had the opportunity to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and practiced it in Huntsville, Alabama, Natchez, Mississippi, and in 1848 studied in New Orleans. It is here that he began medical writing,  including essays on yellow fever, and cholera, which gave him recognition in his field. During 1851 and 1862, he contributed some of his work to De Bow’s Review, by publishing fourteen of his articles regarding topics on improving sanitary conditions for the Confederate Army in 1862.  At Vicksburg he contracted a deadly disease that lead to his untimely death around May, 1863. 

Now in the 1850’s racism was at an ultimate high. Southerners still considered Negroes as an “inferior race”, but because of the argument that the abolitionist had, they needed scientific proof  for their assertions.  Being a southern physician, Cartwright’s explanation of Negroes' inferiority was regarded as psychological. He saw them as people that who were not capable of performing curtain duties.  Cartwright claims this very explicitly in his Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race, and also shows the length to which he would go to defend slavery as a result of a psychological problem in black people.

James Dunwoody Brownson De Bow 

James D.B. De Bow became well known for an editorial that was written during the period after the Congressional debates over the Mexican Cession, conducted over territorial acquisition and slavery. De Bow claimed the Union could completely collapse if the North  “out voted” the South in the House of Representatives, because of an additional free state, unbalancing the power that the Senate would have. The Southerners felt that they only had two choices as a way out. Either they obtained guaranties from the establishment within the Union, or they have to abolish slavery before the North closed these establishments.

The only thing that would save what was left of the Union was to establish an extensive compromise, and a man by the name of Henry Clay also began to work to do just that. To make this a successful compromise, he drafted a bill that summarized all the points needed to create this compromise. His purpose was to include California as a free state, the organization of the Mexican Cession as neither slave nor free, and the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. (The Cause of the South 182).

Although this proposal dealt with the North more than the South, “the south obtained the recognition of slavery in the District of Columbia, promise of a stronger fugitive slave law, and rejection of the concept of the Wilmot Proviso.” (The Cause of the South 182). The South adopted a series of measures that would stop the crisis over slavery and assure the continuity of slavery. The cause of Clay’s bill for De Bow in his editorial for the Review was the reason for his concern. Seeing that the North was gaining power, he wondered if  a “political solution” could be crafted. His only fear was whether the South was strong enough and willing enough to take the precautions necessary to “protect its society and institutions.”(The Cause of the South 182). In his review, he mentioned “the failure of southerners to support” him. (The Cause of the South 182).

During this period of time the South tried many times to make peace with the North. One of these attempts was at a convention on June 3, 1850 in Nashville, Tennessee. The main goal was to maintain the rights of south, but many of them tried to avoid the subject of “disunion.” The Compromise of 1850 was finally achieved months after  De Bow’s editorial had been published. Although De Bow agreed with southern extremists on the issue of slavery and territory, he was unhappy with some of the provisions that it brought.  The Fugitive Slave Act was "designed to ensure that southerners could recover their escaped property wherever found.”(The Cause of the South 189). If slaves were captured, they were insured a “jury trial” in which the final decision was made “outside the normal judicial system”(The Cause of the South 189) which didn’t include certain rights that would initially be granted to the slaves. The slave owner would then grant the person who found their run-away slave a reward of ten dollars for finding them and  returning them. The North was completely against these provisions. They also were angered at the fact that the South was able to pay them for returning and capturing their own slaves. De Bow realized that the Northerners were not going to support this compromise at all and therefore support slavery in the South.

Works Cited
The American Heritage Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1982

The Cause of the South.
Louisiana State University Press , 1982.  20-26, 26-44, 179-189. (No author or anonymous). 

Derek Pecheco. Derek on the Ideology of Slavery.  Available

LC Wed. LOC. [online] Available

McKitrick, Erick L. Slavery Defended. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963.20-34.

Jerome McDuffie, Ph.D., Gary Piggrem, Ph.D., Steven E. Woodworth, Ph.D., AP United States History. Research & Education Association, New Jersey. 1994. 67-78.

Works Consulted

African Americans opposing viewpoints.
Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1997. 77-83. (No author or anonymous).

Slavery in the South
. New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, Inc. 1964. 233-253 (No author or anonymous). 

Riot in NYC 1847