Slave Power

Slave Power

The Slave Power (often called the "Slaveocracy") was a term used in the United States ca. 1840-1865 to denounce the political power of the slaveholding class in the South. The argument was that this small group of rich men had seized political control of their own states and was trying to take over the national government in illegitimate fashion to use it to expand and protect slavery.

The main issue expressed by the phrase was distrust of the power of slave-owning oligarchs. Such distrust was shared by many who were not abolitionists; those who were motivated more by a possible threat to the political balance or the impossibility of competing with unwaged slave labor, than by concern over the treatment of slaves. Those who differed on many other issues (such as hating blacks or liking them, denouncing slavery as a sin or promising to guarantee its protection in the Deep South) could unite to attack the "slaveocracy." The "Free Soil" element emphasized that rich slave owners would move into new territory, use their cash to buy up all the good lands, then use their slaves to work the lands, leaving little opportunity room for free farmers. By 1854 the Free Soil Party had largely merged into the new Republican party

The term was popularized by antislavery writers such as John Gorham Palfrey, Josiah Quincy III, Horace Bushnell, James Shepherd Pike, and Horace Greeley. Politicians who emphasized the theme included John Quincy Adams, Henry Wilson and William Pitt Fessenden. Abraham Lincoln used the concept after 1854 but not the term. They showed through a combination of emotive argument and hard statistical data that the South had long held a disproportionate level of power within the nation. Did the slave power really exist? Millions in the North thought so, and acted upon it. Historian Allan Nevins emphasized that "nearly all groups...steadily substituted emotion for reason.... Fear fed hatred, and hatred fed fear."

However the existence of a "slave power" was dismissed by Southerners at the time, and rejected as false by many historians of the 1920s and 1930s, who stressed that the South was internally divided before 1850. The idea that the Slave Power existed has partly come back at the hands of neoabolitionist historians since 1970, and there is no doubt that it was a powerful factor in the Northern anti-slavery belief system. It was standard rhetoric for all factions of the Republican party.

Read more about Slave PowerBackground, Southern Power, Threat To Republicanism, Activists, Impact of Democratic Free Soilers, House Divided

Other articles related to "slave power, slave":

Slave Power - House Divided - Centralization
... Historian Henry Brooks Adams explained that the Slave Power was a force for centralization “ Between the slave power and states' rights there was no necessary ... The slave power, when in control, was a centralizing influence, and all the most considerable encroachments on states' rights were its acts ... mere announcement of President Polk the Fugitive Slave Law the Dred Scott decision — all triumphs of the slave power — did far more than either tariffs or internal improvements, which in their ...
States' Rights - Controversy To 1865 - Civil War - Northern Arguments
... protect the rights of their states against the South during the Gag Rule and fugitive slave law controversies ... Southern states, whenever they saw an opportunity to expand slavery and the reach of the slave power, often conveniently forgot the principle of states' rights—and fought in favor of Federal ... The slave power, when in control, was a centralizing influence, and all the most considerable encroachments on states' rights were its acts ...
History Of The Rise And Fall Of The Slave Power In America
... The History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America is a historically significant book about the American Civil War by Vice President Henry Wilson ... title contains a relatively late usage of the term "Slave Power" for the politically powerful slaveholding class in the American South before the Civil War ...
Origins Of The American Civil War - Onset of The Civil War and The Question of Compromise
... a conflict that arose as a result of the designs of slave power ... Henry Wilson's History of The Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America (1872–1877) is the foremost representative of this moral interpretation, which argued that Northerners had fought to preserve the union ... In The Coming of the Civil War (1942), Craven argued that slave laborers were not much worse off than Northern workers, that the institution was already on the road to ultimate extinction, and that the war ...

Famous quotes containing the words power and/or slave:

    Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
    Bible: Hebrew, Proverbs 3:27.

    Do not discourage your children from hoarding, if they have a taste to it; whoever lays up his penny rather than part with it for a cake, at least is not the slave of gross appetite; and shows besides a preference always to be esteemed, of the future to the present moment.
    Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)