BDSTCU The Universal Law of Slavery Essay


History 1301 Documentary Document Review Assignment, Your first paper assignment for this class will be to write a 750-1000 word (3.5 – 5 pages) typed, double-spaced review of one historical document, which is assigned to you below.I have spelled out for you in fairly specific detail what my expectations are for this review; however, you should feel free to ask questions about the assignment.

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George Fitzhugh, “The Universal Law of Slavery” (1850)
After 1830, increasingly radical arguments emerged both for and against slavery. In the South,
the lawyer and author George Fitzhugh became perhaps the most radical defender of slavery and
the hierarchical social order of which it was the lynchpin. He disdained America’s claim to be a
“free society” and welcomed the eclipse of that ideal in favor of the “community” of masters and
slaves, united in their mutual dependence. As you read his argument, consider the role of the
rising theories of scientific racism in his conclusions. What does he say about the “free labor”
society that was being celebrated by the more urban and industrial North?
He the Negro is but a grown up child, and must be governed as a child, not as a lunatic or
criminal. The master occupies toward him the place of parent or guardian. We shall not dwell on
this view, for no one will differ with us who thinks as we do of the negro’s capacity, and we
might argue till dooms-day in vain, with those who have a high opinion of the negro’s moral and
intellectual capacity.
Secondly. The negro is improvident; will not lay up in summer for the wants of winter; will not
accumulate in youth for the exigencies of age. He would become an insufferable burden to
society. Society has the right to prevent this, and can only do so by subjecting him to domestic
slavery. In the last place, the negro race is inferior to the white race, and living in their midst,
they would be far outstripped or outwitted in the chaos of free competition. Gradual but certain
extermination would be their fate. We presume the maddest abolitionist does not think the
negro’s providence of habits and money-making capacity at all to compare to those of the whites.
This defect of character would alone justify enslaving him, if he is to remain here. In Africa or
the West Indies, he would become idolatrous, savage and cannibal, or be devoured by savages
and cannibals. At the North he would freeze or starve.
We would remind those who deprecate and sympathize with negro slavery, that his slavery here
relieves him from a far more cruel slavery in Africa, or from idolatry and cannibalism, and every
brutal vice and crime that can disgrace humanity; and that it christianizes, protects, supports and
civilizes him; that it governs him far better than free laborers at the North are governed. There,
wife-murder has become a mere holiday pastime; and where so many wives are murdered,
almost all must be brutally treated. Nay, more; men who kill their wives or treat them brutally,
must be ready for all kinds of crime, and the calendar of crime at the North proves the inference
to be correct. Negroes never kill their wives. If it be objected that legally they have no wives,
then we reply, that in an experience of more than forty years, we never yet heard of a negro man
killing a negro woman. Our negroes are not only better off as to physical comfort than free
laborers, but their moral condition is better.
The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world.
The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and
necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by
care nor labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their
husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather,
not more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides’
they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with so much of license and liberty, would
die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to
the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. “Blessed
be the man who invented sleep.” ‘Tis happiness in itself–and results from contentment with the
present, and confident assurance of the future.
A common charge preferred against slavery is, that it induces idleness with the masters. The
trouble, care and labor, of providing for wife, children and slaves, and of properly governing and
administering the whole affairs of the farm, is usually borne on small estates by the master. On
larger ones, he is aided by an overseer or manager. If they do their duty, their time is fully
occupied. If they do not, the estate goes to ruin. The mistress, on Southern farms, is usually more
busily, usefully and benevolently occupied than any one on the farm. She unites in her person,
the offices of wife, mother, mistress, housekeeper, and sister of charity. And she fulfills all these
offices admirably well. 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.
History 1301
Documentary Document Review Assignment, DUE DATE: Friday 02/28/2020 at
11:59 pm
Your first paper assignment for this class will be to write a 750-1000 word (3.5 – 5
pages) typed, double-spaced review of one historical document, which is assigned to you
below. I have spelled out for you in fairly specific detail what my expectations are for
this review; however, you should feel free to ask questions about the assignment.
I. Parameters:
A. 12-pt., Times New Roman font; 1” margins
B. Due the February 28th by 11:59pm (no later); uploaded to the assigned
dropbox on Blackboard 10 points will be deducted for every day it is
late (3 days latest), [no exceptions]
C. 750-1000 words; double-spaced
F. Other sources must be approved by the professor.
II. Organization:
A. TITLE: The title of the paper should be the title of the document/video
being reviewed.
B. CONTEXT: To what period of US History does the document belong?
(There should be no mention of the document or author in THIS section).
Information from lectures is adequate for completion of this section.
C. SYNOPSIS: A complete break-down of the entire document IN YOUR
OWN WORDS. (Summary)
D. AUTHOR INTENT: YOUR ANALYSIS of why the document was
document has been important to studying the history of this period of US
F. CONCLUSION/OPINION (Don’t use First Person): YOUR
ARGUMENTS of the strengths and/or weaknesses of the document.
III. Pitfalls to Avoid:
A. Always include Document Name and Date in Title
B. It is grammatically correct to include page-numbers beginning with
second page.
C. Break sections into multiple paragraphs (Sub-headings are allowed).
D. Never use first person or contractions.
E. Do not use excessive quotes (in fact, the fewer the better)
F. Do NOT copy anything from other sources without proper citation. If you
are unsure if you need to cite, cite it. If you are unsure about how to cite,
please visit the Writing Center (CWT 203) or visit the Purdue OWL
website (
IV. Grading Rubric: Each section is worth a total of 20% of the overall paper.
V. Footnoting:
A. This is a simple essay. MLA (or your preferred style: APA, CMS, etc.)
formal formatting is required UNLESS outside sources are used.
B. No outside sources (other than the document/video) are needed; but, if
used, a “Works Cited” page will be required, following the MLA Style
C. IF the only source used is the document itself, no footnote or bibliography
is required (simply cite the document in parentheses after use)
VI. Final Instructions:
A. Failure to organize the paper as stated above will result in point deductions
B. ALL PAPERS will be scanned by SEE SYLLABUS

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