An Appeal to Non-Slaveholders

Kentucky Statesman, October 5, 1860

The great lever by which the abolitionists hope to extirpate slavery in the States, is the aid of non-slaveholding citizens in the South.

They hope and propose to array one class of our citizens against the other, limit the defense of slavery to those pecuniarily interested, and thereby eradicate it. We constantly meet with appeals of this character in the Abolition press, and hear it from the mouths of the great missionaries of the anti-slavery cause. They address themselves to the laboring men of the South, undertake to convince them that slavery degrades labor and prostitutes the social status of the laborer. They attempt to prove that the poorer classes thrive and prosper more in free communities than when they are forced to compete with slave labor. These are the arguments and these the appeals by which the Abolitionists expect to build up a party in the South to aid them in the work of aggression upon slave property.

We regret to notice the Opposition men of the South taking up the argument and employing the same appeal. We constantly meet the reply to our arguments on the subject of the rights of the South in the Territories, that "you own no slaves, why do you care?" If we assail the record of John Bell as a Southern man, an Oppositionist responds, you have no slaves to lose." We met this rejoinder in a public discussion we had the honor of conducting with a distinguished gentleman in an adjoining county. When unable to defend Mr. Bell's record, he replied that John Bell owned more negroes than we. Doubtless this is true. But has a Kentucky voter no right to enquire whether a Presidential candidate is true to the rights of the South because he cannot count his slaves by the hundred? We notice again that Mr. Soule[1] recently in a speech in Louisiana desired to know what interest the nonslaveholders in his audience had in the question whether slaves were permitted to go into the Territories or not. He illustrated the falseness of the clamor (as he alleged) made by the Southern men for the right touching slave property, by an anecdote of judge Porter's. The Judge was accosted in the Harrison campaign by an Irishman who deplored the ruin in which the South was about to be overwhelmed. "What's the matter," said the Judge. "Oh," replied Pat, "they are going to elect Gen. Harrison President, and he is an Abolitionist and will take away our slaves!" "How many have you got," asked the Judge. "None," replied Pat. "Well, I have more than a hundred," added Judge Porter, "and if I can trust him, I think, Pat, you can afford to do the same." And this, said Mr. Soule, is the condition of the Pats of the present day.Here is an undisguised attempt to array in hostile positions the slaveholder and the non-slaveholding Southern men; to wrest from slavery all its defenders, save those pecuniarily interested in slave property; to make emancipationists and Abolitionists of all who do not own slaves. Mr. Soule appeals to non-slaveholders, and urges them not to inquire into the record of any candidate on the slavery question, for, says he, "you have no interest in the subject." He adopted the antislavery appeal, and would convince non-slaveholders that they are not interested in the extension and protection of slavery.We can say to these gentlemen that their appeal is vain. The interest felt by the non-slaveholders of the South in this question is not prompted by dollars and cents. Their zeal for their social institutions does not rest upon a pecuniary calculation, nor does it arise from an apprehension of loss of property. It is educational and deep seated. They believe slavery,to be right and socially beneficial. Instead of degrading labor and destroying its reward, they believe it elevates and enhances labor. Its effect is felt in society and brings a condition of public sentiment, taste and life entirely congenial to their idea and feelings. They cannot be swerved by such appeals, and every such argument will be repelled with indignation. The strongest pro-slavery men in this State are those who do not own one dollar of slave property. Go to the mountains and find there thousands of as true Southern men as tread the soil of the cotton States, yet comparatively few own slaves. They are sturdy yeomen who cultivate the soil, tend their own crops; but if need be, would stand to their section till the last one of them fell. Tell these men that they have no right to look into Bell's record; tell them that it is of no importance to them to enquire where Douglas squatter sovereignty will lead; tell them that none but the master of many slaves has any right to ask whether a Presidential candidate is sound on the slavery question, or whether a given measure will operate inimically to the South; in a word, tell them that an Abolitionist is good enough for them, and stand up, if you can, Mr. Soule, against their indignant rebuke. Such men will spurn the sordid motives to which you appeal, and hurl back your insidious argument with scorn. No men in Kentucky examine more closely the records of Presidential candidates, and none will reject a record tainted with abolitionism more promptly than the non-slaveholders. We would rather trust them than a thousand John Bells.

1. Pierre Soule, Senator from Louisiana, 1847, 1849–1853; Minister to Spain, 1853–1855.