The primary source record is clear. A main reason 19th century Southerners were forced to defend slavery as a practical matter was the absolute unwillingness of the North to allow dispersion and integration of the freed people across the Union and its territories. A chronic Northern racism was intent on keeping all blacks bottled up in the South if freed.
That meant an absolute social disaster in the South as many of the freed people, cut off from the required cradle to grave welfare of the master, would be forced into a life of mendicancy and crime to survive; not to mention the certain peril of those too old or too young to work who were entirely dependent upon the cradle to grave welfare of the master.. Slaves were already being rented out to economically accommodate their excess numbers. And with no surplus land in the South for subsistence farming, the freed people faced certain disaster. There simply was not enough available land or jobs in the South to accommodate them.
Yet the Republican Party, dead set on keeping Northern States free of new blacks, and the territories for whites only, attacked the South for its seeking the equal right to expand any of its black population into the territories; an arid land unaccommodating to plantation slavery, but where slaves could be dispersed and freed with land to survive. It was Northern racism that drove a segregation that would keep blacks out of the territories. Lincoln made this clear:
“There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas…” – Abraham Lincoln, 6/26/1857.
Senator Jefferson Davis, in an 1850 speech on the Senate floor, pointed out the hypocrisy of Northern “antislavery” opposition to taking slaves into the territories as the reason slaves were not being emancipated:
“What has been the progress of emancipation throughout the whole history of our country? It has been the pressure of free labor upon the less profitable slave labor, until the slaves were transferred to sparser regions, and their number, by such transfer, was reduced to a limit at which, without inconvenience or danger, or serious loss, emancipation of the few who remained might occur…. it is odious among us now, as it was with our ancestors. We only defend the domestic institution of slavery as it exists in the United States; the extension of which into any new Territory will not increase the number of the slaves by one single person, but which it is very probable may, in many instances, produce emancipation… It is not, then, for the purpose of emancipation or for the benefit of the slaves that it is sought to restrict it… “
Northern States had laws forbidding new blacks from entering their borders. In 1862 the Senate was firmly in the grips of the Republican Party. Members of that Party openly joked on the Senate floor about their own unwillingness to accommodate blacks in Northern States if freed. Read this excerpt from the speech of Republican J. R. Doolittle, of Wisconsin, on Emancipation and Colonization; delivered in the Senate of the United States, March 19, 1862:
“A very distinguished gentleman from Vermont was first elected to Congress, I believe, about 1843. One of the well to do farmers in his neighborhood called upon him, the evening before he was to leave for Washington, to pay his respects. He found him in his office, and told him that he came for that purpose, and to bid him goodbye.
‘And now, judge,’ said he, ‘when you get to Washington, I want to have you take hold of this Negro business and dispose of it in some way or other; have slavery abolished and be done with it.’
‘Well,’ said the judge, ‘as the people who owned the slaves, or claim to own them, have paid their money for them, and hold them as property under their state laws, would it not be just, if we abolish slavery, that some provision should be made to make them compensation?’
‘But,’ said the judge, ‘there is one other question; when the Negroes are emancipated, what shall be done with them? They are poor people; they will have nothing; there must be someplace for them to live. Do you think it would be any more than fair that we should take our share of them?’
‘Well, what would be our share in the town of Woodstock?’ He inquired.
The judge replied: ‘There are about 2500 people in Woodstock; and if you take the census and make the computation, you will find that there would be about one for every five white person; so that here in Woodstock our share would be about 500.’
‘What!’ Said he, ‘five hundred Negros in Woodstock! Judge, I called to pay my respect; I bid you good evening;’ and he started for the door and mounted his horse. As he was about to leave, he turned around and said, ‘judge, I guess you need not do anything more about that Negro business on my account.’ [Laughter.]
(Congressional globe, 37th Congress, 2nd session, vol. IV, appendix, page 84, col. 3)
Northern “antislavery” was, in the vast majority, an “antiblack” crusade with sectional political advantages attached. Being rid of blacks was a primary goal. Forcing emancipation, with the blacks kept bottled up in the South, would expedite colonization; or if not colonization, it was believed that confinement to the South, cut off from the cradle to grave welfare of the master, would lead to a Darwinian “dying out” of all the destitute blacks. Abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed, “The abolitionist wishes to abolish slavery, but because he wishes to abolish the black man.” To which he added, “the dark man, the black man declines… It will happen by and by, that the black man will only be destined for museums like the Dodo.” Such genocide was discussed openly by Northern Senators on the floor of the Senate. New York Senator, John Dix, for whom Ft. Dix is named, made a speech supporting the “dying out” of the slaves, to which then Senator Jeff Davis responded:
“With surprise and horror, I heard this announcement of a policy which seeks, through poverty and degradation, the extinction of a race of human beings domesticated among us. We, sir, stand in such a relation to that people as creates a feeling of kindness and protection. We have attachments which have grown with us from childhood – to the old servant who nursed us in infancy, to the man who was the companion of our childhood, and the not less tender regard for those who have been reared under our protection. To hear their extinction treated as a matter of public policy or of speculative philosophy arouses our sympathy and our indignation.”
Most Southerners were adamantly against deporting the slaves they had known from childhood. And they certainly were against the slaves being forced to “die out” landless and penniless. Which is why General Lee stated:
“The best men in the South have long desired to do away with the institution of slavery and were quite willing to see it abolished. But, unless some humane course, based on wisdom and Christian principles, is adopted, you do them great injustice in setting them free.”
It was Northern segregationist racism that forced the South to defend slavery, not out of a desire to perpetuate and extend the institution, but as a means of protecting the Southern economy and society, as well as the slaves themselves from the inhumane disaster that would have been had emancipation been confined within Southern borders alone.
A slave master quoted in the 1854 study, “A Southside View of Slavery” said, “‘If our friends at the north would devise ways in which we could dispose of these poor people FOR THEIR GOOD, I should then no longer be a ‘servant of servants.’” (Emphasis mine)
For Southerners and Northerners alike, the problem was “what to do with the negro.” The answer to that question differed greatly by section. Most Southerners sought a humane answer that would assimilate the freed people into American society across the Union. As Jeff Davis stated, “Slavery is for its end the preparation of that race for civil liberty and social enjoyment… When the time shall arrive at which emancipation is proper, those most interested will be most anxious to effect it.” Northerners were having none of that assimilation. What kept Davis’ “proper time” for emancipation arriving was Northern refusal to disperse and integrate blacks. Abolitionist Dr. Nehemiah Adams in his above-mentioned study of slavery stated regretfully:
“There are, probably, few who would not abstractly prefer free labor; but what shall be done with the blacks? There has never been a time in the history of our discussions on this subject, when, the South had expressed her willingness to part with the slaves, we at the north could have agreed in what way they should have been disposed of. Who has ever proposed a plan of relief which could in a good measure unite us? What shall be done with the blacks? On the evils of slavery all are well-informed. But as to this essential question we get no light.”
An Alabama Secession Commissioner explained why he was going to vote for secession in terms that reveals a common humane concern for the outcome to freed slaves:
“Mr. President, if pecuniary loss alone were involved in the abolition of slavery, I should hesitate long before I would give the vote I now intend to give. If the destruction of slavery entailed on us poverty alone, I could bear it, for I have seen poverty and felt its sting. But poverty, Mr. President, would be one of the least of the evils that would befall us from the abolition of African slavery. There are now in the slaveholding States over four millions of slaves; dissolve the relation of master and slave, and what, I ask, would become of that race?”
The Mississippi Declaration of Secession asserted the Southern concern for the slaves lamenting that the North, “seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.”
A British publication summed up the South’s dilemma:
“The South has hitherto clung to slavery – because it saw no way to abolish it, without cruelty to the unprepared negro… it does not fight for the maintenance of slavery, as the North pretends, and as some in Europe still believes, but for independence… the sentiment of the Southern people towards the negroes was so kindly that there was nothing in the world that could be done to ameliorate their condition that the South would not gladly undertake.” (“The Friend of India” Dec 29, 1864).
Here presented is just a small sampling of primary sources that reveal just how skewed the truth is in the popular narrative that the South seceded to “perpetuate and extend slavery,” Also skewed is the fabrication that the recalcitrant North held a sincere moral concern for the slaves when, in reality, it opposed dispersion and integration of those freed, and just wanted blacks gone! Had Lincoln not been assassinated, and had Republicans not realized that freed slaves were a potential voting block for Republican control of the South, one can only wonder in what godforsaken place the descendants of slaves would be living today, or if they would exist at all.