When narrator Joe Salant posted the audio to Chapter 5 of The Problem of Slavery in Christian America, he amused me with the over-the-top description of it as “unadulterated ethical judicial American history idol smashing fun.” I thought I would probe his passion for it a little bit, and he responded:
Goodness, chapter five was a firestorm. The idol of the Constitution was burned down for good, as it was made irrefutable, at the very least, that for all practical purposes, the Constitution produced a proslavery settlement.
The chapter kicked off with William Lloyd Garrison’s burning of the Constitution as a “Covenant with Death,” and followed up with a dog pile of hard hitting, brutal facts detailing how openly plain the racist pro slavery forces were in their assertions that slavery was the natural state of blacks and whites should own them in perpetuity, and how the pro slavery political masterminds used the Constitution to entrench this massive injustice in national policy.
John C. Calhoun and Roger Taney emerge from this chapter as horrible stains on America’s racist historical landscape, but they are obvious names. I was surprised to see conservative icon Joseph Story join them in infamy for his neutrality (at best) in the face of evil on the Story court.
Perhaps the historical cherry on the top from this chapter, the nugget that really puts it all in perspective, was how it was a culturally acceptable phenomenon that particular wealthy American slavers, such as “The Knights of the Golden Circle,” sought a “slave empire” in the Caribbean and Latin America, as late as the mid 1800s.
As little as four generations ago in America, elites were dreaming of a vast machine of black slaves to drive them to a permanent empire of Solomonic proportions, somewhere free of the harassment of meddling abolitionists. And it was something that could be casually discussed in public, like a conversation about Bitcoin in a coffee shop today.
The first quote that you selected from Hammond’s “Mud Sill” speech really embodies the racist worldview of the day, the view that was the cultural default:
“In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. at is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill.”
And there is tons more. I highly recommend you listen and get your copy for study today. You will not only not be disappointed, you will be challenged, and changed.