January 29, 1864: You may be poor, but at least you’re white
The Charleston Mercury editorializes in the familiar key of white unity in the south. Abolition can have one of three results for the poor white — being murdered by free blacks, murdering the free blacks, or (worst of all) mixing socially — even the editor only hints at mixing genetically — with free blacks. Anyone who claims the war was not fought over slavery should read this editorial.
Slaveholders and Non-Slaveholders of the South.
We believe that there is not in the world a more harmonious population than the white population of the Southern States. Every white man feels and knows that the negro is not of his race, that one race is the superior race, and he is one of the superior race. A Northerner may prate his dogma all day, of all men being equal; and may strive to persuade the white man of the South that he is on a dead level with the negro; but he will strive in vain. Facts are stronger than theories. The white man knows his superiority, and disdains the logic which would degrade him to the level of the negro. With the same privileges and rights, his affinities are with his race. All his aspirations, his security, his interests, are bound up in their destiny. Nor is he left to speculation to know the fate of white men in the community of liberated negroes. Where are the white non-slaveholders of Hayti? Slaughtered or driven out of that grand paradise of Abolitionism–where, in Port-au-Prince, there are six married couples out of a population of fifteen thousand.
Suppose the object of Northern Abolitionists then accomplished, and the four millions of slaves liberated at the South–what becomes of the poorer whites? The rich–the sagacious–will leave the country. None will remain, but those who are unable to leave it, or who do not realize the fearful terrors of their condition. A strife will arise between the white men who remain in the South and the negroes, compared with which the atrocities and crimes of ordinary wars are peace itself. The midnight glare of the incendiary’s torch will illuminate the country from one end to another; while pillage, violence, murder, poisons and rape will fill the air with the demoniac revelry of all the bad passions of an ignorant, semi-barbarous race, urged to madness by the licentious teachings of our Northern brethren. A war of races–a war of extermination–must arise, like that which took place in St. Domingo.
Or, possibly, suppose no antagonism between the two races–and harmony and identification takes place–amalgamation must be the result. There is no portion of our people who contemplate such a fate with as much horror as our white non-slaveholders–because they are the people who will be exposed to it in the wreck of our institutions. With the continuance of these institutions, not only their industrial occupations, but their political and social station–their domestic safety–the purity of their homes–is identified. And the white man of the South is as proud as the haughtiest aristocrat that walks Wall street or lives in a Fifth Avenue palace with his wife and children.
The consequence is, that there are no people in the South who abhor Abolitionists more than the non-slaveholders of the South, or who are more ready to resist their machinations. With them, it is not only the patriotic hatred of a public foe who would involve the country in convulsion and ruin, but it is also the hatred of a social, personal enemy–the Black Republican–who would force upon them the alternative either of the most terrible degradation and barbarism, or of slaughtering the negro, or being slaughtered by him, in a war of extermination.
The people of the North cannot, or will not, understand this state of things. They gloat with secret joy at the anticipations of conflicts among the citizens of the South, by which their fiendish policy will be consummated. The few negroes they have amongst them do not jostle them, in their public marts, their theatres, their ballrooms. They do not enter their households as visiting equals. They are down in holes and cellars, filling their jails and poorhouses, and coming not at all “between the wind and their nobility.”
But if Abolition meant the existence suddenly of four millions of emancipated negroes amongst their laboring population, their equals, there would not be a single Abolitionist even in New England. The doom they are ready to visit upon the poor white man of the South they would not dare to propose to the white laborer of the North. They would be crushed out, like grapes in the wine press.
Our people–slaveholders and non-slaveholders–they will find not unworthy of the great and free destiny before them. They are one in sympathy, interest and feelings. They have equal rights and privileges–one fate. They will stand together in defence of their liberties and institutions, and will yet exist at the South a powerful and prosperous confederation of commonwealths, controlling the welfare and destiny of other nations, but controlled by none.