Quote of the day—David Hackett Fischer

Race slavery did not create the culture of the southern colonies. That culture created slavery.

David Hackett Fischer
1989
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: A Cultural History)
[See also this post about the same book.—Joe]

16 thoughts on “Quote of the day—David Hackett Fischer

    • I was about going to say. Slavery was a tradition we imported from Africa, who probably got it somewhere else in turn.

      • Slavery is older than recorded history. It would thus be hard to say where it came from, but if the human race came out of Africa, then OK, slavery came out of Africa.

        I would point out also that Slavery in America was not peculiar to the South. The Emancipation Proclamation “freed” only those slaves held in states which were in active rebellion. The Northern states kept their slaves all through the War and beyond, until the ratification of the 13th amendment in late 1865. General Grant’s estate at White Haven (like the name?) still had slaves during the War.

        • Yup, pretty much. I can’t think of any nation or city-state that explicitly outlawed slavery 500 years ago. There may be one or two, but not many, and not major or long-lasting. Even today parts of Africa, the ME, Asia, and elsewhere have it as a defacto situation, if a quiet one, regardless of what the law officially says.

  1. I have no idea what the quote is supposed to mean, but there are clearly some unspoken assumptions about the southern colonies.

    • but the quote begs questions.
      1 Is he actually that stupid that he thinks slavery actually started in the southern colonies?
      2 Does he think those who read that book are that stupid as well?

      • On politically-charged issues such as slavery, the ignorance runs deep. School books have been pushing one agenda or another for the last 150 years at least. Facts, and especially nuanced context, is the last thing most people really want.

  2. Yes slavery existed long before the southern colonies existed. There was some context missing. Sorry about that. It was perfectly obvious to me when I pulled that quote from the book but looking at it from what must be your viewpoint I can see it is very perplexing.

    The context is that you would be hard pressed to imagine the cultures of the other colonies using slaves to solve the problems which the southern colonies used them for. For example, imagine the Quakers owning slaves. The people of the south had problems with high heat, high humidity, and tropical diseases. The African slaves were more tolerant to the climate and besides, in the slave owner’s mind, they were replaceable like any other animal if they died.

    The southern colony culture was extremely class oriented even within their white communities. They saw it as the natural order of things for them to be above anyone with lesser wealth, power, or heritage.

    Apparently there has been speculation among some historians that the use of slaves created the extreme class sensitivity of those people. It is the thesis of this author that the people were highly sensitive to class in their native area of England before they arrived in the southern colonies and this class based culture “created” slavery in the south rather than the use of slaves forming the culture.

  3. The whole idea that the war between the states was fought over slavery is total BS. lincoln really didn’t give much of a damn about the slaves.
    It was fought over economic oppression of the southern states by the more industrialized northeastern states through the burgeoning federal government.
    Slavery would have ended soon without the war, simply due to mechanization and the economics of keeping slaves.
    Lincoln was a tyrant, violated the constitution over and over, and was responsible for the deaths of nearly a million Americans. Rather than being revered, he should be despised more than Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden only killed a few thousand Americans. Compared to Lincoln, he was a piker.

    • Are you saying there was no such thing as “Bleeding Kansas”? Or that if it did happen it was about economic oppression? And are you saying that anti-slavery sentiment wasn’t a significant component of the support for the war on the northern side? And how do you explain the southern secession resolutions adopted by many of the states which explicitly stated they were leaving to protect their right to hold slaves? And what of the politicians who wrote of the great tension between the states on the issue of slavery and the use of force to preserve it?

      Yes, Lincoln was a tyrant. And he used the slavery issue to gain support for the war rather than his main reason for the war (preservation of the union). But saying the war didn’t have a significant slavery component is to overlook overwhelming historical evidence.

      • What I’m saying is that slavery had very little to do with Lincoln’s motivation for the war. As you state, it was a tool he used as an excuse and to gain some political support.

        • The south took the first actions with the secession and the first shots. One of their main motivations was the preservation of slavery. It is no stretch to claim the war started because of slavery.

          • No. The biggest issue was the north was tariffs, taxes, and other economic oppression from the federal govt, dominated by thy NE states.

  4. Actually, the “Southern culture” that institutionalized slavery was British. They imported the whole idea from Barbados. Carolina was an attempt at transferring sugar cane production to the northern colonies. They ended up with rice instead.

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