Class Notes

With the growth of abolitionism, southern slave holders found the need to protect slavery more than they ever had before. They used history, religion, and biology to make a defense of slavery, but their most important weapon was paternalism. The idea of paternalism was that slaves were basically children. Just as plantation masters had to guide their own children, slaves needed the same type of guidance in their own lives. Slaves, they argued, were happier with such guidance and did not need to worry about basic necessities such as food and shelter, which were provided for. Masters knew they needed to discipline their slaves when they got out of line, just as they did for their own children. Masters convinced themselves that if they treated their slaves with kindness, that their slaves actually preferred bondage to the burden of freedom. Having this belief in paternalism is what helped slave holders sleep at night and not feel bad about owning a fellow human being.

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