Kingsley Treatise Excerpts Text

The following readings are portions of a document authored by Zephaniah Kingsley and written in 1829.

[From the “Preface”]

It will be allowed by every one, that agriculture is the great foundation of the wealth and prosperity of our Southern States. This important science has already attracted some share of attention from men of the first talents, by whose improvements in cultivation several valuable productions promise, from their superiority, to maintain a preference in foreign markets; and the recent introduction of new articles of tropical produce into the southern districts, where they bid fair to succeed, offers still greater incitements to agricultural enterprise, and opens a new and extensive range for future speculation.

While this great field of wealth and independence promises now to be well understood and duly appreciated, the primary cause and means by which alone it can be realized, has either escaped attention, or been designedly overlooked: I mean the perpetuation of that kind of labor which now produces it, and which seems best adapted, under all circumstances, to render it profitable to the Southern capitalist.

The idea of slavery, when associated with cruelty and injustice, is revolting to every philanthropic mind; but when that idea is associated with justice, and benevolence, slavery, commonly so called, easily amalgamates with the ordinary conditions of life.

To counteract the existing prejudice against slavery, by making it evident that the condition of slaves may be equally happy and more independent of the ordinary evils of life, than that of the common class of whites denominated free--that they are now equally virtuous, moral and less corrupted than the ordinary class of laboring whites:--that their labor is far more productive--that they yield more support and benefit to the State; which, under a well regulated system of management, is better fitted to endure a state of war than it would be with an equal number of free white people of ordinary means and condition; and, finally, that the slave or Patriarchal System of Society [so often commiserated as a subject of deep regret] which constitutes the bond of social compact of the Southern seaboard of the United States, is better adapted for strength, durability, and independence, than any other state of society hitherto adopted.

[From the “Notes”]

[From 1] It will reasonably be inquired, who is the writer? And how presumes he to advise in contradiction to common practice and the received opinion of ninetenths of all the slave owners of the United States? He answers that he is a slave owner, and has a right to express his opinion, having lived by planting in Florida for the last twenty-five years. He disavows all other motives but that of increasing the value of his property; moreover, he thinks that truth will support his arguments as to a subject with which he has had great opportunities of becoming well acquainted, having lived long in different slave holding countries.

[From 13] Few, I think will deny that color and condition, if properly considered, are two very separate qualities. But the fact is, that in almost every instance, our legislators, for want of due consideration, have mistaken the shadow for the substance, and confounded together two very different things; thereby substantiating by law a dangerous and inconvenient antipathy, which can have no better foundation than prejudice. It is much to be regretted that those who enact laws to regulate slaves, and free people of color, are often obliged to consult popularity rather than policy and their own good sense. If such alterations were practicable as would render slave property safe, without adopting the present system of terror, all such laws as tended to regulate plantation management, and interfere with the province of individual owners, could be repealed, property would increase in value…

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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