“We begin a great conservative reaction. We attempt to roll back the Reformation in all its phases.”
– George Fitzhugh, 1863
George Fitzhugh’s “The Counter Current, or Slavery Principles” appeared in the July 1856 edition of DeBow’s Review.
“The tendency of modern civilization is to beget one public opinion throughout Christendom. …
We think we perceive already unmistakeable evidence that a counter current of thought has already originated. Like all such reactions of opinion, it has been occasioned by experimental demonstrations of the fallacy and inadequacy of existing theories, and of practices founded on those theories. The great socialist and communist movement of the day, which is coextensive with free society, whilst it has not yet invoked the reestablishment of domestic slavery, asserts, in a thousand forms, the utter failure of existing social institutions, which have arisen from the ruins of feudal servitude. …
We have, then, the almost unanimous testimony of men of all conditions, that free society is a failure, is intolerable, and requires total subversion and reconstruction. This is, of itself, a mighty reactionary movement in favor of slavery …
The slavery principle is a necessary and universal principle of government, and is the opposite of the let alone, or Laissez faire doctrine, of the political economists. The only difference that can exist between us and the abolitionists is this: are the negroes, as a class, weak, helpless, improvident or dependent, like women and children, and therefore, as a class, to be subjected to slavery; or are they fitted generally for the offices and functions of masters?
We presume that very few will not be willing to admit that the negroes are not fitted for the unrestricted liberties of white men. All men, whose opinions are worth considering, will agree, that more of the slavery principle should be adopted in the government of negroes than of white men. The question, then, as to the status of negroes, is narrowed down to this: is the kind of slavery to which he is subjected the proper and necessary one, looking to his moral and intellectual wants and capacities? He is certainly improving, and his bonds relaxes everywhere as he improves. We believe that nature best adapts and modifies slavery to suit its subjects, but are quite willing to see the subject discussed, how far it would be proper to define by law the obligations of the master and the rights of the slave?”
Note: George Fitzhugh was a Southern political theorist who broke with the dominant liberal paradigm and articulated a radical conservative defense of slave society. He is the author of Cannibals All!, or Slaves Without Masters and Sociology for the South, or, The Failure of Free Society and a key figure in what has been described as The Reactionary Enlightenment.