This is nearly impossible for a certain type of Yankee to understand.
In the Old South, everyone had their place in a hierarchical society. Inequality was taken for granted. Children were not the equals of their parents. Wives were not the equals of their husbands. Slaves were not the equals of their masters. Blacks were not the equals of Whites. The common man was not the equal of the gentleman in social status. White men, however, were political and civil equals. They had the same rights under the law and to representation in the political life in the nation.
Southerners commonly distinguished between “civil equality,” “political equality” and “social equality.” The “equality” of rights that our ancestors fought for in the American Revolution was seen at the time as a great struggle between monarchy and republicanism. The question was whether we were capable of ruling ourselves in independent sovereign states. We had already been doing this for generations in the colonial legislatures. Until the aftermath of the French and Indian War, the British had tended to neglect the American colonies, which was why there was so much resentment which set off the power struggle that culminated in the American Revolution when authority was reasserted after 1763.
It never occurred to anyone in the South during the Revolutionary era that “we” meant anything other than the White men who were the political body of the colonies. By overthrowing the British monarchy, we destabilized the social order, but that was as far as our ancestors wanted it to go.
The following excerpt comes from comes from John Richard Alden’s book The South in the Revolution, 1763-1789:
“Below virtually all the Southern whites in status were virtually all the Negroes, even those who were legally free, these being scant in numbers, except in Virginia and Maryland. Although servants rather than slaves, slavery was recognized and perpetuated by Virginia law after the middle of the seventeenth century; and the example of the Old Dominion was followed by her neighbors with respect to the legal condition of the Negroes as it was in many matters. Any person born to a slave woman was by law a slave, except when manumitted, the color and legal standing of the father having no effect upon the status of his offspring. The Negro, while admittedly human, was considered by nearly all Southern whites to be a fundamentally inferior being, even when he was a mulatto descended in part from proudest white stock. Dr. Schoepf, the Hessian physician who toured the United States immediately after the War of Independence, received a shock at Hanover Courthouse in Virginia. “On a very warm mid-day (18 Decemb.) we found here a fine circle of ladies, silk-clad and tastefully coiffured, sitting about a fire. This was not so extraordinary in itself, but it was something new to me that several pretty vigorous young blacks, quite in the natural state, should be tumbling about before the party without giving scandal.” The ladies were not disturbed because it did not enter their heads that they should be attracted by Negro boys.”
Negroes had their place in the Southern social order.
Their place was thought to be at the bottom of the social pyramid. They had been brought here as slaves from Africa to be the little worker bees of their masters.
While virtually all White Southerners at the time of the American Revolution believed in the existence of racial differences, this hardly implies that the predominant attitude toward their slaves was “hate.” Far from hating them, White Southerners tended to be quite fond of their slaves. The nature of slavery as an institution necessarily cultivated a hierarchical, authoritarian social structure and a paternalistic attitude toward the negro. As long as everyone (black, white, male, female) in Southern society was performing their assigned role in their place in the social order, harmony tended to prevail.
We can argue all day about whether the Southern social contract was just or unjust. No one disputes that this is the way it was in the South at the time.
Note: In our present social order, White Southerners are at the bottom of the social order. Jews are now at the top of the social pyramid and have been joined by POC and LBGTQIA Americans with “woke” Whites holding onto a tenuous status somewhere in the middle of the social scale. The lowest rung of our social pyramid is reserved for those Whites who cling to traditional views.