Graham Sumner On Slavery I


Graham Sumner On Slavery

Graham Sumner writing in 1902 title Folklore. A perspective from a different time and place. Sumner was a remarkable prescient writer. This is from a chapter examining the history of slavery. P. 306, topic 312: The Future Of Slavery:

In the eighteenth century, in western Europe, there was a moral revolt against slavery. None of the excuses, or palliatives, were thought to be good. The English, by buying the slaves on their West India islands, took the money loss on themselves, but they threw back the islands to economic decay and enculturation. When the civilized world sees what its ideas and precepts have made of Hayti, it must be forced to doubt its own philosophy. The same view has spread. Slavery is now considered impossible, socially and politically evil and so not available for economic gain, even if it could win that. It is the only case in the history of the mores where the so-called moral motive has been made controlling. Whether it will remain in control is a question. The Germans, in the administration of their colonies, sneer at humanitarianism and eighteenth century social philosophy. They incline to the doctrine that all men must do their share in the world and come into the great modern industrial and commercial organization. They look around for laborers for their islands and seem disposed to seek them in the old way. In South Africa and in our own southern states the question of sanitary and police control is arising to present a new difficulty. Are free men free to endanger peace, order and health? Is a low and abandoned civilization free to imperil a high civilization, and entitled to freedom to do so? The humanitarians of the nineteenth century did not settle anything. The contact of two races and two civilizations cannot bed settle by any dogma. Evidence is presented every day that the problems are not settled and cannot be settled by dogmatic and sentimental generalities. Is not a sentiment made ridiculous when it is offered as a rule of action to a man who does not understand it and does not respond to it? In general, in the whole western Sahara district slaves are as much astonished to be told that their relation to the owners is wrong, and that they ought to break it, as boys amongst us would be to be told that their relation to their fathers was wrong and ought to be broken.

Actually slavery is the same as cradle to grave social welfare, while being impossible to maintain because as the population grows the expense of maintaining the slave community becomes unsupportable. Of the population perhaps only a third are producers but all have to be maintained in a reasonable manner, housed, clothed and fed. It become necessary to sell off the excess population. The South was headed for trouble. The slaves had to be freed to spare the Aryans.

But then, as Sumner points out, other problems arise. He apparently foresaw the hideous state of affairs in Zimbabwe and South Africa where AIDS and other health problems run riot. But no one wants to talk about that.



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