The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities
Return to Comparison Statements: Campaign of 1860

In the first half of 1860 Democratic editors in Franklin County emphasized slavery's compatibility with the Northern economy and society and Northern complicity in the South's institution.

Editors of the Valley Spirit denied that slavery was a political question. Republicans, they argued, were responsible for injecting the slavery question into politics purely to advance their partisan ends. Slavery, they suggested, made Northerners more wealthy and secure, since business in Pennsylvania depended on Southern products produced with enslaved labor. "If Slavery be a crime," the Democrats charged, "let him who thinks so keep his hands free from it; let him say before God and man that he will have no part in it." Such a position seemed impossible to the Democrats, and yet, they argued, the Republicans holier-than-thou pronouncements suggested as much. Slavery, the Democrats responded, was so tightly interwoven, so much a part of nearly every product, good, service, and enterprise in the American economy that it was folly to suggest one could stand apart from it, clean and untainted. Democrats saw the Republicans and those who voted for them as nothing less than two-faced. Pittsburgh, the Democrats charged, was a fine example of these Northern hypocrites; they vote Republican "for the sole purpose of opposing slavery, as the numerous plows, chains, bells, pumps, engines, and coal, which she sends down to New Orleans to be bought by slaveholders and paid for by the money which slaveholders make by slave labor."

Democratic editors furthermore tried to portray those who criticized slavery as the modern equivalent of the man in Jesus' parables who would point out the speck in the eye of another while failing to see the log in his own eye. At every turn the Democrats charged the abolitionists for this sin, and their criticism knew few boundaries. They pointed to the "professed humanitarians" in England and suggested that they "look to their own deplorable system of slavery" before they went about meddling with "our more humane institutions." When they looked south, the Democratic editors saw a system of slavery that was very much like what "we in the North do of any business transactions; it is like the apprentice system of the North."

Supporting Evidence

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, Save the Union, January 25, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, Food for Mercantile Digestion, February 1, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, White Slavery in England, April 18, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, Jefferson and the Black Republicans, May 9, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, The Folly of Dividing the Democratic Party about Abstractions, May 16, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, Slave Labor in Charleston [sic], May 16, 1860

Related Historiography

Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970).
William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, Volume 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).
Eugene D. Genovese, "Yeomen Farmers in a Slaveholders' Democracy," Agricultural History 49, no. 2, (April 1975).
John W. Quist, Restless Visionaries: The Social Roots of Antebellum Reform in Alabama and Michigan (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998).

Citation: Key = TAF38
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