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A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701–1840

Title Details

Pages: 528

Illustrations: 28 photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.250in



Pub Date: 09/01/2004

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2396-1

List Price: $36.95


Pub Date: 11/15/2018

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5583-2

List Price: $104.95


A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701–1840

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Probing at the very core of the American political consciousness from the colonial period through the early republic, this thorough and unprecedented study by Larry E. Tise suggests that American proslavery thought, far from being an invention of the slave-holding South, had its origins in the crucible of conservative New England.

Proslavery rhetoric, Tise shows, came late to the South, where the heritage of Jefferson's ideals was strongest and where, as late as the 1830s, most slaveowners would have agreed that slavery was an evil to be removed as soon as possible. When the rhetoric did come, it was often in the portmanteau of ministers who moved south from New England, and it arrived as part of a full-blown ideology. When the South finally did embrace proslavery, the region was placed not at the periphery of American thought but in its mainstream.

Historians generally associate proslavery thought and rhetoric with the Old South, seeing it as the response of self-interested planters to the threats of abolitionism . . . Through extensive research, Tise makes a compelling case that the proslavery arguments of the Old South were neither unique nor stated with greater conviction than in other parts of the nation. He finds the roots of proslavery thought among New England's Federalists and conservative ministers, men who feared slave rebellion and doubted the wisdom of the libertarian ideology of the American Revolution . . . A clearly written, closely argued thesis built on thorough use of primary sources.


Tise here studies the 'proslavery ideology, a mode of thinking . . . and a system of symbols that expressed the social, cultural and moral values of a large portion of the American population' in the first half of the 19th century . . . Tise chronicles a constant stream of books, articles, pamphlets and sermons—his chapter on the growth of proslavery arguments by clergy, usually derived from narrow interpretations of Scripture, is illuminating—and builds to a remarkable and probably controversial exploration of the 'proslavery Republicanism,' which he sees as the full flowering of the conservative Federalist viewpoint that had only temporarily been defeated by America's founding fathers when they framed our Constitution.

Publishers Weekly

Tise challenges everything that has long been held sacred by historians of the proslavery movement. Moreover, he offers us not simply a revisionist but a revolutionary thesis. He has severed proslavery from slavery and found its home in the very place where others had detected the origins of abolitionism. Most significantly, Tise has redefined proslavery thought

—Kenneth S. Greenberg, American Historical Review


Herbert Feis Award, American Historical Association

About the Author/Editor

LARRY E. TISE, author or editor of several books on southern history, is director of the Benjamin Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.