I am interested in understanding the psychology of how humans could have convinced themselves that slavery is alright. To this end, I am looking for any recorded public debates on the subject from any time period after or during the 17th century.

  • 2
    You might find this useful. Lectures on The Philosophy and Practice of Slavery gutenberg.org/files/41019/41019-h/41019-h.htm
    – TheHonRose
    Sep 19 '16 at 17:09
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    The Lincoln-Douglass debates of 1858 spring to mind. I believe they were all reprinted in newspapers at the time, so full texts of them should be easily available.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 19 '16 at 17:56
  • Lots of "good" stuff if you google "biblical defense of slavery"
    – AllInOne
    Sep 19 '16 at 18:01
  • Slavery was a common institution from time immemorial. Hence it required arguments to show it immoral or economically counterproductive, not the otherway around. Sep 20 '16 at 10:13
  • Reference requests are frowned upon in H:SE - you might want to review the discussion in meta and revise your question to fit the advice there. You might also want to do some preliminary research - the sources suggested by T.E.D & Conrad Turner should have been discussed in the question.
    – MCW
    Sep 20 '16 at 12:08

For millenniums, humans did not need to convince themselves that slavery is allright. Nobody objected slavery in general, people just did not like to be slaves personally. Relatively modern idea that “all man are created equal” demanded explanation of slavery existence. Last and most vocal proponents of slavery in civilized world were USA slave owners.

1. John C. Calhoun

February 06, 1837

“I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good–a positive good” http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/slavery-a-positive-good/

2. Supreme Court of the United States

Dred Scott v. Sandford (Dred Scott decision), March 6, 1857

"They had... been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sandford#Opinion_of_the_Court

3. Alexander H. Stephens, vice-president of CSA

“Corner Stone” Speech

Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861

“The prevailing ideas entertained by him (Thomas Jefferson - A. Barhavin) and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth” http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/cornerstone-speech/


Remember that all societies have institutionalization. People today who are considered mentally retarded, criminal, and so forth are placed in an institution. Indeed they are sometimes given work as in slavery. Furthermore, liberal societies could be considered to be wage slave societies as well.

You can read more here about how Marx considered slave labor to be no worse than any other type of labor.

  • This reads a lot more like a bunch of opinions than any kind answer. The only source is a link to a fairly unrelated article about Marx.
    – rougon
    Sep 24 '16 at 2:27

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