In Caroline Hentz's The Planter's Northern Bride (1859), Eulalia, the daughter of an New England abolitionist, has married a slave owner and traveled with him to his home in Georgia. Here's what she sees. Warning: be prepared to be shocked and revolted.
"All around, far as the eye could reach, the rich rolling fields of cotton, bearing the downy wealth of the South, stretched out a boundless ocean of green, spotted with white, like the foam of the wave. Soon returning in grand march from the fields, came the negroes, poising on their heads immense baskets, brimming with the light and flaky cotton. Little children looking very much like walking semicolons, toddled along, balancing their baskets also, with an air of self-importance and pride. Eulalia recollected all the horrible stories she had heard of negro insurrections, and thought what an awful thing it was to be at the mercy of so many slaves, on that lonely plantation. When she saw her husband going out among them, and they closed round, shutting him in as with a thick cloud, she asked herself if her were really safe. They gathered around him, eager to get within reach of his hand, the sound of his voice, the glance of his kind, protecting, yet commanding eye. More like a father welcomed by his children than a king greeted by his subjects, he stood, the centre of that sable ring. She had never seen him look so handsome, so noble, so good. As she looked at her husband, standing in their midst, the representative of the fair sons of Japheth, wearing on his brow the signet of a loftier, nobler destiny, every lineament and feature expressive of intellect and power, and then at each of that dark, lowly throng, she felt a conviction that freedom, in its proudest latitude, education with its most exalted privileges, could never make them equal to him. She never dreamed that slavery could present an aspect so tender and affectionate. Do the hundreds and thousands buried in the black coal-pits and wretched dens of Great Britain, who have never heard, in their living graves, of the God who created, the Saviour who redeemed them, pass their sunless lives in greater comfort or fuller enjoyment."
Hey, it's good to be a slave. Apparently. "Tender and affectionate????
I was aware that there were anti-Uncle Tom's Cabin novels, designed to showcase the glories of slavery, but I had never read one. The Planter's Northern Bride is supposedly one of the best of the genre. It has the power to make you despair for the intelligence of the entire human race. Some samples:
"Merry voices singing in the fields of labour or filling up the pauses of toil...."
"The joyful songs and exhilarating laughter of our slaves...."
"The negro has an intense appreciation of beauty and grace, and feels the influence of mental superiority."
"You will see the negro, not as he is at the North, an isolated, degraded being, without caste or respectability, a single black line running through a web of whiteness, but surrounded with the socialities of life, and though doomed to labour, yet free from the cares and anxieties that rest so heavily on us."
Here are the words that Caroline Hentz puts in the mouth of one of Eulalia's slaves.
"I tell you what, Crissy, when de nigger have good massa and good miss, dey well off. When dey have bad massa and missis, dey bad off. Talk 'bout us being on a 'quality with white folks, no such ting. De Lord never made us look like dem. We mustn't be angry wid de Lord, for all dat: He knows best, I 'spise. Look a'me, black as de chimney back, -- dey, white as snow; what great, big, thick, ugly lips I got, -- dere's look jist like roses. Den dis black sheep head, what de Lord make dat for? Dey got putey, soft, long hair, just like de silk ribbons. Now look at dat big long heel, will you?" added Judy, putting out her bare foot in the moonshine, giggling and shaking; "who ever saw de white lady with sich a heel as dat? I do wonder what the Lord made us nigger for? I spect de white dust gin out, and he had to take de black."
Slavery deformed society. Arguments in support of slavery deformed the intellect. The attempt to find supernatural sanction for slavery perverted religion. Slavery incapacitated the slaveholding states. One hundred and fifty years after slavery, they have still not caught up and they are still pulling the country down.
Does Caroline Hentz believe the words that she puts on paper? I believe she does. I believe that she makes these observations and arguments with total sincerity. I also believe that the kind of utterances to which she gives vent, though no longer respectable, no longer made in public, are not dead but continue to appear in VFW halls, in bowling alleys, in union halls, and in truck stops all over the land of the free and the home of the brave.