I’ll let a pro-secession paper in Virginia speak for itself…
Nothing could be more preposterous, nothing more stupid, than the dogma that slavery is a curse to the country. On the contrary, the heaviest calamity that could befall any slave State on this continent, the greatest curse that an angry Providence could inflict upon the South, would be the destruction of its slave institution. The North ascribe its own rapid increase in population and wealth chiefly to the immigration of foreigners; and does so with reason. The foreigner comes over, in the general, destitute, obliged to work, and willing to labor with his own hands. The Yankee lives upon his wits; but the foreign laborer is a real producer–he works with his own hands, he digs the earth, and he produces food for his own consumption as well as for that of his Yankee taskmaster. Well may the North ascribe its prosperity in a great degree to the immigrant; for that individual becomes a producer from the outset, and not until he accumulates a little capital by his manual industry, does he imitate the Yankee, resort to his wits for a livelihood, and resolve himself into a consumer.
It is from immigration that the North derives its chief want, its most exigent desideratum–labor, manual labor; dirt digging, soil tilling labor; the labor decreed against man by the curse of Eden; the labor that brings to his brow the dust and the sweat. Various are the devices which the Yankee contrives to avoid, himself, this sweat of the brow–machines without number, factories where women and girls are made to work in droves; ligneous nutmegs and hams; protective tariffs, and like inventions. But the influx of penniless immigrants from Europe, was the Yankee’s godsend–poor, necessitous, stout, sinewy immigrants, used to privation and toil, willing to labor with their hands, anxious to barter their service for mere bread. But the evil of immigrant labor is, that it is not permanent. Industry in our flourishing country soon brings its reward of accumulated means and easy competency. The humble, industrious immigrant soon grows too well-to-do to be willing or obliged to sweat and toil longer. His service at the shovel and the hoe is but an apprenticeship of a few years, at the end of which he becomes, in his turn, an imployer [sic] and consumer, rather than a laboring producer.
It is this windfall of labor by the millions, pouring into the North during the last twenty years, that has been the leading agent in the rapid development and great prosperity of that section. It remained at the North because it was wanted there. It did not come South, because we had it already.–The defect of this species of labor is its want of permanency–is the fact that it is not (as to the individual) a life time service, but a mere apprenticeship of a few years–Virginia contains half a million of life time laborers, descendants of Ham, doubly decreed to service by the divine edicts pronounced against Adam and Canaan–to service for life, service in perpetuity–Suppose that, by some fell decree, every laboring immigrant in the North were suddenly swept from that stiff necked land, who will estimate the thousand millions of loss that would be instantly inflicted upon all its busy interests? Labor, labor, is the jewel of great price in a nation’s casket.–Labor is the bread and breath of a State.
It is proposed to bind Virginia to a political association that will impede her labor like a pestilence. It is proposed to chain her to a destiny that at once exiles from her borders the grandest body of productive labor to be found in any State upon the globe. It is proposed, by allying the mother of States to the emigrants of New England, not merely to make her an alien and an enemy to her daughters of the South, but to bereave her of her institution of African labor, a handmaid that was born and fostered with her, that has attended her from youth to age, and to whose faithful and efficient service she owes all her comeliness and comfort.
To show the productive value of this slave system to Virginia, we have only to contrast the property values of those counties within her borders which have few slaves, with those which have many slaves. There could not be a better exponent of the wealth of each than the taxes levied upon them by the Commonwealth; for except the inconsiderable stipend which is levied per capita, these taxes are all levied directly in proportion to the values existing in the counties, which values are the product exclusively of the labor operating in those counties. For the purpose of exhibiting this contrast we have coupled together in eight or ten pairs, a county from the nonslaveholding portion of the State and a county from the slaveholding, bringing together such as contain nearly equal numbers of white inhabitants. It will be found that in every one of the cases adduced below, (and we will extend the remark without fear of contradiction that in every case which can be adduced at all,) the amount of the taxes paid by the slaveholding county is more than double, often treble, that paid by the county having few or no slaves. In each couple given, the first is a Western, the second an Eastern county:
|Difference paid by slave labor in Halifax = $36,425|
|Difference paid by slave labor in Rappahannock County = $10,400|
|King & Queen||3,801||$17,997|
|Difference paid by slave labor in King and Queen County = $9,498|
|Difference paid by slavery in Buckingham County = $15,884|
|Difference paid by slavery in Mecklenberg County = $27,914|
|Difference paid by slavery in Sussex County = $10,088|
|Difference paid by slavery in Nelson County = $14,984 [sic]|
|Difference paid by slavery in Prince Edward County = $14,608|
|Difference paid by slavery in Nottoway County = $14,603|
|Difference paid by slavery in Middlesex County = $8,163|
|Warwick||(half as many) 662||$3,577|
|Difference paid by slavery in Warwick County = $1,310|
Could there be a more striking illustration of the productive power of slave labor than the foregoing figures afford? Could there be more conclusive proof of their value to the State, and to every interest in the State? The taxes it pays are but the index of the property it has earned for the taxation to be levied upon. The taxes it pays are but a general fund annually contributed to the Treasury of the Commonwealth, in which every citizen, be he resident upon the Ohio or the Holston, has as direct an interest as the Eastern planter. And yet the submissionists of Virginia propose to fix her in a condition to be abruptly robbed of this labor. Worse than Abolitionists, they are willing to be parricides.
From the Richmond Dispatch, reprinted in the April 12, 1861 edition of the Staunton Vindicator (the pro-secession paper in Staunton, Virginia).
**Keep in mind that this is presented to show the thinking of a pro-secessionist newspaper in Virginia in April 1861. Consider the piece as it was written at the time, and what the objective of such writings would have been, at that time. What did they have concerns about, and why? Also, does it sound as if gradual emancipation was something that might even remotely be considered, then, or in the future?
***Once again, primary source material courtesy of the Valley of the Shadow.