Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South

Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South

by Lacy K. Ford
     
 

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A major contribution to our understanding of slavery in the early republic, Deliver Us from Evil illuminates the white South's twisted and tortured efforts to justify slavery, focusing on the period from the drafting of the federal constitution in 1787 through the age of Jackson. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including newspapers, government documents,… See more details below

Overview

A major contribution to our understanding of slavery in the early republic, Deliver Us from Evil illuminates the white South's twisted and tortured efforts to justify slavery, focusing on the period from the drafting of the federal constitution in 1787 through the age of Jackson. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including newspapers, government documents, legislative records, pamphlets, and speeches, Lacy K. Ford recaptures the varied and sometimes contradictory ideas and attitudes held by groups of white southerners as they tried to square slavery with their democratic ideals. He excels at conveying the political, intellectual, economic, and social thought of leading white southerners, vividly recreating the mental world of the varied actors and capturing the vigorous debates over slavery. He also shows that there was not one antebellum South but many, and not one southern white mindset but several, with the debates over slavery in the upper South quite different in substance from those in the deep South. In the upper South, where tobacco had fallen into comparative decline by 1800, debate often centered on how the area might reduce its dependence on slave labor and "whiten" itself, whether through gradual emancipation and colonization or the sale of slaves to the cotton South. During the same years, the lower South swirled into the vortex of the "cotton revolution," and that area's whites lost all interest in emancipation, no matter how gradual or fully compensated. An ambitious, thought-provoking, and highly insightful book, Deliver Us from Evil makes an important contribution to the history of slavery in the United States, shedding needed light on the white South's early struggle to reconcile slavery with its Revolutionary heritage.

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Editorial Reviews

Ira Berlin
For Lacy K. Ford, the division between the states of the upper South (Virginia along with the border slave states) and those of the lower South (South Carolina and the cotton-producing states to its south and west) best explains how white Southerners "understood their position with regard to slavery, and how they saw themselves as citizens of the United States right down to secession and Civil War"…Ford painstakingly unravels the divergent perspectives on slavery, making Deliver Us From Evil required reading for anyone interested in the development of Southern society.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
That “southern white views on the slavery question varied across space and changed over time” may not appear to be news, yet through depth, detail and focus, Ford's comprehensive study forges a fresh path. Crosscutting along geographical lines, separating the upper and lower South, Ford (Origins of Southern Radicalism) follows a chronological trail between 1787 and 1840 as he focuses on “the evolution of white attitudes and slaveholder ideology over time.” While the historical detail is engrossing, Ford's eye remains on the consequences of events upon the emerging ideology. As upper South advocates of “whitening the region” instigated “a demographic reconfiguration of slavery,” for example, selling their slaves to the lower South, the lower South's ideological restructuring replaced coercion with paternalism. Ford's monumental book delineates a “twisted and tortured” intellectual history; signs of his mastery of previous scholarship and his immersion in fresh primary sources abound. Formidable detail threatens to overwhelm, but Ford's lucid prose and summary introductions illuminate the way. Lay readers will appreciate his guidance, and academic readers will find his revelations groundbreaking. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In this trenchant study of "the slavery question" from the early republic to the Jacksonian Age, Ford (history, Univ. of South Carolina) tracks the evolution of the South's thinking about slavery. Upper South whites moved from ambivalence toward the idea of slavery as a threat to the Republic to seeking to diffuse slaves farther south. Lower South whites sought to secure more slaves through the foreign slave trade, but worried about becoming overwhelmed by too many black slaves. Slave rebellions and abolitionist efforts caused Southern whites to reassess their positions on slavery. What emerged, argues Ford in his most provocative section, was a Southern paternalism that bound upper and lower Southerners together in a common rationale for maintaining slavery. An ideology of white supremacy assured planters control over other whites amid a rising political democracy. VERDICT Ford's book does not supplant earlier treatments, such as Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's The Mind of the Master Class, but it does provide an intricate, textured argument about the intellectual, social, and political interests shaping "the slavery question," as well as a reminder that Southern white commitment to a hardened proslavery position was not preordained or one-dimensional. Essential for all students of this subject.—Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
From the Publisher
"Ford's study is a quick and enjoyable read. Students especially will welcome the way he sets up his argument in each section and then summarizes neatly at the end of each chapter...This should remain the definitive work for years to come on why white Southerners ultimately declined to deliver themselves from the evils of slavery." —Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Ford painstakingly unravels the divergent perspectives on slavery, making 'Deliver Us From Evil' required reading for anyone interested in the development of Southern society... In dismissing the stale notions that slaveholder paternalism developed from the ancient habit of noblesse oblige or from the peculiar conditions of Southern slavery, Ford makes his most important contribution to our understanding of the development of Southern society."—Ira Berlin, New York Times Book Review

"...through depth, detail and focus, Ford's comprehensive study forges a fresh path.... the historical detail is engrossing.... Ford's monumental book delineates a "twisted and tortured" intellectual history; signs of his mastery of previous scholarship and his immersion in fresh primary sources abound.... Ford's lucid prose and summary introductions illuminate the way. Lay readers will appreciate his guidance, and academic readers will find his revelations groundbreaking."—Publishers Weekly" (starred review)


"Ford's book... does provide an intricate, textured argument about the intellectual, social, and political interests shaping "the slavery question".... Essential for all students of this subject."—Library Journal

"Rarely has anyone heard this case made with the force and detail that Lacy K. Ford, chairman of the University of South Carolina's history department, has pulled together in his important new work... Those seeking the slaves' perspective won't find much here, as the author readily notes up front, but there's arguably no single better book for anyone wishing to explore the mind-set that kept them in chains."—Charleston Post & Courier

"[A] long-awaited, heavily documented, and precisely argued study." —H-Law

"Ford's vitally important book reminds us of the complicated calculus employed by white southerners to answer various 'slavery questions' over southern time and space." —North Carolina Historical Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199751082
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
01/01/1999
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
644,275
File size:
3 MB

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