Last night, Tucker Carlson took on the subject of slavery on his Fox News show. Slavery is evil, he noted. However, slavery permeated the ancient world, he said, as reflected in the on-screen graphics.
On Twitter, recent University of Toronto English Ph.D. graduate Anthony Oliveira noted, “Here's Tucker Carlson right now on Fox making the *exact* pro-slavery case (bad but status-quo and well-precedented) made 160 years ago.”
It sounds like a particular variety of Twitter gallows humor, not meant to be taken quite seriously. But it is not a joke.
This precise series of ostensible mitigating factors around the institution of American slavery were, in fact, advanced by pro-slavery forces through the 19th century. And it got me wondering: Given that The Atlantic was founded as an abolitionist magazine before the Civil War, might there be an article or two that might address Carlson’s warmed-over proto-Confederate arguments?
And indeed, there are.
Take Carlson’s bullet point, “Until 150 years ago, slavery was rule.”
Well, yes. Slavery was legal in some American states. But how did this happen, especially when other countries began abolishing slavery early in the 19th century? In our second issue, Edmund Quincy put his pen to “Where Will It End?” And he doesn’t mess around. Slavers had power because they went on bloody conquests to open up new territory for slavery.
The baleful influence thus ever shed by Slavery on our national history and our public men has not yet spent its malignant forces. It has, indeed, reached a height which a few years ago it was thought the wildest fanaticism to predict; but its fatal power will not be stayed in the mid-sweep of its career ... Slavery presiding in the Cabinet, seated on the Supreme Bench, absolute in the halls of Congress—no man can say what shape its next aggression may not take to itself. A direct attack on the freedom of the press and the liberty of speech at the North, where alone either exists, were no more incredible than the later insolences of its tyranny ... The rehabilitation of the African slave-trade is seriously proposed and will be furiously urged, and nothing can hinder its accomplishment but its interference with the domestic manufactures of the breeding Slave States ... Mighty events are at hand, even at the door; and the mission of them all will be to fix Slavery firmly and forever on the throne of this nation.
Indeed, in the early days of The Atlantic, the violent battle over whether Kansas would become a slave state raged. In the “Kansas Usurpation,” from Issue 4, our author details the endless skulduggery that slavers perpetrated “to force the evils of slavery upon a people who cannot and will not endure them.”