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"Professor Hedrick's Defence," North Carolina Standard, October 4, 1856

Title

"Professor Hedrick's Defence," North Carolina Standard, October 4, 1856

Description

In August 1856, the North Carolina Standard launched an attack against UNC professor Benjamin Hedrick due to his open for support for John Fremont an anti-slavery Republican presidential candidate. In response to the newspaper's attack Hedrick, a native North Carolinian, published an editorial in defense of his support for Fremont and to clarify his position on the slavery question. Hedrick opposed the spread of slavery into the western territories, arguing that halting its expansion would prevent "the carrying away of slaves who may be more profitably employed at home." This argument claims that stopping the expansion of slavery, not eliminating it all together, would profit the southern states who already had an abundance of land and lacked a labor force large enough to maintain it. Hedrick's editorial appears to be an attempt to maintain his political affiliations while still appealing to his fellow white North Carolinians.

Creator

Benjamin Hedrick

Source

UNC School of Education, "Benjamin Hedrick's Defense,"Learn NC: North Carolina Digital History, http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-antebellum/4494 (accessed February 7, 2012).

Date

1856-10-04

Contributor

Miller, Jennifer

Type

Document

Coverage

Raleigh, North Carolina
Wake County, North Carolina

Original Format

Newspaper Article

Text

To make the matter short, I say I am in favor of the election of Fremont to the Presidency; and these are my reasons for my preference:

1st. Because I like the man. He was born and educated at the South. He has lived at the North and the West, and therefore has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with our whole people, — an advantage not possessed by his competitors. He is known and honored both at home and abroad. He has shown his love of his country by unwavering devotion to its interests.…

2d. Because Fremont is on the right side of the great question which now disturbs the public peace. Opposition to slavery extension is neither a Northern or a sectional ism. It originated with the great Southern statesmen of the Revolution. Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Madison, and Randolph were all opposed to slavery in the abstract, and were all opposed to admitting it into new territory.… Many of these great men were slaveholders; but they did not let self interest blind them to the evils of the system. Jefferson says that slavery exerts an evil influence both upon the whites and the blacks; but he was opposed to the abolition policy, by which the slaves would be turned loose among the whites. In his autobiography he says: “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free; nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, can not live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion have drawn indelible lines between them.” Among the evils which he says slavery brings upon the whites, is to make them tyranical and idle. “With the morals of the people their industry also is destroyed. For in a warm climate no man will labor for himself who can make another labor for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed, are ever seen to labor.” What was true in Jefferson’s time is true now.… No longer ago than 1850, Henry Clay declared in the Senate — “I never can, and never will vote, and no earthly power ever will make me vote to spread slavery over territory where it does not exist.” At the same time that Clay was opposed to slavery, he was, like Fremont, opposed to the least interference by the general government in the States where it exists. Should there be any interference with subjects belonging to State policy, either by other States or by the federal government, no one will be more ready than myself, to defend the “good old North,” my native State. But, with Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Henry, Randolph, Clay, and Webster for political teachers, I cannot believe that slavery is preferable to freedom, or that slavery extension is one of the constitutional rights of the South.… [W]hen “Alumnus” talks of “driving me out” for sentiments once held by these great men, I cannot help thinking that he is becoming rather fanatical.…

Of my neighbors, friends, and kindred, nearly one-half have left the State since I was old enough to remember. Many is the time I have stood by the loaded emigrant wagon, and given the parting hand to those whose face I was never to look upon again. They were going to seek homes in the free West, knowing, they did, that free and slave labor could not both exist and prosper in the same community. If any one thinks that I speak without knowledge, let him refer to the last census.…

It is not, however, my object to attack the institution of slavery. But even the most zealous defender of the patriarchal institution cannot shut his eyes against a few prominent facts. One is, that in nearly all the slave States there is a deficiency of labor. Since the abolition of the African slave trade there is no source for obtaining a supply, except from the natural increase.… From North Carolina and Virginia nearly the entire increase of the slave population, during the last twenty years, has been sent off to the new States of the Southwest. In my boyhood I lived on one of the great thoroughfares of travel (near Lock’s Bridge on the Yadkin River) and have seen as many as two thousand in a single day, going South, mostly in the hands of speculators. Now the loss of those two thousand did the State a greater injury than would the shipping off of a million of dollars.… I have very little doubt that if the slaves which are now scattered thinly over Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri, were back in Virginia and North Carolina, it would be better for all concerned. These old States could then go on and develope the immense wealth which must remain locked up for many years to come. Whilst the new States, free from a system which degrades white labor, would become a land of Common Schools, thrift and industry, equal if not superior to any in the Union. But letting that as it may, still no one can deny that here in North Carolina we need more men, rather than more land. Then why go to war to make more slave States, when we have too much territory already, for the force we have to work it?…

From my knowledge of the people of North Carolina, I believe that the majority of them who will go to Kansas during the next five years, would prefer that it be a free State. I am sure that if I were to go there I should vote to exclude slavery. In doing so I believe that I should advance the best interest of Kansas, and at the same time benefit North Carolina and Virginia, by preventing the carrying away of slaves who may be more profitably employed at home.

Born in the “good old North State,” I cherish a love for her and her people that I bear to no other State or people. It will ever be my sincere wish to advance her interests. I also love the Union of the States, secured as it was by the blood and toil of my ancestors; and whatever influence I possess, though small it may be, shall be exerted for its preservation. I do not claim infallibility for my opinions. Wiser and better men have been mistaken. But holding as I do the doctrines once advocated by Washington and Jefferson, I think I should be met by argument and not by denunciation. At any rate, those who prefer to denounce me should at least support their charges by their own name.

B. S. Hedrick
Chapel Hill, October 1st, 1856.

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Citation

Benjamin Hedrick , "Professor Hedrick's Defence," North Carolina Standard, October 4, 1856, Civil War Era NC, accessed April 25, 2017, http://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/39.