Left alone regarding African slaves in their midst, Southerners, like the North before them, would have found solutions to what they saw as a great alien population among them, and a labor system they saw as detrimental to their progress. Southern emancipation efforts halted after the Nat Turner massacres in Virginia, which the South saw as fomented by fanatical abolitionists. Had the North channeled its energies into practical and peaceful solutions rather than violent ones, the country might have avoided that destructive war.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
An End to Southern Abolition
“I had a very interesting conversation with Governor [William] Graham on the subject of slavery, when I passed the day with him in the Spring of 1874. I told him that I had recently seen the commencement oration of my uncle, the Rev. John Haywood Parker, delivered at his graduation in 1832; and that it was an argument in favor of the abolition of slavery in North Carolina.
He replied that it was at that same commencement of 1832 that Judge Gaston, in his address to the Literary Societies, had made his famous plea to the young men of the State, that they should realize their duty of taking up that great problem and removing the burden of slavery which was depressing the influence, the development, and the best interests of the State. Governor Graham said that in 1832 the abolition of slavery was freely discussed in the State and was favored by many of our best and wisest men.
I asked him how it came about that there was such a sudden and total change in public opinion within the next twenty years. He replied that there were several concurrent causes of this. In the first place Nat Turner’s Insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831, had much to do with it. That short but bloody outbreak excited such horror and alarm that people feared talk of freeing the Negroes lest it might tend to suggest the idea of freedom to their minds and lead them to similar attempts at freeing themselves by force.
Also it was just about this period that the Quakers and others in the North began to send to Congress petitions for the abolition of slavery; and the struggles in Congress and the resentment of the people of the South at what they considered an interference in their domestic affairs caused a great revulsion of feeling. The Southern people were willing to consider the subject themselves, but they would not be dictated to.
I afterwards mentioned this conversation to Judge [George] Howard who agreed with Governor Graham; but he added that another element in the problem of abolition of slavery was the acquisition of immense territory by the Mexican War and then the discovery of gold in California immediately afterwards.
This opened so much additional territory for the extension of slavery in Texas and the Southwest, and so stimulated all values that slave property was more than doubled in value. When a Negro man was worth three or four thousand dollars, as he was before 1832, the abolition of slavery was one question. When the same Negro came to be worth one thousand dollars, as he came to be before many years had passed, the question of abolition had become a quite different one.”
(Nonnulla, Memories, Stories, Traditions More of Less Authentic, Joseph Blount Cheshire, UNC Press, 1930, pp. 136-137)