Born in Lynchburg, Virginia on 6 October 1808, Ellwood Fisher spent his life in Maryland and the District of Columbia. A well-educated man and endowed with perspicuous mind, he delivered a lecture in early 1849 entitled “The North and the South” from which the excerpt below is taken. Fisher died in Atlanta, Georgia on his birthdate in 1862.
Fisher was no friend of slavery but castigated Northern agitators who “had at home thousands of criminals to reform and hundreds of thousands of paupers to be relieved, and on whom their philanthropy may be exhausted.” He saw their supposed concern as ill-placed when the North’s wage-slavery cast its subjects out of the factories at the end of a 14-hour workday and into the streets to endure the crime and cold at night, only to return to their low-wage toil in the morning. Lacking the plantation healthcare, the slave of the South received, high mortality was common among Northern factory workers.
The Antebellum North and South
“But we are told slavery is an evil. Well, so is war an evil, and so perhaps is government itself an evil since it also is an abridgement of liberty. But one of the first objects of our Constitution is to provide for war – for the common defense. And the people of the United States prefer the evil of war to the greater evil of anarchy.
So, the people of the South prefer slavery to the evils of a dense manufacturing and commercial population which appear to be inevitable without it; and the black man may prefer the slavery of the South to the want, the crime, the barbarism and blood which attend his race in all other countries.
In the practical affairs of human life in its present state, choice of evils is frequently all that is in our power. Good an evil in fact become relative, and not positive terms. And the necessity is recognized by the example of our Saviour, who applied the extreme remedy of the lash to the moneychangers who profaned the temple.
And we may all hope for the time to come when in the progress of Christianity, the evils of slavery in the South, and those of pauperism, crime and high mortality in the North will be greatly mitigated or abolished. But the North can now make no protest because the luxurious system of Northern civilization not only subjects the great mass of people to unwonted labor and privation, but actually sacrifices in peace a greater amount of life than is usually expended by communities at war.”
(The North and the South. Lecture Delivered before the Young Men’s Library Association of Cincinnati, Ohio. January 16, 1849, by Ellwood Fisher. Daily Chronicle Job Rooms, Cincinnati. 1849. pp. 43-44)