13 September 1862: “‘irrepressible conflict’ between the natural distinctions of race

Item Description: Article published on 13 September 1862 for the Southern Aegis. This article was later copied in the New York Caucasian on 22 November 1862.


Item Citation: W. Stump Forwood Papers, #00260, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Item Transcription:

[Published Sep. 13, 1862] For the Southern Aegis

[Copied in the “New York Caucasian”, Nov. 22, 1862]

The Irrepressible Conflict

Mr. Seward is right in his theory of an “irrepressible conflict” between the white man and the negro. He only erred as to the real character of the “conflict”. He announced that a irrepressible conflict existed between “free” and “slave” labor; that is, between the labor of white man and that or the subordinate negro. This error arose from reasoning upon a false theory. Had Mr. Seward been personally familiar with the practical operations of “slave” labor in the Southern States; or if the study of the Natural History of Man had formed a part of his education, as developed in the writings of such distinguished men as Prof. Agassiz, Dr. Morton, Dr. Nott, Dr Van Evric, etc., etc., the learned Secretary would never have fallen into the error that the irrepressible conflict existed between white and slave labor, but he would have clearly perceived and comprehended that the “conflict” was between the white and the negro  races when their normal relations were abolished. While the negro occupies a subordinate position to the white man, which the Almighty assigned he should, there is no conflict whatever between them, but the moment we violate their natural relations to attempting to place them upon a political and social “equality”, we then inaugurate the “irrepressible conflict”. Thus it will be seen that the Secretary, in failing to perceive the true nature of the conflict has in his efforts to avoid it, rally advocated, and set in course of operation, the very measures that tend to produce it!

The idea that our Prime Minister designed to inculcate was that the white or “free” man could not labor in juxtaposition with the negro “slave” without feeling himself degraded by the contact. This is but one of the many impracticable and absurd Puritan theories; this is the Summer Greeley, and Phillips Theory; and it is a little surprising that a man of Mr. Seward’s proverbial astuteness and common sense should fall into the silly speculations of these fanatics. All experience the touchstone of Truth, proves exactly the reverse; the white man feels no degradation in laboring side by side with the subordinate negro. Each are instinctively conscious of their relative stations neither is the one lowered nor the other elevated by the contract. But when it is attempted to “abolish” the natural relations of the races, and to dispose to the white man “impartial freedom” with the negro; that is, to place the white man on a political and social “equality” with the negro, then arises the impressible and eternal conflict, which, being in ‘open’ conflict, the laws of the Creator, can never be harmonized by any human laws. A thousand times more degradation is felt by the man whom circumstances oblige to labor in contact with a negro who has been inflated with an artificial “equality” by a process of legal enactments, which after to abolish the ordinances of the Almighty. The moment the negro is removed from his naturally subordinate position in relation to the Caucasian, and attempts to practice his artificial privileges, the harmony between the races is destroyed, and one or the other must succumb. These facts are not so affront to the “higher classes,” as they are called; who, like Summon, ? by and other “philanthropists,” posses money and social influence sufficient to place them entirely above all contact even with the most elevated negro. To the laboring men however; to those who are obliged to live by the sweat of the brow, the case is essentially different. They are not only obliged to come in constant contact with the negro, but their necessities require a humiliating competition. Herein consists the real antagonism between the races. If the “philanthropists” would but condescend to stoop for a moment from their high positions to consult the views and feelings of the laboring classes of white men, in those States where large numbers of negroes exist as in our own, for example, they would surely be horror-stricken by the discovery that the practical operation of the leading idea of their ill-spent lives would be the greatest curse that could be inflicted upon both the white and the negro races. Those who are familiar with the views of the laboring white men upon the question of political equality with the subordinate race, must feel how impossible it is for such equality to subsist. It is an indisputable axiom that the substitution of artificial relations for natural distinctions can not have a permanent existence. The result of such artificial equality or “impartial freedom”, would inevitably be the submission or extermination of the wealthiest race.

The antagonism is beginning to manifest itself already in various quarters. The “irrespressible conflict,” resulting from the employment of the negro in the places occupied by, the white man, has recently shown itself. Where it is presumed the plantation life at Folids, Columbus, cincinatti, Brooklyn + localities, doctrines had been thoroughly instilled. The places of teh discharged white labors were filled by “contraband” or runaway negroes; the owners of the negroes were deprived of their labor, the white laborers and their families were turned out to starvation, to give place to the fugitive slaves, and the negroes themselves were placed ? in the positions of white men. Now the “conflict” arose. Three courses of procedure were presented fro acceptance to the white laborer, viz: he must either starve, go to the Southern planter and occupy the place deserted by the negro, or regain the position which negro-philanthropy had unjustly deprived him of. In these cases, he chose the latter course. The white laborers in the places above named rose in large numbers, and with pistols, knives, clubs, etc., drove the negroes from their work. This is the natural sequence of the attempt to put in practice the New England doctrines of negro equality. The study of these facts will enable the unprejudiced an impartial observer to clearly see that, when Secretary Seward announced his cardinal dogma of the irrepressible conflict, he had been favored with “glimpses at truth.” He had looked at the subject from the New England standpoint, but even from that view his common sense had led him to discover that there was a conflict according to abolition doctrines; and his biased education immediately led him to the conclusion that the conflict consisted in an antagonism between free and slave labor; whereas the whole truth which he failed to perceive, is that the “conflict” alone arises where it is attempted to abolish the natural relations of the races, and to place the subordinated and inferior race upon an artificial equality with the master or superior race; this originating through artificial measures, and “irrepressible conflict” between the natural distinctions of race.


Sept., 1862

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