Cannibals All! Or Slaves Without Masters by George Fitzhugh
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Synopsis

Cannibals All! got more attention in William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator than any other book in the history of that abolitionist journal. And Lincoln is said to have been more angered by George Fitzhugh than by any other pro-slavery writer, yet he unconsciously paraphrased Cannibals All! in his House Divided speech.

Fitzhugh was provocative because of his stinging attack on free society, laissez-faire economy, and wage slavery, along with their philosophical underpinnings. He used socialist doctrine to defend slavery and drew upon the same evidence Marx used in his indictment of capitalism. Socialism, he held, was only "the new fashionable name for slavery," though slavery was far more humane and responsible, "the best and most common form of socialism."

His most effective testimony was furnished by the abolitionists themselves. He combed the diatribes of their friends, the reformers, transcendentalists, and utopians, against the social evils of the North. "Why all this," he asked, "except that free society is a failure?"

The trouble all started, according to Fitzhugh, with John Locke, "a presumptuous charlatan," and with the heresies of the Enlightenment. In the great Lockean consensus that makes up American thought from Benjamin Franklin to Franklin Roosevelt, Fitzhugh therefore stands out as a lone dissenter who makes the conventional polarities between Jefferson and Hamilton, or Hoover and Roosevelt, seem insignificant. Beside him Taylor, Randolph, and Calhoun blend inconspicuously into the American consensus, all being apostles of John Locke in some degree. An intellectual tradition that suffers from uniformity--even if it is virtuous, liberal conformity--could stand a bit of contrast, and George Fitzhugh can supply more of it than any other American thinker.

 

About George Fitzhugh

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George Fitzhugh, lawyer, planter, newspaperman, sociologist, was born in Virginia in 1806. He married in 1829, had nine children, and lived until the Civil War in his wife's home in Port Royal, Virginia. During this period he practiced law, was employed briefly in the Attorney General's office, wrote for various periodicals and newspapers, and published two books, Sociology for the South, or the Failure of Free Society (1854) and Cannibals All! (1857). After a foray into abolitionist territory in 1856, including a debate in New Haven with Wendell Phillips, he returned to the South more convinced than ever of his position, and up to the War he remained hopeful of converting the North. Fitzhugh died in Texas in 1881. One of the world's most distinguished historians, C. Vann Woodward was born in Vanndale, Arkansas, and educated at Emory University and the University of North Carolina, where he received his Ph.D. in 1937. After teaching at Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Florida, and Scripps College for a time, in 1946 he joined the faculty at The Johns Hopkins University, where he began producing the many young Ph.D.s who have followed him into the profession. In 1961 he became Sterling Professor at Yale University, where he remains today as emeritus professor. He has been the Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, Harmsworth Professor at Oxford University, and Commonwealth Lecturer at the University of London. Past president of all the major historical associations, he holds the Gold Medal of the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and is a member of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. His honors also include a Bancroft Prize for Origins of the New South, 1876--1913 (1951) and a 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chesnut's Civil War (1981). A premier historian of the American South and of race relations in the United States, Woodward studies the South in a way that sheds light on the human condition everywhere. In recent years he has turned his attention increasingly to comparative history.
 
Published March 30, 2011 by Library of Congress. 470 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, History, Education & Reference, War, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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