Chattel Slavery and Wage Slavery: The Anglo-American Context, 1830-1860

Chattel Slavery and Wage Slavery: The Anglo-American Context, 1830-1860

by Marcus Cunliffe


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This book begins with a provocative paradox: George Fitzhugh of Virginia, one of the most eloquent defenders of Southern chattel slavery, appealed to a New York abolitionist for support. How can this be? The abolitionist in question, Charles Edwards Lester, had confessed that "he would sooner subject his child to Southern slavery, than have him to be a free laborer of England." Lester was in fact referring to the "white" or "wage" slavery of the mother country.

In a three part study, Cunliffe explores the context of chattel and wage slavery in Britain and the United States. He first outlines the evolution of the concept of wage slavery in Europe and the United States, demonstrating how this concept bore upon opinions about chattel slavery in America.

In his second section, Cunliffe discusses the precariousness of Anglo-American relationships during the period of 1830 to 1860. In their resentment of British rebukes aimed at the persistence of slavery in a democracy, Americans retaliated by claiming that British wage slavery was worse than American plantation slavery.

Cunliffe concludes by charting the career of Lester, the seemingly atypical New York abolitionist. Lester displayed a conviction that Britain was a corrupt and brutal society, most of whose leading citizens detested America. Cunliffe maintains that Lester's opinions were shared by many of his countrymen during the antebellum decades; in this sense he may have been more truly representative of American attitudes than either Southerners like Fitzhugh or Northerner abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780820332413
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 05/01/2008
Series: Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures Series , #22
Pages: 152
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.35(d)

About the Author

MARCUS CUNLIFFE was professor of American Studies at the University of Sussex from 1965 to 1980, where the Sussex Cunliffe Centre is named in his honor. He was University Professor of the Humanities at George Washington University from 1980 until his death in 1990. His books include The Literature of the United States; George Washington: Man and Monument; The Nation Takes Shape, 1789-1837; Soldiers and Civilians: The Martial Spirit in America, 1775-1865; and American Presidents and the Presidency.

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