An Abolition Traitor

The text is a broadside editorial written by an anonymous laborer and published in New York on August 29, 1863.
Democratic Workingman (Anonymous)
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concept 4.

pamphlet for an abolition traitor


There are traitors in the North as well as in the South, and there are abolitionists in the South as well as in the North. Some of the Southern abolitionists have strange views in regard to slavery and its abolition. Among the rest, the distinguished son of Georgia, Hon. Robert Toombs, holds a prominent place. His views are clearly stated in the following extract from one of his speeches on abolition. In speaking of the negro, he said---  

“His condition is not permanent among us, and we may find his exodus in the unvarying laws of population. Under the conditions of labor in England, and the continent of Europe, slavery could not exist here, or anywhere else.---The moment wages descend to a point barely sufficient to support the laborer and his family, capital cannot afford to own labor, and slavery instantly ceases. Slavery ceased in England in obedience to this law, and not from any regard to liberty or humanity. The increase of population will produce the same result in this country, and American slavery, like that of England, will find its euthanasy [death] in the general prostration of all labor. 

Mr. Toombs believes that slavery will die out, when the wages of white workingmen are run down so low that “capital cannot afford to own labor;” in other words, when free white workingmen are reduced to the same level as negro slaves, then the negroes will be set free. We must make white men and their families as cheap as negro slaves! Workingmen! How do you like the prospect held out to you? 

Another traitor, the Richmond Enquirer, in an article showing the superiority of “the nigger” over white men, says 

“Free society is a monstrous abortion, and slavery, the beautiful, healthy, and natural state of being which they [the South] are trying to adopt.  

“The slaves are governed far better than the Free laborers of the North. 

Our slaves are not only better off as to physical comfort, than Free Laborers, but their moral condition is better.” 

These are the sentiments advocated by men who are doing their utmost to destroy the Union, overthrow the institutions of popular freedom, and reduce free white workingmen to the same political, social, and moral condition as their slaves. 

Will the Workingmen of the Union help them any longer? 

A Democratic Workingman. 

NEW YORK, Aug. 29, 1863.

This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/item/scsm000287/.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    Who is the intended audience of this particular editorial?
    The intended audience can be found by the last full line of the editorial: “Will the Workingmen of the Union help them any longer?” The author is targeting the white labor class of the North (as this was published in New York City).
  2. Question
    The author identifies several “traitors” in this editorial. Who does the editorial call traitors and why?
    The first “traitors” cited are Southern abolitionists because the editorial believes that these abolitionists want the freedom of African enslaved people at the expense of the labor and wages of white laborers. The editorial also accuses the Richmond Enquirer (newspaper) of being a traitor because it has criticized the society that supports free labor. In both cases the editorial states that these traitors “are doing their utmost to destroy the Union.”
  3. Question
    What is the main argument of the author? List words or phrases that support your analysis.
    The word “abolition” focuses the conversation on the issue of slavery, about which the author has plenty to say. However, the main argument of the editorial is that the forces of those who both support and attack slavery do not support the interests of the working-class laborer. In addition to this, it is clear that the author is focused on the interests of laborers and not on the interests of those who are in dispute over the issue of slavery: “Workingmen! How do you like the prospect held out to you?”
  4. Question
    What does this editorial tell us about the attitude of Northerners toward the institution of slavery?
    This editorial provides a complicated picture of Northern attitudes toward slavery. The dominant narrative of the Civil War is that most Northerners were antislavery if not fully abolitionist. What this perspective shows the historian is that people often see issues through the lens or the point of view of their own needs, fears and desires. In this editorial, the author is neither pro- nor antislavery. Rather, the author is arguing for the rights of white laborers in the North that may be compromised or limited by other powerful interests. Instead of not supporting slavery, the author seems to be warning against supporting those powerful people who will not support the laborer.
Reveal Answers