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Address delivered before the Philanthropic and Dialectic Societies of the…

by Henry W. Miller

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34-page booklet.

Miller talks about the challenges faced by the United States in 1857. It's fun to read his exclamations about how the country has grown in geographical size, population, and economic measures since the late eighteenth century. "When the Convention, to form the Federal Constitution, assembled in 1787, there were not twenty colleges in the Union. At the close of the last year they had increased to upwards of one hundred and fifty--most of them well endowed, and liberally patronized, and having an aggregate of fifteen thousand students." (UNC-Chapel Hill is my alma mater too, and it has almost twice that many students now all by itself.)

There are some things he talks about that really confused me--I should have brushed up on my US history! For instance he spends a long time warning against the evils of Northern publications: "Nor is less evil to be apprehended from the spread of that corrupt literature which for years has been thrown off from the diseased brain of its profligate authors, with a fertility with which the press, even with its stream-propelled energies, has hardly been able to keep pace." I wonder what he would make of television. He also warns against the heresies, in almost the same breath, of Fourierism, Freeloveism, Mormonism, Spiritualism, and Abolitionism.

For me the way he talks about slavery is the most interesting part of this address. I don't believe he actually mentions the word "slavery" more than once, though he spends much of the speech talking about related issues. Rather he talks about "our rights, our happiness, and our honor" (italics in original)--it goes without saying that he doesn't think of slaves as wanting any of those things. I think it's a great, if seriously creepy, insight into how Southern slaveholders perceived what they were doing as an integral part of their way of life.
  dorothean | Jan 4, 2009 |
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