Robert Lewis Dabney 

LogoRobert Lewis Dabney (March 5, 1820 – January 3, 1898) was a Presbyterian minister who championed the Confederate cause in the American Civil War. He served both as a chaplain and also a combatant in that conflict, on the Confederate side of course. A virulent racist, Dabney continued to agitate for suppression of the civil rights of African Americans even long after the cessation of hostilities. A slave-owner himself, he saw nothing wrong with slavery and claimed, against the abolitionists, that it was Biblical. He is the darling of the Neoconfederates of the present day, and is an especial favorite of Douglas Wilson, their dean.

Robert Lewis Dabney

LogoYou will have seen Dabney often if you follow Twitter/X; his malignant visage glares out at the world from numerous white supremacist accounts. According to the Bible, humanity are all one family:

  • “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’”

  • (Acts 17:24-28)
  • .

LogoSome people don't quite see it that way, though. While Robert Lewis Dabney does not explicitly deny this foundational Bible truth, he is not entirely on board with it either. In his view, that is where it started, but not where it's going. According to Dabney, who apparently did not believe in the fixity of species, Africans are in the process of evolving into, not only their own unique species, but an altogether different genus from white folks, in a process according to the Darwinian idea of speciation.

New Genus Curse of Ham
White Supremacy Confederate States of America
Slavery Malum in Se
Replacement Theory One Master
Master Debater Two-Step
Man of His Time Douglas Wilson
They Bad Theology Proper
A Dabney Miscellany Whither White Supremacy?
Church History French Revolution
Freedom and Democracy

LogoNew Genus

While not explicitly denying the Bible teaching of "one blood," as retrojected into the past, Dabney perceives evolutionary history to be unfolding in the direction of making Africans into a new species, indeed, almost a new genus:

  • “But while we believe that 'God made of one blood all nations of men to dwell under the whole heavens,' we know that the African has become, according to a well-known law of natural history, by the manifold influences of the ages, a different, fixed species of the race, separated from the white man by traits bodily, mental and moral, almost as rigid and permanent as those of genus.”
  • (Dabney, Robert Lewis. Dabney's Defense of Virginia and the South, Annotated. (Kindle Locations 4214-4216). Booker House Publishing, Incorporated.)

LogoThe view that Africans were not even of the same species as whites unfortunately had more than a few defenders in that era, including people often erroneously described as 'enlightened,' like Voltaire. The view that all of humankind descend from one ancestor and have one common origin is known as 'monogenesis.' The view that there are multiple streams leading to humanity, that the varied races of mankind have, in the end, different ancestors, is called 'polygenesis.' Monogenesis alone tracks with Bible teaching on human origins, polygenesis does not. Dabney's compromise is that the races of man were once of common origin, but are now diverging and have diverged to such an extent they are "a different, fixed species," indeed almost of a different genus. While this compromise position has no specific name that I am aware of, it is misleading to class it under the heading of 'monogenesis' merely because he believes that the different species he counts as making up what is commonly called humanity were once, long ago, the same species. He thinks that Blacks and whites began as, and once were, but are not now, the same species.

Dabney's true position on this issue been falsely stated by Doug Wilson, the leading light among the Neoconfederates, who said,

"Before Darwin, secularist thinkers had advanced the idea of polygenesis, the view that blacks and whites belongs to separate species entirely. Southern Christians like J. H. Thornwell and R. L. Dabney (who were defenders of slavery) hated this corruption of biblical truth, even though they shared the belief that blacks were inferior." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 422).

Dabney does not hate this position, he shares the position. Although it is not clear what it would mean to say that Black people are "a different, fixed species of the race," given that race is normally considered a lower level division than species, he plainly does intend for Blacks and whites to be classed as "different, fixed species." That's what he himself believed; it is not a view he hated. He thinks they started off on the same footing, as descendants of Adam, but then, by a process of evolutionary speciation such as was promoted in that day by Charles Darwin, they became so different that at present they almost belong to a different genus.

Of the various parties that arose in the era that gave birth to scientific racism, the monogenists are often portrayed as the good guys, the polygenists as the bad guys. But the monogenists were not always good guys. Who is more responsible for scientific racism and the atrocities it gave rise to than Charles Darwin? Yet he was more of a monogenist than Robert Lewis Dabney. He believed there is only one human species now existing, sharing common descent:

"I have endeavored to show in considerable detail that all the chief expressions exhibited by man are the same throughout the world. This fact is interesting, as it affords a new argument in favor of the several races being descended from a single parent-stock, which must have been almost completely human in structure, and to a large extent in mind, before the period at which the races diverged from each other." (Charles Darwin, The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Chapter XIV).

Unlike Robert Lewis Dabney, Darwin believed there was, at the present time, only one human species. Charles Darwin is no anti-racist hero, and the polygenists were not the sole party at fault in what happened, as bad science worked its way throughout the world to the detriment of colonized peoples. An origin for polygenism cannot really be assigned, because the creation myths of primitive peoples often have this feature, that the ancestry assigned to the favored tribe and its enemies is entirely different. Julian the Apostate attacked Christianity precisely on this feature, that it assigns the creation of the entire world to one single Creator, even though the human beings He created do not all look the same:

"For different natures must first have existed in all those things that among the nations were to be differentiated. This at any rate is seen if one observes how very different in their bodies are the Germans and Scythians from the Libyans and Ethiopians. Can this also be due to a bare decree, and does not the climate or the country have a joint influence with the gods in determining what sort of complexion they have?" (Julian the Apostate, Against the Galilaeans, Book I, reconstructed from Cyril of Alexandria, Contra Julianum, at

Julian thought paganism, with its multiple potential creators, fit the observed facts better than monotheism. The era in which the Confederacy was birthed was the hey-day of scientific racism. This was not coincidental, but rather one thing led to the other. Some of the thought leaders who crafted the ideology of white supremacy, like Josiah C. Nott, were polygenists, others were monogenists:

Black and White One Blood
Age of Reason Interracial Marriage
Scientific Racism Bible and Slavery
The Confederacy Adolf Hitler

Israel in Babylon

LogoDabney has a religion of sorts, but it's not a faith that expresses itself through altar calls or sudden transpositions of darkness and light. The congregation do not sing, 'I was blind, but now I see;' if you're blind, or rather, if your ancestors were, you stay that way:

"These descendants were included in the punishment of their wicked progenitors on that well-known principle of God's providence, which 'visits the sin of the fathers upon the children,' and this again is explained by the fact, that depraved parents will naturally rear depraved children, unless God interfere by a grace to which they have no claim; so that not only punishment, but the sinfulness, becomes hereditary." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1212).

What is wrong with African-Americans, in his eyes, is nothing this generation chose, nor can it be erased by anything they say or do, but simply that they were born that way— it's "hereditary." It would be nice if this type of 'religion' were forgotten, but it's experiencing a revival of sorts in the present day, at the hands of practitioners like Stephen Wolfe:

LogoCurse of Ham

Given the fulsome praise that gets thrown around in this man's general direction by the Neoconfederates, one might expect he'd steer clear of noisome, worthless 'Bible arguments' like the 'curse of Ham.' What's the problem with the 'curse of Ham'? Ham was never cursed, not by Noah, and certainly not by God. A small nation, Canaan, back to which African-Americans do not trace their ancestry, was cursed, by Noah, a righteous man. Evidently feeling the transgression was of such great magnitude that it required the punishment of a quadrant of the globe covering a wide swath of humanity, not one little nation, white racists enlarge the curse of Canaan into the 'curse of Ham.' And yes, Dabney does do it, too:

"Doubtless God's sentence, here pronounced by Noah, was based on his foresight of the fact, that Ham's posterity, like their father, would be peculiarly degraded in morals, as actual history testifies of them, so far as its voice extends." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1210).

Oh? Was "Ham's posterity" indeed cursed, or only a portion? So much for this man's purported brilliance. In the Bible, it's not "Ham's posterity" which is cursed, but one grandson, Canaan. Does it matter? Yes, because as the mendacious Dabney notes, "It may be that we should find little difficulty in tracing the lineage of the present Africans to Ham." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1233). True enough, Cush being a son of Ham, but we would find it impossible to trace it to Canaan. The descendants of Lebanese immigrants who live in this country are the closest we could find in America to people of Canaan; but these people are not enslaved, they are prosperous, and they have no particular connection to African slaves.

This is a shell game, a switcheroo, a dishonest cheat. To expositors like Dabney, the Bible is written in chalk, on a blackboard; if you don't like 'Canaan,' just erase and switch it out for 'Ham.' The level of cynicism here on display in handling God's word does not give confidence that people like Dabney actually cared very much what the Bible said, on this topic or on any other. So the first thing wrong with this argument is that the Bible needs to be 'retargeted' for it even to get off the ground.

The retargeting this story must undergo doesn't end with switching out a different target for the curse, from Canaan to his father Ham. What is required in addition is the promotion of the speaker of the curse, from Noah to God.  Noah must become, not a man who survived a cataclysm and was indignant at being treated disrespectfully while intoxicated, but the very mouthpiece of God:

"In explanation of it, the following remarks may be made; on which the majority of sound expositors are agreed. In this transaction, Noah acts as an inspired prophet, and also as the divinely chosen, patriarchal head of church and state, which were then confined to his one family." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1200-1226).

The "sound expositors" were, no doubt, the pro-slavery ones. How much massaging and revision does this one passage require to be of any use to the pro-slavery side at all! But beyond that, is there actually an argument here? To the extent that there is, the argument is that there are slaves in this world, a world in which not a sparrow falls to the ground without God's acquiescence at a minimum. There is nothing at all that happens outside His permissive will; and perhaps in some cases, He had a hand in it as well. Did Joseph's brothers treacherously sell him into slavery outside of God's plan? So when you see people enslaved, as were the Canaanite survivors of Israel's entry into the land, you can say, with some plausibility, that God had no objection at the least:

"God's approbation attended his verdict, as is proved by the fact that the divine Providence has been executing it for many ages since Noah's death. . .The words of Noah are not a mere prophecy; they are a verdict, a moral sentence pronounced upon conduct, by competent authority; that verdict sanctioned by God. Now if the verdict is righteous, and the execution blessed by God, it can hardly be, that the executioners of it are guilty for putting it in effect." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1202).

Much has already been demanded of the reader's imaginative faculties, but more is on the way. Dabney breathlessly informs us that Noah's curse is "the origin of domestic slavery," it never having occurred to the corrupt antediluvian society that you can coerce someone into working for you: "And we find that it was appointed by God as the punishment of, and remedy for (nearly all God's providential chastisements are also remedial) the peculiar moral degradation of a part of the race. God here ordains that this depravity shall find its necessary restraints, and the welfare of the more virtuous its safeguard against the depraved, by the bondage of the latter." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1218). At this point you have to wonder how much of the Bible Dabney has even read. God condemns Canaan for their practice of child sacrifice and commands their extermination. A remedial program this is not, dead people being beyond the reach of remediation:

Logo Incidentally, if there ever was such a system of governance as 'patriarchy,' where the progenitor of the clan retained authority over his grown sons, this story cannot be an instance of it. Truckloads survive of cursings from antiquity, tablets, amulets, etc. As a rule it is not the strong who curse the weak: rather, they send in their security forces. No, the outraged weak, who can do nothing but curse, shout their imprecations to the skies in the hopes some pitying power will hear and vindicate them. Perhaps Noah failed to carry his case in the family council, that intoxicated persons deserve extraordinary measures to safeguard their modesty, and was thus obliged to resort to cursing.

Karma is often assumed to be an Eastern concept, and it's certainly true that the expansion of the idea into cycles of birth and rebirth is an Eastern, and mythological, elaboration. But the idea that bad things might happen to bad people is solidly Biblical: "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him." (Proverbs 26:27). This idea can be exaggerated into the assumption that, if something bad happens to somebody, that person must have been especially bad, which Jesus specifically rejects: "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:4-5). But the fact that God's providential governance of the world includes both rewards for those well-doing and punishments for trouble-makers is still Biblical; God lifts up the meek, and casts down the proud: "The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger." (1 Samuel 2:4-5).

In the catalogue of blessings and cursings accompanying Moses' law, enslavement is specifically mentioned as a potential cost of disobedience, or rather the unique humiliation of being offered for sale as a slave and finding no buyers:

"And the Lord will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, 'You shall never see it again.' And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you." (Deuteronomy 28:68).

So when you see someone fallen to the lowest depths society will allow, begging by the side of the road, or reduced to slavery where that is legal, what should you do? Kick the individual, to show you are on God's side? After all, it might be because of God's righteous judgment against a proud, haughty people who oppressed others that that person finds himself in that position. By no means! Were Pharaoh's cavalrymen on the side of God in pursuing the escaping Israelite slaves into the desert? They were not fighting on God's side, they were chasing after their own drowning. How can you possibly know whether God intends to bring out these oppressed people with a mighty hand, from the clutches of their oppressors, or whether it is His will for them to remain where they are? Rather, follow your instructions as He has given them to you; treat people with kindness, not cruelty.

Is Dabney's point well-taken, that those who oppress a people whom God intends to bring low have a grant of immunity from Him? Just the opposite is plainly stated in scripture. Nebuchadnezzar is the razor hired beyond the River to bring low the people of Israel: "In the same day the Lord will shave with a hired razor, with those from beyond the River, with the king of Assyria, the head and the hair of the legs, and will also remove the beard." (Isaiah 7:20). So considering the valuable service Nebuchadnezzar does for God, in bringing low those whom God wishes to bring low, how does God reward Nebuchadnezzar? As Robert Lewis Dabney himself realizes, He does not reward him, He punishes him:

"This logic the Abolitionists have, of course, delighted to expose; it was easy to show, by sundry biblical instances, like that of the Assyrian employed to chastise Israel, and then punished by God for his own rapacity, that it is no justification of one's acts to find that God, in his inscrutable and holy workings, has overruled them to the effectuation of his own righteous, secret purposes. And our opponents, with a treachery fully equal to the folly of our unwise advocates, usually represent this as nearly the whole amount,  and the fair exemplar, of our biblical argument." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1210-1218).

It says something about Dabney's dishonest sophistry, that, even knowing his argument is invalid, he proceeds with it. But if God is going to bring His enemies low by enslaving them to their oppressors, there must needs be slave-owners who will use their services and brokers who will offer them for sale. Has God really sanctified the entire slave system by adopting this punishment, as Dabney thinks?

The best course is to follow God's instructions on how to behave, because, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22). Northern abolitionists would bring to the attention of the Southern slavers verses like, "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. (Exodus 21:2). So why don't you do that, they'd ask, free your slave? 'That doesn't apply to me. The law is nailed to the cross. Besides he's a foreigner.' 'But he was born in the same county as you! What makes you think the Bible simply doesn't apply to you?' So those who were disinclined to follow instructions and free the slave would start down this merry chase of looking for a counter-example, however far back in the mists of time you have to go. This frustrated the Northern abolitionists, who thought living up to the letter of the law was good enough. This tendency is very much alive today. Douglas Wilson learned it from Robert Lewis Dabney.

This is a case where a loop-hole grew and expanded to such an extent that it pushed the main law clear off the table. There is a loop-hole in the Mosaic law: purchase of stranger-slaves is allowed: "Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids." (Leviticus 25:44), though not of fellow Jews: "And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant. . ." (Leviticus 25:39). That was not to be the poor man's status; ideally he should find compassion and assistance from the community. In ancient Israel as today, most of the people you'd encounter were natives, not sojourners; so in practice, Moses has preserved many more people in freedom than he ever allowed to be sold into slavery.

That status, heathen, which incidentally was always remediable by conversion, means what today, under the Christian dispensation? It has been rendered obsolete: "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.. ." (Ephesians 2:13-14). Why the distinction was there in the first place is arguable; it is generally characteristic of Mosaic legislation against oppression that it doesn't apply equally to foreigners. Perhaps there were concerns about the lack of reciprocity. Can you honestly look at the law as it stands and see proof that God approves of slavery? If He approves, why did He forbid it to His people? They have turned the Bible upside-down and inside-out and made an exclusion, a loop-hole, into the main law, while conveniently forgetting that the main law is even there.

So does the allowance of foreign slaves mean that God finds no problem with slavery, as Dabney and his followers claim? If so, why did He forbid it to Israelites? If slavery is something God ruled out for His people, why do people say the Bible supports slavery? Dabney and his followers grasp at the exception, without ever feeling any need to explain the basic law. If lifetime slavery is permissible in God's sight, why is it limited to six years and out for Israelites? This is a question they never ask; rather, they redefine 'Israelite' to mean 'member of my group,' and 'foreigner' to mean 'not my group,' whatever odd thing their group may be: white, black, etc.

Five Points Wealth and Poverty
Michael Servetus Grace Fail
Post-Mortem Elder Rule
Ergun Caner Believers' Baptism
Robert Lewis Dabney

Logo In a similar vein, charging interest on loans is forbidden to Israelites dealing with Israelites, allowed when dealing with foreigners. So what is the verdict: is God in favor of usury, or against it? My first thought would be against it, the allowance in the case of foreigners being more of the nature of an after-thought. If the faith in one God spread across the whole globe, there would be no foreigners in any case. Perhaps the problem there really was that there could be no reciprocity: if Israelite lenders had to forgive loans to foreigners every Sabbatical, but foreigners released loans to Israelites never, you only have to run that simulation for a few generations till you end with the foreigners hoarding all the money. So that is not the desired outcome. There are various perspectives on this thorny problem; during the Reformation, some pointed out that commercial loans are not in view anyway, since no one would expect such a loan to be made on the basis of charity. But I've never seen the exclusion for foreigners being used in this case is Dabney uses it in the case of slavery, to execute a complete inversion of the law, so that God is pronounced to be in favor of usury, since He allows it in the case of foreign debtors.

So with slavery: suppose Hamas takes prisoners, Israel takes prisoners. It is desirable that there should be a prisoner exchange. but at what multiple? Ideally, one hostage for one hostage. But if, say, Israel were required to free foreign hostages every Sabbatical, yet Hamas was not under any reciprocal obligation, the market would price hostages taken by Israel at a value of six years' compulsory labor, while hostages taken by Hamas would be priced at the value of a life-time of labor. This would lead to a disparity, where one of Hamas' captives would equal multiple Israeli hostages. It is not God's desire for Israel always to end up with the short end of the stick; extending the Mosaic law's protections against slavery to foreigners is simply not workable.

Confronted with Biblical condemnation of whatever they may happen to find themselves doing, they search for a precedent, any time, anyone, anywhere, of someone who did what they are doing; and if they find it, that instantly nullifies any affirmative Biblical law or instruction against that behavior. For example, Douglas Wilson wrote a soft-core pornography novel about a sex toy. Some people were incredulous that a Christian pastor would write such a book, because doesn't it say in black and white,

"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as if fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks." (Ephesians 5:3-4).

But this simply doesn't apply to them. And perhaps they have enough modesty to perceive that they should not be opening other people's mail. But why not? Because some of the prophets at times used coarse language. And indeed they did. But how is that to the point? Well, because if anyone at any time did something, even God or His chosen personal mouthpieces, then you or I are justified in doing it at any time. You see, this is the same as Robert Lewis Dabney's pro-slavery argument: God may at times in His providential governance of the world reduce a proud and haughty people to slavery. Therefore, we can too. It's not a good argument, though.

At times we are urged to imitate God, to be like God: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48). And amazingly, you can do this by showing benevolence to the ungrateful, just as God sends His rain on the just and the unjust. But when it comes to meting out punishments, which is inevitable as God plays the part of the judge of all the world, should we really aspire to doing what He does? In Noah's day, He drowned everybody on earth, except for eight persons. If you try, walking by a child in a wading pool, to do the same to this one child, holding his head down until the bubbles stop, the police want a word with you. You can't do what God does. Who can scold or criticize Him? What will you do, write a letter to the editor? He gave us all life, He can take it away. We have no valid complaint to make.

But He told us, Thou shalt not kill. Just follow your instructions, and stop saying if God can do it, I can do it; why is that so hard to do? Even if, for some occult reason, God wanted that child done away with, you'll find yourself punished as a homicide. Run down the list of cursings in Deuteronomy 28 and see how many you would realistically get away with. Intentionally infecting another party with the plague? Don't think so. Pillaging and looting? Not likely. God has not given you a license to do those things, just because they're in His tool-set. He has commanded you not to do them.

So it is possible that in some case or another God has sentenced disobedient people precisely to the yoke of slavery, whether for child sacrifice or some other offense? Yes. So far as that goes, Dabney has a point. But what has that got to do with them? "Who are you to judge another's servant?" (Romans 14:4). Their mindset is that of the prince of Tyre. It's presumption at best, blasphemy at worst:

LogoWhite Supremacy

The ideology Robert Lewis Dabney espouses can accurately be described as white supremacy, and indeed is described by him as such, in so many words:

  • “And, if it shall appear that this Africanizing of our Church is not duty, then, how wretchedly untimely is the policy of fixing the odium of it on Presbyterianism, at this time, of all others, when the whole American people are so manifestly beginning to array themselves on the issue between the white man's party and black man's party; when this one issue is so completely absorbing all others; when the party of the white man's supremacy is gathering in such resistless might, and is so surely destined ultimately to sweep its opponents out of existence.”
  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Speech Against Ecclesiastical Equality of Negro Preachers in the Church, and Their Right to Rule over White Christians, 1868, p. 9).

The Young Cicero Reading, Vincenzo Foppa, 1464

LogoConfederate States of America

The great cause of Robert Lewis Dabney's life was the secession of the southern states of the Union to form a new state, the Confederate States of America. What were the founding principles of this new nation?:

Cornerstone Darkness and Light
In Their Own Words Reparations
Founding Fathers Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll
The Forty Thousand Lerone Bennett, Jr.
What If States Rights
War Drums

LogoIt's always best to let the Confederates talk for themselves, because their modern-day 'defenders' have a pronounced tendency to defend them by saying things they never said nor ever would say. This new nation was explicitly founded in white supremacy, as the old republic never was. Robert Lewis Dabney does not agree with Alexander Stephens that the founders erred in enunciating the principle that all men are created equal; he thinks they never actually meant it in the first place:

"The Declaration of Independence was therefore intended by its framers to assert the liberties of civilized Americans and Englishmen, and not of African barbarians held in bondage." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 869).

Is establishing a new nation on a new principle conservative, or revolutionary? The Confederates, to judge them by their own words, self-consciously understood themselves to be establishing something new in the world. Reading the statements the state legislatures published in support of secession, the reader becomes aware that they sought to perpetuate slavery, not abolish it, and certainly not peacefully as Douglas Wilson fancifully imagines. They are accurately described as revolutionaries, not as conservatives, because they did not want to continue in the old paths. For them, it was the Year Zero, and they had finally, first and initially alone among humanity, seen their way clear to establishing society on a scientific basis, namely a racial hierarchy, which they believed reflected evolutionary progress.

Sometimes we excuse bad behavior in the past by explaining the perpetrators were men of their times. Certainly the student of history expects little from the Dark Ages, say, much less the Neolithic. We are not in any position to demand a rigorously strict standard of conduct from the men of those days. But some men, if you ask them whether they are men of their times, will vehemently deny it. Would the Nazis or Stalinists have placidly agreed, yes, we are men of our times? No, they scorned the flabbiness and decadence of their own times. So don't accuse the Confederates of being men of their times; they knew they were not. They were birthing something new into the world, and they fully grasped its novelty. Was the new thing they brought in good or evil? The latter.

Robert Lewis Dabney was a Confederate to the end. The Union was not only his enemy, but God's enemy as well, and he looked forward to the day when they would get their come-uppance:

  • “Let the heroic spirit in which the soldiers of Virginia and the South struck for their liberties, and suffered, and died, represent our appreciation of this injustice. A righteous God, for our sins towards Him, has permitted us to be overthrown by our enemies and His. It is vain to complain in the ear of a maddening tempest. . .Their appeal is to history, and to Him.”
  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 4252).


Robert Lewis Dabney was a stout defender of slavery, which he believed to be a positive good. He is not arguing that slavery is a regrettable institution which we must endure for a brief period, until it can be rectified. And it's a good thing he's not, because the constitution of the Confederate States of America did not allow slavery to be legislated out of existence. To him, there's not a thing wrong with it:

  • “We assert that the Bible teaches that the relation of master and slave is perfectly lawful and right, provided only its duties be lawfully fulfilled. When we say this, we shall not be understood as saying that all men ought to live in this relation, notwithstanding the wide diversities of their condition and characters, or that it would be politic, or even right, for all. But we say that the relation is not sin in itself; but may be perfectly righteous and innocent, and not merely excusable.”
  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1184).

Logo Dabney realized there could be abuses committed in conjunction with slavery, even though the institution was righteous in itself, as he thought. When a deranged mother murders her infant, no one says that 'motherhood' is evil; this unhappy development is seen as a perversion of a basically good institution. So he, and his followers like Douglas Wilson, can sometimes sound like they 'get it,'— that there were abuses,— but they really don't, because in their view, the institution itself was in no way compromised, discredited, or even implicated in these abuses. Slavery is good, he believes, even though some bad people have owned slaves and mistreated them. Then they proceed to minimize the problem: this happened, how often? Almost never.

Dabney claims to find this defense in the Bible, but the reality is that his affirmative case for slavery draws almost nothing from the Bible. It is rather a recital of the failures of character and intellect that he perceived in African-Americans. The principle of law invoked is not shocking or unfamiliar. We all know of cases where the relatives of an adult who had been developmentally delayed, or perhaps a person of advanced age suffering from advancing dementia, petition the courts to appoint a guardian, sincerely believing this to be in the best interests of the individual. The intent is not to deprive the subject of liberty, though that is the result to an extent, but rather to protect him from the consequences of his own anticipated maladministration of his affairs. In a similar vein, Dabney believes that, since African-Americans are so hopelessly lacking in executive skills, they cannot govern themselves to any beneficial result. To Dabney, blacks are "an inferior and savage race" (Defense of Virginia, Kindle location 645), an "alien and savage race" (Dabney, Defense of Virginia, Kindle location 687).

Because of these attitudes, Dabney does not perceive the emancipation of the slaves at the hands of the Yankee invader as any blessing for them. Do not look for him to join in the celebration of Jubilee Day or Juneteenth. From his perspective, emancipation was a calamity for the black race, because they are unfitted to enjoy the blessings of liberty:

"But the step has been far more mischievous and unjust to the poor blacks, its pretended beneficiaries. It did not tarry to inquire whether they were fit for the change. It has resulted in the outbreak of a flood of vice, before repressed; of drunkenness, of illicit lust, of infanticide, of theft; and above all, of idleness, the least flagrant, but most truly mischievous fault of the African." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1068).

He actually makes the baleful prediction that extinction will be the outcome of emancipation, at the current rate: "And it requires little arithmetic to discover how long it will be, at this rate, before the monstrous consummation will be reached of the extinction of a whole nation of people by their professed friends." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1100). This is Dabney's main point. African-American are so lazy, shiftless, improvident, and incapable of taking thought for the future, that they cannot even survive except under the tutelage of a benevolent slave-owner, who beats the rascality out of them. How, then, did these people even survive in Africa? He strangely suggests that they wouldn't have. African-Americans are a degraded race, below even the average level of Africa, as he absurdly explains:

  • “And here, moreover, he will find proof, that the type of savage life brought to America originally by the slave trade, was far below that witnessed in Africa among the more noticeable tribes; because the great bulk of the slaves were either the Pariahs of that barbarous society, or the kidnapped members of the feeble fragments of bush tribes, who had nearly perished before the comparative civilization of the Mandingoes and Greboes, living but one remove above the apes around them. Now cannot common sense see the moral advantage to such a people, of subjection to the will of a race elevated above them, in morals and intelligence, to an almost measureless degree?”
  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3340-3351).

LogoIn real life, most of those carried off into slavery in the new world lived within a few hundred miles of the Atlantic coast of Africa, a region which, as John Wesley notes in his 'Thoughts on Slavery,' was civilized by all ordinary standards. What does it mean when Dabney repeats over and over that these people were 'uncivilized'?: "But, we emphatically repeat, the source of the evils apparent in an industrial system was the presence among us of four millions of heterogeneous pagan, uncivilized, indolent, and immoral people; and for that gigantic evil, slavery was, in part at least, the lawful the potent, the beneficent remedy." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3535).

'Civilization' is not a distinctive concept introduced by Christianity, but was rather a pagan rationalization and justification of empire. What good were the Romans doing the northern barbarians by robbing these desperately poor people of what little they had? Why, they were civilizing them; and there was indeed a benefit to people newly in receipt of civilization's various elements: a written law code to replace a chieftain's whims in dealing rough justice, cities, market days, etc., though perhaps those benefits could have been shared without plunder. By all ordinary standards, the inhabitants of this coastal region were already civilized. Indeed, perhaps 15% of them were Muslims. Muslim societies tend to have organized courts of justice, etc. So this idea that the people brought to America in chains had been wild men living in the jungle was not the reality, only a fiction Dabney felt he needed. Moreover, there is no real Bible case to be made that God prefers such glittering bastions of civilization as Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria, to straggling bands of itinerant herdsmen. At times it seems He prefers the latter. While it is all well and good to explain to God that the Hebrews, being uncivilized, ought to be slaves, and the Egyptians, being civilized, ought to be slave-owners, it seems like He does not 'get' it:

LogoThis is Dabney's defense of slavery in a nutshell: a laundry list of the African-Americans' supposed lack of civilized manners, values, and habits of industry. Dabney enlarges on these topics throughout; the Africans are "to be taught industry, in place of pagan laziness." (Robert L. Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3351). Yet in spite of being taught, they will never learn. He is a racist after all, and the faults of this "inferior and hostile race" (Ecclesiastical Equality p. 7) cannot ultimately be extirpated by example or education. The tutelage of his benevolent, selfless slave-masters will continue to be required now, tomorrow, forever. None of this information, about the purported moral and intellectual failings of Africans, nor slavery as the suggested remedy, can be found in the Bible. None of it! His affirmative argument in favor of slavery is altogether extra-Biblical. According to him, slavery is instituted as a divine corrective for moral failings such as laziness and shiftlessness, which he believes characterize the African-American population; not a corrective in the sense of a cure, but rather they will not be able to get away with it, because the overseer will force them to work: "But slavery made the lazy do their part with the industrious, by the wholesome fear of the birch." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3904).

How does one tell that this population group, or that population group, suffers from these moral failings? Not from reading the Bible, but from observation:

"Once more: If the society contains a class of adult members, so deficient in virtue and intelligence that they would only abuse the fuller privileges of other citizens to their own and others' detriment, it is just to withhold so many of these privileges, and to impose so much restraint, as may be necessary for the highest equity to the whole body, inclusive of this subject class. And how much restraint is just, must be determined by facts and experience." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3064).

So it is misleading when the Neoconfederates attempt to position this author as if he either had proved the justice of Southern slavery from the Bible, or had even attempted to do so. "Facts and experience" are his ground of proof. Facts such as these:

"If it appear that the Africans in these States were by recent descent pagans and barbarians, men in bodily strength and appetite, with the reason and morals of children, constitutionally prone to improvidence, so that their possession of all the franchises of a free white citizen would make them a nuisance to society and early victims to their own degradation; and if sound experience teaches that this ruin cannot be prevented without a degree of restraint approaching that proper for children; that is by giving to a guardian the control of their involuntary labor, and the expenditure of the fruits for the joint benefit of the parties; how can we be condemned for it?"(Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of the Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3086).

Whether it is "facts and experience," or bigotry, that teach this, it surely is not the Bible. Did the Queen of Sheba have the mind of a child? Another problem is that this approach will tend to become a self-perpetuating, endless loop. As the anti-slavery economists pointed out, slavery is not an efficient system of labor discipline, because it fails to provide proper incentives. Observers in the world of classical antiquity had already noticed this deficiency in the system, long before slavery was based on any black/white racial classification. Slavery is not a corrective for low productivity, but a principal cause. Endlessly applying it as the remedy for the same problem it is causing will create a perpetual motion machine.

As far as Dabney is concerned, abolitionism is simply infidelity: "But in the Church, abolitionism lives, and is more rampant and mischievous than ever, as infidelity; for this is its true nature. Therefore the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ dare not cease to oppose and unmask it. And in the State, abolitionism still lives in its full activity, as Jacobinism; a fell spirit which is the destroyer of every hope of just government and Christian order." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 79). Yet as the reader of abolitionist literature realizes, Christian abolitionists made their case on the Bible. As to his detailed, in depth refutation of the dense Biblical arguments offered by Northern abolitionists against that institution, do not look for any such thing. That's not what Dabney does, that's not what his modern imitators do. For those not up to speed on this, sadly, still ongoing debate, what are these arguments?

Even though his fundamental pro-slavery argument consists of a recitation of the moral and intellectual failings of African-Americans, and is extra-Biblical altogether, inasmuch as no such information can be found in the Bible, Dabney has the effrontery to claim scripture is on his side:

"Our best hope is in the fact that the cause of our defense is the cause of God's Word and of its supreme authority over the human conscience. For, as we shall evince, that Word is on our side, and the teachings of Abolitionism are clearly of rationalistic origin, of infidel tendency, and only sustained by reckless and licentious perversions of the meaning of the Sacred text. It will in the end become apparent to the world, not only that the conviction of the wickedness of slaveholding was drawn wholly from sources foreign to the Bible, but that it is a legitimate corollary from that fantastic, atheistic, and radical theory of human rights, which made the Reign of Terror in France, which has threatened that country, and which now threatens the United States, with the horrors of Red-Republicanism. (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 259).

This, despite Dabney's own whirlwind tour through the history of slavery, which deposits the sprawling Louisiana Purchase of 1803 firmly into the column of slave territory! Did the French Republic abolish slavery? Not even he claims they did! Nevertheless, the French Revolution is supposed to be the ground and foundation of abolitionism. Is there any truth at all to this accusation? Is abolition Biblical, or is it infidelity?  What saith the scriptures?:

John Wesley
 Thoughts Upon Slavery 
 Negro Slavery Unjustifiable 
Alexander MacLeod

LogoThe reader will note the basic law on slavery is this: "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing." (Exodus 21:2). I realize there are loop-holes and exceptions to this basic rule, but before we go flying off to to loop-holes and exemptions, which may or may not even be applicable to your case, let's stop a moment to consider the underlying law. But it's almost like this verse is not in Dabney's Bible. He believes the standard of equity to which slave-owners in the church were expected to rise was precisely Moses' law: "Doubtless, the standard which they had in view, in commanding masters to 'render to their servants those things which are just and equal,' was the Mosaic law." (Robert L. Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1864).  But to him that doesn't mean six years and out, rather, "a right to the slave's labor for life" (Robert L. Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1864), precisely what Moses does not allow. Can he think the church made up of foreigners to the covenant? There's no denying this is an important verse, because when you get right down to it, what is the difference between employment and slavery? One is for a term, the other for life.

Yet in fact, to Dabney, all texts that mention servitude in any context, even perhaps Exodus 21:2, are practical pro-slavery texts, because they mention slavery, yet without identifying it as a sin 'in itself.' Never mind that we do not commonly, in English, refer to a six year labor contract as 'slavery;' 'slavery' in English, generally means life-long involuntary servitude. You cannot really demand, of God, that He take it or leave it; the word 'servant' has a broad range of meaning, and He takes it, He allows employment, but not for life, unless at the servant's express wish. So to Dabney, any text that mentions servitude, even while sharply limiting its allowable term and extent, means the sky is the limit, "Here, then, we stand: Inspiration has once expressly authorized slaveholding." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1808). In other words, if 'six years and out' is authorized, then no limits can be set to slavery at all, because it is shown to be righteous 'in itself!' Dabney realized that, in the English language, slavery is understood to mean lifelong involuntary servitude. So he defines it:

"That no misunderstanding may attend the discussion, we must define at the outset, what we mean by that domestic slavery which we defend. By this relation we understand the obligations of the slave to labor for life, without his own consent, for the master. The thing, therefore, in which the master has property or ownership, is the involuntary labor of the slave, and not his personality, or his soul. A certain right of control over the person of the slave is incidentally given to the master by his property in the bondsman's labor; that is so much control as is necessary to enable him to secure the labor which belongs to him." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1110).

Since six years and out isn't lifelong labor, the Bible is not on his side in this dispute. How he deals with this verse is by studiously ignoring it. There are bits and pieces here and there of the Biblical deprecation of slavery he accepts; for instance, he will allow that slave merchandising is wicked, "man-stealing" and all that, although slave-owning is entirely innocent, in his view. Can one exist without the other? Does not demand call supply into existence? Surely if one were consistent; but it was the hated Yankees who imported and marketed the slaves— Virginia did not even have a merchant marine— so one is evil, the other innocent. In fact, he tries to pretend the Virginians bought the slaves on display, not because they desired to be masters, but only because they felt sorry for the poor wretches!

Robert Lewis Dabney felt Moses' law was simply irrelevant to the Christian: ". . .and he [God] also gave, by the intervention of Moses, various religious and civil laws, which were peculiar to the Jews, and were never intended to be observed after the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1364). Moses' law is just irrelevant, to him. Moses' law limited servitude amongst Israelites to six years. What is truly bizarre about his argument, and brazen in its shamelessness, though, is that not only is he not willing to counsel his fellow Southerners to abide by God's decree of six years and out, he finds in the law the raw material for a pro-slavery case, because the law mentions slavery. The law allows servitude for a term of six years. Well, if slavery were 'malum in se,' evil in itself, then it would not be tolerated for even a minute, now would it, much less for six long years? So slavery is not evil 'in itself,' and thus the way is cleared for permanent life-long slavery! And this claim is solidified and proven by God's instructions limiting servitude to six years. Is this brilliant logic, dear Reader, or sophistry of rare brazenness?

We as Christians should not simply dismiss the law, because it reveals God's mind on a variety of issues. We do not live under the Mosaic code as our civil law, but any law code we write for ourselves ought to be at least as fair, and as just, as was Moses' law code. So when you get down to cases, Dabney's dealings with the Old Testament are worse even than mere dismissal of the law would be. Moses is summarily dismissed, but he doesn't stay dismissed, he gets called back. Not only are these laws of release in no way relevant to the church, the Israel of God. . .but the mere mention of bondage in the language of these laws constitutes an absolute and unbounded permission for life-long slavery, forever! Because you see, if bondage were wrong 'in itself,' it would not be permitted even for six years. And since it's not wrong 'in itself,' you can drop the six year limitation!

There's manifestly a fallacy here; it's probably sorites. Piling one straw more on the donkey's back does not cause him to collapse beneath the weight; but what is a ton except one straw plus one straw plus one straw? What is labor law but specifying, 'this many hours, and not that many hours.' It takes a very special person, like Douglas Wilson, to look at this argument and think it's brilliant. It's obviously wrong. According to the argument, if slavery were 'malum in se,' evil 'in itself,' it would be prohibited altogether and not limited to six years. But God is not opposed to employment. He is against oppression. He is against exploitation. How does employment turn into these things? It may be by such insensible additions as when the load of straw on the donkey's back accumulates to the point where it crushes him. What was the straw that broke his back? Who knows, but life-long slavery is certainly too long, which is why it's actually illegal. Dabney could have told the Southern public that. He knew that's what God's word says. He did not.

It is impossible to wrap one's mind around Dabney's tap-dancing sophistry: these laws don't apply to us, and not only that but they give the Southern slave-owner unquestioned permission to hold non-foreigners in perpetual bondage! As we've seen, he states very plausibly, "Doubtless, the standard which they had in view, in commanding masters to 'render to their servants those things which are just and equal,' was the Mosaic law." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1864). Doubtless, indeed; but he has no intention of advising anyone to observe the Mosaic law, with its time limit for servitude of six years; he immediately explains that the slave-owner has "a right to the slave's labor for life," (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1864), which is quite simply not what Moses said. This is not an honest effort to understand the Bible. These rapacious, avaricious people wanted what they wanted, and they could not have cared less what God had said about it.

Dabney believed that the Jacobin spirit persisted; triumphant in the Civil War, the Jacobins proceeded to offer the franchise to the newly liberated slaves, which resulted in disaster from his standpoint:

"Argument is scarcely needed to demonstrate that the infamous reconstruction measures were taken, not in the interests of a true Union, but of this Jacobin faction. . .Their reconstruction measures, in their sense of them, were an entire success,— and did just what they designed,— helped them to elect a series of Jacobin Presidents and to fix their parties and policy upon the country. True: those measures placed the noblest white race on earth beneath the heels of a foul minority constructed of a horde of black, semi-barbarous ex-slaves and a gang of white plunderers and renegades." (Discussions by Robert L. Dabney, Volume IV, The True Purpose of the Civil War, p. 106).

When followers of Dabney talk about "Jacobins" and the French Revolution, they are talking about measures like "negro suffrage," which they oppose. These grievances were only magnified through Reconstruction and beyond and are at this point unappeasable and irremediable.

LogoMalum in Se

P.T. Barnum used to say there's a sucker born every minute. Realizing that people are wonderfully impressed by an ethical argument with Latin phrases sprinkled throughout, Robert Lewis Dabney gives us 'malum per se,' a Latin phrase meaning 'evil in itself.' Slavery, he explains, cannot be 'evil in itself,' because the word occurs in the Old Testament, in some cases, without condemnation, as when provision is made for the slave who wants to remain attached to his master; he does not want to go free in the Jubilee. In that case, "He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever." (Exodus 21:6).

Malum in se is a phrase heard in legal theory that refers to those things which are wrong in themselves, not wrong by convention. For instance, stopping your car when you see an octagonal red sign that says 'Stop' is a social convention. It's not inherently wrong to blow by such a sign, though the law may attach penalties to so doing. But identifying theft and murder as wrong is not a convention; rather, these are things which ought to be everywhere criminal; if they are not, there is something seriously wrong with the law code. Robert Lewis Dabney, Moscow Idaho's favorite unreconstructed Confederate, used to use the principle in his arguments in defense of slavery, purporting to show that, while local law codes might attach a penalty to owning saves if such was the pleasure of the legislature, owning slaves cannot be wrong in itself.

Now, how would we know if a thing is wrong in itself? Why, if God decrees it, for any reason, at any time, under any circumstances, then it cannot be wrong in itself. Surely you would not accuse the Judge of all the earth of wrong-doing! Anything God commands must be inherently innocent and righteous. And does God include captivity and slavery in His list of judicial punishments that He may, at His discretion, apply to mankind? Yes, He does. See, for example, the blessings and curses attached to the law, in Deuteronomy 28,

"And there you shall be offered for sale to our enemies as male and female saves, but no one will buy you." (Deuteronomy 28:18)

What could be more plain? The Lord intends to reduce to servitude those who defy Him; He Himself says as much. So therefore any Virginia plantation-owner who does the same, who reduces a man to servitude for his own convenience, is only doing what God does and such a thing cannot be wrong in itself, malum in se. Attached to this is some confused notion that God's punishments must, in the end, be remedial; yet blotting a people out from under the sky cannot be remedial in any sense. What is left to remediate?

Now if you are Doug Wilson, you start back in astonishment at the brilliance of this argument, and imagine that all the abolitionists who faced Robert Lewis Dabney on the debate stage in the lead-up to the Civil War came away abashed, looking downward in confusion, too ashamed to meet R.L.'s commanding gaze. Well, maybe that never actually happened, but he did write a letter to the editor. And not only is this not a brilliant argument in defense of slavery or anything else, it's one of the worst arguments ever advanced with a straight face in defense of anything.

And you will hear similar arguments over and over again from Moscow, Idaho, who have generalized the principle behind it to be an all-purpose get-out-of-jail-free card. Whenever there is a clear divine command to do this or do that, they look over, behind, and around it, to find instances of people who did not obey that command (maybe because it had not yet been delivered). If any such instance can be found, even a single, solitary case, then, in their mind, that eradicates the command. It's excised right straight out of the Bible, just like Thomas Jefferson excised problem texts out of his copy of the New Testatment. Does the New Testament say the saints are not to use filthy language? It does. Oh, but the prophets do! Are you saying God did something wrong? The argument might be summarized as 'If God can do it, we can do it.' The concept, it's not wrong for Him, but it is wrong for you, is beyond their capacity to formulate. Are you saying the rules are different for Him than for you? That's not fair! The rules must be the same for all.

So, for example, does the judge on his bench deliver the sentence against the serial killer, that he is to be executed? Why, then, any incel living in his mom's basement can sentence someone to death, and go and carry it out, too! Our every breath is borrowed from God; if He ceases to believe in us, we cease to exist. Does His standing to deliberate whether our continued existence is warranted or not differ one iota from our own? I should think so, given the gulf between us; our fellow sinners do not owe their lives to us, as they do to God; every breath they've taken thus far in life is His gift, is it ours, too? Thus the Bible says, "Who are you to judge another's servant?" (Romans 14:4). For one finite, created being to look at another and say, 'you do not deserve to live,' is lese-majeste as well as murder. The conviction that we stand in the place of God to look down upon another of our fellow-servants is itself blasphemy.

Faced with the rebellion of humanity, God determined to drown all people on the earth save eight. Was this wrong? No; humanity is His project, He can terminate it if He wills and no one can complain. As He Himself puts it,

"Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand." (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Meanwhile, if one of the 'kings' of Moscow, Idaho goes and attaches a few sticks of dynamite to the Hoover dam, he's going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Is this fair? Yes. The incel-king can have no right to kill anybody; He is not God. On top of attempted murder, he is also guilty of presumption in thinking He is God when He is not. He is just like the prince of Tyre, who magnified himself beyond his station. The rules are not the same for God as they are for us; how could they possibly be?

God commanded that, not only the idols of the holy land be smashed, but that their proprietors, the idolaters, be killed. Both the idolaters and their paraphernalia were to meet the same fate. Whether these people intend to  graduate to that next level of presumption remains to be seen. Lately the 'kings' of Moscow, Idaho have taken idol-smashing up as a hobby, dismantling 'Baphomet,' made of pool noodles. Is God committing a crime when He rids the land of those who are defiling it? Of course not. Are those who follow His direct, verified instructions in carrying them out committing a crime? No. Are the incel-kings committing a crime when they imitate God? You bet. They have no commission to do this at all. May the prosecutors have the last word regarding the deconstruction of Baphomet.

What is wrong with their reasoning? There is no concept here of divine command; that God is empowered to direct us in how we are to behave. When the nominal 'Christians' of Moscow, Idaho insist on using filthy language, they are directly and intentionally doing what God told us not to do: ". . .neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks." (Ephesians 5:3). Their only conception of wrong, sin, or evil is that it is an inherent trait of the act itself, and that it really does not matter who is doing it. Thus they reason, that if God does it, it cannot be wrong. That is certainly true, but has nothing to do with the instructions He has given to us, and which they ought to be following if they claim to be Christians.

What exactly is wrong with Robert Lewis Dabney's 'malum in se' argument in favor of slavery? It seems to be an instance of sorites. Sorites is not a fallacy per se, but it is a paradox or conundrum which can certainly become entangled with fallacious reasoning. The ancient logicians used the example of the heap of sand; if you prefer, you can go with loading straw on a donkey. When does a heap cease to be a heap? Remove one grain of sand at a time; look, it's still a heap! So we enunciate the general principle, 'removing one grain of sand from a heap will not cause it to cease to be a heap.'

But take it to the extreme. When there are only thirty grains of sand left in the heap, does removing one, bringing the grain-count down to 29, cause it to cease to be a heap? Is 29 grains a 'scattering' of sand or a 'heap'? Then what was so special about that one grain of sand we removed that it caused a 'heap' to become a 'scattering'? Are there inflection points, critical tipping points, and how would anyone know when they are attained? Certainly when you look at the two extreme cases: here is a heap of sand, here is bare ground,— they are as different as different can be. A heap of sand is not the same thing as bare ground, where there is no sand at all. But when and how is the transition arrived at?

It seems there are several identifiable problems here. For one thing, 'heap' is not a well-defined word. Are 30 grains of sand a 'heap'? Or 300? The meaning of this word is vague; one could argue forever about whether this little mound is a 'heap' or not a heap. Sorites is not itself a fallacy, but it can play into fallacious reasoning. Let's look at labor law, for example. Whether drafted by God through Moses or written by legislatures in the modern day, certain arrangements are perceived as oppressive or inherently exploitive and are criminalized. 'Employment' is not a problem, either for Moses or for our modern-day Solons. They used to give you a watch when you had completed thirty years employment to the same company. I don't know if they still do. It's not illegal, and it never was; Moses allows a man to work for someone he wants to work for for his entire working life.

But then there's 'slavery.' It's a criminal offense, in both cases. What's the difference? There are issues, like who is free to walk away from the deal, not only how long it lasts. But how long it lasts does matter. Moses allows a labor contract of six years, the seventh year the servant goes free. Why six years? How do we know that seven years is oppressive? Was it starting to get a little bit oppressive at six and a half years, or does it all of a sudden mutate over into a completely different thing at seven years? Employment is benign, slavery is wicked. We have a 40 hour work week, the employer has to pay time and a half for overtime. But what's magic about 40 hours? Why not 35?

Time passes by in one continuous stream; why are there these breaks in the time stream where what was fine before all of a sudden becomes a problem, indeed, a criminal offense? How does innocence pass over into criminality? And it does, just ask the ancient Egyptians; you might get visited by plagues of locusts, etc., if you are an oppressor. There are only so many years in a human life, and so 'how long' really does matter. The Egyptians were not punished for a small offense; enslavement is a big offense in God's sight. One can imagine the bereaved Egyptians, staring down at the dead bodies of their first-born sons, asking in misery, 'You mean all we had to do was pay these guys a living wage? That's it, and it would have been OK?' Maybe there was even room for that in the budget. Maybe a fair deal would have kept the beleaguered Hebrews from crying out to God for justice. A technicality perhaps, but small things can be very important in God's sight. The dividing line beween employment and slavery may be difficult to pinpoint, but it is the difference between innocence and a crime. The ethical divide, in the end, winds up being huge.

It's not that enslavement is a small offense; it's not. It's just that, if we divide our working lives into 15-minute segments, it's hard to pinpoint which 15-minute segment broke the donkey's back. Certainly the first one he carried with ease; what went wrong? A straw pack isn't 'malum in se,' back-breaking 'in itself,' but keep adding on and you pass a point of no return. At what point did the Egyptians' treatment of the Hebrews become intolerable? The children of Israel started out as honored guests in the land, and, one would expect, did not descend into the depths of slavery all in one leap. One 15-minute segment does not slavery make, no more than one grain of sand makes a heap; but surely when the last one is gone, there is no more heap. So sorites is the fallacy, or the set-up to the fallacy; sound logic it's not.

Terms and conditions, though they might seem like small things in themselves, are ultimately really important in differentiating between oppression and lawful employment. They still are to this day. God does not say that employment in and of itself is 'malum in se,' that it is inherently evil; but it can certainly become exploitive, and He acted to forestall that. People who love Him are obliged to agree with Him.  Let's try a thought experiment. Start with what is conceded by all to be a lawful, innocuous situation: one man contracts voluntarily to work for another man. This is lawful, both to Moses and also in American law. We start off with reasonable, conventional work hours; then begin adding 15-minute segments to his work week. At the start, we were OK; when do we get into trouble? It's hard to pinpoint, but by the time the man is held to an 80-hour work week, the prosecutors want to talk to him. Which 15-minute segment broke the donkey's back? How did this 15-minute segment differ from the others? It didn't, but the employer has landed in jail, where he didn't used to be. Not because employment is 'malum in se,' it isn't, but because oppression is malum in se.

The pro-slavery contingent sees real promise in the fact that the law of Moses carves out an exemption for foreigners. Rousas Rushdoony thought Moses meant to say that the Israelites were good folks, and so they deserved freedom; the pagans, you see, were bad folks, and so they did not deserve freedom. And which are we? We're the good folks! (surprise). But the Bible nowhere says this. It seems likelier to me that, Moses not being empowered to legislate for foreigners, the provisions of the law have to default to 'international law' when dealing with foreigners, and the foreigners knew no Jubilee.

Let's run a simulation, a game, where Jews who purchase Gentile servants have to free them after six years, but Gentiles who purchase Jewish servants do not have to free them, ever at all; they can hold them for life. Moses, after all, cannot compel this group to do one thing or another. Run several generations of that game, and what do you get? You end up, I suspect, with a higher percentage of the Jewish community enslaved than the Gentile community. God did not want this outcome, and so he exempted foreigners from the protection of the law. This does not mean that the Neoconfederates should feel free to enslave African-Americans, who are no more foreigners than they are, and no more pagans.

Whether a given behavior is classed as 'malum in se' depends on how it's defined. Is oppression 'malum in se'? Since it's never described favorably, although it is allowed as punishment for bad behavior, then yes, oppression is malum in se. Is servitude malum in se? No, the Bible is not against employment as such. We look to the terms and conditions to determine whether the given case is oppression or not. They used to give a man a watch when he had worked for the firm for 30 years. And by the way, in American English, we don't ever use the word 'slavery' to describe that state of affairs. Part of what gives the sophists room to maneuver here is the fact that comparable Hebrew and Greek words can encompass both lawful, voluntary employment, but also life-long involuntary servitude. In some cases, 'servitude' would be a better translation than 'slavery.'

Dabney's approach, if we were serious about adopting it wholesale,would certainly produce changes in our law code. Ask, for example, is 'sex' 'malum in se,' evil in itself? No, of course not; a married couple may have sexual relations without anyone blaming them for anything. OK, so then, since sex is not evil in itself, then rape can at most be a minor, technical violation, pertaining to an attendant circumstance, namely the lack of consent. Um, it's a major crime. Try again.

LogoReplacement Theory

Dabney's grim warning of the replacement of the white race is a theme that has not died down to the present day; you can hear it on Fox News. He offers our neighbors to the South as a grim example of the mongrelization to which race-mixing leads:

"We have before our eyes, in Mexico, the proof and illustration of the satanic wisdom of their plan. There we saw a splendid colonial empire, first blighted by abolition; then a frantic spirit of levelling, declaring the equality of the colored races with the Spaniard; and last, the mixture of the Castilian blood — the grandest of all the Gothic — resulting in the mongrel rabble which is now the shame and plague of that wretched land. Such is the danger which is now before us." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Speech Against the Ecclesiastical Equality of Negro Preachers in our Church, p. 8).

LogoOne Master

Some of those in Douglas Wilson's circle think that the abolitionists must have been wrong, because Paul says that he is a slave of God. There can be nothing wrong with slavery, they explain, if that relationship is itself a model for the relation between God and man. But this proves more than they hope to prove. Jesus says that you cannot serve two masters:

  • "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
  • (Luke 16:13)

LogoIf you can only serve one master faithfully, then let that be God and not man. Then He must fill the role of Master alone and unassisted, not serving as pattern and exemplar for some eager little god-in-training. And so they all are; not a one of the pro-slavery caucus visualizes himself as a slave, they are all and only masters. But if, as the Bible says, there is one alone Master, Him we must serve, and Him alone:

“'For ye are bought,' saith he, 'with a price; be not ye the servants of men.' Consider, saith he, the price that hath been paid for thee, and thou wilt be a slave to no man; by the price meaning the cross.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, Homily 54, Section 7, ECF_1_10, p. 706).

. . .leaving none of us available to these would-be slave-owners of the present day. Too bad.

Though there seems to be some intent on the part of the Lord to deprecate the term (John 15:15), 'slave' is a common designation for believers vis-a-vis God both in the New Testament and in early church usage. Paul calls himself the slave of God, even though he also says, "For ye have not received a spirit of bondage [δουλειας - slavery] again for fear, but ye have received a spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15), acknowledging perhaps that this is not the highest title we can claim. So they're roughly on track to that point. Where they go off the rails is in failing to hear what they themselves are saying,

"The Hebrew people had been delivered from one master in order to serve another. . .The Exodus did not rescue them from slavery altogether, but only from slavery to Pharaoh. Now they were the slaves of God: 'The Exodus represented a historical event that formed the basis on which Israel understood itself as the slaves of God. Included in this understanding was the obligation to serve God in loyal obedience and to reject all others. . .'" (John MacArthur, Slave, p. 43).

Get that? "Reject all others"! They say it themselves, and then reject it. The fact that Christians are slaves of God does not establish a hierarchy of slave-masters, with God conceded to be occupying the top rung, as those on the lower rungs work diligently to improve their position and advance in the craft. The Bible says, serve only One. They quote the Bible saying that, then triumphantly announce, 'See? The Bible says anyone can be a slave-owner!' MacArthur goes on to explain, "Sadly, throughout Israel's history, the Jews frequently forgot that He was their Master. Instead of obeying and honoring Him alone, they repeatedly flirted with idolatry and rebellion against the Lord." (John MacArthur, Slave, p. 43). Does he understand what "alone" means? If he does, how can he think the meaning best served by reinstituting and normalizing slavery? If God alone is to be Master, there can be no human Masters. Not many, not the normal thing, but none.

'Slave of God' is an honorable title, borne by Moses and Abraham. We are privileged to serve in this capacity, and should stretch our talents to the utmost of our abilities:

"When then has a slave freedom of speech towards his master? Is it not when he is conscious that he has not wronged him, but that he has done and said everything with a view to the advantage of his owner? When therefore is it proper for the servant of God to use freedom of speech to the ruler and master of himself, and of the whole word? Is it not when he is free from all sins, and is aware in his conscience that he loves his master, feeling more joy at the fact of being a servant of God, than he would if he were sovereign over the whole race of mankind, and were invested without any effort on his part with the supreme authority over land and sea." (Philo Judaeus, Who is the Heir of Divine Things? Chapter II).

But that is precisely the Lord's point. You can't be a slave of God, and a slave of everyone and everything else besides. You must choose who you will serve.

Desiderius Erasmus Scriptural Basis
Seek and Find Adam and Eve
Can and Does Glorious Liberty
Unwilling Onlookers
Rich Young Ruler Perfection

Logo MacArthur explains, "to be a slave was to be under the complete authority of someone else." (John MacArthur, Slave, p. 46). To be under the "complete" authority of. . .multiple owners? Can't do it, so says Jesus. And MacArthur seems to understand: "Discipleship, like slavery, entails a life of total self-denial. . .a wholehearted devotion to the Master alone. . ." (John MacArthur, Slave, p. 55). Not partial devotion to two masters, one merely human and one divine, but "to the Master alone." He even says it, but he does not mean it. "Instead we are under the exclusive ownership of God." (John MacArthur, Slave, p. 55). What does "exclusive" mean? He does not know. He says it, but he does not mean it: "Like slaves, we are to be fully devoted to our Master alone. . .Such exclusive devotion makes it impossible to serve God and other masters at the same time." (John MacArthur, Slave, p. 59). He said a true thing, but he does not know he said a true thing.

Why this nostalgia for slavery to man, long dead and unlamented? Certainly they are mistaken in thinking all God demands of them is to treat their slaves well. Well relative to what standard? To the standard He set for Israel, of six years and out? There is a limit to how much you can accomplish in that direction. Suppose you shrink with horror from a modern egg farm, reminiscent of Dante's purgatory, where the wind never ruffles a feather nor a sun beam glints off a beak. Suppose you say, 'I'll never treat my hens like that.' Fine, you can raise free-range chickens. But you will have to charge more for their eggs; the market sets the price. Imprisoning the animals in an unnatural world shaves pennies off the cost of raising them; that's why they do it. Think you'll treat your slaves well? You'll get the same price for your cotton as your neighbor gets for his, and you will in the end treat your slaves about as well as he treats his.

Did Tiro hate Cicero's guts? I'm sure he did not, but did Cicero deal with Tiro in all respects as the Golden Rule would have him do? That too is a negative, although with Cicero being a pagan, it's a moot point. I'm sure we all have had generous bosses, who rewarded their workers with a turkey at Thanksgiving; they went above and beyond what was expected, and we appreciated it. You can be a good boss or a bad boss. And there is a certain avenue there to travel, as for example when Leo Tolstoy determined to be the best feudal estate proprietor he could possibly be and treat his serfs as well as he could. But at a certain point you hit a brick wall; the best you can do with a bad system is abolish the system. The much-abused Harriet Beecher Stowe showed some of the limitations of the 'be-the-best-slave-owner-you-can-be' approach in her pot-boiler, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' The kindly Mr. Shelby did not intend to mistreat anyone; but he is the one who sold Tom down the river. If a bad system makes good people do bad things, abolish the system. And, no, the Bible does not say it's a good system.

There's a lot that Christianity can take credit for, and eliminating slavery is one great achievement — that certain modern American 'Christians' wish hadn't happened! It wasn't the Muslim world that accomplished this, it wasn't China or India. "By the twelfth century slaves in Europe were rare, and by the fourteenth century slavery was almost unknown on the Continent." (How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin J. Schmidt, p. 274). Unfortunately the Christian world took a giant step backward on this point when the New World was settled. And whenever this topic is discussed even to the present day, ominous figures emerge from the darkness who want to keep on marching backward yet further still.

The concept behind MacArthur's book, whoever actually wrote it, is that the Greek word 'doulos' is mistranslated when the KJV translators render it as 'servant,' as they usually do, rather than 'slave.' One suspects that, in the author's world view, slavery ended because of the French Revolution, rather than as in actual history, slavery ended because it was incompatible with Christianity. It is begging the question to assert that 'servant' in English must always mean 'hired servant;' obviously the KJV translators did not think so, they think there were also bond-servants. It's true enough they lived in a country where slavery had been deprecated back in the middle ages, because of Christianity. In the Bible, the Messiah is referred to as a 'servant' [ebed], Isaiah 53:11 and elsewhere, and also in Philippians 2:7 as a 'doulos:'

LogoMaster Debater

You'll hear a yarn from certain Neoconfederates about how Dabney travelled the country debating Northern abolitionists, leaving them shame-faced and abashed as he demolished their arguments with solid Biblical proof. I can't find any evidence that he did anything of the sort. Prior to the Civil War he wrote a letter to the editor and after the Civil War he wrote a book, 'Defense of Virginia and the South.' Nor would anything like that have been the outcome had he tried his hand at the debate circuit.

Dabney himself was not aware of this latter-day myth-making, saying, in an unsourced quotation in the Introduction of  the slavery apologists' edition of the 'Defense of the South,' "Our failure to meet the abolition charges squarely was viewed as a confession of our own guilt." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 25). In the main body of that work, he accuses his fellow slave-owners of neglecting this very debate: "They failed to meet the Abolitionists with sufficient persistence and force on the radical question — the righteousness of African servitude as existing among us." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 153). Their in-house examination of the matter, while entirely satisfactory to his mind, never penetrated to the North, so he explains: "The South has been condemned unheard." (Dabney, Defense, Kindle 174).

How the slave-owners could at once have dominated the debate, as Dabney's modern heirs claim, and also have neglected to prosecute it, as Dabney charges, they don't explain. After the fact, after the Civil War put an end to slavery, he took up the cause of its defense. The after-the-fact 'debate' between the abolitionists and Dabney is more a case of people talking past each other. They were talking Bible, he was talking experience, or experience as he experienced it, where experience teaches the inadequacies of African-Americans and little else. In real-time, the debate between North and South over slavery featured, on the part of the South, little that was any more respectable than such laughable trash as 'the Curse of Ham.' Curious readers can check and see for themselves, there is no 'Curse of Ham' in the Bible. When John MacArthur explains that "Ham" are the servile people, ask him where in the Bible it says that Ham are the servile people. It doesn't.

Robert Lewis Dabney taught theology for years and took an active role in the ecclesiastical politics of the Southern Presbyterian Church. One can only speculate what response he would have given, confronted by the many Biblical arguments of the abolitionists. He never actually does give much of anything along that line. His own reasoning on slavery bears little or no relation to the Bible, deriving instead from his low opinion of the character and capabilities of African-Americans. This information is not found in the Bible. There's nothing derogatory to Africans in the Bible as it was given to us by the hand of God.

One Bible argument that frequently occurs to first-time abolitionists, people who are challenged to say where the Bible condemns slavery, when they have never read any abolitionist literature, is the Golden Rule. What else is needed to rid the world of slavery, than this rule?: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12). This is a valid point. If taken seriously and literally, the Golden Rule would break the captive's chains. Who willingly consents to being a slave? But the white racists are quite unmoved by this argument. It actually doesn't 'work' very well from a rhetorical standpoint, though it is formally valid. First, they shift the ground from what people want to have done to what they ought to want, or what they would want if they were better informed as to their own best interests:

"The whole reasoning of the Abolitionists proceeds on the absurd idea, that any caprice or vain desire we might entertain towards our fellowman, if we were in his place, and he in ours, must be the rule of our conduct towards him, whether the desire would be in itself right or not. This absurdity has been illustrated by a thousand instances. On this rule, a parent who, were he a child again, would be wayward and self-indulgent, commits a clear sin in restraining or punishing the waywardness of his child, for this is doing the opposite of what he would wish were he again the child. . .In a word, whatever ill-regulated desire we are conscious of having, or of being likely to have, in reversed circumstances, that desire we are bound to make the rule of our action in granting the parallel caprice of any other man, be he bore, beggar, highwayman, or what not. On this understanding, the Golden Rule would become anything but golden; it would be a rule of iniquity; for instead of making impartial equity our regulating principle, it would make the accident of man's criminal caprice the law of his acts." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2326-2334)

In other words, if the slave had any sense, he would realize he's better off as property of the wise and benevolent white man. Just as you are not really obeying the Golden Rule in giving a child candy for dinner, even though he says that is what he wants, so "emancipation is a sin," being harmful to the slave's true interests. The concept behind using the Golden Rule to advance abolition is that, if you ask a slave-owner whether he treats his slaves well, he will of course say "yes." If you ask him, however, would he willingly trade places with one of his slaves, he will be obliged to decline; no one wants to be a slave. Making this calculation requires empathy, which is probably part of the reason why Neoconfederacy and white supremacy overlap with the anti-empathy faction currently abroad in the church.


The reader, in tracing this shape-shifting rogue's devolutions through the scriptures, finds himself often required to change course, and indeed make entire U-turns. Does the law of Moses have anything to do with Christians, or not? Well, when abolitionists point out that Moses required the liberation of a Hebrew slave after six years, then it has nothing to do with us, because these civil laws "were peculiar to the Jews:"

  • “To effect these objects, He renewed his revelation of the eternal and unchangeable moral law, from Sinai, in the Decalogue; and he also gave, by the intervention of Moses, various religious and civil laws, which were peculiar to the Jews, and were never intended to be observed after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The great object of all this legislation was to set apart the Jewish nation as a holy people, peculiarly dedicated to purity of moral life, and the maintenance of true religion, amidst corrupt and idolatrous generations.”
  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1364).

Rousas Rushdoon
Robert Lewis Dabney
Douglas Wilson
Wall of Separation
Church of the Apostles

LogoSo Dabney feels free to disregard that provision of Moses' law which limits the terms of servitude for an Israelite to six years. He makes no effort to explain why, if slavery is a benevolent institution as he claims, Israelites are barred from enjoying the benefits of it; it just doesn't exist as far as he's concerned. It's true foreign slaves are allowed; but Israel was never commanded to conquer the world, nor did it ever come close to doing so. It was dominated by the other world powers, never dominant. There was no stream of captives marching back from Israel's world conquests, as would be seen with Rome, nor any instruction to make those conquests. Israel was not, by God's design, a slave state.

And it's true that the Mosaic law is not in force as civil law for Christians. But let an abolitionist make a very similar claim, that Abraham, who owned slaves, also practiced polygamy, and he sputters, "When will men learn that the author of the Old Testament law was not Moses, but God? Is God timid? Does he fear to deal firmly with his creatures?" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia, Kindle location 1669). The abolitionist is making the same argument that he just got done making: that the Old Testament evidence is less relevant for Christians than the New. But notice that when he was making the argument, it was sound, but when the abolitionist said the same thing, he waxed indignant. It's actually not a very good argument, but it wasn't any better when he offered it than when the abolitionist did. Here we have no equal weights and measures, rather a blur of constant motion, as Dabney does his two-step shifting ground with each move.

Logo Another instance, starting from a slightly different perspective. Not all critics, or for that matter defenders, of slavery, began and ended with the Bible; slavery was discussed from a variety of perspectives, including from the economic angle. What is the most efficient way to get maximum output from your labor force? Is it slavery, or is slavery a poison pill? In his defense of the south, R. L. Dabney boxes the compass and rounds the bases: he responds to all critics of slavery, both secular and religious. But some abolitionists were aiming their complaints against slavery almost from opposite sides of the arena. Some approached the subject with legal and political concerns, others, of course, cared about the Bible above all else, some were sentimentalists. . .and then there were the economists. No less than Adam Smith thought that slavery was a bad system, because inefficient:

"The experience of all ages and nations, I believe, demonstrates that the work done by slaves, though it appears to cost only their maintenance, is in the end the dearest of any. A person who can acquire no property can have no other interest but to eat as much and to labor as little as possible. Whatever work he does beyond what is sufficient to purchase his own maintenance, can be squeezed out of him by violence only, and not by any interest of his own." (Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Kindle Locations 6046-6049), Book 3, Chapter 2).

The reader of Dabney is regretfully familiar with his affirmative case for slavery, which is that Africans are lazy, shiftless, and disinclined to work, and that therefore they and society benefit when others are placed in superintendence over them, willing or not: ". . .that evil was not slavery, but the presence among us of four millions of recent pagans, characterized by all the listlessness, laziness, and unthrift of savages." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location (3839-3847)). And this condition is not remediable, it is hereditary, he claims, making these lamentable allegations over and over again.

Douglas Wilson frets that Dabney should have consulted with him before defending antebellum slavery; he would have counseled him to make the case for cultural inferiority, not racial inferiority. Why picking cotton in the fields would have remedied this presumed cultural inferiority, in a legal atmosphere where teaching blacks to read and write was often criminalized, is unclear. Even friends of the peculiar institution were obliged to admit the fact: "Shall we speak of access to the Scriptures? The statutes of our respective slave States forbid all knowledge of letters to the Negroes; and where the statutes do not custom does." (Jones, Charles Colcock. The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States (1842) (p. 81). Kindle Edition.) Here, the purported inefficiency of slave labor is made into the very case against it. So does Dabney continue to believe in it, or does he forget he ever made that case himself, arguing for slavery?

Okay, say the professional economists, reading slave-owner complaints that four slaves are needed to do the work of one free laborer: slaves are inefficient workers, we get that. Therefore, slavery is a bad system. Because the lash is after all a poor motivator, a better system of organizing labor must be found. So say the 'liberal' economists. Not so fast, interjects Dabney! Why, the Africans are such willing workers they don't even need supervision: "But in the South, nothing was more common than to see estates farmed by the faithful slaves, for widows, orphans, professional men, or non-resident proprietors, without any other superintendence than an occasional visit. Now, all this is at an end." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3838).

Does he notice, or care, that his present representation that the African workers did not require any supervision at all, entirely contradicts his entire pro-slavery argument? We learn now, that not a word of it was true? He answers as the exigencies of the moment require; he hates the northern economists just as much as he hates the northern Biblicist abolitionists, and so everything they say is false, even if pointing that out requires him to toss his own pro-slavery case in the dumpster. Not to worry, Douglas Wilson can fish it out of the dumpster, steam clean and dry it, and market it to a new generation of neo-Confederates, the scary, unsmiling young men who follow him. But Dabney's case, in the end, is a bundle of contradictions. Either slavery was a blessing to the slaves because they needed constant supervision. Or maybe they needed no supervision at all. Maybe the Northern Abolitionists erred in counting the red letter words of the New Testament as having more weight than the Old, as some of them did. Don't they understand it's all of God?  But then again, Dabney himself felt free to disregard those portions of the Mosaic law that didn't work for him. Just keep dancing and maybe no one will notice.

The Verse Idol-Smashing
Covenant of One Baphomet
Malum in Se What Went Wrong?
Extreme Provocation

LogoMan of His Time

It shouldn't be forgotten, when people trot out the 'man of his times' argument, that Robert Lewis Dabney and his contemporaries lived during the Golden Age of abolitionist literature. The antebellum Southern slave-owners, whom this argument seeks to defend, lived at the very time in history when the abolitionist publishing industry had gone into overdrive, blanketing the country with pamphlets explaining, from the Bible, though also, of course, from a variety of secular political and practical perspectives, what was wrong with slavery. Dabney, too, rounds the bases in his defense of the institution, addressing not only the Bible but also legal challenges from within the perspective of American law,— and Adam Smith's economic case, which is remarkable only in the way his response to the economic argument upends his own affirmative case for slavery.

'Is slave labor inefficient?' ask the economists. 'If so, we need a better system of labor discipline!' In response, Dabney explains that no labor is more efficient than slave labor; slaves work faithfully for their orphan child master without requiring any oversight at all: "But in the South, nothing was more common than to see estates farmed by the faithful slaves, for widows, orphans, professional men, or non-resident proprietors, without any other superintendence than an occasional visit." (Robert L. Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3838). It seems he has forgotten his whole argument for slavery is that African-Americans require superintendence. He thus breezily negates his entire argument, but never mind. One does not look for consistency from a racist.

The Bible is not compatible with slavery; this the abolitionists proved. And the Southerners themselves understood well enough the Biblical case against slavery. Had a local planter, deeply in debt, been seized and forced into slavery by his creditors, they would have howled in protest and demanded the malefactors be imprisoned. They did in fact understand that slavery was wrong and unbiblical — when it came to people like themselves. No white enslaved people were liberated by Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation,— there were none. They understood slavery was wrong. Only just not when it came to African-Americans.

As a man of his times, Robert Lewis Dabney was not a camp follower, he was an influencer. After the Civil War, he led the way to the deprivation of Black citizenship rights, he did not follow. Why did Reconstruction not succeed? Why did Blacks lose their voting rights? Dabney and his fellow racists persuaded white Southerners that Blacks were unfit to vote:

"The tenor of the argument concedes, what every man, not a fool, knows to be true: that the negroes, as a body, are now glaringly unfit for the privilege of voting. What makes them unfit? Such things as these: The inexorable barrier of alien race, color, and natural character, between them and that other race which constitutes the bulk of Americans: a dense ignorance of the rights and duties of citizenship: an almost universal lack of that share in the property of the country, which alone can give responsibility, patriotic interest and independence to the voter: a general moral grade so deplorably low as to permit their being driven or bought like a herd of sheep by the demagogue: a parasitical servility and dependency of nature, which characterizes the race everywhere, and in all ages: an almost total lack of real persevering aspirations: and last, an obstinate set of false traditions, which bind him as a mere serf to a party, which is the born enemy of every righteous interest of our State." (Robert Lewis Dabney, The Negro and the Common School, 1876).

So he accuses people who had been slaves of servility and people with no property of being propertyless. But the whole concept here, of educating the children so they would not be ignorant of the  rights and duties of citizenship, is what he's against, not what he's for. He doesn't want to make it better.

Dabney does not intend to defend slavery as it existed in ancient Rome, the Ottoman Empire, premodern England, or anywhere else. He did not seek to overturn the saying, "An Englishman can be a villein, but he cannot be a slave." There is one, and only one, form of slavery he upholds:

"It is enough for us to say (what is capable of overwhelming demonstration) that for the African Race, such as Providence has made it, and where He has placed it in America, slavery was the righteous, the best, yea, the only tolerable relation." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 291).

With the insouciance of a practiced liar, he goes on to say, "And in conclusion, we would state that it is our purpose to argue this proposition chiefly on Bible grounds." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 291). However, as has been noted, his claim of the moral and intellectual inferiority of persons of African descent can in no way be substantiated from the Bible, because the Bible contains no such information. There's nothing even remotely like that! The last thing in the world this man cares about is what the Bible says, because the Bible says nothing derogatory to Africans. His pro-slavery case is that, luckily for the African-Americans, who are lazy, unprincipled, stupid, and generally lacking in executive skills, there is a master race living right next door in the South, who possess all these good qualities in abundance, and are happy to lend their management expertise in exchange for a small stake in the joint venture. This is in the Bible? It's not.

LogoDouglas Wilson

Robert Lewis Dabney's great champion and defender on the contemporary scene is Douglas Wilson, a pastor in Moscow, Idaho. He is aware that Dabney was a venomous racist, yet responds with injured innocence when onlookers, seeing his celebration of Dabney's magnificence, assume that he is the same. See if you can follow the logic, dear reader: a.) The Confederacy was founded on white supremacy; b.) its bitter-end defenders, like Robert Dabney, defended it on the same basis; c.) the Confederacy and its defenders were entirely in the right in their dispute with the North, yet d.) imputing racism to those who fully approve of c.) is a vile and deliberate slander. I can't either.

Happy Slaves
Racial Insensitivity
What Saith the Scripture?
Test Case
John Brown's Body
Whosoever Will
Hobgoblin of Little Minds
Neighborhood of Boston
French Revolution
Spoiling the Egyptians
Slippery Slope
League of the South
Birds of a Feather
Cultural Inferiority


Logo Here's what happened to the people up in Moscow, Idaho. They joined a cult. Hey, it happens. They may not have realized at first that the group they joined was anything other than the true church. After all, the group kept assuring them that all the other churches were communist. But then the cult kept piling on their plate this kind of race-baiting slime from Robert Lewis Dabney and his ilk. Didn't they notice there was something wrong? Why didn't they notice the food wasn't good and wholesome? Were their feelings and their reactions already perverted before they joined the cult? Did they agree with cult teachings that empathy is a sin, therefore they shouldn't be making any effort to read Dabney through the eyes of the people he hates and demeans rather than the people he loves and elevates? It may be that they can't be blamed for joining this cult. But they will have to answer for staying in it; it's not like anyone even tried to put a fig leaf over Dabney.

My first exposure to Douglas Wilson, as best I recollect, was a rather vague notice of his debates with Christopher Hitchens, the atheist. Then I happened upon an internet discussion of his views of the Civil War as expressed in 'Black and Tan,' read the book myself, and was scandalized. That such a thing should be published, even if only by a family-owned vanity press! It's a principal generally true that error begets error, so I should have expected there was more. There is more. Robert Lewis Dabney wanted to disenfranchise African-American men. There are people who want to disenfranchise women, one half the human race:

Proverbs 31 Woman
Maximize Income
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Same Nature

LogoThey Bad

Readers of the pamphlet 'Southern Slavery As It Was,' written by Steve Wilkins and Douglas Wilson, will recall that the authors find the antebellum South remarkable for the "mutual affection" that subsisted between the races: "Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world." (Southern Slavery As It Was, Steve Wilkins and Douglas Wilson). Mututal affection is as mutual affection does; it is a two-way street. I challenge the reader to find any of it here.  The reader of Robert Lewis Dabney is expected to wade through endless animadversion against African-Americans. Trash talking on this level does not seem compatible with affection, mutual or otherwise. He thinks if he piles up enough insults against these people, he will convince his reader such horrid creatures deserve nothing better than slavery.

We learn from him that blacks are an "alien and savage race" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 687). The generation after the Revolution "deprecated the slave trade, because it was peopling their soil so largely with an inferior and savage race, incapable of union, instead of with civilized Englishmen." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 641). He explains that ". . .the civilized master uses his authority against and over that of the semi-civilized, or savage parent, to train the slave child to habits of decency, industry, intelligence, and virtue, which his degraded natural guardians are unable or unwilling to inculcate. . ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2772) (that's why it's okay for slave-masters to separate slave families), etc., ad nauseam. It is distinctly difficult to find evidence of the "mutual affection" our authors claim to find in Southern slavery, because all you hear from him is odious and hateful trash-talking:

"Once more: If the society contains a class of adult members, so deficient in virtue and intelligence that they would only abuse the fuller privileges of other citizens to their own and others' detriment, it is just to withhold so many of these privileges, and to impose so much restraint, as may be necessary for the highest equity to the whole body, inclusive of this subject class. And how much restraint is just, must be determined by facts and experience." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3069).

Dabney and Wilson share a predilection for that form of moral reasoning called finger-pointing: 'Johnny! Why did you flush the goldfish down the toilet?' 'That's nothing! Jimmy did something even worse!' Who does not know the answer?: 'We're not talking about Jimmy, we're talking about you.' They concede that kidnapping into slavery is wrong, and indeed realize that Moses condemned it: "The title by which the original slave catchers held them may have been iniquitous." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3490). And so they condemn those Northern ship captains who transported captured Africans to these shores. . .without seeming to realize that, absent the Southern demand for slaves to purchase, there would have been no supply. Dabney paints a touching but decidedly unconvincing picture, which Wilson follows, of Virginia slave-owners purchasing the evil Yankee slavers' wares for no other reason but compassion! They were moved by the slaves' piteous cries, you see.

"The slaves themselves hailed the conclusion of a sale with joy, and begged the planters to become their masters, as a means of rescue from their floating prison." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3495).

And why did these compassionate souls happen to have the ready cash on them, no small investment, to purchase a slave, if they hadn't gone down to the harbor for that express purpose? Surely a slave-ship captain just passing through could not have accepted a promissory note. Most of us, before making a large investment, must shift the money from one account to another; but these generous souls carried a fortune on them at all times, just in case a pitiful slave needed rescuing! The kidnapped slaves knew no English, there being no need to acquire that language in Africa; yet their pantomimic skills were evidently so well developed they could communicate, 'Purchase me and hold me in life-long subjugation,' as the slave ships glided by. How does he know they did not seek rather to communicate, 'Throw me a crust of bread, I'm starving,' or 'Call the police! I've been kidnapped!'

If there is no demand, there is no supply, no shivering merchandise dumped on the slave market half a world away from the villages from which these blameless people were abducted. The pretense that they benefited from the transaction rings hollow against the reality that up to half the slavers' cargo perished in transit; Alexander Falconbridge, a ship's surgeon, describes horrific mortality on board one overcrowded slave ship: "This caused such a mortality among them that without meeting with unusually bad weather or having a longer voyage than common, nearly one-half of them died before the ship arrived in the West Indies." (Alexander Falconbridge, quoted p. 99, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce, Eric Metaxas).

  • “But, we emphatically repeat, the source of the evils apparent in an industrial system was the presence among us of four millions of heterogeneous pagan, uncivilized, indolent, and immoral people; and for that gigantic evil, slavery was, in part at least, the lawful, the potent, the beneficent remedy. Without this, who cannot see that such an incubus must have oppressed and blighted every interest of the country?. . .It would have been a curse sufficient to paralyze the industry, to corrupt the morals, and to crush the development of any people on earth, to have such a race spread abroad among them like the frogs of Egypt.”

  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3545).

LogoWho is he talking about? Not 'Anglo-Celtics,' that's for sure. Polish people maybe. The much-advertised 'Bible argument,' by the way, is that sinfulness is hereditary, and therefore "Ham's posterity, like their father, would be peculiarly degraded in morals" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1209) (Noah having become a cut-out for God, and Canaan sliding back a generation to Ham). It is to be expected that ". . .depraved parents will naturally rear depraved children, unless God interfere by a grace to which they have no claim; so that not only punishment, but the sinfulness, becomes hereditary." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1211). Owing to "the peculiar moral degradation" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1221) of black folk, slavery is supposedly God's best and highest for them, because the kindly slave-master can correct their tendency toward degraded morals, no doubt by whipping as is deemed appropriate. We learn these facts, not from the Bible, which neglects to mention them, but from "actual history." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1209). And this is the much ballyhooed compelling 'argument' the abolitionists could not answer!

The reader will have noticed that this new feint runs counter to the 'sentimental' defense of slavery before noted, which loved to dwell on scenes of reunion between slaves and slave-owners: "Massa and Missis have long gone before me, Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore, There we'll be happy and free from all sorrow, There's where we'll meet and we'll never part no more." (Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, James Bland). Now we learn the slaves are hell-hounds who are not bound for glory, and indeed it is this reoriented destination which justifies their enslavement. If the sentimentalists are right, Dabney is slandering God's people; if Dabney is right, the sentimentalists are raving. To the extent the slavers believed his obsequious flattery, they added the sin of pride to that of oppression, "He, whom his white oppressor refused to worship with, eat with, sail with, or dwell with on earth, shall dwell, and worship, and reign where his master may never be; and when— as may often happen— the white skin is shut out, and the black man, now and forever free, passes in at the celestial gate, it shall furnish but another illustration of the truth, that salvation is 'not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.'" (Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, Kindle location 2178).

To reproduce the kind of sophistry on display in Dabney's 'Defense of Virginia,' consider: is there anything wrong with the relationship between employer and employee, in itself? Why, no. Thank you. Therefore, there can be nothing wrong with an employer paying an employee ten cents an hour, any more than paying him ten dollars an hour; nor can there be anything wrong with stationing the employee within a sweat-shop in a building likely to fall down, as opposed to providing a safe, comfortable work-place. This is how Dabney wishes away the Mosaic law's limitation of servitude to a term of six years: if service were wrong it itself, it would be abolished, not limited; but the limitation to six years is an administrative detail; therefore, life-long slavery is enthusiastically endorsed by Moses. . .in spite of the slight technicality, that it is illegal. This is not sound reasoning; among other things, it equivocates on the word 'slavery,' because the points of demarcation between slavery and other forms of labor organization are precisely issues of 'how long' and 'under what circumstances.

Those American states, in the North, which abolished slavery prior to the Civil War did so in most cases according to a gradual schedule: persons born after a certain date, would become free on their twenty-first birthday. There are several reasons for that. It was not considered desirable to tell an eighty-year-old, 'Congratulations! Now you're free! Go out and make a living!' Such a person would have no resources, nor any prospects of finding employment. So the date of the enactment of the law was no Day of Jubilee for the eighty-year-old, nor for anyone else, though the law's backers promoted it as promising the end to slavery in the state. Generally speaking, state governments are reluctant to confiscate lawfully acquired property without compensation, and thus stretching the scheduled emancipation out for twenty odd years was considered a fair compromise.

Now here's the beauty of R. L. Dabney's 'in itself' argument: these laws abolishing slavery, which is what everyone considered them to be, because the end result of the legislation was that, after a date certain, there is no one held in slavery, are actually the very proof of slavery's essential rightness, and of the slave-owner's right to perpetual ownership of his 'property'! How so? Well, because as the law states very plainly, the slave-owner is allowed the use of the slave's coerced labor, for a certain, limited period; perhaps not long enough to recoup his investment, but still a period of years. Indeed, that's the way these laws were written. This proves that slavery is right 'in itself,' because otherwise it would not be tolerated for a second! So the very laws intended to abolish slavery in the North, prove its essential righteousness and establish the impossibility of abolishing it! We are far into Alice-in-Wonderland territory, with this 'brilliant' and incisive argument. Maybe such powerful arguments should come with a warning label.

The reader is similarly reminded of the conundrum, called sorites, wherein the donkey nibbles at the hay bale; he eats one straw, the bale is not diminished; he eats another, there is still no visible change; but keep it up, and at some point, there is not a single strand of hay left on the barn floor. Whence departed the 'hay bale'? What is a working life, but a finite sequence of years? How these years are distributed is precisely wherein labor justice is found. Dabney's much-ballyhooed logic is no more than a card trick, prestidigitation, by which he causes to disappear Moses' 'six years then freedom:' now you see it, now you don't. Moses, by term-limiting servitude to six years, cannot simultaneously be endorsing life-long slavery. What, after all, is the difference between 'employment' and 'slavery,' other than terms and conditions, including length of the contract? Let's see how to take a minimum-wage law, mandating an employer pay an employee $7.00 an hour, and employ Dabney's 'logic' to show it really means you can pay the employee 70 cents an hour:

Q. The law says, an employer must pay an employee $7.00 an hour. That means the employer-employee relation cannot be evil in itself; if it were it would be curtailed immediately, like the relation between kidnapper and his victim, not regulated.
A. Maybe. Did you know your slaves were, in the main, originally kidnap victims?
Q. Thus, having established the relation between employer and employee is good in itself, it is equally good if he pays him 70 cents an hour.
A. Whether good or only permitted, the law says seven dollars, not 70 cents!
Q. You are not listening. The law only proves the employer/employee relationship is good in itself. In spite of the little technicality that it also says to pay him $7.00, my brilliant logic proves it is equally good to pay him only 70 cents. Just as, if Moses exclaims that six years of slavery is good, why then twelve years is even better,— twice as good, to be exact!
A. Tell it to the judge; he will ask what happened to the missing $6.30. Just like Moses will ask what happened to the six-year limitation which went poof.

Dabney makes preposterous claims, like that "in their native country there was no marriage, and no marriage law" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2716), in defense of the South's failure to respect marriages between slaves. Dabney incessantly argues in a circle: when Moses commands asylum for the fugitive slave, he cannot really mean what he says, because Moses, as we have determined, is pro-slavery. Yet Wilson commends this tinny special pleading as if it were razor-sharp argumentation. In his mind, the important thing is adjectives: if you pile up the correct set of adjectives in structuring society, whether obedient to the law or not, you have done well. His adjectives are the opposite of Mary's adjectives in her magnificat: God loves especially the big, the powerful, the strong. Who else might a mighty God love and cherish? In their world, God champions hierarchy: "But the Christian faith teaches that God has established the world in hierarchal strata. In contrast, the democratic faith teaches that we are all equal and that any child can become president." (Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 73). But the living God overturns hierarchy: "He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree." (Luke 1:52).

LogoTheology Proper

Robert Lewis Dabney was not only a political agitator for the 'lost cause' of the Confederacy, he was also a theologian. He is quoted in that capacity by luminaries like John Piper. I personally don't have a problem quoting him to establish Calvinist doctrine, but then I don't like Calvinist doctrine either. There are plenty of people who have failed the personal holiness test, though they are still popular with some believers today, like Karl Barth. Robert Lewis Dabney was an unapologetic white supremacist, and he was also a Calvinist:

Total Depravity

Not a Just Man Be Ye Holy
Guilty of All All have sinned
Nature of Sin The Mean
No Such Animal Internal Consistency

Unconditional Election

Things to Come John Calvin
Before the Foundation According to Foreknowledge
Not of Works If not Merit, then what?
Encyclopedia Salesman Bum on a Park Bench
Sitting in a Chair Things Which are Despised
Known and Unknown False Arminians
All Possible Worlds Flatland
Not a Marxist Denying the Bible
Spiritual Poverty Hen and Chicks
All Men

Limited Atonement

All and Some History
Fair Warning Unmerciful Servant
Died for All The Sampler
Thwarted Desire

Irresistible Grace

Stiff-Necked Drag and Drop
Internal Consistency Happy Atheists
Call and Response


Failure to Persevere Falsification

LogoShould you quote a theologian with serious moral flaws or blind-spots, as for instance Martin Luther, who wrote a blistering anti-semitic screed late in life? Or, for instance, Jonathan Edwards, a slave-owner. I would say why not, but then I cheerfully quote Cicero, not only a slave-owner but a hell-bound pagan.

There is no question Calvinism is a harsh doctrine, not only in Dabney's treatment of it, but that of other luminaries in the Calvinist empyrean:

"There’s a deep truth in the saying that one person’s death is another person’s breath. Darwin’s doctrine of the survival of the fittest has universal validity and is in force throughout God’s creation. Thousands of blossoms fall to the ground so that a few may ripen and bear fruit. Millions of living beings are born, yet only a few remain alive. Thousands of people labor in the sweat of their face in order that a few persons may swim in wealth. Riches, art, science, all that is high and noble, are built on a foundation of poverty, deprivation, and ignorance. The equal distribution envisioned in socialist theory has never been seen anywhere in the world. Equality exists in no area of life." (Herman Bavinck, Predestination and Election, 248, from Reformed Dogmatics, God and Creation, Volume 2, at

Presumably that serrated edge, shall we say, is just exactly why some of these folks like it.

LogoA Dabney Miscellany

Did you know that a female slave was never once raped in the Commonwealth of Virginia, during the entire time slavery persisted? Never once happened. Robert Lewis Dabney established that fact, because he made inquiries:

  • “We have caused a thorough search to be made by the most competent authority in Richmond; and while many indictments are found against black men for rape of white women, none exist, in the history of our jurisprudence, against white men for rape of black women. And this, not because there would have been any difficulty in making the indictment lie: but because, as the most experienced lawyers testify, the crime is unheard of on the part of white men amongst us.”
  • (Dabney, Robert Lewis. Dabney's Defense of Virginia and the South, Annotated. (Kindle Locations 2786-2789). Booker House Publishing, Incorporated.)

LogoI can readily believe no white man was ever prosecuted in the Commonwealth of Virginia for forcible sex with a slave woman, but that it never happened is a bit of a stretch. Nor can that supposition be reconciled with the current genetic makeup of the African-American population. The Southern slave-owners may not have  bred as energetically and prolifically as did Genghis Khan, father of many of us in this weeping world, but they left a progeny, certainly without benefit of matrimony and quite likely without benefit of consent. At a minimum, many of these unions must have been authority rapes, where the victim did not really have the practical option of saying 'no,' and even if she screamed it, no prosecutor was likely to hear or care if he heard.

Part of the reason for this is that the testimony of a Black victim would never be heard over the denials of the white perpetrator. John Wesley mentions this as one of the horrors of the slave system:

"Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by the circumstance, that a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a LAW in all of our Colonies that the OATH of a black man against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!" (Letter from John Wesley to William Wilberforce, February 24, 1791).

The Black woman testifying to a rape by a slave-owner, being Black, has no chance of obtaining a conviction; her testimony can never be equal to that of the rapist. Likewise in the case of assault or indeed even murder, crimes against Blacks were not likely to be prosecuted, as Frederick Douglass discovered when he was beaten in a shipyard in full view of a crowd of men:

"His answer was, he could do nothing in the case, unless some white man would come forward and testify. He could issue no warrant on my word. If I had been killed in the presence of a thousand colored people, their testimony combined would have been insufficient to have arrested one of the murderers." (Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life, Chapter X).

This circumstance helps to explain the lack of prosecutions. Did Robert Lewis Dabney say 'Cross my heart and hope to die' when he delivered this revelation, that no slave-owner ever raped a slave-woman in the Commonwealth of Virginia? Confederate apologists like Douglas Wilson claim to be correcting purported distortions of history committed by the abolitionists. In reality Dabney and Wilson's story-telling does not correct the record, but creates a fantasy-land that never was, a Shangri-La in place of the grim reality of slave life in the Confederacy.

It's not like Dabney was not aware Blacks and whites were treated differently under the antebellum justice system. It's just, is that a problem? Paradoxically, Dabney paints a bright and cheery picture of productive slaves enjoying the protection of devoted, paternalistic masters, before the nasty Yankees came and ruined it all. He finds his sunshine partly by making things up, partly by failing to find any problem in situations like inequality before the law: "The reply is that the penal code of Virginia was properly made different in the case of the whites and the blacks, because of the lower moral tone of the latter." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2613). Wilson shares Dabney's affection for the antebellum South, and his inability to see blemishes evident to outsiders, but is this continuous slander against the African slaves really a compelling argument in its defense? If not, where is the "solid and compelling" case he claims that Dabney makes, that slavery is a beneficent institution? Subtract the racism, and there is no case at all.

Both Dabney and his student, Douglas Wilson, are capable of perceiving occasional abuses in the slavery system. To give a parallel case, Susan Smith murdered her children, putting them in her car and then rolling the car into a lake, so that they drowned. But would anyone say, 'Let's abolish motherhood' as a result? Sadistic, psychotic mothers are a terror to their children, if the poor little ones can even survive, but thankfully they are rare; Dabney and Wilson think, likewise, that bad slave-owners are possible, but rare. "To say that the relation was sinful, in all these virtuous citizens, because some of the occasional incidents were sinful, is just as outrageous as to tell the Christian mother that her authority over her child is a wicked tyranny, because some drunken wretch nearby has been guilty of child murder." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1952). In some of these instances, though, like how many of these slave-owners perceived their possessions as an effectual harem, they are simply in denial. They want to say, it never happened, or almost never happened, and that is simply not true.

Dabney, along with many of his modern-day followers, quite sincerely condemns the slave trade, though not slave ownership. How can these two things be severed? They really can't, as one implies the other. But slave importation, from Africa to the United States, was carried on by the hated Yankees and by foreigners. Virginia had no merchant marine at all in the colonial period. So Dabney condemns the slave trade with gusto. According to his telling of history, the Virginian plantation owners purchased these poor creatures, marketed by foreigners and the hated Yankees, simply out of compassion. In order to square the circle, he asserts that title to property can start out fraudulent, but become good and regular simply by the passage of time. Who knew?

Condemning the slave trade is not such a remarkable thing, Indian king Asoka abolished the slave trade in the third century B.C. Buddhists like Asoka were capable of making a theoretical case against slavery, which in some cases actually seems to have stuck; Pliny the naturalist says that on the island of Taprobane, probably Ceylon (Sri Lanka), there is no slavery: "In this island no slavery exists...the price of corn is always the same; they have no courts of law and no litigation" (Pliny, Natural History 6.24). In India, Asoka's decrees were soon forgotten. Slavery effectively ended in northwestern Europe in the medieval period, though these same people, following the Spaniards, revived the practice in the New World. To Haiti falls the honor of being the first country to bar slavery. When you encounter someone whose Biblical case against slavery begins and ends with "man-stealing," your suspicions should be aroused; why rest on such a narrow basis when there are so many passages which are to the point? Some of these people are probably getting their opposition to slavery from Dabney, who continues to be influential in dark pools of heretical Christianity, and he wasn't opposed to slavery.

One of the issues that upset the New England abolitionists was the lack of respect for family values in Southern slave society. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" dwells on several of these cases, spouses separated, children torn from their mothers, at the whim of the slave master. She is not much read today, probably because her condescension make people cringe; but you really cannot understand who these people were and what motivated them, the abolitionists, without reading them. Were they God-haters, like Douglas Wilson says? What bothered them about slavery? To Harriet Beecher Stowe, family breakup is a big thing; the misery of a small child, torn from his mother, crying himself to sleep in some strange place is an indictment against the Christian character of slavery. (Of course, to Douglas Wilson, empathy is a sin!) The geneticist can tell you, the slave-master left his genes in the children of the slave quarters. Robert Lewis Dabney helpfully explains that this lack of restraint on the part of slave-owners did not take anything away from the African slaves, because there was no marriage in Africa:

"This is, first, a monstrous perversion of the facts, in that the Africans never had any marital rights or domestic institutions to be deprived of. Have men forgotten, that in their native country there was no marriage, and no marriage law, but the negroes either lived in vagrant concubinage, or held their plurality of wives as slaves, to be either sold or slain at will? They have, at least, lost nothing then. . ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2711).

LogoWhither White Supremacy?

Television personalities at present are trying to gin up anxiety about the purported 'replacement' of white folk in this country. Tucker Carlson promotes the idea on Fox News:

"So I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term 'replacement', if you suggest the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the third world. . .But they become hysterical because that's what's happening actually. Let's just say it. That's true." (Tucker Carlson, quoted in Newsweek Magazine,, "Video of Tucker Carlson Repeatedly Touting 'Replacement Theory' Goes Viral," by Khaleda Rahman, 5/16/22).

This was a vivid matter for concern for the Buffalo supermarket mass shooting suspect. Robert Lewis Dabney was concerned about that, too:

  • “He must be 'innocent' indeed, who does not see whither all this tends, as it is designed by our oppressors to terminate. It is (shall I pronounce the abhorred word?) to amalgamation! Yes, sir, these tyrants know that if they can mix the race of Washington, and Lee, and Jackson, with this base herd which they brought from the pens of Africa; if they can taint the blood which hallowed the plains of Manassas, with this sordid stream, the adulterous current will never again swell a Virginian's heart with a throb noble enough to make a despot tremble. But they will then have, for all time, a race supple and grovelling enough for all the purposes of oppression.”
  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Speech Against Ecclesiastical Equality of Negro Preachers in the Church, and Their Right to Rule over White Christians, 1868, p. 8).

LogoOne cannot reasonably expect consistency or rationality from a racist, but what is it that Dabney wants from the people he hates so fervently? We learn here that African-Americans are not entitled to freedom because they 'grovel' before tyrants. Do they really? Much of his bill of particulars against the members of the hated race is precisely that they do not grovel, i.e.,

"I have had enough of declarations and manifestations of special interest in, and love for, the souls of 'the freedmen,' under existing circumstances. When I see them almost universally banded to make themselves the eager tools of the remorseless enemies of my country, to assail my vital rights, and to threaten the very existence of civil society and the church, at once; I must beg leave to think the time rather mal apropos for demanding of me an expression of particular affection." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Speech Against the Ecclesiastical Equality of Negro Preachers in our Church, p. 4).

This complaint might be summarized as 'failure to grovel.' At any rate, they failed to grovel before himself and his fellow Confederates, preferring to grovel, as he imagines, before those who liberated them from slavery. Yet this complaint, which may be summarized as 'failure to grovel,' co-exists with frequent expressions such as,

"Now, who that knows the negro, does not know that his is a subservient race; that he is made to follow, and not to lead; and his temperament, idiosyncrasy, and social relation, make him untrustworthy as a depositary of power?" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Speech Against the Ecclesiastical Equality of Negro Preachers in our Church, p. 6).

And, again, we know that they are subservient because they do not serve, not his cause at any rate:

"If you trust any portion of power over your Church to black hands, you will rue it. Have they not done enough recently, to teach us how thoroughly they are untrustworthy? They have, in a body, deserted their true friends, and natural allies, and native land, to follow the beck of the most unmasked and unprincipled set of demagogues on earth, to the most atrocious ends." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Speech Against the Ecclesiastical Equality of Negro Preachers in our Church, p. 6).

So: although naturally "subservient," they have deserted their natural allies — the people that enslaved them — to make common cause with those who liberated them from slavery. What to make of this bundle of contradictions? How can he warn in one breath, in his 'Speech Against Ecclesiastical Equality,' against "negro supremacy," and also deny liberty to this people group precisely on the grounds that they are "subservient"? How can the same party be at once "subservient" and "impudent" (p. 11)?

  • “Now, grant that the free school does all that its wildest boasts can claim; that it elevates the negroes out of this grade. Then the only result will be, that white people must descend into it, and occupy it. Where then is the gain? I, for one, say plainly, that I belong to the white race, and that if I must choose between the two results, my philanthropy leads me to desire the prosperity of my own people, in preference to that of an alien race. I do not see any humanity in taking the negro out of the place for which nature has fitted him, at the cost of thrusting my own kindred down into it.”
  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, The Negro and the Common School, 1876).

Logo So in the end, what is he saying in his complaint of "servility" against the Black race? That since Southern whites had already succeeded, through terror, in stealing away many of the civil rights African-Americans had been guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, this meant the race was "grovelling" and "subservient," thus an easy target for tyrants and not deserving of freedom? I guess if anyone would know, then these same Southern whites who had stolen away these civil rights would know, from experience, which is really Dabney's master instructor, not the Bible as he pretends. Perhaps it really was too easy. Dabney the seditionist and underminer of lawful governmental authority died peacefully.

Vasily Polenov, Seated Christ

LogoChurch History

How has the church historically regarded slavery? The same way as Robert Lewis Dabney and Douglas Wilson, as a benign institution planned by God and opposed only by atheists and ungodly men? First it should be realized that Christianity respected, from the start, the human dignity of the slave:

The French had inherited from prior generations an extremely inegallitarian system of land tenure, wherein a very small minority of the population, the nobility, owned the land, and the majority of the people labored their entire lives, as serfs, to accumulate little or nothing by the time they finished their course.:

  • “For do not tell me that this or that man is a runaway slave, or a robber or thief, or laden with countless faults, or that he is a mendicant and abject, or of low value and worthy of no account; but consider that for his sake the Christ died; and this sufficeth thee for a ground for all solicitude. Consider what sort of person he must be, whom Christ valued at so high a price as not to have spared even his own blood. For neither, if a king had chosen to sacrifice himself on any one’s behalf, should we have sought out another demonstration of his being some one great and of deep interest to the King — I fancy not — for his death would suffice to show the love of him who had died towards him. But as it is not man, not angel, not archangel; but the Lord of the heavens himself, the only-begotten Son of God himself having clothed himself with flesh, freely gave himself on our behalf. Shall we not do everything, and take every trouble, so that the men who have been thus valued may enjoy every solicitude at our hands?”

  • (John Chrysostom, Homily Concerning Lowliness of Mind, Section 5, p. 245, ECF_1_09)

LogoJohn Chrysostom is capable of imagining a world without slavery. Though not a man scouting out a practical route to reform, he can see what would happen if people just followed instructions:

“Wherefore, having said, 'The first and great commandment is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,' he added, 'and the second — (He leaves it not in silence, but sets it down also) — is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'...Yea, and if this were duly observed, there would be neither slave nor free, neither ruler nor ruled, neither rich nor poor, neither small nor great; nor would any devil then ever have been known: I say not, Satan only, but whatever other such spirit there be, nay, rather were there a hundred or ten thousand such, they would have no power, while love existed. For sooner would grass endure the application of fire than the devil the flame of love.” (John Chrysostom, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Homily 32, Chapter 13, Section 11, p. 435, ECF_1_12).

Authors like John Chrysostom don't share Robert Lewis Dabney and Douglas Wilson's fondness for slavery. They don't believe God established or favors this institution, rather,

“After that he, the teacher of the world and worthy of heaven, disdained not to serve innumerable others; dost thou think it a disgrace, unless thou carriest about whole herds of slaves, not knowing that this in truth is what most of all brings shame upon thee? For to that end did God grant us both hands and feet, that we might not stand in need of servants. Since not at all for need’s sake was the class of slaves introduced, else even along with Adam had a slave been formed; but it is the penalty of sin and the punishment of disobedience. But when Christ came, He put an end also to this. 'For in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free.' (Galatians 3:28.)” (John Chrysostom, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Homily 40, Section 6, p. 557, ECF_1_12).

They were not abolitionists, because they lacked the nineteenth century New Englander's conviction that real improvement in the world is possible, and legislation is the means of achieving it. But neither did they share the comforting illusions of our contemporary pro-slavery apologists. They did not like the way of the world. They encouraged their listeners, not to reform it, but to retreat, to drop out, to enter a monastery, to keep themselves clean and untainted. To clean out the Augean stable of the world was a task they assumed was hopeless.

Robert Lewis Dabney makes a historical argument, purportedly of universal consent but which is more realistically an argument from ignorance:

"All ancient philosophers, and all Bible saints, the latter at least as conscientious and clear-headed as modern fanatics, believed slavery to be lawful. The great philosophers of the middle ages, surpassed by none in acumen, and guided by the uninspired lights of a Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, thought and wrote without suspecting the sinfulness of slavery." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2519-2527).

Slavery was all but eliminated in North-western Europe during the middle ages. How exactly did that happen, if no one saw a problem with it? The pro-slavery caucus often wonders aloud, if the Bible is against slavery, why did no one notice for two thousand years? Actually they did, and got rid of it. Under what regime did that happen other than Christianity? Dabney baldly states, it never happened:

"But in point of fact, the church never began to make such deduction, until near the close of the 18th century. Neither primitive, nor reformed, nor Romanist, nor modern divines taught the doctrine of the intrinsic sinfulness of slave holding. The church as a body never dreamed it. Slavery remained almost universal. It remained for the political agitators of atheistic, Jacobin France almost eighteen hundred years after Christ's birth, to give active currency to this new doctrine. . ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 246).

If we are even looking for violent revolution, there are several such movements patterned after some form of Christianity. How the European peasants who rebelled at the time of the radical Reformation rationalized their conduct, which was over against the Sermon on the Mount, I couldn't say, nor in the case of the Circumcelliones of the fourth and fifth century. People find important what they find important, and they find Augustine important, not the Circumcelliones, whom he knew and in some cases converted to Catholicism. They were, among other things, abolitionists. Who dat? Meet the Circumcelliones, the most interesting group of Christians you've never heard of, abolitionists before their time:

LogoFrench Revolution

The reader of Robert Lewis Dabney learns that Dabney's theory of the origin of abolitionist thought is that it comes from the well-spring of the French Revolution. He characterizes those of this tendency as,  "secret infidels and rationalists, as all Abolitionists are" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1741). Dabney is displaying his usual insight and honesty here, or is it very likely that John Wesley was a secret infidel?

Those who mistake this slur for a plausible historical construct will be puzzled and disappointed when they read the Enlightenment authors, who are not by and large abolitionists and whose thoughts on the topic of race tend towards the very scientific racism that enabled the worst excesses of white supremacist regimes like the Confederacy. In actual historical fact, the French Republic did not definitively abolish slavery until 1848, because prior to that they could not really make up their minds about whether they wanted to do that or not. Haiti, then a French colony, rebelled against slavery, inspired in part by the slogans of the French Revolution. Those who had mouthed those slogans in the first place had a hard time, however, recognizing their words repeated under such foreign accents, and hemmed and hawed about delivering on their implied promises. They granted independence, then yanked it back. Making the French Revolutionists the pioneers of abolitionism, following Dabney and Douglas Wilson, requires dealing with the facts in a very generous and imaginative way. It is, at a minimum, a radical simplification of history:

Anti-Clericalism Madness
Temple of Reason Robespierre
Deism The Old Regime
Voltaire The Devil's Due
Divine Right of Kings Knock on the Door
Butcher's Bill Lavoisier

Logo Were there in fact any American abolitionists who were also atheists? Never mind that all of them were, but can we scare up any at all? The list must be a short one, though I can think of one: Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll, who raised an Illinois regiment to serve in the Civil War and volunteered to lead it himself. He subsequently was captured and paroled. He was, however, the son of an abolitionist Congregationalist minister, John Ingersoll, who was an associate of Charles Finney. In his early years he seems to have called himself a Deist, but subsequently became a vocal agnostic. It was a very deep secret indeed that the abolitionists were all infidels. In fact this juicy tidbit of a historical fact is known only to Neoconfederates who follow Dabney. They discovered it by making it up, as with most of their material.

Logo So atheists who are also abolitionists do exist; it's not an empty category. However, the abolitionist movement as it's known to history was not an atheist movement, but overwhelmingly Christian.

The French had inherited from prior generations an extremely inegalitarian system of land tenure, whereby a very small minority of the population, the nobililty, owned the land, and the majority of the people worked hard, their entire lives, as serfs, to accumulate little or nothing by the time they finished their course. To Robert Lewis Dabney, this tendency for land to accumulate in only a few hands was natural and benign:

"That the land shall be owned by the very persons who cultivate it, is an exceptional condition of things, resulting, to some extent in New England, from a very peculiar history, origin and condition of society, and not destined to continue general even there. It is as true of hireling as of slave States, that the tendency of civilized institutions is, and ever has been, and ever will be, generally, to collect the lands in larger properties, in the hands of a richer class than that which actually tills them."
(Dabney, Robert Lewis. Dabney's Defense of Virginia and the South, Annotated. (Kindle Locations 3800-3804). Booker House Publishing, Incorporated.)

God had noticed the same thing: "Woe to those who join house to house; they add field to field, till there is no place where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!" (Isaiah 5:8). It does happen, and God roundly condemns it. He made provision in HIs law to correct this tendency, by the Jubilee. When the people of Israel entered into the holy land and took possession, the land was distributed first of all by lot, fairly and equitably. Since inevitably land will tend to accumulate in some hands and depart from others, if only because some producers are more efficient than others, every forty-nine years, at the Jubilee, the deck is reshuffled and the land reverts to its prior owners. Where is feudalism if things are done this way? It's a criminal offense! Does Moses, legislating at the command of God, allow land to accumulate in the hands of the wealthy, i.e., to join field to field? He does not.

Does Dabney care that Moses legislated against the system of land tenure he finds natural and inevitable? Not in the least. The plain fact is, these people care no more what the Bible says than to pull it out when they think it will be helpful, put it back when it's not. Wherever they get this stuff, it is not from the Bible. Under Moses, the farmer owns the land he tills. This is not "an exceptional condition of things"; it is what is lawful. Joining field to field is what is unlawful. You can believe the Bible, or not; it's a free country. But to pretend there is some natural connection between feudalism and Christianity, requires not only nailing the book to the altar, but nailing it shut.

How did the nobility come to own the land in the first place? They stole it, fair and square, from the prior proprietors. The last Warrior Chieftain to overrun the place distributed the land to his lieutenants, under the principle, to the victor belong the spoils. But this not how the Mosaic system was designed; arable land was not a prize to be handed from one pirate chieftain to the next. How much connection was there really, historically, between medieval feudalism and Christianity? In the low security environment that followed the collapse of the Western empire, barbarian hordes, no longer held in check, swept through, plundering everything that wasn't nailed down, and much that was, including the land, which these half-savage petty chieftains distributed to their retainers.

By what right did they seize the land? By right of conquest! What has any of this got to do with Christianity? Nothing. What was the relationship between these outlandish, barbaric military elites and the rightful, lawful owners of the land? They seized it from the rightful, lawful owners. The reason why small, hereditary military elites ended up owning all the land in Europe is because they stole it, fair and square. What has this got to do with Christianity? Not a thing. One is reminded of the scene in a Mae West movie where the sales clerk exclaims, upon noticing Ms. West's showy diamond ring, 'Goodness! Will you look at the size of that diamond!' and Ms. West replies, 'Goodness had nothing to do with it, honey.' The inability of the declining Western empire to defend itself had a lot to do with it, and so the Lombards were able to take over Italy, the Visigoths Spain, and the Vandals Northern Africa. In some cases these invading barbarian hordes were not even all that numerous, but the devolution of imperial authority had left political power laying in the street. How many Vandals does it take to steal the real estate in Northern Africa? 80,000:

"The creation of the Vandal kingdom had been one of the most extraordinary feats of the time of the great migrations, and must be attributed entirely to the personal energy of their long-lived king. His tribe was one of the least numerous of the many wandering hordes which had trespassed within the bounds of the empire, no more than 80,000 souls, men, women, and children all counted, when they first invaded Africa. That such a small army should have overrun a province a thousand miles long, and should have become the terror of the whole seaboard of the Western Empire was the triumph of Gaiseric’s ability. . .He confiscated all the large estates of the great African landowners, and turned them into royal domains, worked by his bailiffs. Of the smaller estates, tilled by the provincials who owned them, he made two parts; those in the province of Africa proper and the best of those beyond it, were appropriated and made into military fiefs for his Teutonic followers. These sortes Vandalorum, as they were called, were hereditary and free from all manner of taxation."
(Oman, Charles. The Dark Ages 476-918 A.D. (pp. 12-13). Augustine Books. Kindle Edition.)

The unfortunate Northern Africans were liberated from this barbarian scourge, but not for any prolonged length of time; the dark night of Islam would ultimately close in on them. Perhaps Douglas Wilson, who finds the medieval period definitional for Christianity, can explain what Christianity had to do with any of this. One might object, with Ms. West, that Christianity had nothing to do with it, because Christianity discourages stealing. You know something funny about the 'right of conquest'? If someone claims to own something by the 'right of conquest,' and you hit him over the head and seize it from him, then you now own it by the same exact right as he did. Another way of saying 'the right of conquest' is 'the law of the jungle.' What feudalism has got to do with Christianity,— and people like Douglas Wilson and G. K. Chesterton insist that it does,— remains an impenetrable mystery.

LogoFreedom and Democracy

When it comes to the political system we have inherited from our brave forefathers, namely democracy, is Robert Lewis Dabney for it or against it? Against, quite decidedly. The South was, at the time of the Civil War, the least democratic segment of the country, explaining Dabney's hostility to a political system most Americans perceive as native to their homeland. When the Neo-Confederates tell you that the Southern people voted for secession, explain to them that the one-third of the Southern population who were African-American were never allowed to vote for anything, nor were low-income whites welcomed at the polls. A deliberate network of barriers, such as the poll tax, was erected to prevent them. R. L. Dabney explains why; the object is to avoid "moneyless votes." (Dabney, Defense, Kindle 3163), which will lead to ruin. He explains that the original constitution of Virginia did not establish a democracy, but "a liberal, aristocratic republic. None could vote save the owners of land in fee-simple. . ." (Dabney, Defense, Kindle 3228).

Do you believe in equal justice under the law, dear reader, as spelled out in the 14th Amendment? Our author has seen you, dear Jacobin reader. Dabney traces the abolitionists' conviction that all men are "mechanically equal in rights" to the Jacobins:

"Your true abolitionist is then, of course, a Red-Republican, a Jacobin. Is not this strikingly illustrated by the fact, that the first wholesale abolition in the world was that enacted for the French colonies by the frantic democrats of the 'Reign of Terror?'" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3140).

When you encounter followers of Robert Lewis Dabney on Twitter or elsewhere on the internet, where they are legion, they will usually deny that the United States is a democracy. But more realistically, we are a democracy,— a representative democracy,— and they hate us for it. The movement begun by Robert Lewis Dabney's offspring, Neoconfederates, Paleoconfederates, Southern Nationalists, white supremacists, etc., can be evaluated very simply. If freedom and democracy are good and godly things, a precious heritage passed on by prior generations who sacrificed to secure them, then the modern Dabneyites are simply evil. If freedom and democracy are the wicked heritage of the French Revolution, then they might have a case. They don't have a case.

Democracy Church Governance
Thy Brethren Philo Judaeus
The Idol Demos Bill of Rights