A Southern Planter Arming His Slaves To Resist Invasion

November 19, 1859, page 737

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Although illustrator D.H.Strother was a Unionist who opposed secession, he was also a native Virginian who supported the institution of slavery. In this cartoon, he presents the relationship between a master and his slaves as so trustful, and the institution of slavery as so benign, that the master arms his slaves to protect the plantation against John Brown and his men. The artist’s message is clear: being the slave of a (presumably) kind master is better than being freed by violent abolitionists.

In reality, Southern whites so feared armed blacks and any hint of a slave revolt that states enacted strict laws prohibiting the use of firearms by blacks. Such laws were one example of "slave codes"—an elaborate system of state laws and local ordinances that severely limited the liberties of slaves and protected the institution of slavery. Note that the slaves in this cartoon carry bladed weapons, while the gun is held for the master.


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