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Slave Breeding and Free Love

Slave Breeding and Free Love

An Antebellum Argument over Slavery, Capitalism, and Personhood

(p.119) 5 Slave Breeding and Free Love
Capitalism Takes Command
Amy Dru Stanley
University of Chicago Press

The proliferation of chattel slaves lay at the heart of the relationship between slavery in America and the transformation of capitalism worldwide during the nineteenth century. This chapter examines how the seeming contradiction between making profits and protecting families sparked an acrimonious debate over slave breeding in antebellum America. The reproduction of slaves was a characteristic of the chattel system, but its significant role in the creation of market society cannot be understood by looking at the practical apparatus of sexual compulsion. Instead, the focus should be on the attendant moral controversy that arose between abolitionists and slaveholders, one which actually reflected a confrontation over the meaning of love. The chapter also revisits the argument that the existence of a giant slave market is strong proof that the South was essentially dedicated to capitalism. It suggests that slave breeding for commercial profit represented the antithesis of capitalism’s social relations because “unfree love” violated the core values of individual will and personal autonomy by which liberals justified market competition and profit maximization, as well as the satisfaction of personal desire.

Keywords:   chattel slaves, slavery, America, capitalism, slave breeding, abolitionists, slaveholders, love, social relations, unfree love

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