“I Whipped Him a Second Time, Very Severely”
Basil Manly, Honor, and Slavery at the University of Alabama
On March 4, 1846, Sam walked into the office of the president of the University of Alabama, where the faculty had gathered. That afternoon trouble had arisen when Sam had refused to measure or even receive a load of coal brought by Thomas G. Green, a local man contracted to deliver coal to the university. Green had not taken the refusal well and charged Sam with insolence, a very serious accusation in a society of honor where even the smallest slight might lead to violence and where the labor system rested on the obedience of slaves.
Now, walking into the room where the president and faculty waited, Sam came face-to-face with the dominant ethic of the Old South. Sam was a slave owned by the university, and he had been living and working there since March 11, 1839, when the governor had sent him to join the school’s staff. The code of honor demanded that an injured party be given satisfaction. If a slight were given by a gentleman to a gentleman, and no apology followed, a duel might result. If a gentleman were slighted by a free white man beneath him in society, he might cane the culprit, beating him with a walking stick. Matters of honor at the lower levels of white society often led to the brawls for which southern poor whites were so well known. Someone might lose their sight to an eye gouging or have a finger bitten off. But if a slave slighted the honor of a white man, the punishment was whipping.
Southern ideas of democracy and equality rested on white supremacy. No slave or even free black man could be allowed to slight a white man if the community hoped to keep the racial foundations of honor, of white equality, and of white supremacy intact.1
On that day, Sam’s first offense to the system of slavery was insolence to a white worker. Whether Sam’s so-called insolence was real or imagined, whether he was right or wrong about the coal, he found himself at the complicated crossroads of southern society, where honor met slavery and where racism met democracy. He would soon be in front of white men of a higher status and face dire consequences. But he remained unbowed.2
The University of Alabama in 1839. Courtesy of the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama.
Green had complained, and the matter had been referred to the faculty. The university could not afford to have its reputation among the citizenry smeared by ill will. A few complaints, some muttered rumors, and discussions in the community about such an issue could lead to larger complaints about elitism and might intersect with the strong anti-intellectual impulse of many in the predominantly rural society. In a world where symbolism mattered more than substance, where honor trumped reality, the insolence of a slave to a white working man might cause both political and social problems for a university already plagued by complaints about extravagant expenditures and tax dollars being used to educate the children of the rich at the expense of the poor. And this was a matter of order as well, for slavery required subordination. The purpose of slavery, as Justice Thomas Ruffin of the North Carolina Supreme Court stated in State v. Mann, “is the profit of the master, his security and the public safety.” In order to achieve that end, “the power of the master must be absolute, to render the submission of the slave perfect.”3
The president’s mansion at the University of Alabama. Basil Manly was the first occupant. Completed in 1841, the building contained the president’s residence and his office. Sam was most likely whipped in this building in the presence of university faculty members. This building still stands on campus, with Manly’s desk on display. Courtesy of the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama.
Most of the faculty members were gentlemen and native southerners; most of them were also slave owners. They did not hesitate to take action to protect the image of the university and restore peace under honor’s code. They ordered that Sam be “chastised” by the president, who was nominally Sam’s master as the head of the institution that owned him. Furthermore, they ordered that the whipping be conducted in front of them. And so Sam walked into the room to receive what honor—and order—demanded. The president of the university, the Southern Baptist preacher turned educator Basil Manly, carried out his duty, whipping the slave while the faculty watched.
But honor and slavery were not finished with Sam that afternoon. He took the beating, but Sam indicated in some way now lost to history that he was not humbled by it. Perhaps Sam resented being punished because he did not think he was in the wrong. Perhaps he did not think anyone should have the right or power to whip him. Maybe he resented Basil Manly personally. Perhaps his spirit refused to be broken. One can speculate about the ideas of antislavery that were in circulation in the 1840s even in Alabama, such as in Francis Wayland’s Elements of Moral Philosophy, which Manly used as a textbook in his lectures to the senior class. This episode, precisely because so little is known about it, invites speculation on the ideas and impulses motivating Sam. Whatever went through his mind, Sam was, in the words that Manly recorded in his diary, “not sufficiently humbled.” That reaction did not satisfy the self-righteous Baptist, who was always prickly about his honor.4
For Sam to show any kind of disrespect in that setting was to defy the president’s authority in front of the faculty members he led. To not be humbled by the whipping defied Manly’s mastery, challenged his masculinity, slighted his honor, and threatened order on the campus. Sam had slighted Thomas Green earlier in the day, and now he had slighted his master. And so, as Manly wrote in his diary, “I whipped him a second time, very severely.”5
For Basil Manly, the faculty, and Sam, this incident was just another whipping, another day in a long period of trouble. The university faculty and administration did not forget, and Manly kept track of the record, judging on February 11, 1850, that Sam “has always been impudent and hard to manage.” That day, four years after the whipping in the president’s office, the faculty voted to sell Sam after he was “very impudent and insubordinate” to one of the professors. Manly did as the faculty wished: he sold the university slave the next day and sent him to his new master. But on February 16, 1850, Sam returned to campus and begged to be allowed to come back. Apparently, his new owner had agreed to allow Sam to return, and Manly referred the matter to two professors, who served as a subcommittee to decide the matter. This reference to the faculty illustrates the model of university self-governance and administrative management the University of Alabama followed at that time. The university took the advice of faculty quite regularly.
Two days later, at the Monday faculty meeting, one of the professors argued for Sam’s reinstatement, saying that he thought the slave was “truly penitent.” Swayed by their colleague’s arguments, the faculty voted to rescind the order to sell Sam and reinstated him as a university servant. Manly thought that Sam should be sold “as a matter of policy,” but Manly did not worry that he would have any problems with Sam himself. He was confident that “so far as anything that I have to order or require from Sam is concerned, I am not afraid that he will disobey or displease me, personally, in any serious degree.” After all, if Manly felt that Sam was disobedient or impudent, he had options. He could choose to whip or to sell Sam.6
A year later, on February 21, 1851, Sam once again found himself the victim of a whipping, this time at the hands of a student or students. The university president learned that a number of the students had been involved in “combining to whip Sam.” Manly investigated, discovered who the “chief actors” were, and addressed the students about the matter, warning them not to do it again and advising those who had done it to present themselves to the faculty about the matter. His initial warning did little to dissuade the young gentlemen of the student body, all of them striving to become men of honor. One way of demonstrating one’s honor, of establishing one’s mastery, was to have authority over slaves. Being a gentleman meant being independent, having mastery, having honor. Slaves had no independence, were subordinate, had no honor. Manly had to deal with student mistreatment of the university slaves or those owned by faculty members on numerous occasions. This time, the students were beating Sam. This illustrates the precarious position that slaves occupied on a university campus—or elsewhere in the South. They were subject to physical abuse by people who occupied a higher status, even if those people did not own them.
Despite his warning and keeping an eye on the malefactors, Manly discovered that the whippings did not stop. A month later, on March 19, 1851, the president “spoke to the students, again, about whipping Sam; and again advised them to communicate with me or with some member of the Faculty.” One student came forward and confessed that he had been involved and that he knew it was wrong. Manly thought him sincere, and no punishment was given. For the Southern Baptist serving as university president, forgiveness, like equality, depended on race. And so it went, as Sam continued to live and work and suffer on the campus in Tuscaloosa.7
Sam’s case stands as a stark symbol of the realities of slavery and the university in antebellum Alabama. Discovered by the research of Alfred L. Brophy during his passionate work during the recent “Age of Apology,” the treatment became part of the argument over whether or not the University of Alabama should apologize for slavery, which it did in 2004. But Sam’s case also included Basil Manly, the university president, the Southern Baptist preacher, the intellectual defender of slavery who was also the master with the whip in his hand. Looking at the ways in which Manly understood slavery, the ways he defended it, and the ways that he lived reveals the complexities and the contradictions of life in a society built on honor and slavery.8
Who was the man who whipped Sam twice that day in 1846? Born and raised in Chatham County, North Carolina, in 1798, Basil Manly Sr. became one of the most important Baptist leaders in the country in the years before the Civil War. Converted while kneeling in prayer with a slave in a cornfield at age sixteen, he believed that God called him to the ministry. He attended South Carolina College and established himself as a man of honor at the graduation ceremonies on December 21, 1821. Manly’s grades won him the right to make the valedictory address, but the student who finished a close second was resentful and wanted to argue the point in the graduation line. The jealous student, angered by Manly’s cool response, pulled a knife and rushed at Manly, who deflected the blade and wrestled the attacker to the ground. Manly nearly choked the student to death before others intervened and pulled him off the assailant. The other students cheered the young Baptist for defending his honor and demonstrating his mastery in a physical setting.9
He soon demonstrated his mastery in an intellectual setting—the pulpit—as well. Invited to serve as a minister in the rural Edgefield District, Manly worked hard to build several Baptist congregations, and his efforts were rewarded with a widespread religious awakening. The Edgefield Revival lasted for about two years, from 1822 to 1824, and Manly’s preaching led to several hundred conversions. While revivals were widespread and frequent during the Second Great Awakening, the Edgefield Revival spilled over into surrounding areas, even reaching into Georgia. Manly’s regular reports on the movement were published in Baptist periodicals as he helped define and construct the events even as they occurred. While living in Edgefield, he married the daughter of a wealthy planter and started a family. His dramatic preaching success in the backcountry led to a call to serve as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston. That congregation, considered the “mother church” by Baptists in the South, had been led by several famous ministers, including the illustrious Richard Furman, namesake of Furman University. In Charleston Manly once again enjoyed tremendous success as a preacher. He also became a public man, moving in the elite circles of the city. These activities included intellectual matters, and Manly often delivered lectures before the Literary and Philosophical Society. Some of his writings and sermons were published, and his prominence among Baptists led to wider fame and spheres of influence. In 1838 he left Charleston to take the position of president of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. There he oversaw curriculum reform (somewhat reluctantly installing the liberal arts while trying to maintain a model of classical education), instituted a new system of discipline, and led the school through a period of growth amid financial difficulties.10
During his eighteen-year tenure as university president, Manly continued to preach and lead the Baptist denomination. He worked as an evangelist and traveled widely across the state and region to preach at revival services. In 1845 he wrote the Alabama Resolutions, which led to the breakup of the national Baptist Triennial Convention and the creation of the Southern Baptist Convention. A slave owner and staunch defender of slavery, he also worked for reform by leading statewide efforts to help the insane and those in the prison system. He also joined and led the Anti-Dueling Society, a matter that clearly revealed the tension between the ethics of honor and Evangelical Christianity. His efforts on behalf of education included helping to found Furman University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He left the university to return to Charleston and then moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he served as a pastor and accepted the position as official chaplain to the Confederate government in 1861. A longtime proponent of separate southern institutions, he saw the Confederacy as the fulfillment of God’s plan. He and his family struggled through the war years, and Manly preached many funeral sermons for soldiers and worked to help the Confederate cause on the home front. He suffered a stroke in 1864, and this forced him into retirement. He continued to preach whenever possible and tried to offer advice to younger Baptist leaders, including his sons (Basil Manly Jr. and Charles Manly), who had taken up his mantle and become preachers and educators. He died in 1868, and although his dream for a southern nation had been crushed, he held fast to his faith to the end.11
Throughout his career, Manly defended slavery as an institution. To Manly, slavery stood as a viable, just, and Christian institution, and he defended it as such. He had long imbibed the proslavery ideas of his society and had become a leading defender of it among Baptists. In private he engaged Francis Way-land in an exchange of letters debating slavery that foreshadowed the northern antislavery clergyman’s later, published debate with Manly’s good friend and fellow Southern Baptist Richard Fuller. Publicly, in sermons and addresses, Manly argued that slavery was rational, economically sound, and superior to wage labor. Further, slavery was good for the slave as well as for the master, as long as it was a Christian institution. Through it, blacks might be saved from sin and hell. Through it, a divine order for society might be established. Indeed, Manly thought of the peculiar institution in terms of his paternalism. For him, slaves were part of the family, a patriarchal structure that he thought had been created by God. To be sure, while Manly fully supported the gendered and racial aspects of southern patriarchy, he also hoped to reform it. In his mind, making the patriarchal family (which included slavery, he argued) a Christian order based on Christian morality and justice would improve it, restoring it to the state God had intended. As a minister, he recognized the humanity of slaves and knew that masters often abused their power. In fact, he had only to look at himself to see the violent side of slavery. At times, he was a cruel master. Yet at other times, he took actions that pushed the racial and social boundaries of his time. In his thinking, he combined Calvinism with honor in a traditional patriarchal order, creating in his sermons a full-scale defense of southern society as a whole and of slavery in particular. Two stories illustrate his complicated experiences as a master, while one of his sermons demonstrates the complexity of his thought about slavery.12
Basil Manly, 1845. Courtesy of the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama.
Manly’s cruelty is demonstrated most clearly in his dealings with Clai-borne, a slave he owned in Charleston. In his diary, Manly complained about the slave boy’s behavior. Despite whippings and numerous attempts at persuading him to behave the way his master wanted him to, Claiborne continued to misbehave. On July 5, 1833, the preacher sent the young man “to the workhouse to be put on the Treadmill—and kept in solitary confinement.” The Charleston workhouse was a hellish place where slave breakers worked fiendishly with whips to punish slaves chained like animals to the treadmill. There in the dank, dark prison, Claiborne was beaten and forced to trudge for hour upon hour, helping other poor souls to turn the grindstones attached to the treadmill. Manly insisted that this treatment was necessary because of Claiborne’s “repeated and perturbing misconduct,” especially since he had taken to keeping “bad company and gambling, and was fast getting into their attendants, Lying and stealing.”13
The next day, July 6, Manly went and saw Claiborne at the workhouse. The young slave “seemed penitent” and promised his master that he would behave, so he was taken home. But Claiborne soon got into more mischief, and the Baptist worried about his own image as a minister as his slave, a member of his household, engaged in sinful activities. Drawn to various vices, Clai-borne was especially fond of gambling, a difficult habit for a slave because he lacked means, which led to stealing. He also spent time on the city’s waterfront, where he “got the venereal.” Once, when he feared that Manly was going to whip him, Claiborne “ran away, and got in with a vagabond who kept a drunkery.” Time and again, the preacher tried both “severity, and kindness,” but Claiborne only “grew worse and worse.”14
During one period in which Claiborne seemed to have gained self-control, Manly hired him out to a carpenter in the city. This afforded the young slave the opportunity to live outside his master’s home and the chance to learn a skilled trade. But the plan backfired when Claiborne quit going to work and instead started going down to the waterfront, where he hired himself out as a day laborer “for a day or two at a time [and] gamble[d] and frolic[ked] with the money.” To cover his tracks, he told his employer that he was sick and at Manly’s, while his master thought he was at the carpenter’s. When the Baptist preacher found out, he warned Claiborne that “I should flog him no more, that if he displeased me again in any respect, I would make an end of his troubling me, and sell him.” Although he owned Claiborne’s mother and siblings and he often preached that slaveholders should not break up slave families, on March 1, 1836, Manly decided that Claiborne was incorrigible and sold him for $1,025. Here, Manly clearly failed to maintain his paternalistic ideals.15
The sale of Claiborne became an issue and helped lead directly to the creation of the Southern Baptist Convention. Later in 1836, not long after selling his slave, Manly traveled to Boston. While visiting with fellow Baptist ministers in the city, he took a long drive with one of them, a man named Henry Jackson, and in the course of their conversation, the northern divine asked Manly “about all the peculiarities of Southern society, institutions, and manners.” Jackson asked Manly “how many slaves I had, what their ages, how they were treated—if I had ever bought one, or sold one—and so on, endlessly.” Of course, the southerner recounted the story of Claiborne, as well as other particular cases. Jackson asked “if it was really the feeling at the South that we had a right to sell them, at will.” The Southern Baptist replied that “it certainly was; that however great the trial was to my feelings in other respects, I had none as to the right of property.” Manly insisted that he did not like to sell his slaves “on account of family relations” but that when it came down to it, “I had no more doubt or compunction than in pocketing the price of a horse or anything else that belonged to me.” Soon, antislavery Northern Baptists were talking about how Manly had said that he would sell a slave the same as he would a horse.16
In 1844 tensions rose in the Baptist Triennial Convention, a national organization designed to support missions. Northern Baptists argued that slavery was a sin, while southerners defended their peculiar institution. In the midst of this tension, Manly’s nomination to office in the convention was defeated by northerners who raised objections to him based on the story and other information that they claimed to have about him as a slave owner. His honor slighted, Manly wrote to a Northern Baptist who had objected to his nomination and learned that the wife of John L. Dagg, a renowned Southern Baptist theologian, minister, and president of Mercer University, had said that Manly would often “go out of a morning, take off his coat, and whip, severely, every negro about his premises, just for the sake of exercise.” Stunned, Manly carefully asked Dagg about it but was unable to receive satisfaction. He then turned to another means of restoring his honor: he challenged the right of Northern Baptists to question his rights as a slave owner. Manly wrote the “Alabama Resolutions,” which asked the Triennial Convention to state its official position on the question of slavery, demanding to know if the convention—now controlled by a northern majority on its board—would appoint slaveholders to be officers or missionaries. Although he insisted that he had “kept my private griefs to myself,” Manly’s honor had been insulted. When the Triennial Convention responded by saying that they could not appoint a slave owner, the southerners walked out and in May 1845 created the Southern Baptist Convention. Manly had defended his honor, and he had defended his right to punish and sell his slaves.17
Such was the imperious part of Manly’s personality. But in keeping with his paternalistic ideas, Basil Manly also showed kindness to slaves, especially those who were his parishioners, and he sometimes skirted the edges of social acceptance in doing so. While Manly spoke often and strongly about the virtues of slavery and the need for subordination, he also sometimes found himself caught in the context of slavery, unable to serve his African American congregants in the same way that would have helped a free white person. The case of Lydia Frierson demonstrates how the Southern Baptist preacher worked with slaves and saw them as human beings even as it also illustrates how he was unable to step outside the bounds of honor. Lydia Frierson was a slave who had been converted and baptized by Manly during his ministry in Charleston, and on June 22, 1829, the preacher reported in his diary that she had come to visit him. During these pastoral sessions, Lydia had told him why she had not been taking Communion. She feared that she had been committing a sin, because her master, John Frierson, “compels her to live in constant adultery with him.” She was brokenhearted and did not know what to do. Furthermore, several of the white members of the Frierson family, although not John Frierson himself, were members of the congregation at First Baptist Church.
In this situation, Manly pondered his own paternalistic conception of the family and also confronted the bounds of southern honor. John Frierson, as a husband, father, and master, had power and authority as a patriarch and as a southern gentleman. If Manly slighted Frierson’s authority or honor, there would be consequences. As a minister and member of Charleston’s Anti-Dueling Society, Manly might be able to avoid a violent meeting, but the issue could divide the Frierson family, the congregation, and the community. Further, Lydia might become the victim of violence at the hands of her master, or perhaps Mrs. Frierson, also subordinate to patriarchal authority, might take her frustration and powerlessness out on the slave. Unsure what to do, Manly advised Lydia to “remonstrate kindly with her master” and “tell him that she could not consent to sin.” But on her next visit, the slave reported that although she had tried everything she could, John Frierson continued to rape (my term, not Manly’s) her and now “threatens her most dreadfully if she resists him.” Both Lydia and her white minister were trapped by the context of slavery and the limits of honor. Manly assured her that he would not do what the rules demanded of him, which was to report her to the appropriate committee for church discipline. He urged her to try to resist Frierson and (easily enough for him) argued that “it is better for her to die, than to sin.” Eventually, when Frierson died and the opportunity presented itself, Manly purchased Lydia and took her into his own household, where “she is now our worthy and respectable old nurse.”18
In the case of Lydia Frierson, Manly lacked the ability to confront John Frierson. In large part that was due to Manly’s own acceptance of the code of honor and of the boundaries of the owner’s dominion over his slaves. Moreover, Manly’s theological understanding of the patriarchal household as a sacred institution precluded an outsider from stepping in to challenge the patriarch’s divinely and socially ordained authority. But he did realize the sin and urged Lydia to resist her master. As a Baptist preacher, Basil Manly believed that God had called him to save the souls of others. In the Old South, the only way to “save some souls was to buy their bodies.”19
In the cases of Lydia and Claiborne, Manly tried to live out in complex reality his paternalistic notions. Honor, faith, and slavery all came together in Manly’s conception of the family. In one of his most often preached series of pulpit discourses, he provided a blueprint for his vision of a Christian society. Manly’s “Sermons on Duty” consisted of a series of twenty-one sermons, and he preached them many times, first in Charleston, then repeatedly during his years in Alabama. The first eight dealt with his conception of the family, the next six were dedicated to the Christian living as a citizen in the world, and the last five looked at the duties required of individuals living in different contexts such as wealth, old age, and poor health. Clearly, the family was foundational to Manly’s thought, and honor was foundational to the family. Among those eight homilies on the nature of the family was a very long sermon entitled “Duties of Masters and Servants.” In it, Manly presented a defense of slavery but also an inherent criticism of the institution, as his justification for its continuance called for it to be reformed along Christian lines. His defense of the peculiar institution in this particular sermon mustered many of the same arguments he made in many other sermons and addresses he gave in vindicating slavery. But it also stood apart from those other orations because of its place in the series and its direct connection to his patriarchal view of the family.
In “Duties of Masters and Servants” Manly argued that slavery could be more than just a necessary evil; it could also be part of a benevolent Christian social system that was a positive good for both prosperous masters and happy slaves. Quoting heavily from scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments, Manly claimed that God had divinely ordered slavery just as God had established the family structure and society as a whole. As in his other writings on the subject, he defended slavery by comparing it to the conditions of workers in Europe and the North, arguing that southern slaves “are less worked, as well fed and clothed, and liable to fewer hardships, changes, … and anxieties.” Slavery, the Southern Baptist argued, “is a kind of Patriarchal Government—partaking in some respects of the character of Paternity.” Here was southern paternalism. Slaveholders had a duty to recognize that “God has made you their masters—placed them under your protection, made you their guardians, the conservators of their lives and happiness.” White masters were their slaves’ “guides and counselors, their benefactors and friends.” The Christian master had a duty to “make proper regulations with regard to their employment,” was obligated to set up a system of discipline to govern them (one that included rewards as well as punishment), and—above all—had to make sure that his slaves had plenty of “opportunity to receive religious instruction, and to worship God.” Slaves had duties, too, of course, including an obligation to obey their masters. But faithfulness, “respectfulness and teachableness,” contentment, truthfulness, cheerfulness, conscientiousness, “plainness, and an humble simplicity” also went into the good slave’s “religious sense of duty.” Such a list smacked of simply making religion a matter of social control and was clearly the result of a master’s mind working up the image of how he wanted his slaves to act. While the concept of duty allowed Manly to unite honor and his Calvinist theology in a form of Christian gentility, it did not necessarily humanize slavery. Rather, it reaffirmed both white supremacy and the power of the master.
But social criticism came into the sermon as well. Manly admitted that southerners, white and black, failed to live up to his vision of an idyllic form of slavery, complete with just, kind Christian masters and happy, obedient Christian slaves. Still, he urged them to strive to live up to that ideal. The preacher argued that both master and slave had to “remember that each has a master in Heaven” and needed to know that “the discharge of duty in these relations adorns the doctrine of God and our Christian profession.” If only slavery worked as God intended, then both slaves and slaveholders would see that “mutual advantage and satisfaction arises out of the relation, and the proper discharge of its duties.” If so, then all would “be led to faithfulness in duty from the prospect held out to the good of possessing in common, the inheritance and dwelling place of Heaven.” While this clearly told slaves to wait for their reward in the afterlife while serving their masters faithfully in this world, it also placed an obligation upon those masters who sincerely believed and hoped for heaven. Masters had to provide for their slaves physically and spiritually. This demanded “the effort to teach and christianize our 3 millions of Africans,” an effort that needed to be promoted “with the whole force of the South.”20
Manly’s rhetoric about making slavery a Christian institution clearly served as a justification for slavery. But as Eugene Genovese has argued, it also contained a threat to the institution as it really existed. By holding up their ideal of slavery being Christian and calling on masters to ameliorate the viciousness of the system with Christian duty and morality, ministers like Manly took on the role of reformer. Such reforms would necessarily mean that standards would have to change. To replace arbitrary power with a clear system of rules and discipline deprived masters of their absolute authority. To demand better conditions for slaves might mean taking away some of the masters’ profits. To say that southerners did not actually live up to the ideal form of slavery was to give the lie to the very heart of the proslavery argument: that it was a positive good. In other words, saying that it could be a positive good was a very different thing from saying that it was a positive good. Here again Manly skirted the edges of social acceptance. He focused on the duty of slaves and emphasized their spiritual needs rather than the material ones. After all, if his words in defending the institution gave the lie to the proslavery argument, he would once again be pushing the limits of honor. To “give the lie” meant showing that appearance was different from reality. No gentleman could allow someone to give him the lie. It was a slap in the face. Southern preachers like Manly got away with it by couching their arguments in careful language in sermons that ultimately defended slavery. But if a northerner dared to do the same thing, those same southern ministers howled in protest and took offense. Clearly, the Christian proslavery argument was just that, a proslavery argument. That it contained internal criticism was to be taken individually and understood religiously, not to be taken as a condemnation of slavery as a whole.21
And so once again Manly lacked the ability to confront evil even as he denounced sin and delicately walked the social minefields of his society. He tried to reconcile evangelical Christianity and honor and hoped to reconcile slavery with Christian faith and morality. The tensions were great, and he often failed in practice. But he forged just such an intellectual reconciliation in his own mind, developing more than a defense of slavery and more than a justification for his own sin, although he provided those too. In his thinking, he brought together Calvinism and honor in a form of Christian gentility.22 Duty was the key to that reconciliation. And duty was not always kind and was rarely gentle. A Christian patriarch did not spare the rod. He did not hesitate to take up the whip. When honor was slighted, Manly moved quickly to defend it. When authority was challenged, the Southern Baptist acted to assert and prove it.
Thus Manly as a leading Baptist minister and educator developed and promulgated a vision of slavery that both was consistent with the existing intellectual, religious, and social structure in the South and at points challenged it. He communicated such ideas in places beside the university—such as the pulpit. Thus Manly illustrates again the ways that schools like Alabama were consonant with ideas and practices in circulation throughout the South. This may in some ways show the university as a place more similar than dissimilar to the rest of the South. And it may call into question the emerging area of studies on “universities and slavery,” for it shows that the practices and ideas at the university were not very different from those outside. Or it may demonstrate again how studying the ideas and practices of universities can tell us a great deal about the society that supported them and that they in turn supported through the education of the next generation of elite southern men.
So one day in March 1846 a man named Thomas Green brought a load of coal to the University of Alabama, and a slave named Sam refused to take it. A small thing, really, but it illuminates the complicated tensions that lay not only in the heart of the university president but in the university itself and in southern society as a whole.
1. For the concept of honor and its role in southern society, see Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982); Wyatt-Brown, The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s–1890s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000); Kenneth S. Greenberg, Masters and Statesmen: The Political Culture of American Slavery (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985); Greenberg, Honor and Slavery: Lies, Duels, Noses, Masks, Dressing as a Woman, Gifts, Strangers, Humanitarianism, Death, Baseball, Hunting, and Gambling in the Old South (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996). Two more recent accounts have continued the interpretation of honor in the old South: Ariela Gross, Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000); and Timothy S. Huebner, The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790–1890 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
2. Basil Manly, March 4, 1846, Record Book I (1843–1848), Manly Family Papers, William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (hereafter MFP); Basil Manly, March 11, 1839, Diary II (1834–1846), MFP.
3. State v. Mann, 13 N.C. 263, 264 (1829).
4. A. James Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy: Basil Manly and Baptist Life in the Old South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000), esp. 56–88.
5. Manly, March 4, 1846, Record Book I.
6. Manly, February 16, 1850, February 18, 1850, Record Book I.
7. Manly, February 21, 1851, March 19, 1851, Record Book I. For more on honor and students in the antebellum South, see Robert F. Pace, Halls of Honor: College Men in the Old South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004). Pace includes reports from Manly in his section on students mistreating slaves (49–50).
8. For more on the controversy over the university’s apology, see Alfred L. Brophy, “The University and the Slaves: Apology and Its Meaning,” in The Age of Apology: Facing Up to the Past, ed. Mark Gibney and Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 109–19.
9. Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy, 25–27.
10. Ibid., 11–129.
11. Ibid., 130–267, 287–318.
12. For a more complete discussion of Manly’s proslavery thought and paternalism, see ibid., esp. chaps. 9, 10, and 11. More recent scholarship provides interesting insights into the ways in which race and slavery intersected with paternalism in the thought of southern clergy. See especially Lacy K. Ford, Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Erskine Clarke, Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005).
13. Basil Manly to Basil Manly Jr., August 2, 1844, August 25, 1844, MFP.
14. Basil Manly to Basil Manly Jr., August 25, 1844, MFP.
15. Basil Manly, August 19, 1831, June 30, 1833, Diary I (1826–1833), MFP; Basil Manly to Basil Manly Jr., August 25, 1844; Manly, March 1, 1836, Diary II.
16. Basil Manly to George B. Ide, August 27, 1844, Diary II; Basil Manly to Basil Manly Jr., August 25, 1844; Basil Manly to Basil Manly Jr., August 26, 1844, MFP.
17. Basil Manly to George Ide, August 27, 1844, in Manly, Diary II, 321–25; Manly to Manly Jr., August 25, 1844, August 2, 1844; Manly to Ide, October 17, 1844, MFP; Basil Manly to Basil Manly Jr., March 31, 1845, MFP; Basil Manly to J. L. Dagg, April 8, 1845, Diary II, 351–52; Manly to Dagg, May 6, 1850, in Basil Manly, Diary III (1847–1857), 137–38, MFP; Manly to E. B. Teague, March 15, 1845, MFP. For the full story of Manly’s role in the creation of the Southern Baptist Convention, see Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy, 212–227.
18. Basil Manly, June 22, 1829, Church Journal, Basil Manly Papers, South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection, James Buchanan Duke Library, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. A margin note dated 1833 tells of Manly’s purchase of Lydia. This story can be found in Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy, 72–74.
19. Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy, 74.
20. Basil Manly, “Duties of Masters and Servants,” no. 8 in Basil Manly, “Sermons on Duty,” in Basil Manly Sermons, James P. Boyce Library, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. I take this summary from Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy, 213–15.
21. Eugene D. Genovese, A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), 1–33.
22. I take this conception of Manly’s thought from Fuller, Chaplain to the Confederacy, 2.