Southern Opposition

But the revival had its determined opponents in the South itself, and their arguments had nothing to do with morality. The black abolitionist newspaper The National Era made clear that the opponents' hostility came from the fact that they were "competitors with Congo and Dahomey in the production of negroes for the Southern market."

Some wealthy slaveholders feared that the availability of "low-cost" Africans would considerably decrease the value of their investment in enslaved men and women. Southerners kept in servitude 3,950,000 men, women, and children. A small group among them, fewer than 8,000, which represented 2 percent of the direct slaveholders, owned almost one million people. They had what today would be millions of dollars invested in black men, women, and children. A significant plunge in their price would result in a sharp decrease in the slaveholders' fortunes.

To rally support, just as the revivalists claimed they had only the Africans and the poor whites in mind, the opponents presented themselves as concerned only with the welfare of the less fortunate. A massive arrival of Africans, they asserted, would slow development; poor whites would find even less work than before and would never be able to save enough to acquire even cheap slaves. As for states like Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina, which sold enslaved laborers to the Deep South, the rich planters predicted that seeing their slave-holding value reduced to nothing would force them to abolish slavery, thereby increasing the number of Free States. In addition, they warned of the terrible prospect of having hordes of "cannibals," "heathen and worthless men," and "black rascals" arrive in the United States. President James Buchanan, in a message to Congress in December 1859, was on their side:

Reopen the trade, and it would be difficult to determine whether the effect would be more deleterious on the interests of the master or on those of the native born slave. Of the evils to the master, the one most to be dreaded would be the introduction of wild, heathen, and ignorant barbarians among the sober, orderly, and quiet slaves, whose ancestors have been on the soil for several generations. This might tend to barbarize, demoralize, and exasperate the whole mass, and produce the most deplorable circumstances. The effect upon the existing slaves would, if possible, be still more deplorable.