Let's Not Choose Slavery


"Slavery was a good life, if you had a good master. Just eat and sleep and play and take care of a small part of the farm."

This was Dan Hughes speaking in Louisville at the age of 112. He knew his subject; he was a slave in Crittenden County, Ken­tucky, when the Civil War ended. To a generation which has grown up with the bloodhounds-and blacksnakes concept of the slavery era in America, his words have a strange sound. They shouldn’t. There are thousands of persons in this country today, of all races, who believe that slavery is a good life—if you have a good master.

When Dan Hughes was a slave with a good master, he had secu­rity. His parents had no worry for the future when he was born. Such training as he received in his youth—and it was equal to the education received in those days by many free men—was provided without cost to him by his benev­olent "owner." He looked forward to guaranteed full employment during his productive life, and to an old age free of economic wor­ries.

Dan Hughes, the slave, had sub­sidized housing and guaranteed medical care. He had incentive, too; if things had gone on as they were he might have become a straw boss or even a butler up at the big house. And if he planted what he was told to plant on the small part of the farm he took care of, well—try planting wheat today without being told you can plant it.

The security Old Dan had in those days, he couldn’t have had without slavery. We cannot have it today without slavery. Guaran­teed food and housing and medical care, assured full employment and carefree old age, surety against economic depression and protec­tion against price-cutting competi­tion, these are the fruits of secu­rity—and the attributes of slavery. It makes little difference whether a person or a govern­ment is the master.

The more Americans call upon government for cradle-to-grave security, the more they ask politi­cians for guaranteed jobs, guar­anteed profits, guaranteed living, the closer they come to placing themselves in slavery. Some say the difference is that we choose our masters; they forget that the more freedom we surrender else­where, the nearer we come to losing the right of choice. Others say government is a good master; they forget that when slavery is established, masters can change.

We think that for all the secu­rity of slavery, Dan Hughes must have preferred freedom with its risks. So do we. So, we believe, does a great majority of the American people. To "eat and sleep and play and take care of a small part of the farm" isn’t enough for the human soul. Our task today is to see that we do not drift through complacence into a bondage we would not knowingly accept. When government promises security, let us look for the chains before we accept.


November 1959

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