Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 22, Number 4, December 2000.
ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)
Balancing Evils Judiciously is a volume in which quality more than makes up for a lack of quantity, In this slender work, Daniel W Stowell, director and editor of the Lincoln Legal Papers, presents the unique proslavery writings of Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr., of Florida: eight letters, articles and documents by Kingsley, and one published letter by L. Maria Childs, the noted New York abolitionist with whom he was acquainted. Kingsley's few works on slavery would easily be lost in the volumes of antebellum proslavery writings, if not for the singular position he took on the peculiar institution. His personal experiences, drawn from living and working in the Caribbean and Spanish Florida, led Kingsley to conclusions about race and slavery that differed from the theories of the day. Kingsley rejected the prevalent notion that blacks were inherently inferior and suited only for slavery and contended that they possessed the same intelligence as whites. Anticipating George Fitzhugh and Henry Hughes, Kingsley argued that slavery was a class, and not a racial, construct. Unlike them, he did not believe slavery was a perpetual condition for laboring classes, but, as Eugene Genovese writes in his introduction, viewed the institution as an evolutionary step for a people (p. xiii).