Author: Calvin Schermerhorn


George Fitzhugh (1806–1881)

George Fitzhugh was a proslavery writer best known for two books: Sociology for the South; or the Failure of Free Society (1854) and Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters (1857). Born in Prince William County and raised in King George County, Fitzhugh studied law before marrying and establishing a practice in Caroline County. In the years before the American Civil War (1861–1865), Fitzhugh distinguished himself for his aggressive and provocative defenses of slavery. In Fitzhugh’s writings, Virginia slaveholders presided over a society that was more free than in factory towns in the North and where enslaved African Americans were well treated and even better off enslaved. He argued for the benefits of slavery in general, regardless of the slave’s skin color, although he also asserted the moral inferiority of black people. In addition to publishing book-length arguments, Fitzhugh traveled widely, including in the North, where he sometimes debated abolitionists. In order to pay for his travels and publishing, Fitzhugh, ironically, may have had to sell many of his slaves. Before the war he worked in Washington, D.C., briefly, during the war for the Confederate Treasury Department in Richmond, and after the war for the Freedmen’s Bureau. He later moved to Kentucky and then Texas, where he died in 1881.