“Miscegenation” by Basil L. Gildersleeve (April 18, 1864)


In this essay, published in the Richmond Examiner on April 18, 1864, Basil L. Gildersleeve warns against the dangers of race-mixing. Gildersleeve was a professor of Greek and Hebrew at the University of Virginia from 1856 until 1873, and penned sixty-three editorials for the Richmond paper between October 1863 and August 1864.


The project of the wholesale amalgamation of the white and black races, to which the Yankees have given the barbarous name of Miscegenation, has not even the merit of novelty. We remember reading, a few years ago, in one of the English Reviews, (it matters not which, for they are all abolitionist) a sapient article on the American question; in which the fusion of the whites and the blacks was gravely recommended as the only solution of the troublesome problem of slavery. Misled by Yankee statistics and by his own foul imagination, the writer took for granted that the good work had already made edifying progress in the Southern States; that the sable hue was rapidly disappearing from the servile population, and that in a few years it would be impossible to distinguish the slaves from the masters. How far this is from the truth we all know. A jealousy natural to our English blood and fostered by our peculiar system, has prevented the intrusion of mongrels, even of the third and fourth generations, into the society and the privileges of the white race. In no other part of the world, in which the two races have existed, side by side, has this exclusion been so absolute; and it is to this watchful care, which is so natural, that we keep it up unconsciously, and which is so much to our interest that we take no credit to ourselves for it—it is to this watchful care that we owe the supremacy of the white man on the continent, and that we look down so proudly on the mixed population of Mexico and the twenty-two cross-breeds of Lima. It is to our just pride, our just appreciation of our birthright, that the white race in North America is as pure as it is in its European home, nay, purer than the “blue blood” of the Spanish hidalgo. Nor has the African breed been as extensively modified by concubinage with the white as Yankee abolitionists would have the world believe, as Yankee lust rejoices in imagining. The pure African is the rule; the mulatto and the terceron are the exceptions, as any one can see by leaving our towns and villages and visiting the large plantations in the interiour. Let the observer watch the long procession of negroes as they troop to their work in the tobacco field and the cotton field, and he will hardly see a face that would not seem at home on the Gold coast or in Zanguebar.—Of course the existence of the mulattoes cannot be explained away; they are the living witnesses of the great “social evil,” which exists wherever the sons of Adam are what they are. Other nations hide their sins in this respect. The wild oats which they sow do not differ in appearance from the respectable grain; but the annals of the foundling hospitals and the statistics of illegitimate births unmask the hypocrisy of our European censors. After all, the standard of morality in the male sex is as high here as it is anywhere in the world, despite the “temptations” over which the Puritan preachers are wont to gloat with peculiar unction. Tout est tentation a qui la craint, says a French moralist. The standard of female virtue at the South is beyond dispute the highest known. Miss Dickinson cannot understand this—she cannot understand why the same opportunities should not produce the same result. She talks of horrible sympathies with the “emotional capacities” of “dusky servitors,” and plunges into a depth of beastliness whither decency refuses to follow her.

It is to this woman and to women of her odour that the furore for miscegenation is due. One side of the experiment of blending the two races has been sufficiently tried. We need no further demonstration of the fact that the common offspring of the white man and the negroes is not a very exalted type of humanity, certainly not an improvement on the higher element. The other cross is comparatively so rare, that we doubt whether a handful of statistics could be collected throughout the length and breadth of our portion of the continent; and it is to the production of this kind of hybrid that the Yankee she-men, (we cannot call them women), are about to devote their abounding energy. Theoretically, the experience of mule breeders is against them; but they are not satisfied with idle theory and the active practice, which they have already inaugurated, will, within a few years, furnish the world with ample materials for generalization. So this is the upshot of the grand progress of the Yankee nation—the equality of the sexes in coarse debauchery, the equality of the races in domestic life. Surely the force of madness can no further go; and at this point we have reason to expect a revulsion. The West, which has imbibed from its former close intercourse with the South, sundry unreasonable prejudices against a fusion with the African race, has already shown a disposition to be restiff under this new pronunciamento of the New England school, and it only depends on us to turn this restiffness into rebellion. A sound thrashing, administered to the Yankee armies this spring and next summer, will develop a Caucasian party that cannot fail to give the President-makers and Miscegenerators at the North no little trouble.

It is with great reluctance that we have touched again on this strongly scented subject, which it is hardly possible to handle in terms that will not shock the refinement of the Southern mind. But it has been thrust under our noses again and again by the Northern press, and the smell is so penetrating that it cannot be excluded. It is the stench that rises from the putrefying mass of the dead civilization, a civilization slain in the insane effort to destroy our liberties and our social system. Loathsome to us, it may yet prove fatal to them—which Heaven send! For, if they succeed in extending still further their occupation of our soil, they will be sure to propagate this new canon of their creed by all those arts, with which we are already familiar. They know too well that if they persist in making mulattoes of themselves, while we continue to preserve the purity of our blood, the scattered remnant of the Southern people would, in the next generation, by virtue of their race, reduce the whole mongrel breed into due subjection. If they make mulattoes of themselves they must make mulattoes of us, and force us to fall in to “the music of the union” of European and African. The imagination recoils at the thought of such disgrace, but we may rely upon it that we shall not be spared. The same diabolical ingenuity that has forced perjury on the suffering people of New Orleans, will be racked to find means of defiling the sanctity of our family ties and of troubling the pure current of our blood.—The white wives, which they have promised to their negro followers, are our sisters and our sweethearts. Think of that, men of the South, and strike harder the next time you meet the foe. Unless you drive these wretches howling back to their haunts of impurity and keep them there, you will be “of all men most miserable.”

April 18, 1864
In an essay, Basil L. Gildersleeve, a University of Virginia professor of Greek and Hebrew, speaks out against so-called miscegenation, claiming that to prevent it is to guarantee white supremacy.
APA Citation:
Gildersleeve, Basil. “Miscegenation” by Basil L. Gildersleeve (April 18, 1864). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Gildersleeve, Basil. "“Miscegenation” by Basil L. Gildersleeve (April 18, 1864)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 29 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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