Documenting the American South Logo
Collections >> The North Carolina Experience >> Document Menu >> Summary

Bryan Tyson, 1830-1909
The Institution of Slavery in the Southern States, Religiously and Morally Considered in Connection with Our Sectional Troubles, by Bryan Tyson, of North Carolina
Washington, D.C.: H. Polkinhorn, Printer, 1863.


Bryan Tyson (1830-1909), anti-abolitionist and anti-secessionist, was born in Randolph County, North Carolina, to slave-owning former Quakers. In 1862, inspired by religious visions, Tyson decided to become an activist and published his controversial book A Ray of Light; or, a Treatise on the Sectional Troubles, Religiously and Morally Considered. Tyson's The Institution of Slavery in the Southern States was published a year later and abstracts much of this earlier work. The Institution of Slavery was directed at both Southern and Northern audiences. Tyson, himself a slaveholder, hoped to convince white Northerners to rebuff President Abraham Lincoln by rejecting emancipation and to instead pursue peace with the Confederacy, thus saving the Union.

In this document, Tyson presents and refutes the civic, moral, and economic arguments against slavery. Claiming to have the best interests of black "servants" in mind, he also offers ideas for slavery's improvement, such as laws that would "prohibit a man and wife from being separated under any and all circumstances" (p. 25). Tyson, however, does not believe that "all men are created equal," and offers anecdotes and statistics as well as biblical evidence in an attempt to demonstrate that African Americans profit socially and morally from the benevolent guidance of their white masters and employers, whom Tyson deems superior. According to Tyson, the only way to save both slavery and the Union is for Northerners to offer conciliatory gestures to the South, pointing out that Northerners did not wish to be oppressors; rather, they wished only to save the Constitution. Through pronouncements such as these, Tyson articulated the unspoken feelings of thousands of North Carolinians who either opposed secession from the outset or came to that conclusion during the war.

Michael Sistrom

Document menu