“They constitute a privileged class in the community”
In January 1865 the debate over whether to arm slaves in a last-ditch defense against the Union army was coming to a head in Richmond. The measure would eventually pass a few weeks later, in mid-March. Nonetheless, the Atlanta Southern Confederacy, publishing in Macon, continued to reject the notion that African American should, or even could, be put under arms.
We perceive the public journals continue to urge the measure of putting negroes [sic.] into the army, and we hear people talking on the street corners in favor of the measure. Put arms in the hands of the slaves, and make them fight for us, they say. We have heretofore expressed our opinion in opposition to this measure, and shall not now repeat what we then said. In continuation of our formerly expressed views, we may add a few additional suggestions now. One speedy practical result of putting negroes in the army would be the peopling of all the swamps of the South with runaway negro deserters. Trained to the use of fire arms, they would depredate everywhere on cattle, hogs, etc., and would soon be forced to resort to robbery and plunder to gain subsistence. Attempts to arrest them would be resisted, and the horrors of a servile war would be realized. Very large numbers would desert and pursue this sort of life. If they did not do this, they would desert to the enemy. With the enemy they know they would get freedom at once. With us, they would get freedom after the war, taking our promises as true. There would exist an immediate certainty of freedom on one side; an uncertainty on the other. A well disposed, faithful, and intelligent slave in this region was recently asked by his master some questions on this very point. The view I have taken of the subject in the above remarks, are simply the views of the slave referred to, and constitutes the substance of his reply to his master. Put, said the negro, the slave into any other position in the service you choose-let him dig, drive teams, build roads, do any other duty, but do not call on him to fight. . . . The negro is willing to work for us, but not to fight for us. We were passing into the car-shed of this city two days since. Some idle and vicious looking boys were directing some saucy conversation to a negro man of stalwart frame who stood near them. One of the boys said to the negro, “Uncle, why don’t you go and fight?” “What I fight for?’ asked the Ebon. “For your country,” replied the boy. The negro scowled and said instantly, “I have no country to fight for.” Now we think the negro was mistaken. We think his lot an enviable one, and that they constitute a privileged class in the community. As the toil of brain and muscle is daily renewed, amid uncertainties, for the procurement of bread for our wife and little ones, we often feel how happy we should be were we the slave of some good and provident owner. Then simple daily toil would fill the measure of duty, and comfortable food and clothing would be the assured reward. While, therefore, we think the negro was mistaken — that the South is emphatically his country while slavery exists — yet we have no idea he can be convinced of the fact sufficiently to take up arms and fight bravely for our cause as his cause, for our country as his country. But waiving all this, and supposing them to fight, and to so greatly aid us that we win our independence, what then? The fighting negroes are to be freed. What are we to do with them 1 Let them remain among us? If so, those who remain slaves may be so in name, but they will not be so in reality. Shall the free slaves then be sent out of the country1 out of the country whose independence they fought to obtain? Certainly no such reward as perpetual exile would-be either honorable to us, or just to them. Such an act on our part, would be a stigma on the imperishable pages of history, of which all future generations of Southrons would be ashamed. These are some of the additional considerations which have suggested themselves to us. Let us put the negro to work, but not to fight. 
Keep in mind that on the date this was published, January 20, 1865, Uncle Billy’s troops were marching north from Savannah into South Carolina, Fort Fisher had just been captured, closing the last Confederate port on the Atlantic, and U.S. Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax was lobbying hard for votes to pass the 13th Amendment in Congress. Yet down in Macon, the local editor was devoting column inches to explaining how slaves were a “privileged class,” happy and contented folks, unburdened by anxiety or want: “how happy we should be were we the slave of some good and provident owner.”
You may bang your head on the desk now.
____________ Atlanta Southern Confederacy, January 20, 1865. Quoted in Robert F. Durden, The Gray and the Black: The Confederate Debate on Emancipation (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1972), 156-58. Image: “Market Scene in Macon, Georgia,” by A. R. Waud. From here.