The scholarship on race and political development demonstrates that race has long been embedded in public policy and political institutions. Less noticed in this literature is how family, as a deliberate political institution, is used to further racial goals and policy purposes. This article seeks to fill this gap by tracing the foundations of the political welding of family and race to the slave South in the antebellum period from 1830 to 1860. Utilizing rich testimonial evidence in court cases, I demonstrate how antebellum courts in South Carolina constructed a standard of “domestic affection” from the everyday lives of southerners, which established affection as a natural norm practiced by white male slaveowners in their roles as fathers, husbands, and masters. By constructing and regulating domestic affection to uphold slavery amid the waves of multiple modernizing forces (democratization, advancing market economy, and household egalitarianism), Southern courts in the antebellum period presaged their postbellum role of reconstructing white supremacy in the wake of slavery's demise. In both cases the courts played a formative role in naturalizing family relations in racially specific ways, constructing affection and sexuality, respectively, to anchor the white family as the bulwark of white social and political hegemony.