Saturday, April 30, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 30:

To close this year's Confederate "Heritage" Month cycle, I'm using a quote from the Tropics of Meta blog, Jeff Davis’s Ghost: The Long Battle over the Memory of the Civil War by Steve Bare 05/18/2015 summarizing the framework historian David Blight uses to understand the major streams of public memory formation that initially emerged from the Civil War:

Blight probes the interrelationship between the two broad themes of race and reunion in American culture and society from 1863 to 1915. Blight is primarily concerned with the ways that contending memories clashed or intermingled in public memory. Blight’s Race and Reunion is considered the opening salvo in memory studies related to the Civil War.

Blight posits three overall visions of Civil War memory that collided and combined over time. One, the reconciliationist vision, which took root in the process of dealing with the dead from so many battlefields, prisons, and hospitals and developed in many ways earlier than Reconstruction. The second vision, the white supremacist articulation embodied in the Lost Cause, took many forms early, including terror and violence, locked arms with reconciliationists of many kinds, and by the turn-of-the-century delivered the country a segregated memory of the Civil War on Southern terms. The third vision Blight articulates, the emancipationist vision, was embodied in African American’s complex remembrance of their own freedom, in the politics of radical Reconstruction, and in conceptions of the war as the reinvention of the republic and the liberation of blacks to citizenship and Constitutional equality. For many Americans, the Civil War is a defining event upon which we have often imposed unity and continuity; as a culture, we have often preferred its music and pathos to its enduring challenges, the theme of reconciled conflict to resurgent, unresolved legacies.
Bare summarizes several other books that have contributed to understanding the processes by which what we could call hegemonic memories of the Civil War and its aftermath formed. And he writes:

Scholarship regarding southern memory of the Civil War saw the greatest paradigm shift in its historiography. Recent scholarship from the late 1980s on focuses on the Lost Cause as a catalyst for the acceptance of southern nostalgia and mythology regarding the war. Uniquely, gender appears more frequently in this scholarship than it does with the historiography of the North. Women in the South played a leading role in fostering the Lost Cause at an ideological level and in popularizing the pathos through print media. We also see how spatial arrangements of landscapes of the dead added weight to the enunciation of the Lost Cause. Finally, scholarship regarding the civil religion aspect of the Lost Cause foregrounded the South’s racist hierarchy. Memory in the South closely aligns with Benedict Anderson’s theory of imagined communities. In the South, the mythos of the Lost Cause bound southerners to a shared heritage with rituals that only those from the South could understand.
I assume in that last sentence, he means that it bound white Southerners together. But it could also mean that the dominant Lost Cause narrative among white Southerners - a narrative that also dominated the national historical conventional wisdom during much of the 20th century - provided the basis for dissenting counter-narratives by African-American and other dissenters.

David Brion Davis writes of Blight's 2001 book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (The Terrible Cost of Reconciliation New York Review of Books 07/18/2002):

More convincingly than any other historian I know of, Blight explains one of the most troubling questions for the understanding of American history: why it became accepted wisdom from the 1870s to the 1960s, among American historians as well as white students from grade school through college, that states’ rights, not slavery, was the cause of the Civil War or, as many Southerners have long insisted on our calling it, “the War Between the States.” As late as 1947, as I can clearly remember when I was a GI Bill veteran in an Ivy League college, an aging professor of history could teach us that slavery in the American South was a benign and civilizing institution, but uneconomical and thus of minor importance in American history; that the Civil War was a preventable but heroic tragedy, fomented by a few extremists in both North and South; that the war led to the “emancipation” of a people wholly unprepared for such sudden freedom and thus easily manipulated and corrupted by opportunistic “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags”; and that only such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, who played upon the superstitious fears of the “half-savage, half-childish Darkies,” could begin to restore order.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 29: Recovering Lost Causer? Or liberal concern troll?

The William Winter Institute for Racial Conciliation's April 2 entry at their Facebook page in their series to debunk the pretension of Confederate "Heritage" Month is a bit diappointing. It's an article, Confederate heritage paralyzes Mississippi by Joseph R. Murray II Jackson Clarion-Ledger 03/03/2016. The paper identifies Murray as "a civil rights attorney, a former campaign official for Pat Buchanan [?!] and author of 'Odd Man Out.'" He writes in the tone of a recovering conservative. But some of his Mugwumpish claims sound a lot like liberal concern-trolling, too:

Make no mistake; those who wore a grey uniform were fighting a fight created by aristocrats. Most of those soldiers were not slave owners but poor whites trying to scrape by. In fact, most of those fighting under the Stars & Bars were only one step above a slave.
Yeah, if you ignore that all those non-slaveholding soldiers knew very willing they were fighting to defend the South's sacred Peculiar Institution of slavery. And that they often aspired to become slaveowners themselves. And that in civilian life they had been required to participate in mandatory slave patrols, a key institution that gave non-slaveowning whites a subjective stake in the system of slavery and white supremacy, and was a forerunning of the post-Civil War white terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

These poor exploited soldiers were tools of a Southern machine more concerned about the bottom line than human rights.

This history, however, is not recognized today. Instead, Confederate history is either demonized by a liberal culture that equates it to slavery or revered by a revisionist culture pining over the land of cotton.
Bot Sides Do It!

But in the context of the Civil War, one side (the Union) stood for democracy and abolition of chattel slavery. The other side, the one those "poor exploited" white Confederate soldiers fought for was opposed to both.

The fact is those states that seceded from the Union committed acts of treason.
So did the individual soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. Some white Southerners like Newton Knight and his associates in the "Free State of Jones" took a different path. Not an easy one. But why should Americans honor treason in defense of slavery over American patriotism in that cause? Or even equate them?

And while folks can banter back and forth about whether slavery was a key component of the split ....
Those "folks" will be almost exclusively white folks who choose to ignore the actual history of secession and the explicitly declared aims of the seceding states.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 28:

"World history is not the ground of happiness. The periods of happiness are blank pages in it ..." - Hegel, Philosophy of History (German original: "Die Weltgeschichte ist nicht der Boden des Glücks. Die Perioden des Glücks sind leere Blätter in ihr ...")

I'm continuing here with the discussion of Peter Kolchin's in "Reexamining Southern Emancipation in Comparative Perspective" (Journal of Southern History 81:1 Feb 2015).

Comparing different historical events has a definite empirical aspect. Hopefully, similarities and differences will tell us something important about a particular process. Or it may not.

One comparison he makes is the role of war in ending slavery. While it is obvious in the case of the US Civil War, other cases don't present the same features:

... war frequently weakened slaveholding regimes. Tens of thousands of slaves had escaped from bondage during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, and in the northern states the War for Independence set in motion the eventual abolition of slavery, as did wars for independence in Cuba and much of the Spanish American mainland. The Napoleonic invasion was instrumental in bringing serfdom to an end in Prussia (although in the French Caribbean Napoleon appeared as a reenslaver of those freed by the French Revolution rather than as a liberator).

Usually, however, such wars led to the freedom of some slaves or paved the way for the future ending of bondage, rather than bringing about an immediate or general emancipation. Indeed, despite the enhanced opportunities for freedom provided by the American War for Independence, there were about twice as many slaves in the United States at the conclusion of the Revolutionary era (1800) as there had been at its onset (1770), and despite the massive disruption of slavery during the War of 1812, the censuses of 1810 and 1820 indicate that the enslaved population of the United States increased more than 29 percent during the intervening decade. Although the rebels in Cuba's Ten Years' War (1868-1878) increasingly championed abolition as well as independence, slavery survived in Cuba until 1886. Similarly, although Russia's defeat in the Crimean War helped convince high government officials that serfdom was keeping the country from developing its full military and economic potential and therefore needed to be abolished, the war itself freed almost no one.
He notes parenthetically, "The major exception to this pattern, of course, was the French colony of Saint Domingue, where the slaves engaged in a massive uprising the only successful slave revolution in modern history-and established the Republic of Haiti in 1804." We've looked at the Haitian Revolution several times this month and its relation to slavery and emancipation in the United States.

Kolchin argues that emancipation coming about in the process of a civil war set conditions for making the situation of the liberated slaves a more thoroughgoing formal liberation than in places where it took place by gradual emancipation: "these terms were simple and quintessentially American," he writes, "based upon the principle of republican citizenship."

The term "quintessentially American" has come to be like nails on the blackboard to me. Because it rings of American Exceptionalism. And it's often invoked to describe things that are not at all unique to America. Maybe even not intrinsically American, if even that term makes any sense.

But he explains what the means by the war situation and the terms of emancipation:

Two features of the American version are especially indicative of what would be the increasingly radical experiment that went by the name of Reconstruction. First of all, in contrast to emancipation in many other countries-Prussia, Austria, Russia, the British colonies, Cuba, Brazil, and much of the Spanish American mainland-as well as in most of the northern states after the American Revolution, emancipation in the South was immediate rather than gradually phased in over many years. Second, American emancipation was uncompensated, the only major example of uncompensated confiscation of private property in American history. In recent years, there has been debate over whether the descendants of former slaves should receive some sort of reparations for the suffering of their ancestors, but in the nineteenth century the debate was over whether the masters should receive financial compensation for the loss of their human property. In many other countries (even eventually in Haiti) they did, and as late as 1862 President Lincoln had held out the incentive of partial compensation in a futile effort to convince Confederate rebels to lay down their arms and to convince slaveholders in the loyal slaveholding states-Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri-to accept the freeing of their slaves. Military victory rendered such ideas obsolete, and the Fourteenth Amendment, among its many other provisions, explicitly invalidated both the Confederate war debt and "any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave." In short, although ending slavery in the southern United States was part of a broad historical process that produced similar features everywhere that it occurred, the specific terms of emancipation that were hammered out during Reconstruction went significantly further than those elsewhere in making citizens of former slaves.
Kolchin compares the post-emancipation situation of African-Americans mostly to that of freed Russian serfs, and shows that the immediate terms of emancipation were indeed more radical in the US.

However, he notes that in the US as well as Russia and Brazil and other countries, there was considerable post-emancipation disappointment among the freed peoples. This is the part that reminds me of Hegel's gloomy observation with which I open this post. Kolchin's descriptions of Reconstruction are important and, like all honest history writing, departs from the neo-Confederate/Lost Cause propaganda version:

The Reconstruction experiment lasted only a few years, of course,and some have seen it as a dismal failure. The process of overthrowing the Reconstruction governments and institutionalizing racial segregation cannot be detailed here, except to note that it involved massive doses of fraud, intimidation, and violence. Reconstruction governments fell at different times in different states, lasting longest in the Deep South, where black voters formed the largest percentage of the population, but were gone everywhere by 1877. In the 1880s and early 1890s conservative Democratic state governments chipped away at Reconstruction initiatives, slashing spending on black education and discouraging black political participation, before launching a more frontal assault on African Americans' civil and political rights at the turn of the twentieth century. An explosion of white racism, marked by a sharp rise in lynching, characterized the 1890s and early years of the twentieth century, and through various quasi-legal devices such as grandfather clauses, poll taxes, and white primaries the great majority of southern African Americans were effectively disenfranchised for more than half a century, in blatant violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. After the heady days of Reconstruction, the former slaves experienced a deep sense of disappointment and disillusionment, as their early hope for the dawning of a new age faded before the reality of life in the era of Jim Crow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 28: Emancipation in the US and abroad

Peter Kolchin in "Reexamining Southern Emancipation in Comparative Perspective" (Journal of Southern History 81:1 Feb 2015) attempts to position the significance of the emancipation of the American slaves in the context of other modern emancipations, from both serfdom and chattel slavery. As Kolchin notes in his article, such comparative approaches are in fashion at the moment in Southern history.

He argues that "in much of the Western world":

Until the second half of the eighteenth century, slavery had seemed an unremarkable feature of life, one consistent-as David Brion Davis has shown-with religion, morality, and progress. There was some sentiment that Christians should not enslave other Christians and Muslims should not enslave other Muslims-that is, in the language of the time, slavery was fit only for "infidels"-but there was little sense that slavery in general was wrong or undesirable.

But then with the progress of democratic and republican ideas and revolutionary movements both in the Old World and the New:

Then, beginning in the years leading up to the major Atlantic revolutions of the late eighteenth century, "enlightened" opinion increasingly came to see slavery as problematic. There were different versions of this sentiment: some saw slavery as morally wrong, whereas others argued that it was a backward institution, harmful to society and to economic development. But in an era that increasingly celebrated liberty and equality, slavery and its close twin serfdom, institutions that had for centuries been taken for granted, became objects of intense scrutiny; and over a period of a little more than a century they were abolished throughout the West-bthat is, Europe and European-derived societies in the Americas.
But the Enlightenment was a contradictory phenomenon, which also in some of its manifestations defined aboriginal peoples as "natural" and therefore outside of the civilized world of Reason. Even a major Enlightenment figure like Thomas Jefferson had difficulty imagining that people of African descent could be fully as intelligence and civilized as those of white European descent.

But he is right about how serfdom and slavery came apart with the flowering of capitalist modernism. And he provides this useful timetable about the emancipations in various countries:

Europeans weren't entirely wrong for criticizing or mocking the United States for the genuine contrast between the democratic principles of the government of the white majority and the reality of chattel slavery as a key institution in the American empire of freedom.

Citing the work of James Oakes, he winds up stressing the emancipatory impulse among the Republicans during the Civil War:

... many Republicans saw the war, from its very beginning, as a golden opportunity to move beyond the constitutional limitations that in normal times - that is, in peacetime-prevented the federal government from interfering with slavery in the states where it already existed. Especially important in this regard was the second Confiscation Act, which authorized the seizure and liberation of all slaves owned by rebels. Union army officers pursued varying policies toward African Americans who came under their control, but increasingly they experimented with various forms of free or, in some cases, semi-free labor, on the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, in New Orleans many Republicans saw the war, from its very beginning, as a golden opportunity to move beyond the constitutional limitations that in normal times - that is, in peacetime-prevented the federal government from interfering with slavery in the states where it already existed. Especially important in this regard was the second Confiscation Act, which authorized the seizure and liberation of all slaves owned by rebels. Union army officers pursued varying policies toward African Americans who came under their control, but increasingly they experimented with various forms of free or, in some cases, semi-free labor, on the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, in New Orleans and throughout the lower Mississippi Valley, in northem Virginia, and elsewhere as Confederate territory continued to shrink.

It's part of the neo-Confederate canard that the Civil War was not about slavery to emphasize the limitations of Northern goals when it came to abolishing slavery.

But of course the Southern secessionists were explicit about the reason they were seceding from the Union: to preserve slavery. And while Union war aims were not explicitly directed at abolishing slavery, the North understood that it was necessary to contain slavery and the violent rebellion the slaveowners had ginned up.

When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, that meant in the common terminology of the time that the war for the North had changed from a conventional war, aimed at defeating the opponent, to a revolutionary war aimed at overthrowing the social system of the enemy. And the developments described by Kolchin show that process in its rabid development once the war was under way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 26: Frederick Douglass on Lincoln and slavery

In yesterday's installment, we saw Abraham Lincoln in 1858 using the principle of equality in the Declaration of Independence to attack slavery, while at the same time denying that the equality of blacks and whites.

Frederick Douglass, former slave and Abolitionist leader, recalled the Great Emancipator and his position on slavery in a speech of 04/14/1876 ("Oration by Frederick Douglass, Delivered on the Occasion of the Unveiling of the Freedmen's Monument," Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies Library of America, 1994, pp. 921-4):

I have said that President Lincoln was a white man and shared towards the colored race the prejudices common to his countrymen. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful coöperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow countrymen against the negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery. The man who could say, "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war shall soon pass away, yet if God wills it continue till all the wealth piled by two hundred years of bondage shall have been wasted, and each drop of blood drawn by the lash shall have been paid for by one drawn by the sword, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether," gives all needed proof of his feeling on the subject of slavery. He was willing, while the South was loyal, that it should have its pound of flesh, because he thought it was so nominated in the bond; but farther than this no earthly power could make him go. ...

Upon his inauguration as President of the United States, an office fitted to tax and strain the largest abilities, even when it is assumed under the most favorable conditions, Abraham Lincoln was met by a tremendous crisis. ...

The tremendous question for him to decide was whether his country should survive the crisis and flourish, or be dismembered and perish. His predecessor in office had already decided the question in favor of national dismemberment by denying to it the right of self-defense and self-preservation - a right which belongs to the meanest insect.

Happily for the country, happily for you and for me, the judgment of James Buchanan, the patrician, was not the judgment of Abraham Lincoln, the plebeian. He brought his strong common sense, sharpened in the school of adversity, to bear upon the question. He did not hesitate, he did not doubt, he did not falter; but at once resolved that, at whatever peril, at whatever cost, the union of the Stares should be preserved. A patriot himself, his faith was strong and unwavering in the patriotism of his countrymen. Timid men said before Mr. Lincoln's inauguration that we had seen the last President of the United States. A voice in influential quarters said, "Let the Union slide." Some said that a Union maintained by the sword was worthless. Others said a rebellion of eight millions cannot be suppressed. But in the midst of all this tumult and timidity, and against all this, Abraham Lincoln was clear in his duty, and had an oath in heaven. He calmly and bravely heard the voice of doubt and fear all around him, but he had an oath in heaven, and there was not power enough on earth to make this honest boatman, back-woodsman, and broad-handed splitter of rails evade or violate that sacred oath. He had not been schooled in the ethics of slavery; his plain life had favored his love of truth. He had not been taught that treason and perjury were the proof of honor and honesty. His moral training was against his saying one thing when he meant another. The trust which Abraham Lincoln had in himself and in the people was surprising and grand, but it was also enlightened and well founded. He knew the American people better than they knew themselves and his truth was based upon this knowledge.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 25: Slavery and the development of white racist "theory"

Earlier this month I quoted from Slavery and the Martial South Journal of Negro History 37:1 (Jan 1952) on the practical militarization that the slavery system produced in the slaveowning societies of the South.

Toward the end of the article, he also refers to the development of pseudo-scientific racism and its embrace and encouragement from the slaveowners:

The South's society, as described by its proponents, was to rest on the inequality of men in law and economics. Slavery was a positive good. South Carolina's James H. Hammond said that slavery was "the greatest of all blessings which a kind providence has bestowed upon the South." It gave to the white man the only basis on which he could do something for a group of hopelessly inferior human beings. The view of the inferiority of the Negro was organized into a body of systematic thought by the scientists and social scientists of the South and out of it emerged a doctrine of racial superiority that justified any kind of control that the owner established and maintained over the slave. The racial basis of slavery gave Southern leaders an effective means of solidifying the economically divergent elements among the whites. At the same time, it strengthened the ardor with which most white Southerners were willing to fight to preserve slavery. The sharp cleavage between slavery and freedom was made even sharper by the factor of race. All slaves belonged to a degraded, "inferior" race; and, by the same token, all whites, however wretched some of them might be, were superior. In a society where race was so important, the whites at the lowest rung could satisfy themselves because they could identify themselves with the most privileged of the community. "Color alone is here the badge of distinction, the true mark of aristocracy," said Thomas Dew, "and all who are white are equal in spite of the variety of occupation." [my emphasis]
In 1776, the supporters of the Declaration of Independence, including the slaveowner who wrote it, could live with the contradiction between the classical liberal political notion that "all men are created equal" and the reality of chattel slavery. As time advanced, the cotton gin boosted the profitability of the slave system and the slaveowning states spent decades organizing their societies around defense of the Peculiar Institution. And the leading defenders of slavery in the US no longer bothered with the polite pretense. Rather, they stated the real basis of their society, "the inequality of men in law and economics," as Franklin summarizes it.

In the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, Stephen Douglas, a "moderate" Democrat by the standards of 1858, declared in the first debate of 08/21/1858:

Mr. Lincoln, following the example and lead of all the little Abolition orators, who go around and lecture in the basements of schools and churches, reads from the Declaration of Independence, that all men were created equal, and then asks, how can you deprive a negro of that equality which God and the Declaration of Independence awards to him? He and they maintain that negro equality is guarantied by the laws of God, and that it is asserted in the Declaration of Independence. If they think so, of course they have a right to say so, and so vote. I do not question Mr. Lincoln's conscientious belief that the negro was made his equal, and hence is his brother, (laughter,) but for my own part, I do not regard the negro as my equal, and positively deny that he is my brother or any kin to me whatever. ("Never." "Hit him again," and cheers.) Lincoln has evidently learned by heart Parson Lovejoy's catechism. (Laughter and applause.) He can repeat it as well as Farnsworth, and he is worthy of a medal from Father Giddings and Fred Douglass for his Abolitionism. (Laughter.) He holds that the negro was born his equal and yours, and that he was endowed with equality by the Almighty, and that no human law can deprive him of these rights which were guarantied to him by the Supreme ruler of the Universe. Now, I do not believe that the Almighty ever intended the negro to be the equal of the white man. ("Never, never.") If he did, he has been a long time demonstrating the fact. (Cheers.) [my emphasis]
The texts here from the Lincoln-Douglas debates are taken from the National Park Service's site, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858.

Lincoln in his proportion of the debate denied that he advocated racial equality: "I had no thought in the world that I was doing anything to bring about a political and social equality of the black and white races." But Lincoln was still intensely aware of the contradiction, including that of his own position. And he was aware that the existence of slavery and the justifications the master class had developed for it were eroding the principle of human equality - or at least male equality - that was at the heart of the democratic convictions of the Declaration (italics in original; my emphasis in bold):

I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [Loud cheers.] I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects - certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. [Great applause.]
In the seventh debate of 10/15/1858, Lincoln said this of the Declaration (my emphasis):

At Galesburgh the other day, I said in answer to Judge Douglas, that three years ago there never had been a man, so far as I knew or believed, in the whole world, who had said that the Declaration of Independence did not include negroes in the term "all men." I reassert it to-day. I assert that Judge Douglas and all his friends may search the whole records of the country, and it will be a matter of great astonishment to me if they shall be able to find that one human being three years ago had ever uttered the astounding sentiment that the term "all men" in the Declaration did not include the negro. Do not let me be misunderstood. I know that more than three years ago there were men who, finding this assertion constantly in the way of their schemes to bring about the ascendancy and perpetuation of slavery, denied the truth of it. I know that Mr. Calhoun and all the politicians of his school denied the truth of the Declaration. I know that it ran along in the mouth of some Southern men for a period of years, ending at last in that shameful though rather forcible declaration of Pettit of Indiana, upon the floor of the United States Senate, that the Declaration of Independence was in that respect "a self-evident lie," rather than a self-evident truth. But I say, with a perfect knowledge of all this hawking at the Declaration without directly attacking it, that three years ago there never had lived a man who had ventured to assail it in the sneaking way of pretending to believe it and then asserting it did not include the negro. I believe the first man who ever said it was Chief Justice Taney in the Dred Scott case, and the next to him was our friend, Stephen A. Douglas. And now it has become the catch-word of the entire party. I would like to call upon his friends every where to consider how they have come in so short a time to view this matter in a way so entirely different from their former belief? to ask whether they are not being borne along by an irresistible current-whither, they know not? [Great applause.]
In an earlier speech not part of the in-person debates (Speech at Chicago, Illinois 07/10/1858) Lincoln explained:

Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of “don’t care if slavery is voted up or voted down,” for sustaining the Dred Scott decision [A voice—"Hit him again"], for holding that the Declaration of Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices—"me" "no one," &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of "no, no,"] let us stick to it then, [cheers] let us stand firmly by it then. [Applause.]
The arguments of Lincoln and Douglas over the meaning of the Declaration of Independence are reminders of how seriously people of that time took that document as a statement of American principles.

As Franklin wrote in 1952, white racism was a major factor in winning allegiance to the Slave Power's rejection of the principles of the Declaration:

White Southerners were, thus, among the first people of the world to develop a militant race superiority. As in other parts of the world where such a notion evolved, these frontier aristocrats sought support for their position by developing a common bond with the less privileged. The obvious basis was race, and outside the white race there was to be found no favor from God, no honor or respect from man. By the time that Europeans were reading Gobineau's Inequality of Human Races Southerners were reading Cartwright's Slavery in the Light of Ethnology. In admitting all whites of the South into the pseudo-nobility of race, Cartwright won their enthusiastic support in the struggle to preserve the integrity and honor of the race. This was a concept of social organization worth fighting for, and the white people of the South entered upon the grim task of exterminating persons and ideas hostile to their way of life. [my emphasis in bold]

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 24: Another look at slaveowner viciousness

This is one last post for this year's series on Charles Sumner's Barbarism of Slavery speech speech of 1860. In describing how slavery corrupts the slaveowners themselves, and also thereby challenging the "Southern honor" of which that group claimed to be so proud:

Nobody can look upon virtue and justice, if it be only in images and pictures, without feeling a kindred sentiment. Nobody can be surrounded by vice and wrong, by violence and brutality, if it be only in images and pictures, without coming under their degrading influence. Nobody can live with the one without advantage; nobody can live with the other without loss. Who could pass his life in the secret chamber where are gathered the impure relics of Pompeii, without becoming indifferent to loathsome things? But if these loathsome thing are not merely sculptured and painted if they exist in living reality - if they enact their hideous capers in life, as in the criminal pretensions of Slavery - while the lash plays and the blood spirts - while women are whipped and children are sold - while marriage is polluted and annulled - while the parental tie is rudely torn - while honest gains are filched or robbed - while the soul itself is shut down in all the darkness of ignorance, and while God himself is defied in the pretension that man can have property in his fellow man; if all these thing are present, not merely in images and pictures but in reality, their influence on character must be incalculable. ...

Instead of "ennobling" the master, nothing can be clearer than that the slave drags his master down; and this process begins in childhood and is continued through life. Living much in association with his slave, the master finds nothing to remind him of his own deficiencies, to prompt his ambition or excite his shame. Without these provocations to virtue, and without an elevated example, he naturally shares the barbarism of the society which he keeps. Thus, the very inferiority which the slave-master attributes to the African race explains the melancholy condition of the communities in which his degradation is declared by law.

A single false principle or vicious thought may degrade a character otherwise blameless; and this is practically true of the slave master. Accustomed to regard men as property, his sensibilities are blunted and his moral sense is obscured. He consents to acts from which civilization recoils. The early church sold its property, and even its sacred vessels, for the redemption of captives. This was done on a remarkable occasion by St. Ambrose, and successive canons confirmed the example. But in the Slave States this is all reversed. Slaves there are often sold as the property of the Church, and an instance is related of a slave sold in South Carolina in order to buy plate for the communion table. Who can calculate the effect of such an example?
The honorable slaveowners were not much pleased with Sen. Sumner's descriptions of them. Even though those descriptions were accurate.

The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Gleen Greenwald on the soft coup going on in Brazil

A Brazilain friend of mine who is upset about the so-called "soft coup" or "constitutional coup" underway in Brazil recommended this Cristine Amanpour interview with Glenn Greenwald (in English) as a good summary of the situation, Na CNN jornalista desmascara o impeachment contra Dilma Rousseff no Brasil | O Prato Feito 04/20/2016:

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 23: Slaveowners and their laws

I'm doing a final couple of posts for this year on Charles Sumner's Barbarism of Slavery speech speech of 1860.

He uses the slave codes of the time to display the slaveowners' characters in an unfavorable light:

Whatever may be the eminence of individual virtue - and I would not so far disparage humanity as to suppose that the offences which may be general where Slavery exists are universal - it is not reasonable or logical to infer that the masses of Slave-masters are better than the Law of Slavery. And since the Law itself degrades the slave to be a chattel, and submits him to their irresponsible control - with power to bind and to scourge; to usurp the fruits of another's labor; to pollute the body; and to outrage all ties of family, making marriage impossible - we must conclude that such enormities are sanctioned by Slave-masters; while the exclusion of testimony and prohibition of instruction - by supplementary law - complete the evidence of their complicity. And this conclusion must stand unquestioned just as long as the Law of Slavery exists unrepealed. Cease, then, to blazon the humanity of Slave-masters. Tell me not of the lenity with which this cruel Code is tempered to its unhappy subjects. Tell me not of the sympathy which overflows from the mansion of the master to the cabin of the slave. In vain you assert such "happy accidents" In vain you show that there are individuals who do not exert the wickedness of the law. The Barbarism still endures, solemnly, legislatively, judicially attested in the very SLAVE CODE, and proclaims constantly the character of its authors.
The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Do conservatives totally own early American history now?

Does liberal historical consciousness really have to be this lazy?

I can't let it go yet. I'm still mourning the blog's "Old Hickory's Weblog" name. Which it still had until a few days ago.
And here's Krugman piling on: In Hamilton’s Debt New York Times 04/22/2016.

It seems that the left side of the political spectrum has decided by default to completely surrender the symbolism of the American Revolution and the early decades of the Republic to conservatives. Here's Krugman on Andrew Jackson, giving what passes for nuanced history in public discussions right now: "Andrew Jackson, a populist who campaigned against elites but was also, unfortunately, very much a racist, arguably an advocate of what we would nowadays call white supremacy."

Which would make him like, uh, every President and pretty much every white person in America up until after the Civil War. (See Lincoln, Abraham, in the Lincoln-Douglas debates.)

As I said here before only one white man I know by name from the antebellum days in the US who arguably held 21st century liberal attitudes toward blacks, women and even Indians. That would be John Brown. Who by today's standards was also a "terrorist." And he was a convicted traitor and experienced guerrilla fighter (Bloody Kansas) who had a plan to set up guerrilla war bases in the Appalachians to free slaves and fight slaveowners. But what respectable liberal today is going to praise John Brown without qualifications in the same breath? Anti-abortion zealots do, though, just like they praise Martin Luther King as a conservative.

Maybe Walt Whitman and Herman Melville would qualify along with Brown in the 21st-century category. But, heck, even radical white Abolitionists in those days often supported sending African-Americans back to Africa like Theodore Bilbo.

And, yes, I checked about John Brown's attitude on Indians.

Krugman goes on to praise Alexander Hamilton! The monarchist who thought republican government could only function by massive corruption. I'm sure he would have approved of the post-Citizens United campaign financing we have now. One of the reasons he wanted the Bank of the US was to make payoffs to Congress, which it was still doing in Jackson's time. The guy also persuaded Washington to pay off effectively defaulted Revolutionary War bonds to give a big windfall to the vulture investors of the day.

How long until we let conservatives claim the New Deal, too? Or has that already happened when I wasn't paying attention?

Hillary's hawkish foreign policy inclinations

Hillary Clinton does not have the Democratic nomination wrapped up and I'm not assuming that she's the all-but-certain nominee.

But for the longer term as well as for the Demcoratic primaries, the hawkishness of Clinton's foreign policy perspectives is a very important issue.

Here are three recent articles on that topic:

Mark Landler, How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk New York Times 04/21/2016

A. Trevor Thrall, Libya and the 5 Stages of U.S. Intervention The National Interest 04/19/2016

Paul Pillar, Hillary the Hawk The National Interest 04/21/2016

Pillar comments on Landler's article. And Pillar also observes of Clinton:

In the course of providing that sort of political cover and playing the role of uber-hawk on Afghanistan, Clinton — as later observed by Afghanistan hand Sarah Chayes—“contributed to the overmilitarizing of the analysis of the problem” while never following through on a talked-about civilian surge.

What is disturbing about this whole portrait is how much positions apparently are being determined, if not by narrow political calculations, by dynamics and relationships that really are more the province of sociology than of national security policy analysis. It is disturbing not just as a statement about Hillary Clinton—who, like Barack Obama, is smart enough to be able to do careful policy analysis on national security matters — but as a broader statement of how much of that manner of arriving at positions on the use of military force infuses overall debate on foreign policy. Hillary Clinton is a mainstream candidate who mostly plays according to what Mr. Obama would call the Washington playbook. A pattern such as overmilitarization of analysis of a subject such as Afghanistan is a recurrent problem and not unique to any one figure such as Clinton.

If Hillary Clinton is elected president — a probable outcome — an important question is whether once in office, given the changes in relationships and thus in the sociology, not to mention her sitting at the desk where the buck stops, her postures on use of military force also will change. Will those postures be an output of feet-on-the-coffee-table affinity with favored military officers, or more the product of detached and careful analysis as exhibited by her predecessor? [my emphasis]

More on Harriet Tubman and the strange politics around Andrew Jackson's image

The Young Turks reported on the demotion of Andrew Jackson's image to the back of the $20 bill. Unfortunately, in this report they used some simplistic historical assumptions about Jackson, although Cenk Uygur does add a bit of sensible nuance. Harriet Tubman Will Soon Be On $20 Bill 04/20/2016:

Charlie Pierce actually is well-informed about Jackson's career and historical significance. He comments on the $20 bill controversy in Maybe the Arc of the Moral Universe Really Does Bend Toward Justice Esquire Politics Blog 04/20/2016.

I covered some of the same ground I've gone over recently. But I'm fine with putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. I wouldn't even mind if they took Jackson off altogether. It is kind of depressing to see present-day white supremacists defending Andrew Jackson, most of them knowing nothing about what he did or who he was.

But hack history also bums me out. It's depressing to hear what most people on the left side of the spectrum seem to be saying about him. Because it sounds like many of them/us are willing to completely surrender the symbolism of the American Revolution and the early decades of the Republic to conservatives. Who use a shameless fake like David Barton to rewrite the Founders into whatever the Republican Party and hate radio want them to be at any given moment.

Jackson's successful fight against the Bank of the United States, aka, the Money Power, is one of the progressive/populist/left things he did that really was in support of the "common people," a phrase used often then.

And his successful fight against the vile Calhoun and South Carolina's Nullification Act was critically important to defending democracy and national unity. In fact, it was arguably Jackson who started the (still unfinished) identification of American patriotism/nationalism with democracy. As in, you can't have one without the other. And that means that secession for the defense of slavery was fundamentally anti-democracy. This is why in my mind, Jackson and what he represented is an appropriate counter-image against Lost Cause, neo-Confederacy ideology.

Also, he went for big changes. (He was obviously one of those BernieBros who don't understand that only small, incremental changes are worth talking about!)

Here is a YouTube video of a PBS documentary on Jackson - which annoyingly seems to be no longer available at the PBS website, Andrew Jackson - Good Evil & The Presidency - PBS Documentary 06/11/2016:

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 22: Slavery and classical liberalism

I posted in a previous year's series on how classical liberalism viewed slavery, Confederate "Heritage" Month 2010, April 3: Slavery, race and classical economics.

Sen. Charles Sumner in his famous Barbarism of Slavery speech speech of 1860 from which I've been quoting in several posts, also noted a couple of examples in addition to Thomas Jefferson who criticized the institution of slavery. One was John Locke:

Next comes the Philosophic Authority; and here the language which I quote may be less familiar, but it is hardly less commanding. Among names of such weight, I shall not discriminate, but shall simply follow the order of time in which they appeared. First is John Locke, the great author of the English system of Intellectual Philosophy, who, though once unhappily conceding indulgence to American Slavery, in another place describes it, in words which every slave master should know, as--

"The state of war continued between a lawful conqueror and his captive. ... So opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation, that 'tis hardly to be conceived that an Englishman, MUCH LESS A GENTLEMAN, should plead for it."
Then comes Adam Smith, the founder of the science of Political Economy, who, in his work on Morals, thus utters himself:

"There is not a negro from the coast of Africa who does not possess a degree of magnanimity which the soul of his sordid master is too often scarce capable of conceiving. Fortune never exerted more cruelly her empire over mankind, than when she subjected these nations of heroes to the refuse of jails of Europe, to wretches who possess the virtues neither of the countries which they came from, nor of those which they go to, and whose levity, brutality and baseness so justly expose them to the contempt of the vanquished." -- Theory of Moral Sentiments, part 2. Chapter 2.
This judgment, pronounced just a country ago, was repelled by the Slave-masters of Virginia, in a feeble publication which attests at least their own consciousness that they were the criminals arraigned by the distinguished philosopher. This was soon followed by the testimony of the great English moralist, Dr. Johnson, who, in a letter to a friend, thus shows his opinion of Slave-masters:

"To omit for a year, or for a day, the most efficacious method of advancing Christianity, in compliance with any purposes that terminate on this side the grave, is a crime of which I know not that the world has had an example except in the practice of the planters of America, a race of mortals whom I suppose, no other man wishes to resemble." -- Letter to William Drummond, 13th August , 1766. (Boswell's Life of Johnson, by Corker.)

The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Abby Martin on Hillary Clinton

The left-leaning TeleSUR channel presents this 27-minute anti-Hillary program. It has a kind of gloomy tone, presumably intentional. But it doesn't indulge in Clinton pseudoscandals. It focuses on policy issues instead. Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes What Hillary Clinton Really Represents 04/17/2016:

It presents a critical view of the Clinton Foundation's work that I don't recall having heard before.

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 21: Slaveowners and despotism

We've been looking in several posts now at Charles Sumner's Barbarism of Slavery speech speech of 1860.

Sumner knew a lot about the character of slavemasters and their supporters. He cited Thomas Jefferson, who was of course a slavemaster himself, who also knew a lot about the topic:

"There must be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people, produced by the existence of Slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, THE MOST UNREMITTING DESPOTISM on the one part, and degrading submissions us on the other; our children see this, and learn to imitate it. ... The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. And with what execration should the statesman be loaded, who, permitting one-half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patrie of the other! ... With the morals of the people, their industry is also destroyed."
The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Contradictions, Contradicciónes and Andrew Jackson

I've changed the name of the blog from "Old Hickory's Weblog" to Contradicciónes (Contradictions).

Not because I've given up the positive image I have of Andrew Jackson as a historical figure. It's that his image at the moment among left-leaning Americans is so bad and, bizarrely, white supremacists are "defending" him over the Treasury Department's just-announced decision to put the image of black Abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill and move Jackson to the back.

Somewhere in Hell, John C. Calhoun is cackling madly in delight. About his political descendants the white supremacists praising Jackson, that is, not about me changing the name of the blog.

I don't have the text immediately at hand. But I recently read something by the left-Peronist Argentine leader John William Cooke (1919-1968) about Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793-1877), a major Argentine political leader in the 19th century. Known as the Restaurador de las Leyes (Restorer of the Laws), he served as Governor of Buenos Aires province in 1828-1832 and 1835-1852. He was a contemporary of Andrew Jackson and his governorship overlapped in time with Jackson's Presidency.

Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793-1877)

Rosas was a representative of the Federalist political current of that time, the main carrier of the democratic tradition in Argentina at that time. The more conservative trend was represented by the Unitarians. Or as, Rosas' followers called them, "the wild Unitarians." The Unitarian name had nothing to do with religion. It referred to the centralism of that faction which wanted Buenos Aires to have dominance over the other provinces that became the nation of Argentina.

But actually it was Rosas that first forged an effective national grouping of various provinces.

Rosas was a large landowner and a shrewd and ambitious politician. But he had particular appeal to the gauchos, the small farmers. He also gave strong support to the black Argentines who were a numerous group in the urban area of Buenos Aires. Slavery was never large in Argentina, nothing like in Brazil. But it Rosas explicitly abolished slavery.

Rosas promoted voting. But one could scarcely say that he was a "Jacksonian democrat." (Nor were the Wild Unitarians.) But he also empowered the lower classes in ways they had never been empowered before.

He also defended the Argentine national honor and independence against Britain and France. In 1845, when those two empires were blockading Argentine ports, Rosas mounted a naval attack known as the Vuelta de Obligado. He didn't have the forces that would have been necessary to force the lifting of the blockade. But it has been remembered ever since as an important moment in the defense of Argentine independence. José de San Martín (1778-1850), one of the great heroes of Argentina and of Latin American independence, sent his sword to Rosas in recognition of his actions in the Vuelta de Obligado.

Cooke's comment on Rosas that struck me was that though there were bad things about Rosas, it's also important to recognize that democracy and freedom come into being in the messy process of real history, not in pure declarations of principle. And left-leaning history in Argentina recognizes Rosas as a major figure in the development of freedom, democracy and national independence in Argentina. In her last speech as President celebrating the national day May 25 in 2015, Cristina Fernández mentioned Rosas and how San Martín had honored him by sending him his sword.

Rosas was a kind of Argentine Andrew Jackson, in other words. (Yes, Rosas fought Indians, too.) Or maybe Jackson was an American version of Rosas. Neither were model democrats by the standards terms of 2016. But they both led important advances in democracy in their respective countries.

History is messy. Which is my cue to roll out one of my favorite Hegel quotes that cautions us against expecting perfection in real history and reminds us to recognize the good parts: "World history is not the ground of happiness. The periods of happiness are blank pages in it ..." - Philosophy of History (German original: "Die Weltgeschichte ist nicht der Boden des Glücks. Die Perioden des Glücks sind leere Blätter in ihr ...")

Argentina's Cristina Fernández on currency speculation scandals

The former (and likely future) President of Argentina Cristina Fernández has been targeted by current conservative President Maricio Macri's party and government with cooked-up but nevertheless vague accusations of corruption. Cristina and her former Finance Minister Axel Kicillof gave statements to Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio last week over a policy her government had instituted called the "future dollar." It was a device by which investors could make a futures bet on whether the currency would go up or down. It was a policy device to stabilize the currency. (CFK faces Judge Bonadio, accuses gov't of 'making' a case against her to 'deprive' her of her 'liberty' Buenos Aires Herald 04/13/2016)

Bonadio was accused them of a crime just for setting up the policy. He didn't even claim that they had violated the law or given inside information to investors to let them cheat the system.

But, as Cristina herself explains at her website, there were people who may have made money on the "future dollar" system who may also have benefited from inside information (Future dollar and the “unscrupulous illegally enriched” 04/19/2016):

Some names of the “unscrupulous future dollars buyers” have been revealed. Do you think they are all K? Look, Caputo S.A. company bought in the Rosario term market 3.56 million dollars between October 8th and 27th, in 2015. Do you know who Caputo is? Nicky, for his friends. Close confidant of Macri, he was his wedding witness and usual attendant in the meetings of the Presidente with the cabinet.

You know who is mentioned too? The Macri family, that via Socma-Chery firm, adquired 8 million dollars at future price, later multiplied –not as bread and fishes- because of the devaluation determined, among others, by Central Bank president, prosecuted Sturzenegger, who paid in spite of the cause presented by his political party.

There are other “unscrupulous”: senior presidential adviser and PRO national party trustee José María Torello, bought 800.000 dollars in future dollar contracts, on October 27th, charged in February. The secretary of Interministerial coordination, former CEO in Farmacity, Mario Quintana, one of the illustrious negotiators in the pay to vulture funds, bought almost 1.5 million dollars, last September, via his Pegasus fund.

But pay attention, there are more “unscrupulous”: media companies. The newspaper La Nación bought 4 millions dollars. Grupo Clarin’s television network, Cablevisión, got 11 million dollars multiplied by the devaluation. That’s right, Clarin is always involved in this kind of things. And not precisely for being the sweetest thing.

Who benefited from the devaluation? Obviously, those who decided to devaluate, that apparently are not only in the Central Bank. Who were perjudicated by the devaluation? As usual, the Argentinian people. Question: when did they buy those millions of dollars? Did they know that in case of winning the elections they would devaluate, as the candidate denied it on TV?
A federal prosecutor, Jorge Di Lello, is opening an investigation into Banadio and Macri's Central Bank president Federico Sturzenegger over their accusations against Cristina and Kicillof. (Dólar futuro: imputaron a Claudio Bonadio El Destape 20.04.2016)

See also:

Vanoli: 'CFK, Kicillof had nothing to do with dollar futures operations' Buenos Aires Herald 04/20/2016

“Un escándalo que no tiene fin” Página/12 19.04.2016

Los beneficios de adivinar el futuro Página/12 18.04.2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2016, April 20: free civilization vs. slavery

Continuing with Charles Sumner's Barbarism of Slavery speech speech of 1860.

After describing the various way in which slavery is in direct opposition to the principles and practices of democracy, which we've seen in previous posts, Sumner discusses the legal roots of slavery, concluding (p. 19):

Then he discusses the various ways in which slavery retards the general economic progress of the economies of the slave states, or what he calls "the practical results of Slavery." He compares the free states versus the slave states, starting with the argument that the slave states "excel of Free States in all natural advantages," including size, climate and waterways useful for transport. "But Slavery plays tbe part of a Harpy, und defiles the choicest banquet."

And he proceeds to compare the slave and free areas on population growth, total property values (with and without human property counted), agricultural output, manufacturing, domestic and foreign commerce, railroads and canals, postal service ("which is not only the agent of commerce, but of civilization"), charity, education including libraries, press freedom and quantity, patents, literacy among whites, and emigration. He summarizes this portion of his long speech like this:

Thus, at every point is the character of Slavery more and more manifest, rising and dilating into an overshadowing Barbarism, darkening the whole land. Through its influence, population, values of all kinds, manufactures, commerce, railroads, canals, charities, the Post-office, colleges, professional schools, academies, public schools, newspapers, periodicals, books, authorship, inventions, are all stunted, and, under a Government which professes to be founded on the intelligence of the people, one in twelve of the white adults in the region of Slavery is officially reported as unable to read and write. Never was the saying of Montesquieu more triumphantly verified, that countries are not cultivated by reason of their fertility, but by reason of their liberty. To this truth the Slave States constantly testify by every possible voice. Liberty is the powerful agent which drives the plow, the spindle, and the keel; which opens avenues of all kinds; which inspires charity; which awakens a love of knowledge, and supplies the means of gratifying it. Liberty is the first of schoolmasters.
The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 19: Slavery and the exploitation of labor

I've been using portions of Charles Sumner's Barbarism of Slavery speech of 1860 because it's an excellent contemporary analysis of and judgment against the slavery system. In it, he listed five major inherent aspects of the system that were inherently evil. The fifth he described was this one:

Slavery paints itself again in the appropriation of all the toil of its victims, excluding them from that property in their own earnings which the law of nature allows and civilization secures. The painful injustice of this pretension is lost in its meanness. It is robbery and petty larceny under the garb of law; and even its meanness is lost in the absurdity of its associate pretension that the African, thus despoiled of all his earnings, is saved from poverty, and that for his own good he must work for his master, and not for himself. Alas! by such a fallacy is a whole race pauperized! ...

... [A] celebrated traveler through Russia, more than a generation ago, describes a kindred spirit, who, while on his knees before an altar of the Greek Church, devoutly told his beads with one hand, and with the other deliberately picked the pocket of a fellow-sinner by his side. Not admiring these instances, I cannot cease to deplore a system which has much of both, while, under an affectation of charity, it sordidly takes from the slave all the fruits of his bitter sweat, and thus takes from him the mainspring to exertion.
And he summarizes this part of his case against slavery:

Such is Slavery in its five special elements of barbarism, as recognized by law; first, assuming that man can hold property in man; secondly, abrogating the relation of husband and wife; thirdly, abrogating the parental tie; fourthly, closing the gates of knowledge; and fifthly appropriating the unpaid labor of another. Take away these elements, sometimes called "abuses," and Slavery will cease to exist, for it is these very "abuses" which constitute Slavery. Take away any one of them, and the abolition of Slavery begins. And when I present Slavery for judgment, I mean no slight evil, with regard to which there may be a reasonable difference of opinion, but I mean this five-fold embodiment of "abuse" - this ghastly quincunx of barbarism - each particular of which, it considered separately, must be denounced at once with all the ardor of an honest soul, while the whole five-fold combination must awake a five-fold denunciation.

But this five-fold combination becomes still more hateful when its single motive is considered. The Senator from Mississippi [Mr. DAVIS] says that it is "but a form of civil government for those who are not fit to govern themselves." The Senator is mistaken. It is an outrage where five different pretensions all concur in one single object, looking only to the profit of the master, and constituting its ever-present motive power, which is simply to compel the labor of fellow men without wages! [my emphasis in bold]
The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 18: Family values of slavery

Charles Sumner's Barbarism of Slavery speech of 1860 is a gift that keeps on giving for providing a contemporary judgment against slavery:

Slavery paints itself again in its complete abrogation of marriage, recognized as a sacrament by the Church, and recognized as a contract wherever civilization prevails. Under the law of Slavery no such sacrament is respected, and no such contract can exist. The ties that may be formed between slaves are all subject to the selfish interests or more selfish lost of the master, whose license knows no check. Natural affections which have come together are rudely torn asunder; nor is this all. Stripped of every defence, the chastity of a whole race is exposed to violence, while the result is recorded in the telltale faces of the children, glowing with their master's blood, but doomed for their mother's skin to Slavery, through all descending generations. The Senator from Mississippi [Mr. BROWN] is galled by the comparison between Slavery and Polygamy, and winces. I hail this sensibility as the sign of virtue. Let him reflect, and he will confess that there are many disgusting elements in Slavery which are not present in Polygamy, while the single disgusting element of Polygamy is more than present in Slavery. By the license of Polygamy one man may have many wives, all bound to him by the marriage tie, and in other respects protected by law. By the license of Slavery, a whole race is delivered over to prostitution and concubinage, without the protection of any law.
And that was an accurate, reasonable description of the reality of slavery in the US.

The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

[This post has been updated for clarity.]

"Soft coup" in Brazil

The impeachment vote on Sunday against left-leaning Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff could be an important turning point in Latin America.

Whether it's a good one or not is not only a matter of perspective. It's also a matter of what happens going forward.

Dilma's supporters, and the democratic left in Latin America more generally, are calling this a coup. The press talks a lot about "corruption" in Brazil, corruption being both a real thing and a sneer word applied to nations whom the speaker doesn't favor. (Blanket, reflexive accusations of corruption have been a common attack on Greece by their EU "partners" in northern Europe.)

But this impeachment move didn't bother to put much of a fig leaf on what they were doing, charging the President with mismanaging the budget. Not as in stealing money, but as in they didn't like her budget. So it's legitimate to call it a coup. Terms I've seen used for it recently include soft coup (golpe blando), institutional coup, and parliamentary coup.

Dilma is in her second term as the elected President of Brazil. First elected in 2011, she became Brazil's first female President, and was reelected in 2014 as the candidate of the Workers' Party, Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

With the new economic slump in much of the world and with the drop in oil prices in particular, Brazil has been hit hard economically in the last year. A significant part of Brazil's strong growth in prior years has been business with China. And now China's economy is slowing down.

The impeachment process there has some similarities to those in the US Constitution but there are important differences. The vote on Sunday was an impeachment, which is a kind of indictment. And it required a 2/3 vote in the lower house of Congress. Next it goes to the Brazilian Senate, the upper house, for trial and a decision on the charges. If she is convicted on the impeachment charges, she would be permanently removed as President.

However, the Senate must first vote by a majority on whether to conduct a trial or not, a vote that comes May 11. If a Senate majority decides to conduct the trial, Rousseff will be suspended as President for 180 days and Vice President Michel Temer, who is opposed to Rousseff's economic policies and in favor of the IMF/Washington Consensus approach favored by the Brazilian oligarchs (cutting government services, selling off state property, deregulation of local and international corporate activity, lower wages, the usual prescription). If there is anything in economics that has been empirically demonstrated on a grand scale since 2008, it's that such Herbert Hoover policies of governmental austerity and retrenchment in a recession is a pro-cyclical policy, i.e., it makes the recession longer and deeper.

Eric Nepomuceno in the article cited below reports that it's very likely that the Senate will vote yes to the trial, effectively removing Dilma from power in three weeks or so from now. "En pocas palabras: Dilma Rousseff está liquidada" ("In short: Dilma Rousseff is liquidated.") Dilma, who was arrested and tortured as a young woman because she was part of the opposition to the military dictatorship, certainly appreciates the difference between being "liquidated" politically and "liquidated" physically.

Dilma was arrested in 1970 when she was part of the Comando de Libertação Nacional (COLINA), which Ian Epstein in the article linked below describes as "a left-wing guerrilla group that fought the right-wing military dictatorship that ruled Brazil until 1985." The Reuters article linked below describes her as "a 68-year-old former Communist guerrilla." Actually, FWIW, the main guerrila group during that period that identified itself as Communist was called FOGUERA.

This piece from Heather Arnet from just after her reelection gives a glimpse of what the political differences are in Brazil that resulted in the impeachment:

Ronald Reagan famously coined the phrase, “Are you better off now then you were four years ago?” For millions of Brazilians the answer is a resounding yes. But from the coverage of the Brazilian presidential race in the U.S. and European media you could easily have had the impression that Brazil was teetering on the edge of economic collapse. How could an economy, which resulted in lifting 40 million people out of poverty and into the middle class, and with historically low unemployment figures,be considered a troubled economy? It all depends on whose economic interests define your perspective. ...

As other nations fell into recession and declared strict austerity measures, cutting social services, education, healthcare, and government jobs, Brazil invested in all of these. In addition to expanding Brazil’s economic subsidy program, Rousseff also led efforts to successfully pass legislation mandating that income from national oil and energy reserves be reinvested in expanding education and healthcare opportunities for the poor.

But investing in the people of Brazil meant that there were less profits for international investors. The one percent in Brazil and the one percent internationally were still making profits on their Brazilian holdings, because the Brazilian economy was still growing. But they were not making enough profits, as the rate of growth had slowed as Brazil invested in the welfare of its own people. And so the elites demanded that it was time for change.

It was striking to see that nearly all media coverage of this year’s Brazilian presidential election focused on how the “markets” and “investors” were strongly behind Rousseff’s fiscal conservative competitor Aecio Neves. And how investor confidence would fall drastically each time Rousseff rose in the polls. These same articles would cite in the sixth or seventh paragraph that while it was true that tens of millions of families were lifted out of poverty by Rousseff and her party’s economic policies, broad national growth and inflation had suffered under Rousseff. What the articles failed to mention was that it is only the extremely rich who were not benefiting from these policies. [my emphasis]
Yes, Virginia, there is an oligarchy. In Brazil and elsewhere.

The TeleSUR article below reports suspicions that the US is involved in the current golpe blando in Brazil. Which is easy to believe. Hard not to believe, actually. But it will probably take Wikileaks or a new Edward Snowden to provide details.

At the very least, the Brazilian oligarchs' parties would not likely have tried such a blatant "soft coup" if they hadn't assumed that the Obama Administration would at least be passively sympathetic. The initial State Department reaction to yesterday's news was to express confidence in the durability of Brazilian institutions.

It's definitely clearly relevant in this context that the Obama Administration during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State supported both the military coup in Honduras in 2009 and the "soft coup" in Paraguay in 2012. The Paraguay coup is definitely a very similar event to what's happening now in Brazil.

Given the United States' policy of keeping itself as the dominant world power and in doing so to ward off the development of any "peer competitor" nation or alliance, the Obama Administration would no doubt be happy to reverse some trends of the last 15 years or so in Latin America. Like the increase in business and closer diplomatic relations between China and several Latin American countries, including purchase of Chinese weaponry. And Brazil is the "B" of the BRICS group which has been challenging the "Washington Consensus" of neoliberal development policies.

But this is very serious stuff. The oligarchy in Brazil is barely pretending there's any kind of legal reason or democratic procedure for removing Dilma from the Presidency. They want her and her policies gone, and they're abusing the existing institutions to nullify the results of the 2014 Presidential election in which she was elected with 54 million votes. This is not something parties and leaders genuinely interested in strengthening democratic institutions would do.


Heather Arnet, What Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff Can Teach Hillary Clinton Daily Beast 10/29/2014

Henrique Gomes Batista, Governo dos Estados Unidos afirma confiança nas instituições brasileiras O Globo 18.04.2016

R. Evan Ellis, La aparición de China en las Américas Military Review Enero-Febrero 2015

Ian Epstein, Brazil's Next Outlaw President Daily Beast 10/02/2010

Janína Figueiredo e Aline Macedo, Aliados latino-americanos manifestam solidariedade a Dilma: Argentina, Chile, Paraguai, Colômbia e Peru optam pela discrição O Globo 18.04.2016

Foreign Military Studies Office: Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro and William Mendel Guerrilla in The Brazilian Amazon July 1995

Martín Granovsky, El golpe de los esclavócratas Página/12 18.04.2016

Joe Leahy and Samantha Pearson, Brazil’s crisis takes on carnival atmosphere Financial Times 04/18/2016

Mercedes López San Miguel, Por presidenta y por mujer Página/12 18.04.2016

Eric Nepomuceno, Un golpe que se vio en vivo y en directo Página/12 18.04.2016

Darío Pignotti, Dos Brasilias separadas por un muro Página/12 18.04.2016

Michael Ray and Jeff Wallenfeldt, Dilma Rousseff Encyclopædia Britannica (article updated 04/18/2016)

Maria Carolina Marcello and Alonso Soto, Brazil's Rousseff to fight on after heavy impeachment defeat Reuters 04/18/2016

Open Society Archive: Radio Free Europe, Brazil's Urban Guerrilla in Theory and Practice 06/16/1970

TeleSUR: Juicio a Dilma es una operación mundial dirigida por EE.UU. 18.04.2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 17: In which Charles Sumner goes Biblical on the Slave Power

Southern slaveowners justified their Peculiar Institution of slavery as ordained by God. Charles Sumner in his Barbarism of Slavery speech didn't hesitate to dispute that assumption:

... I oppose the essential Barbarism of Slavery in all its influences, whether high or low, as Satan is Satan still, whether towering in the sky or squatting in the load. ...

Language is feeble to express all the enormity of this institution, which is now vaunted as in itself a form of civilization, "ennobling" at least to the master, if not the slave. Look at it in whatever light you will, and it is always the scab, the canker, the "bare bones," and the shame of the country; wrong, not merely in the abstract, as is often admitted by its apologists, but wrong in the concrete also, and possessing no single element of right. Look at it in the light of principles, and it is nothing less than a huge insurrection against the eternal law of God, involving in its pretensions the denial of all human rights, and also the denial of the Divine Law which God himself is manifest, thus being practically the grossest lie and the grossest Atheism. Founded in violence, sustained only by violence, such a wrong must by a sure law of compensation blast the master as well as the slave; blast the lands on which they live; blast the community of which they are a part; blast the Government which does not forbid the outrage; and the longer it exists, and the more completely it prevails, must its blasting influences penetrate the whole social system. Barbarous in origin; barbarous in its law; barbarous in all its pretensions; barbarous in the instruments it employs; barbarous in consequences; barbarous in spirit; barbarous wherever it shows itself, Slavery must breed barbarians, while it develops everywhere alike in the individual, and in the society of which he forms a part, the essential elements of Barbarism. ...

Idolatry has been often exposed in the presence of idolaters, and hypocrisy has been chastised in the presence of Scribes and Pharisees. Such examples may give encouragement to a Senator who undertakes in this presence to expose Slavery; nor can any language, directly responsive to the assumptions now made for this barbarism, be open to question. Slavery can only be painted in the sternest colors; but I cannot forget that nature's sternest painter has been called the best.
Sumner proceeds to undertake what academics call an immanent critique of slavery by looking at the laws on slavery and explicating what they mean in practical, human terms:

Sir, look at its plain import, and see the relation which it establishes. The slave is held simply for the use of his master, to whose behests his life, liberty and happiness are devoted, and by whom he may be bartered, leased, mortgaged, bequeathed, invoiced, shipped as cargo, stored as goods, sold on execution, knocked off at public auction, and even staked at the gaming table, on the hazard of a card or die; all according to law. Nor is there anything within the limit of life inflicted on a beast which may not be inflicted on a slave. He may be marked like a hog, branded like a mule, yoked like an ox, hobbled like a horse, driven like an ass, sheared like a sheep, maimed like a cur, and constantly beaten like a brute; all according to law. And should life itself be taken, what is the remedy? The Law of Slavery, imitating that rule of evidence which in barbarous days and barbarous countries prevented a Christian from testifying against a Mohamedan, openly pronounces the incompetency of the whole African race, whether bond or free, to testify in any case against a white man; and thus having already surrendered the slave to all possible outrage, crowns its tyranny by excluding the very testimony through which the bloody cruelty of the Slave-master might be exposed.

Thus in its Law does Slavery paint itself ....
The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 16: Prewar Southern defenses of slavery

I'm continuing here with more from Sen. Charles Sumner's "Barbarism of Slavery" Senate speech of 1860. In understanding the Civil War, especially the central role of slavery in it, it's necessary to look at the actual conflict that led up to the war. A key part of the Lost Cause/neo-Confederate pseudohistory is to deny the role of slavery in creating the conflict.

Slavery "is but a form of civil government for those who are not fit to govern themselves;"

Sumner had long since been fed up with what today we would call "bipartisan" compromises that all moved in the direction of making slavery legal in all parts of the United States:

Senators sometimes announce that they resist Slavery on political grounds only, and remind us that they say nothing of the moral question. This is wrong. Slavery must be resisted not only on political grounds, but on all other grounds, whether social, economical or moral. Ours is no holiday contest, nor is it any strife of rival factions; of white and red roses; of theatric Neri and Bianchi; but it is a solemn battle between Right and Wrong - between Good and Evil. Such a battle cannot be fought with excuses or with rosewater. There is austere work to be done, and Freedom cannot consent to fling away any of her weapons.
Sumner held up to the defenders of slavery their own words on the subject:

Following Mr. CALHOUN, who pronounced "Slavery the most safe and stable basis for free institutions in the world," and Mr. MCDUFFIE, who did not shrink from calling it "the corner-stone of the Republican edifice," the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. HAMMOND] insists that "its forms of society are the best in the world;" and his colleague [Mr. CHESNUT] takes up the strain. One Senator from Mississippi [Mr. DAVIS] adds that Slavery "is but a form of civil government for those who are not fit to govern themselves;" and his colleague [Mr. BROWN] openly vaunts that it "is a great moral, social, and political blessing - a blessing to the slave and a blessing to the master." One Senator from Virginia, [Mr. HUNTER,] in a studied vindication of what he is pleased to call "the social system of the slaveholding States," exalts Slavery as "the normal condition of human society," "beneficial to the non-slave owner as it is to the slave owner," best for the happiness of both races;" and, in enthusiastic advocacy, declares "that the very keystone of the mighty arch, which by its concentrated strength is able to sustain our social superstructure, consists in the black marble block of African Slavery. Knock that out," he says, "and the mighty fabric, with all that it upholds, topples and tumbles to its fall." These were his very words, uttered in debate here; and his colleague, [Mr. MASON,] who has never hesitated where Slavery was in question, has proclaimed that it is "ennobling to both master and slave" - a word which, so far as the slave was concerned, he changed, on a subsequent day, to "elevating," assuming still that it is "ennobling" to the master - which is simply a new version of an old assumption, by Mr. MCDUFFIE, of South Carolina, that "Slavery supersedes the necessity of an order of nobility."
The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 15: Charles Sumner on the Slave Power's assault on Kansas Territory

In 1856, Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner made a speech on the floor against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which he referred to as the Crime of Kansas. Kansas Territory had become a violent political conflict between proslavery and antislavery forces. The national government during the proslavery Administrations of Franklin Pierce (President 1853-1857) and James Buchanan (President 1857-1861) strongly favored the proslavery side.

President James Buchanan, more dedicated to defending slavery than defending the Union and the Constitution

Two days after Sumner's speech a cowardly proslavery Congressman, Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina, came into the Senate chamber and snuck up behind Sumner sitting at his Senate desk, and beat him nearly to death with a heavy wooden cane.

Sumner survived. But his health didn't recover sufficiently for him to return to the Senate until 1860. When he returned, he gave his Barbarism of Slavery speech to which I referred earlier this month. He began by returning to the theme of Kansas and the slavery issue which was the central controversy there.

The New York Times has the text of the speech online. I rely here on the text from the version published in 1863 as Barbarism of Slavery.

The crime against Kansas stands forth in painful light. Search history, and you cannot find its parallel. The Slave-trade is bad; but even this enormity is petty compared with that elaborate contrivance by which, in a Christian age, and within the limits of a Republic, all forms of constitutional liberty were perverted; by which all the rights of human nature were violated, and the whole country was held trembling on the edge of civil war while all this large exuberance, of wickedness, detestable in itself, becomes tenfold more detestable when its origin is traced to the madness for Slavery. The fatal partition between Freedom and Slavery, known as the Missouri Compromise; the subsequent overthrow of this partition, and the seizure of all by Slavery; the violation of plighted faith; the conspiracy to force Slavery at all hazards into Kansas; successive invasions by which all security there was destroyed, and the electoral franchise itself was trodden down; the sacrilegious seizure of the very polls, and, through pretended forms of law, the imposition of a foreign Legislature upon this Territory; the acts of this Legislature, fortifying the Usurpation, and, among other things, establishing the test oaths, calculated to disfranchise actual seltlers, friendly to Freedom, and securing the privileges of the citizen to actual strangers friendly to Slavery; the whole crowned by a statute - "the be all and the end all" of the whole usurpation - through which Slavery was not only recognized on this beautiful soil, but made to bristle with a Code of Death such as the world has rarely seen; all these I have exposed on a former occasion. And yet the most important part of the argument was at that time left untouched; I mean that which is found in the character of Slavery. This natural sequel, with the permission of the Senate, I propose now to supply.

Motive is to Crime as soul is to body; and it is only when we comprehend the motive that we can truly comprehend the Crime. Here the motive is found in Slavery and the rage for its extension. Therefore, by logical necessity, must Slavery be discussed; not indirectly, timidly and sparingly, but directly, openly, and thoroughly. It must be exhibited as it is; alike in its influence and in its animating character, so that not only its outside but its inside may be seen.