« Fair and Banal | Main | Hi! I'm Mary, And I'm Roughly 400,000 Frozen Embryos... »

December 09, 2004

Comments

Good grief, that is ridiculous!

My current dissertation research involves Slavery; this sounds rather like a reprint of the old Southern literature defending slavery from a religious viewpoint, though it would seem from some googoling that this is actually a new work in the same vein.

I expect the book was adopted from a brief blurb describing it without anyone having actually read it, and once it sank in, it got pulled.

It may have taken nearly 142 years, but it's no longer publicly acceptable to say you're pro-slavery.


Re: Jesurgislac - -

It may have taken nearly 142 years, but it's no longer publicly acceptable to say you're pro-slavery.

Though, to read von's much-vaunted defense of Lincoln on Vox Day's blog this afternoon, one could conclude otherwise.

Come on, Edward, get with the program. We can't sneer at red-state values. What are you thinking?

Bernard, the red states get the right to have a lunatic fringe (though we can snipe about its width).

So (setting aside the overriding importance of freedom) is it true that slaves had a higher median standard of living than poor whites, calculated in some non-economic sense? Comparing say rates of starvation for some definition of "poor"?

And how do the white churches (weird thing to type but...) in the South discuss the legacy of slavery? Are they coming down on this story like a plague of anvils?

Take this in the same context as Samuel Francis' comments about interracial relationships ("They destroy the family!"), plus some nutcase (his name escapes me) who recently wrote an essay decrying (among other things) the "wilfully childless," plus the Bush Admin deciding to push the idea of posting 10 Commandments in governmental buildings and schools.

The lunatic fringe is no longer a fringe. It's going mainstream, under the aegis and encouragment of the Great Leader.

how much you wanna bet they are republicans also.

friggin bigots.

Bill,

That's a violation of the posting rules. Please don't generalize.

I understand. I simply said I bet they were republicans, then called them (the people doing this) bigots, not all republicans. I should have been more clear. However...

I don't see any republicans speaking out against these sorts of things. Or speaking out against the gay hating that takes place on the right. For example: www.godshatefags.com

The current stuff going on in Alabama: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1369643,00.html

Increasingly the left is painted as loonies because of our fringe and we are increasingly called upon to "denounce the fringe left" yet I hear nothing about republicans being required to denounce their fringes.

Furthermore, while it may be a generalization to say all republicans are bigots, I do think it is fair to say that if you vote republican, you are enabling bigotry. And between the two I do not see much difference.

I don't see any republicans speaking out against these sorts of things

That's because the supply of my time is finite, whereas the supply of stupidity is, apparently, not. I've spoken out on the Creation Science idiocy on multiple occasions. I don't write posts on it because, well, I haven't really written any posts yet. Been even busier than usual of late, what with a Jedi apprentice to train, a new program that wants me full-time while the old one still needs me full-time, drywalling the playroom, still cleaning up after the hurricanes, and having a daughter progress into illness to the point that I spent about eight hours in the emergency room with her last night. We thought it might have been pneumonia, but it wound up being the death struggles of the double ear infection (which was secondary to the viral infection that we thought was the culprit, up until the point where her temperature spiked in the mid 105s) along with some bronchitis. And dehydration, due to not wanting to drink or eat anything. When your pediatrician says to bring her to the ER, you don't argue.

Bill:

Redstate endorsed (and raised money for - and still supports) South Carolina Senate candidate Republican Jim DeMint, who publicly said that gays and lesbians should not be allowed to teach in public schools, because the government should not endorse homosexuality and "folks teaching in school need to represent our values." cite

While there are certainly Republicans who are not bigots (ObWing's very own Von, for one) there is certainly a strong strand of the Republican party that sees absolutely nothing wrong with bigotry - especially anti-gay bigotry.

Understood Slart, however, I mean republican politicians.

Slarti: hurricanes, and having a daughter progress into illness to the point that I spent about eight hours in the emergency room with her last night

Eek. Hope your daughter is better soon. All good wishes.

oh and Slart, best wishes to your daughter man, I hope she pulls through with no complications. I have no kids so I can only imagine the distress this causes.

Jes.


While there are certainly Republicans who are not bigots (ObWing's very own Von, for one) there is certainly a strong strand of the Republican party that sees absolutely nothing wrong with bigotry - especially anti-gay bigotry.

Yes, and when you vote republican, you enable that hatred, whether you agree with it or not. I think it's fair to say that.

Thanks. Wasn't trolling for sympathy, but thanks for it all the same. We've been close to this point with the first one, but the going to the ER bit is one of those thresholds that I'd rather not have crossed.

Fortunately, ORMC ER has a peds section, so the kids aren't mixed in with the people that have gotten drunk and punched something harder than their fist. So as ER visits go, it was one of the more pleasant I've ever had. Including, of course, the many times I had to go as a kid and get stitched up. The best part was when she stopped being overheated and listless becoming the pleasant little kid that she mostly is. That happened about halfway through the first IV bag.

The hard part was when they asked us if she'd ever been exposed to TB. We pretty much had to answer: possibly; you tell us. All of her bloodwork to date has been negative, but there are all kinds of scary stories.

Do they yet publish textbooks arguing that the Holocaust never happened? Well, not yet.

Slart -- I hope your daughter is better, and that your life settles down to a manageable level of overload.

however, I mean republican politicians.

Nope, I think too many GOPers are getting a free pass on this and other issues.

What we're seeing is a systematic assault on science, history and education. If one is comfortable with one's kids being taught slavery was the cultural equivalent of summer camp--fine. But when you make up science out of thin air, you're putting your kids at a competitive disadvantage in today's world and you're creating a public health/safety problem.

Did anyone catch Bill Frist on Sunday AM trying to duck the question as to whether AIDS could be transmitted via sweat and tears? Here's an MD--and he's dodging the question as hard as he can. Is that responsible behavior by an MD? Or Senate Majority leader?

Moreover, it's now coming to light that many of this appointed administration's abstinence-only programs are spreading dubious and false medical information--at taxpayer expense. Did you know pre-marital sex leads to cervical cancer? Did you know half of all gay male teens are HIV-positive? Did you know condoms fail 31% of the time? Did you know abortion leads to suicide?

"That's because the supply of my time is finite, whereas the supply of stupidity is, apparently, not."

This is classic. I think I'm going to embroider it on a pillow.

More seriously, I hope your daughter is better.

adding mine to the wishes that your daughter feels better real soon Slarti.

You touch on a question that really needs addressed widely in the blogosphere though. How responsible are those on either side for criticizing the actions of the wingnuts among their midsts?

Sullivan ranted endlessly about the lack of outcry from the left about Van Gogh's murder in Holland, implying that their perceived silence was ambivalence at best and parallel sympathies at worst. He did later point out some liberal voices condemming it, but only after he had repeatedly implied that the left wasn't upset by the murder.

Several times I felt compelled to write something, mostly because of his charges (not that he reads this blog mind you), but then realized I was doing it simply to "prove" I too was outraged.

As soon as I write that, though, I realize that on my pet peeve issues I will write when outraged, and so perhaps there is some validity to his charge...but it's hardly onesided.

So back to my question. Does it go without saying that we on the left or right don't approve of murder or slavery? How vocal should we be when someone on our side (or what's perceived as our side...because let's face it, I'm fighting to keep the dialog about Muslims civil, but I want van Gogh's murderers brought to justice as well) does something outrageous?

"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens" (Schiller) - against stupidity even the gods fight in vain. (Thanks for the Heine quote above, Bat.)

Thanks for the good wishes, everyone.

And I think Edward's touched on a valid point: if one attempts to cut with the accusation that failure to condemn equals endorsement, one is going to be cut by the razor-sharp edge on the near side of that blade. Eventually, anyway.

I consider it extremely important for Democrats to use these stories to drive a wedge between Conservatives and Libertarians in the Republican Party. Because both factions would be well-served within that party by understanding their basic, radical differences; and without predicting what defections would go to Democrats (a social conservative,economically populist Democrat is not inconceivable, there used to be many), the Democratic party could use new ideas.

And because the nation and its discourse would be served by understanding (for example) that a tax policy aimed at creating a hereditary aristocracy is a plausible and respectable conservative idea.

How vocal should we be when someone on our side (or what's perceived as our side...because let's face it, I'm fighting to keep the dialog about Muslims civil, but I want van Gogh's murderers brought to justice as well) does something outrageous?

There's a profound difference between the acts of a madman and the agenda of a particular political group.

Let's face the fact there wasn't a leftist groundswell of hope that Van Gogh would be murdered. I'm pretty certain Michael Moore and the usual suspects weren't calling for a Muslim to attack and kill Van Gogh.

OTOH, it's beyond disingenuous to suggest one doesn't know Bush isn't going to pander to groups whose interests and objectives are going to be inimicable toward minority groups.

Does it go without saying that we on the left or right don't approve of murder or slavery?

No, I assume nothing, not with Ann Coulter out there spewing her garbage, which there is obviously an audience for (I belive she has called for murder before, most notably to intimidate liberals). Vice versa for Moore.

How vocal should we be when someone on our side does something outrageous?

I don't know how vocal "we" should be, but I think the politicians and leadership on either side should be very vocal about it.

Silence is just another form of apporval.

To tie my 12:52 comment more closely to the post.

The disadvantage of social and political mobility and instability in times of economic scarcity and/or internal/external military threats has been understood for millenia. A pliable labor force, an unshakable aristocracy and heirarchy, fixed and immutable social/religious values with militarism near the top, an economy based on wealth and rents....the Old South understood that Sparta had defeated Athens, and had read their Thucydides in the cradle (the Hobbes translation).

The New South is not as ignorant as it looks.

Am I still too elliptical? Does the "Walmartization of America" make any more sense? Does the "privatization" of Social Security connect? Elimination of employer tax deduction for medical insurance? A New Federalism based on strict construction, limiting the Commerce Clause, and restricting SCOTUS jurisdiction?

This is not mere nostalgia and defensiveness, in a somewhat different non-racial ....or not necessarily racial....form, "they" (does that violate posting rules?) want to bring slavery back.

Rilkefan,

OK. Consider it a snipe.

is it true that slaves had a higher median standard of living than poor whites, calculated in some non-economic sense? Comparing say rates of starvation for some definition of "poor"?

What was the slaves' standard of living?

The University of Houston gives some clues.

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/black_voices/voices_display.cfm?id=20

Some excerpts:

slaves suffered extremely high mortality. Half of all slave infants died during their first year of life, twice the rate of white babies.

Compared to whites, relatively few slaves lived into old age. Between 1830 and 1860, only 10 percent of U.S. slaves were over 50 years old.

A major contributor to the high infant and child death rate was chronic undernourishment.

Sounds like the answer is "abysmal."

About having to disavow everything: even before I started actually posting here, I wasn't inclined to think that anyone (with the possible exception of official party spokespersons and candidates) has to talk about everything. But now that I've been doing this for a while, I can't imagine what sort of lives the people who make this criticism think we actually lead. I mean: sometimes I take a break, and just then something bad happens. Am I supposed to drop everything and post on it lest my silence be misconstrued? Sometimes I can't think of a single interesting thing to say besides, jeez, what a horrible thing. When that happens, I don't post anything. Should I? What would it add?

So, just for the record, any silence of mine should not be taken as having any meaning at all.

So, just for the record, any silence of mine should not be taken as having any meaning at all.

All my silences, on the other hand, should be interpreted as the necessary byproduct of epically profound deep thinking. Or not. ;-)

Sullivan ranted endlessly about the lack of outcry from the left about Van Gogh's murder in Holland, implying that their perceived silence was ambivalence at best and parallel sympathies at worst. He did later point out some liberal voices condemming it, but only after he had repeatedly implied that the left wasn't upset by the murder.

I don't like the idea that everyone is held responsible for silences, but I'm not sure I'm willing to buy into the idea that silences mean nothing either. There is a statistical portion to the analysis. Take one hundred Republicans who regularly write on political topics. If evidence of US soldiers torturing people comes to light you can't say anything bad about any particular Republican who doesn't write on that topic. But if over the course of a month only two of them write on it, I think it isn't unfair to suggest that (at least among that group) either the topic hasn't reached them, or it isn't that important to them.

In the van Gogh case I would be much more likely to attribute the story not reaching people rather than attributing it to them not caring. Maybe you could assign a lack of caring to the small subset of journalists who can be counted on to know about it, and yet did not report it. In fact I would cast an upraised eyebrow toward the editors who don't think that an Islamist-themed murder which sets off more in-country violence against Muslims than 9-11 did might be a story worth highlighting, but you can't blame everyone else for not reading blogs all the time. Some people have lives!

"But if over the course of a month only two of them write on it, I think it isn't unfair to suggest that (at least among that group) either the topic hasn't reached them, or it isn't that important to them."

I think this should read 'important to them as a group'. It may or may not be incredibly important to the one or two people who actually wrote on the topic.

Silence is just another form of apporval.

Take it however you want to; just be advised that you taking it that way has no bearing on the reality. And that we've achieved a nearly unprecedented agreement between hilzoy, myself and Edward on the matter.

On the matter of banning Bill outright, I remain silent.

I don't know how vocal "we" should be, but I think the politicians and leadership on either side should be very vocal about it.

Silence is just another form of apporval.

I should have joined those two together, but that is how it's meant to be taken.

Ban me if you wish.

I think Sebastian in his 02:24 PM/02:27 PM post has hit the nail square on the head. Well said.

"we" meaning people who are not politicians or political leaders.

I agree with what Sebastian said about silences. (see? I'm not always so cranky.)

It seems like there's several questions here:
1. how much harm has been done?
2. do you have any kind of relationship with or hope of influencing the wrongdoers? How close a relationship? how much hope?
3. were you actually aware of this story?
4. do you talk or write about this general issue and ignore inconvenient stories, or just focus on different issues entirely?
5. is there a general pattern of ignoring this sort of story?

And as Sebastian said, I think it's good to ask these questions of yourself, and sometimes fair to ask them of a group of writers or politicians, but less useful to ask them of another individual. But it can get to a point....if I wrote all about extraordinary rendition and deliberately omitted any evidence that Clinton did it too, that would be pretty hackish.

I'm not actually considering banning you, Bill. I was just being quiet about it. Probably a bad joke, but if you're expecting humor of Moe-like nuance (so to speak) from me, you're probably going to be disappointed.

And, now that you've amended your statement a bit, I'm feeling a bit less offended. Not sure that it's gained all that much more validity, but at least it's not pointed at me.

This is what I mean, and I apologise for not being clear.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1369643,00.html

Allen does not want taxpayers' money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle".

Right, so only describing it as evil or an abomination is allowed. check

We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children".

Teachers should not espouse tolerance and respect. check.

Allen is a republican in the state legislature. He's going to meet George Bush on Monday. He has met with him 5 times before.

This is an outrageous thing to me. I hear no republican opposition to this from political leaders. Granted, it is a state affair but is this what we can expect from a republican federal government? Why wouldn't I think otherwise?

We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children".

I actually agree with the above, if it's expanded to include those who want to represent Creation Science as a subset of the science that the rest of us are familiar with, and similar crapfests.

Oh, and those people who wanted to make pi identically equal to some easier-to-represent number. Them, too.

My dissertation research involves slavery (among other things), so I can speak with something vaguely resembling expertise on the subject--

I don't have the talent or time or the knowledge on tap to make a precise comparison of the standards of livings of poor whites vs. slaves, but I can make some comparisons:

Food:
Slaves were guaranteed a minimal level of subsistence. In some cases, slaves were allowed a day a week or half a day to work their own fields, where they could grow their own crops to either get money or make more food. In other cases, not. At holidays, you got extra food and alcohol, especially at Christmas.

Poor Whites generally ate better than slaves in a good year and ate worse in a bad year, or might well just starve. There being minimal to no social welfare programs, if the year went badly and hunting was bad, they just got to starve.

Clothing:
Slaves generally had a minimal level of clothing that wasn't really adequate. You typically got new clothing once a year, and anything else, you had to somehow find money to buy or cloth to make it yourself. Slaves didn't go naked, but towards the end of the clothing fiscal year, they were usually pushing the limits of their clothing's survival.

Poor Whites generally had slightly more clothing and probably either made their own cloth or acquired it on credit which sank them further into debt. But they were generally a bit better clothed. Again, though, in a bad year, there might not be any money for clothing.

Shelter:
Slaves were guaranteed a minimal, if not great level of shelter. Some estates actually had reasonably good housing, as good as anyone who wasn't rich would have. Others had miserable shacks.

Poor Whites generally lived in badly made houses which were a bit better than the average slave houses. Some of them may have improved their houses quite a bit, slowly over the years; others lived in run down shacks.

Discipline:
Slaves were subject to all sorts of horrible abuses, whippings, beatings, etc. Some were beaten to death. Worse, your master could basically kill you whenever he liked.

This is the first clear win for poor whites. In the first three categories, they might do better than slaves, but slaves typically had a minimal level they wouldn't fall below, whereas the poor whites might be better off in a good year, but there was nothing to save them in a bed year. But even the worst industrial discipline paled before what could happen to slaves, and poor southern whites, living in the wilder regions of the countryside, were not particularly subject to anyone's discipline. And you couldn't just kill them. (At least in theory.)

Sex and Family relations:
Female Slaves could pretty much be raped at will and often were. Male slaves who didn't like it got to be beaten and killed if they made trouble over it. Slaves had no right to marry, but often did. But if you did, massa might well just sell one of you down the river or both of you to different masters. Slaves struggled desperately to create a family life, but slavery mitigated against it.

Another clear win for the poor whites, who, while still subject to various family pressures, were in little danger of being raped, sold away from each other, etc, and could legally marry and raise their families as they liked within the limits of local mores.

Medical Care:
Highly variable, ranging from plantations with permanent doctors to 'suck it up'. In general, slaves could expect medical care for major problems, and might be allowed a little extra rest for minor ones, but there was a strong tendency to see it as malingering and force them to just keep working. This contributed to slave deaths.

Poor Whites probably couldn't afford significant medical care, there was no one living nearby with anything resembling adequate training anyway, and so they had to largely resort to folk remedies. Also, if there was a doctor, he was using nineteenth century medicine anyway, and thus was only slightly more effective than smashing your face against a wall until you passed out.


The final tally:
Slaves were guaranteed a bare minimal level of subsistance, coupled with heavy discipline and poor medical care which killed many of them at a young age. Their family life was subject to disruption at any time by the whim of the master, and rape was something one could reasonably expect, though not a day to day affair.

Poor Whites, on the other hand, lived better than slaves in a good year, but had little to save them from disaster in bad years. However, they were largely free of the threat of violence and death and rape.

THe authors of the book, one of whom is a Presbyterian minister, also teach that parents have the right to beat their children and that children who curse their parents deserve death; that women should be silent and obedient, and they are followers of one Rushdoony. Perhaps you have heard of Dominionism? These folks are from Idaho, and they are not universally liked there, as it happens. (Google is your friend.)

They are not teaching anything new, either: the "slavery was not so bad" meme has been a simmering and rising trend among the Conservative Catholic Intellectual movement I was raised in, and which is informing the current administration. You may recall a chap named Deal Hudson, and another named Michael Novak, the former out of favor due to patriarchal intimacy" with a student, the latter still a close friend of Karl Rove and of the war.

You may not be aware, however, of the intellectual influence of Russell Kirk, who in 1993 wrote an essay slamming blacks called "The Injustice of Equality" and of Tom Wolfe and Walker Percy, the "coming race war" meme that was daily fare in Catholic conservative magazines in the 1970s and early 80s, and on them, of an even older conservative Catholic author who helped perpetuate the romantic myth of the Chivalric Old South, Orestes Brownson of Vermont.

Brownson, via Kirk's magazine The University Bookman, and schools like Thomas Aquinas in CA and Christendom in Front Royal, and his votaries in turn, have helped legitimize the notion that while slavery was regrettable, overall the good of Jeffersonian America outweighed what little bad there was about slaveowning Revolutionary and post-revolutionary days.

I have heard this expressed by young Catholic conservative students, who like clockwork rattle off the bits about how bad things were elsewhere, and ignore when asked why people still kept moving in to MA and NH to get jobs, while no whites ever begged to be made slaves of and emigrated voluntarily to the plantations.

Given that the school's website has also openly stated that they are Against Evolution and determined to prove it a false faith, an erroneous theory, you can go ahead and *believe* that Cary Christian didn't *really* know that they had a Slavery Denial book, just like people still insist that nobody really denies the Inquisition, even though the books by the founder of Christendom College Dr. Warren Carrell (an ex-CIA man like Buckley) have been conservative Catholic bestsellers for decades now, and are now carried by ISI.

Hope springeth eternal...

Sullivan ranted endlessly about the lack of outcry from the left about Van Gogh's murder in Holland, implying that their perceived silence was ambivalence at best and parallel sympathies at worst. He did later point out some liberal voices condemming it, but only after he had repeatedly implied that the left wasn't upset by the murder.

I am sure Theo van Gogh would have laughed his *ss of if he was told that the whole left in the USA was supposed to cry out at his murder.

I don't read Sullivan often so I am not familiar with his covering. I can assure you that the beastly murder has been condemned by all sorts of people from all sorts of parties: Leftwingers, rightwingers, christians, atheists, muslims. Including Hezbollah's Ayatollah Sheyk Hussein Fadlallah who issued a fatwa after being consulted by a Shiiti Dutch mosque, in which he told Muslims in the Netherlands to face the attacks with "civilized dialogue, away from acts of violence."
Coming from the guy who says Palestinian suicide bombers are doing the right thing this is errr.... unexpected to say the least.

The radical group that the "alledged" murderer (arrested more or less on the spot, hence the "") seemed to belong to had a list of targets, including the Jewish mayor of Amsterdam, an islamitic member of the city council and apprearantly the Red Light District. Five more suspects were arrested, amongst whom two sons of an American soldier who both converted 5 years ago - they were arrested after fierce gunfighting with the police and tried to blow themselves up with handgrenades.

An easily overlooked fact is that the National firefighters group reported that the number of incidents (fires etc.) in the month of the murder was not higher than normal, not higher than in other months.

We have plenty to worry about in the Netherlands, and that includes a growing anti-moslim movement, but lets keep things in perspective. I would appreciate it much more if the left in the USA would put their time and effort in crying out about USA politics.

Slarti: glad to learn your daughter is so much better now. Experience taught me how terribly stressfull those ER hours with your kid can be. And not being able to judge riscs from family and/or exposure must be really hard. Watch the ears though: my 4-yr old son will face his third operation in a few months due to complications from an ear infection.

dutchmarbel, Sullivan was complaining about a supposed lack of any outcry from the Left. - Best wishes for your child. This thread is scaring me about the parenting thing.

John Biles - thanks for the very thorough answer.

bellatrys - Walker Percy of _The Moviegoer_? Is there something sinister about him?

" Walker Percy of _The Moviegoer_? Is there something sinister about him?"

I watched two of three hours on CSPAN II with Tom Wolfe this weekend. Tom Wolfe is an atheist, sort of a conservative, and a Southerner. The Walker Percy I know is the author of The Last Gentleman and shares with Tom Wolfe perhaps a nostalgia for the ambience and some of the values of the segregated South without responsibly realizing that it was a package deal.

Or I am too glib. They are better minds than me.

John Biles,

Can you provide an approximate definition of "poor whites" in statistical terms? It certainly is not implausible that some whites had worse living conditions, on average, than slaves. But was this 25% of the white population? 10%, 1%?

bellatrys raises an excellent question as to why poor whites did not seek work on the plantations, perhaps not as slaves, but with equivalent compensation. That suggests that those who were worse off than slaves were few.

Another example of faith and belief trumping reason and knowlege.

you've been blogrolled.

rilkefan Sullivan was complaining about a supposed lack of any outcry from the Left.

grin, I seem to have great difficulty understanding what you mean exactly. I even looked up his blog, but he doesn't seem to have a search option. Lack of any outcry from the left? In the Netherlands? Or in the states? And about the murder or about anything else?

Best wishes for your child. This thread is scaring me about the parenting thing.

Thanxs. Isn't there a quote about how becoming a parent means that your heart is suddenly walking free from your body?

"bellatrys raises an excellent question as to why poor whites did not seek work on the plantations, perhaps not as slaves, but with equivalent compensation."

Status? Also note that slavery was not economically productive (so I've heard) so applying reason to the social arrangements of the time isn't going to get one too far.

dutchmarbel, worrying what Sullivan thinks isn't worth the effort to decode my prose - but his interest doesn't much extend beyond English-language media (unless something in the foreign-language media can be twisted to support his agenda of the day). He likes to claim that wide swaths of the Left "don't get it" about the holy war on terror.

My grandfather reportedly said or quoted, "When you have children you give hostages to the gods".

applying reason to the social arrangements of the time isn't going to get one too far.

What then should we apply?

Sociology? Ok, how about "applying pure market theory to the economic arrangements of the time isn't going to get one too far".

I actually once considered putting some pro-slavery content into my class on the period. There are some decent pedegogical reasons for it, I still think: it's important to understand why rational people could have supported such a brutal system, it's interesting to identify the failures of logic involved in such justifications, and on a moral level, it's essential to understand that the people committing colossal evils were human rather than bogeymen. I didn't end up assigning any of this reading because I didn't find any convenient excerpts and because my syllabus was limited. However, I sure as hell would have chosen period sources, not contemporary slavery apologists.

So, if any of you are still reading this thread, I'd be curious to hear reactions to this proposed (but not enacted) reading assignment. Would it be appropriate to have students reading 19th-c defenses of slavery, which would then be taken apart carefully in class? At what level of education would such an assignment be appropriate? Would it be more appropriate to teach in the North or outside the US than in the South? How could a teacher protect him- or herself from political criticism for assigning such material?

Hypotheticals, yes, but someday I be tempted again to assign students to read "Cannibals All!"

Let's differentiate here. There is such a thing as an honest discussion of slavery as racial, anthropologic, economic and historical phenomenon. Then there's stuff like the booklet at Cary Christian, which is a racist-motivated pseudo-discussion meant to whitewash slavery and justify racism. Two entirely different things.

Personally, I'd be interested in an historical compare-and-contrast of the institution throughout history. Slavery in, say, Classical Greece and Saxon England was very different, institutionally and qualitatively, from 17th(?)-19th Century America. I can't think of any "Western"-style slavery that was as profoundly, inherently sadistic and exploitative as what we had, except maybe the Romans. It would be interesting to know why that was: whether it was due entirely to the racial component, or whether there was some deeper dynamic going on. It would be interesting to explore the different legal codes governing slavery in those various eras and cultures.

Such a curriculum would be fascinating. It would be even more useful if it included exploration of how and why people justify slavery, esp. how and why the American South justified (and, as we see, continues to justify) it when the civilized world had long since reached a consensus that slavery is abhorrent.

It's unfortunate that fear of offending the politically-correct would make this kind of discussion extremely controversial. You might "get away" with it if it's presented as an historical survey and analysis, with an appropriate syllabus. Or maybe not: some people devote an awful lot of energy to looking for things to get riled about, and school administrators are easily frightened.

CaseyL: It would be interesting to know why that was: whether it was due entirely to the racial component

Apparently it was at the beginning of the 19th century, when the international slave trade was ended (1808) that plantation owners in the American South realised that they would have to treat their slaves less brutally, because the slaves must survive to breed and produce a new generation of slaves - and the idea that one ancestor of African origin made every descendent a slave became widespread. If so (I'm no historian) it would make sound commercial sense. When a new cargo of black slaves from Africa could be bought in at will, it would be possible to think specifically of those pure African slaves as in a different category from black people born in the US - often, after all, with white European ancestry as much as black African ancestry. But when this supply dried up, it became commercially necessary to think of every person born with remotely African ancestry as a potential slave, and, if female, as a producer of more slaves. As Robert Heinlein said once "If you ask 'Why don't they' the answer is usually 'money'." Capitalism has a lot to answer for.

It's unfortunate that fear of offending the politically-correct would make this kind of discussion extremely controversial.

Heh. IME, it's American patriotism you'd have to fear: Americans do tend to get very riled** if you suggest that in some respects, their nation is worse than other comparable nations - a lot worse.

**And frequently those that don't get very riled are flatly disbelieving.

I think there's a fairly well developed body of work out there that deals with slavery in America, and how/why it was different.

An interesting first step is acknowledging that in the 17th and early 18th centuries, plantation owners believed, based on experience, that Africans would live longer in the climatic/viral/bacterial conditions of Virginia (and presumably points South) than would ordinary London poor/convicts/etc. They started out using poor whites as plantation labor, but they died like flies.

David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed is always a good place to start for this sort of thing -- and I know he has a book out on slave export from Virginia to points South in the 19th century, an export market born of surplus. Bound Away, maybe?

Jes, you might get something completely different from Albion's Seed. Fischer's point is that the differences in regional cultures in colonial America -- and to a great extent today -- are based on differences in regional cultures in England. As of the early colonization, i.e., during the reigns of the Stuarts -- which would have been consequences of developments, cultural and economic, going back much further. I'd be interested in your observations about whether there are today significant cultural differences of this type between East Anglia, the West, Midlands, and Lowland Scots.

Jes, a couple of things.

One, I don't know that slavery in the US became "less brutal" after the international slave trade stopped. Quite the reverse, esp. in terms of dealing with escaped slaves and breeding - for precisely the reasons you mention.

Two, I don't think you can call the Antebellum economy capitalism; I think it would better be described as mercantilist feudalism. Capitalism does have a lot to answer for, but even Marx recognized it as a vital step forward; his Dialectic was about the evolution of socio-economic models. Capitalism, by redefining "laborer-serfs" as "wage-paid workers," created the conditions for the rise of a consumer society and middle class. The South wasn't capitalist, because it refused to allow its slave class to be a true working class; i.e., autonomous consumers.

CharleyCarp, that's an interesting take on the persistence of cultural origins. But you're leaving out an important factor in those transplanted Brits: religion.

As the North was settled mostly by Non-Conformists (Puritans, Quakers, Masons, Deists, etc.) who hated the idea of absolute monarchism, the South was settled mostly by Catholics. They loved the Stewarts because they believed in absolute monarchy as the Divine Right of Kings; and Catholic hierarchialism also predisposed them to justify the creation of an aristocracy and slave class.

If I remember correctly, those early Southerners were fleeing England's on-again, off-again Catholic-Protestant conflicts, so they would have arrived here aggrieved, and determined to recreate the "lost glories" of their real or imagined peerages back home.

CaseyL: One, I don't know that slavery in the US became "less brutal" after the international slave trade stopped.

Less brutal is relative. My understanding was that slaveowners began to regard their human property as a renewable resource, which had to be given sufficient food to live and breed, rather than as a workforce who could be worked to death and more bought in.

CaseyL, of course religious differences were a big part of it. There's much more though: different preferences in food, styles of clothing, ideals about education, etc: all the stuff that makes up culture, not just religion and economics. Really, read the book. It's worth it.

I don't think the colonial South was as Catholic as all that. Anglican establishment, which their Puritan (and Separatist) contemporaries would have said was the same thing as Catholic. And I guess neither Quakers settling in PA/NJ nor Lowlands Presbyterians who settled the Appalachian chain would have thought much of the difference either.

I always forget about Maryland -- a funny thing because it's where I'm writing this -- but it doesn't change the point particularly. I'm not sure when Maryland became majority Protestant, but it was definitely in the 17th century.

I don't think that much of the colonial settlement of the South -- not into the plantation economy anyway -- was motivated by religion. I think it was more about getting rich, like the Sugar Barons of the West Indies.

It's no accident that you can't name the Southern Roger Williams.

The comments to this entry are closed.