*Various iconoclasts have made a list of several hundred Confederate memorials to be trashed. Does that include the statue at the courthouse in Palmyra, Missouri, that honours the 13 civilians brutally and illegally massacred by Union soldiers? Or the monument in Front Royal, Virginia, to Mosby’s men who were illegally executed? Or the monument at New Market, Virginia, to two soldiers who were murdered in June, 1865, by Union soldiers after they had surrendered?
*After 9/11 we had to have passenger searches at airports. Because of protests by Mideasterners and Arabs against “profiling,” everybody has to be searched, including little old ladies in wheel chairs who are 10th generation Americans. Now it has always seemed to me that if these Muslims are really loyal American citizens, they would patriotically volunteer for profiling as an efficient measure to help save the lives of their fellow Americans. That would be a natural and expected act of real patriotism that would greatly please our Founding Fathers.
*Whatever happened to shame? Homosexuals may or may not be responsible for their condition. But what could possibly make somebody parade and proclaim this in the streets? Did they not have mothers to tell them how to behave in public and what should be kept private? Apparently mothers like that now only exist among Southerners and traditional Christians.
*American history is being attacked and shredded in a multitude of ways and places. A national history reflects the people whose history it is. Maybe the problem is that American people are now something other than what they used to be. Why should somebody whose people landed at Ellis Island in 1938, much less the new “American” from Mexico or Somalia care anything about Valley Forge, Gettysburg, or Iwo Jima?
*Many pointless and needless atrocities have been inflicted on the Islamic world by the U.S. government, especially since 9/11. The blowback from these ignorant and incompetent actions of our rulers will never cease and will threaten your and my grandchildren.
*Another atrocity is the brain drain inflicted upon Asia, and particularly India. Such a country desperately needs all of its educated people. But we find our President glorifying taking such people from their countries to benefit American “excellence.” At a time when Europe was a stratified society with insufficient opportunities for the talented, we did the world and ourselves a favour by taking in such people. That is no longer the case. Besides, what kind of “American” patriotism can we expect from people who abandoned their own country for a few dollars more. The false and dangerous ideas of the Melting Pot and “America as an idea” are wreaking havoc to our society, with more to come.
*Nothing is more indicative of historical ignorance and the diseased state of our public discourse than the campaign for “reparations.” Let’s save that for another day.
In what became the United States, servitude of people of the black African race existed for about two and a half centuries. The subject of American slavery is today so entertwined with unhealthy and present-centered emotions and motives—guilt, shame, hypocricy, projection, prurient imagination, propaganda, vengeance, extortion—as to defy rational historical discussion. Curiously, the much longer flourishing of African bondage—in the Caribbean and South America, in Africa itself, and in the Muslim world—seldom enters into American consciousness.
It is appropriate therefore to commence the understanding of this critical part of American history with an investigation of the antislavery movement. There will come a time, perhaps, when it will be necessary and possible to examine American slavery itself in order to appreciate fully what Calhoun meant when, in a speech in the Senate on February 6, 1837, he used the words “positive good” to describe the long-established institution of domestic slavery in his Southern society.
In undertaking to put Calhoun in the right context I will try to succinctly describe the abolitionist movement that arose in the 1830s, which was the cause and immediate occasion for Calhoun’s famous statement. Prior to the outbreak of the new abolitionism, antislavery sentiment had been widespread. Slavery’s economic and political defects, real and imagined, were freely discussed and gentle Quakers went about the business of promoting individual emancipation. Indeed, in the early 19th century one of my North Carolina ancestors freed his few slaves as a matter of conscience.
It was Calhoun’s purpose to call attention to the changed nature of antislavery and what that meant for the American future. To make a long story short, this new anti-slavery campaign was a crusade of evangelistic Christian heresy bent on purging the world of other people’s sins. It repudiated friendly persuasion and preached hatred of the slave-owner, indeed of all Southern society, in truly vile terms of abuse. According to the new abolitionism of the 1830s in sermons, press, and voluminus petititons to Congress, the South was a House of Horror inhabited by depraved whites and tortured blacks. Slavery was a sin to be purged immediately and without any attention to practical details.
A lurid imaginary conception of slavery rather than the everyday reality of life in the South, about which most knew nothing, energized the abolitionists. Little attention was paid to the actual welfare and future of the black people, who appear mostly as suffering victims in a melodrama and humble recipients of Northern benevolence. It is often difficult to tell whether the abolitionists most feared slavery or the presence of black people. By the late antebellum period, New England’s premier intellectual, Waldo Emerson, was predicting approvingly that the blacks, when free and deprived of the paternal care of the Southern whites they had irreparably corrupted, would soon die away and be as extinct as the dodo, leaving America to the pure Anglo-Saxon.
In the context we should make clear that the fanatical temper of this new mass movement alarmed not only Southerners but most of the orthodox Christian clergy and the general citizenry of the North. Also, that it was not a North-wide phenomenon, but was centered in areas settled by the poorer class of New Englanders. These regions, especially Vermont, western New York, and parts of the Midwest, were widely recognised as the source of other strange “isms” as well as abolition—of Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, spiritualism, prohibitionism, Anti-Masonism, vegetarianism, feminism, and free-love-ism among others. The outbreak of reformist zeal had more to do with the internal religious and social tensions and the breakdown of Calvinist orthodoxy within this specific greater New England culture region than with Southern realities. The tensions and unrest were projected outward, in honoured puritan fashion, towards the sins of others. This same region furnished John Brown with the financial backers and accomplices for his expeditions. A lower class phenomenon, this zeal yet comported well in its thrust with the Transcedentalism that was attracting New England intellectuals.
One could make several large books just studying the Northern condemnation of what was deemed the fanatical and meddling spirit of New Englanders. A prominent New York Democratic writer said:
The Abolitionists have throughout committed the fatal mistake of urging a purely moral cause by means, not only foreign to that character, but hostile to it, incompatible with it. Where they had to persuade, they have undertaken to force. Where love was the spirit in which they should have approached the task, they have done it in that of hate.
It becomes evident to anyone on close examination, although Calhoun did not mention this aspect, that abolitionist propaganda was a form of pornography, dwelling on the possibilities of sexual license in the master/slave relationship. The great abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Mrs. Stowe of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” fame, made money by selling tickets to pretend slave auctions featuring young, almost-white women for sale.
The abolitionist mindset has long dominated American history and absorbed Calhoun’s defense of slavery into its own telling of the American story. A common, widely accepted history of American anti-slavery goes something like this:
Negro slavery was an unfortunate relic of colonialism. Our all-wise Founding Fathers, including the great statesmen from the South, intended to put it on the road to extinction. After all, in 1776 they declared to the world that “All Men Are Created Equal,” in 1785 they banned slaves from the vast unsettled territory North and West of the Ohio River, and they continued thereafter to speak of slavery as undesirable. In this account it is not always mentioned that opposition to slavery was mostly theoretical was usually linked with impractical notions about the removal of the emancipated blacks from the midst of American society.
Then, according to the conventional account, something terrible happened that changed the course of history. The cotton gin made slavery once more profitable. Southerners, through their greed (from which Northerners seem to have been free), reversed the intentions of the Founders and begin to cling to and defend their awful institution from the criticism of benevolent, enlightened, and progressive Northerners. If not for this unfortunate invention, slavery would have dwindled away.
Then, in 1832 South Carolina, driven to treason by its hysterical devotion to slavery, invented States rights and nullified the tariff. This action was illegal, unconstitutional, unprecedented, based entirely on a fraudulent version of the Constitution, intended to break up the Union, and was a blow struck at the prosperity and progress of all true Americans.
But, as the story goes, this was only the prelude to a long treasonous conspiracy of the “Slave Power.” The Slave Power was imagined as a ruthless, violent class of large slave-holders who kept the blacks and most of the whites of the South in ignorance, poverty, and subjection, imperiously and selfishly ruled the Union, and in its arrogance even designed to spread slavery to the virtuous North. It was the implacable enemy of Northern rights and American values.
The Slave Power conspiracy took a decisive step forward in 1837, when the evil genius John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, in another turning point in history, declared that slavery was not an unfortunate evil but a desirable thing, a “positive good.” Calhoun, of course, was motivated by bitter spite from having been thwarted in his insatiable ambition to become President. Thereafter, he and his disciples laboured unceasingly to spread the scourge of slavery and to rule or ruin the United States.
The conspiracy of the slave-holding elite reached its height with secession. In its wickedness and folly the Slave Power sought to destroy government of, by, and for the people. Southerners engaged in rebellion against the best government on earth and rejected the saintly Lincoln, who had been chosen by the people and by God to lead the country through its greatest crisis. Only those perverted by slavery could have made such a diabolical attempt to destroy the United States, the last best hope of mankind.
Inevitably, the wicked rebellion instigated by the Slave Power was defeated by the forces of righteousness, and the Great Emancipator, in the noblest act in history, struck the chains from enslaved black people and made them forever free, something which he had longed for piously from his youth. The earlier version of the tale featured adoring blacks at the feet of noble emancipators like Lincoln and Robert Gould Shaw. A revised version pictures noble self-emancipated blacks and noble boys in blue rushing into each other’s arms to overthrow the brutal Southern masters. Neither version gives a remotely truthful perspective on what actually happened during the catastrophic blood-letting of 1861- 1865.
This scenario is widely believed and may be the interpretation of the Civil War era held by the largest number of Americans. As an account of American history it is false in every particular. It is a fairy tale made up to sustain the notion that America, except for the South, is uniquely virtuous among the nations and always motivated by high and benevolent ideals. It covers with righteousness and inevitability the brutal war of conquest, domination, and exploitation that was waged against the Southern people from 1861 to 1876. It is the rehashed propaganda of one side in a vast and complex conflict, not the sober judgment of history. We feel its power when George W. Bush talks about an American mission to spread virtue throughout the world, no matter how many ungrateful people have to be killed. He is heir to the abolitionist playbook which tells us that America, democracy, and Christianity are endowed with a mission to purify the world of evil.
This was the predominant mode of telling American history before the 20th century, though in published works it appeared in a more circumstantial and sophisticated form. In order to understand the propagandistic misrepresentation of Calhoun we need to see where the fairy tale fudges the truth.
In the first half of the 20th century the evil South interpretation of the Civil War was questioned and altered to a considerable extent by professional historians who were trained to examine primary sources exhaustively and skeptically. Their inclination was to look at both sides of a controversy in search of a larger truth rather than view the past as a story of good guys and bad guys. These historians were also disillusioned by the moralistic righteousness that had justified the catastrophic and fruitless death toll of the Great War. Further, they were willing, while unsympathetic to the South, to perceive the self-interest that marked the North in the sectional controversy. And were not persuaded that the Big Business empire created by the Northern victory was altogether a wonderful thing.
The premier American historian, Charles A. Beard, wrote that the Civil War war was not a civil war and not about slavery, but was a clash between the ruling classes of two regions with competing economic interests. Other historians were not afraid to describe the irrational nature of abolitionism and to discover that opposition to slavery was not necessarily motivated by benevolence toward the slave. And some historians saw the conflict not as inevitable but as resulting from extremism and blunders by political leaders of both sides that brought about a crisis that no sensible person wanted. As one scholar has put it, The War was about “an imaginary Negro in an impossible place.”
In our time the fairy tale interpretation of The War has come back with a vengeance. It is reflected in the much hyped TV series by Ken Burns and in the most sophisticated and celebrated histories of the day. There is not time to go into the interesting question of why this is so, but, despite claims to the contrary, it has absolutely nothing to do with actual historical knowledge and expertise having reached a higher truth. Having engaged in a good many arguments over the years, I have realised that the propagators of this view are often guilty of extreme lack of actual knowledge about the events and conditions of 19th century America. I know of a graduate student who in a paper mentioned Jefferson’s and Madison’s strong allegiance to state rights. A tenured full professor of American history told the student that he had made it up—it couldn’t be true. This “scholar” knew what he had been taught, that State rights was something invented out of the air by John C. Calhoun in the cause of slavery. Much of the present insistence that an evil Southern defense of slavery is the complete explanation for the war of 1861–1865 rests on this kind of ignorant adherence to fashionable dogma.
The fairy tale now takes the form of a hardened Cultural Marxist party line. Revolutionary change is always good and those who oppose it always evil. The only significance of the war is that it was a destruction of the Southern ruling class through the ongoing dialectic of revolution. The only thing to be regretted is that more recalcitrant Southerners were not killed and even greater revolutionary change was not forced upon American society. Differing interpretations are heresies to be suppressed, not arguments to be answered. They are damned as “revisionism.” Revisionism used to mean simply a revised historical interpretation, something harmless that occurred naturally every once in a while. It is now a term of abuse meant to suggest that objectors to the official interpretation of the Civil War are in the same company as those “revisionists” who deny Nazi atrocities in World War II.
Honest historians understand that they have their own sympathies, values, and assumptions, and try to allow for their own bias in interpreting the past. Advocates of the present orthodoxy do not qualify as honest historians. The orthodoxy is believable only from the starting point of a number of unacknowledged and unexamined beliefs: The assumptions are so much a part of the mental equipment of contemporary intellectuals that they are not even aware of them. Assumptions:
*That one need pay no attention to any Southern viewpoint because Southern words were always and only rationalizations for evil deeds and motives.
*That one need not examine the motives, agenda, and behaviour of abolitionism because it was the instrument of revolution, resistance to which is always justly exterminated.
*That Southerners had no culture of their own, no distinct identity, no worthy qualities, not even any intelligent grasp of their own economic interests—nothing to sustain a right to independence except devotion to slavery. Deeply underlying these unrecognised assumptions is another—Southerners do not really count as Americans and are a disposable people.
When Calhoun rose in the Senate in 1837 he was not launching a pro-slavery conspiracy—he was taking an open and defensive stance against a new and extreme provocation.
He was not declaring that slavery in the abstract was always and everywhere a good thing—he took pains to make clear that he was talking about the existing American society, about a specific historical situation and not a theory. In the discussion that followed his speech Calhoun “denied having pronounced slavery in the abstract a good. All he had said of it referred to existing circumstances . . . .”
He was not throwing up a roadblock to the progress of emancipation because slavery was not dwindling away before he spoke. The most obvious proof that there was no serious possibility of abolishing slavery is that it was flourishing. It was not as large in American life as it had been in the 18th century, but the slaves had increased vastly in number and spread over an immense territory in company with the white population. At no time was slavery economically moribund, though some times were better than others. The economic stagnation that had marked the older South was being overcome by agricultural reform.
True, there had been some quiet progress in individual emancipation. There were more free black people in the slave States than in the free, and they were more prosperous and had a better place in society than in the North. Both Southern and European visitors to the North testified to the depressed and despised condition of the latter. Another of those many facts about the antebellum South that our fairy tale history never mentions. The great man of the North, Daniel Webster, was to point out in the debates over the Compromise of 1850, that it was not Southern spokesmen but the fanaticism of the abolitionists that destroyed the disposition toward emancipation that had flourished before they appeared.
Calhoun was most certainly not acting out of personal ambition or a desire to rule or ruin the Union. A brilliant and experienced man, he understood the operation of the American political system as well as anyone ever has. Thus he knew perfectly well by this time that no statesman could ever again be elected President. He kept his name in play for the Presidency because it lent greater attention to what he had to say. As he said on another occasion, certain politicians were always attributing political stands to personal motives because they were unable themselves to conceive of any motives that were not personal.
And Calhoun was not launching some great innovation in the Southern attitude toward slavery because most of what he had to say was already a well-developed part of American discourse.
Calhoun’s speech of 1837 could be characterised as an aggressive and innovative repudiation of previous American doctrine only in the light of the fairy tale history that there had been a commitment to emancipation at the Founding. The misrepresentation of this occasion was deliberate and malicious propaganda that reveals much about the nature of anti-slavery.
It is still today vigorously asserted that the Founding Fathers contemplated the elimination of slavery, although somehow they did not quite get around to it. Though many of the founding generation regretted the existence of slavery, it is absurd to say that they contemplated a decree of emancipation. It has been pointed out that the Constitution explicitly recognised the existence of slavery in several ways, but that is not the main point that can be made. The idea of some firm but deferred commitment to end slavery rests upon the completely anachronistic assumption that the framers of the Constitution were omnipotent and omniscient sages who were free to design a New World Order out of their divine wisdom. This is a reflection of the nationalist fantasy history that was developing at the same time and in tandem with abolitionism. The Framers not only never had an intention to interfere with the slavery that existed, they would never have dreamed that they had any power to do so. The Constitution was an agreement among the states to preserve their existing societies.
Slavery was not dwindling away on the eve of the American Revolution. The slave population was growing, mostly naturally in pace with the American population in general. In fact, slave ownership was actually increasing in some of the Northern colonies. The two great Revolutionary heroes of Massachusetts, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, were slave-owners who brought their dependants with them to the Continental councils in Philadelphia.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1785, banning slaves from the land north and west of the Ohio river, is portrayed as a conclusive avowal of antislavery determination among the Founders. It was nothing of the sort. Since in the Continental Congress each state had one vote, it more resembles an agreement among the states to divide territory, like the later Missouri Compromise, than a popular determination to advance emancipation. In 1785 the importation of more slaves from Africa was still open and, as far as anyone knew, would remain so indefinitely. If the geography of slavery were not limited, the country could fill up with more black population, which nobody wanted. The natural increase of the slave population was already abundant. Among other things, additional imports to fill up all the unsettled territory of the Union would decrease the value of slave property in the East. So little binding was the territorial restriction on the future of slavery in the Old Northwest that the Illinois legislature not long after statehood gravely considered a proposal to make slavery legal in its borders.
By the time of the Missouri controversy of 1819 – 1820, the situation had changed greatly. Foreign importations were illegal by general consent. The Jeffersonian leadership unequivocally repudiated the attempted restriction on slavery in Missouri and the territories. The retired statesmen Jefferson and Madison agreed that the restriction on Missouri was unconstitutional, was a cynical political maneuver by Federalists to divide Northern and Southern Republicans and achieve rule, and that the extension of slavery was a phony issue. They said so repeatedly and emphatically in their letters. Jefferson even used the term “so-called” to refer to the extension of slavery issue. Forbidding the so-called “extension” of slavery did not free a single slave and in fact retarded gradual emancipation.
It is true that these gentlemen, though by no means all Southern leaders, had previously expressed a desire to be rid of slavery, if that were possible, and that they continued to do so. But in 1819–1820 they also vigorously denied the right of the Northern majority in Congress to interfere with slavery. The antislavery that had appeared in the Missouri issue they regarded as illegal, unwise, inexpedient, hypocritical, and portentous of disaster. This is what Jefferson meant when he referred at the time to “the fire bell in the night.” The terror that awakened him was not slavery but the dangerous portent of anti-slavery.
At the same time Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, William Smith of South Carolina, and other members of Congress denied that slavery in the South was “barbaric” and defended it as a paternalistic good. John Taylor made the same case in his Inquiry, which he was provoked to publish by the Missouri question. The most solid Jeffersonians of the North tended to agree.
In 1830, seven years before Calhoun uttered “positive good,” Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina had this to say during his celebrated debates with Webster:
Sir, when arraigned before the bar of public opinion on this charge of slavery, we can stand up with conscious rectitude, plead not guilty, and put ourselves upon God and our country. If slavery, as it now exists in this country, be an evil, we of the present found it ready made to our hands. Finding our lot cast among a people, whom God had manifestly committed to our care, we did not sit down to speculate on abstract questions of theoretical liberty. We met it as a practical question of obligation and duty. We resolved to make the best of the situation in which Providence had placed us, and to fulfill the high trust which had devolved upon us as the owners of slaves, in the only way in which such a trust could be fulfilled without spreading misery and ruin throughout the land.
When in the 1850s a Northern party formed around opposition to the so-called “extention” of slavery, it laid a thoroughly dishonest claim on the name Republican and the heritage of Jefferson. Exclusion of slavery from the territories was portrayed as the Jeffersonian policy and used as a front by a mercantilist party that represented the extreme opposite of all that Jeffersonian Republicanism had stood for. So remote had the Northern understanding of the American past become that a party which existed to force through every policy that Jefferson despised, claimed him. Southerners still understood the Revolution and the Founding in intimate terms. They knew what their fathers and grandfathers had thought. In the North, American history had already become an abstraction, a matter of words to be cherry-picked for ammunition. This itself is an important story but far too large for this occasion.
The conventional accounts of anti-slavery tend to ignore or justify the extremist, hateful, and obviously counter-productive rhetoric that denounced Southerners as enemies, tyrants, pirates, and kidnappers and the South as an alien abomination which must be purged from America. Even less noticed is the economic critique of the South that was flourishing at the same time in the calculations of the most hard-nosed Northern capitalists, who would eventually join with the abolitionists in the Republican Party. While the abolitionists were raging against the planters for abominable cruelty to their dependants, the capitalists were faulting for being bad businessmen, too good to the workers on the plantation and failing to extract the maximum profit from them.
The belief was strong among them that slave labour was unwilling and therefore inefficient, though this theory was somewhat belied by the fact that the immense production of Southern tobacco in the 18th century and Southern cotton in the 19th century made up the overwhelming bulk of American exports. The capitalists and their spokesmen also believed and frequently said that slave labour was more expensive because it required the lifetime support of the worker. Something which for Southerners was a source of pride was seen by Northerners as a foolish waste of profits.If the workers were free to compete for wages, it was thought, productivity would be up and labour costs down. Often, this notion was accompanied by a belief that if lazy Southern blacks and whites could be got rid of and Southern lands settled by industrious New Englanders or Europeans, the profits of cotton would be all the greater and flowing into the pockets of people who really deserved them.
It seems to be the judgment of respected economic historians that the plantation was indeed a highly productive agricultural enterprise. Also, as Calhoun asserted in his “positive good” speech, that the black bondsmen received a greater lifetime return on their labour than industrial workers of the time in the North and Europe. Even before the end of the war and Reconstruction, opportunists followed the Union armies into the South, grabbed land, and set about to get rich with “free labour.” It usually did not work. The Northern capitalist conception of Southern society was as misguided as the abolitionist. This powerful part of anti-slavery should be kept in mind when we hear Lincoln singing the praises of “free labour.”
A planter might well have maximized return on his capital if he could somehow dispose of his land and slaves and invest like rich Northerners in government bonds and the stock of tariff-protected industries. But how could he possibly do this? And if he did so, what was to become of his people and his inherited way of life?
All of this was in Calhoun’s understanding of his world when he rose to speak. Having tried to explicate what he did not say that day, I will next try to understand what he did intend.
SOURCE: From The Abbeville Institute Scholars’ 2008 Conference, ” “Northern Anti-Slavery Rhetoric.” Previously published at the Abbeville Institute on June 25, 2014.
Then there is Syria. As far as one can tell from afar, here is the story. Syria was stable under its dictatorship---the mildest and most religiously tolerant and non-terrorist in an Islamic region where dictatorships are inevitable. It is an Israeli goal to destabilise Syria and possibly gain some of its territory. The American elite are armed evangelists of the fake gospel of “global democracy,” or at least pretend to be. Therefore the American CIA, in partnership with our quondam enemy ISIS, funded and created a revolt against the ruling regime. This was claimed as a “democratic” uprising against an ugly government. Actually its only possible outcome was violent instability or the triumph of a jihadist dictatorship. Obvious from the consequences of American “democratic” crusades in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan.
The revolt succeeded under American sponsorship in taking over portions of Syria and installing a terrorist Islamic regime more brutal than the existing dictatorship. Done by America---the world leader in the “war against terrorism.” Fortunately, the Syrian government, with help from Russia with its sensible anti-terrorist policy, was finally able to defeat the revolt, which was accompanied by great suffering and loss of life.
President Trump campaigned against “foreign entanglement” and openly criticised the Iraq disaster caused by the Republican president who had preceded him. Yet, in the first weeks in office he bombed Syrian government forces upon a fraudulent report of gas attacks on civilians. He has promised several times to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan but has failed to do so. Trump remains with the failed policy of catastrophic interference in the vast Islamic world. This has caused immense death and destruction and threatens your and my children and grandchildren with endless blowback.
Trump continues also with the policy of destroying the peace made possible with the end of the Cold War, by bating Russia, as demanded by his bitterest enemies. Why break good relations with Russia which his enemies beat him with mercilessly? Curious. It is hard to imagine any greater Presidential betrayal and any more stupid destruction of the best chance in modern history for “world peace.”
We also see Trump and his feckless advisors following a policy of confrontation with Iran and China. Iran, against which powerful elements obviously want a U.S. war, is no Syria or Libya. It is big, intelligent, and has the heritage of Persia rather than Arabia. The U.S. elite is starting to resemble the Bourbons—able to learn nothing and forget nothing.
China is obviously a rising power, economically and militarily. It needs to be dealt with prudently and rationally, something the Deep State is incapable of. The U.S. government is now a braggart and bully, flaunting a power that may well be weakening in relation to Russia and China.
America has survived in the past because it was a country of free men, courageous, determined and adaptable to new challenges. Is that any longer true?
It is hard to believe that Trump is dumb enough to really believe his booster hype about a thriving economy. A statesman in the White House would be working to strengthen his country, not by more expensive weapons but by economic policy, morale building, and preserving the American people from being over-run by foreigners with no interest in and often hostility to the real living America that we have known.
John C. Calhoun and Slavery as a “Positive Good:” What He Said
The “positive good” speech of February 6, 1837, is vintage Calhoun, an exercise of his conception of the proper role of a statesmen placed in the highest deliberative body of the Union. That role was to look beyond the present clamour and clatter of routine politics and discern the deeper forces at work and what present choices and trends meant for the future.
As Andrew Lytle said in his essay on Calhoun, the role of a statesmen is to define clearly for a people the alternatives before them. This Calhoun sought to practice not only in regard to abolitionism, but with all big issues. This is why thoughtful people of the North as well as the South for forty years gave serious attention to what he had to say. This is why, alone among the American public figures of his time, he is still studied as a thinker.
There is no doubt that in 1837 he intended to change the political dynamic in regard to abolitionism. In keeping with his conception of his role as an independent and far-seeing public figure, he had in 1816 forced revision of the National Bank into something better than the original design. A few years previous he had done the same with the tariff, which was now coming down. He would do it again later this same year when he left the opposition and supported Van Buren on the Independent Treasury. And again in 1844 when he forced the Texas issue into the presidential campaign after the front-runners of both parties had colluded to keep it out of sight.
Before making his dramatic and definitive public stand against the new form that anti-slavery had taken, he had observed it for several years until he was sure that it had revealed itself fully. Even more than this new phenomenon itself, Calhoun was prompted by the evasive behaviour of the everyday politicians of North and South to the critical considerations it raised. The unvarying instinct of everyday politicians is to avoid hard issues. Majorities in Congress and the party press pretended to regard abolitionism as a temporary outbreak of enthusiasm which would soon die away as other such irrelevant, intemperate, and impossible enthusiasms had.
In the meantime, they claimed, it was best to pay as little attention to the abolitionists as possible except to throw them a scrap now and then to keep them quiet and avoid the appearance of disdaining such earnest if misguided citizens. Any Southerner who responded to them was immediately labeled by both political parties as an agitator and disunionist, stirring up things that were best left alone.
Calhoun chose the occasion to positively defend the institution of slavery as it then existed in the South because of a new enemy that needed to be clearly identified and checked. The time of that session of Congress and the previous one had been consumed for weeks by abolition petitions. These had literally flooded the Congress. An entire large room in the National Archives, which I have visited, is needed to contain them. There had been interminable wrangling in both houses about how to deal with this unprecedented situation. We should be clear that nobody, North or South, Democrat or Whig, except for a tiny minority led by John Quincy Adams, intended to respond to these petititons.
The main difference of opinion was the degree of non-action that the petitions were to receive. Calhoun favoured refusing to receive them, lest Congress seem to countenance the hateful abuse they contained and to assume jurisdiction that it did not have over the subject of slavery. The parliamentary expedients adopted are complicated, but essentially both houses decided that it was somehow better not to appear to deny the right of petition but to receive and immediately table them. This procedure did not prevent John Quincy Adams from proclaiming that a Southern slave power was choking out the sacred rights of northern citizens.
Calhoun wanted to hold up to public view the nature of this new movement and to confront what he regarded as the politicians’ irresponsible avoidance of a grave issue. Knowing Calhoun as well as I do, his primary goal, I believe, was to convince the South that a lukewarm defense was no longer a proper stance. He began his address by calling for the Secretary to read two randomly selected petitions recently received by the Senate. Then he spoke:
Such . . . is the language held towards us and ours. The pecuilar institutions (sic) of the South . . . is pronounced to be sinful and odious, in the sight of God and man; and this with a systematic design of rendering us hateful in the eyes of the world, with a view to a general crusade against us and our institutions. This too, in the legislative halls of the Union, created by the confederated States, for the better protection of their peace, their safety, and their respective institutions; and yet we . . . are expected to sit here in silence, hearing ourselves and our constituents day after day denounced . . . if we but open our lips, the charge of agitation is resounded on all sides . . . . Every reflecting mind must see in this, a state of things deeply and dangerously diseased.
[A sidebar on the ongoing misuse of the term “pecuilar institution.” Calhoun did not mean that the institution was strange. He meant that it was peculiar to the Southern region as cod-fishing was peculiar to New England.]
He next made the point that abolitionism was not going to go away; unless called to account by vigorous rejection it would grow. He continued:
However sound the great body of the non-slaveholding States are at present, in the course of a few years they will be succeeded by those who will have been taught to hate the people and institutions of nearly one half of the Union, with a hatred more deadly than one hostile nation ever entertained toward another. It is easy to see the end. By the necessary course of events . . . we must become, finally, two peoples.
Such righteous revolutionary zeal would not fade away but would use every small victory as a base for a further attack until finally the South would have to surrender or to separate and defend itself. Because the North had adopted a false constitutional theory that the federal government was the judge of its own limits, the abolitionists believed that they had the responsibility and the power to reconstruct Southern society. Rising generations of Northerners would be fed on relentless defamation of the South. The ranks of the abolitionists would increase until they formed a block large enough that Northern politicians would compete for their votes. As he said, “there are kind feelings towards us on the part of the great body of the non-slaveholding States, but as kind as their feelings may be, we may rest assured that no political party in those States will risk their ascendancy for our safety.”
The Union and abolition could not co-exist, he said. The Union was in danger. Here Calhoun was not far from what Jefferson said in his fire-bell letter : “A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.” To assert that the Union and abolition could not co-exist was unwelcome, but it was true. As always, Calhoun was acting the statesman, discerning what the present foretold of the future.
With this introduction Calhoun was ready to reply to the abolitionist attack on the South, and to do so he had to discuss the realities of Southern life as he and his colleagues knew them. According to the abolitionists the South was a land of horrors devoid of religion and decency and law and order, inhabited by depraved white barbarians and black people out of whom all humanity had been crushed. Calhoun and all Southerners knew this to be a false picture. Neither the whites nor the blacks of the South resembled their portraits as painted by the abolitionists.
Mr Calhoun “insisted that the slaveholders of the South had nothing in the case to lament or to lay to their conscience….. Nor was there anything in the doctrines he held in the slightest degree inconsistent with the highest and purest principles of freedom.
Be it good or bad, it has grown up with our society and institutions …. But let me not be understood as admitting even by implication that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil—far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition.
Never before in history, he continued, has the black race ”attained a condition so civilised and so improved, not only physically but morally and intellectually….in the course of a few generations it has grown up under the fostering care of our institutions, as reviled as they have been, to its present comparative civilised condition.” The rapid increase of numbers, nearly equal to the white population, Calhoun, said “is conclusive proof” of the advancement and of the relative comfort of this class of Souhern labourers.
Nor had the white race degenerated. “…I appeal to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence, patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities which adorn our nature. I ask whether we have not contributed our full share of talents and political wisdom in forming and sustaining this political fabric; and whether we have not constantly inclined most strongly to the side of liberty, and been the first to see and first to resist the encroachments of power. In one thing only are we inferior—the arts of gain;….
“I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin” are brought together, “the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good. I feel myself called upon to speak freely upon the subject where the honour and interests of those I represent are involved.”
Many Southerners were ready for Calhoun’s message. Most educated Southerners had read about and some had seen the degraded and hopeless poor of New York and London. They knew that women and children in New York were working 16 hour days for starvation wages. A few years later it was reliably reported that there were in the city 150,000 unemployed and 40,000 homeless. As well as 600 brothels and 9,000 grog shops where the poor could drown their sorrows. There was little reason for the planter to wallow in guilt.
Our visceral distaste for whatever is connected with the word “slavery,” tends to disguise for us the enormity of what the abolitionists demanded. We imagine that the South was resisting a humane and reasonable proposition to give up its evil ways. Northerners were zealous to squeeze every possible penny of personal profit out of government policy, yet were proposing that the South literally perform the vastest act of self-disinheritance in history, and launch its society into a revolutionary gamble that would alter the life of every person and could well bring disaster and destroy the hopes of its posterity. In the 21st century it is easily to overlook that the African-American population was a majority in three Southern states and in a vast swath of territory from Southside Virginia to East Texas, while in Massachusetts it was around 1 per cent.
We are now so used to demands for revolutionary alteration of society in the pursuit of virtue, such an inclination is so firmly a part of the American national business, that it is hard to comprehend the situation presented. This demand upon Southerners came from people who were obviously hostile and who assumed a power that was not theirs to demand a revolution for which they bore no direct responsibility and from the consequences of which they would not suffer. This in a Union which Southern fathers and grandfathers had established to make secure the welfare of their sons and grandsons. A Union which they had contributed more than their fair share to build and sustain and upon which they had made no selfish demands. As Calhoun said on a later occasion: “When did the South ever lay its hand upon the North?”
In our present society it is thought that good people are those who submit to being reconstructed in the cause of virtue. The people who were thus addressed belonged to another tradition. They believed in personal responsibility for exercise of their rights and duties and in the necessity of guarding against potential infringements upon their freedom of action. Otherwise, they would not have been the kind of men who conquered a continental wilderness and founded free institutions.
There were no precedents for emancipation on such a scale. The few precedents that existed were unencouraging. There was Haiti; and in the British West Indies, the small population of slave owners had been compensated and gone back home while the islands, once the most valuable in the world, had sunk into poverty.
Abolitionists vigorously rejected compensation to slave owners; it would be rewarding sinners. Even at minimum it was beyond what was a conceivable public expenditure. Although, as has been pointed out, it would have been cheaper than the cost of the war. The difference is that the North enjoyed the profits of the war, while only the South would have profited from compensated emancipation.
Colonization had failed, though it would continue to be held up as a solution, mostly notably by Abraham Lincoln. The Virginia constitutional convention in the shadow of the Nat Turner massacre of white children had despaired of any remedy except for the South to keep on and to keep the matter in the hands of those involved.
Slavery was not confined to a few large plantations, contrary to propaganda. The plantation itself was not an obscene and accidental excresence upon America. It was a far older and more fundamental part of life than the Union. About a fourth of the white families across the South had some stake in slavery, a far greater percentage than of the Northern people who owned stock in banks and tariff protected industries. Most of these slaveholdings were small—one or two families who lived and worked closely with their owners and moved with them in the pioneer stream westward to new lands. Slavery was not a proposition to be voted up or down—it was the warp and woof of everyday life in an area larger than Western Europe. It was a basic social institution and a vast distribution of private property, the future elimination of which would be the largest confiscation in history. And it was an inextricable part of the production of the exports that made international trade possible for Americans.
It is a common now to equate the Old South with Nazi Germany. Nothing proves more conclusively the historical ignorance and ideologically-driven deceitfulness of present commentators. Servitude in the Old South was domestic—people were held to labour by families, not by a totalitarian state. Such servitude is a vastly familiar in human history. There was no barbed wire around the plantations, hardly anything that could even be called a police force in the South. True, the legal theory of chattel slavery was harsh, though not as harsh as has been represented. But the plantations were homes and farms where people were born, lived, and buried, not arbitrary and lawless but governed by longstanding custom and public opinion, the immemorial rounds of agriculture, and the give and take of everyday life. Far from being seats of hopeless barbarity, they were the homes and livelihoods of more than half of the great founders and early leaders of the United States. Many Northern and European visitors found them to be places of peace and contented life. Many of the survivors of plantation servitude interviewed in the 1930s remembered them as marked by a consoling and comfortable life—too many to be easily dismissed.
Disconnection from culture has proceeded so far that Americans are literally unable to imagine the past or understand any society except in terms of their own narrow reality. They cannot conceive of a society that was familial but not egalitarian. This destroys the capacity to understand not only Old South but the Bible and most of history and the world’s great literature.
If one wants to bring up fascism, it was the North which invaded, occupied, and seized the wealth of other people’s lands and did so without apology and glorying in the right of the stronger to dispose of the weaker. Often before and during the war Northern leaders vaunted their pure Anglo-Saxonism as superior to the inferior, mongrel breed of Southerners It was Hitler who admired Abraham Lincoln for ruthlessly crushing resistance to the central state.
The most fundamental obstacle the abolitionists did not address at all. What would happen to the black people turned out to fend for themselves? As free men they were almost universally regarded as inferior and unwelcome members of society, a situation in which the North was as complicit as the South, if not more so. And while the abolitionists were raging against the planters for abominable cruelty to their dependants, the more hard-nosed variety of Yankee was condemning them as bad, inefficient businessmen for being too good to the folks on the plantation and not extracting greater profit from their workers.
Slavery could not disappear for the simple reason that Americans were overwhelmingly opposed to citizenship and equality for black people and there was therefore no real alternative to the existing arrangement. Calhoun was accepting this fact realistically and concluding that the existing way was the best possible under the circumstances and that therefore Southern society embodied a good. Southerners had no reason to apologize.
We should recall that Abraham Lincoln on the eve of The War told the Northern public that “the Southern people are exactly what we would be in their situation.” And, he said, even given unlimited power he would not know what to do about the existing slavery.
Calhoun proposed a reasonable answer, the only possible one and one that Southerners were already carrying out every day. To make the best of the situation into which they had been born, bringing to bear their good will, Christianity, and conscientious care for dependants. These were qualities which, of course, the abolitionists in their ignorance and malice denied that they possessed.
It was not all that unprecedented to refute attacks by challenging the portrayal of slavery as an evil. Calhoun deliberately, I think, emphasized the point by using the word “positive” along with “good.” Even so, this speech would probably have passed into history with no more notice than many others if Calhoun had stopped with “positive good.” Instead, as was his custom, he concluded by taking the higher ground of a philosophical view. He chose to take the war into enemy country, which is what, I suspect, really bothers those who declaimed against him then and now.
“I hold,” he told the Senate and the country, “. . . that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilised society in which one portion of the community did not . . . live on the labour of the other.” This was as true of the North as of the South. A conflict of interest and an uneven distribution of wealth marked all societies at all times. The South was trying one way to cope with this truth. Calhoun was not asking to stop the clock to defend a static institution to be kept forever behind a defensive bunker. Rather, he said, the South was engaged in an “experiment” which he believed had, all things considered, showed itself a good. The North was engaged in a different experiment. He was not yet willing to concede that the Southern way was inferior in the production of human happiness. Another decade, he suggested, would allow a better comparison.
It is pretty evident from the commentary in Congress and the press, that what really bothered the critics of his famous speech was his insistence that the conflict of capital and labour was not a particular curse of the South. He refused to accept the scenario of Northern good and Southern evil.
In regard to the society of the Old South, Calhoun was more nearly right and the abolitionists more nearly wrong. In regard to the future he excelled all others in perception.
The position of African-Americans in the United States has long presented a moral challenge. But it is an evasion when thorny problems of the day receive a pseudo-solution by projection of blame onto the long dead slave owners of the Old South and their spokesmen. Unfortunately, this is a familiar habit for Americans.
SOURCE: From The Abbeville Institute Scholars’ 2008 Conference,” “Northern Anti-Slavery Rhetoric.” Previously published at the Abbeville Institute on June 26, 2014.
The historic Democratic Party is now dead, deeply buried, and not even remembered. The Democrats are now what Republicans used to be: the party of financiers, Northern “intellectual” reformers, and shallow opportunists looking for a gimmick to lift them into the Establishment.
The Republicans are still in part what they have always been---the party of financiers, opportunists, and the timid middle classes. It is true that conditions have forced some of the middle class into a surge of “populism,” but that, to all indications, has already been absorbed and emasculated. That is what Republicans do, co-opt and neutralise insurgencies. The two profoundest foreign observers of America, Tocqueville and Solzhenitsyn, both pointed out that Americans were governed by a fear of being seen as outside the bounds of social conformity. Populism is socially unacceptable, especially among Republicans, and has a short shelf-life.
Ronald Reagan rose to popularity on a wave of “conservative” disgust with the 70s. When he took Bush major as his Vice-President, it was obvious to anybody with more than a short-term perspective that the Deep State was still in charge and the “conservative” movement was over even before the election.
Predictably, Reagan never took a stand against The Deep State on any significant issue. His main contribution to American government was to begin the empowerment of the “neoconservatives” (communist disciples of Leon Trotsky) as part of the ruling elite.
Donald Trump incredibly rose to power and defeated the Establishment on a wave of populist discontent. Then he selected a third-string Establishment empty-suit as his running mate and potential future President. (It is being revealed lately that Pence was an operative in the Stop Trump movement.) Then Trump filled his top appointments with Establishmentarians, some of whom had bitterly opposed him, and discarded the advisers who won the election for him. Clearly, the Deep State is still in charge and populism is without any substantial future without a massive uprising at the grassroots.
True, Trump has worked under an unprecedented barrage of political and media lies and hatred and subversion by his own party leaders. But there is much that he could have done as the most powerful man in the world to change America’s direction by executive action and the bully pulpit. He has failed in that, the only hope for the agenda upon which he was elected. Theodore Roosevelt recommended talking softy and carrying a big stick. As Ilana Mercer has pointed out, Trump talks loud and carries a noodle. A real change requires unwavering dedication, strategic wisdom, and a vision of the rightful goal.
Trump has not answered his opposition with a serious appeal to the people about our future. Illegals are pouring in faster than ever and he has turned upside down his stand against “foreign entanglements.” The largest item in his profile is now an unshakeable support of the Israeli agenda. His tweets are short-term and involved with trivial politics. The mark of a real statesman is wisdom about the long-term health of his society. Trump has shown himself to be a shallow man, as his critics say.
Don’t tell me about the successful appointment of a few Establishment justices to the Supreme Court. How many times has that been revealed as an illusion? Those of us who placed hope in Trump have relied on excuses about deep and cleverly disguised agendas. Belief in that imagined scenario is almost dead in Trump’s base.
It is surely true that in the present condition of our country, no person of wisdom and integrity can possibly survive the course that is required to be elected President. Trump was the best hope we had for real reform and he has shown that is impossible.
The Democratic Presidential Convention next year will be a three-ring circus. The media will do all in its power to gentrify the craziness. It remains to be seen how much of the absurdity will be perceived by the “general public.”
It may be that Trump’s chance of re-election is already decided against by the ongoing demographic replacement of Americans that has turned the U.S. into a country with a Third World population---a transformation that is speeding up and now complete, or nearly so. It may depend on how many of his base are sufficiently disillusioned to defect. Or, conversely, it could depend on how many of the Republicans who don’t like him will stay in the fold. The Republican leadership, with the help of the media, will go all out to suppress the grassroots in the primaries and nominating conventions.
Those Republican leaders, if they have the power, will adopt a platform that is a mild repeat of the Democrats’ with a few gimmicks thrown in that nobody cares about. That is always their default position—to head to the middle, wherever that might be respectable in the existing climate. They think this clever although it never works. They still have the power and perks and have not figured out that they are sitting in a middle that no longer exists and will soon be disposed of.
Believe me, the Republican leadership regards us “deplorables” who voted for Trump with just as much disdain as did Hillary Clinton when she created the term. (In a healthy country, such an arrogantly snobbish contempt for millions of her fellow citizens would have eliminated her forever from any public favour. But our country is awash in pseudo-intellectuals who imagine that they are part of the elite and cheer Hillary onward.)
Of course, there will be the old trumpet call to support “the lesser evil.” How well has that worked? A definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing expecting different results. It is true that we are sometimes in life forced to choose a lesser evil. But the lesser evil is still evil and the practice has become habit-forming. It indicates a lack of spirit and of ability to think outside of the ever tightening box.
All you need to know about “American democracy”: Money gets power. Power gets money. But we live in a country where many people still believe that politicians want to do good.
Students at U.S. colleges and universities: Most should not be there. Especially Chinese studying science.
Professors at U.S. colleges and universities: Most should not be there. They are not teaching anything worthwhile.
Thousands of “administrators” with six-figure salaries at U.S. colleges and universities: Almost none of them should be there. Many should be in prison.
The latest $70 billion dollar “defense” budget: Only a small fraction actually defends the American people. Many essential actions for defending the American people are not carried out. Many of the overseas expenditures are ill-advised and invite blowback. We live in a country in which many people believe that dropping deadly drones on civilians in Afghanistan is “defending America.”
Current censorship efforts on social media and of independent thinkers: Speech is not censored because it is false---it is censored because it is true. The Powers-that-be have no interest in suppressing what is false, which indeed they often propagate themselves. Their censorship is of truths they don’t want known.
Multiculturalism at the movies: The film 12 Strong, concerns the U.S. Special Forces Team that was the first into Afghanistan after 9/11 and made a successful raid on the Taliban. The movie version of the event includes among the 12 a black and a Mexican, both of whom are given more screen time and personality development than all but two of the soldiers. There were no such persons in the all-white combat unit. We have seen the minority pandering often in the media. What is the cost of distorting history? Dr. Johnson observed that those who distort the record are enemies of humanity.
Looking again at 9/11: A government which spent $3 billion per annum on “intelligence” was not able to prevent this attack. In fact, a group of low IQ foreigners with plastic knives were able to blow up part of the headquarters of the “greatest military on earth.” The malefactors were mostly Saudi Arabians who should not even have been in the country, and were financed by Saudi Arabians. President Bush responded by protecting his Saudi Arabian friends, urging Americans to go shopping, and launching an illegal and catastrophic war of choice against Iraq, which had nothing to do with the matter. He and his honoured advisers justified this with LIES. When later called to account for the lies which cost much in American lives and treasure and in permanent disruption of peace and permanent danger to Americans, they shrugged. Bush’s actions were the clearest act of treason in American history. Nobody has been called to account and almost no attention has been paid to the actual facts of this major event. The Founding Fathers accepted it as vital that rulers be held accountable for their deeds.
The “war on terror”: The U.S. government has militarily supported terrorists in Syria against a legitimate government which keeps stability and tolerates Christians. Some of these terrorists are associated with those who have attacked the U.S. Why? How can this possibly be in the interest of the American people? Donald Trump was wrong when he claimed “we defeated ISIS.” The Syrians and Russians defeated ISIS despite all the U.S. could do to prevent it under the discredited neocon delusion of “regime change.”
Fall of the Soviet Union: The end of expansive Communism with the fall of the Soviet Union offered one of the greatest hopes ever seen for lasting world peace. The U.S. government destroyed this hope by continuing to taunt Russia and interfere with matters on its immediate borders. This cannot possibly be in the interest of peace or the welfare of the American people. Why is a President who promised not to do this now enthusiastically doing it? Inquiring adults want to know.
Charlottesville: A false history of this event has been institutionalised in the news media, public discussion, and even in documentary films. According to this tissue of lies, a riot of “white supremacists” and “neo-Nazis” was justly suppressed. The truth: The organisers and participants in “United the Right” had a legal meeting permit to hear speeches. Instead, they were attacked by busloads of “antifas,” some with phony Nazi uniforms and many with deadly weapons—pistols, flame-throwers, etc. Any violence by the “alt-right” was defensive. The city government and police force stood by while the antifa worked their violence and then used that as an excuse to suppress the legal gathering. The few leftists arrested for violence were not prosecuted. The event participants were. And one poor fellow has been sentenced to 400 years in prison for what was at worst involuntary manslaughter. What are we to think of a regime that rests upon enforced lies?
LBJ declared war on poverty. Nixon declared war on cancer. Nancy Reagan declared war on drugs. Bush declared war on terrorists. Trump declared war on illegal immigration. How are the wars going, folks?
Newspapers are dying, and not a moment too soon. You can smell the decay even before they reach the garbage bin. For the same and other reasons the corporate television “news” monopolies are at a low rating of public trust and are being replaced by independent reporters.
I enjoyed a few of the last good years of newspapering as a reporter, cutting my teeth on the police beat, on the old Richmond News Leader , which of course no longer exists. In the early 60s we had original writing by James J. Kilpatrick and original cartoons by Jeff McNelly on the editorial page. People actually bought the paper for the editorials!
Local news was broadly and vigourously covered by tough experienced reporters, some of whom had not even gone to college but who really cared about getting the truth and were skeptical of power holders. Reporting was poorly paid and lacking in prestige, but it was fun.
The paper had been locally owned for two generations by the same family and was truly independent. But independent papers were already being amassed into corporate chains, the content of which is centrally generated boiler-plate, utterly predictable. There are hardly any local papers anymore. There is little in any that anybody should want to read. There are livelier, more immediate sources of the “news,” for sports and business. Who follows the comic strips any more? I can remember a time when lots of people got their daily chuckle out of them. Economically the papers only keep up circulation by chain store coupons and puff pieces on local minorities, athletes, and entertainment, and are giving them away free.
But there are more than economic forces responsible for the decline of newspapers (and the same is true of electronic media). When I moved on to a different field, new reporters and sub-editors were already disdaining the pursuit of facts in favour of “social relevance.” Reporters were now being hired who had been to prestige colleges and, as an old newsroom crony used to say, “educated beyond their intelligence.” They had an exaggerated sense of their importance as participants in public affairs rather than as honest neutral observers.
Now it is generally understood everywhere that “Media” students are the lowest IQs on campus, having outraced Education majors to the bottom some years back. They are all Social Justice Warriors now with dreams of glamourous anchorship. Years ago, when I became somewhat notorious as a “secessionist,” I dealt with quite a few reporters, active and some still students. There was not a single one who could recognise a real story if it knocked them down, and they were primed from the start to “get me” with predesigned negative labels. They quite were quite literally ignorant, lacking any knowledge relevant to reporting public affairs, had no impulse to look for truth or even what was new and interesting, and were cowardly conformists.
Nobody with any intelligence and experience of the real world has ever trusted the electronic news media, television being the best-designed instrument for lies ever invented by man. It is able to lie not only in words but in seemingly true pictures. But remember, television news has always been not an information enterprise, but an entertainment business designed to generate advertising revenue.
I remember over 50 years ago hearing the pompous Walter Cronkite (“the most trusted man in America”) declare several times that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated by “right-wing extremists in Dallas.” There is nothing new about Fake News.
Fortunately public trust in the media has fallen since they have become part of the official opposition to President Trump. A Washington Post columnist that nobody ever heard of recently wrote that the media should de-platform the President. A CNN official chimed in that “broadcasting him live unfiltered has been a bad idea.” Another CNN executive wrote that they should never broadcast him live “because the President often uses the opportunity to deceive viewers by peddling misinformation and falsehoods.”
Who exactly installed the corporate media as an unelected branch of government, to stand between the people and elected officials and determine what the people should and should not know in this “democracy”? In fact, the media have for a long time governed the country by determining what should and should not be brought to public attention. So much for freedom of the press: freedom for nobody except for SJWs and their corporate masters, also unelected and practically unknown. Who are these people? What are their credentials for exercising such power?
Not what the Founding Fathers intended. Freedom meant that you are I can publish what we like in criticism on public affairs. They did not include the pornography and blasphemy that has been legalized by the Supreme Court, which at the same time has rendered laws against false defamation by the media inoperable. Reporting and publishing rightly have no sacred special status and authority, certainly not exceeding that of elected officials. The media have only the same right as you and I: to observe what is in public and comment on it. Anything else is astonishing presumptuousness that amounts to what the Founders would have understood as a treasonable usurpation of power.
Infanticide. Could it be any more plain and stark? Crowds joyfully celebrating their “right” to kill their children. The preponderant power of American society is now post-Christian and post-Western. We Deplorables (Hillary Clinton) who hold on to our Bibles and guns (Obama) are a remnant, unorganised, leaderless, excluded from power, and expected to go quietly into the night.
In our country Satan is well-armed and aggressive and can call on millions to serve him. He is on a roll. Do not expect him to stop. He always goes on until he has reaped the maximum destruction. We are already well accustomed to the unthinkable becoming normal. What is next? Perhaps the courts will find that baby-killing has “disparate impact” and the government will be required to enforce equality in this as in all else. The plausible possibilities of euthanasia in the name of progress and humanity are numerous.
The murder of the innocent that is now celebrated is the ultimate in individual selfishness. Its devotees think of themselves as a superior priestly class, empowered to do as they please. The god of Enlightenment that they worship is quite as unreal as Ba’al and equally one of Satan’s snares. Their understanding of human life is childishly self-centered and short-sighted. The health of society and future consequences of their acts do not come within their sight.
Killing is habit-forming for those who do the killing. A regime that is bloodthirsty at home delights in war abroad, especially when the rulers are not threatened with personal responsibilities and consequences. Times of moral breakdown are always times of war. Do not think that the U.S.’s deadly filibusters in the Middle East are unrelated to our policy of baby-killing. Supporters of both are found in the same camp.
The U.S. has now launched three wars against unthreatening Middle Eastern regimes, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent non-terrorists. In the name of bringing a “democracy” (including infanticide?) that is as imaginary as Ba’al. And in alliance with and for the benefit of the two most bloodthirsty regimes of the region. Our rulers enjoy this power and our people are callously indifferent. The morally bankrupt are also often stupid. Our interventions in the Middle East, where we should not even be except to buy the oil which they need to sell, have wrecked human society over a large area of the world and created blowback that will threaten our grandchildren. At horrific cost and zero positive benefit.
The Carthaginians happily tossed their children into the fire to please their god, and the Aztecs celebrated human sacrifice on a large scale for the same reason. Until they were destroyed themselves. The Romans, a tough people with a grasp of reality and a capacity for courage and self-sacrifice put an end to Carthage. As did the Christian Spanish conquistadores to the Aztecs.
Nobody can know the future, but we are tempted to suspect a fearsome Providential pattern.
At 77 I am remembering things that used to be commonplace but that my children and grandchildren have never seen.
If you were really sick the doctor would come to your house for $10.
A boy who went to school without a pocket knife was lacking in status. Displaying a new knife was an occasion.
Push mowers, which required real effort but no gasoline or constant adjustment.
Tex Ritter and Gene Autry (but not Roy Rogers who was from Iowa and not a real cowboy).
Sleeping on a pallet on the floor with cousins when families visited
Ironing boards and the smell of freshly ironed stuff
Ice cream that you had to crank a handle for
Kids allowed to ride the fire trucks on holidays
German lugers and Jap bayonets brought back by veterans
Atomic bomb drills in school. We did not realise how stupid they were.
10 cent bus fare
Honour system newspaper racks
Polio patients and iron lungs. We engaged in massive battles of fly-swatting on the theory that flies had something to do with the epidemic.
A real barber shop instead of a unisex beauty parlor.
The sweet singing from a country Southern Methodist church.
When there was only one family of immigrants in town and they were refugees from Communism, pleasant and interesting, and thankful to be here.
Like it or not, movies are the art form of our age, incomparably important in shaping our view of the world. In the 20th century they performed the same role as Homer and Virgil in the classical time, the Scriptures in the Middle Ages, and great novelists and poets in the 19th century. Whether this will be true for the 21st century, with all its new forms of communication, remains to be seen. We may be entering the age of the Tweet.
No one can possibly master the immense body of film that has been produced. The writers of Reckonin.com will provide in this series some guidance by describing the movies that have been most important to them in the course of a lifetime of viewing.
Myself, I am the most moved by what may be called “poetic realism,” films that do not avoid the raw tragic reality of our existence but that also convey a sense of the triumphant human spirit---the eternal verities described in Faulkner’s Nobel Address. In Southern literature, beautiful examples of “poetic realism” can be found in the works of Elizabeth Madox Roberts and George Garrett.
In my view, the French are the greatest filmmakers, the Germans, who cannot entirely escape the nihilism of their national character, are the worst. The French make movies for grown-ups, the Germans for disturbed adolescents. I cannot share in the current hysterical hatred of Russia and Iran when I remember the beautiful films that they have produced. The Brits were great, at least until recent times. Little Norway and Korea have produced some gems and Italy, Japan, and China in their best films show they have real cultures.
My dozen best:
1. A Sunday in the Country (French, Un dimanche a` la champagne, 1984). This quiet masterpiece recounts the joys and sorrows of everyday life, the most important things in our human experience, and the centrality of family to that experience. (I cannot find a U.S. playable DVD of this film, only a VHS and an absurdly over-priced Blu-Ray. It may be downloadable, however.)
2. Pathfinder (Norwegian, Veiviseren, 1987, not to be confused with a number of other movies with the same title in English). The heroic resistance of the Sami people to a brutal Viking invasion. (As with A Sunday in the Country, I can find no U.S. playable DVD.)
3. The Winter War (Finnish, Talvisoto, 1989). As a Southerner I cannot help being sympathetic to the struggle of small countries against foreign conquest. This portrays soldiers in little Finland’s heroic stand against the Soviet Union in 1939-1940.
4. Ballad of a Soldier (Russian, 1959). The tragic human experience of war and Communism, softened by young love.
5. Heartland (U.S., 1979 ). A calmly realistic portrayal of the hardships of American pioneers in Wyoming in the late 19th century and a “feminist” classic in the true sense of that term.
6. Zulu (British, 1964). Dramatisation of the true story of a company of British (mostly Welsh) soldiers who defeated a massive Zulu attack at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa in 1879. Zulu Dawn is a prequel.
7. La Scorta (Italian, 1993). An honest judge and his bodyguard attempt to fight the Mafia despite the interference of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. (Politicians and bureaucrats seldom avoid corruption in all times and places.)
8. For Whom the Bell Tolls (U.S., 1943). Hemingway’s moving story of people caught in the Spanish Civil War. Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman were never better.
9. 55 Days at Peking (U.S./British, 1963). Europeans defend themselves against the murderous Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, a heroic chapter in the white man’s burden that brought civilisation to half a planet. Charlton Heston as the U.S. Marine colonel, David Niven as the British ambassador, and Ava Gardner as Russian nobility turned angel of mercy are perfection.
10. The Way Home (Korean, 2002). What happens when a surly city-bred boy is left with his rural grandmother.
11. The Cruel Sea (British, 1953). Perhaps the best of a number of British films which portray the devastating naval warfare in the North Atlantic in WW II. I can hardly decide between The Cruel Sea and other examples: Sink the Bismarck!, In Which We Serve, and The Sea Shall Not Have Them. The greatness of these films is that they realistically show serious men at war without the technicolour explosions and wisecracking sailors from Brooklyn that Hollywood requires.
12. Apocalypto (U.S., 2006). Among the numerous movies directed and produced by Mel Gibson, this amazing one seems to have been overlooked. A family of remote peaceful Indians resist death at the hands of the barbarous Mayan “civilisation.” Truly stunning and uplifting in regard to those eternal verities.
I have dealt with individual movies. However, there are Television series that have meant a lot to me: Danger UXB: British soldiers charged with dismantling unexploded bombs in WW II; The Flame Trees of Thicka: British settlers in Kenya in the early 20th century; Tenko: British and Dutch women in Japanese prison camps; Sharpe: Napoleonic War adventures; and A Year in Provence: an English couple copes with life in Southern France. I would also add A French Village: French lives during the Nazi occupation.
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews