Me and the Cold War(s)
I admit it, I admire Russia’s leader Putin. He seems the only major Western leader who rises any where near the category of Statesman.
This may seem strange for one who was raised during the height of the Cold War, but I am not alone in my admiration. In elementary and middle school in the 1950s we were taught to expect a Russian nuclear attack any time. Russia was the great beast behind everything bad. Ludicrously, fifth graders were told to shelter under their desks in case of such an attack.
Strangely, we were not taught much about why Communism was so evil. Some of the biggest haters of Russia, although they were not alone, were Trotsky Communists who were later to emerge as Neoconservatives and are still today preaching war against post-Communist Russia, doubtless for their own reasons. Nobody really explained why Russia had become so great an enemy in the 1950s after being our “great democratic ally” in World War II.
When I was growing up Communism was for many a true obsession. It was not something to be sensibly countered, but an unearthly evil that had to be actively destroyed. The atmosphere resembled the hysterical, fanatical hatred of the South that dominated much Yankee mentality in the 1850s. Our rulers went so far that they had a plan to massacre Americans and blame it on the Cuban Communists.
I don’t pretend to have any expert authority over Cold War history, but when the rulers are not interested in defending their own people but involved in international gamesmanship, you know something is seriously wrong.
It was also curious that the Establishment suppressed patriotic efforts to expose the Communist spies in its own membership who did so much to strengthen the Communist regime in Russia. See two excellent recent books: Stalin’s War by Sean McMeekin and American Betrayal by Diana West.
But then came the great civilizational triumph of the fall of the Soviet Union. What a great moment for mankind! Russia could now be welcomed back into the fraternity of free nations, join the West economically and culturally to the enrichment to both sides, and the greatest threat to peace be gone.
It didn’t happen. I never saw my “Peace Dividend.” Instead, Washington did everything it could to loot Russian resources and keep up an air of hostility and suspicion. The leaders of the U.S. have too big a political and economic investment in a gigantic defense establishment to welcome peace. That establishment supposedly is required to defend “democracy” around the world. The U.S. is now more aggressive and projecting more military power over previously untouched areas than it was in the Cold War. They have launched massive costly defeated wars in the Mideast on the pretext of fighting terrorism. Terrorists are best dealt with by very good Special Forces, not huge invasions.
The U.S. Establishment is now fighting a proxy war and whipping up hate against post-Communist Russia. A border dispute between Russia and the criminal regime of the Ukraine is not a grave international crisis---unless we make it so. It is not a world class threat to democracy. The ignorant American press and public has no idea that Washington has repeatedly rejected Putin’s reasonable requests for negotiations. And unlike the U.S. leadership, Putin has resisted provocation to make the conflict bigger. He has all along tried to achieve friendly relations with a West that refuses to treat Russia as a fellow. Unlike the American elite, he actually believes in and defends Western civilization.
Putin may well have made some mistakes. But unlike the Western elites, he actually has a statesmanlike vision and actually does what he thinks is best for his country and people.
What Do We Do With Trump?
I wrote in his defense and voted for him, although without much enthusiasm. What else were those of us to do who want to preserve the fragments of democracy and Christian society we have left, who I like to think are still numerous? I would probably vote for him again if he gets the nomination and the Democrats put up a candidate who is just as evil as Biden but more destructively competent.
Trump has courage and is the only big voice against the Evil Empire. He still has, it would seem, considerable grassroots popularity. His present campaign, however, looks rather too personal. He wants to right the wrong of a stolen election. A good issue, but we must have a lot more.
A successful general needs more than courage and the support of his troops. He needs to fight smart, know his enemy, know what to do to defeat him, and do it. Trump’s administration was a major failure in this regard. Is there any evidence that he has learned how to fight better? I don’t see it. True, he was backstabbed by his own party and got the most lying press that any President has ever suffered.
Much attention is being given to Governor DeSantis. He talks the talk. But unlike Nixon, Reagan, etc. he actually seems to be walking the walk. He is doing in his State what opponents of the Evil Empire that governs us should have been doing all along. Doing what Trump should have been encouraging in every suitable State. But now it appears that self-referencing Trump only regards DeSantis as a rival to be put down. This is not good.
The failure of the red wave (which Brion McClanahan amusingly calls the “red ripple”) has put the next presidential election in a new light. The poor Republican showing is given different explanations. Some blame it on discontent with the Supreme Court anti-abortion decision or revulsion at Trump. Another explanation might be that the Republican grassroots has finally discovered (although more than half a century too late) the dishonesty of their leadership.
Suppose Trump gets the nomination. Who among the empty suits of the Republican party can stop him? But they are certain to keep backstabbing him in the election and in office. The Democrats have perfected the technique of election stealing. To overcome that he would have to have the very active support of the Republican leadership, and that he will never have.
There is also talk of a Trump/DeSantis ticket. This would be a mistake for the Governor, likely to drag him down with Trump. He should maintain his own independent stand as a new and refreshing leader.
Inquiring Minds Want to Know
Will the U.S. Navy’s new transgender Admiral command a warship or a missile platform?
The purpose of NATO was to prevent Communist aggression into Europe. The Soviet Union fell. Why is NATO now more aggressive than ever?
How is it defending democracy when the U.S. has missiles on Russia’s borders and hateful aggression when Russia objects?
Why does the U.S. no longer have any major government people who can actually talk with common sense and logic instead of mouthing insincere labels from an imaginary universe?
In the U.S. the rich are getting much richer and the middle class is disappearing. Why do none of our major politicians of either party never mention this?
Our educational system is a disaster from top to bottom. Why does no politician ever get concerned with this except in a few cases to recommend vast new expenditures for more of the same? Instead, they keep proclaiming the lie that our schools are the best in the world.
Why is it widely accepted that inanimate objects like guns cause people to commit crimes? And that if guns were suppressed there would be no crime?
Do you really want to live in a country that destroys Lee and makes George Floyd its hero?
How do you explain why the Republican Party has never actually opposed any leftward movement in U.S. government and society? And why do so many people continue to believe in lip service and suppose the opposite?
Can you name one high ranking civilian or military official of the federal government who is not wealthy from corporate pay offs?
Why does the U.S. military have installations at more then 100 places around the world? Why do they still call it the Department of Defense?
Why are so many Americans so smothered in debased trivia that they can longer see realities?
More of the Way We Are Now
The Woke say they are for equality, but what they really want is sameness—equality at the lowest common denominator. And, of course, like Orwell’s pigs, they think some people (themselves) are more equal than others.
It seems likely that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. We will never know for sure. The matter could have been settled if Trump’s Supreme Court justices had done their duty. Texas and some other States were suing Michigan and several other corrupt States for investigation of their election results. The Constitution requires the Supreme Court to adjudicate issues between the States. They ran for cover instead. Why? Because normie Republicans would rather see Biden illegally elected rather than Trump as President.
It is doubtful that there has been any election in the U.S. since 1861 that was not corrupt in some way. And we should remember this---it was the Republican party which first established massively corrupt elections during the War for Southern Independence and “Reconstruction.” Their successes for Presidents and Congress were largely the result of army-controlled polls, cynical manipulation of clueless African American voters, intimidation, and ballot stuffing.
At least three of the Republican Presidential candidates after The War were blatantly corrupt---Grant, Garfield, and Blaine. Yet Republicans claim that they are the honest party and the Democrats the crooked one. In fact, the Democrat party, except for urban machines, remained cleaner than the Republicans until FDR.
The Way We Are Now, Again
If you are reading this, your government regards you as a rightwing extremist-potential terrorist. It can send its heavily armed thugs to break down your door in the night, rough up your family, seize your property, and take you to prison.
Its official. Michael Hayden, former Air Force Major General, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and former head of National Security Agency has announced that rightwing jihadists are the greatest extant threat to America. Not China, Russia, or Islam, and certainly not crime and illegal immigrants
General Hayden has 26 medals, although his Wikipedia entry does not contain a single mention of any actual combat. Reminds me of the present CRT commander of the Army Gen. Silly Milley. General Hayden has occupied every administrative post imaginable in the defense establishment of the United States. He did NOT go to West Point or Colorado Springs.
He has also been accused of lying to Congress about surveillance of U.S. citizens. But maybe his recent statement is just a lapse because Wikipedia also reports that he suffers from aphasia. However, his alert about the greatest danger to our country is major news.
The fact is that our defense establishment is a vast overgrown, catastrophically wasteful, incompetent bureaucracy, reflecting every defect of American government and society. But Republican politicians, always slow to learn if not incapable of learning, will always vote big appropriations, and the big defense industries are among the most powerful lobbyists in the Federal City.
In retirement General Hayden has a net worth of $4.6 million and receives an annual salary of $1,460,000 from ION Pharmaceuticals. Oh, the sacrifices our public officials make to serve us. Pretty typical for the large number of generals and admirals that we support. Enough to tempt any normal mortal to assume an air of superiority.
In our establishment, genuine fighting men exist only at the lowest levels. And it appears that such real dedicated and experienced soldiers are being purged as enemies of “American democracy.”
What if we are to need a real fighting force, which given the world, the incompetence of our saber-rattling politicians and “generals,” seems highly possible. Our politicians and defense bureaucrats seem to think they can control the world by sending missiles around the globe, but serious patriots are aware of major vulnerabilities in U.S. war-making ability. China, Russia, and Iran have serious, competent leaders who actually care about their countries.
And did you know that Biden has just appointed our first Transgender Admiral? Can you imagine this freak commanding a warship?
Life was tough for everyone in the America of the 1600s and 1700s. The 1800s saw some improvement which led people to entertain the idea of enlightenment and progress in living conditions. Southerners were as much conscious of and happy about a general improvement in the human condition as anyone else. As always, they were far less confident than Northerners that spiritual progress was as certain as material progress.
Nevertheless, on the eve of the War for Southern Independence, lifetime tragedy was commonplace. Poorly understood epidemics carried off significant percentages of city populations every few years. Even prosperous families were lucky to see half their children survive to adulthood. There was a terrible toll of young wives from infections associated with childbirth. Violent conflict between men was frequent and expected. A sense of fatalism and familiarity with death was perhaps what allowed soldiers in the war to risk their lives so regularly and spectacularly. And allowed Americans to commit amazing amounts of hard work through frequent sickness and debilitation while settling a continental wilderness.
People had to plant, tend, and harvest their crops by hand, raise and slaughter their own meat, care for their own fowl, cattle, horses, and mules, make their own clothes, and often doctor and educate themselves. Not to mention the pioneer’s need to clear wooded land---backbreaking work. Anybody not fully aware of this reality is not qualified to comment on American history of the 1800s.
Possibly also, our forebears, black and white, of those times had more downtime after the work was done, and more genuine leisure for contemplation and self-entertainment than we ever-distracted moderns. The marvel of black Southern gospel music may be evidence of this.
A most significant and ignored fact of antebellum Southern society is that most slave ownings were small—5 to 10 people who lived and worked alongside white families, went to church with them, ate the same food, and were tended by the same doctors. Another large segment of owners were in the 15 to 20 slave category. On the plantation the races were closely matched in sex and generations—men and women, adults, old people, and children. This familial aspect of the slave society may indicate why many black people did not regard looting and burning by Northern invaders as a good thing.
The large planters were confined to a few areas like the Carolina rice fields, the Louisiana sugar region, and the fertile Mississippi Delta. Middling people were the backbone of the South and of the Confederacy.
Those who wish to make the true point that Confederate soldiers were not fighting for slavery often mention that only 1 in 10 soldiers owned slaves. This is a mistake. The Confederate army was full of the sons, nephews, friends, brothers-in-law of slave owners. Some Confederate soldiers hired or bought one or two black people to help their wives while they were away. About 1 in 4 of Southern families had an interest in slave property---nearly half in South Carolina, down to lower percentages in the Border States. This was a far larger percentage than Northerners who held ownership in the ruling banks and industries.
Another neglected aspect of antebellum African American history is the free black population of the South. In 1860 more than half of American free blacks were in the South. In the South many free blacks had a secure accepted place in society and were prosperous although not political citizens. It is reported that half the free blacks in Charleston were slaveowners. A section of Louisiana was occupied by free “Creoles of Colour” with large plantations. Union soldiers had not the least hesitation to rob and burn the hard-earned property of free blacks in the South.
By contrast, the black communities of the North and Canada were depressed in every social measure, exhibiting the urban dysfunction that we are all too familiar with in later times.
Another very significant aspect of the history of the Old South and slavery is that Americans were moving west in great numbers. The noted memoirist Mary Boykin Chestnut wrote an account of how her father led a long wagon train of family, slaves, and equipment from South Carolina to Mississippi, something which must have been repeated many times.
In 1860 half of the people, black and white, who had been born in Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee were living somewhere further west or south. The Southern culture spread from the James to the Rio Grande and through the Ohio and Mississippi valleys in two centuries, covering a much greater area than Northerners. The “West” was predominantly Southern and therefor slaveholding. Southern families and their bonded people could be found at the far reaches of the Texas frontier.
According to abolitionists, Southerners were moving because they were unhappy and oppressed, or else in some conspiracy to spread slavery. But this movement was obviously a sign of a dynamic culture, with families so large it was necessary for some to move to newer lands. The problem of older, worn out soils in the eastern states was already being solved by Southern scientists by 1860.
Technically, the slave was not the possession of the master. Though it made little practical difference, perhaps, a slave was not owned. He was bonded for his labour and had legal claims upon the master for support. Although for most of our gabbling classes Southerners are always the default villains in any scenario, in fact Southern courts were conscientious in seeking justice for bonded people when such issues came before them.
The definitive work on slavery in antebellum America, largely ignored since its appearance in 1975, is Time on the Cross by Robert W. Fogel, a Nobel Laureate, and Stanley L. Engerman. These economic historians, neither of whom can be accused of sympathy with slavery or the South, showed that in general antebellum slaves fared well in nutrition, housing, leisure--- superior to the norm for the working poor in the North and Europe and were, contrary to Northern claims, more productive than Northern workers. They reported that Southern slaves received a 90% lifetime return on their labour. It is said that some Louisiana slave cabins have been converted into vacation cottages. Such residences were frequently used to hospitalise wounded soldiers.
Northerners, fond of theorizing, believed that slave labour was unproductive because they defined it as unwilling---invalidated by the simple fact of the immense productivity of staples that provided the majority of American exports. Tobacco in the 1700s and cotton in the early 1800s were the bulk of American exports. Without the South the U.S. would have had little international trade.
You have no doubt been told about how Northern visitors were shocked by the cruelly over-worked and starved slave population. There was a little of that, but most reactions were otherwise. Many visitors found the plantations peaceful and contented and Southerners admirable. Others in their letters home complained that the blacks were lazy, slovenly, and inefficient, and their masters not much better. Some could not stand the lack of puritan order and failure to focus on the bottom line. Sympathy for the enslaved was not very evident.
In his novel The Virginians, published in the late 1850s, William Makepeace Thackeray’s visitor remarks in passing that English servants worked 4 or 5 times harder than American blacks. For three centuries there has been a Northern legend that Southern people are lazy. Maybe this is in the eye of the beholder---a question of warm climate, agricultural rhythm, and a different attitude toward living, rather than a moral failing.
Plantations had no barbed wire, watchtowers, or attack dogs, or even very many locks. Slaves often slept in the same dwelling as masters. There were bloodhounds available that could track (but not attack) runaways. Corporal punishment was used on the plantation, although not as often as alleged. It was also common in the army, navy, merchant marine, factories, as punishment for crime, and in nearly every family.
But the plantation was primarily governed not by force but by moral authority, practicality, love of homeplace, and genuine affection which is evident in many antebellum and wartime Southern family letters. Fogel and Engerman also show that break up of family ties by the vast westward movement was no more common for blacks than for whites. I know of two very prominent South Carolina families who had younger sons who went West and were never heard from again.
The plantation was a place where people lived and grew crops, often over several generations. African Americans were part of a joint enterprise where all rose or fell together. Incentive rewards were normal. Work was directed by black foremen more often than by hired white overseers. A significant portion of the slave population could be classified as skilled artisans, necessary to run the self-sufficient community, of immense value to them after emancipation. African Americans commonly had their own garden plots with produce to consume or sell. Northern soldiers were shocked to find that slaves had watches and fine clothes and spending money. There were puritanical Yankee visitors who thought Southern slaves were undisciplined, rowdy, and had too much freedom.
It might be comforting to think of African Americans as violent rebels against their condition. But the real admiration should go, as Eugene Genovese showed, to the fact that the slaves used their considerable leverage to manage their condition. Of course, masters did not want their labour to run away. But where were they to go? The South was the only land in which they were welcome. The Underground Railroad has been shown to be largely a postbellum invention. Possibly more slaves were stolen and resold than successfully ran away. The novelist John Updike writes that his Pennsylvania Quaker forebears took in runaways, worked them hard, and then threw them out.
During most of the 20th century, in the reign of now-vanished nationalism, visiting Yankee tourists thought of Mount Vernon and Monticello as nice happy farms with happy people, not very different from what could be found in Ohio. Slavery was not much of an issue. John Wayne made a movie about the Alamo where all the main Southern heroes were acted by Midwesterners and a Brit and there were no Southern accents. There was even at the Alamo the New Jersey teeny-bopper idol Frankie Avalon. The same is true of the classic “The Searchers.” It is set on the Texas frontier but there is not a single Southern accent except for one buffoon.
Southern history had been absorbed, cleansed, and made into an American myth. Many doubtless thought that the Alamo was an epic of the U.S. Army. At the actual time of the Alamo, New Englanders publicly spoke of the Southern defenders of the Alamo as barbarian bandits, “lawless, renegade adventurers,” oppressors and land stealers, not as American heroes.
From the 1960s onward the idea of the Old South has reverted to a neo-abolitionist notion of the plantation as a concentration camp and a pit of evil. A parochial school student told me that the nuns teach that antebellum Southerners used their slaves for fireplace logs. American history has been made Southern again to the discomfort of nostalgic nationalists who don’t want to recognize the obvious connection between Washington and Lee, Jefferson and Calhoun. Both the Hollywood and the neo-Marxist assumptions are superficial and self-serving distortions of history for the comfort of Northerners.
Most of what passes today for the understanding of slavery has more to do with bolstering the righteousness of Northerners in their brutal invasion of the South than with the sufferings of black people in bondage.
A majority of American Presidents before Lincoln were plantation men, not to mention many others of the outstanding men who made and optimistically expanded American freedom and self-government into vast new territories. The plantation was a large and long-lasting and mostly quiet way of life, producing a leadership that has never been matched since. The U.S. is now trashing a noble part of its history. To be replaced by what?
Those who blabber about slavery these days don’t know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, those who have historical knowledge in their custody are often the worst offenders. Thus activists, “community organisers,” professors, media gurus, politicians, and government bureaucrats are now our experts on “slavery.” These are people who have always had abundant privileges, largely unearned, a free and easy life. Most have never worked up any perspiration from physical labour or wanted for anything. Their view of the world is entirely presentistic and self-centered. They lack the knowledge to conceive of other times and therefore have no right to pose as “slavery” experts. For them, the past is only a resource for extortion or virtue-signaling.
In fact, black slavery was long a fact of American society that was commonplace and seldom attacked. Some Connecticut journalists wrote a book about their surprising discovery of the link between Connecticut and slavery and white supremacy, which included violent closing of black schools and digging up black bodies from cemeteries. There should be nothing surprising about Northern racism except for the routine ignorance of Northerners about American history and their routine assumption of superior virtue.
John Randolph of Roanoke in his will freed his slaves and gave them land in Ohio, but Ohio refused to let them in. For years, R.E. Lee, in difficult economic times, worked to fulfill his father-in-law’s will to free his slaves and provide them with property. Many of those freed remained at home. In 1860 the people at Arlington were part bonded and part free. “Stonewall” Jackson established a Sunday School for black people. Jefferson Davis’s family kept close and warm ties with their slaves long after emancipation.
Contrary to what is today assumed, the Old South was not a closed and defensive society--- before John Brown. Northerners and Europeans did not react in horror to their experience of slavery in the South. The division between “free States” and “slave States” was an entirely political matter and did not reflect American social life. Southern household slaves went with their masters to Northern spas, Canada, Europe, and California and generally returned home after the experience. Sometimes they traveled by themselves on family business. As in any society there were hardships for many, but for many Southerners of both races life was easy-going.
Numerous Northerners and Europeans had no hesitation and were matter-of fact in becoming planters by purchase or marriage. Lincoln, Grant, and Stephen Douglas acquired slaves with their wives’ property and did not regard it as much more than a normal event. Lincoln had no problem in selling the slaves and as a lawyer working for the recovery of runaways.
Given that history is the sad record of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind, antebellum American bondage was an evil not near the top of the list. White and black Southerners made a livable society that had the moral resources for evolution toward a better society than that created by invasion and conquest and rivers of blood. Leading Southern clergy were already at the time of secession preaching of practical steps of progress for the black people now that the South was free to manage its own future.
Unlike Northern advanced thinkers, Southerners never denied that their slaves were made in the image of God. Unlike the leading Northern abolitionist guru Emerson, Southerners never advocated the extinction of African American people. Emerson said that the black people, deprived of the protection of slavery, would become “as rare as the Dodo.” This did not seem to trouble him in the least.
In New York City in 1860 there were women and children working 16-hour days for starvation wages, 150,000 unemployed, 40,000 homeless, 600 brothels (some with girls as young as 10), and 9,000 grog shops where the poor could temporarily drown their sorrows. Half the children in the city did not live past the age of five (unlike slave children in the South). At the same time there were ostentatiously rich men---speculators in government bonds and currency and bank and railroad stocks--- who kept race horses and mistresses, dined every day on thick steaks at Delmonico’s, lit their cigars with $50 dollar greenbacks, and when the war came enjoyed great profits and draft exemptions. No wonder that the New York city draft rioters attacked mansions of the wealthy and Republican newspapers.
Many planters had been to New York. Some had seen the slums of London. They could not be patient with the constant infamy heaped on them by malicious outsiders without a single constructive suggestion to make. They might feel some disquiet over the evils of slavery. But that encouraged them follow St. Paul’s instruction to be good Christian masters to good Christian servants.
The slavery that ended more than a century and a half ago has still today a powerful emotionally-driven presence in American public discourse. Some of those who talk “slavery” use it as a weaponised word. They have no knowledge, understanding, or interest in what life was like in past times for Americans, black or white. Some historical perspective is needed.
Before the invention of labour-saving machinery, beginning in Britain in the later 1700s, the master-servant relationship was normal in almost every human society. Terminology and circumstances might differ in law and custom, but it was primarily a matter of the control and use of labour. Servitude was the everyday condition of great numbers of people who did most of the world’s hard and dirty work.
Servitude is commonplace in the Bible. Forms of slavery flourished in Greece and Rome in their greatest days of cultural excellence. In the Islamic world slavery was everywhere, with blacks from East Africa and whites from Southern and Eastern Europe. Developed Asian civilisations were rife with servitude. For half a millennium many of our European forebears were serfs, tied to a piece of land to be worked for its owner. Until quite recent times a large part of the European populations were servants or dependent peasants with no more real freedom from labour and inferior status than African-American slaves.
Contrary to what most Americans seem to think today, slavery of black people flourished in black Africa for as long as we are able to find record---longer than in any other part of the world. The United Nations reports that it still exists today in some corners. Authoritarian chieftainship and tribal warfare were endemic in SubSaharan Africa despite some industrious historians’ fanciful portrayal of advanced civilisations.
None of us, I think, have a claim on current society for what may have happened to our forebears eight or more generations ago.
When the discovery and settlement of the New World began in the 1500s, there was immense demand for labour. Daring and skillful Portuguese sailors had made Europe familiar with black Africa. Labour demand was met by African chiefs from their captives and often from their own people. Slaves were black Africa’s primary product and export. The coastal trading stations were African institutions.
Those who want to blame the U.S. South as the chief or only sinner in regard to slavery sometimes quibble over words. For instance claiming that “servants” in the Bible does not mean “slaves.” But as John Adams pointed out to Thomas Jefferson, “slave” was just a word while the condition of the labouring poor in the North could scarcely be differentiated from that of Southern blacks. Despite the false information conveyed by television, John Adams was never an abolitionist. The abolitionist Wendell Phillips discovered a boy working in a stable in Boston who did not know that he was not a slave.
Nobody knows for sure how many black Africans were transmitted to the New World from the 1600s to the 1800s---perhaps 5 million. For Americans it is quite relevant that less than 5 per cent of this traffic was to British North America. In North America the black population from the beginning increased abundantly, at a rate almost equal to the white, suggesting relatively good conditions. In 1780 the African American population was 566,000. In 1860 it was 4.4 million.
Just before the Revolution slavery was increasing in many of the Northern colonies. Slaves were 10 per cent of the New York population and household slaves were commonplace in affluent Connecticut households, including clergy. Timothy Dwight, president of Yale, wrote a long poem about how much happier the slaves were in Connecticut than elsewhere. Massachusetts had the first legal regulations for slaves. Newport, Rhode Island, was one of the world’s major ports for the international slave trade.
At the end of the Revolution Massachusetts was the only one of the 13 States that had acted officially against bondage. For most of the North emancipation was gradual through the earlier 1800s, leaving plenty of time for masters to move their people to the rich sugar fields of Louisiana and Cuba. There were still a few black slaves in New Jersey on the eve of the War between the States.
Upper South colonists had no need for and wanted to terminate continued importations, but the interest of British traders prevailed in London. Blacks continued to flourish by natural increase in the South. The only fall-off in the black reproduction rate and living standards during American history came in the half-century after emancipation with a 10 per cent drop in health and longevity, as is clear in the vital statistics of 1900.
There is indication that the first Africans imported into Virginia had the customary English status of indentured servants, indentures expiring after a stated number of years. But by the middle of the 1600s the permanent bonding of Africans had been established in the English colonies through law and custom. This was official in 1655 when the free black man Anthony Johnson demanded and received permanent service from black man John Casor in the Northampton County, Virginia, Court. Casor claimed that his indenture had expired and he was free but was overruled in favour of his black master.
In writing the Constitution, a deal between New England slave-trading interests and South Carolina and Georgia provided that the foreign slave trade might remain open until 1808. At the end of that period, the international slave trade was declared illegal by the U.S., with a large majority of Southern support. The British had already proclaimed it banned and began to interdict it with their mastery of the seas. African American population continued a massive natural increase but newcomers arrived in the U.S. only with smuggling or when residents in new territory like the Louisiana Purchase were confirmed in their property.
While the African population grew exponentially in North America, that was not the case in South America and the Caribbean where the slave population tended to be used up and need constant replenishing. Every maritime European nation engaged in the cross-Atlantic slave trade and had African slaves in its New World colonies. Most African-Americans would not exist today if their ancestors had not come to North America in bondage and enjoyed relatively healthy conditions of living. African-American slavery existed for three centuries because it worked.
Another trick used to make the South the chief villain in the slavery story, is the claim that in the Catholic Latin colonies were better than North America in the treatment of slaves. It is perhaps true that manumission was easier and the colour bar, though present (as it still is) was less evident than in Protestant colonies, but the vital statistics of a need for continuing replacement in the Catholic colonies tell the real story.
The illegal shipping of persons from Africa, now equivalent to piracy, continued for long after 1808. The primary entrepreneurs in this trade were Spanish, Portuguese, and New Englanders, all engaging in the slave traffic from Africa past the middle of the 1800s. It was a dangerous enterprise because Africa was a source of deadly diseases for white men, but it was also extremely profitable. It was the foundation of many Northern fortunes. The endowment of Brown University came from this trade as did funds that bankrolled Daniel Webster’s “nationalist” legal and political career. Northerners continued bringing black slaves to Cuba and Brazil right up to the War for Southern Independence at the same time as abolitionist propaganda flourished in their home country. Some New Englanders owned slaves in Cuba after emancipation in the United States.
The history of this trade provides a number of interesting incidents. The great Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morrison relates that the African who led the well-known slave revolt on the ship Amistad, after he was freed in the U.S., returned to Africa and became a slave trader himself. There were not a lot of other entrepreneurial opportunities available.
Henry A. Wise, subsequently governor of Virginia and a Confederate general, while he was U.S. Charge’ d’Affaires in Brazil in the 1840s, worked hard against the American, i.e. New England, shippers who were bringing fresh slaves into that country, a crime for American citizens.
In 1860 a U.S. Navy vessel near the coast of Cuba intercepted a slave ship, the Echo from Rhode Island. There were 400 Africans on board, in miserable condition, the mortality rate on the voyage having been 30%. The U.S. vessel that captured the slave ship was commanded by John N. Maffitt who a few short years later would be an outstanding Confederate Navy officer. The captain and owner of the Echo was Edward Townsend, a well educated man from an affluent Providence, Rhode Island family.
Townsend claimed he had saved the Africans from death in their own land, which may well have been true, and he let slip that he expected to make $130,000 from the voyage, a staggering sum in those days. The Southerner Maffitt took the criminal Yankee Townsend to the Northern-born U.S. judge in Key West. That judge refused to take jurisdiction over the Echo for its U.S. and international crime and directed the case to Boston, the supposed point of origin of the voyage. Townsend had “friends” and the Boston judge allowed him to walk free.
Meanwhile, the Echo and its captives were sent to Charleston where they were received sympathetically and provided with food and clothing. I once read an ignorant leftist novel which portrays Charlestonians chortling crudely over having new slaves. But that is not what happened. The U.S. Attorney James Conner, who was later to lose a leg fighting in the Confederate army, was unable to get hold of Townsend who had been sent to Boston to be freed, but prosecuted the crew of the slave ship. One “historian” falsely states that the Africans were made slaves in South Carolina. In fact, they were returned to their homeland, though most did not want to go. In Charleston they were treated well and supplied with their needs.
In the late antebellum period a few Southerners touted the idea of re-opening the slave trade---as a way of irritating the Yankees and affirming the solidity of their society. However, such ideas were overwhelmingly crushed by Southern public opinion and the Confederate Constitution unequivocally banned slave importations.
Many people over generations have believed that entering into Western Civilisation and Christianity, even in a subordinate status, was a net benefit for Africans. Las Casas, the Spanish Bishop of the Indies in the 1500s, preached against the enslavement of Indians but thought that slavery was a benefit for Africans. The Episcopal bishop of Vermont wrote just before the war that never in history had so much been done for the uplift of Africans as by the American South.
If all white Americans were racists in today’s terms, why are historic white Southerners the only people so guilty that their monuments are marked “racist” and destroyed? After all, Southerners lived with African Americans for generations in a relationship that was not entirely negative while they were virtually absent from the rest of the United States.
Not to mention that only in Western civilization, and certainly not in Africa, did emancipation become a moral imperative. Christianity and monogamous marriage were not African institutions.
Westerners believed in white supremacy. Western civilization, the greatest achievement of mankind so far, was white. No other attitude was conceivable in the realities of the time. Non-whites they encountered were either savages or of very strange cultures.
People in those days did not feel a drive to “fix” reality, a mode of thinking that only appeared in the West in the 19th century. The only disagreement was over whether the superiority was permanent or could be changed, a subject of speculation by Jefferson. Southerners were guided by everyday experience—abolitionists by abstract theories of right.
White supremacy was not a conspiracy for oppression but simply an everyday taken-for-granted assumption. The first U.S. immigration law limited citizenship to white persons. The Great Emancipator, two years before he was elected President, avowed to a great crowd that the races were different and where they had to live together he favoured the dominance of the white race to which he belonged.
Earlier, Lincoln in his eulogy for his hero, the slaveowner Henry Clay, praised Clay’s endorsement of the “moral fitness” of sending the black population back to their African homeland. He approved Clay’s expectation that the return of blacks to Africa bringing civilisation would be “a signal blessing” to Africans.
African slavery in North America was never static. Like most human social institutions, it changed over time. It evolved, generally in an ameliorative direction. It was milder and the bonds were loser in 1860, after frontier conditions had been settled down, than had been the reality in the tough early colonies. Black and white Southerners had lived together for two centuries before the War Between the States and were the only Americans who had grown familiar with each other.
Slavery involved several million people over 10 or so generations and a vast territory, the greater part of what was the antebellum United States. You can find an example of anything you want to find. However, it is proper for our understanding to consider the general life of Southern blacks and whites at a particular time rather than chosen examples.
Americans would be much better off if they learned to distinguish fact from fiction in our political discourse. Unfortunately, we have descended to the lowest common denominator where meaningless labels take the place of illuminating public discussion on the realities of government. “The New Frontier,” “the Great Society,” “a Thousand Points of Light,” “Making America Great Again.” What can this mean? “Great” has no definition. It is an empty word designed to make us somehow feel better.
Labels are invented by politicians and their PR men. Washington and Jefferson did not need them. Labels are designed to avoid facing any real issues. Bringing up real issues, even vital ones, are a danger to politicians because they upset their comfortable status quo and threaten their profit and prestige with popular unrest. Politicians’ perspectives are always short-term---keeping their place---the latest poll or brown bag full of unmarked bills more important than service to their clueless voters.
Republican politicians are museum quality specimens of this, intellectually and morally shallow empty suits spouting slogans made up by central party PR experts. When Neil Kumar in an Arkansas primary brought up the issue of dangerous immigration, the incumbent empty suit Republican could only reply that America is a land of immigrants and we needed new ideas and blood---avoidance of the actual living issue. Democrats sometimes actually believe in their platforms, Republicans never.
“Settlers” who at some risk develop a new society in a wilderness are not the same thing as “immigrants” who take up residence in a society built by others that has a developed welfare system.
Loving one’s people and land (patriotism) is not the same thing as exalting one’s government (nationalism). You can love America without confusing it with the U.S. government. The two things are often contradictory. But, alas, this shallow notion is widespread.
Defending the country is not the same as forcing “global democracy” around the world, although this confusion is widespread, based on the delusive labeling of America as a uniquely virtuous government.
Being ruled by bankers, party politicians, judges, and mass media owners, as we are today, is not the same thing as “government of, by, and for the people.” Alas, it may be unavoidable in a “Democracy” with “diversity” rather than civic virtue. Diversity is another label without any real content, vaguely suggesting a supposed good which contradicts all historical experience.
Patience and charity toward troublesome minority groups is not the same thing, and in fact is the opposite of, giving them everything their empowered leaders ask for.
Corporate capitalism is not an expression of free enterprise, but its enemy.
Our friend Neil Kumar conducted a bold and energetic campaign in the Arkansas primary elections for a Republican nomination to a U.S. House seat. Not unexpectedly, he lost. Here is his official statement.
What is most interesting about this matter is the behaviour of Establishment Republicans, confirming how afraid they are of ideas and issues. Republicans must maintain their “respectability.” They must never allow a real issue to intrude into public discussion. That might make the clueless voters restless and threaten their profit and prestige. Democrats are not afraid of issues. That is why Republicans are utterly useless and always have to be for the latest Democrat fad, just respectably less so.
Kumar’s incumbent Republican opponent is an Empty Suit carbon copy of most Republican members of Congress. Kumar brought up the need for an immigration moratorium. All the opponent could say is that “America is a nation of immigrants,” a half-truth slogan from early in the previous century. He added that if immigration is cut down “no fresh ideas, no new blood can come into this country.”
Everything this fellow had to say is meaningless words invented by PR men of the central Republican party. This man has never given one minute’s thought to the issue that Kumar brought up or probably any other real issue. Or given one minute’s thought to what his country needs to address. That might be controversial and upset the comfortable status quo. Obviously the current immigration situation is unprecedented in American history, a new issue, and cannot be answered with pleasant bromides of earlier time. And are Americans incapable of fresh ideas and have to be continually enlightened by foreigners? Must we be forever a country of immigrants and not a real country? And what about the morality of continually robbing poor countries of their educated people? Ask the growing company of unemployed Americans. Foreign tech people are no better than Americans. They have no new ideas—they are just cheaper and more docile.
Neil Kumar was a recent candidate for Congress from Arkansas.
A trusted friend recently asked if I had seen the film “The Siege of Ruby Ridge.” I had not before but took the opportunity to do so. Considering that Hollywood is a lie factory, the film seems fairly honest, as far as one can tell.
Let’s always remember the facts. Federal agents, in a clear case of entrapment, made a charge against Randy Weaver in an attempt to coerce him to testify against others, which he refused. He failed to comply with an order to appear in federal court, knowing that he would be imprisoned or coerced.
Six Federal marshals, heavily armed and in camo and body armor, invaded the Weaver’s land. The did not announce themselves as law officers on legitimate duty. One agent blew a hole in the back of the Weavers’ 14-year-old son as he was retreating. A friend living with the Weavers killed the shooter.
The death of a federal officer incited even more brutal reprisal. The Weaver homestead was soon surrounded and besieged by 200 “law officers” from six different agencies, with armoured vehicles. Federal officials changed the rules of engagement to allow their people to kill on sight. A foreign mercenary, hired and trained by the U.S. government, firing from concealment, murdered Vicki Weaver.
Remember: Mrs. Weaver, an American woman against whom there were no charges, was standing in the doorway of her home holding her baby when she was murdered by the U.S. government. It is hard to imagine any more flagrant abuse of citizens by federal power. In a sane and free society Vicki Weaver would have a monument and a commemorative postage stamp. In later court testimony, the assassin seemed satisfied with his act.
The siege continued for a week. Besieged were Randy Weaver and his friend, both wounded, and three little girls, one an infant. The besieged finally surrendered and Weaver was later exonerated in court. None of the federal murderers received any punishment.
Along with the later murders by federal agents at Waco, the truth ought to have sunk in. Federal agents can freely kill innocent people if the people have been demonized by the press as right wing. If you are a normal American, an unwoke and disobedient “deplorable” as Hillary Clinton put it, or one of Obama’s contemptible people who cling to their guns and Bibles, remember you are fair game.
The Library of Congress sells reproductions of the “three most important” American historical documents: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The first two are about self-government of the people. The third is an unconstitutional executive order designed to encourage murder of Americans who did not obey federal power under the Republican party. It did not free a single person.
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