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"Slavery, or the 'Peculiar Institution'" Topic


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Au pas de Charge16 Jun 2021 8:56 a.m. PST

I think his question was rhetorical. After all, the answer is in the forae header:

The American Civil War Message Boards allows members to share their thoughts in the American Civil War period.

I would say that slavery is certainly something that fits this category.

But, i think he knows that and I suspect his comments were more about his discomfort with the topic. I think this can be determined by his introduction of Critical Race Theory as a, presumably, ludicrous next step and last straw.

That would be unfortunate not only because it would suggest he doesnt like being reminded about slavery (especially the race element)as a factor in the war but that CRT is also something he thinks should not be discussed. Although as a topic CRT theory may not belong on this board, it is also a concept under siege by organizations which themselves often whine about being censored. Ironically, the poster may be both channeling and exposing their own intolerance of ideas by making the personal assumption that CRT is inappropriate and thus needs to be shut down which in turn suggests that free speech is a one way street. It's unfortunate for him.

In any case, the question isn't really whether it can be discussed but as you indicate whether because it is allowed does that mean it can invade every single topic here. We should be happy it has its own unique thread

doc mcb16 Jun 2021 9:00 a.m. PST

"James Buchanan was president from 1857 to 1861." That is a fact BECAUSE it is true.

"James Buchanan was our worst president." That is an OPINION. It may or not be true, though if the statement were changed to "ONE of our worst presidents" it would be pretty easy to defend.

"James Buchanan's poor decisions and passivity in the face of the secession crisis helped bring on the Civil War." That is a bit more than an opinion, but not quite a fact; it is a narrative, which is readily supportable by citing specific poor decisions and failures to act. It is certainly MOSTLY true. (Of course, MOSTLY true is FALSE, logically.) One could construct a narrative that makes poor old James look less awful as president, and reasonable people might argue about which narrative is closer to the truth.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jun 2021 11:34 a.m. PST

That is a fact BECAUSE it is true.

I would say, rather, that it is true because it is a fact. And that is what historical inquiry is about-to discern historical facts and arrive at a conclusion.

Again, see the quote regarding 'truth' and facts by Henry Adams.

Further, taking a look at Webster's Dictionary appears to settle the matter:

Definition of fact:

1a: something that has actual existence.

b: an actual occurrence.

2: a piece of information presented as having objective reality.

3: the quality of being actual: a question of fact hinges on evidence

doc mcb16 Jun 2021 11:44 a.m. PST

No. "Actual" and "reality" are synonymous with "truth."

Au pas de Charge16 Jun 2021 12:17 p.m. PST

It's interesting that because the Founders kicked the slavery issue down the road, many ordinary Americans might've seen that as a stamp of Founders' approval to slavery.

Facts and truths can exist at different levels. It might be true that Mary Chesapeake or whomever wrote a letter but who knows what the reason was? Maybe right after finishing it, she kicked a slave down the stairs? Maybe there were a party of rich abolitionists visiting and she wanted to seem more a cutting edge liberal, maybe she was engaging in creative writing. We're confusing the fact that she wrote that with the truth that she believed its contents. You don't think there's a letter from a Nazi camp commandant somewhere that expresses some regrets? Does that mean it's a fact that some were nice people? Instead of finding a random bit of evidence you believe is important, try and tell us what you're trying to assert and why you think that's the case.

You're not alone on here with confused approaches to research, truths, facts, sweeping conclusions.

I've seen some appallingly flimsy analyses mostly based around what people want to see or believe. I am not immune to this shortfall myself but rationalize it all a just chit-chat. I also don't make assertions that something is irrefutable fact and others need to disprove it.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2021 2:40 a.m. PST

As a great footnote and development from the abolishing of slavery in the United States a bill was passed in Congress yesterday officially making 19 June, or as it is popularly known 'Juneteenth' a national holiday.

It marks the day that slaves in Texas found out they were finally free and it erased the last vestiges of slavery in the United States.

This Saturday will be the first observance of the new national holiday.

doc mcb17 Jun 2021 3:31 a.m. PST

Charge, at least try to get the facts straight. It was Mary Chesnut's diary, which is quite famous and has been used by many different historians studying various aspects of southern thought and culture and society.

And conflating her with a Nazi camp commander is reprehensible.

As to the Founders and slavery, yes and no; contrast Jefferson's powerful condemnation of slavery in NOTES, and his action against it in the land ordinances, with his failure to free his slaves (which would have been a heavy financial blow, but also, as GW's experience indicated, an extraordinarily difficult thing to do without harming the very people he was helping.)

It is easy, facile, cheap, to blithely condemn past generations for failing to meet OUR exalted understanding of matters, particularly when OUR understanding stems in part from THEIR own experiences and contributions.

Morality plays are satisfying to some, I suppose, and useful as weapons, but they are not good history.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2021 4:07 a.m. PST

And Adams is still wrong, and facts that are not truthful are not facts.

First part no; second part yes. Adams is right on the money regarding 'truth' and 'facts.'

Perhaps you have an example of an 'untruthful fact'? I've never come across one of those…

doc mcb17 Jun 2021 5:19 a.m. PST

All facts are true, but not all truth is simply factual.

Statements of morality are not mere opinion. That murder is a moral wrong is TRUE. If a human society passes laws declaring that it is okay to kill a certain class of people, that does not make it okay; it simply means those laws are unjust as contrary to moral law, and may be judged accordingly.

What do men argue about?, questioned Plato. We do not argue about whether it is raining outside; we open a window and look. We do not argue about which piece of string is longer; we stretch them out and measure. The conclusions of observation and measurement -- what we call science -- are objective facts, but utterly inadequate for answering what we NEED to answer: what is right and what is wrong in a particular case or situation? Moral truths exist, and derive from something far more basic than observation and measurement.

Au pas de Charge17 Jun 2021 6:09 a.m. PST

Charge, at least try to get the facts straight. It was Mary Chesnut's diary, which is quite famous and has been used by many different historians studying various aspects of southern thought and culture and society.

Did I get the facts wong? I thought they were hypotheticals and conjecture?

And conflating her with a Nazi camp commander is reprehensible.

Which one of them would be more insulted?

Statements of morality are not mere opinion. That murder is a moral wrong is TRUE.
It's been frequently said that war is murder, is that also true?

It is easy, facile, cheap, to blithely condemn past generations for failing to meet OUR exalted understanding of matters, particularly when OUR understanding stems in part from THEIR own experiences and contributions.

In some cases it is appropriate to judge the past, especially when it is OUR past. We are not speaking about ancient Egyptians flouncing around nude and judging them unfairly by modern morals but rather judging people who have contributed to current and ongoing national issues and who still serve as monuments to those who think they did no wrong and were, indeed, justified in what they did.

Additionally, many want their (Founders, past generations etc) morals, laws and the like to shape our behavior today; that they were wise and all knowing. Now, if they can tell us how to live, surely we can judge them according to evolving enlightenment.

I do have sympathy for this losing proposition that we cannot judge our past by modern standards. It's a terrible and fraught line to walk for those who fear change and adaptation; that at the same time that they want ideas like Founders Intent to be immutable, inflexible and dogmatic, they have to contend with all the Founders (and our other forbears) moral shortcomings and that creates a true crisis. They are thus forced to fabricate arguments such as "we cant judge the Founders by our standards." But, really, we can.

It is also why apologists scramble to rationalize confederate behaviors with odd modern comparisons such as "Other nations got rid of slavery even later"; an argument never made by antebellum Southerners. I understand that these rationalizations sound good to those desperate to halt change and maintain the pretense that the nation's always been perfect but to the rest of us, the attendant lapses in logic to cover up selfish behaviors makes our forbears' moral crises appear worse by degrees.

doc mcb17 Jun 2021 8:21 a.m. PST

My goodness. Lots of assumptions there, on your part, about motives. Enjoy the glow of your own righteousness.

lkmjbc317 Jun 2021 10:20 a.m. PST

It isn't just the righteousness… it is the straw-men and self-contradictions.

A question for the group.

Is slavery a sin?
Why is slavery a sin?
What makes it so?

Joe Collins

doc mcb17 Jun 2021 12:17 p.m. PST

Slavery is a sin because humans are made in God's image (imago dei) and have, individually, infinite worth. No person may rightfully USE another as a means to his own end. It is also a sin because power corrupts, and no one is virtuous to withstand the temptations of owning another.

Au pas de Charge18 Jun 2021 4:22 a.m. PST

Slavery is a sin because humans are made in God's image

And the way to absolve a sin is to confess and repent. When the country comes to grips with its legacy of slavery, lets go of all the denial, gives itself a hug and makes amends, then it will be ready to move forward into the light.

Au pas de Charge18 Jun 2021 4:24 a.m. PST

It isn't just the righteousness… it is the straw-men and self-contradictions.

I am always sympathetic that when someone doesn't have a persuasive counterargument to something threatening but still feels the need to comment, they resort to vague and irrational dismissal.

doc mcb18 Jun 2021 6:10 a.m. PST

What denial? There ARE things we need to repent of (evils as great as slavery which are now ongoing) but the abolition of slavery is not one of them. We paid a horrendous price in blood to end it. Is there ANYONE sane who thinks slavery was okay? Only in the imagination of some, I think.

doc mcb18 Jun 2021 6:11 a.m. PST

Charge, at least try to get the facts straight. It was Mary Chesnut's diary, which is quite famous and has been used by many different historians studying various aspects of southern thought and culture and society.
Did I get the facts wong? I thought they were hypotheticals and conjecture?

And conflating her with a Nazi camp commander is reprehensible.
Which one of them would be more insulted?

Statements of morality are not mere opinion. That murder is a moral wrong is TRUE.
It's been frequently said that war is murder, is that also true?

Vague and irrational dismissal like this? Physician, heal thyself.

lkmjbc318 Jun 2021 9:10 a.m. PST

Doc writes:
"Is there ANYONE sane who thinks slavery was okay?"

I can't answer this today. I can answer, "yes" for people in 1860s.

This is the crux of the problem. Many people then didn't see slavery as immoral. They had an argument as Christians. Nowhere is slavery proscribed in Christian scripture. It is in fact embedded in the imagery of the New Testament. Slave are commanded to obey their masters.

Philemon wasn't castigated for his ownership of Oneimus. The Spirit didn't call for Philemon's ouster or punishment. Oneimus wasn't freed by force (if he was freed at all), he was returned. Paul's request was that Oneimus be seen as a brother.

So, we have a society at a moral loggerhead. Many people of faith, learning and great intelligence in the 19th century didn't see slavery as a problem. They saw it as the natural order of things.

The answer to this of course was a war that slaughtered perhaps 500k people.

A better approach would have been that conveyed to us through Paul.

The marrying of revealed truth with Greek thought is fraught with danger. The current Pope Emeritus has written on this (though… Physician heal thyself indeed!) We must be careful when we assign a telos to history and judge the past according to it.

Others have done this. The fruits are bitter.

Joe Collins

doc mcb18 Jun 2021 10:38 a.m. PST

I agree with Joe. Scripture speaks constantly of us, humans, as God's servants/slaves. At the Anunciation, when the angel told Mary what was to happen, her reply (that King James renders as "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord") was literally, "I am the Lord's slave girl."

But of course total submission to God does not imply anything about our submission as humans to one another. (Except that believers, as members of the Body, are to submit to one another.) In Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, as He transcends such human categories. One sees this -- though maybe you have to look hard -- in Philemon; Paul is not endorsing slavery, he is merely saying it does not ultimately matter.

Though it is certainly POSSIBLE to make a case based on Scripture for tolerating slavery, the case against it is stronger. Paul said, if you are a slave don't worry about it; God doesn't care, but also said, of course if you see a chance to be free, grab it!

doc mcb18 Jun 2021 10:40 a.m. PST

1 Corinthians 7: 20Each one should remain in the situation he was in when he was called. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let it concern you— but if you can gain your freedom, take the opportunity. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman. Conversely, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave.…

Blutarski18 Jun 2021 3:14 p.m. PST

While I would clearly not under any circumstances select a lifetime of slavery as a career choice, human servitude has existed in various degrees throughout recorded human history. Every race has both practiced slavery and been its victim. Numbers of my ancestors labored in servitude under the Ottoman Turks over the six centuries during which they held sway over the Grecian peninsula. In fact, slavery is still practiced today in parts of this world

These sanctimonious retrospective virtue-signaling exercises seem to show up with clockwork regularity on the ACW thread. Why exactly is that? In order to provide some well-deserved diversity and equity to the topic, I propose that the next moral chest-thumping consciousness-raising session be posted on the Napoleonics and/or the Eighteenth Century pages to honor the vastly greater numbers of African slaves who labored and suffered under their English, French and Spanish masters in the Caribbean as well as the world-champion exploiters of African slave labor – the Portuguese in Brazil.

B

doc mcb18 Jun 2021 5:12 p.m. PST

It is not very just to chastise men for the offences of their natural ancestors; but to take the fiction of ancestry in a corporate succession, as a ground for punishing men who have no relation to guilty acts, except in names and general descriptions, is a sort of refinement in injustice belonging to the philosophy of this enlightened age. . .
Edmund Burke, REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE

Au pas de Charge18 Jun 2021 7:18 p.m. PST

Slavery may have been considered alright to the ancient empires but the Bible cant have had just one opinion. For instance, how do we square the Jewish delivery from Egyptian Bondage? There is no moral tale about slavery being wrong there?

Certainly antebellum Americans of all types knew of this story.

What about all the slave revolts? Maybe they didn't share their masters' opinions that slavery wasn't OK. What about the South;s obsession with militias to guard against slkave revolts? If they thought slavery was so natural and wonderful then why did they not assume the slaves were also delighted to be slaves?

And this Mary Chestnut example tends to indicate that the South collectively knew better and had access to different opinions about slavery but figured they could get away with it. Frankly, she doesn't vindicate them but rather makes their behavior seem worse. Thus, when it came to slavery, they knew better, but because they were enjoying it, they just didnt want to know better.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2021 2:44 a.m. PST

Slaveholders in the South 'justified' slavery by the use of religion and the Bible.

As for the South's obsession with States' Rights, they were more than happy, exuberant in fact, that the Fugitive Slave Law was passed by Congress and became US law.

And the wealth of the South was held by a relative few, and those few were slaveholders.

doc mcb19 Jun 2021 4:28 a.m. PST

I agree with most of the last two posts. Except I don't think the South saw slavery so much as something they could get away with, as something they were trapped in. Big difference.

doc mcb19 Jun 2021 4:48 a.m. PST

Here's CHESNUT (no T) on UNCLE TOM'S CABIN:
March 13
Read Uncle Tom's Cabin again. These negro women have a chance here that women have nowhere else. They can redeem themselves – the "impropers" can. They can marry decently, and nothing is remembered against these colored ladies. It is not a nice topic, but Mrs. Stowe revels in it. How delightfully Pharisaic a feeling it must be to rise superior and fancy we are so degraded as to defend and like to live with such degraded creatures around us – such men as Legree and his women.
        The best way to take negroes to your heart is to get as far away from them as possible. As far as I can see, Southern women do all that missionaries could do to prevent and alleviate evils. The social evil (Doc: she means prostitution) has not been suppressed in old England or in New England, in London or in Boston. People in those places expect more virtue from a plantation African than they can insure in practise among themselves with all their own high moral surroundings – light, education, training, and support. Lady Mary Montagu says, "Only men and women at last." "Male and female, created he them," says the Bible. There are cruel, graceful, beautiful mothers of angelic Evas North as well as South, I dare say. The Northern men and women who came here were always hardest, for they expected an African to work and behave as a white man. We do not.
        I have often thought from observation truly that perfect beauty hardens the heart, and as to grace, what so graceful as a cat, a tigress, or a panther. Much love, admiration, worship hardens an idol's heart. It becomes utterly callous and selfish. It expects to receive all and to give nothing. It even likes the excitement of seeing people suffer. I speak now of what I have watched with horror and amazement.
        Topsys I have known, but none that were beaten or ill-used. Evas are mostly in the heaven of Mrs. Stowe's imagination. People can't love things dirty, ugly, and repulsive, simply because they ought to do so, but they can be good to them at a distance; that's easy. You see, I can not rise very high; I can only judge by what I see.

     "I hate slavery. I hate a man who – You say there are no more fallen women on a plantation than in London in proportion to numbers. But what do you say to this – to a magnate who runs a hideous black harem, with its consequences, under the same roof with his lovely white wife and his beautiful and accomplished daughters? He holds his head high and poses as the model of all human virtues to these poor women whom God and the laws have given him. From the height of his awful majesty he scolds and thunders at them as if he never did wrong in his life. Fancy such a man finding his daughter reading Don Juan. 'You with that immoral book!' he would say, and then he would order her out of his sight. You see Mrs. Stowe did not hit the sorest spot. She makes Legree a bachelor."

doc mcb19 Jun 2021 5:03 a.m. PST

Here's the research paper I used to assign on plantation slavery:
PAPER ON PLANTATION SLAVERY

TOPIC: How is plantation slavery best described: as school, as prison or concentration camp, as efficient business, or as paternalistic extended family?

I will lecture on these four views as expressed in four important books:

I. Ulrich B. Phillips, AMERICAN NEGRO SLAVERY (1910): link described the plantation system as a school in which Africans were taught civilization, benefitting both races.

II. Kenneth Stampp, THE PECULIAR INSTITUTION (1956): link described the plantation system as a prison or concentration camp in which slaves were brainwashed and reduced to dependency.

III. Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, TIME ON THE CROSS: THE ECONOMICS OF AMERICAN NEGRO SLAVERY (1974): link described plantations as efficient businesses who treated workers well because it aided productivity.

IV. Eugene Genovese, ROLL JORDAN ROLL: THE WORLD THE SLAVES MADE (1974): link described the plantation system as paternalistic feudal system; slaves did not resist their status as slaves, but did exert a good bit of control over the CONDITIONS of slavery. Genovese preferred Phillips to Stampp; he said Phillips' racism gave him some insights; he saw a little of the truth. Stampp, on the other hand, was looking in the wrong direction.

Fogle and Engerman use radically different sources and techniques from Genovese, but both agree that planters generally treated slaves relatively well, though for different reasons.

You should read the wikipedia entries linked to above.

Before you continue to the next step, be sure you understand these four divergent interpretations. YOU DO NOT NEED TO EXPLAIN OR DESCRIBE THESE FOUR BOOKS OR INTERPRETATIONS, except perhaps in the briefest way. You may assume that the reader is familiar with them. Do not waste time or words telling me what I have just told you.

Once you are clear on the four alternative views, it is time to look at some primary documents.

Go to link These are the slave narratives from the Federal Writers Project of 1936-38. There are 2000+ interviews with people who were born into slavery. Most of them were in their 90s when interviewed.

READ at least 20 of these, and preferably more. It would be good to select a category: men only, women only, Tennessee and another state only, etc. As you read each narrative, identify statements and attitudes that support one or more of the four views of plantation slavery. (BE CAREFUL to use narratives that reflect life on a plantation; urban slavery was a substantially different phenomenon and some of these narratives are from former slaves who mainly lived in southern cities.

These "bottom up" slave narratives will be the main sources for your analysis. However, I will also send you a file from Mary Chesnut's diary with a lot of primary material. Chestnut link was a wealthy planter's wife who hated slavery but owned many slaves. Her husband was a Confederate general, Jefferson Davis' military secretary. Her view is obviously from a completely different perspective than the slave narratives, but you may find they agree on some points. You should read the Chestnut material carefully and must incorporate it into your paper.

So, take this primary source material — the slaves narratives and Chesnut's diary — and use it to test the validity of the four interpretations of what life on plantations was like. Your paper will probably be structured in one of two ways: you could take each interpretation in turn and discuss to what extent it was and was not supported by the sources; OR, you could take one source at a time and analyze it in terms of the four interpretations.

GET STARTED! You can show me work even if it is only half done. Don't wait until the end to find out you are doing it wrong!

Au pas de Charge19 Jun 2021 6:12 a.m. PST

That's interesting about Eugene Genovese; his journey from young, rabid left winger to old conservative catholic.

The Mary Chestnut bit is interesting too. I see she was something of a feminist.

In any case, as interesting as these snippets are, they fail to address the larger issue which is that because they were trapped in the slavery system or drunk with power, somehow the Nation got itself into a real bind combining slavery with racism. And this isnt a distant social relic, we still see the legacy of slavery/racism today and it affects us all, not just African-Americans. For instance, a hard example, I understand tipping originated when migrating ex-slaves to northern cities couldn't get hired and thus worked restaurants for free, living off whatever people left them. That this endures today suggests that the legacy of forced free labor is one that has to be constantly combated against. As a result of all sorts of social norms formed during our early years as a country, the American workplace has developed into a somewhat exploitative place.

And, again, if we are going to expend all of our discussion on the specifics of slavery without examining the widespread and ongoing social issues it created everywhere, then I can understand why some people want to live in denial that slavery makes things rotten for everyone still, today. That's one of several reasons why it is alright to criticize the past by the standards of today because we are still awash with the fallout of their bad decisions. Further, the apologists prevent a complete refutation and reconciliation.

Now, you barked a little about comparing Nazis to antebellum people but in the Nazi example a complete refutation of their behavior and refusal to accept any apologists on their part has lead to a reconciliation which, when it comes to slavery in America, still eludes us here in the USA. And by the way, I am not holding the South solely liable; the whole country back then was in on the problem.

And, again, I am sure there were all sorts of beneficial mini economies that sprouted up in concentration camps and little kindnesses that took place but it hardly excuses the overall framework of forced labor and death camps nor does anyone say we cannot judge the Nazis by the morals of our own times.

Blutarski19 Jun 2021 7:49 a.m. PST

Doc mcb can quite likely address the following arguments more incisively, but I will nevertheless offer up my own observations for consideration -

Slavery may have been considered alright to the ancient empires but the Bible cant have had just one opinion. For instance, how do we square the Jewish delivery from Egyptian Bondage? There is no moral tale about slavery being wrong there?

Certainly antebellum Americans of all types knew of this story.

The story of the escape of the Jews from Egypt, as told in the Old Testament, was not an indictment of the institution of human bondage; it was simply the story of their escape from bondage. But post-Exodus Judaism actually had no compunctions about the institution of slavery. Go here – link

What about all the slave revolts? Maybe they didn't share their masters' opinions that slavery wasn't OK. What about the South;s obsession with militias to guard against slave revolts? If they thought slavery was so natural and wonderful then why did they not assume the slaves were also delighted to be slaves?

There have been in the past (and even today in our modern "enlightened" age) many such things in life distasteful to their victims – slavery, religious inquisitions, indentured servitude, press gangs, debtor prisons, political gulags, even compulsory military service, for example. In the case of slavery, slave revolts occurred in just about every place and age in which slavery existed. But every single one of the above-cited cases of human oppression/exploitation has existed as a broadly accepted social and political institution at one time or another in the history of mankind. It is an error to assume that moral views of today automatically supersede those of the past on the "morality" scale. Much as I hate to say this, "morality" is IMO a social and economic construct as much as it is a matter of conscience. For example, it is IMO no coincidence that Great Britain's abandonment of Caribbean slavery was an economically driven decision dressed up in the clerical garb of William Wilberforce; the real motivation rested in the collapse of the sugar-cane industry after the maturation of the much cheaper and easier process of industrially extracting sugar from the sugar beet. Go here – link

That did not however effectively end slavery in the British Empire. Slavery remained economically necessary in India and was simply bureaucratically re-classified.

And this Mary Chestnut example tends to indicate that the South collectively knew better and had access to different opinions about slavery but figured they could get away with it. Frankly, she doesn't vindicate them but rather makes their behavior seem worse. Thus, when it came to slavery, they knew better, but because they were enjoying it, they just didnt want to know better.

Let's cut to the chase; otherwise this will go on for 150 pages. Slavery, within the states that permitted it, remained perfectly LEGAL in the United States of America in 1860. No one was "getting away" with anything, except in the view of those who choose to view things retrospectively from a distance of 160 years in the future.

B

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2021 8:04 a.m. PST

Happy Juneteenth to all here. 👍😁

doc mcb19 Jun 2021 8:21 a.m. PST

It is important to distinguish between slavery and racism. Both are bad, and my OPINION is that racism is the worse of the two. Slavery was confined to the south after 1776; racism was and is far more widespread, though it takes different forms. (The old joke was "southern whites didn't care how close blacks got, as long as they didn't get too high. Northern whites didn't care how high blacks got, as long as they didn't get too close.")

But just as slavery was largely assumed and accepted until relatively recently (and of course is still widely practiced today in places), racism was accepted almost until my lifetime (born in 1946) because it was regarded as scientific. It took the Holocaust to disabuse us of that notion.

Both slavery and racism (as embodied in segregation) did great harm to the south. which harm was widely perceived at the time by many; yet both were entrenched strongly enough to require extraordinary efforts to end.

Au pas de Charge19 Jun 2021 10:50 a.m. PST

The story of the escape of the Jews from Egypt, as told in the Old Testament, was not an indictment of the institution of human bondage; it was simply the story of their escape from bondage. But post-Exodus Judaism actually had no compunctions about the institution of slavery. Go here

It doesnt have to be a complete critique of slavery, we're left with an idea that they didnt like being in bondage. Even if they themselves were OK with owning slaves. The story has two sides to it; owning slaves good, being slaves bad.


It is an error to assume that moral views of today automatically supersede those of the past on the "morality" scale. Much as I hate to say this, "morality" is IMO a social and economic construct as much as it is a matter of conscience. For example, it is IMO no coincidence that Great Britain's abandonment of Caribbean slavery was an economically driven decision dressed up in the clerical garb of William Wilberforce; the real motivation rested in the collapse of the sugar-cane industry after the maturation of the much cheaper and easier process of industrially extracting sugar from the sugar beet.

Epiphany can occur after some considerable evolution. Of course, one has to believe in evolution as a theory. The idea that one has to turn on a dime for a moral to possess sincerity is far off the mark.

Let's cut to the chase; otherwise this will go on for 150 pages. Slavery, within the states that permitted it, remained perfectly LEGAL in the United States of America in 1860. No one was "getting away" with anything, except in the view of those who choose to view things retrospectively from a distance of 160 years in the future.

It was legal, eh? You think the Nazis didnt pass all sorts of laws to do their forced labor and murder? I'll guarantee they followed the law more than the South did. Does that make it alright? I suppose some Nazis must've tried to point out to the allies that the holocaust was legal. The Turks just pretend their holocaust never happened.


So is your opinion that it's a dog-eat-dog world and whomever is on top and can pass some law they're good? If the 13th Amendment got repealed and the states re-instituted slavery, that'd be alright by you?

I'd say the Southern brain trust knew it was wrong and came up with the collective mass hysteria that because it was legal it was OK. And yet, for some odd reason, in spite of slavery being perfectly natural and legal, the South lived in a heightened state of paranoia that somebody or something was conspiring to free their slaves.

And once again, we can indeed judge them; 160 years wasnt that long ago. WW2 itself is what 80 years ago? Is anyone going to as much trouble to say that because other people used concentration camps, other people committed genocide, other people degraded people based on race, so really, what was so bad about Nazi behavior…and we cant judge them by today's standards because it was 80 years ago?

I also don't understand why it's better to guide things from the past than the future? The Constitution was written over 200 years ago, do you think it should get completely rewritten because they couldn't possibly have provided for every contingency?

I find it far more disturbing that people want to defend the behavior of 160 years ago than those who want to condemn it.

Au pas de Charge19 Jun 2021 10:53 a.m. PST

Happy Juneteenth to all here. 👍😁

Happy Juneteenth to you as well.

doc mcb19 Jun 2021 12:24 p.m. PST

I do not think anyone is defending slavery.

Which raises a point;

I warn students to beware when a debate is phrased in such a way that there is no one sane or moral on the other side. If an environmentalist claims "We are in favor of clean air and water" your antenna should quiver, because there is no one out there arguing in favor of dirty air or water. What the environmentalst is really saying is "We are in favor of clean air and water NO MATTER WHAT IT COSTS" which is quite a different debate.

If there are no defenders of slavery here, what is the debate REALLY about? I suspect it has more to do with our current culture wars.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2021 12:57 p.m. PST

It is important to distinguish between slavery and racism.

In the long run, as well as the short run, there is no difference. One compliments the other.

Why do you think black Africans were the ones who were enslaved? It is because they were thought to be 'inferior' to whites. That's the bottom line-it's quite simple really.

Blutarski19 Jun 2021 1:17 p.m. PST

It doesnt have to be a complete critique of slavery, we're left with an idea that they didnt like being in bondage. Even if they themselves were OK with owning slaves. The story has two sides to it; owning slaves good, being slaves bad.

Correct.


Epiphany can occur after some considerable evolution. Of course, one has to believe in evolution as a theory. The idea that one has to turn on a dime for a moral to possess sincerity is far off the mark.

Feel free to rationalize your world view in any way that fits your pre-suppositions.


It was legal, eh?

Correct. Trading and ownership of slaves was also legal in Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Ottoman Empire, the Mideast, West Africa, China, Russia, India. You can look it up.


You think the Nazis didnt pass all sorts of laws to do their forced labor and murder? I'll guarantee they followed the law more than the South did. Does that make it alright? I suppose some Nazis must've tried to point out to the allies that the holocaust was legal. The Turks just pretend their holocaust never happened.

Please do not start wagging the Holocaust around; there is zero relationship between slavery and extermination camps. Of course, if you want to point to the slave labor employed by Germany in WW2, then fine; I agree that the Nazis, as punctilious as ever, would have established all manner of rules and regulations to govern the practice.


So is your opinion that it's a dog-eat-dog world and whomever is on top and can pass some law they're good?

Yes; IMO that seems to be pretty much the way of the world. Sometimes the dog on top turns out to be humane and noble; other times (sadly too often IMO) the opposite is the case.


If the 13th Amendment got repealed and the states re-instituted slavery, that'd be alright by you?

I hate to think that you have been reduced to taking such a cheap shot. Perhaps this is this just a miscarried venture into rhetorical device on your part. However, to answer the distasteful question – no, it would indeed be very far from "alright" with me. It appears that you have either lost the plot, or are unable to grasp the distinction being drawn between the institution of <<<slavery>>> as an historical human socio/economic construct and <<<racism>>>.


I'd say the Southern brain trust knew it was wrong and came up with the collective mass hysteria that because it was legal it was OK. And yet, for some odd reason, in spite of slavery being perfectly natural and legal, the South lived in a heightened state of paranoia that somebody or something was conspiring to free their slaves.

If you think that slavery was uniquely a southern phenomenon, I invite you to look into the slaves held in the northern states of the US. To be sure, the numbers were not on the same scale as in the southern states, it was not until the 1840's that slavery really became a rarity in the north. Go here to view the time line – link . On the other hand, the involvement of northern traders and financial speculators in the slave trade is also interesting to examine. Go here – link

The plain fact of the matter is that the American Civil War was not fought "to free the slaves".


And once again, we can indeed judge them; 160 years wasnt that long ago. WW2 itself is what 80 years ago? Is anyone going to as much trouble to say that because other people used concentration camps, other people committed genocide, other people degraded people based on race, so really, what was so bad about Nazi behavior…and we cant judge them by today's standards because it was 80 years ago?

Feel free to cast all the judgments you like; just be cognizant of the fact that they will represent little more than ex post facto virtue signaling exercises totally out of historical context. It is like criticizing Tiberius or Genghis Khan or Louis XIV (or Joseph Stalin) for their failure to embrace the "one man / one vote" principle of governance.


I also don't understand why it's better to guide things from the past than the future? The Constitution was written over 200 years ago, do you think it should get completely rewritten because they couldn't possibly have provided for every contingency?

No one is arguing for a return to the good old days of involuntary human bondage, only that man's moral, ethical and philosophical standards, generally speaking, are not and never have been timeless and immutable truths. Judging the past by the standards of today is an exercise in futility on multiple levels


I find it far more disturbing that people want to defend the behavior of 160 years ago than those who want to condemn it.

Where you say "defend", I say "understand".


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doc mcb19 Jun 2021 1:58 p.m. PST

Kevin, sorry, but that is just wrong. Historically there has been slavery without racism, and today there is racism without slavery. They are distinct not merely by definition but in actual occurence. They obviously CAN be combined, but need not be.

doc mcb19 Jun 2021 2:05 p.m. PST

I think slavery is wrong and has always been wrong, for reasons I cited earlier (imago dei etc). Man's PERCEPTION of right and wrong, and of God, has changed a lot over the millenia. There is moral progress; we understand the sin of slavery more clearly than 2000 years ago. There is also moral decline, as we see in our own society today when the lives of the most vulnerable are destroyed for the convenience of others -- and that is justified by reasoning as specious as any offered in justification of slavery.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2021 3:36 a.m. PST

Kevin, sorry, but that is just wrong. Historically there has been slavery without racism, and today there is racism without slavery. They are distinct not merely by definition but in actual occurence. They obviously CAN be combined, but need not be.

No. Please explain, then, why black Africans were the overwhelming majority of slaves in the Americas? Racism had a lot to do with it as they were thought to be 'inferior' as a race-and that is racism.

And your posting is a circular argument regarding your last sentence. That is a logical fallacy according to David Hackett Fischer in Historian's Fallacies.

doc mcb20 Jun 2021 3:58 a.m. PST

Actually the largest number of slaves in the Americas may have been Indians, with whole populations being enslaved. I assume you are familiar with Las Casas' famous debate in Spain over their status.

But as usual you are missing the point. I said that slavery and racism are distinct things and need not go together, though of course they can and in America DID. Your reply was, in effect, but they DID. Well, yes, I said that. But it is possible to have one without the other.

I do not have to rely on someone else's list to know what is a fallacy. (I will give Fischer's a look, though; I like his books.)

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2021 4:18 a.m. PST

Fischer's book isn't a listing. It's an explanation of the myriad historical fallacies that some authors tend to fall into.

No historian, especially ones who write, should be without it.

doc mcb20 Jun 2021 5:41 a.m. PST

I just looked at it on Amazon. He seems to distinguish "historical fallacies" from 'logical fallacies"? Would ignoring the principle of multiple causation be such a historical fallacy?

Blutarski20 Jun 2021 6:10 a.m. PST

Please explain, then, why black Africans were the overwhelming majority of slaves in the Americas?

There are several reasons for this:
1 – The dominant black native tribes and Arabs of West Africa were quite willing to seize and sell their black tribal neighbors as slaves on a large-scale commercial basis.
2 – The European slave traders (Portuguese, British, Spanish principally) had determined from experience that West African blacks were better adapted to labor and survival in Caribbean and South American climes than other races such as European whites.
3 – West Africa was geographically well positioned to service the main consumer markets for slave labor in the western hemisphere.
4 – West Africa also geographically fit well into the proposition of the "Triangular Trade" pioneered by British merchants. A ship would convey manufactured articles (particularly of iron and steel) from Britain to West Africa, where they were traded for slaves; the ship would transport the newly acquired slaves across the Atlantic, where they were sold to the "end-user" plantation communities; the same ship would then purchase the highly desirable products of the Caribbean plantations (SUGAR, rum, tobacco, for example) and convey them back to England to be sold on the domestic market. It was a highly profitable and efficient trade that made great fortunes for many of the merchants involved and made ports such as Bristol and Liverpool into major trading centers.

Racism had a lot to do with it as they were thought to be 'inferior' as a race-and that is racism.

That is a matter very open to debate IMO. I see no evidence anywhere in the history of world slavery that blacks were uniquely sought out for careers in slavery based solely upon their race. The institution of slavery was an equal opportunity employer governed by availability, cost and suitability to the task/climate. Great Britain, for example, had no moral compunctions about employing indentured servants (what a lovely euphemism) to the American colonies as plantation laborers under similar conditions of servitude; nor did there seem to be any misgivings about transporting whites to Australia to serve as forced laborers.

The Portuguese and Spanish subjugated large numbers of the indigenous populations (those who survived the imported disease epidemics) in /South America.

The Arab slave states happily enslaved any race of people they came across – whites, blacks, Asians, Indians. It is a little appreciated fact that the Barbary states made their living upon slave trade; their slave raids extended not only throughout the Mediterranean, but also up the Atlantic coast of Europe, including Spain, France, Britain, Ireland, even Iceland. Any non-mohammedan was fair game, irrespective of race.


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Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2021 7:48 a.m. PST

I just looked at it on Amazon. He seems to distinguish "historical fallacies" from 'logical fallacies"?

I don't see how you came up with that idea just looking at the book on Amazon. Did you see the book's subtitle? It's Toward a Logic of Historical Thought.

I would suggest getting the book and reading it before making any 'logical' conclusions. The Introduction of the book is in itself quite helpful.

donlowry20 Jun 2021 7:50 a.m. PST

Racism had a lot to do with it as they were thought to be 'inferior' as a race-and that is racism.

That is a valid point. While I agree with what Blutarski said, above, I think he misses that point that -- once enslaved, racism kept the black-African slave enslaved. For they could not, if freed, blend into the surrounding white population. Further, Southern whites justified slavery (or tried to) on the grounds that the blacks were racially inferior and suited only for slavery.

doc mcb20 Jun 2021 7:57 a.m. PST

"How about a little complexity, Scarecrow?!?"

link

Slavery is wicked regardless of what color the master is, but this surely messes up the narrative. The traditional view, contra ours which is racially based, is that slavery was okay as long as YOU were not one.

Cinque, the slave spokesman in AMISTAD, went back to Africa and became a slave trader.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2021 9:29 a.m. PST

link

From the above website, courtesy of the National Park Service:

"In November 1841 Sengbe Pieh returned to Mendeland in present-day Sierra Leone with the other African captives. They were accompanied by missionaries charged with helping them readjust to life in Africa.:

"It is not believed that Pieh ever found his family, as reports say that they perished during an ongoing war. Little is known of what became of Sengbe Pieh after his return to Sierra Leone."

Sengbe Pieh is also known as Joseph Cinque.

More on Sengbe Pieh:

link

doc mcb20 Jun 2021 10:03 a.m. PST

Cinqué and the other Mende reached their homeland in 1842. In Sierra Leone, Cinqué encountered civil war. He and his company maintained contact with the local mission for a while, but Cinqué left to trade along the coast. Little is known of his later life, and rumors circulated. Some maintained that he had moved to Jamaica.[3] Others held that he had become a merchant or a chief, perhaps trading in slaves himself.[4]

The latter charge derived from oral accounts from Africa cited by the twentieth-century author William A. Owens, who claimed that he had seen letters from AMA missionaries suggesting Cinqué was a slave trader. More recently historians such as Howard Jones in 2000 and Joseph Yannielli in 2009 have argued that, although some of the Africans associated with the Amistad probably did engage in the slave trade upon their return, given the nature of the regional economy at the time, the allegations of Cinqué's involvement seem implausible in view of the lack of evidence, and the unlikelihood of a conspiracy of silence leaving no traces.[5]

Not conclusive, of course, but likely enough. The point is that they did not think in the racial terms, and with the racist assumptions, that we do.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2021 2:32 p.m. PST

So your previous statement:

Cinque, the slave spokesman in AMISTAD, went back to Africa and became a slave trader.

is just a guess on your part?

Blutarski20 Jun 2021 3:07 p.m. PST

Leaving aside the later career of Cinque until more concrete information comes to hand, go to your favorite web-browser and search under -

"black slave-owners in America"

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