Archive for the ‘slavery’ Tag

Slavery Was Always and Everywhere   Leave a comment

Image result for image of walter e williamsToo many people believe that slavery is a “peculiar institution.” That’s what Kenneth Stampp called slavery in his book, “Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South.”

But slavery is by no means peculiar, odd or unusual. It was common among ancient peoples such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Greeks, Persians, Armenians and many others. Large numbers of Christians were enslaved during the Ottoman wars in Europe. White slaves were common in Europe from the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages.

It was only after A.D. 1600 that Europeans joined with Arabs and Africans and started the Atlantic slave trade. As David P. Forsythe wrote in his book, “The Globalist,”

“The fact remained that at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom.”

While slavery constitutes one of the grossest encroachments on human liberty, it is by no means unique or restricted to the Western world or United States, as many liberal academics would have us believe. Much of their indoctrination of our young people, at all levels of education, paints our nation’s founders as racist adherents to slavery, but the story is not so simple.

At the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, slaves were about 40 percent of the population of the Southern colonies. Apportionment in the House of Representatives and the number of electoral votes each state would have in presidential elections would be based upon population. Southern delegates to the convention wanted slaves to be counted as one person. Northern delegates to the convention, and those opposed to slavery, wanted only free persons of each state to be counted for the purposes of apportionment in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. The compromise reached was that each slave would be counted as only three-fifths of a person.

Many criticize this compromise as proof of racism. My question to these grossly uninformed critics is whether they would have found it more preferable for slaves to be counted as whole persons. Slaves counted as whole persons would have given slave-holding Southern states much more political power. Or, would the critics of the founders prefer that the Northern delegates not compromise and not allow slaves to be counted at all. If they did, it is likely that the Constitution would have not been ratified.

Thus, the question emerges is whether blacks would be better off with Northern states having gone their way and Southern states having gone theirs, resulting in no U.S. Constitution and no Union?

Unlike today’s pseudo-intellectuals, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass understood the compromise, saying that the three-fifths clause was “a downright disability laid upon the slave-holding states” that deprived them of “two-fifths of their natural basis of representation.”

Douglass’ vision was shared by Patrick Henry and others. Henry said, expressing the reality of the three-fifths compromise, “As much as I deplore slavery, I see that prudence forbids its abolition.” With this union, Congress at least had the power to abolish slave trade by 1808. According to delegate James Wilson, many believed the anti-slave-trade clause laid “the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country.” Many of the founders abhorred slavery. Their statements can be read on my website, walterewilliams.com.

The most unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive elimination efforts. It was Britain’s military sea power that put an end to the slave trade. And our country fought a costly war that brought an end to slavery. Unfortunately, these facts about slavery are not in the lessons taught in our schools and colleges. Instead, there is gross misrepresentation and suggestion that slavery was a uniquely American practice.

Source: Slavery Was Always and Everywhere

Posted August 24, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in culture, Uncategorized

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Making Sense of Robert E. Lee by Roy Blount, Jr.   Leave a comment

From Smithsonian Magazine by Roy Blount, Jr.

Few figures in American history are more divisive, contradictory or elusive than Robert E. Lee, the reluctant, tragic leader of the Confederate Army, who died in his beloved Virginia at age 63 in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War. In a new biography, Robert E. Lee, Roy Blount, Jr., treats Lee as a man of competing impulses, a “paragon of manliness” and “one of the greatest military commanders in history,” who was nonetheless “not good at telling men what to do.”

via Making Sense of Robert E. Lee

Blount, a noted humorist, journalist, playwright and raconteur, is the author or coauthor of 15 previous books and the editor of Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor. A resident of New York City and western Massachusetts, he traces his interest in Lee to his boyhood in Georgia. Though Blount was never a Civil War buff, he says “every Southerner has to make his peace with that War. I plunged back into it for this book, and am relieved to have emerged alive.”

“Also,” he says, “Lee reminds me in some ways of my father.”

At the heart of Lee’s story is one of the monumental choices in American history: revered for his honor, Lee resigned his U.S. Army commission to defend Virginia and fight for the Confederacy, on the side of slavery. “The decision was honorable by his standards of honor—which, whatever we may think of them, were neither self-serving nor complicated,” Blount says. Lee “thought it was a bad idea for Virginia to secede, and God knows he was right, but secession had been more or less democratically decided upon.” Lee’s family held slaves, and he himself was at best ambiguous on the subject, leading some of his defenders over the years to discount slavery’s significance in assessments of his character. Blount argues that the issue does matter: “To me it’s slavery, much more than secession as such, that casts a shadow over Lee’s honorableness.”

In the excerpt that follows, the general masses his troops for a battle over three humid July days in a Pennsylvania town. Its name would thereafter resound with courage, casualties and miscalculation: Gettysburg.

In his dashing (if sometimes depressive) antebellum prime, he may have been the most beautiful person in America, a sort of precursor cross between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. He was in his element gossiping with belles about their beaux at balls. In theaters of grinding, hellish human carnage he kept a pet hen for company. He had tiny feet that he loved his children to tickle None of these things seems to fit, for if ever there was a grave American icon, it is Robert Edward Lee—hero of the Confederacy in the Civil War and a symbol of nobility to some, of slavery to others.

After Lee’s death in 1870, Frederick Douglass, the former fugitive slave who had become the nation’s most prominent African-American, wrote, “We can scarcely take up a newspaper . . . that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.” Two years later one of Lee’s ex-generals, Jubal A. Early, apotheosized his late commander as follows: “Our beloved Chief stands, like some lofty column which rears its head among the highest, in grandeur, simple, pure and sublime.”

In 1907, on the 100th anniversary of Lee’s birth, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed mainstream American sentiment, praising Lee’s “extraordinary skill as a General, his dauntless courage and high leadership,” adding, “He stood that hardest of all strains, the strain of bearing himself well through the gray evening of failure; and therefore out of what seemed failure he helped to build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, north and south, share.”

We may think we know Lee because we have a mental image: gray. Not only the uniform, the mythic horse, the hair and beard, but the resignation with which he accepted dreary burdens that offered “neither pleasure nor advantage”: in particular, the Confederacy, a cause of which he took a dim view until he went to war for it. He did not see right and wrong in tones of gray, and yet his moralizing could generate a fog, as in a letter from the front to his invalid wife: “You must endeavour to enjoy the pleasure of doing good. That is all that makes life valuable.” All right. But then he adds: “When I measure my own by that standard I am filled with confusion and despair.”

His own hand probably never drew human blood nor fired a shot in anger, and his only Civil War wound was a faint scratch on the cheek from a sharpshooter’s bullet, but many thousands of men died quite horribly in battles where he was the dominant spirit, and most of the casualties were on the other side. If we take as a given Lee’s granitic conviction that everything is God’s will, however, he was born to lose.

As battlefield generals go, he could be extremely fiery, and could go out of his way to be kind. But in even the most sympathetic versions of his life story he comes across as a bit of a stick—certainly compared with his scruffy nemesis, Ulysses S. Grant; his zany, ferocious “right arm,” Stonewall Jackson; and the dashing “eyes” of his army, J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart. For these men, the Civil War was just the ticket. Lee, however, has come down in history as too fine for the bloodbath of 1861-65. To efface the squalor and horror of the war, we have the image of Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, and we have the image of Robert E. Lee’s gracious surrender. Still, for many contemporary Americans, Lee is at best the moral equivalent of Hitler’s brilliant field marshal Erwin Rommel (who, however, turned against Hitler, as Lee never did against Jefferson Davis, who, to be sure, was no Hitler).

On his father’s side, Lee’s family was among Virginia’s and therefore the nation’s most distinguished. Henry, the scion who was to become known in the Revolutionary War as Light-Horse Harry, was born in 1756. He graduated from Princeton at 19 and joined the Continental Army at 20 as a captain of dragoons, and he rose in rank and independence to command Lee’s light cavalry and then Lee’s legion of cavalry and infantry. Without the medicines, elixirs, and food Harry Lee’s raiders captured from the enemy, George Washington’s army would not likely have survived the harrowing winter encampment of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. Washington became his patron and close friend. With the war nearly over, however, Harry decided he was underappreciated, so he impulsively resigned from the army. In 1785, he was elected to the Continental Congress, and in 1791 he was elected governor of Virginia. In 1794 Washington put him in command of the troops that bloodlessly put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. In 1799 he was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he famously eulogized Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Meanwhile, though, Harry’s fast and loose speculation in hundreds of thousands of the new nation’s acres went sour, and in 1808 he was reduced to chicanery. He and his second wife, Ann Hill Carter Lee, and their children departed the Lee ancestral home, where Robert was born, for a smaller rented house in Alexandria. Under the conditions of bankruptcy that obtained in those days, Harry was still liable for his debts. He jumped a personal appearance bail—to the dismay of his brother, Edmund, who had posted a sizable bond—and wangled passage, with pitying help from President James Monroe, to the West Indies. In 1818, after five years away, Harry headed home to die, but got only as far as Cumberland Island, Georgia, where he was buried. Robert was 11.

Robert appears to have been too fine for his childhood, for his education, for his profession, for his marriage, and for the Confederacy. Not according to him. According to him, he was not fine enough. For all his audacity on the battlefield, he accepted rather passively one raw deal after another, bending over backward for everyone from Jefferson Davis to James McNeill Whistler’s mother. (When he was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, Lee acquiesced to Mrs. Whistler’s request on behalf of her cadet son, who was eventually dismissed in 1854.)

By what can we know of him? The works of a general are battles, campaigns and usually memoirs. The engagements of the Civil War shape up more as bloody muddles than as commanders’ chess games. For a long time during the war, “Old Bobbie Lee,” as he was referred to worshipfully by his troops and nervously by the foe, had the greatly superior Union forces spooked, but a century and a third of analysis and counteranalysis has resulted in no core consensus as to the genius or the folly of his generalship. And he wrote no memoir. He wrote personal letters—a discordant mix of flirtation, joshing, lyrical touches, and stern religious adjuration—and he wrote official dispatches that are so impersonal and (generally) unselfserving as to seem above the fray.

During the postbellum century, when Americans North and South decided to embrace R. E. Lee as a national as well as a Southern hero, he was generally described as antislavery. This assumption rests not on any public position he took but on a passage in an 1856 letter to his wife. The passage begins: “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages.” But he goes on: “I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

The only way to get inside Lee, perhaps, is by edging fractally around the record of his life to find spots where he comes through; by holding up next to him some of the fully realized characters—Grant, Jackson, Stuart, Light-Horse Harry Lee, John Brown—with whom he interacted; and by subjecting to contemporary skepticism certain concepts—honor, “gradual emancipation,” divine will—upon which he unreflectively founded his identity.

He wasn’t always gray. Until war aged him dramatically, his sharp dark brown eyes were complemented by black hair (“ebon and abundant,” as his doting biographer Douglas Southall Freeman puts it, “with a wave that a woman might have envied”), a robust black mustache, a strong full mouth and chin unobscured by any beard, and dark mercurial brows. He was not one to hide his looks under a bushel. His heart, on the other hand . . . “The heart, he kept locked away,” as Stephen Vincent Benét proclaimed in “John Brown’s Body,” “from all the picklocks of biographers.” Accounts by people who knew him give the impression that no one knew his whole heart, even before it was broken by the war. Perhaps it broke many years before the war. “You know she is like her papa, always wanting something,” he wrote about one of his daughters. The great Southern diarist of his day, Mary Chesnut, tells us that when a lady teased him about his ambitions, he “remonstrated—said his tastes were of the simplest. He only wanted a Virginia farm—no end of cream and fresh butter—and fried chicken. Not one fried chicken or two—but unlimited fried chicken.” Just before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, one of his nephews found him in the field, “very grave and tired,” carrying around a fried chicken leg wrapped in a piece of bread, which a Virginia countrywoman had pressed upon him but for which he couldn’t muster any hunger.

One thing that clearly drove him was devotion to his home state. “If Virginia stands by the old Union,” Lee told a friend, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

The North took secession as an act of aggression, to be countered accordingly. When Lincoln called on the loyal states for troops to invade the South, Southerners could see the issue as defense not of slavery but of homeland. A Virginia convention that had voted 2 to 1 against secession, now voted 2 to 1 in favor.

When Lee read the news that Virginia had joined the Confederacy, he said to his wife, “Well, Mary, the question is settled,” and resigned the U.S. Army commission he had held for 32 years.

The days of July 1-3, 1863, still stand among the most horrific and formative in American history. Lincoln had given up on Joe Hooker, put Maj. Gen. George G. Meade in command of the Army of the Potomac, and sent him to stop Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. Since Jeb Stuart’s scouting operation had been uncharacteristically out of touch, Lee wasn’t sure where Meade’s army was. Lee had actually advanced farther north than the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when he learned that Meade was south of him, threatening his supply lines. So Lee swung back in that direction. On June 30 a Confederate brigade, pursuing the report that there were shoes to be had in Gettysburg, ran into Federal cavalry west of town, and withdrew. On July 1 a larger Confederate force returned, engaged Meade’s advance force, and pushed it back through the town—to the fishhook-shaped heights comprising Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, and Round Top. It was almost a rout, until Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard, to whom Lee as West Point superintendent had been kind when Howard was an unpopular cadet, and Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock rallied the Federals and held the high ground. Excellent ground to defend from. That evening Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who commanded the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, urged Lee not to attack, but to swing around to the south, get between Meade and Washington, and find a strategically even better defensive position, against which the Federals might feel obliged to mount one of those frontal assaults that virtually always lost in this war. Still not having heard from Stuart, Lee felt he might have numerical superiority for once. “No,” he said, “the enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there.”

The next morning, Lee set in motion a two-part offensive: Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell’s corps was to pin down the enemy’s right flank, on Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill, while Longstreet’s, with a couple of extra divisions, would hit the left flank—believed to be exposed—on Cemetery Ridge. To get there Longstreet would have to make a long march under cover. Longstreet mounted a sulky objection, but Lee was adamant. And wrong.

Lee didn’t know that in the night Meade had managed by forced marches to concentrate nearly his entire army at Lee’s front, and had deployed it skillfully—his left flank was now extended to Little Round Top, nearly three-quarters of a mile south of where Lee thought it was. The disgruntled Longstreet, never one to rush into anything, and confused to find the left flank farther left than expected, didn’t begin his assault until 3:30 that afternoon. It nearly prevailed anyway, but at last was beaten gorily back. Although the two-pronged offensive was ill-coordinated, and the Federal artillery had knocked out the Confederate guns to the north before Ewell attacked, Ewell’s infantry came tantalizingly close to taking Cemetery Hill, but a counterattack forced them to retreat.

On the third morning, July 3, Lee’s plan was roughly the same, but Meade seized the initiative by pushing forward on his right and seizing Culp’s Hill, which the Confederates held. So Lee was forced to improvise. He decided to strike straight ahead, at Meade’s heavily fortified midsection. Confederate artillery would soften it up, and Longstreet would direct a frontal assault across a mile of open ground against the center of Missionary Ridge. Again Longstreet objected; again Lee wouldn’t listen. The Confederate artillery exhausted all its shells ineffectively, so was unable to support the assault—which has gone down in history as Pickett’s charge because Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s division absorbed the worst of the horrible bloodbath it turned into.

Lee’s idolaters strained after the war to shift the blame, but the consensus today is that Lee managed the battle badly. Each supposed major blunder of his subordinates—Ewell’s failure to take the high ground of Cemetery Hill on July 1, Stuart’s getting out of touch and leaving Lee unapprised of what force he was facing, and the lateness of Longstreet’s attack on the second day—either wasn’t a blunder at all (if Longstreet had attacked earlier he would have encountered an even stronger Union position) or was caused by a lack of forcefulness and specificity in Lee’s orders.

Before Gettysburg, Lee had seemed not only to read the minds of Union generals but almost to expect his subordinates to read his. He was not in fact good at telling men what to do. That no doubt suited the Confederate fighting man, who didn’t take kindly to being told what to do—but Lee’s only weakness as a commander, his otherwise reverent nephew Fitzhugh Lee would write, was his “reluctance to oppose the wishes of others, or to order them to do anything that would be disagreeable and to which they would not consent.” With men as well as with women, his authority derived from his sightliness, politeness, and unimpeachability. His usually cheerful detachment patently covered solemn depths, depths faintly lit by glints of previous and potential rejection of self and others. It all seemed Olympian, in a Christian cavalier sort of way. Officers’ hearts went out to him across the latitude he granted them to be willingly, creatively honorable. Longstreet speaks of responding to Lee at another critical moment by “receiving his anxious expressions really as appeals for reinforcement of his unexpressed wish.” When people obey you because they think you enable them to follow their own instincts, you need a keen instinct yourself for when they’re getting out of touch, as Stuart did, and when they are balking for good reason, as Longstreet did. As a father Lee was fond but fretful, as a husband devoted but distant. As an attacking general he was inspiring but not necessarily cogent.

At Gettysburg he was jittery, snappish. He was 56 and bone weary. He may have had dysentery, though a scholar’s widely publicized assertion to that effect rests on tenuous evidence. He did have rheumatism and heart trouble. He kept fretfully wondering why Stuart was out of touch, worrying that something bad had happened to him. He had given Stuart broad discretion as usual, and Stuart had overextended himself. Stuart wasn’t frolicking. He had done his best to act on Lee’s written instructions: “You will . . . be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the [Potomac] east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell’s troops, collecting information, provisions, etc.” But he had not, in fact, been able to judge: he met several hindrances in the form of Union troops, a swollen river that he and his men managed only heroically to cross, and 150 Federal wagons that he captured before he crossed the river. And he had not sent word of what he was up to.

When on the afternoon of the second day Stuart did show up at Gettysburg, after pushing himself nearly to exhaustion, Lee’s only greeting to him is said to have been, “Well, General Stuart, you are here at last.” A coolly devastating cut: Lee’s way of chewing out someone who he felt had let him down. In the months after Gettysburg, as Lee stewed over his defeat, he repeatedly criticized the laxness of Stuart’s command, deeply hurting a man who prided himself on the sort of dashing freelance effectiveness by which Lee’s father, Maj. Gen. Light-Horse Harry, had defined himself. A bond of implicit trust had been broken. Loving-son figure had failed loving-father figure and vice versa.

In the past Lee had also granted Ewell and Longstreet wide discretion, and it had paid off. Maybe his magic in Virginia didn’t travel. “The whole affair was disjointed,” Taylor the aide said of Gettysburg. “There was an utter absence of accord in the movements of the several commands.”

Why did Lee stake everything, finally, on an ill-considered thrust straight up the middle? Lee’s critics have never come up with a logical explanation. Evidently he just got his blood up, as the expression goes. When the usually repressed Lee felt an overpowering need for emotional release, and had an army at his disposal and another one in front of him, he couldn’t hold back. And why should Lee expect his imprudence to be any less unsettling to Meade than it had been to the other Union commanders?

The spot against which he hurled Pickett was right in front of Meade’s headquarters. (Once, Dwight Eisenhower, who admired Lee’s generalship, took Field Marshal Montgomery to visit the Gettysburg battlefield. They looked at the site of Pickett’s charge and were baffled. Eisenhower said, “The man [Lee] must have got so mad that he wanted to hit that guy [Meade] with a brick.”)

Pickett’s troops advanced with precision, closed up the gaps that withering fire tore into their smartly dressed ranks, and at close quarters fought tooth and nail. Acouple of hundred Confederates did break the Union line, but only briefly. Someone counted 15 bodies on a patch of ground less than five feet wide and three feet long. It has been estimated that 10,500 Johnny Rebs made the charge and 5,675—roughly 54 percent—fell dead or wounded. As a Captain Spessard charged, he saw his son shot dead. He laid him out gently on the ground, kissed him, and got back to advancing.

As the minority who hadn’t been cut to ribbons streamed back to the Confederate lines, Lee rode in splendid calm among them, apologizing. “It’s all my fault,” he assured stunned privates and corporals. He took the time to admonish, mildly, an officer who was beating his horse: “Don’t whip him, captain; it does no good. I had a foolish horse, once, and kind treatment is the best.” Then he resumed his apologies: “I am very sorry—the task was too great for you—but we mustn’t despond.” Shelby Foote has called this Lee’s finest moment. But generals don’t want apologies from those beneath them, and that goes both ways. After midnight, he told a cavalry officer, “I never saw troops behave more magnificently than Pickett’s division of Virginians. . . . ” Then he fell silent, and it was then that he exclaimed, as the officer later wrote it down, “Too bad! Too bad! OH! TOO BAD!”

Pickett’s charge wasn’t the half of it. Altogether at Gettysburg as many as 28,000 Confederates were killed, wounded, captured, or missing: more than a third of Lee’s whole army. Perhaps it was because Meade and his troops were so stunned by their own losses—about 23,000—that they failed to pursue Lee on his withdrawal south, trap him against the flooded Potomac, and wipe his army out. Lincoln and the Northern press were furious that this didn’t happen.

For months Lee had been traveling with a pet hen. Meant for the stewpot, she had won his heart by entering his tent first thing every morning and laying his breakfast egg under his Spartan cot. As the Army of Northern Virginia was breaking camp in all deliberate speed for the withdrawal, Lee’s staff ran around anxiously crying, “Where is the hen?” Lee himself found her nestled in her accustomed spot on the wagon that transported his personal matériel. Life goes on.

After Gettysburg, Lee never mounted another murderous head-on assault. He went on the defensive. Grant took over command of the eastern front and 118,700 men. He set out to grind Lee’s 64,000 down. Lee had his men well dug in. Grant resolved to turn his flank, force him into a weaker position, and crush him.

On April 9, 1865, Lee finally had to admit that he was trapped. At the beginning of Lee’s long, combative retreat by stages from Grant’s overpowering numbers, he had 64,000 men. By the end they had inflicted 63,000 Union casualties but had been reduced themselves to fewer than 10,000.

To be sure, there were those in Lee’s army who proposed continuing the struggle as guerrillas or by reorganizing under the governors of the various Confederate states. Lee cut off any such talk. He was a professional soldier. He had seen more than enough of governors who would be commanders, and he had no respect for ragtag guerrilladom. He told Col. Edward Porter Alexander, his artillery commander, . . . the men would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many wide sections they may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.”

“And, as for myself, you young fellows might go to bushwhacking, but the only dignified course for me would be, to go to Gen. Grant and surrender myself and take the consequences.” That is what he did on April 9, 1865, at a farmhouse in the village of Appomattox Court House, wearing a fulldress uniform and carrying a borrowed ceremonial sword which he did not surrender.

Thomas Morris Chester, the only black correspondent for a major daily newspaper (the Philadelphia Press) during the war, had nothing but scorn for the Confederacy, and referred to Lee as a “notorious rebel.” But when Chester witnessed Lee’s arrival in shattered, burned-out Richmond after the surrender, his dispatch sounded a more sympathetic note. After Lee “alighted from his horse, he immediately uncovered his head, thinly covered with silver hairs, as he had done in acknowledgment of the veneration of the people along the streets,” Chester wrote. “There was a general rush of the small crowd to shake hands with him. During these manifestations not a word was spoken, and when the ceremony was through, the General bowed and ascended his steps. The silence was then broken by a few voices calling for a speech, to which he paid no attention. The General then passed into his house, and the crowd dispersed.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/making-sense-of-robert-e-lee-85017563/#2ZpAt6idyhYHhRi0.99
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Posted August 19, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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Slavery and the Framers   1 comment

Attacking Our Nation’s Founders

Source: Slavery and the Framers

Posted April 18, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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Thom Stark Replies on Slavery and Social Justice in America   2 comments

Thom Stark

Thom Stark and I are continuing our debate. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a fun and safe New Year’s Eve. Thom’s post today is in response to my post from two weeks ago, on what I perceive to be the root cause of police brutality in the United States. I think it’s the size and power of government and the lack of respect for individual liberty. Now for Thom’s take. Lela

 

Obviously we both agree that Slavery Is Bad. We agree, too, that the American Civil War had more than one cause, and that the question of states rights vs central government authority was one of the most important of them. I’ll even cheerfully grant that the Reconstruction was a time of barely-mitigated Northern vengeance on the South. We begin to part company after that, though.

First of all, I think it’s been firmly established that Federal authority trumps states rights pretty much across the board. Our Civil War settled that question. Nor do I think the precedent is a bad one, either in retrospect or in the perspective of the current era. Instead, I see states rights as steadily – and rightly – diminishing as our society evolves into a single, increasingly-homogenous culture, where regionalism is rapidly becoming a moot argument. I’m certain it looks different to you, because you live in Alaska, where a highly-individiualist, frontier mentality is the norm, rather than the exception, but in most of the lower 48, and throughout the Western world, one place is increasingly becoming interchangeable with the next. The ubiquity of chain stores and big brands, combined with the smothering cultural blankets of television – which gives us an unofficial received pronunciation that’s swiftly eliminating regional dialects – and social media (which strongly encourages herd think) is combining to create an environment where, on a day-to-day, experiential level, one town is completely indistinguishable from the next. Soon, the only legitimate regional sphere of influence will be that of the local professional sports team. The argument for right of place therefore becomes increasingly hard to make – and increasingly academic, in any case.

Which takes us to the individual, and the question of his or her rights vs those of the society in which he or she lives.

Society is always going to win this one, simply because there’s more of Them than there are of Us, when Us is defined as a single individual. You can complain about the unfairness of it all, wave your fists, and beseech the heavens as suits your fancy, but, in the end you’re outnumbered and outgunned, so They get to make the rules.

To me, an elected official has an ethical obligation to try to protect Us from Them – whoever We and They might currently define ourselves as being – but only insofar as doing so doesn’t create a still greater harm to one, the other, some third party altogether, or society as a whole in the process. Unfortunately, most of our elected officials are focused, instead, on getting re-elected and on gaming the system on behalf of their campaign contributors, but that’s a product of the perverse incentives the organized bribery we laughingly call a campaign finance system creates. If our Supreme Court hadn’t spent the past few decaces trying to give the vote to corporations, things might well be different. But it has, and they’re not.

As for Eric Garner, I think your assertion that the power of taxation was the root cause of his death is … well … “reductionist” is putting it mildly. Garner was killed by white cops in a white borough of New York City because he was a black man whom the area’s white shopkeepers viewed as a nuisance. Untaxed cigarettes are beside the point. Garner was a small-time hustler. Had selling loosies not been profitable, he’d have found something else to peddle. And the cops would have hasseled him over that, instead. The only real issue worth focusing on in his demise is the ubiquitous American police culture of cowboy justice, depraved indifference to human suffering, systematic lack of accountability, and the “thin blue line” mentality. (I say it’s the only real issue, because no one is going to be charged in Garner’s murder, video or no video, so the question of whether justice will ever be done has already been answered – and the answer is “No.”)

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedI’ve become acquainted with quite a few cops over the years. Some of them are fabulous officers who view themselves as public servants, take seriously their duty to protect and serve, and make it a point to treat everyone they encounter with courtesy and respect. Others are thugs with guns, who use their badges as an excuse to bully those they regard as their social inferiors. The system – and I’m talking here about the real-world, non-theoretical way things actually work – is supposed to protect the first type from the consequences of single, tragic mistakes. Unfortunately, it ends up protecting both types from any consequences of their actions whatsoever, regardless of how flagrantly they may misbehave.

Here in the USA, that’s considered normal, natural, and entirely appropriate.

I think it’s none of those things, and it needs to stop.

Lela on Slavery and Individual Rights   1 comment

Thom StarkLast week, Thom Stark expanded upon his centrist views. And, I’m still hung up on the idea of government being obligated to pursue policies for the greatest good, while also protecting the rights of minorities. I still don’t think it’s possible.

Again, we agree on quite a few points.

Slavery and US slavery particuarly are huge topics we could discuss. How a country could claim, on the one hand, that all men are created equal but allow some men to own others is incomprehensible. It’s tempting to say the Civil War was fought for wholly moral reasons and therefore was a “good” war, but I know too much about what was also going on besides the issue of slavery to agree. Just the fact that Lincoln didn’t free the slaves until halfway into the war suggests there was something more going on than slavery.

And, then you also have to deal with the repression that grew from the Union victory in the Civil War. Reconstruction was a brutal and immoral period that raped the South economically, forced it into a subservient role for the next century, and led to Jim Crow and the eventual need for the Civil Rights movement, but worse, the abrogation of states rights has had profound negative effects on individual rights throughout the nation in subsequent years. It has been used as an excuse for repression of regionalization ever since. In effect, the moral crusade to end slavery empowered the federal repression of states and gave structure to Plato’s Republic in modern America.

But that would be a later discussion, I think.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedI still believe strongly that the individual is the smallest and most powerless of minorities and that government generally is the antithesis of protecting the rights of the individual. We could certainly delve into how various minorities groups have banded together to create a statistical majority bent on forcing others to fall in line with what they want. A case in point would be the Masterpiece Cake Shop, which shows that minority group power overrides the individual right of freedom of faith.

Or we could tear an example from the headlines.

Eric Garner was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island — coincidentally only blocks from one of the neighborhoods my husband grew up in. First a single police officer confronted him with the victimless crime. I’ve seen the video. He was agitated and loud, but never violent toward the officer, but it quickly escalated into four officers holding him on the ground, one with his knee in Garner’s back and another with his hand pushing Garner’s face into the concrete. Yes, very much police brutality, but while we’r freaking out over a symptom of government repression, I want to look at the cause.

I hate cigarettes. They’re stinky, unhealthy and produce trash that I usually end up having to clean up.  I hold similar attitudes toward marijuana and alcohol. I do not see these things as societal goods. I can understand why folks would ask their politicians to regulate them for the “maximum good”. I also think all such attempts at prohibition are stupid ideas.

That “societal good” zeitgeist and desire to prohibit or regulate individual liberty is the root cause of Eric Garner’s death. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — vices like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs fall under either the liberty or pursuit of happiness clause. When society tries to tell individuals they can’t do something (usually because it’s unhealthy), individuals find a way to continue doing it. Unable to prohibit tobacco, people who hate cigarettes asked their government to do something to curtail its usage — make it difficult for individuals to smoke by increasing taxes. Sounds good. You let those individuals continue to smoke, but you give the do-gooders a warm-fuzzy feeling of having done something to discourage them. Except ….

Every time they walk by a group of smokers and get their panties in a knot that their efforts have not made everyone stop that vile unhealthy habit, they lobby their legislators to raise the tax a little higher … which led to a market for untaxed cigarettes. Had there been no market for “loosies” the New York Police Department would have had no cause to harass Eric Garner that day and he might be alive today (I say “might” because he was obese and that’s another do-gooder target for societal improvement). Yes, you can blame Garner’s death on lesser causes like police brutality and racism, but if government had not been given the power to restrict individual liberty for “societal good”, any racism in the hearts of the cops would have been moot because they would not have been given permission to deal with Eric Garner.

I think it’s these little compromises with individual liberty — usually under the guise of something good for society as a whole — that lead us toward full scale repression. It happens gradually and so we don’t object until we see it working to kill citizens, but far too often when we seek to fix what our policies have wrought, we don’t acknowledge the cause, but try to fix the symptoms while leaving the cause in place. You can modify police training and try to modify police racial sentiments, but those efforts will be of limited effect because the real cause is inherent lack of respect for individual rights that is part and parcel with majority rule. When a societal consensus has been reached on any given issue, government feels it has a mandate to repress the individual for the greater good.

I wanted to talk about capitalism here, but I’m hitting my 1000-word guideline, so I may post something about it later.

A Nation of 300 Million Slaves   Leave a comment

I listened to Patriot’s Lament today and once again saw the logical end to the sort of anarchy they ascribe to.

It sounds so wonderful. Throw off the yoke of the government, form cooperative communities and use contract rather than coercion to make society work.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. The United States of America is a nation of 300 million people who owe $17 trillion dollars. The largest part of that (a bit more than $1000 billion) is owed to China and about $900 billion to Japan. Japan might think it owes the American people for its booming economy, but China clearly does not believe that. If we dissolve the government and say we the people don’t owe the debt, do we really think they will just forget about it?

Right now we’re slaves to a master of our own choosing — sort of. The Constitution still exists and we have means to reestablish it as the rule of law in the country. If we the people dissolve the institutions that are seen as capable of paying what we owe, there is nothing preventing China from coming to collect from we the people.  I don’t think the UN will protect us. It’s controlled by third-world nations that believe we are the cause of their problems. I think they will allow China to establish an occupying force and put us all to work paying off that debt. Sure, some of us will fight back, but most won’t because they weren’t prepared and China can afford to lose population compared to us. When the patriots are depleted or just plain run out of bullets, we will stop fighting. The numbers are in their favor. And why should they leave after they’ve built factories and farms to turn us to productive capacity?

A nation of 300 million slaves is more profitable after their debt has been paid off.

Just a thought. I’m not against making changes and I like some of the principles of anarchy, but without a state a nation is at the mercy of other states and those states will win because those states are organized and a state-less society would not be.

This is probably why anarchy hasn’t taken off around the world.

Posted October 12, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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