Monday, July 04, 2011
Another History-Challenged, Forgettable, Deep-North Leftist
A contributor and friend of Chronicles asked my opinion about a recent statement by Michelle Bachmann that the American Framers had "worked tirelessly" to get rid of slavery. I don’t know the occasion for the statement or what possible relevance it can have to a 21st century presidential campaign. Here is my quick and irritated reply, which the distinguished editor of Chronicles thought might be shared with other friends. Bachmann is apparently one of the half-dozen forgettable Deep North leftists who are being promoted by the press and the Republican establishment as presidential front-runners. In Bachmann’s case, very obviously a neocon spoiler impersonating a Tea Partier. No need to be too hard on the neocons here, because she is merely spouting an imaginary version of American history that has been Republican boilerplate for a century and a half.
That the Framers "worked tirelessly" to end slavery is a total fiction, though one promoted by Lincoln and devoutly cherished by Yankees ever since. Part of the vast lie that governs American history and justifies the brutal war of conquest of 1861-1876. At the time of the Revolution slavery was legal in every State and the only voices against it were Quakers. The Declaration complains that the King has encouraged servile insurrection. Nearly ALL of the members of the Philadelphia Convention, including the Northern ones, were slaveholders.
Here the mystification of the Founding Fathers takes over. It is somehow assumed that the writers of the Constitution were divinely inspired lawgivers who wanted to abolish slavery but somehow did not quite get around to it. It is absurd to think that they wanted to abolish slavery and even more absurd, ludicrously so, that they had the power to do so. They were merely drafting a proposal for approval of the States. No proposal abolishing slavery could possibly have been made (Northerners were still financially invested in it) and certainly not approved.
The Constitution explicitly recognises, indeed takes for granted, the legal existence of slaves in a number of different ways and obligates all the States to return fugitives. Neither Jefferson or Adams were at the Convention but in discussing the Constitution Adams remarked to Jefferson that there was no real difference between the slaves and the lowest class of workers in the North. Slavery disappeared only gradually in the North (for practical rather than moral reasons) and it generally meant the disappearance of black people as well, who were never before, during, or after the Civil War accepted as equals in the North, but as an undesirable population.
Lincoln’s platform in 1860 objects only to slavery in the federal territories (future States) which are to be the homes of white people only, and he makes a few pious declarations (the nation cannot endure half slave and half free — a lie; and slavery should be put on the road to extinction. How? Certainly not by barring its extension which merely bottles it up and hardens it. Northerners were united on one thing—they wanted no black people near them. How then, can they be against slavery?
It is true, and here is their flimsy basis, that a number of Founders and leaders of the next generation, notably Jefferson, spoke of slavery as an evil and a problem — primarily because it was bad economics and meant an undesirable black population. Even so, this antislavery sentiment was by no means pervasive in the North or South. Nobody, including Lincoln, knew what to do about such an immense problem.
Lincoln’s opinion was the same as Jefferson’s, if the slaves were set free they could not remain in American society where they had no place as free people. They must be deported. Most Southerners favoured the Northwest Ordinance barring slavery from that territory — for the good reason that the foreign slave trade was still open, meaning more importations. That was territory. When States came into being there, they could decide for themselves. Indeed, Illinois quite seriously considered legalising slaves at one point.
There is absolutely nothing in the Founding Fathers antislavery sentiment that approves of the kind of fanatical abolitionism that became a Northern movement in the 1830s. It was something entirely new and disfavoured severely by all conservative Northerners. It demanded immediate emancipation without any practical thought whatsoever and it was fueled more by hatred of the South than by benevolence for the blacks.
Lincoln is basing his abolition attribution to the Founding Fathers on the Northwest Ordinance, which implied a restriction of the extension of slavery. But the Union continued to admit slave State after slave State. The treaty acquiring the Louisiana Purchase guaranteed the French inhabitants their slave property.
Yes, Jefferson and most Southerners approved the Northwest Ordinance of 1785, adopted before the Constitution. However, look at what happened when the Yankees tried to bar the admission of Missouri as a slave State (Further importation of blacks was illegal from 1808).
Both Jefferson and Madison reacted bitterly to this effort of the North to interfere with a sovereign State or set such conditions for admission, interfering with the will of a sovereign people. Further, they denounced the Missouri restriction repeatedly to all their correspondents as a cynical trick to increase Northern political power. And as Jefferson pointed out, the Yankee efforts did not free a single slave—they only affected where the slaves were located.
It was here that Jefferson made his famous remark about a fire-bell in the night which marked the destruction of the Union. The firebell was not slavery—it was the fact that the Yankees had created a fatal geographic division.
For your sake I have violated a longstanding policy of mine. Long ago I decided not to bother to reply to the endless attacks and lies of the Enemy on his own time and place. Rather, we should devote our finite selves to positive teaching of the truth to our own people. As I believe Robert L. Dabney pointed out—Yankees are a race that thrives on delusions.