Ignorance in my hometown
 
From: wildbill4dixie@yahoo.com
 
My guess is that the editor of the Providence Journal never figured he would hear from someone who would not only scoff at his pretensions but who could cite sources and, lay claim to knowing something about Rhode Island’s history because he grew up there. Yes, Providence is the land of my birth. I must say that when I was growing up there were far fewer idiots in residence there than there are now. 
 
It would appear that my initial letter struck a nerve with one such idiot, given his terse responses. That idiot is the editor of the Providence Journal. Folks have been telling me for some time now that people in the north these days are blissfully ignorant of the North’s involvement in slavery. I found this difficult to believe, because when I was growing up in Providence everybody who’d ever read a history book knew of it. Even my mom, who never graduated high school, knew of it.  
 
Today it seems, ignorance has been raised to the level of a fine art. And nowhere is that more evident than in the reaction of the editor of Rhode Island’s number one newspaper. 
 
Re: http://www.projo.com/opinion/editorials/content/ED_confed5_08-05-10_FVI3JOL_v109.2984ec5.html 
 
To: letters@projo.com
From: wildbill4dixie@yahoo.com 
 
The Providence Journal, the primo newspaper in a state whose biggest income producing industry at the time of the Constitutional Convention was the slave trade, sermonizing about slavery, the cause of the “Civil War” and civil rights? What a hoot!  Now, I for one don’t believe anyone owes anyone any apology for slavery, be it a northern state for its involvement in the slave trade, or the Rhode Island mills and factories profiting from cotton grown with slave labor, or for that matter, Southerners for their use of an agrarian slave labor system, but I suspect that you sermonizers at the Journal feel that such expressions of regret are indeed owed. If you do indeed feel this way, I suggest, Mr. Editor, that you look to your own back yard before pointing your finger southward to find the “mote in your brother’s eye.” 
 
A few points: 
 
**Elaine Kagan – You will pardon some of us who recoil at the idea of black robed deities retiring into their chambers to commune with the gods of law and then emerging to turn society on its head and America into something that it was not intended to be. Some Americans are in love with this prospect, others of us loathe it. Kagan has shown indications that she is cast in this mold and many of us out here are saying that we’ve had quite enough of it, thank you. If you folks at the Journal think we are so bad, then maybe it’s time that people like you and people like us each go our own way. There is, after all, NOTHING which proves that secession is illegal or not viable, except that the last time it was attempted, it was crushed by northern force of arms. And in case y’all haven’t heard, “might does not make right!” 
 
**Civil Rights – Yeah, Thurgood Marshall, blah blah blah…. Civil Rights, blah blah blah…. What? I am not falling on my knees gushing with reverence and abasement when such people or such things are mentioned? What kind of person must I be? I am the kind of person who still is able to think critically. Just because you wrap yourself in the cloak of civil rights does not mean that you are honest, that you are without fault or without the natural human vices that drive all of us to some degree, or that you are not out to promote yourself while denigrating me. It does not mean that you don’t have an agenda, or that you get to determine what is good for the rest of us, and it does not make you automatically right in all things. The sheer number of demagogues and race baiters who have couched themselves in this oh-so-holy mantle over the last 50 years should be enough to convince anyone who hasn’t gone blind that this is indeed so. I for one will not fall on my knees or cower in fear when someone shakes the holy icon of civil rights in my face.  
 
And yes, Marshall lawyered for the folks who did the Brown vs. Board of Education thing. And no, I’m not going to fall on my knees repeating his name in prayer either. The decision itself said that a child could no longer be denied admission to a public school based on his race. However, less than 10 years later, social engineers, (backed by black robed federal deities), saw fit to mandate that parents put their kids on busses and ship them to schools in neighborhoods where you would only feel safe if you were sitting in an armored car. It was called “bussing” and I’m old enough to remember it. It was here in Rhode Island in the 60s and so was I, as I grew up in Providence. Parents at that time resented it bitterly and they had every right to. Here’s a thought for you socially conscious moralizers at the Journal – do an article which shows conclusively that the Constitution of the United States gives the federal government the power to tell parents where they must send their children to school or where in that document it gives government the right to adjust the racial makeup in schools to please the social engineers and the civil rights demagogues? We both know you can’t, because the Constitution makes no such decree. 
 
**Further, off the cuff comparisons of Confederates to Nazis don’t hold water. They only serve to highlight your ignorance. For one thing, unlike the Nazis, the Southerners did not perpetrate a holocaust. In 1800 the black population of America numbered 1 million, by 1860 it numbered 4 million, by 1895 it was up to 8 million and today it is 40 million. Numbers don’t lie and these are not “holocaust numbers.” The Nazis sent their armies crashing over their neighbors’ borders in an attempt to subjugate them. The South did no such thing. In fact, as I recall, it was the North which acted in this manner! Numerous Southerners, Jeff Davis, Judah Benjamin, Pat Cleburne, Mary Chestnut and others repeatedly made the same plea – “all we ask is to be left alone.” That plea has a very un-Nazi-like ring to it, wouldn’t you agree? Finally, 500 Confederates are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. They are officially recognized as being American Veterans (Public law 85-425) by the government they fought against. No, no Nazis here. Perhaps you could do another article in which you enlighten us poor schmucks as to how you came up with this analogy? 
 
Finally, as to why the Confederacy was founded, the answer is relatively simple. 
 
The Confederacy was not founded so that Southerners could freely indulge in “torture and rape” as you so colorfully put it. Such things did occur but were not the norm and the perpetrators were not looked favorably upon by their fellow slave owners. How do I know such things? Well, for one thing, I read the Federal Writer’s Project “Slave Narratives” in their entirety (a project which took almost a year) and listened to the words of those who themselves had been slaves. Have you read the Narratives? I think not. Your implication that torture and rape were commonplace needs some citations I think. Can you give us such citations? My money says you can’t. 
 
The Confederacy was not founded so that Southerners could spread slavery from sea to shining sea either. There was much more to the ‘slavery in the territories’ issue than a simple issue of good vs bad. Like most issues, both in the past and in modern times, the political conflicts over this issue had to do more with money and power than any real moral issue. How do I know this? By reading the very public words of a Senator from Mississippi, Jefferson Davis, who in 1860, addressed his northern colleagues in the Senate as follows: 
 
(Spring of 1860) “What do you propose, gentlemen of the free soil party? Do you propose to better the condition of the slave? Not at all. What then do you propose? You say you are opposed to the expansion of slavery. Is the slave to be benefited by it? Not at all. What then do you propose? It is not humanity that influences you in the position which you now occupy before the country. It is that you may have an opportunity of cheating us that you want to limit slave territory within circumscribed bounds. It is that you may have a majority in the Congress of the United States and convert the government into an engine of Northern aggrandizement. It is that your section may grow in power and prosperity upon treasures unjustly taken from the South, like the vampire bloated and gorged with the blood which it has secretly sucked from its victim. You desire to weaken the political power of the Southern states, – and why? Because you want, by an unjust system of legislation, to promote the industry of the New England States, at the expense of the people of the South and their industry.” (A Constitutional History of Secession, By John Remington Graham, page 232, Pelican Publishing Company, copyright 2005) 
 
I think that Senator Jefferson Davis’ words put a crimp in the belief that it was “all about slavery.” 
 
And it was not the only time that this man or others like him questioned the motives of their northern countrymen either. He and many other Southerners did. But for some reason, their words just don’t seem to make it into the contemporary history books. In 1848, in that very same Senate Chamber, Davis made the following remarks: 
 
"Neither “love for the African”

[witness the northern laws against him], nor revulsion from “property in persons” [“No, you imported Africans and sold them as chattels in the slave markets”] motivated the present day agitators," argued Davis. “No sir….the mask is off, the purpose is avowed…It is a struggle for political power." [“Jefferson Davis – Unconquerable Heart”, By Felicity Allen, Page 168,  University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, copyright 1999] 
 
No, it was not “all about slavery.” It was about much much more than that. 
 
It was about the desire of the Southern people to be free. Free from what? For that answer, all you need is to take a good long look in the mirror and you will see the answer staring back at you. It was to be free of people like yourselves. 
 
Bill Vallante
Commack NY
Sons of Confederate Veterans, Associate Member, Camps 3000 & Camp 1506 
 
———————————————– 
 
The Editor Responds with not one, but two emails, each containing a question or comment: 
 
“Where does it say anywhere that the BIGGEST industry here at the time of the Constutional. Convention was the slave trade.” 
 
And 
 
“Yes –– “left alone’’ to own slaves.” 
 
Unfortunately for him, he stepped into it big time. Unlike him, I’ve done a bit of reading and research. My response is below 
 
—————————————————— 
 
Dear Ignoramus, 
 
LOL!  "Left alone to own slaves" – Spare me the moralizing. You should have gathered by now that such remonstrances from people like you move me not. Yes, people owned slaves in the early and mid 19th century. As I said, you will get no apologies from me. It was protected under the Constitution, it was something that had been going on in America for 240 years before Sumter was fired upon and going on world wide since the dawn of recorded history.  And until they ceased to make a profit from the slave trade itself, Rhode Islanders had no problem with it. By the way, you haven’t refuted anything that I said in my original letter. 
 
Shockingly, it does appear, from the tone of your responses, that you are completely unaware of Rhode Island’s involvement in the slave trade! Didn’t you take history when you were in school? Did you cut classes or did your teachers perhaps, fail to instruct you in how things actually were in your dear little state? 
 
For your information, in the 1950s and 1960s (when I was growing up in Providence), the old "Ma Bell" Providence phone book, had on its first page, the words "Serving Providence and Providence PLANTATIONS" What part of "PLANTATIONS" don’t you get? You really did not know that Rhode Island, in colonial times, had plantations? Read a history book. And as for the slave trade in Rhode Island, or its prominence in the late 1700s and early 1800s, just because you’ve never heard of it does not mean that it did not exist. 
 
I have included some historical references for you below. The first one answers your question about where it says that Rhode Island’s number one industry at the time of the Constitutional Convention was the slave trade. The others clearly demonstrate Rhode Island’s heavy involvement in that trade, as well as the general disregard that the sanctimonious Yankees of that state felt for the black man. Maybe if you ingest the facts I have presented to you it will keep you from releasing more public brain fa**s in the future. 
 
Bill Vallante 
 
"A New Englander commented in 1787 that Rhode Island then held first place in the traffic in African negroes, that the trade constituted one of the colony’s leading activities and was the source of the wealth of the majority of its citizens."(WEB Dubois, "Suppression of the Slave Trade to the United States of America," Russell and Russel Inc, NY, NY, 1965, pp. 34-35) 
 
"It is also noteworthy that, when Rhode Island passed a law providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves, the law was very carefully written to preclude any interference with the ongoing slave trade that was enriching the state." (Edgar McMannus, “Black Bondage in the North.” Syracuse U. Press, Syracuse NY, 1973 page 168)
 
"The deWolf family, one of the more prominent families in Rhode Island, was very much involved in the slave trade. Members of that esteemed family, also slavers, invested their money earned from the slave trade in distilleries and (of all things) in textile mills." (Daniel P. Mannix, Black Cargoes, (The Viking Press, NY, NY, 1962), page 245 ) 
 
"The Brown family, also slavers, invested their money in candle factories, the first cotton mills in American, and an iron furnace and foundry. These were used to provide Washington with many cannons during the revolutionary war. "(Ibid ) 
 
"Although the State (Rhode Island) has been flourishing, it is entirely free from debt, a large majority of the people have, for the last forty years, called loudly on the privileged landholders to give up their exclusive right to voting, and to extend the suffrage to all adult males, in accordance with the system established in all the neighboring States. Their demands did not differ very materially from those which the legislature was willing to concede, except that the democrats claimed the suffrage, not only for every American-born citizen, but also for the new-comers, or the settlers of a few years standing. Both parties agreed to exclude the free blacks.”  (Sir Charles Lyell, Travels in North America in the Years 1841-1842, (New York, 1845), I, pp. 83-84) 
 
"Burrill, an anti-slavery senator from Rhode Island, argued against the entrance of Missouri as a slave state and posed the question – would the “unexplored and almost interminable regions beyond the Mississippi be settled by “free white men” or “by slaves, and blackened with their continually increasing progeny?” The junior senator from Providence left no doubt as to where he stood. “I am not only adverse to a slave population, but also to any population composed of blacks, and of the infinite and motley confusion of colors between the black and white.”  ("Taking a Stand, Portraits from the Southern Secession Movement", Walter Brian Cisco, Page 60, White Main Books, 1998) 
 
"Although its lawmakers took pains in 1774 to decorate its statute books with an act reciting that any slave should immediately become free, they were foresighted enough to tack on as an appendage, a convenient escape clause; namely, that in certain specified instances, emancipation would not be enforced, provided the importer would give bond conditioned to dispose of the slaves beyond the boundaries of the colony. By which happy arrangement the Rhode Islanders salved their consciences and saved their investments."(WEB Dubois, "Suppression of the Slave Trade to the United States of America," Russell and Russel Inc, NY, NY, 1965 pp. 34-35)