Thursday, March 5, 2009 74 Comments

A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 7)

It occurs to me that the previous chapter may have fallen a bit short of its surgical purpose.

I mean, I did promise to relieve your skull of democracy's mendacious and infinitely self-serving history of itself. That ancient, poisoned puffball, its mycelia deep in your medulla. Yet here you still are, still believing in basically all of it. So what gives?

Patience, that's all. Obviously you have that. Or you wouldn't be here at UR. Why stop now?

In last week's episode, we explained the important part of modern history: the part about the winners. Ie, how we got from a few well-meaning Mugwumps to Kafka's castle in glass and concrete, the vast, sclerotic and depressing Modern Structure.

This week and next we're going to focus on the exciting part of the story. This is the story of the losers - the Neanderthals, as it were, who lost out to the Modern Structure and its lusty hominid forebears. Ie, to the great democratic movement for freedom, justice and democracy.

The Neanderthal experience is an exciting one for many reasons. It evokes strong emotions in those who have received the full democratic programming, which is pretty much all of us. Some of the Neanderthal characters are surprisingly sympathetic, but fated of course to lose, lending a certain Shakespearean attraction to their story. And last but not least, the struggle between moderns and archaics was generally settled by the most exciting phenomenon in hominid ethology - war.

It is important for us to remember, however, that there are no more Neanderthals. Hitler is not going to crawl out from under your bed and bite off your toes. Jefferson Davis, even if he weren't dead, would not have much chance for the Republican nomination in 2012. And not even old Kaiser Bill so much as rattles a bone in his Dutch grave - though an especially delicate geophone might just pick up his feelings about the American mulatto, Barack Obama, who spoke so eloquently before his father's Victory Column.

In history, it is the winners who matter. The losers, no matter how good or evil they were, cannot count. They lost, and ceased to exist. There is no existing institution, culture, or doctrine which is descended from the Gestapo, the Confederate Army, or the Austro-Hungarian Navy. The same cannot be said for the OSS, the Union Army, or (barely) the British Navy.

Therefore, the nature of the latter set is a practical question; the nature of the former set is not. The only practical reason to understand the Confederacy is that, to understand the Union, we may need to understand the Confederacy. Our moral judgment of the Confederacy is relevant only inasmuch as it confirms or challenges the Union's moral judgment.

And when we condemn the Gestapo, we are not striking at the legitimacy of any existing institution. And when we praise the Gestapo (should we choose to praise the Gestapo), we are not promoting the legitimacy of any existing institution. And therefore, as students of history, we feel free to say whatever we want about the Gestapo - as long as it is true, of course.

(It is an interesting fact about UR that, while I receive a fair amount of email which is almost uniformly of an extremely high quality and will all be answered some day, I have never received a single hostile communication. I sometimes feel like going to the SPLC and reporting myself. But not quite. Anyway - thank you, dear readers, and please help keep this record intact.)

So: clearly, our study of the anti-democratic Neanderthals revolves around three major wars. Together, we can call them the Three Modern Wars. To prevent any stray tentacles of mycelium from entering the surgical cavity, let's assign each a neutral name: the War of Secession, the First German War, the Second German War. No prizes for matching these events to their democratic doppelgangers.

Our focus today is the War of Secession (1861-65). But let's not zoom in on it just yet. What's interesting about the Modern Wars is that they share a number of common features. These resemblances might of course be coincidental, but then again they might not. If we list them first, we can look for them in the War of Secession - which, fortuitously, is not only the first but also the easiest to understand.

Feature A: in each Modern War, we see an archaic side (anti-democratic, right-wing, reactionary, etc) and a modern side (democratic, left-wing, revolutionary, etc). It is easy to see which is which: the Confederacy, Wilhelmine Germany, and Nazi Germany are archaic.

Feature B: in each Modern War, the archaic side initiated military activity by attacking the modern forces. The Confederates shelled Fort Sumter, the Kaiser invaded Belgium, Hitler invaded Poland and the Japanese bombed Hawaii, etc, etc. This might of course be a mere military coincidence, but I don't think it is.

Feature C: In each Modern War, the archaic side was substantially weaker on paper than the modern. The Union was substantially more populous and industrially productive than the Confederacy, the Triple Entente than the Triple Alliance, the Allies than the Axis.

Feature D: In each Modern War, the modern side defeated the archaic, and imposed its own terms of surrender without negotiation. The defeated political structures were thoroughly liquidated, and replaced by new structures of the victor's design.

The conjunction of B, C and D is especially intriguing. If the archaics always look like they will lose the war, and indeed always do lose the war, why do they always start the war?

The obvious theory is that they're so evil, they just can't help it. Perhaps this works for you, and perhaps it always will. But we will suggest another solution to this mystery.

And there is also a Feature E, which demands slightly more explanation.

You may or may not be familiar with Moldbug's Universal Peace Plan. Now, your usual, common or run-of-the-mill peace plan is a special-purpose plan. It is designed, by expert experts, to produce a peaceful outcome for a single conflict. Palestine, say, or Northern Ireland, or Sri Lanka. You could have the perfect peace plan for Sri Lanka, and apply it to the Gaza Strip, and the result would just be absolute chaos.

The UPP is different. It's a general formula for peace. It stops any war, anywhere, any time. At least, if both sides are willing to accept it. But isn't that true of all peace plans?

To apply the Universal Peace Plan, first ask the question: do both sides maintain effective and undisputed control over at least one town, city, or other civilized urban area? If not, one or both sides is no sovereign at all, but a mere gang of bandits. To restore peace: hang the bandits.

Otherwise, the conflict is a war between two governments. The UPP prescribes the simplest possible settlement. The new boundary between the governments is the present line of military control. Each recognizes the other as a sovereign peer under classical international law. All financial claims from the war are cancelled; all prewar obligations remain. Done.

The great merit of the UPP, aside from its perfection and universal applicability, is that we can see easily whether or not any side in any past or present conflict would accept it, even when we have no record of anyone considering the proposition. Moreover, it is obvious that if both sides would accept the UPP, the war cannot continue.

Therefore, in an ongoing war, there must be one side that would accept the UPP and one that would not. This introduces a useful asymmetry. We can call the side that would not accept the UPP the plaintiff, and the side that would accept it the defendant. [Edit - in the original post, these labels were reversed. Sorry for the confusion!]

Of course, this asymmetry may reverse with the fortunes of war. But to put it in plain English, the plaintiff is the party that wants to continue the war. The defendant is the party that would be happy to let it stop where it is.

This asymmetry does not imply any moral judgment. If the plaintiff has been wronged, he may be perfectly justified in pursuing the war to redress this wrong. His offensive may be preemptive and self-defensive in nature. Etc, etc, etc. Unlike modern international law, classical international law is perfectly comfortable with the notion of a justified offensive war.

All that said, however, perhaps the most common form of warfare throughout history can be described as simple predation. In predation, the predator attacks the prey. The weak are the dinner of the strong. And the predator is generally the plaintiff, for obvious reasons.

So, feature E. For at least most of the duration of the Modern Wars, the modern side is the plaintiff and the archaic side is the defendant.

Eg: the North is trying to subdue the South; the South is trying not to be subdued by the North. Victory for the Confederacy means the survival of the Confederacy. Victory for the Union means the non-survival of the Confederacy. The German Wars are slightly more complex, but through most of both wars, it was the Germans who made peace proposals, their enemies who rejected them.

The combination of features E and C suggests the possibility that predation is the best metaphor with which to explain the Modern Wars. At least, if we did not find E and C, we could exclude predation. We do see E and C; so we must still consider predation.

Therefore, we have two conflicting perspectives with which to examine the Modern Wars. We have the standard modern perspective, which is that the archaics were just evil. And we have this synthetic perspective, a sterile hypothesis for which we have seen no evidence whatsoever - the theory that the modern, democratic side in these wars was in some sense predatory.

Now let's have a look at the War of Secession.

Unless you are not an American at all, but some kind of exotic foreigner - and probably even then - you already have a favorite side in the War of Secession. Probably for most UR readers (nay, hopefully for most UR readers) this is the Union side. All normal people in 2009 know the Union was right. Only weirdos are fans of the Confederates. Of course, only weirdos read UR, but most weirdos do not read UR, and nor should they.

Our goal today is not to change your decision in this matter. While I have trouble seeing how any informed, reasonable person today could be anything but a Loyalist in the matter of the American Rebellion, I feel that any vote in the election of 1860 is reasonably justifiable. Picking sides in this war, in particular, is a matter of moral wisdom and intuitive judgment. These qualities cannot be transmitted over the Internet.

I will state quite confidently, however, that unless you are such a weirdo that like me you have chosen to research the matter for yourself, your opinion on the War of Secession - whether Unionist or Confederate - is not a well-informed one. If you doubt this, I have links for you. Not only is most neo-Unionist history garbage, most neo-Confederate history is garbage as well.

It is easy to understand why Unionist history would be unreliable. Having won the war, this side has no motive for humility. Moreover, 21st-century progressivism has the best of grounds for associating itself with its ancient ancestor, abolitionism.

On the neo-Confederate front, I do have to give some props to Professor DiLorenzo, because one of his anti-Lincoln books was the first non-Unionist history of the war I read. Many, even most, of his facts are correct. However, his libertarian Confederacy is as perfect a fantasy as anything by Howard Zinn. The proposition that the Confederates were, in some sense, acting on the basis of classical-liberal ideology, is not DiLorenzo's invention (it was designed to promote British intervention on the side of the South), but it is no more true in 2009 than it was in 1862. The Confederates were aristocratic conservatives, whose sympathy for free trade was a matter of geography rather than principle. The primary ideological issue of the war was, of course, slavery.

So let's start with slavery. As a faithful devotee of the Modern Structure, 2009, your view of the War of Secession is or at least includes the following judgment: the war was a good thing, because it abolished slavery. The North was good, because it was fighting against slavery. The South was bad, because it was fighting for slavery.

This is a very simple view. And here at UR, we find great virtue in simplicity. But of course, one can be simply wrong as well as simply right.

We will consider the question of slavery - never fear. However, because our emotional associations with the word and concept are so strong, rational thought in its presence is hard. What we need is a conceptual tool which can separate our moral judgment of slavery from our critical assessment of the political acts and actions of the 1850s.

So, for example: if you see someone lying, cheating, and stealing, you are inclined to dislike him. But if he is lying, cheating, and stealing with the goal of freeing the slaves, what shall we make of him? It's a complicated issue. We would like to at least separate the questions, and determine first whether he is lying, cheating, and stealing, without having to think about slaves first.

The name of our tool is temperance. Ie, prohibition of alcohol. For reasons that will be obvious to any UR reader, the temperance and abolition movements were close bedfellows. The match is not perfect, of course, but if we replace slavery with liquor, we have a hot-button issue in the 1850s whose emotional connotations in 2009 are comical at best.

So, for example: when politicians are fighting about whether "slavery shall go into Kansas," just think of them as fighting about whether liquor shall go into Kansas. Is Kansas to be a wet state, or a dry state? Shall Congress decide? Or the settlers in Kansas? Are prohibitionists in Massachusetts organizing to dispatch teetotalers to the territories? Are all the worst sots of Missouri up in arms against them?

With this device at our disposal, we are equipped to ask: disregarding the moral connotations of slavery (which we will consider later), which side in the War of Secession was in the right?

We'll need a precise definition of "in the right." Frederick Maitland once wrote that all systems of law resolve into two commandments: keep your promises, and tell the truth. These will do as well as any others.

We'll add a third: be reasonable. Reliability, honesty, and reasonableness tend to go together. Moreover, we have a remarkable facility for determining the last: hindsight. If one side predicts that the effect of A will be B, another predicts C, and A happens, we have a nice experiment.

Note, unless you have made some special study of the period, the total uselessness of your democratic education in answering the question. See how the righteousness of the crusade against slavery can cover and excuse any conceivable sin. Might it be possible that the same effect was already active in the 1850s? It might indeed be possible.

So let's start our examination of the evidence by considering two quotes from 1856. Our first:
Do you say that such restriction of slavery would be unconstitutional, and that some of the States would not submit to its enforcement? I grant you that an unconstitutional act is not a law; but I do not ask and will not take your construction of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States is the tribunal to decide such a question, and we will submit to its decisions; and if you do also, there will be an end of the matter. Will you? If not, who are the disunionists—you or we? We, the majority, would not strive to dissolve the Union; and if any attempt is made, it must be by you, who so loudly stigmatize us as disunionists.

But the Union, in any event, will not be dissolved. We don't want to dissolve it, and if you attempt it we won't let you. With the purse and sword, the army and navy and treasury, in our hands and at our command, you could not do it. This government would be very weak indeed if a majority with a disciplined army and navy and a well-filled treasury could not preserve itself when attacked by an unarmed, undisciplined, unorganized minority. All this talk about the dissolution of the Union is humbug, nothing but folly. We do not want to dissolve the Union; you shall not.
Our second:
Perfect liberty of association for political objects and the widest scope of discussion are the received and ordinary conditions of government in our country. Our institutions, framed in the spirit of confidence in the intelligence and integrity of the people, do not forbid citizens, either individually or associated together, to attack by writing, speech, or any other methods short of physical force the Constitution and the very existence of the Union. Under the shelter of this great liberty, and protected by the laws and usages of the Government they assail, associations have been formed in some of the States of individuals who, pretending to seek only to prevent the spread of slavery into the present or future inchoate States of the Union, are really inflamed with desire to change the domestic institutions of existing States. To accomplish their objects they dedicate themselves to the odious task of depreciating the government organization which stands in their way and of calumniating with indiscriminate invective not only the citizens of particular States with whose laws they find fault, but all others of their fellow-citizens throughout the country who do not participate with them in their assaults upon the Constitution, framed and adopted by our fathers, and claiming for the privileges it has secured and the blessings it has conferred the steady support and grateful reverence of their children. They seek an object which they well know to be a revolutionary one. They are perfectly aware that the change in the relative condition of the white and black races in the slaveholding States which they would promote is beyond their lawful authority; that to them it is a foreign object; that it can not be effected by any peaceful instrumentality of theirs; that for them and the States of which they are citizens the only path to its accomplishment is through burning cities, and ravaged fields, and slaughtered populations, and all there is most terrible in foreign complicated with civil and servile war; and that the first step in the attempt is the forcible disruption of a country embracing in its broad bosom a degree of liberty and an amount of individual and public prosperity to which there is no parallel in history, and substituting in its place hostile governments, driven at once and inevitably into mutual devastation and fratricidal carnage, transforming the now peaceful and felicitous brotherhood into a vast permanent camp of armed men like the rival monarchies of Europe and Asia.
The first quote: Abraham Lincoln, August 1, 1856. The favorite president of the democratic historian. The second quote: Franklin Pierce, December 2, 1856. Not the favorite president of the democratic historian.

Pierce's last State of the Union address, at the link above, is an excellent introduction to the crisis from a perspective you have probably never seen before. Read the whole thing. Beveridge - of whom more shortly - has this to say about Pierce's state of mind at the time:
Pierce was leaving public life forever; there was not even the possibility of a hope that he could be President again; at the Cincinnati Convention the South had left him for Douglas; he was going back to his New Hampshire home and that State had become almost as fierce against slavery and the South. If any man ever was free from political influence, Franklin Pierce was unbound and untrammelled when he wrote his last annual message to Congress.
Pierce makes exactly one error in his dark prophecy. By "servile war," he refers to the common expectation that any North-South conflict will include some sort of a slave revolt. The slaves in fact remained loyal, an outcome which only the most diehard Southern partisans predicted.

Note that the Lincoln quote contains a broken promise as well as a flagrantly incorrect prediction. Lincoln is referring to the impending Dred Scott decision. Republican submission to the Supreme Court on this outcome was not, in fact, conspicuous. To say the least.

(Also notable is Lincoln's denial of the charge that he is a disunionist; this is a strawman. No reasonable person would have made this charge about Lincoln himself, who was always an anti-slavery man but never an abolitionist. It was the abolitionists, such as Garrison, who advocated Northern secession right up until a more attractive alternative appeared.)

This example is not definitive. But it is characteristic. Let it sit for a minute, and let me try to explain how the War of Secession came about.

At the time of American independence, there was little or no proslavery ideology. American slavery was an accident, an outlier. It was an African institution which had spread to the English colonies via Portugal and Spain. It survived because English property and contract law of the time was so strong that it frowned not at all on contractual servitude. This was easily extended to Negro slaves purchased from the existing Spanish asiento trade, though they had signed no contract of indenture. Slavery existed at first because no one had the power to ban it or to confiscate slaves. Before the American Rebellion it was gradually regularized - in all states, not just the South - by legal recognition of actual fact. It was, in short, an unprincipled exception to the democratic enthusiasms of the 18th century.

So, for example, a Virginian slaveholder like Jefferson could write a prohibition of slavery into the law that established the Northwest Territory, because the issue at the time was not a bone of contention. Statesmen of the early Republic, North and South, generally saw slavery as an artifact of history which was undesirable and fated, somehow, to disappear.

All this changed in the '20s, and still more in the '30s, with the rise of abolitionism. Imported from England and associated, as we would expect, with Quakers, Unitarians, Methodists, etc, etc, abolitionism was the first great cause of the democratic era. Its original exponents, as we would expect, were highly moral and principled intellectuals, such as John Quincy Adams.

There were two basic problems with abolitionism.

One: it could not be seen as anything but an attack on the South, the weaker party, by the North, the stronger party. Once the lines of sectional politics were clear, as Jefferson saw clearly in 1820, the question of whether a new state would allow slavery was the question of which bloc would get its two new Senators.

Two: the North had no legal basis whatsoever for this attack. The idea that the Federal government had the power to end slavery and free the slaves was roughly as foreign to antebellum constitutional law as the proposition that Barack Obama could order Rush Limbaugh hanged at dawn, "just because he's an asshole," is to ours.

It is difficult to find a legal or substantive argument in the Republican political rhetoric of the era that is (a) valid, (b) nontrivial, and (c) sincere. Skipping ahead to the legality of secession, for example, the modern historian David Potter (writing so late as 1977) lists the five most common explanations of it (or, more precisely, of the illegality of coercing a state to remain in the Union), and then remarks, without irony as far as I can tell:
Against the defenders of this doctrine, the defenders of nationalism did not come off as well as they might have, partly because they accepted the assumption that the nature of the Union should be determined by legal means, somewhat as if it were a case in the law of contracts.
Indeed. Pity the poor bastards, who thought that the nature of the Union should be "determined by legal means!" When - as seen previously on UR - the Union was created by anything but legal means. Mob, brickbat and musket return, and claim their inheritance in blood. With interest.

But suffice it to say: in the reactionary atmosphere of 1787, no one at the Constitutional Convention had any idea that they were signing anything but a legal document, "as if it were a case in the law of contracts." Fortunately for the 18th century, romantic nationalism had not been invented quite yet. Of course, to a romantic nationalist, this means nothing at all, and it is perfectly reasonable to argue, as Lincoln did, that "the Union is older than the states," etc, etc.

This situation set the pattern of the resulting cold war. Southern politicians, writers and ministers found the moral defense of slavery in the context of democracy and Christianity a difficult problem, but not at all impossible for the sinuous. But they found the legal defense of slavery no problem at all, because the law was on their side from day one.

Northern politicians, writers and ministers had exactly the opposite problem. While the American mores of 1850 were not quite the same as ours, moral condemnation of slavery came almost as naturally then as it does now. However, said moral condemnation created the urge to actually do something about the problem. For which the North had no legal standing at all.

During the 1840s and 1850s, the antislavery movement spread far beyond the handful of Massachusetts intellectuals who were the original abolitionists. And its features became extremely unattractive. Because it had no legal means to proceed, it resorted to illegal ones. Because the truth was that the North was attacking the South and trying to abolish slavery, its politicians had to assert that the South was attacking the North and trying to propagate slavery. Conspiracy theories abounded - such as Lincoln's completely false charge that the Dred Scott decision was a conspiracy between Douglas, Buchanan, Taney and Pierce to bring about national slavery, as wild a lie as anything in American political history.

As the ideology of antislavery spread West, it passed from those who hated slavery because they loved Negroes as fellow men, to those who hated slavery because they didn't want Negroes around. (Lincoln, with typical dexterity, managed to convince his audiences that he was in both categories.) Thus the free-state Kansas constitution prohibited Negroes free or slave, as did that of Oregon. By 1860, little that is human or humane can be found in the antislavery movement. Its engine runs on pure chimp rage. As Pierce's speech shows, it took no hindsight to detect the growing smell of blood.

Responsible Northern statesmen, typically Democrats or "old line" Whigs, saw where things were going, and with their old Southern Unionist friends did their best to shut the antislavery agitation off. This was generally taken by antislavery men, and by your less scrupulous historians, as complicity with the infamous Slave Power.

So, for example, the authors of the Dred Scott decision had no thought of instituting slavery in Vermont. Their goal was to drive a legal nail into the coffin of the antislavery movement, allowing a country in which the map of slavery had been finally and completely outlined (after Kansas, there were no remaining territorial quarrels) to return to politics as usual. But every attempt of this type was no more than political fuel to the antislavery machine.

Southerners developed the increasingly beleaguered sense of nationalism that terminated in secession. They had two choices, neither good. If they compromised and accepted Northern demands, despite the essential asymmetry of the situation, they gave in to force and fed a crocodile. The next round of agitation would demand more. If Southerners resisted, being the hot-blooded people they were, or even raised the ante, they were conjuring the specter of the Slave Power and contributing to Northern paranoia.

The repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854 is a typical event. As Pierce notes, the original compromise of 1820 had been repeatedly abused and violated by the North, most notably in the complete evisceration of the fugitive-slave clause. The Compromise of 1850, regarded by both sides as a last-ditch attempt to prevent Southern secession, had replaced a sensible geographical boundary with the murky Douglasian principle of popular sovereignty. It had not, however, made it clear that this principle was to apply to territories on the Northern side of the 1820 line - such as Kansas and Nebraska - as well as the Mexican territories on the Southern side, such as Utah and New Mexico.

At the time this appeared to work, and the antislavery agitation drained away. But in 1854 Douglas made a fatal mistake: he wanted to organize Kansas and Nebraska as territorial governments, because he wanted to run the transcontinental railroad through them. This was a blow to the South, because the obvious alternative was a Southern rather than central route. As a small payoff to Southern senators, he proposed a bill for the territorial organization that adopted the language already used for Utah and New Mexico.

This was not quite enough for some of the Southern hard-liners. They wanted the Missouri Compromise repealed explicitly, an outcome they took to be (a) only fair, (b) implicit in the Compromise of 1850, and (c) irrelevant in practice, as Kansas and Nebraska were not at all suitable for the slave plantation system. This was not a substantive point for the South, but - like so many other points in the controversy - one of mere honor.

Of course, Southerners took honor quite seriously. It was their general assumption that anyone who failed to defend a trivial point of honor would soon have neither honor nor anything else to defend. And in the vicious political world of 19th-century America, they may well have been right. However, it was foolish of both Douglas and the Southerners to expect even the slightest symbolic concession to be made to the Slave Power, without reigniting the antislavery agitation. And this indeed was the result.

This pattern holds right down to the proximate cause of the war, the Fort Sumter incident, whose story I take from George Lunt's Origin of the Late War (Boston, 1865):
Mr. Campbell, of Alabama, who had resigned his position as one of the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, when the State in which he resided declared for secession, was the organ of communication, at Washington, between the Department of State and the Confederate commissioners. His account of his negotiation has been before the public, and has not been contradicted upon any known authority. He stated that Mr. Seward authorized him to give assurances to the Southern commissioners that Fort Sumter would be evacuated. This assurance appears to have been repeated, on various occasions, and at length with the statement that the fort would be immediately evacuated. On the seventh of April, Mr. Campbell, having learned, doubtless, that ships-of-war were in motion at New York and elsewhere, and hearing the rumors at Washington, addressed a note, indicating his uneasiness, to the Secretary of State, and received the explicit reply: "Faith as to Sumter fully kept - wait and see." On the twelfth of April, a fleet, consisting of two sloops-of-war, a steam cutter, and three steam transports appeared off Charleston harbor, and remained at anchor in the offing, inactively, during the assault which ensued. It is well known that upon the appearance of this fleet, a message was despatched to Montgomery for orders, to which the reply was, to demand the surrender of the fort, and to reduce it if compliance with the demand were refused. Upon Major Anderson's refusal, the bombardment began.

Whether the appearance of this fleet, under the circumstances, could be considered a pacific or a hostile demonstration, may be left to inference. Whether its total inaction, during the fierce bombardment of the fort and its defence, continued for days, and until its final surrender, justly bears the aspect of an intention to avoid the charge of "aggression," and to give the whole affair the appearance of defence merely, may also be referred to the judgment of the reader. The question also occurs - whether this sudden naval demonstration was not such a palpable violation of the promise - "faith as to Sumter fully kept" - as to be an unmistakable menace of "aggression," if not absolute aggression in itself. For these inquiries are not to be settled upon the basis of the abstract right or duty of the Government to adopt one line of conduct or another, in its own support; but, in reference to the position in which it had placed itself, to the understanding between the parties, and to the whole circumstances of the actual case in hand. It should also be considered that when the fleet came to anchor off Charleston bar, it was well known that many other and larger vessels-of-war, attended by transports containing troops and surf-boats, and all the necessary means of landing forces, had already sailed from Northern ports - "destination unknown" - and that very considerable time must have been requisite to get this expedition ready for sea, during the period that assurances had been so repeatedly given of the evacuation of the fort. It bore the aspect, certainly, of a manoeuvre, which military persons, and sometimes, metaphorically, politicians, denominate "stealing a march." It was generally thought at the North that the attack on Fort Sumter was a desperate, if not a treacherous deed; but it was considered at the South as the repulse of a threatened assault upon Charleston, involving an ostensible breach of faith by a responsible officer and agent of the administration.
I can find very little information on George Lunt, for reasons that should be obvious. (I was linked to Lunt by Carlyle, who mentions him in a footnote in Shooting Niagara.) He was obviously a capable historian, and an old-line Whig of the Daniel Webster school. I'm afraid his verse does not speak to me.

As with Pierce, it must have been clear to Lunt that his words could earn him nothing but ignominy and oblivion. I cannot even fathom the quantity of testicular fortitude required to publish this sort of material in Boston in 1865. Origin of the Late War is simply a wonderful book; it has both judgment and immediacy, detail and passion. I recommend it highly. If you only read one primary source on the War of Secession, this should probably be the one.

We start to see the effective strategy here. It is perhaps not a conscious one in anyone's mind. (For example, it is quite plausible that the mixed messages sent about Sumter were simply a result of disorganization in the early Lincoln administration, although the conclusion that Lincoln, despite his speeches at the time, wanted a war and was happy to get one is unavoidable. It is really difficult to understate Lincoln's sincerity.) Nonetheless, the strategy works quite well.

The approach is one of camouflaged predation. Perhaps it can be summarized as: "kick the dog until he bites, then shoot him." Press your target, using blows that hurt but do not draw blood, until he finally snaps and bites back. Then it's time for the Glock. The resulting execution appears to the casual observer, who misses the kicks or can be persuaded not to see them, as a simple case of justified self-defense - putting down a biting dog.

We have an explanation for feature B, the tendency of the weaker party to attack. It is what an animal trainer would call fear biting. Moreover, the dog that does not fear-bite is liable to be kicked to death. Sovereign rights, when not defended, tend to vanish.

There is an accepted diplomatic term for what Seward and Lincoln, whatever did or did not pass between them, did at Sumter. That term is provocation. A provocation is an act designed, or reasonably expected, to cause the target to initiate hostilities. Provocation is only a useful tactic when the provoker is (a) stronger than the provokee, (b) does not want to be seen as the initiator of the conflict, and (c) knows that the provokee has no alternative but to respond.

For example, if the Confederacy had not fired on Sumter after Seward's provocation, it would have effectively demonstrated its cowardice and pusillanimity to a population, North and South, well-trained to recognize both. It would have become laughable, and soon disappeared - as many in the North were predicting. The decision was fatal, of course, but there was no choice.

And so democracy claims another victim. Did you ever wonder how it took over the world? Here's your answer. Camouflaged predation tends to be popular with the voters, who read it as laudable self-defence, the extermination of vermin, or both. And of course it deceives the enemy as well. Had the South seceded in 1850, even had Virginia voted to secede (as she almost did) in 1861 before Lincoln's inauguration, we would probably have a Southern Confederacy to this day.

For fans of the Confederacy, we must describe the general mistake that brought it down. The Confederates made many errors, of course, as any government of any longevity must; but perhaps the general pattern of their error was that the Confederate nation was conservative, rather than reactionary. Perhaps, in the 19th century, this was avoidable; but it was still fatal.

A conservative is one who, rather than simply rejecting the revolutionary tradition of democracy, finds some effective way to contaminate it with reality, thus producing a weak but somewhat effective simulation of archism out of basically anarchist materials. Conservatism always appears, because it is easy. And it always fails, because it is weak and fraudulent. It is a case of tiling over the linoleum.

The American populist conservatism of the late 20th century, so reminiscent of Disraeli's "Tory democracy," is a fine example. It uses the tools of democracy to appeal to the inchoate urge of the petty-bourgeois or kulak class for law, order, and national power. In the long run, this is a great way to persuade your aristocracy that it needs to smash the bourgeoisie. Not a fortunate result, and not the only way that real power has of resisting this feeble attack, either. But in the short run it can improve things, sort of, for a little while.

The Confederates failed because they failed to realize that they were Cavaliers. Lord only knows what they would have done if they had, but it would have been quite a bit more drastic. This was not quite a realization available to the 19th-century Southern intellectual - not even to the most extreme, such as the fascinating George Fitzhugh, star of what Louis Hartz called the "Reactionary Enlightenment" and author of the amazing and mischievous proslavery tract Cannibals All. Even Fitzhugh was not quite ready to restore the Stuarts, and he was probably more talked about in the North than read in the South. It was just the wrong century for that sort of a thing.

The Confederacy, in particular, failed first and foremost because it seceded way too late. It should have done the deed in 1850 at the latest, and probably earlier. It was not necessary to wait for Abraham Lincoln, John Brown and the Secret Six for the South to know that the North was after its blood. It should have been clear by the 1830s that the marriage with Puritan revolutionary democracy was not a winner.

After that, it failed because it failed to secure British support. Sheldon Vanauken, in his excellent Glittering Illusion, tells the story of this fiasco. The demise of the Confederacy was the demise of the aristocratic tradition in Great Britain, and yet these natural allies could both have survived had Palmerston lifted a finger in the appropriate direction.

The reason he did not, as Vanauken explains, is that the general feeling in Britain was that the Confederacy could not possibly lose - being far more studly than the successful nationalist revolutionaries in Greece and Italy. (Of course, the liberals of Greece and Italy (a) were actually liberal, and (b) actually had the British Navy on their side.)

Thus, the fighting should be kept going as long as possible, to bleed the loathsome Jonathan. Many British aristocrats were quite surprised, and quite disappointed, when the surrender of Richmond did not lead to a protracted guerrilla campaign. Of course, this was not to be expected from a movement which was conservative, rather than revolutionary - not to mention one faced with the utterly (and appropriately, in my judgment) ruthless North. Again, the error is one of building reaction on the ideological foundations of revolution.

But before we get too carried away with the Lost Cause, note: we are still working on the temperance theory. We are describing the Confederacy as if it were a normal country, not one built on the evil of slavery. Surely, different rules apply.

I have been writing as if slavery, as a moral question, was a non-issue (like temperance). Had the gigantic mendacity and ruthless violence of the North been unleashed not against slavery, but alcohol, there are only two ways in which the historian of 2009 might regard the War of Secession. He might see it as the historians of the 1930s saw it, a tragedy at best and a crime at worst. Or he might live in a country bone-dry for a century and a half, and see alcohol the way we see slavery. Error has a way of compounding itself.

But the war was not about alcohol. It was about slavery. To re-examine the war, and not at the same time consider slavery, strikes me as an evasion.

For the reader of 2009, the problem is simple. "Slavery" is a word. The word, by itself, means nothing at all. You associate the word with a phenomenon, a picture, perhaps even a movie, one that perhaps owes something to Harriet Beecher Stowe, maybe even a little to Addio Zio Tom, and certainly a good bit to National Public Radio. Therefore, when you read the writing of Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Pierce, and you see the word "slavery," you see this picture.

And where, exactly, did this picture come from? Certainly not from anything you saw with your own eyes. No. We know where these pictures come from. It is not reality. I mean: you know Uncle Tom's Cabin is a propaganda novel. Do you get your views on Jews from Jud Süß? If not, why not? Like, duh, man.

The only remedy is more primary sources. Let me recommend two. One is the Rev. Richard Bickell's West Indies As They Are, written in 1824 about Jamaica. (Note that slavery in Jamaica in 1824 is almost certainly worse than slavery anywhere in the US in 1854.) As Bickell explains:
At the present time, when the humane and religious of all classes and sects in the United Kingdoms, seem deeply impressed with the evils, and are anxious to alleviate the hardships of Slavery in our West Indian colonies; some remarks on the real state of that Slavery, with the effects it produces on the different classes of the inhabitants, by one who has been an eye-witness, and has had abundant opportunities of making himself acquainted with the subject on which he writes, may not be unacceptable to the public ; more especially, as there has been a great conflict of opinions between those on the different sides of the question; the colonists and their abettors asserting that the Slaves are better off than the labourers in England; whilst the abolitionists, the friends of the Slaves in this country, on the other hand, have been misinformed as to some of the evils of Slavery, and have represented to the world, by their writings, the condition of the Negroes as being rather worse than it really is. The truth, most likely, lies between the statements of these two parties, for the colonists may very justly be suspected of being too much interested to give an impartial statement of their own affairs, being prejudiced by birth, or long residence, and by their contempt for the Negro race; whilst some of their opponents may have suffered themselves to be carried away by the overflowings of humanity and a generous sympathy for the oppressed, without a due consideration for vested rights; or may have been misled by the interested statements of disappointed men; or through an opposite interest, some of them may have been, in some measure, influenced by the spirit of party.
Indeed. (And note also that the Rev. Bickell sheds fresh light on the mystery of the Mustiphino.)

My other favorite primary source on slavery is the Rev. Nehemiah Adams' South-Side View of Slavery (1854), by a Unitarian minister from Boston who observed the peculiar institution in its native habitat. The Rev. Adams is also a fellow of weird honesty:
Very early in my visit at the south, agreeable impressions were made upon me, which soon began to be interspersed with impressions of a different kind in looking at slavery. The reader will bear this in mind, and not suppose, at any one point in the narrative, that I am giving results not to be qualified by subsequent statements. The feelings awakened by each new disclosure or train of reflection are stated without waiting for any thing which may follow.

Just before leaving home, several things had prepared me to feel a special interest in going to the south.

The last thing which I did out of doors before leaving Boston was, to sign the remonstrance of the New England clergymen against the extension of slavery into the contemplated territories of Nebraska and Kansas. I had assisted in framing that remonstrance.

The last thing which I happened to do late at night before I began my journey was, to provide something for a freed slave on his way to Liberia, who was endeavoring to raise several thousand dollars to redeem his wife and children from bondage. My conversations relating to this slave and his family had filled me with new but by no means strange distress, and the thought of looking slavery in the face, of seeing the things which had so frequently disturbed my self-possession, was by no means pleasant. To the anticipation of all the afflictive sights which I should behold there was added the old despair of seeing any way of relieving this fearful evil, while the unavailing desire to find it, excited by the actual sight of wrongs and woe, I feared would make my residence at the south painful.
[...]
In the growth of the human mind, fancy takes the lead of observation, and-through life it is always running ahead of it. Who has not been greatly amused, sometimes provoked, and sometimes, perhaps, been made an object of mirth, at the preconceived notions which he had formed of an individual, or place, or coming event Who has not sometimes prudently kept his fancies to himself? Taking four hundred ministers of my denomination in Massachusetts, and knowing how we all converse, and preach, and pray about slavery, and noticing since my return from the south the questions which are put, and the remarks which are made upon the answers, it will be safe to assert that on going south I had at least the average amount of information and ignorance with regard to the subject. Some may affect to wonder even at the little which has now been disclosed of my secret fancies. I should have done the same in the case of another; for the credulity or simplicity of a friend, when expressed or exposed, generally raises self-satisfied feelings in the most of us. Our southern friends, on first witnessing our snow storms, sleigh rides, and the gathering of our ice crops, are full as simple as we are in a first visit among them. We "suffer fools gladly, seeing" that we ourselves "are wise."
Perhaps Adams and Lunt occasionally conversed. Their words surely won them few other friends in that time and place. Lest I be accused of substituting my own judgment, I will spare you the actual content. If you care, I'm sure you will read it.

For a general history of American slavery from my favorite period of the craft, try Ulrich Phillips, American Negro Slavery (1918). If you must have a source which is both modern and mainstream, there is always Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll (1976). Neither of these will be mistaken for the work of Mrs. Stowe, and they are generally synoptic with Adams and Bickell. And there are always the Slave Narratives, though it is very difficult to sense the reliability of each individual story.

I should also say something briefly about the theory of slavery. As anyone who has read Aristotle knows, slavery is nanogovernment. If you scale down the relationship of authority between government and subject, you obtain the relationship between master and slave.

This is, in a word, sovereignty. A can claim any percentage of B's labor, and has the right and power to direct, restrict or punish B as A sees fit. Slavery is actually a toned-down imitation of sovereignty, because the master is responsible to a government, whereas a government by definition is responsible to no higher power.

What was slavery like, for the slave? It depended on the quality of your master. What is government like, for the governed? It depends on the quality of your government. In the history of American slavery, it can safely be said that most slaveowners were decent people who treated their slaves reasonably, while a nontrivial percentage were not.

Note also that we are talking about heavy agricultural laborers in an unpleasant climate. When most of us imagine ourselves as slaves, I suspect most of the suffering we imagine is in picking cotton, cutting sugar cane, etc. I wouldn't last a day - would you? Yet we should remember that whatever Lincoln and Grant did for the slaves, it did not involve freeing them from agricultural labor.

It is in fact very difficult to argue that the War of Secession made anyone's life more pleasant, including that of the freed slaves. (Perhaps your best case would be for New York profiteers and Unitarian poets who produced homilies to war.) War destroyed the economy of the South. It brought poverty, disease and death. As Lincoln put it: "root, hog, or die." While material things are not everything, and the psychological impact of freedom was large and usually positive, you will find few slave narratives in which the late 1860s are remembered as days of wine and roses.

So your best bet, as a Union supporter, is probably the argument that the war made a better life for the children, grandchildren, etc, of the slaves it freed. On a moral level, this is slightly metaphysical for me, but I think on a historical level I can buy it. Of course, the war did also kill 600,000 people, but this is a small butcher's bill by the standards of the Modern Wars. Again, it's your choice.

There is one other fact to be mentioned on the subject, however. It comes to us from an essay that is perhaps the best introduction to the art of reconsidering the War of Secession - 'Tis Sixty Years Since (1913), by our good friend Charles Francis Adams, Jr. Note that Adams, besides being the scion of Presidents, commanded a Union brigade in his youth. The whole address is worth reading, but this passage will jump out at anyone:
So far, then, as the institution of slavery is concerned, in its relations to ownership and property in those of the human species, I have seen no reason whatever to revise or in any way to alter the theories and principles I entertained in 1853, and in the maintenance of which I subsequently bore arms between 1861 and 1865. Economically, socially, and from the point of view of abstract political justice, I hold that the institution of slavery, as it existed in this country prior to the year 1865, was in no respect either desirable or justifiable. That it had its good and even its elevating side, so far at least as the African is concerned, I am not here to deny. On the contrary, I see and recognize those features of the institution far more clearly now than I should have said would have been possible in 1853. That the institution in itself, under conditions then existing, tended to the elevation of the less advanced race, I frankly admit I did not then think. On the other hand, that it exercised a most pernicious influence upon those of the more advanced race, and especially upon that large majority of the more advanced race who were not themselves owners of slaves—of that I have become with time ever more and more satisfied. The noticeable feature, however, so far as I individually am concerned, has been the entire change of view as respects certain of the fundamental propositions at the base of our whole American political and social edifice brought about by a more careful and intelligent ethnological study. I refer to the political equality of man, and to that race absorption to which I have alluded—that belief that any foreign element introduced into the American social system and body politic would speedily be absorbed therein, and in a brief space thoroughly assimilated. In this all-important respect I do not hesitate to say we theorists and abstractionists of the North, throughout that long antislavery discussion which ended with the 1861 clash of arms, were thoroughly wrong. In utter disregard of fundamental, scientific facts, we theoretically believed that all men— no matter what might be the color of their skin, or the texture of their hair—were, if placed under exactly similar conditions, in essentials the same. In other words, we indulged in the curious and, as is now admitted, utterly erroneous theory that the African was, so to speak, an Anglo-Saxon, or, if you will, a Yankee "who had never had a chance"—a fellowman who was guilty, as we chose to express it, of a skin not colored like our own. In other words, though carved in ebony, he also was in the image of God.
This can only remind us of the period's most notorious public utterance:
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind—from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just—but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
James Watson, call your office.

How should those of us who have lost our faith in human neurological uniformity (HNU) react to the War of Secession? Presumably, since we are such smart white, Jewish and/or Asian people, we are smart enough to hold two ideas in our minds at the same time.

Idea one is that Adams and Stephens, as now seems obvious, are right about the facts of the matter. Idea two is that this does not, in any way, constitute proof that hereditary slavery is a good idea. No such proof can be constructed, because the question is moral and aesthetic, not factual or logical.

Your moral judgment of this war is yours alone. Just remember to judge the Union, not the Confederacy, because the Confederacy is a ghost whereas the Union still wants your money.

Finally, please do not take this description of events 150 years ago at my word, in case for some stupid reason you are tempted to. I have scarcely covered a fraction of the period, of course. Please allow me to recommend further reading.

The titanic book that smashed my delusions and forced me to recognize the awful reality of the era was, without a doubt, Albert Beveridge's unfinished Abraham Lincoln (1928). Here is a review by a modern historian, with whose few negative comments I would quarrel if it mattered. Beveridge died before completing his third volume, which would have started in 1858, but it scarcely matters. If time is short, you can just read the second volume. Also excellent, and even more brutal, is Edgar Lee Masters' Lincoln the Man (1931).

Almost all Lincoln biographies are completely worthless. They explain Lincoln as a saint, rather than the extraordinarily talented politician he was. Their method is as follows: tell us what Lincoln said, assume that he was saying what he was thinking, then praise this noble thought. When Lincoln emits "darky" jokes or other crass noises, this can be put down to necessary political opportunism, in which he had to engage if he was to fulfill his Father's mission. (Note that the same method, with the same results, can be used for Barack Obama.)

Masters and Beveridge put Lincoln in his political context, and they explain his speeches as what they were: not thoughts but actions, with intended results. Masters was America's leading poet and Beveridge a major senator, and neither of them have any patience with the "great man" act. Their books are hard to find, unfortunately, but there's always interlibrary loan.

It is also quite worthwhile to go in the opposite direction, and read antislavery propaganda. Actual propaganda from the actual 1850s (or, worse, the war) is simply unreadable, but I have found two later reminiscences of the good old activist life: James Freeman Clarke's breathless Anti-Slavery Days (1884), and John F. Hume's slightly more tolerable The Abolitionists (1905). Either of these will set any veteran of 21st-century freshman orientation gasping with pure deja vu. These people simply never, ever change. This is our misfortune, but their weakness.

Once you're done with this, why not read some Confederates? As an overall history of the entire period including Reconstruction, one simply can't beat the simple but powerful narrative of Hilary Herbert, The Abolition Crusade and its Consequences (1912), complete with an introduction by James Ford Rhodes. Other 20th-century historians worth reading: James G. Randall, Avery Craven, John Burgess, and (for those who like girls) Mary Scrugham.

For summer beach reading, there is nothing at all better than Admiral Semmes' Memoirs of Service Afloat, which aside from being a wonderfully written naval yarn is full of contemptuous humor and presents the true depth of Confederate legalism. If you feel the need to counter this with some Unionists, the memoirs of Grant and Sherman are not hard to find, and both are masterpieces.

And last but not least, do consider R.L. Dabney's Defence of Virginia (1867) - idiosyncratic and theology-packed. Stonewall Jackson was a notoriously religious man. Dabney was his minister. 'Nuff said. If you live in 2009 and can read, understand, and perhaps even respect R.L. Dabney, there can be no further doubt of the matter: you have an open mind.

74 Comments:

Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

I'm wondering what the greater point here is.

AFAIK everyone agrees, to a great extent, on Mencius's ability to unveil the wolf, as it were.

Perhaps he is also trying to demonstrate that the only alternative is his archist state -- but there's neither proof of that here, nor his intellectual wanderings into how to effect such a governance.

In short, we are aware of the fatal shortcomings of the Demos. If you are trying to put such a revelation in a brief enough text, all Plato-like, the "gentle introduction" is hardly the medium.

Perhaps you and I (were you to read this) should collaborate on an artistic take -- the opposite of Uncle Tom, perhaps?

March 5, 2009 at 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will be interested to see the argument that someone (Britain?) provoked the Kaiser into invading Belgium, and that the other powers were kicking Imperial Germany until it finally started biting.

And someone provoked Hitler into invading Poland? Far from kicking the Nazi dog, the British and the French were desperate to stroke it and pet it in the hopes it wouldn't bite them.

The case that the Japanese were provoked into attacking Pearl Harbor is a much better one.

March 5, 2009 at 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Molyuk said...

I've seen numerous historians suggest that French insistence on drastic reparations in the Treaty of Versailles led directly to the rise of Hitler.

This is perhaps my favorite installment of the "Gentle Introduction" series so far, simply because it discusses the Civil War. I'm not as well-read on the subject as Mencius, but even my limited exposure to High Unionism in high school led to my first heretical thoughts about U.S. History. I'm from a Union state, so we got the standard history lessons. Doing my own reading about Lincoln, Douglas, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Uncle Tom's Cabin made it abundantly clear there was more to the story than we were taught. John Calhoun was quite a system shock.

March 5, 2009 at 1:38 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

That was fun. Thanks.

March 5, 2009 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

You can write between the lines of this essay over at Thiblo.com

March 5, 2009 at 3:00 PM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

Mencius,

You should write more about history at UR.

This post is much more focussed and incisive than many of your previous entries where you start talking about the Cathedral and then wind up arguing for futuristic forms of government.

The Cathedral posts seem to have run their course for the time being and broadening UR's focus to explore alternative history sounds very promising.

March 5, 2009 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Zimri said...

I always learn new stuff when there's a new post here.

This week's gem was the "Reactionary Enlightment". I do recommend Louis Hartz; pity his book is available only in excerpt.

March 5, 2009 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Zimri said...

10:46 AM: I will be interested to see the argument that someone (Britain?) provoked the Kaiser into invading Belgium, and that the other powers were kicking Imperial Germany until it finally started biting.

The Ottomans were the foils of right-thinking opinion circa 1900. The Austrians were feeling the heat too. Those two were the ones getting provoked. Thus the initial pre-emptive strike in WW1, to which Mencius refers, was Austria's invasion of "Servia".

The Germans, in charge of a far more homogenous region, only got involved because they worried about a "greater greater Bulgaria" taking over Slovenia-Croatia and cutting them off from the Mediterranean.

March 5, 2009 at 5:28 PM  
Anonymous DivUtil said...

As anyone who has read Aristotle knows, slavery is nano government. If you scale down the relationship of authority between government and subject, you obtain the relationship between master and slave.

Subject == Slave? I think your model of sovereignty could use some complexifying to better match the kinds and degrees of sovereignty exhibited in history.

A can claim any percentage of B's labor, and has the right and power to direct, restrict or punish B as A sees fit.

No English king I'm aware ever made such a claim, and yet somehow they did a decent job. I would like to see you do a few posts about one of the pre-Stuart English kings, the Conqueror, say, or Henry Beauclerc, and the whole system of government they worked with: the English common law, the military aristocracy, the Church, etc.

March 5, 2009 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

sovereignty as a matter of degree makes sense from an economic perspective (how unprofitable can I render an attack upon my property?). The currency you measure this in can be raw material or public opinion. (see war in the era of squeamishness by the war nerd)

March 5, 2009 at 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm from a Union state, so we got the standard history lessons.

I'm pretty sure the "standard" lessons are taught in Southern states, too.

The Ottomans were the foils of right-thinking opinion circa 1900. The Austrians were feeling the heat too. Those two were the ones getting provoked. Thus the initial pre-emptive strike in WW1, to which Mencius refers, was Austria's invasion of "Servia".

His exact words: "in each Modern War, the archaic side initiated military activity by attacking the modern forces.... the Kaiser invaded Belgium".

March 5, 2009 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Moshea bat Abraham said...

Yet again, I have to point out: Nazi Germany was not in any way archaic or traditional. Nazis were into pseudo-paganism, socialism, nudism, freaky health and science fads, nonsmoking, nondrinking, free love (between Aryans), big government, the dissolution of the family, and ritual magic. To get any Democrat to sign on with enthusiasm, all you'd have to do is remove the bits about good grooming, and maybe switch around which races get the special privileges.

Nazis were progressives.

March 5, 2009 at 9:04 PM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

Nazis were progressives.

Pffft, Jonah Goldberg - as usual - doesn't know what he's talking about.

Hitler and the Nazis were ultra-conservatives; albeit warped ones.

Conservatism is nothing more than support for some form of hierarchy.

Internal fights within conservatism revolve around what particular organizational principles society should design itself around. But conservatives of all stripes agree that society needs to be organized around certain principles and stable social structures of some sort or other.

The fact that the Nazis organized themselves economically as socialists means nothing whatsoever. In terms of economics Bismarck was a socialist but he was a conservative if there ever was one.

The economic system Hitler set up does not change the fact he believed in hierarchy and he must therefore be classified as a conservative. Granted Hitler believed in a pseudo-scientific racial hierarchy.

And I question how socialist Hitler actually was. Personally, I would describe his policies as being more opportunistic than anything else.

Anyway, the idea that free market economic policy makes one a conservative is pure Anglo-Saxon mythology.

In the Anglosphere nations, conservatism involves the right to a fair hearing in court, free markets, and the right to vote.

On Continental Europe conservatism has since the rise of the nation state traditionally meant the Holy Cross, the national flag, and the blood of the common folk.

March 5, 2009 at 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hitler and the Nazis were ultra-conservatives; albeit warped ones.

Absolute rubbish. There was literally no institution in Germany that Hitler wanted to conserve. He wanted to change everything, top to bottom. If that's not revolutionary, I don't know what is.

Conservatism is nothing more than support for some form of hierarchy.

Um, every regime that progressives describe as "progressive" involves a hierarchy. In fact it is impossible to have a functioning society without "support for some sort of hierarchy". Without hierarchy, you can have only anarchy. So either progressives are conservatives or this is a worthless definition of conservatism.

The economic system Hitler set up does not change the fact he believed in hierarchy and he must therefore be classified as a conservative.

Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim, and Castro all believed in hierarchy and must thus be classified as conservatives (unless this definition is stupid).

I'm not even going to address any more of your post. Stop talking about conservatism. You obviously have no idea what it is.

March 5, 2009 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger Independent Accountant said...

MM:
What do you support with respect to llegal immigration from Mexico? I read the ambiguous statement about Fort Sumpter and "faith" a meaning the North would resupply Fort Sumpter. I long ago saw the ship movements as analogous to 1964's Gulf of Tonkin incident, i.e., a provocative act designed to produce war.
I concluded in high school, 42 years ago, American foreign policy in the Far East beginning with Hoover's denunciation of Japan's 1931 excursion into Manchuria was destined to bring us to war with Japan. The oil and scrap metal embargoes were part of this. EO 8832 in 1941 was the last straw on the road to the Pacific war.
As for Germany, I see Hitler's attack on Poland as did Basil Hart, as an opportunity to embarass the impotent old men of London and Paris who guaranteed Poland's borders against Germany but lacked the military capability to make those guarantees good.
Was slavery bad for the Negro? What was the alternative, his staying in Africa? The "greatest" Muhammad Ali had something to say on this after his trip to Africa in about 1974, "I'm glad my grandpa got on that boat". Right on Muhammad!

March 5, 2009 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

"The economic system Hitler set up does not change the fact he believed in hierarchy and he must therefore be classified as a conservative."

By this definition, every regime in the world would have to be classified as conservative. People in power tend to "believe in hierarchy." Most particularly a hierarchy that legitimizes their power.

March 5, 2009 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Remember, Mencius called them the first and second German War -- there's a lot of time between the 1860s and the 1940s.

There's a few other wars he could have in mind. . .

But Hitler was all about the State telling you what to do -- he was anti-personal freedom.

Ergo, not a conservative by any measure I'd agree with.

March 6, 2009 at 4:02 AM  
Anonymous Scott W. said...

I would like to request that each entry in this series have a links to all the previous ones for quick finding. If you are really bored, assemble a bibliography entry for quick reference. Fun reading! Keep up the good work.

March 6, 2009 at 4:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 6, 2009 at 5:13 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"And when we praise the Gestapo (should we choose to praise the Gestapo), we are not promoting the legitimacy of any existing institution".

My maternal grandparents were in Paris at the time of the Fall of France, and the Gestapo locked my grandfather up. My grandmother was outraged, so she went to the Gestapo's Paris HQ and pounded on the door with her umbrella until they looked at his papers that showed he was Irish and not British, whereupon they released him (and locked her up and then interned her as she was only London Irish).

So I can say this in the Gestapo's favour. Unlike certain modern organisations, if they rounded someone up in error they at least let them go on discovering the mistake, at any rate some of the time.

"If the archaics always look like they will lose the war, and indeed always do lose the war, why do they always start the war?"

In 1861 it was not yet apparent that industrial strength, or even necessarily population, had become significant in the current state of the Art of War (think Seven Years War, or Napoleonic war).

"The UPP prescribes the simplest possible settlement. The new boundary between the governments is the present line of military control. Each recognizes the other as a sovereign peer under classical international law. All financial claims from the war are cancelled; all prewar obligations remain. Done."

This is not of universal applicability, since it does not accomodate a rather common case: where the situation so obtained leads to a gradual erosion of one side's strength relative to the other. When that happens it merely sets the scene for a further, and perhaps decisive, conflict. This was why it was such an error for the Arabs to accept an armistice during the 1947 fighting. One could argue that precisely this sort of result occurred in 1783, though in that case the same effect was produced more by peaceful attrition rather than by open conflict.

"All that said, however, perhaps the most common form of warfare throughout history can be described as simple predation. In predation, the predator attacks the prey. The weak are the dinner of the strong. And the predator is generally the plaintiff, for obvious reasons."

No, more often the weaker attacks to avoid peaceful attrition or to pre-empt an open conflict on the other's terms.

Anonymous wrote "I will be interested to see the argument that someone (Britain?) provoked the Kaiser into invading Belgium, and that the other powers were kicking Imperial Germany until it finally started biting".

Possibly the nearest we can come to this is, the combination of Germany's (rational) sense of encirclement both within Europe and beyond, and a (rational) estimation that the relative strength of Russia would soon increase. That last matches my description of attrition above, only it does not involve any plan to produce that effect.

The Undiscovered Jew believes that "Hitler and the Nazis were ultra-conservatives; albeit warped ones. Conservatism is nothing more than support for some form of hierarchy [and other similar comments]."

Neither of those statements is in fact the case. Taking the latter first, conservatism is not that at all, but rather, as Viscount Falkland put it in the 17th century, one who believes that "when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change". Hitler and the Nazis were, it is true, part of a tradition to be found as far back as Grimmelshausen's 17th century work Simplicius Simplicissimus (the hero described by the Jupiter figure, particularly in book 3, chapter 4); however, had they been conservatives, they would have abided by Viscount Falkland's dictum, which they did not.

March 6, 2009 at 6:01 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

Scott,

Somebody has already done that for us.

http://moldbuggery.blogspot.com/

A big thank you to whoever put together that page.

March 6, 2009 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Zimri said...

His exact words: "in each Modern War, the archaic side initiated military activity by attacking the modern forces.... the Kaiser invaded Belgium".

Anon, I apologise. I assumed that what Mencius should have said was what he actually did say.

Anyway as reactionaries go, the Kaiser was far less of one than was the Czar. I'd say he was also less reactionary than were the Congo-raping Belgians. Talk about "sovereignty" - no-one could say that King Leopold was not in charge of Congo.

Imperial Germany has rather a lot in common with the "Reactionary Enlightenment", come to think of it ... a new state, unsure of itself, digging about for old modes of thought so as to justify itself. But that's not important.

That's because Wilhelmine Germany wasn't worried about intellectual threats to the German Way Of Life, in the way of the Confederacy and Austria. Germany were worried about Cossacks pillaging their way through Prussia. Maybe in a few more decades it could have worried about the Red Menace, but not in 1914. So I stand by what I said; that the preemptive-strike theory properly applies to Austria and NOT to Germany.

March 6, 2009 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Zimri said...

"Conservatism is nothing more than support for some form of hierarchy"

"But Hitler was all about the State telling you what to do -- he was anti-personal freedom. Ergo, not a conservative by any measure I'd agree with."

Sigh.

When are people Left and Right going to understand that conservatism is about conserving the status quo. A conservative in Afghanistan hates hierarchy and loves anarchy. A conservative in China loves hierachy and hates anarchy. Somewhere in between we have the US.

But no conservative anywhere supports ripping up existing institutions and replacing them with a god-king and a single state-approved Party.

March 6, 2009 at 10:16 AM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

I stand behind what I said.

Conservatism is support for hierarchy, usually traditional forms of social hierarchy.

The left stands for equality and tearing down traditional institutions that stand in the way of equality.

Hitler supported an extreme pseudo-scientific racial hierarchy, Stalin for social and economic equality.

March 6, 2009 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

The Undiscovered Jew:

You think Hugo Chavez doesn't support hierarchy? Kim Jong Il? What political ideology do you believe doesn't support hierarchy, anarchists? And after they've obtained power?

You might want to reconsider this one.

March 6, 2009 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Molyuk said...

The Undiscovered Jew said...

Conservatism is support for hierarchy, usually traditional forms of social hierarchy.

What then do you make of Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg and Colonel Albrecht Ritter von Quirnheim? They were key conspirators in the July 20th Plot to kill Hitler. Why would these men, ultra-right by any imaginable definition, want him dead? Perhaps because Hitler consistently undermined "traditional forms of social hierarchy".

Hitler supported an extreme pseudo-scientific racial hierarchy, Stalin for social and economic equality.

Stalin? Social equality? Tell it to the kulaks & the Trotskyites. Oh, sorry, he had them liquidated. Perhaps you could explain it instead to any non-Party member who lived in Stalinist Russia. Surely such people gained increasing political influence under the Great Equalizer.

March 6, 2009 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

correction:

political ideology: anarchism, not anarchists.

March 6, 2009 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand behind what I said.

Doubling down on stupid doesn't make it smart!

Conservatism is support for hierarchy, usually traditional forms of social hierarchy.

And you have no answer to the fact that ALL progressives support hierarchy (usually with them at the top, of course).

The left stands for equality and tearing down traditional institutions that stand in the way of equality.

Pah, this is exactly what Hitler said he was doing in Germany.

Hitler supported an extreme pseudo-scientific racial hierarchy, Stalin for social and economic equality.

ROFLMAO! It is exactly Stalin who supported an extreme pseudo-scientific hierarchy. The Bolsheviks were "an organization of professional revolutionaries under a strict internal hierarchy... who considered themselves as a vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat." They claimed that their doctrines were "scientific", meaning that social development could be understood as exactly as natural science, but of course this was total nonsense.

Ready to stop digging yet?

March 6, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

Yet another excellent entry. Per usual, I had to first read through it last night, and then come back this afternoon and re-read the entry to get the full measure of it - I always miss something the first go-through. Since I started reading this blog regularly back in November when I followed a link here, I can honestly say that I am slowly, insidiously being transformed into an out-and-out Reactionary, as opposed to the vaguely Attila-like "conservative" I used to be. My wife thinks it makes me more virile, though she also suspects I might be going a bit insane; I gave a link to this blog out to all the members of my local Toastmasters club a month or so ago while doing "Word of the Day - three of them no longer speak to me. A fourth told me in relation to same that she'd be "praying for me." I got up in the last meeting to do a Table Topics presentation and nervous jitters among the assembled greeted a vague reference to "one of my favorite philosophers" - of course, I was talking about Yogi Berra, not Mencius, but I think most of them, having obviously perused this blog at least once after having innocently jotted down my link, now instinctively get nervous anytime their fellow club member starts to venture close to discussions political, cultural, or historical...Mencius, your influence begins to seep into the tiniest capillaries of the body politic, and make (admittedly, in this case) small areas of it twitch in discomfort. adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit!

March 6, 2009 at 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Hitler is defined as conservative or reactionary only because Stalin used those terms to blackguard him, Stalin was one of the winners of World War II, and the winners get to write the history.

An examination of German and Soviet history between the wars shows that the Soviet Union for the greater part of the period, even before the rise of Nazism, was an ally rather than an adversary to Germany. The Soviet Union, not a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles, helped Germany to re-arm itself in violation of it. Under secret military accords in connection with the Treaty of Rapallo, the Soviet Union offered Germany facilities for training and munitions development. On the German side, Karl Haushofer's theory of geopolitics viewed Germany and Russia as natural allies in an Eurasian hegemony of land empires, offsetting the Anglo-American power based on control of the seas. A brief cooling during the 'thirties was ended by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which prevailed for almost two years. If Hitler had not broken it, and attacked Stalin's Russia, today's left would be praising him as a 'progressive.'

Advocacy of free markets and economic liberty was, to Europeans of the period, 'liberalism." On the other hand, 'conservatism" meant the defense of throne and altar. Hitler was no more liberal or conservative in these senses than were the Bolsheviks.

It is my impression that the NSDAP, or National Socialist German Workers' Party, began as a left-wing organization with not much to distinguish it from other socialist parties, and it became identified as a party of the 'right' only after it attracted support from some capitalists and aristocrats who saw it as the only viable alternative to Bolshevism. Roughly the same things may be said of Italian fascism, founded by the atheistic former socialist Benito Mussolini.

It is worth remembering that the most consistent opposition the Nazis faced inside Germany was from aristocrats like Stauffenberg's group, and from Roman Catholic prelates like Clemens von Galen - neither of them 'liberal' or 'left-wing' in any recognizable sense. The parts of the German left that took their cues from the Soviet Union were no more consistent in their opposition to Nazism than their counterparts were outside it. They fell silent when Stalin so ordered. The Soviet-Nazi conflict is, accordingly, best viewed as one of the many internecine leftist fights, comparable to those between Stalinists and Trotskyites, or between later Soviet leadership and Mao's China.

March 6, 2009 at 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Further, as to 'hierarchy': the most persuasive apologist for elitism in America during the twentieth century was Walter Lippmann, who can hardly be described as a conservative or a reactionary.

The difference between Lippmann's elitism and the typical 'reactionary' variety was that Lippmann (and the New Dealers, who were his intellectual progeny) wanted to leave the forms of democracy in place, while gutting their substance by placing 'experts' in charge and manipulating public opinion to 'manufacture consent' for the steps they wished to take. This is assuredly subtler, but no less hierarchical, than any plan of government that could be described as reactionary or conservative.

In fine we must say that the difference between reactionary elitism and the kind we have, i.e., Lippmannism, is that the former exemplifies truth in advertising, whereas the latter lies about it - it envelops the bitter but bracing medicine in a sugary coating. And, of course, the elite it puts in charge does not exhibit any of the traditional aristocratic virtues. It merely denies its oligarchical vices with the kind of hypocritical flannelmouthing we are so accustomed to hear from American politicians.

March 6, 2009 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Pastor Martin Luther Dzerzhinsky Lindstedt said...

I got to your link from conservative White Nationalists. I found much to agree with you and some to disagree. I really appreciated the links to other hyperlinks from the time White men were able to think. Allowing others to check your work is the hallmark of the mentally confident. I for one have grown tired of those 'teachers' who cannot stand inquiry.

I disagree with your saying that the Confederacy and Gestapo are dead. As long as the same sort of people -- White men -- are alive they will gravitate towards the same sorts of thinking that they naturally think. I am a supporter of Confederate and Nazi thinking, and the military victories won by the stronger party AT THE TIME shall inevitably be undone now that the forces which made this party the stronger is coming undone. In short, as long as there are opposing sides there shall be war, and in a civil war neither side shall be the winnner unless the loser is absolutely destroyed. Thus any war is almost never absolutely won, and the victors will have to guard their victories, which shall detract from the victory. I think that in the coming racial, religious and class civil war overtaking the ZOGland that the thinking of the Nazis and Confederates will prevail, and this time shall win by destroying the alien elements from amongst them, much like Thomas Chittum's Civil War II says, but bloodier.

The problem you state about the Confederacy being naturally conservative would only be a problem if they had an option. Myself, I think that the commanding generals of the first Civil War should have been Nathan Bedford Forrest and Bloody Bill Anderson and the war should have been fought so that the North wouldn't have wanted the South. Likewise, the lie about the war being about slavery could have been overcome by the South simply expelling the niggers to the North, telling the North, "You want some free niggers? Well, here they are!" Do you really think then that the lies about the war being about slavery -- of the negro variety -- would have held water in the face of such reality?

The Civil War was about the same thing that all wars are about: Who gets what. Power. The ability to tell the loser what to do. To tax him. To rule over him.

It is only because the South was White as well as the North that a peace was created. Eventually the South treated the negro as it had to in order to keep them in subjection to White rule, and the North went along with it after a decade of Reconstruction. Allow a nigger to run wild and the end result will be Africa.

So I look at the ravings of the 'intellectuals' who have no idea of what they are talking about. You did make your points, and I think you made them well, although I have some disagreements.

Hail Victory!!!

Pastor Martin Luther Dzerzhinsky Lindstedt
Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations of Missouri
www.pastorlindstedt.org/blog

March 6, 2009 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Oh Jesus Christ.

Please ignore the loony behind the curtain.

March 6, 2009 at 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Pastor has evidently not read enough to realize that Mencius is one of THEM. As soon as his lips stop moving, perhaps we'll hear a scream of outrage...

March 6, 2009 at 7:01 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Zimri wrote "...the Congo-raping Belgians...".

This is a widespread misunderstanding. The Belgians did not do that, the King of the Belgians did, and when it came out Belgium took over directly and stopped it.

G. M. Palmer, can you be a bit more specific?

March 6, 2009 at 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Belgians did not do that, the King of the Belgians did, and when it came out Belgium took over directly and stopped it.

Oh please. This is analogous to the bad Hitler / good Wehrmacht school of history. Do you think Leopold came to the Congo himself and personally forced the natives to harvest rubber? No, he recruited Belgians (and other Europeans) to do it, and created a proprietary colonial civil service for that purpose.

March 6, 2009 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

The points and references are illuminating.

Like the very first poster, I am wondering what the greater point is here. I will assume you have just not made it yet.

Tocqueville came to America to discover, if he could, why democracy worked here when it was so destructive in Europe. He found and catologued what he was looking for, and then explained in equal detail how it could be lost. We followed the details.

So, will we ignore what we know works because it seems distant?

Maciavelli--There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain of its success, than the introduction of a new order of things.

March 6, 2009 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Steve_Roberts said...

MM: "in an ongoing war, there must be one side that would accept the UPP and one that would not"

Err, no. There can be a war where neither side would accept the UPP.

March 7, 2009 at 1:32 AM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

a real live white nationalist! can we keep him? I promise I'll walk him everyday!

March 7, 2009 at 1:56 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Please ignore the loony behind the curtain.

a real live white nationalist! can we keep him? I promise I'll walk him everyday!

This is an example of why the Left advances and the Right retreats: the "no friends on the right" attitude.

One needn't be an antisemite or a White nationalist to engage in a conversation with one or find points of agreement.

Besides, men don't do "ostracism" and "shaming language." That's for women, ya silly bitches.

March 7, 2009 at 4:47 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

PA, I am chastened. You're right on all points. Even here we can't escape the status high that comes from being to the left of someone. Yikes.

March 7, 2009 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Besides, men don't do "ostracism" and "shaming language." That's for women, ya silly bitches.

Please. Men specifically do ostracism. Or do you not understand where the term comes from?

Secondly, didn't know this was a man's-only blog.

Thirdly, I certainly don't need White Nationalist friends, nor do I think they have much of value to contribute to an argument creating a system of governance that specifically does not take race into account.

March 7, 2009 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Fourthly:

Joo joo joo!

March 7, 2009 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Easy to say one side has no basis for concern, just by leaving out that basis. The following appeared in the _Washington Union_ newspaper (unofficial voice of the Buchanan administration) on November 17, 1857:

". . . all State laws, whether organic or otherwise, which prohibit a citizen of one State from settling in another, and bringing his slave property with him, and most especially declaring it forfeited, are direct violations of the original intention of a government which, as before stated, is the protection of person and property, and of the constitution of the United States, which recognises property in slaves, and declares that 'the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States,' among the most essential of which is the protection of person and property."

Two weeks later the _Union_ attempted to backtrack (December 1, 1857): "It was not meant by us that the owner of a slave could not carry him into a free state and there _settle permanently_, and by that means establish slavery in such free State contrary to its laws." Few, if any, free-soilers thought this a very convincing distinction.

In 1860, in the case of Lemmon v. The People, a Virginia slaveowner tried appealed to New York's highest court for the right to recover (or be compensated for the loss of) some slaves who escaped from a ship in New York harbor. The slaveowner did not prevail, but there was a spirited dissent and the supreme court might well have reversed the decision on appeal, had the war not intervened.

Free-soilers and abolitionists had good reason to suspect that the extension of slavery into the free states was possible, and to oppose such extension by political means.

March 7, 2009 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

"In 1860, in the case of Lemmon v. The People, a Virginia slaveowner tried appealed to New York's highest court for the right to recover (or be compensated for the loss of) some slaves who escaped from a ship in New York harbor. The slaveowner did not prevail, but there was a spirited dissent and the supreme court might well have reversed the decision on appeal, had the war not intervened.

Free-soilers and abolitionists had good reason to suspect that the extension of slavery into the free states was possible, and to oppose such extension by political means."


Helpful hint of the day for you, "Anonymous": the part in bold is called a non sequitur. You're welcome.

March 7, 2009 at 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

"These people simply never, ever change. This is our misfortune, but their weakness."

Please forgive my thickness, but how do we exploit this weakness? Are we fated to wait until the Cathedral burns itself out?

March 7, 2009 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Zimri said...

Hoo boy. "ZOGland"? "Martin Luther Dzerzhinsky"? Even by white-nationalist standards this guy sports a few scratches in his 'Horst Wessel' CD...

Thanks for the laugh, though.

As for "no friends to the right" - we can have friends to the right, but please, no crazy ones. They're too inarticulate to be good propagandists. They're too unhinged to be organisers. And if by some mischange they get into power, they won't treat monarchists any better than any other sap. Let the Left continue to be the side which attracts all the loonies.

March 7, 2009 at 4:17 PM  
Anonymous anon1 said...

What level of influence would others here think of the frankfurt school on contemporary progressive thought?

They were originally from Europe, and don't seem to be part of the overall UR framework for progressive universalism in the US (apart from the obvious historical connection of continentalist philosophy to Rousseau and other anti-enlightenment types). Marcuse seemed to have a wide influence on the worldwide movements in the 60s. So I'm just wondering if Marcuse and his gang were just amplifying existing trends within the US, or were they something else?

March 7, 2009 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

the problem with white nationalism is that it basis a big part of its rhetoric on the intellectual superiority of the white race. But if they're going to go down that route they'll have to acknowledge the asians and jews as being superior to the white race.

I'm all for discrimination. I just want to discriminate on the basis of actions. If a black person acts like an idiot I'll treat him like an idiot. Same for white people. the relative statistical percentages of the total sub-populace I wind up doing this to is irrelevant.

March 7, 2009 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

I'm just two paragraphs in but I want to note this.

I'm a big fan of yours, I appreciate the fact that you exist and have access to the internet and I'm in your debt. I am not however a ditto-head who writes where he agrees with an author. I invariably speak up "ach v'rak" on points where I find fault. The fact that i do so could lead one to misunderstand my intent and to infer that I have only the lowest esteem for the post's author. Good. Got that out of the way? Nice. Now..

You're getting so god damn motherfuckin annoying!

Don't get me wrong, I love your info and your usage of your independent mind and most of what you write, whether I agree with it or not. Your occasional meander into analogies of the strangest sort that clearly come from a nerd culture that I somehow managed never to be a part of is fine too. Hard to follow at times, but hey, I like you so I'll humor your weird predilections and strange fetishes. What annoys the hell out of me though about your articles (I'm not going to get into some of your commentors - most are great but some are so clearly of low intelligence that bit annoys the fuck out of me that you allow them to fart all over your comment threads) - what annoys me is how you write about anyone who disagrees with you as if he were nothing but a brainwashed idiot.

As you well know, the masses are in fact brainwashed idiots, including the masses of people who will believe in whatever you happen to spout should you ever become popular (basically Paultards). The masses are idiots but people who support democracy do not have and never have had any corner on this market of idiots. The North, the South, the Patriots, the Loyalists, the Nazis and No-such-thing-as-race-ers were and are composed almost entirely of people who have been brainwashed by the cultures within which they lived.

Now - I can see you belaboring some point when it's clear that the facts are on a particular side. for example, was there a guy named Noah from whom all of humanity is descended or was there not? Hit people over the head with the fact that they believe in Noah because they were brainwashed as much as you like. It probably won't move many opinions, but who cares, you're making sense.

But the shit that you're discussing? 9Again, I haven't read beyond eight sentences into this post and am referring to the general type of shit that you usually discuss.)

YOU may believe that more anarcho-capitalism is good because the Social Darwinism that it brings about will bring about a more pleasant future to you and yours. I however may be a member of a group that isn't terribly intelligent and I want to see the world run in such a way where my people won't be a perpetual underclass. No "tentacles" or any other bullshit inherent there. I'm being mighty fuckin rational. alternatively I may be a fellow who would succeed just fine and whose family are all millionaires but I feel good about helping people and therefore want to see less suffering in the world and I recognize that more people will be able to live non-impoverished lives if we have a strong government that mandates higher minimum wages, etc ad whatever. The point is obvious. There matters that you discuss are oftentimes based upon your aesthetic preferences. The people whom you accuse of having been brainwashed are precisely as brainwashed as will be the people of the society run on your preferred principles should the world ever come to that. Because people are idiots. The people who might hazard to read you however are clearly not idiots. If they still prefer Democracy to the entire planet going into Moldbuggian "Receivership" it may not be for want of enlightenment but because they have different aesthetic preferences than you do.

We ought to make a stark division between the areas of your scintillating rambles. You can discuss whether or not A does or does not in fact lead to B where all people agree that B is the goal that we're trying to achieve and you can also discuss whether or not B ought to be the goal that we should be heading for. In most cases the latter will come down to aesthetic preference based upon one's biology, history, environment, past environment, etc.

What you inevitably do however is point out how A will lead to B (where you're possibly correct on many an occasion) and never discuss the fact that many people who oppose A are fully fuckin aware that it will lead to B which is precisely why they oppose it!

Selah.

March 8, 2009 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

George Fitzhugh can best be described as the Confederate proto-Stalinist, and his perfected system of slavery is well exemplified by the White Sea Canal.

Why libertarians persist in putting their necks in Moldbug's noose (or nooses) can only be explained by an extreme case of wishful thinking. Like Mr.Dick obsessing over King Charles' Head (or obsessing over VALIS) Mr. Moldbug really has only one concern - fear of black people. He is consistant enough to realise that stepping on black people means stepping on everybody else (unlike idiots who believe in "the libertarian confederacy") and so - "archism". Moldbug is Hans Hoppe without the evasions. This is why, despite hostile reactions, crazy Nazis keep commenting here - because they sense an opening. And they are right to do so.

March 8, 2009 at 4:42 AM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

Lest I be misunderstood, I regard Mr. Moldbug's performance and his rather subtle deceptions as entirely contemptible. The overwhelming stench of fear emanating from his posts entirely outweighs his writing skills and historical half-knowledge.

Moldbug is, however, honest in his own way when he says that the relation of governed to the state is slavery. The obvious conclusion is at hand. The Nazi creep longs for civil collapse and war? Let us then put these grave matters to the test. Raise high the flag of revolutionary anarcho-capitalism! Destruction and ruin to local Nazis and local authorities, to Moldbug's local tyrannies, to racialist cowards and consequentialist fools!

March 8, 2009 at 4:58 AM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Mencius! I was reading the Cannibals link you sent us too and it's quite interesting. Fro a break, after some time, I went up a floor to the good folk who were hosting it and I've got to say that they're quite interesting. As a half-Jew in a Judenhass culture you'll no doubt enjoy the refuge these Torah-following (yet Jesus-believing) Conservative folk offer. And furthermore, they're into original texts and doing things "old school".

But it gets better!

Act now and you can also receive a list entitled, "The Big Lies of Our Times" where these comrades in arms tell it like it is. They enumerate the lies, including our favorite Moldbuggian ones:


- Democracy is good
- There is only one race, the human race
- Nuclear power is bad
- The universe is six billion years old
- Man has stepped on the moon
- The earth goes around the sun...

They then veer off into non-Moldbuggian directions so I'll leave them out.

mnuez


(P.S. This post is entirely tongue in cheek (except for all of the actual facts about this website). I'm not trying to imply any guilt by association or any similar nonsense. Anyone who reads it as such or who assumes that because I disagree with Mencius on a number, of points both major and minor, I need to disagree with everything that he has to say, is a fool and the precise sort of reader who should stop pretending that by reading - and not comprehending - these posts that he's smarter than he is. Head back to middle management.)

March 8, 2009 at 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Fitzhugh is certainly an interesting case. It is fascinating to read him and contemplate how - all in the same Tidewater county - Virginians went in a few short decades from Randolph, who saw slavery as a tragic legacy from which there was no clear way to extricate either master or slave, to John Taylor of Caroline, who tried in "Arator' to deal with it pragmatically, to Fitzhugh, who made it the centerpiece of a complete political theory.

Fitzhugh was correct in identifying slavery as a sort of socialism for the enslaved. They were provided food, clothing, shelter, and medical care from the cradle to the grave by their masters, who in return expected them to work for him. The relationship between slave and master is, thus, exactly that between the subject of a socialist state and its government. Whether this resemblance is flattering to socialism, we shall leave to socialists.

Fitzhugh compared the condition of slaves, whose every basic need was provided for, favorably to that of free laborers in the North, who were paid a wage by their employers (if they had employment) but left to shift for themselves in acquiring the necessities of life. The parallel comparison between the condition of the working class under socialism vis-à-vis capitalism is of course made today by socialists. We may recall the encomia lavished on Castro's Cuba at the time little Elian Gonzales was forcibly repatriated there by the tender mercies of Janet Reno. The liberal press was unanimous at the time in singing the praises of Cuba's free medical care for all, and universal education. How could it not be so? They had been assured of these wonders by the Cuban government itself!

Of course, it was precisely its economic inefficiencies, which were comparable to those of socialism, that brought a peaceful end to slavery just about everywhere it existed in the western world except for the United States of America. Free labor paid a wage was cheaper for the employer than slavery was for the master. Furthermore, the development of ability to reduce dependence on labor by investment in mechanization was given incentive by the wage system in a way it was not by slavery. The answer to any problem under slavery - both in the ancient world and in more recent history - was to set more slaves to work on it. The value of labor-saving devices was not sufficiently appreciated in a slave economy.

Ultimately, such economies run into Malthusian traps, because the productivity per worker does not rise in proportion to the number of mouths to feed. This is why the great empires of antiquity, which were based upon conquest with the aims of acquiring tribute and slaves, all eventually fell. The cost of maintaining such a system inevitably outran the resources available to defray it. It is, similarly, why the planters of the West Indies and of Brazil acquiesced peacefully in the abolition of slavery.

Abolitionism short-circuited this process in the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was based in a mixture of economic rivalry between the industrialists in the North against the agrarian interests of the South, and the self-righteousness of New England puritanism, which gave to the economic rivalry a gloss of moral arrogance, in the same way religious 'reform' did to the avarice of north European princes eager to expropriate lands attached to monasteries.

If, in the early nineteenth century, some plan for gradual emancipation of slaves with compensation for their owners had been advanced, planters of the Jefferson or Randolph type would probably have embraced it eagerly. But by about the 1830s, the advent of the cotton gin had given slavery a new (albeit temporary) lease on life, while the avowed plan of the abolitionists, which was not only to free the slaves but to impoverish the slaveholders in the bargain, hardened Southern attitudes, and set the two sides on the path to collision.

The unpleasantness of 1861-5 delivered all the abolitionists wanted: not only the opportunity to free the slaves, but the ability to loot the wealth of the South for themselves. There has been a good deal of historical revisionism - several times - in the history of the Reconstruction period. It was not quite as bad as Thomas Dixon portrayed it in 'The Clansman,' but neither was it an idealistic moment that failed only because it did not persevere, which is how the red-diaper baby historian Eric Foner makes it out to have been.

Indeed, it has often seemed to me that the state of race relations in the United States is much less the product of slavery than is commonly supposed, and much more that of Reconstruction. Comparison with Brazil, which had slavery, but which peacefully abolished it without war or a subsequent punitive military occupation, illustrates the point. Brazil has problems of its own, but has never had anything comparable to the poisonous race relations of the United States.

In the mean time, the solution of the America left to the residue of slavery, war, and Reconstruction, has been to have the welfare state provide for the black underclass - as masters once did for their slaves - the basic necessities of life. In lieu of slaves' rations, there are food stamps; in lieu of slave cabins, high-rise housing projects; welfare checks provide for sagging dungarees, backwards baseball caps, and all the other accourtrements of thug fashion. Only the slaveowner's requirement for productive work is absent - in its place, the architects of the welfare state exact the performance of the black underclass as a reliable voting bloc for left-wing candidates and their programs. And it isn't a difficult thing to do - when you propose to rob Peter to pay Paul, Paul will quite naturally fly to your aid.

This is clearly not a viable or stable plan for the long term. I believe the left's obsessive advocacy for birth control and free abortions for the indigent belies an unacknowledged hope that some eugenic result will emerge as the deus ex machina to resolve the dilemma posed by a huge and growing welfare-dependent underclass. That dilemma is of no less significance than the economic contradictions of slavery once were. The cracks in the foundations of welfarism are already apparent, even as Obama & Co. propose to add to its weighty superstructure.

March 8, 2009 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

"the problem with white nationalism is that it basis a big part of its rhetoric on the intellectual superiority of the white race. But if they're going to go down that route they'll have to acknowledge the asians and jews as being superior to the white race."

I'm not a white nationalist by any stretch, but this isn't exactly true or fair. A good number of the smarter white nationalists (yes, many are idiots, but not all) base their arguments on the idea that the white race has a right to self-preservation which is totally unrelated to cognitive performance. Some of the more fair-minded ones will take pains to extend that right to other groups.

March 8, 2009 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

You jinxed your very high rate of civil and thoughtful posters by speaking of it.

Both "Don't get me wrong", and "Lest I be misunderstood" would do better being misunderstood.

They display an agressive contempt for their alleged intellectual inferiors which Mencius has not once done.

March 8, 2009 at 10:54 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Anonymous of March 6, 2009 8:35 PM makes a false analogy. King Leopold did indeed use Belgians, and even Canadians. But this does not make Belgians in general complicit; unlike Germany that had a Wehrmacht and a Hitler, all linked with things like oaths of loyalty, there just wasn't a connection between what the King did and the resources and co-operation of Belgians in general (hence the "free" in Congo Free State - it's like the "franche" in Franche Comte, signifying a disconnect). It makes more sense to blame the USA, as it was the first to recognise the Congo Free State.

March 9, 2009 at 3:04 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Michael S. asserts that "Of course, it was precisely its economic inefficiencies, which were comparable to those of socialism, that brought a peaceful end to slavery just about everywhere it existed in the western world except for the United States of America. Free labor paid a wage was cheaper for the employer than slavery was for the master. Furthermore, the development of ability to reduce dependence on labor by investment in mechanization was given incentive by the wage system in a way it was not by slavery. The answer to any problem under slavery - both in the ancient world and in more recent history - was to set more slaves to work on it. The value of labor-saving devices was not sufficiently appreciated in a slave economy."

That's an oversimplification which can occasionally lead to inaccuracy.

It wasn't the inefficiencies of slavery as such that ended it elsewhere in the west. Rather, its increasing inefficiency led to less opposition to abolition measures. It was not inherently too inefficient, rather it became so as Malthusian limits approached. Even so, slave owners in British Guiana, which was not as close to the limits as places like Jamaica and Barbados, ended up out of pocket (as was noticed in the southern part of the USA). When there were few constraints on land and capital, it was not true that "Free labor paid a wage was cheaper for the employer than slavery was for the master". With those constraints, all sorts of costs could be externalised by employers, so apparent gains are misleading. The incentive "to reduce dependence on labor by investment in mechanization", rather than an intrinsically correct response, can also reflect these cost distortions. The cotton gin's acceptance refutes the last two sentences quoted above.

"Ultimately, such economies run into Malthusian traps, because the productivity per worker does not rise in proportion to the number of mouths to feed. This is why the great empires of antiquity, which were based upon conquest with the aims of acquiring tribute and slaves, all eventually fell."

That's not why they fell. The later Roman Empire had already moved into the beginnings of serfdom when it fell, and Byzantium fell to the Ottomans who made more use of slaves; earlier empires also fell to conquerors who still practised slavery. (However, it is worth noting that under Islam slaves didn't normally provide an economic "main engine" but rather specialists supported by revenues and products of a peasant underclass that was nominally free but economically even worse off - note the symbolic significance of the soup spoon or ladle in Janissary headgear, that the wearer need never fear starvation.)

"The cost of maintaining such a system inevitably outran the resources available to defray it. It is, similarly, why the planters of the West Indies and of Brazil acquiesced peacefully in the abolition of slavery."

Change that to "would outrun", and it would be accurate (see the introductory material to Nassau Senior's work on Wages). But it had not done so yet in all cases of emancipation. In particular, it is not true that "Brazil acquiesced peacefully in the abolition of slavery"; the stresses and upper class murmuring it occasioned contributed materially to the overthrow of the Brazilian Empire soon after.

"Comparison with Brazil, which had slavery, but which peacefully abolished it without war or a subsequent punitive military occupation, illustrates the point. Brazil has problems of its own, but has never had anything comparable to the poisonous race relations of the United States."

This omits a curiosity of where things divide. Catholic countries, unlike Protestant ones, had much more willingness to acculturate outsiders who wanted to join.

March 9, 2009 at 3:11 AM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

Mark indulges in some unusually charitable interpretation -

Some of the more fair-minded ones will take pains to extend that right to other groups.

This should be corrected to "Some of the more clever white nationalists take pains to pretend to extend that right to other groups." In any case, "racial rights" will always mean the eradication of individual liberty. If you wish Kevin McDonald or Harold Covington to be your Leader and dictate every waking hour of your life, by all means accept their theories!

The person who believes that the power of the Democrat Party depends on subsidizing the baggy-pants underclass is hilariously off base - the white middle class is the greatest supporter of and beneficiary of the giant government theft machine, and - unlike actual poor people - they vote.

Just now, a friend of mine reports, a person came into his place of employment at 3 AM wanting a Brillo pad. This person was as white as our Reverend posting above could want, and any neo-Confederate would thrill to his accent. If he was a crackhead, he certainly was a racially superior crackhead, and every "race realist" on this blog should support his quest for a glass pipe to go along with that Brillo.

March 9, 2009 at 3:49 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

jsabotta:

How kind and great-spirited of you to come and minister to us heathens. The shining beacon of your virtue has cleansed my soiled heart! Now, please go and save souls elsewhere. Failing that, please read MM's archives and at least sample the comments; your're adding even less to the discussion than I usually do.

March 9, 2009 at 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

P.M. Lawrence: as to the prevailing level of appreciation of labor-saving devices in slave societies, recall the ancient division of the liberal arts (i.e., those arts fitting for free men to practice) from the mechanical arts, which were implicitly servile.

The tone of Vitruvius, in lib. I of "De architectura," strikes one as curiously defensive in maintaining the dignity of the profession. Those who without letters, he says, aim only at manual skill, cannot obtain an authority befitting their labors; whereas those who study only its theory and literature chase after a shadow and not reality:

"Itaque architecti, qui sine litteris contenderunt, ut manibus essent exercitati, non potuerunt efficere, ut haberent pro laboribus auctoritatem; qui autem ratiocinationibus et litteris solis confisi fuerunt, umbram non rem persecuti."

In proposing that the art of building, both in theory and in practice, was a suitable object for the study of free men - gentlemen - Vitruvius was a new and somewhat lonely voice in his day, for he was trying to elevate it from a servile status associated with those "sine litteris." The same is true of many of the other technological activities at the time. Even the practice of medicine, so prestigious today, was then one of low social status, in some cases being entrusted to slaves. If we ask why, with all its learning and all its resources, the ancient world never developed industry as we know it today, the answer is clear: it offered little prospect for honor, dignity, or even wealth.

Yes, Brazil did overthrow Dom Pedro II after the abolition of slavery there, but it was a relatively bloodless affair, a coup-d'état rather than a revolution. The emperor and his family were allowed to leave the country rather than being murdered like Louis XVI or Nicholas II and their families. Moreover, they were allowed to return to Brazil after a relatively short time. I recall the Braganza residence being pointed out to me when I visited Brazil.

As to the greater willingness of Catholic countries to acculturate outsiders who wanted to join - if this is of such significance, one would have expected Louisiana, with its French and Spanish Catholic heritage, to have dealt differently with the emancipated slaves than did the other, predominantly Protestant and Anglophone, states of the old Confederacy. It did not.

Jsabotta is correct to a degree; government subsidy of the underclass is made more politically palatable to the general electorate by attaching it to an even larger subsidy for the working and lower-middle classes. We have witnessed this most disastrously in the way that housing subsidies for the 'working poor' were incorporated in the larger middle-class housing subsidy as administered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The maximum 'conforming loan' amount of $417,000 clearly demonstrates this.

It is an accident of American history that the underclass here includes large numbers of blacks. There are, obviously, white lumpen elements in the United States, and the same type of lumpenproletariat ("chavs,' "yobs") exists in the social democracies of western Europe where it is not racially constituted in the same way it is in the United States. Race is not so much the determining characteristic as is culture, and the average measure of intelligence (or lack thereof).

Nonetheless, the importance of the racial element in the support for left-wing political partes and candidates cannot be dismissed. Obama's victory would not have been possible without his black support - he received 97% of all black votes. McCain beat Obama among white voters by a 12% margin. No Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 has won a majority of the white vote - see: www.slate.com/id/2204251/

Some black support for left-wing candidates doubtless comes from the black middle class rather than from lumpen blacks. This no doubt explains the importance of 'affirmative action' on the left. Preferential admission to law school, for example, does nothing to elevate the condition of black denizens of the welfare slums, who for the most part don't manage even to complete high school. It is a stratagem to maintain the loyalty of a black middle class that might in its absence discover economic and other reasons not to support the left.

It is interesting to see how left-wing politicians deal with the points of difference that arise between them and those black people who wish to better themselves and shake off their dependent condition, e.g., via escaping the dismal public school system through the use of vouchers. Conflict over this issue has arisen in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and most recently in Washington, D.C. - and, forced to choose between black voters in those locales or the NEA, the Democrats have uniformly taken the side of the teachers' union. This shows two things: One, the black communities in question have votes, but the teachers' union has money. Which is more important to Democrats is evident. Two, the left has no interest in helping those blacks who are capable of self-improvement achieve it. That would only make them more independent from government subsidy, and hence less likely to toe the left-wing line when called upon to perform.

The left prefers dependent and pliable constituencies, and all of its domestic programs are designed to create and expand them. This is why it has been such a peculiar and ambiguous ally of the American black community, which it has always regarded more as a tool than anything else - from the abolitionists who used slavery as a pretext to make war on their economic rivals, to the carpetbaggers, who used Reconstruction as a pretext to loot their defeated enemy, to the Communists who saw American race relations as a source of social dissension they could exploit in this most capitalist of countries, to today's left, which is a coalition based on the politics of grievance and subsidy. The stability of such a coalition is not reliable, unless social engineering is undertaken to assure its permanence.

March 9, 2009 at 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

King Leopold did indeed use Belgians, and even Canadians. But this does not make Belgians in general complicit; unlike Germany that had a Wehrmacht and a Hitler, all linked with things like oaths of loyalty, there just wasn't a connection between what the King did and the resources and co-operation of Belgians in general (hence the "free" in Congo Free State - it's like the "franche" in Franche Comte, signifying a disconnect). It makes more sense to blame the USA, as it was the first to recognise the Congo Free State.

Say what? There was more voluntary cooperation between Leopold and his subjects than between Hitler and his subjects, not less. Leopold did not have the means at his disposal to coerce his subjects that Hitler had, and unlike Hitler, Leopold was a constitutional monarch who required the active cooperation of government ministers in order to get anything done. It goes without saying that Belgian officers swore loyalty to their king, who was commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

While the Congo was Leopold's personal preserve, Belgium loaned him money to begin the enterprise, Belgium supplied active duty officers and men to serve in the Force Publique, and Leopold invested a considerable amount of his profits from the Congo in Belgium. To say there was "no connection" between Belgium in general and what the king did is simply fatuous.

The atrocities didn't even stop after Belgium took over. As Hochschild says, even after Leopold was gone, the Belgians found they still needed rubber, as well as copper, gold, and tin, and still needed to force people to work for them.

The United States can hardly be blamed for recognizing "facts on the ground" over which it had no control.

March 9, 2009 at 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The notion that slavery in an independent CSA would follow the same course as in Brazil, Cuba, or other slave societies is completely unproven, and also implausible. The CSA would have had a much lower proportion of free blacks, a much higher proportion of slaveowners among the free population, and the economic leverage that comes with producing over 75% of global exports of a critical resource (cotton). Slavery in an independent CSA would have lasted for generations (which, says Moldbug, would not be a bad thing).

It's also worth noting that Moldbug has an interesting notion of what constitutes "provocation." Stealing someone else's property at gunpoint, with no attempt at any legal justification (as secessionist militias did in Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana) is not a provocation. But trying to hold onto property for which one has paid in full and to which one holds undisputed title (e.g. Fort Sumter), is a provocation.

March 9, 2009 at 7:22 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Michael S. wrote "as to the prevailing level of appreciation of labor-saving devices in slave societies, recall the ancient division of the liberal arts (i.e., those arts fitting for free men to practice) from the mechanical arts, which were implicitly servile", and then cites Vitruvius in support of that.

All that is very true, but misses the point; it addresses the respect for the activity, not whether such things were used when convenient. I was not making any remark about how work was valued. You can get the same insights from Aristotle, and it is very well presented in Tom Holt's historical novels Goatsong and The Walled Orchard in which he illustrates how the Greeks saw no dishonour in working with someone else - or if it could be represented as such - but much in working for someone else. However, I was addressing the narrow point that these societies had a sort of blindness about mechanising: "The answer to any problem under slavery - both in the ancient world and in more recent history - was to set more slaves to work on it. The value of labor-saving devices was not sufficiently appreciated in a slave economy." This is simply not true in general, or the cotton gin would not have been accepted (I was not arguing that its inventor gained respect from it).

To the extent it appears true, it may well be that the capital intensive orientation of free labour societies was itself the distorted view, because of externalities in the hire and fire decision. Slavery is a Coasian solution to the externalities, particularly when slaves could not be freed against their will, i.e. turned loose to starve. Many slave codes forbade that, and it was also deprecated under Islam (Richard Burton mentions it in a footnote to the Tale of the First Eunuch, if I recall correctly, and describes the complaints by former slaves in Sind when the British freed them). There was also a minor slave revolt against emancipation in the West Indies for fear of this, and V.S.Naipaul describes the suffering of coolies who were released in the middle of their indentures when that system was ended, without the bounty or passage home they would have got on completion. There are also the reports of missionaries in French Guiana, that the convicts were better off than those who had served their terms and been released without leave let alone means to return to France (the convicts feared freedom, particularly if their terms had been doubled as administrative punishment so they were too old and feeble to set up for themselves when it came).

"Yes, Brazil did overthrow Dom Pedro II after the abolition of slavery there, but it was a relatively bloodless affair, a coup-d'état rather than a revolution. The emperor and his family were allowed to leave the country rather than being murdered like Louis XVI or Nicholas II and their families. Moreover, they were allowed to return to Brazil after a relatively short time. I recall the Braganza residence being pointed out to me when I visited Brazil."

All true, but again not to the point, which was that "the planters of... Brazil acquiesced peacefully in the abolition of slavery". They did not, they reacted with an overthrow. The fact that that was not hugely violent mattered to those involved, but it was no acquiescence.

"As to the greater willingness of Catholic countries to acculturate outsiders who wanted to join - if this is of such significance, one would have expected Louisiana, with its French and Spanish Catholic heritage, to have dealt differently with the emancipated slaves than did the other, predominantly Protestant and Anglophone, states of the old Confederacy. It did not."

This is also misreading. As at that date, those were already two generations into cultural assimilation to the values of the rest of the region. As at annexation, they did "deal... differently with... emancipated slaves". The elite of that area included descendants of freed slaves, generally but not always partly white, and their presence and importance caused some distress among Louisiana's new neighbours.

March 9, 2009 at 7:22 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Anonymous continues to be muddled: "There was more voluntary cooperation between Leopold and his subjects than between Hitler and his subjects, not less. Leopold did not have the means at his disposal to coerce his subjects that Hitler had, and unlike Hitler, Leopold was a constitutional monarch who required the active cooperation of government ministers in order to get anything done. It goes without saying that Belgian officers swore loyalty to their king, who was commander-in-chief of the armed forces."

None of that applied in the Congo, only in Belgium proper. A fairly close analogy is between Denmark and the Danish Crown Colonies of the early 19th century.

'While the Congo was Leopold's personal preserve, Belgium loaned him money to begin the enterprise, Belgium supplied active duty officers and men to serve in the Force Publique, and Leopold invested a considerable amount of his profits from the Congo in Belgium. To say there was "no connection" between Belgium in general and what the king did is simply fatuous.'

No, because of the continued misreading. Funds the King used were taken under the pretence of furthering a humanitarian enterprise. The same applies to people seconded to the Congo. Where the profits were sent does not indicate a degree of control over how they were generated, and so on. In due course these tenuous connections helped reveal what was going on - and then, the Belgians did act to correct the abuses.

"The atrocities didn't even stop after Belgium took over. As Hochschild says, even after Leopold was gone, the Belgians found they still needed rubber, as well as copper, gold, and tin, and still needed to force people to work for them."

The first sentence happens to be incorrect, precisely because the Belgians placed the Congo on a more regular basis to achieve the latter. Force was applied in subtler ways, like taxes, and the former atrocities were ended.

'The United States can hardly be blamed for recognizing "facts on the ground" over which it had no control'.

Of course it can't - that was the whole point. I was making a reductio ad absurdum. The same applies even more to Belgium, since it was less involved in the humanitarian front that the USA bought into earlier and more strongly, that gave the King his foothold in the first place.

March 9, 2009 at 7:41 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

P.M. Lawrence - I think I made the point, relative to labor-saving devices in the ancient world, that

"If we ask why, with all its learning and all its resources, the ancient world never developed industry as we know it today, the answer is clear: it offered little prospect for honor, dignity, or even wealth."

There were some clever mechanical inventions in the ancient world. For example, Hero of Alexandria invented the aeolipile, which was a sort of primitive steam engine; but it was never thought of as more than a curiosity. The practical application of steam power did not take place until Newcomen's time. Why? The answer seems clear - what need is there of a steam engine to do work that can be done by a crew of slaves?

I already pointed out that the cotton gin gave slavery a renewed lease on life, but one that was temporary. Your use of it as a disprobative example with reference to my argument is not persuasive. For one thing, it was the invention of a Massachusetts Yankee, who was part of the culture of invention and mechanization that had already begun in Britain and the northern U.S., where there was no slavery (nothing resembling chattel slavery existed in 17th-19th c. England, and it had been abolished in Massachusetts immediately following independence).

Such an invention would not have succeeded in a purely slave economy such as ancient Rome's. Indeed, primitive cotton gins had been developed in Asia more than a thousand years before Whitney's time, but had been forgotten. As that great philosopher of science, Charles Fort, once observed - it steam-engines when it is steam engine time. Just so, it cotton-gins when it is cotton-gin time. The circumstances must be suitable for such inventions to flourish, and the evidence is that they did not in the ancient world because there was no particular social or economic reward for their development.

Whether or not it was an 'acquiescence' on the part of slaveholders, the relative lack of violence and economic distress associated with the emancipation of slaves in Brazil as compared to the United States has much to do with the difference in present-day race relations between the two countries. Brazil never underwent a civil war over slavery and its slaveholding provinces were never subjected to a punitive military occupation. In other words, the abolition of slavery there was peaceful, whereas in the United States it was anything but. Again you have missed seeing the forest for the trees. You have not offered a credible alternative to this analysis.

Louisiana was subjected to the same Reconstruction as other southern states and afterwards followed the same pattern of 'Redemption' and imposition of Jim Crow laws that the rest of the South did. Its Catholicism made little if any difference in this.

In fact, some of the most militant segregationists in the South were Louisiana Catholics like Leander Perez of Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. Indeed, in 1962 when the church hierarchy gave in to pressures to desegregate Catholic schools, so obdurate was his opposition that he was excommunicated for contumacious disobedience by the archbishop of New Orleans. The Catholics of St. Bernard parish followed Perez rather than their prelates, and boycotted one school there, which the church kept open for four months without students, until it finally burned down. So much for the 'willingness of Catholic countries to acculturate outsiders...'

March 10, 2009 at 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mnuez:"..more people will be able to live non-impoverished lives if we have a strong government that mandates higher minimum wages, etc ad whatever. The point is obvious."

Not only is the point not obvious, it is plain wrong.

Compare North Korea and Singapore, for example

March 14, 2009 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Heraclitus said...

I stopped reading at the point where you suggested that the Germans were not conducting an offensive war during most of WWII.

This blog has been of interest to me every now and then, but this is where I delete you from my RSS reader. Goodbye.

March 14, 2009 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Anonymous from two comments ago -

Were you anything other than a full-blown Paultard moron, I might humor you with a bit more educating than you've obviously been privy to. Having failed basic reading comprehension however (and no, I won't point out the failure, you shouldn't be reading this blog in the first place if you need someone to do that for you) I won't bother to respond in a language that you so clearly can not understand.

mnuez


P.S. In the event that you're actually an acquaintance of mine, please note that I regard communication via pseudonyms on the internet as a fine proxy for the full Beis Medrash experience and mean no harm to your psyche. In fact, even if you're not an acquaintance of mine I mean no harm to your psyche - even though the ridiculous policies you so clearly - and stupidly - support end in a great deal of harm to the psyches and life-spans of so many others.

March 15, 2009 at 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Comment_Whatever said...


No such proof can be constructed, because the question is moral and aesthetic, not factual or logical.

Oh it's quite logical if you work for a living whether zero dollar labor is a good idea.

I know it's hard for those who don't work for a living to figure it out.

March 15, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
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March 16, 2009 at 6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I invariably speak up "ach v'rak" on points where I find fault. The fact that i do so could lead one to misunderstand my intent and to infer that I have only the lowest esteem for the post's author. Good. Got that out of the way? Nice. Now..

You're getting so god damn motherfuckin annoying!"

This blog is amazing. It attracts really smart people, and people who write the above but still think they're smart. Amazing.

March 19, 2009 at 6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.M. Lawrence, your insistence that Belgium bears no responsibility for Leopold's actions in the Congo is so moronic it's not even worth debating. It really is no better than blaming Hitler, and no other part of German society, for the Holocaust.

Oh yeah, how could the Belgian government possibly know what Leopold was up to? It was only an international cause celebre splattered all over the British and American press.

The first sentence happens to be incorrect, precisely because the Belgians placed the Congo on a more regular basis to achieve the latter. Force was applied in subtler ways, like taxes, and the former atrocities were ended.

Bullshit. The scope of the atrocities was reduced, but the system of forced labor remained. The Belgian mining cartel employed a mixture of contract mercenaries and hired guards to subdue the local population and to ensure transport of minerals and other goods out of the country. The Luba people opposed and often interfered with mining operations, and many were killed in raids on mining operations. The Pende rebellion of 1931 was set off when white officials set out to conscript palm oil workers by seizing Pende women as hostages. The officials then raped some of the women, and the Pende rose in revolt. Hundreds of troops were called out. By the time it was over, 344 Pende had been killed, forty-five wounded, and 1,356 arrested. Of the latter, two were sentenced to death, forty-seven to be whipped, and thirty-nine to lengthy prison terms, nine of whom died in confinement. If that's not an atrocity, I don't know what is! Many other examples of this sort exist. But according to your contemptible view, the Belgians had corrected Leopold's abuses.

Are you really so stupid as to think those taxes were "subtly" applied? The inhabitants didn't exactly get their checks electronically and have the tax deducted up front like we do. Government agents went into the villages with guns, confiscated food and wealth, and shot anyone who resisted. Yaaay, subtlety! I guess you could call "not paying the workers" a form of taxation, but better words would be "forced labor" and "slavery".

March 26, 2009 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

That's right - things merely went from "horrible" to "awful" after King Leopold's fingers were pried off the Congo. But you forget that the ultimate "formalist" position around here is that slavery was entirely justifiable if inflicted on people with a different skin color - this is what lies behind "race realism" and all the other pseudo-scientific evolutionary garbage that seems to be presently hypnotising the nerd classes. Which, in turn, can probably be traced to "Teh blax will get my grant money! Oh noes!" And after that they reassure themselves with dreams of The Once And Future King Leopold (aka Hans-Hermnann Hoppe)

What a lot of evil rot lies behind all the fine words here.

March 26, 2009 at 2:40 PM  

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