Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, July 4, 2016

Your Fourth Of July Reading

This is a much better piece than Dylan Matthew's piece from a few days ago.

It does commit the sin of conflating liberals with the Left, which I guess I'm going to keep fighting until my death.  The Left has a problem with Jefferson and Washington.  Liberals don't.  Or shouldn't.

Finally, I really, really have a problem - as a historian - with presentism.  Presentism is roughly applying modern values to past actions.  It's not that we shouldn't apply those values, but they have to be tempered by our understanding of the times.  We shouldn't excuse Washington's slave-holding, except to note that he freed most of them at his death.

And slavery as a whole should be understood to precede from economic necessity that had a racial component built on top of it.  If you go back to 17th century Virginia, you will see African slaves and English indentured servants being treated differently primarily in the terms of their service.  It was only after Bacon's Rebellion that indentured servitude died out to be replaced by African chattel slavery.  The economic need for labor predated the racism of slavery; the racism grew up around it in an effort to justify it.

If you take the 2016 perspective on slavery, then you fail to understand where it came from and why.  And you fail to understand where the racial assumptions that came to underpin slavery came from.  Jefferson, for instance, is dismissed for being a slaver, but he had rather benevolent and non-racist feelings towards Native Americans.  He assumed that future Americans would be the mixture of European and Native Americans, which is ironic, since we know that future Americans would be a mixture of European and African Americans, like Jefferson's own children.

I'm currently slogging through a book on 17th century Britain and the process that unleashed the idea of republican government in the English-speaking world.  That was a process that proceeded by fits and starts in Britain and then jumped the Atlantic to the colonies.  It then went in directions that men like Washington could likely have never imagined.

The impatience of the Left to see everything done yesterday ignores the reality that true and lasting change is evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Ignoring the seeds that were planted by men like Washington, Jefferson and Madison - because they offend modern sensibility - isn't history, it's religion.

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