The Klan and Progressivism

Wednesday, July 21, AD 2010

(Guest post by Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative.  This post orignally appeared here at Cranky Conservative.)

Michael Zak does what all too many on the left fail to do:  crack open some history books and take a real look at the history of the Ku Klux Klan.  Zak correctly notes that when the Klan was at its zenith during the 1920s, it was a terrorist wing of the Democratic party, and that since its inception, Republicans were at the forefront in trying to take it down.

It would have been far more truthful for the congresswoman to have admitted the fact that all those who wore sheets a long time ago lifted them to wear Democratic Party clothing.  Yes, the Ku Klux Klan was established by the Democratic Party.  Yes, the Ku Klux Klan murdered thousands of Republicans — African-American and white – in the years following the Civil War.  Yes, the Republican Party and a Republican President, Ulysses Grant, destroyed the KKK with their Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

How did the Ku Klux Klan re-emerge in the 20th century?  For that, the Democratic Party is to blame.

It was a racist Democrat President, Woodrow Wilson, who premiered Birth of a Nation in the White House.  That racist movie was based on a racist book written by one of Wilson’s racist friends from college.  In 1915, the movie spawned the modern-day Klan, with its burning crosses and white sheets.

Inspired by the movie, some Georgia Democrats revived the Klan.  Soon, the Ku Klux Klan again became a powerful force within the Democratic Party.  The KKK so dominated the 1924 Democratic Convention that Republicans, speaking truth to power, called it the Klanbake.  In the 1930s, a Democrat President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, appointed a Klansman, Senator Hugo Black (D-AL), to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the 1950s, the Klansmen against whom the civil rights movement struggled were Democrats.  The notorious police commissioner Bull Connor, who attacked African-Americans with dogs and clubs and fire hoses, was both a Klansman and the Democratic Party’s National Committeeman for Alabama.  Starting in the 1980s, the Democratic Party elevated a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), to third-in-line for the presidency.

I have one quibble with all this.  It focuses too much on the partisan aspect of the KKK and not enough on its ideological drive.  After all, modern day Democrats could just claim that the Klan represented the conservative wing of the Democratic party.  This would be an error.

While most members of the Klan held what would be termed conservative views on social issues, they were hardly purveyors of Burkean conservative values.  In fact the Klan typified the Progressive/Populist movement to a tee: “conservative” socially but decidedly left-wing economically and politically.  They supported government intrusion into the economy and were backers of the New Deal.  Jesse Walker explains some of the areas of overlap between the Progressive movement and the Klan:

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65 Responses to The Klan and Progressivism

  • “They supported government intrusion into the economy and were backers of the New Deal.”

    So did, among others, Fr. Ryan–who, if I remember correctly, actually helped draft certain provisions of the new deal. Any point which applies equally to the Klan and to Ryan (and Day, and Pius XII, etc. etc.) is not really analytically incisive.

  • Rubbish. The whole point of Paul’s essay is that in regard to economic matters by no stretch of the imagination could the Klan be called conservative. Your citing of Monsignor Ryan, who was such a supporter of the New Deal that he was called Monsignor “New Deal” and criticized by many Catholics as being a near socialist, rather helps establish Paul’s point.

  • Exactly, Donald. Also, to re-iterate a point, I’m not saying that all progressives were/are racists or Klan members. Simply put, though, the Klan was not, especially at its peak, ever a conservative institution.

  • There was a strong streak of progressivism/populism amongst southern Democrats during this era, and this essay notes the reformist streak of a pretty horrific racist politician, James (“the Great White Chief”) Vardaman of Mississippi.

  • The point: since its inception, the Democrat party has traded in class envy and hatred, e.g. KKK and progressive/socialist connections.

    Robert L. Bartley, WSJ, October 20, 2003, “The New Deal: Time for a New Look”: “The New Deal was not about economic recovery, but about displacing business as the nation’s predominant elite. . . . ”

    Walter Lippman, New York Herald Tribune, May 16, 1939, regarding the thrust of the New Deal, “ . . . one group is interested primarily in social reform and the other is interested in the control of the economic system.”

    More Bartley from above: ” . . . FDR harked back to the founder of his party. In his 1832 veto of renewing the Bank’s (Second Bank of the United States) charter, Jackson complained that its profits went to foreigners and a ‘few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class.’ Daniel Webster replied that the message ‘wanton attack whole classes of people, for the purposes of turning against them the prejudices and resentments of other classes.’ The tradition, of course, runs strong even today in the party of Jackson and Roosevelt.”

  • Donald, so what if “many” Catholics–who, exactly?–criticize Ryan for being a “near” socialist on account of his support of the New Deal? Many other Catholics, both American and European, supported the New Deal and interpreted its interventions not as Socialism–there was, after all, still private property in post FDR America–but as necessary interventions made by the State to secure the common good. The point is not that Ryan was or was not right about the New Deal. The point is rather that any argument which claims that the KKK’s support of government intervention and the New Deal tells us anything interesting about the group’s ideology is laughable when you consider the wide array of other groups that also supported the New Deal. This fact simply doesn’t bear on what distinguishes the KKK from other such groups, and so is not analytically incisive.

    Do you understand this point?

  • Progressives and KKK may have been eugenic but for different reasons. The KKK to preserve the purity of the white race. Progressives to get rid of “the unfit”. Republicans supported NSM 200 for the same reason -to get rid of the unfit.

    Tribalism and racial tensions, IMO, are great tactic of the devil to get us at each others throats. Ethnic Catholics have gotten sucked into this as well.

  • The political realignment later that century changed everything. Go to and see if people still support big government.

  • The point is rather that any argument which claims that the KKK’s support of government intervention and the New Deal tells us anything interesting about the group’s ideology is laughable

    Only if you are of the belief that support for the New Deal came from any truly conservative quarter. Of the vaguely named “groups” which supported the New Deal, how many of them can be termed conservative? There were also other elements of the Klan’s platform that clearly favored populist and statist intervention mentioned in the post and the cited articles. Support for the New Deal is hardly the only evidence of the Klan’s non-conservatism.

    he political realignment later that century changed everything. Go to and see if people still support big government.

    Yes, the current manifestation of the Klan is not as statist as the old Klan, but the several hundred whackados that still cling to the white power mantra of the Klan support protectionist policies that are not much different than what was being touted back in the 1920s. More importantly, I was focusing on the Klan when it was a relevant political faction in this country, not a couple of hillbillies who have computer access.

  • Perhaps another way to address the New Deal issue is to point out that it is but one of many things that demonstrate the Klan’s populism. While perhaps support for the New Deal in and of itself is not evidence of the Klan’s non-conservativism, that, in conjunction with the other aspects of their general philosophy show a group that had more in common with the Progressive movement than with traditional conservatism.

  • Paul,

    I don’t find the term “conservative” to be a helpful descriptor here, as it lends itself to imprecision and, at times, equivocation.

    For example, is it or is it not a “conservative” position that government intervention in the economy should be avoided? Well, depending upon whether you are talking about 16th century England or 21st century America you will get two different answers. What we usually mean when we talk about “conservative” economic policies in the twenty-first century is, as you know, more precisely described in terms of neoliberalism, with all its attendent arguments and assumptions, which themselves need to be spelled out, and about which many different people (eg. Bill Clinton or Ross Perot) disagree in particular cases.

    But even assuming that we’re limiting “conservative” to our own historical moment, there are a variety of “conservatisms,” each one of which defines the term in a very different way. Are neo-conservatives, for example, really conservative, or are they ugly reinstantiations of Wilsonian progressivism? Depending on whether you lean more toward First Things, toward the Front Porch Republic, or some other “conservative” blog, you will find different answers to this question. So that’s a brief explanation why, in general, I think labeling historical events/movements from differing periods to be “conservative” or “progressive” is not so helpful, and tends instead to make us read the past as if it were simply an extension of our present obsessions.

  • I was focusing on the Klan when it was a relevant political faction in this country, not a couple of hillbillies who have computer access.

    The upland South generally has a small black population and has had competitive electoral politics since the Civil War. I doubt it was ever fertile territory for the Klan. (Which makes Robert Byrd’s history all the stranger). IIRC, one of the principals of Stormfront in recent years has been James Kelso, who grew up in the Pacific Palisades section of Los Angeles. I think David Duke’s background was decidedly bourgeois as well.

  • I don’t find the term “conservative” to be a helpful descriptor here, as it lends itself to imprecision and, at times, equivocation.

    Thanks. Please tell Paul Krugman et al.

  • The Klan, Nazis, and the “white nationalists” of today were all motivated by a desire for white advancement. In the Klan’s heyday, welfare programs primarily aided whites. Today, it is perceived to mainly aid minorities. The racist philosophy hasn’t changed but the policy implications have. They’re rent seekers who will move into whichever house, progressive or conservative, that best promotes their agenda. If they lived in Mexico, they’d be all for free trade with their white brethren in America.

    I will say that today’s liberals should reexamine their protectionist and non-interventionist positions, considering the fact that racists correctly believe that the effect of protectionism and sometimes non-intervention is the advancement of the white race at the expense of non-whites.

  • In the Klan’s heyday, welfare programs primarily aided whites.

    In 1924, about 88% of the population was caucasian. It is not surprising that the ‘welfare programs of the day’ (orphanages, poor houses, veterans’ hospitals, asylums, and sanitoriums) had a predominantly caucasian clientele.

  • AD, exactly, which is why racists didn’t oppose it at the time.

  • Glad to see this article here, Paul. Did you notice how the realignment / Southern Strategy came up?

  • Progressives, exemplified in the political arena by the likes of Woodrow Wilson, sought to radically alter (or simply ignore) the US Constitution so as to permit greater state intervention into most areas of our lives. Wilson wanted America to model itself after Great Britain, turning itself into a Parliamentary system. They wanted to rip apart the institutional mechanisms that the Framers designed that slowed down the machinery of government. Popular reform, according to the Progressive movement, had to happen quicker and without those pesky contrivances like separation of powers and indirect elections (in other words, American republicanism). The system had to be massively overhauled and cater to popular whims.

    This is admittedly a rather crude generalization, but I think it captures the key points of the Progressive movement. And while I’m sure not every man who took that oath on Stone Mountain or at various locations around the country for the next couple of decades agreed with or even knew about each of these tenets, they were by and large sympathetic to most of these goals.

    Call it whatever you want to. Just don’t call it conservative.

  • Glad to see this article here, Paul. Did you notice how the realignment / Southern Strategy came up?


    As discussed at my blog there are several problems with this counter-argument. It tacitly assumes that Republicans and Democrats switched places. Disaffected racist Democrats switched parties, goes the logic, except that they all seemed to switch to a party that was even more hostile to the KKK specifically and was more supportive of granting civil rights to blacks. Curious. It almost makes you think that there just might have been something else to this realignment.

  • “In fact the Klan typified the Progressive/Populist movement to a tee: “conservative” socially but decidedly left-wing economically and politically.”

    I don’t even know about the social conservatism. How do you define that? “Progressivism” extended well into the sphere of morality, only in that day, it was called eugenics and racial hygiene. Many states in this country once had eugenics laws on the books, while racists promoted abortion, sterilization, contraception, and other means to reduce undesirable populations. That’s not the kind of “social conservatism” I know.

    Its safe to say that Nazism and its American equivalent were almost as fanatically dedicated to equality as their leftist counterparts – they just wanted equality among one race.

    We see plenty of that today as well; among the “progressive” elements of the pro-immigration debate, there are vicious Hispanic racist groups. “For the race everything; for those outside the race, nothing” is the slogan of one of their groups. They march with signs that say “whitey go back to Europe” and other racially charged rhetoric. And they know full well that in this country, they are semi-officially allowed to conduct themselves as full blown racists without any political or media censure by the self-hating, self-loathing white liberals.

    I don’t see anything particularly “racist”, therefore, about protectionist policies. Hispanic racists want open borders and free trade to facilitate the reconquista.

    I agree with WJ’s comment:

    “I think labeling historical events/movements from differing periods to be “conservative” or “progressive” is not so helpful, and tends instead to make us read the past as if it were simply an extension of our present obsessions.”

    If one must use such labels, at least make them proper nouns. An old-timey Progressive is not a modern progressive necessarily, anymore than an old-timey republican is a modern Republican.

  • The realignment was complete at the party leader level by LBJ though it would take a generation to trickle down. Compare LBJ to Goldwater and Nixon. You’re not suggesting that racists should’ve preferred LBJ to Goldwater, are you?

  • Compare LBJ to Goldwater and Nixon. You’re not suggesting that racists should’ve preferred LBJ to Goldwater, are you?

    Oh of course not. As we all know, LBJ was a forward-thinking saint who didn’t have a racist bone in his body. He was motivated by only altruistic motivations to advance the cause of Civil Rights. Just ask him:

    “I’ll have those n*ggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”

    That’s right, LBJ.

  • Right, Paul! Blacks were so dumb not to vote for Goldwater.

  • So, blacks vote for progressive Dems (even former KKK) because . . .

  • Because they are generally more responsive to black interests. If you’re black and your choices are a candidate who supports the Civil Rights Act and the other who doesn’t, it’s not a difficult choice.

    I should clarify that I’m not saying that all Democratic positions favor blacks. Some clearly do not (e.g., school vouchers) but on the whole, the scale tips in favor of the Democrats. That also isn’t to say that issues apart from race aren’t important but at least on issues where race is a factor, there is reason to trust Democrats over Republicans.

    To say otherwise is to imply that blacks are so dumb that they vote against their own interests and values.

  • AD, exactly, which is why racists didn’t oppose it at the time.

    Were there or were there not black inmates in these institutions?

  • While we are at it, is it really your opinion that the relatives of some fellow mad and dying of tertiary syphilis in a state asylum are ‘rent seekers’?

  • I think progressives do seem to think more in terms of group identity so early on it was unions, immigrants and the KKK. Now it has changed to racial groups, women, gays and unions. And that leads to this good of the herd mentality that I find troubling.

    Classical liberals – Hayek for example -wanted to see people as individuals first. Maybe part of the fight in the GOP are between those who want favor the individualist mind set and those who want to preserve
    or rescue a way of life, through get tough laws if necessary.

    As some one who reveres the bill of rights, my sympathies are with Hayek. The tradtionalists though, using the government to enforce morality which seems to be a Catholic view. But that seems to me like the government coercing consciences from which I viscerally rebel.


  • “The point is not that Ryan was or was not right about the New Deal. The point is rather that any argument which claims that the KKK’s support of government intervention and the New Deal tells us anything interesting about the group’s ideology is laughable when you consider the wide array of other groups that also supported the New Deal. This fact simply doesn’t bear on what distinguishes the KKK from other such groups, and so is not analytically incisive.

    Do you understand this point?”

    Oh I understand what you are arguing and it is rubbish. Conservatives in this country uniformly opposed the New Deal. Paul was making the point that the Klan supported the New Deal and were on the Left in this country on economic issues, and therefore to consider them to be conservatives is ludicrous. Your choice of John Ryan to support your contention merely indicates that you know little about the career of Monsignor Ryan.

  • “To say otherwise is to imply that blacks are so dumb that they vote against their own interests and values.”

    That’s more or less what some black political speakers, such as Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, argue. Not necessarily that blacks are “dumb”, but that they’ve been sold a false ideology of resentment and entitlement by the post-MLK “civil rights” leadership, i.e. Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, et. al. Peterson sees black resentment of whites as the key to keeping blacks dependent upon big government.

    Of course you can always label him an “Uncle Tom” if you like.

  • I find it somewhat ironic that progressives will tout books like What’s Wrong With Kansas under the premise that blue collar and rural whites are so dumb that they can be hoodwinked by religious and cultural charlatans into voting against their economic “best interests”, yet recoil at the notion that blacks might be voting against their own interests and values.

  • People vote against their own interests and values all the time, usually due to a misperception of the politicians they are electing, a tribal affiliation to one party no matter what (Parts of Illinois still vote the way they do due to partisan differences dating back to the Civil War) and intense peer pressure.

  • AD, using your logic racists shouldn’t be protectionists because it will help some black people. And I’m pretty sure “rent seekers” was in reference to racists.

  • To be fair, neither national party is in anyone’s interest.

    It is always a question of which is least bad. And sometimes people put more faith in candidates than they do parties. Quite often in fact.

  • And I’m pretty sure “rent seekers” was in reference to racists.

    Who had no relatives in asylums, sanitoriums, veterans’ hospitals, or poor houses, right?

  • AD, using your logic racists shouldn’t be protectionists because it will help some black people.

    No, that is not my logic. Prior to 1933, common provision by public agencies was manifest in institutional care provided by state employees. The employees in question were seldom on the payroll of the central government (the Veterans’ Administration excepted). I think there were some pensions provided by that agency, but that’s about it. It seems rather contrived (though I suppose not beyond the realm of possibility) that the absence of income transfer programs prior to 1933 is attributable to anyone’s supposition that the beneficiaries would be black; I would suggest that the contours of common provision were determined by the common opinion that some sort of conditions so merited (schizophrenia, war injuries) and some did not (general impecuniousness).

  • Not necessarily that blacks are “dumb”, but that they’ve been sold a false ideology of resentment and entitlement by the post-MLK “civil rights” leadership, i.e. Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, et. al. Peterson sees black resentment of whites as the key to keeping blacks dependent upon big government.

    That necessarily means that they’re dumb enough to fall for it. You’ll find plenty of blacks who aren’t fans of Jesse Jackson or Sharpton but they still vote Democrat. And yes, I would consider Jesse Lee Peterson an Uncle Tom. It’s one thing to say that the black community bears certain responsibilities. All blacks would agree with that. But it’s quite another to say that the government bears none when it comes to aiding blacks.

    Don, I find it far more likely that blacks for Democrat because they have a rational reason to.

  • People vote against their own interests and values all the time,

    Or they have their own strata about what matters in public life, which can be regrettable indeed.

  • That necessarily means that they’re dumb enough to fall for it.

    RR, most people do not follow public affairs. They have other things to do with the space available in their head, things rather more important for their immediate livlihood.

  • But it’s quite another to say that the government bears none when it comes to aiding blacks.

    Do you mean blacks as blacks or blacks as individuals in certain social circumstances?

  • AD, what is your explanation as to why racists turned against wealth redistribution programs?

  • “And yes, I would consider Jesse Lee Peterson an Uncle Tom.”

    Wow, ok. Well at least you’re honest about your contempt for black people who dare to disobey the party line.

  • No, I’m okay with Colin Powell, Condozella Rice, and Justice Thomas. But at least you’re honest about your belief that anyone who disagrees with Peterson’s self-hatred does so for partisan reasons.

  • AD, what is your explanation as to why racists turned against wealth redistribution programs?

    I am not familiar with the degree to which the two positions have been correlated over time.

    Huey Long advocated redistributing assets and there was a point in time when both George McGovern and William Loeb advocated confiscatory estate taxes, though for different reasons. However, this sort of thing has been fairly unusual in American public life.

  • RR,

    You’re really unhinged on this one. You usually defend the center-left view quite reasonably, but not this time.

    You seem to be insisting that blacks ought to vote as a herd, that individual black people couldn’t possibly have interests apart from blacks as an abstract group. It isn’t as bad as slavery, but it is still a form of dehumanization.

    You think Peterson hates himself? I’ve read his book, I’ve heard him speak, and I’ve met him in person – nothing could be further from the truth.

    You’re so desperate to cling to this narrative, and to keep black people squarely in the D column, that you’ll resort to saying malicious things about a person you know nothing about. It scares you that the black man might stop unthinkingly towing the line, doesn’t it?

    Peterson’s message is a Christian message, a deeply Christian message – that people must let go of their hatreds in order to liberate themselves from oppression.

  • You seem to be insisting that blacks ought to vote as a herd

    No, I didn’t.

    You’re so desperate to cling to this narrative, and to keep black people squarely in the D column

    No desire to keep blacks in the D column here.

    It scares you that the black man might stop unthinkingly towing the line, doesn’t it?

    I’d be more than happy if he stopped unthinking.

    Peterson’s message is a Christian message, a deeply Christian message – that people must let go of their hatreds in order to liberate themselves from oppression.

    Yes, blame the victim. That’s exactly what’s wrong with him.

  • Yes, blame the victim. That’s exactly what’s wrong with him.

    You labeled the man an Uncle Tom simply because he refused to toe the line that you expect him to toe. It is fitting that you should do so, because in a discussion about racism it’s helpful to have a reminder of one of the nastier forms of racism – that of the left-wing, paternalistic variety. We wouldn’t want black people to have to think for themselves and try to help themselves, now would we. Superman whitey to the rescue.

  • Just for the record, the Klan did have some GOP supporters in the 1920s, most notably Gov. Edward L. Jackson of Indiana, elected with the explicit endorsement of the Klan, and the all-time worst governor of Illinois, Gov. Len Small. By the mid-1920s more than half the seats in the Indiana legislature were held by Klan members — representing three political parties!

    Perhaps the Democratic connection to the Klan was largely a Southern phenomenon, since in the northern states, and especially in large cities, the Democratic Party was (and in many cases still is) firmly controlled by Irish and other ethnic Catholics — exactly the kind of white people the KKK most despised.

    I say this not to cast any aspersions on present-day Republicans but simply to point out that the Klan’s bigotry crossed political boundaries.

  • You labeled the man an Uncle Tom simply because he refused to toe the line that you expect him to toe.

    If he toes Uncle Tom’s line, what else am I supposed to call him?

    We wouldn’t want black people to have to think for themselves and try to help themselves, now would we.

    I’m the one here claiming that blacks can think for themselves. Others here and Uncle Tom are arguing that they cannot.

  • Yes, blame the victim. That’s exactly what’s wrong with him.

    Whatever this fellow Peterson’s message is or is not, nursing grievances in the sort of social circumstances there are in this country is bound to be a superlatively unproductive activity.

    I can think of three or four public policies which have been or might be quite beneficial to the black population and a mess of others which are less beneficial (or injurious) and do collateral damage to boot.

    I have been reading newspapers for thirty five years or so and the indicators I have seen are that the fraternity of black politicians so rendered has no interest in the former and is militant on behalf of the latter. All of which is regrettable.

  • If he toes Uncle Tom’s line, what else am I supposed to call him?

    You haven’t demonstrated how he actually fits this disgusting label. The ball’s in your court.

    I’m the one here claiming that blacks can think for themselves.

    Yeah, you keep thinking that RR. It’s amusing to see someone so wrapped up in self-denial.

  • Paul, I will keep on thinking that blacks can think for themselves regardless of what people here claim.

    AD, that politicians have conflicting interests should be no surprise. Those who stick to principles against pressure are rare.

  • AD, that politicians have conflicting interests should be no surprise. Those who stick to principles against pressure are rare.

    Your response is perfectly non sequitur.

  • Did the Klan support the New Deal? I thought by that point the organization was all but defunct.

  • If he toes Uncle Tom’s line, what else am I supposed to call him?

    It’s not clear to me how you can think Peterson “toes Uncle Tom’s line” but not Justice Thomas. Their politics seem pretty similar.

    Incidentally, I was just reading the Wikipedia entry for Uncle Tom, and it’s fascinating how an originally admirable character was turned into a term of abuse.

  • It’s not clear to me how you can think Peterson “toes Uncle Tom’s line” but not Justice Thomas. Their politics seem pretty similar.

    Because it’s not about politics. You can be a black right-winger and still not be an Uncle Tom. I admit that I don’t much about Justice Thomas’ views on race other than his opinions in the Michigan cases which I found reasonable. I could be wrong about him but I give him the benefit of the doubt.


    I just chanced on this piece in which Pat Buchanan says it was Nixon’s strategy from the start to attract the Southern Wallace Democrats. One memo stated “We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention.”

  • If you are going to cite Buchanan restrainedradical, you really need to go to the horse’s mouth. Here is a column from 2002 in which Buchanan,while lambasting his usual bug-a-boo the “neo-cons” denies that the Southern Strategy was about race.

    “Richard Nixon kicked off his historic comeback in 1966 with a column on the South (by this writer) that declared we would build our Republican Party on a foundation of states rights, human rights, small government and a strong national defense, and leave it to the “party of Maddox, Mahoney and Wallace to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.””

  • Notice that rr still has not offered any evidence to justify his claims about Peterson. Evidently, though, it has something about daring to think unlike other black people about race.

    And yes, the fact that we even use the term Uncle Tom at all is pretty sad, doubly so when we consider the nature of the character in the novel.

  • I just chanced on this piece in which Pat Buchanan says it was Nixon’s strategy from the start to attract the Southern Wallace Democrats.

    Exactly what public policy pursued between 1969 and 1977 would have done that? The Philadelphia Plan, perhaps? How about the Office of Minority Business Enterprise?

    Politicians seek votes. They do not inquire too much into the inner lives of members of the electorate in so doing. Is it your contention that Nixon should have told a quarter of the American electorate to not vote because they were unfit to vote or perhaps cast a ballot for Hubert Humphrey?

  • Don, the piece I linked to quotes directly from the horse’s mouth.

    AD, Nixon apparently rejected Buchanan’s more racist proposals but I think it’s safe to say that Nixon painted the party as somewhat less hostile to racists than the Democratic party. Why did Strom Thurmond switch parties?

  • Paul, I agree. The hateful charge of Uncle Tom, like the puerile psychobabble about “self-hatred,” is a scoundrel’s refuge and should have no place on a blog grounded in reason and Catholic morality. Very disappointing. Reasonable men can believe that government welfare systems are poisonous to culture and the human spirit, and that includes reasonable black men.

  • I have no insights as to why Strom Thurmond did what he did at any point in his life.

    Barry Goldwater had a libertarian objection to civil rights laws. It was enough to garner Goldwater a mass of support in the Deep South, a ballot from Thurmond among them. However, that view was quite atypical in the Republican Party (80% of the Republican congressional caucus casting votes for such legislation) and not replicated by any other post-war Republican candidate for that office.

    The breakdown of the political monopoly of the Democratic Party in the South began in 1952 and was not complete until 1994. It was a process that antedated and post-dated the more limited range of years when agitation over the terms of race relations was salient (1955-71). You might consider that Southern voters, like anyone else, can be motivated by a number of vectors and concerns. Characters like Richard Russell and James Eastland were no longer functioning as effective gatekeepers on these matters, the national elites of the party were often represented by the likes of Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern (critics of America as a political society who made the position of the Democratic Party as a voice of Southern identity increasingly untenable), and the modal view of Democratic politicos on other questions was incongruent with Southern preferences.

  • Notice also how RR mocks and dismisses Peterson’s Christian message about overcoming hatred of others as some sort of delusion that perpetuates his oppression by “the man”.

    What crude materialism! I guess God’s love and salvation aren’t enough either – he better start doling out celestial welfare checks and establishing racial quotas for admittance into heaven.

Stonewall Jackson’s Way

Saturday, July 17, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by the endlessly talented Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.

Of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, nicknamed Stonewall by General Barnard Bee at the battle of Bull Run, it was said he lived by the New Testament and fought by the Old.  Certainly throughout his life he was a convinced Christian.  As a young man he would attend services of various Christian denominations.  In Mexico, during his service in the Mexican War, he attended mass, although sadly he did not convert to Catholicism.  Instead he eventually became a Presbyterian.  His Bible was his constant companion, and he would often speak of God and theological matters in private conversation.

Jackson in his professional life was a soldier.  Just before the Civil War he was a professor of natural and experimental philosophy (science) and artillery instruction at the Virginia Military Institute.  As a teacher he made a good soldier.  His lectures were rather dry.  If his students seemed to fail to grasp a lecture, he would repeat it the next day, word for word.

His home life was a mixture of sorrow and joy.  His first wife died in childbirth along with their still-born son, a tragedy that would have crushed many a man less iron-willed than  Jackson.  His second marriage, like his first, was happy, but heartache also haunted it.  A daughter died shortly after birth in 1858.  A second daughter was born in 1862, shortly before Jackson’s own death in 1863.

He and his second wife established and taught a Sunday school for black slaves.  At the time it was against the law in Virginia to teach slaves to read, but apparently that is precisely what Jackson and his wife did.   One of the last letters he ever posted was his regular contribution he mailed off throughout the war for the financial support of the Sunday school for slaves he and his wife had founded.

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18 Responses to Stonewall Jackson’s Way

  • Thank you sir. I know we have had our tussles over the War for Southern Independence before and I do know that we both agree that men of honor should be remembered.

    Rally behind the Virginian!

  • Thank you for this page. It is nice to know he is still remembered as a lover of God, if he had more time on earth he would have become Catholic, don’t ask me how I know this, I just do. God Bless You!

  • I just want to point out that I live less than a mile from the statue of Gen. Jackson that appeared at the end of the vignette of mostly Kunstler paintings and that statue stands very close to the spot that Gen. Jackson actually sat atop his steed – it is on the field of battle – that battle was First Manassas. It happened on a field and not in the stream of water that runs nearby – that stream is Bull Run. You Yankees have a funny way about naming battles. Y’all make me laugh.

  • Thank you AK and ginaelise for your kind words. Jackson was an American original: a military genius and a man who dedicated his life to God. His importance in the Civil War is demonstrated by the dimming of the chances for Southern victory immediately after his death.

    After the war, on May 10th, 1881, in New Orleans a statue and monument to Stonewall Jackson were unveiled. Father D. Hubert, who served as a chaplain during the war with Hay’s Lousiana Brigade, gave the benediction. I have always been struck by this phrase in his prayer: “And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”

  • An ancestor gave his life at First Bull Run with the 69th NY Militia.

    Jackson’s military philosophy is identical to the Nazi General Staff’s blitzkrieg, except their army was equipped with panzers and stukas.

    Jackson’s infantry was so fast and mile-devouring that it was called “foot cavalry.”

    We will never know. I imagine if General Jackson had lived, the Confederates would have taken that unmanned hill the first evening at Gettysburg; or would have defeated the Union left on the second day; or would have moved earlier and faster on the center the third day.

    AK: You mean the unconstitutional War of Northern Aggression. The federals named the battles for creeks/rivers (Antietam, Bull Run), the Confeccderates for towns and cities.

  • T. Shaw,

    I don’t have a problem with calling the conflict the War of Northern Aggression; however, it seems to me to miss the point. All wars are aggressive and I think we lose some of the uniqueness of the conflict when we identify it thus.

    We don’t call the War for American Independence the War of British Aggression. I prefer the War for Southern Independence because it echos the same purpose as the war of 1775.

    I think Yankees miss the point when they name battles after bodies of water. For the most part, the war was a land war and although naval operations played a part, especially with the Southern tech innovation of the CSS Hunley, the most decisive battles took place in towns and cities bringing us the horrible modern innovation of total war (especially perpetrated by Sherman’s destructive march).

    I visit the Manassas Battlefield often, but I have never set foot in Bull Run.

  • I prefer the Northern Crusade for Human Liberty myself. 🙂

  • That may be a nice thought; however, the anti-slavery nature of the war was not the intent of the North when they thought they could destroy Lee’s Army at First Manassas. The noble cause of freeing African slaves was not employed until the North needed propaganda to prevent European powers from entering the conflict on the side of the CSA. It worked – Christian nations are not prone to want to be known for entering conflicts in order to secure the ‘rights’ of some of God’s children to enslave others of His children. At least not publicly.

    Trampling states’ rights in order to ‘liberate’ blacks was a benefit to no one. We are still dealing with it. Wouldn’t it have been better to free blacks more organically rather then subject all of us, including blacks, into slavery?

  • “Wouldn’t it have been better to free blacks more organically rather then subject all of us, including blacks, into slavery?”

    Considering that the Confederate Constitution specifically forbade the Confederate Congress from enancting any anti-slavery legislation, I can only imagine that Confederate victory would have meant the continuation of black slavery for the foreseeable future. I suspect that virtually all the black slaves then, and virtually all their descendants now, are quite happy that the war ended slavery. Come to think of it, that was also the view of Robert E. Lee at the end of the war. He said that he rejoiced that the war had ended slavery. Additionally AK, calling what defeated Southerners experienced as slavery is simple hyperbole. Real slavery is what blacks suffered in this country for over two and a half centuries. It took a Civil War to end this stain on American honor, and it was worth every drop of blood shed to accomplish that task.

  • Our Constitution forbade women, blacks and eighteen year-olds from voting and we amended it. Slavery would have ended and the Confederate Constitution would have been amended. Of course, we can’t know that, but I doubt the CSA would be the last place in the West with legalized slavery. Not only did great men find slavery morally reprehensible, like Gens. Lee & Jackson, but it would also have become economically unviable.

    Gen. Lee did see the silver lining in the defeat of the South in that slavery ended. He also said he would rather have died with his sword in hand had he known the evil manner in which the victors occupied the South. However slavery ended is a good thing simply because slavery ended. The issue is that 600,000 Americans did not need to die to do it and we did not need to lose states’ rights to do it.

    Additionally, the money power that instigated the war in order to divide the emerging United States, has now succeeded in making all of us, blacks too, slaves. The difference is that African slaves knew they were in shackles. Modern slavery uses invisible shackles and convinces the slave that he is free and happy. It is much, much harder to gain freedom when you aren’t aware that you are in a cage.

    Also, please note that my defense of the position of the South is NOT a defense of the Southern position on slavery. I love my chosen homeland despite the stain of slavery, not because of it. Losing states’ rights has been one of the gravest mistakes America has made because it forces all of us to be subservient to an out-of-control national Leviathan, well on its way to becoming a regional (North American) monster with designs for a global totalitarianism. This is not good for anybody whether their ancestors were salves 150 years ago or over 2,000 years ago.

  • We did not lose states rights due to the Civil War. I know this is a favorite neoCon talking point, but American history says otherwise. The real growth in the powers of the federal governments dates to the Progressive era, beginning with Wilson but exploding with FDR. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War to the beginning of the Progressive era federalism was still respected, and the 10th amendment more than a simple truism.

    And I’m sure the CSA would have gotten around to ending slavery. We could have caught it all on video when they made the announcement.

  • Wow, I am not sure how “Civil War” got butchered into “silver due,” but that might be the greatest typo ever. No wonder I hate typing on laptops.

  • Corrected it for you Paul, although I do agree that was a typo for the record books!

    “Our Constitution forbade women, blacks and eighteen year-olds from voting and we amended it.”

    Actually our Constitution was completely silent on who could vote. Blacks voted in some northern and southern states prior to the Civil War, although all southern states forbade free negroes from voting by the time of the Civil War. Women began voting in Wyoming in 1869, and voted in some Western states and a few Eastern states, including I am pleased to say Illinois, prior to the amendment granting female suffrage. Several states allowed 18 year olds to vote prior to the 26th amendment.

  • favorite neoCon talking point

    You mean Thomas Woods, not Elliot Abrams, right?

  • You mean Thomas Woods, not Elliot Abrams, right?

    Yeah. You can tell by the capitalized C.

    Not to derail the thread even further, but I use the term half-jestingly mainly because neoCons so despise neocons. But I do wish we’d stop adding neo- to every political term. Usually it is just a stand-in for “bad,” and in most cases the thing described as neo ain’t so neo.

  • Great post. Jackson was a fascinating character, with a surprisingly soft side. After his service in the Mexican War, his habitual term of endearment for his wife was “mi esposa.”

  • “And I’m sure the CSA would have gotten around to ending slavery. We could have caught it all on video when they made the announcement.”

    What an absurd insult Mr. Zummo!

    The answer to your marxist comment is that the 13th Amendment passed by the former seceded states whereas the 14th did not.(Video was a pipe dream then).It took the radical reconstruction acts to expel the same states so the ILLEGAL ratification of the 14th could take place!

    Duh! What history did you learn in the government indoctrinated schools? Face it. Lincoln was a marxist. He and Karl Marx corresponded often and admired each other. What other reason would explain why exiled Marx followers were made colonels and generals in the Union army?

    No sir our troubles began in 1865 and have worsened since. True Wilson and FDR accelerated the problems, but ole Abe started them when he perverted the Constitution.

    The CSA was correct in seceding. You just can’t accept the truth or are forever entitled to remain DUPED.

    PS Not related to the yankee Elliot.

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8 Responses to Invincible Ignorance

  • Man… There’s the solution. Get the grandpa. He knows.

    What are they teaching them in schools these days…

  • Truly frightening.

  • This is pretty bad, but think of how abysmal the average American’s knowledge of more recent history is. I mean, independence-era trivia is stuff they drum into you repeatedly, and people still can’t remember it!

  • I’m somewhat skeptical that previous generations didn’t suffer from a similar lack of knowledge. I think we tend to compare ourselves to the best of previous generations. Had the same questions been asked of a busboy 100 years ago and we may have heard the same answers. On the other hand, the problem in past generations may have been more a lack of educational opportunities. Today, we have different problems. The plethora of entertainment options today may drive some people away from more educational media. Newspaper’s replacement isn’t only TV news or internet news, it’s also Desperate Housewives and Facebook.

  • Restrainedradical I wish you were right, but I think you are wrong. I’ll use my own family as an example. My brother and I were the first family members to go to college. My paternal grandfather repaired shoes and my paternal grandmother cleaned houses. My parents were both factory workers. My mother read a lot, not so my Dad or his parents. All of them knew the basic history of the country. When I would bring up the subject of American history, they would all participate based upon what they had learned in school (Ironically, my mother, the Newfoundlander, due to her post school reading, knew the most about American history!) Neither of my paternal grandparents went past the Seventh grade. My father was a high school graduate. All of them would have been ashamed at the level of ignorance about American history displayed in the video.

  • Is Jaywalking really legit? I’ve always been suspicious that it’s staged.

  • Zach, you have to remember two things about Jawywalking. One, it’s not live. They simply pick the funniest/dumbest answers and show those. The second thing is that it’s filmed in LA. That alone brings down the average IQ about 70 or 80 points. (No disrespect meant to LA, but c’mon, Hollywood).

  • It is pretty amazing the level of ignorance you can run into talking to people about stuff they haven’t studied at all since school. Back when I lived in LA, I used to help out with telescope demonstrations for the general public, and the sorts of ignorance you’d run into about very basic astronomical topics (number of planets, does the earth go around the sun, etc.) was pretty impressive.

    Actually, the oddest one that I ran into a couple times was people who were convinced that the globe was hollow and that we lived on the inside of it. (The explanation: because if we lived on the outside we’d fall off.)

July 4, 1826

Thursday, July 1, AD 2010

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day from the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.  Jefferson died before Adams, and therefore Adams was in error when, with his last breath, he said “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  However, in a larger sense, a part of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams and all the patriots who brought us our independence, will remain alive as long as Americans continue to read and remember the Declaration of Independence.

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5 Responses to July 4, 1826

  • What was that clip from Don? I’ve always had a appreciation for the story of Adams and Jefferson. Their opposing temperments and bitter disputes turning into profound respect and a great friendship. They represent America in more than one way. They’re not just two major players in the nation’s founding or just sequential presidents. Their personalities and ideas serve as a microcosm the whole. It was that ideological tension they bring that is what made this nation work. Either ideology would have failed, but the compromises (and even just the effect of having the debates) forged something greater than the parts.

    That either man (who both had a hand in writing the DoI) would die on the 4th or that they would die on the same day would be remarkable, but that they both died on the very same day and it was July 4th is amazing.

  • That was from the excellent John Adams HBO mini-series, which was based on David McCullough’s biography on Adams.

  • It’s a story McCullough has told wonderfully for years — read his book, and you get some of the full effect of the way he tells it personally.

  • I never saw the John Adams mini-series. I will certainly rent it. Incredible that Adams and Jefferson died exactly 50 years to the day after signing the Declaration of Independence.

    A happy 4th to you all! I am having family over to feast on the usual summer fare and to watch fireworks on the roof of my building. Independence Day is my favorite secular holiday. I hope AC readers all enjoy the day.

  • It is a masterpiece Donna, shockingly good. A happy Fourth to you and yours!

Is Robert E. Lee Overrated?

Friday, June 18, AD 2010

Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative, and I run a blog on American History:  Almost Chosen People.  Yesterday Paul raised the question:  Is Robert E. Lee Overrated?

Yeah, the post title is somewhat deliberately provocative, but it’s also meant to be a serious question that I hope will spark some discussion.  I was going to ask it in the comments to Donald’s post below, but thought it might be useful fodder for debate in its own right.

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9 Responses to Is Robert E. Lee Overrated?

  • Yeah, what Donald said.


  • Personally, I think that the General Lee was in fact overrated.

  • I agree Lee was by far the best general of that war and probably in American history.

    Overrated? Some in perpetuating the Lee legend have tended to overstate Lee’s abilities. Longstreet, for instance, after the war flirted with Republicans, became a Catholic, and hob-knobbed with President Grant. The Lost Cause folks and especially Lee’s hagiographers in Virginia stepped up their criticisms of Old Pete, beginning a slander against him that is referenced even in the movie from which the clip headlining this post is taken. That is, that Longsteet’s reluctance vigorously to execute Lee’s orders on the second and third days at Gettysburg led to that defeat (and hence, to the ultimate fall of the Cause). Never mind that this slur was uttered only after Lee’s death, for Lee himself acknowledged many times that the fault for Gettysburg lied with him, not Longstreet. Never mind, too, that Longstreet was just plain right, no confederate army could successfully have dislodged Meade from the heights outside of Gettysburg. That battle was lost when Ewell neglected to do what Stonewall certainly would have, and that is press the broken Federal army on day one to capture Cemetery Hill and Culp’s.

    So the moral of the story is that while our greatest general, even Lee has been oversold somewhat. He was only mortal after all, and did make other mistakes (e.g., Malvern Hill, North Anna).

  • It depends.

    A read of Lee’s Terrible Swift Sword tells of his string of decisive victories from Antietam through Second Bull Run. Chancellorsville was the most dramatic drubbing of the Union army. If the Sun stayed up as it did for the Israelites, he’d likely have destroyed that federal army. Other federal armies would have been raised.

    Lee lost it at Gettysburg and it was mostly downhill from there. This is not to say that the South had an even chance. Without Lee the South likely would have been defeated much earlier.

    Tom is correct in all respects. IF Ewell had taken the Union lines before they could bring up the entire seven (was it five?) corpses (Obama!). That’s a big IF. The armies would yet have been in close proximity and a fight would have been fought; probably with a different outcome, assuming Lee lured Meade into doing for him that which Burnside did at Fredrucksburg or Hooker at Chancellorsville.

    Gettysburg seems the battlefield where Lee departed from his “modus” at very high cost. I believe it was that Lee abandoned the tactical defensive and made the same mistakes Burnside made at Fredericksburg. In fact the Irish Brigade soldiers at Picket’s Charge said, “It was Fredericksburg in rivarse.” And, the Union troops chanted “Fredericksburg” as Picket’s broken men retreated.

    Given the Confederacy’s limitations (compared to Union resources) the only salutary tactics available were tactical defenses (maybe guerrilla warfare) even if they went over to strategic offense.

    Another factor, the generals were just learning how to employ 19th century weapons and railroad supply movements. Attackers nearly always suffer higher casualties against a well-emplaced, well-led, prepared army.

    I believe George Washignton was the greatest American general. He cannot be overrated.

    “Late Unpleasantness”, “Lost cause”?? How about calling it what is was: the war of northern aggression? Is that in the Constitution?

  • In my view, Lee was a brilliant strategic and operational commander. He was also normally a very successful risk-taker. One of his problems during the Gettysburg Campaign was that he had grown accustomed over the last couple of years to the rabid aggressiveness of Stonewall Jackson. He had not really adjusted to the initiative and drive he lost when his most brilliant Corps commander was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville.
    Some have attributed the loss (with good reason) to muddling Corps commanders, others to Stuart’s absence (again, with reason), still others to Lee’s inability to compensate for the lack of his Cavalry’s scouting and screening functions), and many others to Longstreet’s reluctant and even tardy obedience to orders.
    Having retired as a mere Captain in Air Defense Artillery, I am unqualified to offer recommendations to one of the nation’s Great Captains. That being so, neither will I offer criticism as if I could and would have done better. Lee was aging and suffering from heart disease at the time. These factors may have contributed to Lee’s seeming inability to communicate his intentions and vision with accuracy and timeliness to his subordinates.
    I am profoundly grateful to God that there was a Robert E. Lee in the South. Without his leadership, however it may have failed at Gettysburg, Lincoln’s 75,000 volunteers may have been enough to suppress the rebellion within a year and a half. As it is, Lee gave the Union both the time and the necessity (more political than military) to re-tool public opinion of the war by casting it as being one of emancipation, rather than mere oppression. Without Lee’s leadership, all the world would have seen Lincoln for the Constitutional disaster that he was (and intended to be), and would have robbed many in both north and south of the comforting fiction that so many fought and died to free the slaves because that was the only way to get it done.

  • “Personally, I think that the General Lee was in fact overrated.”

    I am ashamed to admit how much time as an undergrad I wasted watching the Dukes of Hazard!

  • I would not say that Lee was overrated as a commander. Overrated I would apply to the following commanders:

    Major General John C. Fremont
    Major General Daniel Sickles
    Major General Ambrose Burnside
    Major General John Pope
    Major General Irvin McDowell
    Brevet Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick
    Brevet Major General Alfred Pleasonton

    General Braxton Bragg
    Lieutenant General James Longstreet
    Major General John B. Floyd
    Major General John Bell Hood
    Major General Lafayette McLaws
    Major General Earl Van Dorn
    Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow

  • Lee recognized prior to the ‘Gettysburg’ offensive that the South would eventually lose a war of attrition in which it stayed on the strategic defensive, growing weaker as the North grew stronger. A Southern victory on Northern soil was the only chance to bring the war to a favorable conclusion. Fighting not to lose worked fine for the Yankees, but the Rebels had take the riskier course, and fight to win.

  • Robert E Lee probably lost the war for the South. One contribution he did make, however, was to encourage and end to violence at the end of the war.

    However, Lee often wrote that God fully intended the negro to be treated cruelly and painfully, in order to teach the negro his place. The letter most people assume shows Lee is anti slavery, is actually one of the most amazing pro slavery letters ever written.

    Lee claims its fine to pray for an end to slavery — someday. But God has to end slavery, he said, not man. And God might take 2,000 years or more. Meanwhile any man who would try to end slavery is evil. He equates owning slaves with spiritual liberty.

    But what about Lee’s supposed military genius?

    Shelby Foote said (paraphrasing) “Losing Gettysburg [and therefore the war] was the price the South paid for having Lee in charge.”

    Lee had remarkably able generals under him — Stonewall Jackson for one, Johnston for another. Lee’s speciality was taking credit for their daring successes. Lee shamelessly “brown nosed” Davis, while most other generals refused.

    Davis was known for his favoring people who flattered him — and Lee flattered Davis shamelessly. Few people today understand that Lee had virtually NO military battle experience at the begining of the Civil War — he was an engineer, and a good one. He was not a battle tested general.

    In fact, he wasn’t even a full colonel, until Lincoln made him one. This persistant myth that Lincoln offered Lee command of the Union forces is nonsense, –often repeated, but never by Lincoln, or Lee, or Scott, the person who supposedly offered it.

    Lee’s generals were very capable, particulary Jackson and Johnston. When Lee spurned their advice, or when they were not available, was almost criminally stupid. Lee got most his “true believers” killed off, and these men were irreplacable.

    The men that took their place were far different from those Lee sacrificed in stupid moves. The new men were eager to desert — in fact, over 2/3 of the rebel soldiers deserted. As early as Lee’s inept handling at Shaprsurg, out of 19,000 men who were suppposed to refor, only 5,000 did. A desertion ratio of 2/3– Davis himself went on a speaking tour later to beg, shame, and frigthen deserters to return. It didn’t work. Desertion is by far the biggest reason the war ended. And Lee’s ineptness is a big reason they deserted.

    Lee sincerely thought God should sort out who got killed– it was his job to send men to battle, God’s job to decide who died. But notice when Lee faced any personal danger, he wasn’t going to let God decided anything — he was going to run.

    Lee left Richmond on the FALSE rumor of a breach in the line. (By the way, Lee personally led the construction of the earth works around RIchmond and Petersburg — all done by slave labor, probably the biggest construction job in the South to that point — he used 100,000 slaves, under penalty of death or torture)

    He left the citizens without notice, without a word, and worse, ordered fires to be set to warehouses. With no men available to put out the spreading fires, the mayor of Atlanta had to ride out to the Union troops, under a white flag, and ASK FOR HELP to put out the fires.

    The Southern apologist have been forced to pump Lee into some kind of hero, militarily and personally. Yet Lee was all too human on both counts.

    We know now, from Elizabeth’s Pryors book “Reading the Man” that Lee did in fact have young women tortured, screaming at them during their torture. He also apparently regularly sold the infants from these young girls.

    We know Lee kept a “Hunting List” in his own account books of slave girls he most wanted captured. We know his slave almost universally hated him, and rebelled before the Civil War, to which Lee hired bounty hunters and paid extra for the torture of at least one young girl.

    We know Lee had sharpshooters in the rear of his own soldiers — killing those who would run away during battle, a tactic later mimiced by Stalin. (Page 410 of Pryors book). We know Lee’s soldiers hated him, and were deserting en masse.

    The real picture of Lee is almost directly opposite of the nonsense that has so far been deliberatedly fabricated about the man.

4 Responses to The Civil War in 4 Minutes

Kelly’s Irish Brigade

Sunday, May 30, AD 2010

I have had a few posts, here, here  and here, on the famous Irish Brigade that fought for the Union in the Army of the Potomac.  There were however other Irish units, North and South.  This song celebrates Kelly’s Irish Brigade that fought for the Confederacy in the West.  The Brigade was actually a regiment, the Washington Blues, organized by Joseph Kelly, a grocer in Saint Louis, prior to the Civil War.  Kelly was an Irish immigrant as were most of the men in his regiment.  They provided good service for the Confederacy, and you may read about them here.

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2 Responses to Kelly’s Irish Brigade

3 Responses to The Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • Thank you for posting.

    Memorial Day brings childhood memories. As a boy scout in the early 1960’s, our troop would march in each Memorial Day parade. It was special. Most of our fathers had served in WWII. Many of their sons would see action in Vietnam.

    On Memorial Day, I remember all the young men that gave their last full measure of devotion, and never got to raise families, like I have. And, I especially prayerfully remember Bill, Dan, Dave, and Paul who marched with me in those parades and never came home from their war.

    Flag etiquette: Memorial Day morning the flag is displayed at half staff. It is slowly raised to full staff and slowly lowered to half, in honor of the fallen. After noon, the flag is repsectfully returned to full staff.

  • Thank you gentlemen.

Bishop John Carroll, Joshua Barney and the Bonapartes

Tuesday, May 11, AD 2010

One of the difficulties that I often experience when preparing a post on a historical topic for the blog, is deciding what to leave out.  Oftentimes I have far more material than I can put in a post, unless I want to transform the post into a treatise.  In the case of my recent post on Joshua Barney, American naval hero of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, I had to leave out quite a bit on his life.  One portion that I think might be of interest to our readers is his involvement with Jerome Bonaparte, brother to Napoleon Bonaparte.

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27 Responses to Bishop John Carroll, Joshua Barney and the Bonapartes

  • What a huge mess is what I say. Archbishop Carroll should have refused to marry them. For the Americans to be in league with the family of the Terror of Europe by virtue of entertaining Napoleon’s brother on this land as though he was real royalty.

    Wouldn’t this be akin to Raul Castro being welcomed into this land and showing him a grand ‘ol time while his brother–Fidel– is terrorizing Catholicism and Christianity in general?

    And lastly, of course he saw the marriage to Betsy as nothing more than a piece of paper. I am not surprised. He himself was married twice.

  • fascinating post, Donald. Thank you. It would make a great movie (for those of you that like that sort of thing, and I think you know who you are!)

  • Napoleon was no Castro. He was a despot, but no more so than most of the Monarchs of the Europe of his day, with the proviso that Napoleon was far more talented at doing the Monarch job than all the rest of them put together. His concordat with the Pope effectively ended the Republican war against the Church. Napoleon of course bullied the Pope and locked him up, but these behaviors were well within the traditions of earlier monarchs of the “Eldest Daughter of the Church”.

  • What exactly makes one a monarch other than force, and then heredity enforced by force?

  • I think there was a BBC Horatio Hornblower episode that used this as a story line.

  • Phillip – I thought I had watched all the Hornblower episodes on A&E. As I recall, they were taken from Foresters “Mr. Midshipman Hornblower” stories (which were written long after “Beat to Quarters” but tell the story of Hornblower’s earliest experiences with [then] Captain Pellew). I also remember they did a two part movie based on Lieutenant Hornblower, where he and Lt. Bush must overcome a psychotic captain.

    I dont recall a similar storyline following “Fifi’s” romantic escapades but would love to see it.

  • The episode in which Hornblower met Jerome and Betsy was released in 2003. It was entitled Duty.

  • And I was preparing a screenplay … oh well …

  • “Lifestyles of the Young and Bonaparte!”

  • tryptic67,

    Go ahead and do your screenplay. As I recall, the Hornblower episode doesn’t approach the detail that Donald relates.

  • Interesting post. I am actually a descendant of William Patterson’s brother Thomas Michael Patterson who settled in South Carolina. In your post you make two historical mistakes: 1) William Patterson wasn’t Catholic, he was Presbyterian from Northern Ireland. He arranged for a Catholic wedding and even he was against her marrying a Bonaparte. 2) He wasn’t a shipbuilder, he was a merchant, like you said the richest after Carroll. He also aided the American Revolution by buying arms from the French and supplying Washington’s army. Other than that you are spot on.

  • Thank you Jason. You are correct on both points. One of the sources I consulted was in error. I have amended the post accordingly.

  • Historians generally call the period from 1800 through 1815 as the Napoleonic Wars. That one man can single-handedly plunge an entire continent to fifteen years of near-constant warfare, causing widespread death and destruction, is appalling. Not very many persons in human history can boast the same achievement.

    In my opinion, Napoleon was pretty evil.

  • “Historians generally call the period from 1800 through 1815 as the Napoleonic Wars. That one man can single-handedly plunge an entire continent to fifteen years of near-constant warfare, causing widespread death and destruction, is appalling.”

    Napoleon has his share of the blame, but I don’t think he can be properly alloted all of the blame. Wars were a frequent feature of life in Europe up to the time of Napoleon, and in that respect the wars of his period were not that unusual. What was extremely unusual was the almost century of peace and brief wars in Europe ushered in after the Congress of Vienna.

  • Admiral Nelson tried to help the Pope as much as he could. Contrast this with Napoleon, who occupied Rome. So Admiral Nelson, an Anglican, turned out to be more pro-Catholic than Napoleon, a nominal Catholic. This was an exceptional moment of Protestant-Catholic cooperation.

  • Catholic refugees in England during the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars helped begin the process of lessening the virulent anti-Catholicism that England had been cursed with since the time of Bad Queen Bess.

  • Napolean was actually an agnostic at best.

    He didn’t care for the Church unless it served him such as his wedding to gain legitamacy in the eyes of Frenchman.

    He’s still one of the closest men in history that resembled the anti-Christ.

    Only Mao, Stalin, and Hitler can claim that crown along with the Corsican.

  • I disagree with you as to Napoleon’s religious stance Tito. I agree with the observations of Metternich, his greatest foe:

    “Napoleon was not irreligious in the ordinary sense of the word. He would not admit that there had ever existed a genuine atheist; he condemned Deism as the result of rash speculation. A Christian and a Catholic, he recognized in religion alone the right to govern human societies. He looked on Christianity as the basis of all real civilization; and considered Catholicism as the form of worship most favorable to the maintenance of order and the true tranquility of the moral world; Protestantism as a source of trouble and disagreements. Personally indifferent to religious practices, he respected them too much to permit the slightest ridicule of those who followed them. It is possible that religion was, with him, more the result of an enlightened policy than an affair of sentiment; but whatever might have been the secret of his heart, he took care never to betray it.”

    My thoughts on Napoleon and his religious beliefs are set out here:

  • It is a little-known historical fact that Admiral Nelson almost became a Liberator of Rome. In 1798, Rome was occupied by Napoleon. Nelson persuaded King Ferdinand IV of Naples to take action. With the help of Nelson’s fleet, King Ferdinand and his army entered Rome on November 29, 1798. If their success had been more permanent, King Ferdinand IV and Admiral Nelson would have gone down in history as Liberators of Rome.

  • Actions speak louder than words, and Napoleon committed many acts that can hardly be described as Christian. He killed hundreds of thousands of people in aggressive warfare. Name almost any country in Western Europe, and more likely than not, Napoleon shows up in her history as invader or conqueror. Let’s not forget, either, the Russians and anyone else who opposed him.

    (Some of Napoleon’s battles may have been in France’s self-defense, but in many situations he was the aggressor rather than the defender.)

    “What was extremely unusual was the almost a century of peace and brief wars in Europe ushered in after the Congress of Vienna.” So Napoleon in power brings fifteen years of death and destruction, but Napoleon in exile three thousand miles away affords Europe a hundred years of peace. (Pardon me for using your argument against you.)

  • Blaming Napoleon solely for the wars of his time are absurd. The wars brought on by the French Revolution were already in full swing by the time Napoleon arrived on the scene. Britain, and the other powers it convinced to join in wars against France over the years, simply was not going to allow a greatly expanded France to dominate the Continent, as it had waged a similar war to prevent Louis XIV and France from dominating Europe a century before the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon was part of a long historical process of wars between Britain and France to decide which would be the dominant player in Europe and the World. To paint Napoleon as the bogey man in this process betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of this clash of two nations that ended in the Pax Britannica.

  • Look at a map of Europe. Austerlitz, Jena, Moscow, etc. are hundreds of miles away from French soil. Napoleon was not fighting in self-defense.

    At this time, France had beheaded its King and Queen. All the royal houses of Europe were in fear for their lives. You might forgive them a little for being eager to oppose France.

    I will admit though, that it was a little hypocritical of the British to oppose Napoleon and keep the Irish oppressed.

  • Austerlitz was fought as a result of Britain convincing Austria to join the Third Coalition against France, France and Britain being at war since 1803 after the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens. Jena was fought as a result of Prussia joining the Fourth Coalition, and being deluded enough to think that it could beat France in a stand up fight. Prussia declared war on France, not the other way around. Moscow was fought as a result of Napoleon’s attempt to keep Russia in the Continental System which involved closing the ports of Europe to trade with Britain. It is impossible to understand the Napoleonic Wars without understanding the ancient rivalry between Britain and France which was the underlying cause of each of these wars.

    As to the royal houses being in fear of their lives, that fear terminated long before Napoleon was crowned as Emperor with the end of the Republican terror. After Napoleon their motivation was chiefly fear of the loss of their jobs, until the nationalism that motivated the masses in France had spread to the masses of the nations fighting France.

  • Way before Austerlitz was fought, Napoleon had made his intentions loud and clear – he wanted to replace most, if not all, of Europe’s monarchies with his own rule. Would-be world conquerors do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Britain, Prussia, Austria and their allies perceived that Napoleon was a threat. They were on the defensive side, regardless of who technically declared war first.

    The traditional Anglo-French rivalry may have made the fighting more bitter than usual. If the British were a little eager in opposing Napoleon, it is because they knew what was at stake. Even before the Peace of Amiens, Napoloeon intended to cross the English Channel and invade Britain. What Napoleon was planning to do with the British once he had conquered them, you can imagine for yourself.

  • “Napoleon had made his intentions loud and clear – he wanted to replace most, if not all, of Europe’s monarchies with his own rule.”

    Quite untrue. What Napoleon wanted was to have a continent dominated by the Empire of France. If that goal was served by keeping the local rulers in power he kept them in power, as he did with the Hapsburgs in Austria and the Hohenzollerns in Prussia. From 1793 Britain and France were in a struggle to see which country would dominate Europe and the globe. I like the fact that Britain won that struggle, due to the restraint, usually, with which they exercised their hegemony in the Nineteenth Century, and their commitment to Parliament and the rule of Law, but that does not alter the fact that both Britain and France were aiming for the same goal, the top position among the powers of the globe.

  • Oh, and the Brits long before the French drew up invasion plans for England, had made unsuccessful attempts to invade France. Napoleon earned his promotion to Brigadier General by commanding the artillery during the siege of Toulon that drove the British from that French port in 1794.

American Swashbuckler: Joshua Barney

Monday, May 10, AD 2010

It is a pity that Errol Flynn during the Golden Age of Hollywood never had the opportunity to do a biopic on Joshua Barney.  Barney’s life was more adventuresome and filled with derring-do than the fictional characters that Flynn portrayed.

The scion of a Catholic Maryland family, Barney was born on July 6, 1759 in Baltimore, one of 14 children.  At 10 he announced to his startled father that he was leaving school.  His father found him a job in a counting shop, but Barney refused to spend his life chained to a desk.  He left his father’s farm at 13 to seek his fortunes on the sea.  He became an apprentice mate on the brig Sydney engaged in the Liverpool trade.  The captain of the brig died suddenly on a voyage  to Europe and  the 14 year old Barney assumed command and successfully completed the voyage.

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General Lee and Guerrilla War

Friday, May 7, AD 2010

Hattip to commenter Dennis McCutcheon for giving me the idea for this post.  We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history.  If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality.  Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, General Robert E. Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occupiers.  Here history balanced on a knife edge.  If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy.

“Thereupon Alexander proposed, as an alternative to surrender, that the men take to the woods with their arms, under orders to report to governors of their respective states.

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9 Responses to General Lee and Guerrilla War

  • Probably the greatest general America has ever had.

  • Lee’s quintessential decency saved America from a horrible fate. We owe him more than we will ever be able to describe.

    Not so BTW, Charles Harness’ excellent sci-fi short story, “Quarks at Appomattox,” explores a related proposal from time travellers with an agenda.

  • Charles Harness’ excellent sci-fi short story, “Quarks at Appomattox,”

    Apologies for the off-topic snicker, but was this a sequel to “Bosons at Bull Run?” Personally, “Gluons at Gettysburg” was a pretty good yarn, too. (Sorry! Couldn’t resist.)

  • “Guns of the South” was also a good alternative-history book where South African Apartheiders went into the past to ensure a Confederate victory (by Harry Turtledove).

  • The night before the formal surrender, General Chamberlain had decided to salute the Army of Virginia. The decision “was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?”

    The next morning, on April 12, the salute was rendered.

    “When General Gordon came opposite of me, I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to ‘attention’…The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. As the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment of its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation…On our part, not a sound of trumpet more, nor the roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breathing-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead.”

    After the war, General Gordon would address Chamberlain as “one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army.”

    As other units passed Chamberlain, one Confederate said as he was delivering his flag, “boys, this is not the first time you have seen this flag. I have borne it in the front of battle on many victorious fields of battle and I had rather die than surrender it to you.” Chamberlain replied, “I admire your noble spirit, and only regret that I have not the authority to bid you keep your flag and carry it home as a precious heirloom.” One officer said to Chamberlain, “General, this is deeply humiliating; but I console myself with the thought that the whole country will rejoice at the day’s business. Another officer said, “You astound us by your honorable and generous conduct. I fear that we should not have done the same to you had the case been reversed.” A third officer went even farther by saying, “I went into that cause I meant it. We had our choice of weapons and of ground, and we have lost. Now [pointing to the Stars and Stripes] that is my flag, and I will prove myself as worthy as any of you.”

    However, most of the Confederates were too humiliated to be reversed so quickly. General Wise told Chamberlain, “You may forgive us but we won’t be forgiven. There is a rancor in hour hearts which you little dream of. We hate you, Sir…you go home, you take these fellows home. That’s what will end this war.”

    Chamberlain replied, “Don’t worry about the end of the war. We are going home pretty soon, but not till we see you home.”

    No matter how ill Chamberlain’s salute to the fallen South may have been received, it still remains one of the greatest acts of honor in the military history of the United States.

    Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence.“Bayonet! Forward” My Civil War Reminiscences.
    Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1994.

    Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence. The Passing of the Armies: The Last Campaign of the
    Armies. Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1915.

    Dllard, Wallace M. Soul of the Lion; A Biography on General Joshua L. Chamberlain
    Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1960.

  • When the War ended, Robert E. Lee was a man without a home and without citizenship.

    Before the War, Lee and his family lived at Arlington House, a mansion on top of a hill in Alexandria County, Virginia. The place is across the Potomac River from Washington. Mrs. Lee had inherited the place from her father, who was related to George and Martha Washington. Mrs. Lee’s father had put together the largest private collection of George Washington memorabilia at Arlington House.

    When Robert E. Lee joined the Confederate Army, he had to abandon Arlington House, which the Union Army soon took over. Yankee soldiers looted the house, not sparing some of the Washington memorabilia. The Union Army buried dead Yankee soldiers at the front yard, at the backyard, and all around the house. This was to ensure that Robert E. Lee and his family would never again live at Arlington House. Thus, the place became Arlington National Cemetery.

    After the War, Washington College needed a leader to take it through the rough postwar years. The college, which had received an endowment from George Washington, asked Robert E. Lee to be their next college president. Lee accepted, and served at the college for five years until his decease in 1870. Later, the college would adopt the name Washington and Lee University.

    Interestingly, both Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were residents of Lexington, Virginia at different times, Jackson as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute before the War, Lee as president of Washington College after the War.

    In the postwar years, Lee’s citizenship was under a cloud. He applied for amnesty, but the federal government sat on it. In 1975, Congress finally restored Lee’s citizenship.

  • To suggest that the nation’s future balanced “on a knife’s edge” during that moment of temptation by Alexander is to besmirch the noble name of Lee. Even the quoted recouting of the story exposes the blatant lie in the suggestion that Lee considered it seriously, even for a moment.

    You might as well sully the reputation of Washington (another famous Virginian) by saying he was giving serious thought to keeping the presidency as long as he could.

    What’s this facsination with dancing on the graves of the South’s warriors? You don’t really want to bring up the issue of relative goodness here. Though slavery was certainly horrible, you have to stretch the meaning of words and tarnish your reputation for truth to suggest that the federal government entered into the war to abolish slavery. So what end must have been declared to justify the means of 75,000 volunteers in the spring of 1861? Was it really emancipation? If that were true, would any have been able to argue that it was the only way?

    Those of you who actually say the word “indivisible” in the Pledge certainly see nothing wrong in completely destroying the consent of the governed that had existed in the repuiblic until that day.

    Now Obama merely takes it all to it’s natural conclusion. If southern consent was not required in 1861 under Lincoln, his 21st century political descendent cannot be blamed for deciding that no consent is required today.

  • Kevin, you took offense where none was intended. The entire post was in praise of Lee. Some Lost Cause enthusiasts are just as quick to take offense against purely imaginary insults as devotees of other forms of identity politics.

  • i have lived in a country with guerrilla war that has lasted a hundred years,it never ends! this kind of fight has no honour,which is a reflection of our times.Lee was a model to all men of how to act-charity, kindness and true courage.Never thinking of himself,always of others and the greater good.His foundation his faith.Godbless Lee Godbless the south!

Mormon Bad Boy

Tuesday, April 20, AD 2010

God can use a thunderstorm.  Or Porter Rockwell.

Mormon Proverb

One reason why I have always loved history is that it is so often wilder and more colorful than fiction.  A very colorful part indeed of American history is that which records the events of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormons, and in that history no portion is more colorful than the life of Orrin Porter Rockwell.  Throughout his life legends began to cluster about him and it is not easy to keep fact and fable in his biography separate.

Born on June 28, 1813, in Belchertown, New Hampshire, he was one of the earliest followers of Joseph Smith, being baptized into the church in 1830.  Powerfully built, he served as a bodyguard for Smith.  In 1838 he may have attempted to assassinate the Governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs, after Boggs issued an order calling for the expulsion of the Mormons from Misssouri or their extermination.  The order was prompted by the Missouri Mormon War of 1838.

Rockwell was held in jail for eight months, but no grand jury would indict him due to lack of evidence.  Rockwell defended himself with such statements as “I never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!” and “He’s alive, ain’t he.” in reference to Governor Boggs.  After his release from jail, Rockwell traveled to the house of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, a town built by the Mormons, arriving there on Christmas Day 1843.  A Christmas party was underway and Rockwell looked like a dirty tramp, his hair grown out during his imprisonment and his clothes and his body unwashed.  Smith purportedly made the following prophecy upon seeing Rockwell:  “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that you — Orrin Porter Rockwell — so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee.”  Rockwell wore his hair long thereafter until he cut it to make a wig for a woman who lost her hair from typhoid fever.

Rockwell was a Danite, a secret Mormon organization dedicated to carrying out acts of violence on behalf of the Mormon religion.  In 1844 Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were indicted for treason against the state of Illinois, the culmination of ever growing tension between Mormons and non-Mormons in Illinois.  On June 27, 1844 a mob stormed the jail in Carthage, Illinois where the Smiths were being held and murdered them.  Rockwell had been away on a mission for the Mormon church at the time, and wept like a child according to witnesses when he learned of the death of Joseph Smith.

In the chaos that ensued after the death of Smith, the Mormons often engaged in battles with mobs of non-Mormons.  On September 16, 1845 Rockwell was hastily deputized by the Sheriff of Hancock County Illinois, Jacob Blackenstos.  Blackenstos was a non-Mormon but was friendly to the Mormons.  He was being chased by an anti-Mormon mob led by Frank Worrell, who had been in charge of the militia unit that failed to protect Joseph Smith when he was murdered.  Rockwell took out his rifle and stopped the mob by shooting to death Worrell.  Worrell thus became the first man killed by Rockwell, a total that would grow to 40-100, no one is certain, by the end of Rockwell’s life.

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7 Responses to Mormon Bad Boy

  • Articles like this are why I love the internet. Great work.

  • I’d be interested to know if Rockwell had many run-ins with Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle, a predecessor of Bishop Katharine Schori as presiding TEC bishop.

    Based in Salt Lake City, he once thrashed a stage driver for swearing in the presence of a woman. Ranchers and miners flocked to see the fighting cleric, according to David T. Courtwright’s history _Violent Land_.

  • Here’s another American legend.

    In 1972, the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” was released. It was loosely based on the life of John Johnston. If you want the real story, read Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson by Raymond W. Thorpe and Robert Bunker.

  • There won’t be any accounts of exchanges between Bishop Tuttle and Rockwell unless Tuttle broke the law. Rockwell was a lawman and pioneer; but theological discourse didn’t ever appear to be on his plate.

    On minor error above has Rockwell away on a mission when Joseph Smith was killed. He was instead waiting at home in Nauvoo, Illinois as were the rest of Smith’s bodyguards as they had been directed to be by Smith.

    The so-called Danites were a short-lived group during the Missouri period (1833-38)that was disbanded when Church leaders learned of it.

  • “There won’t be any accounts of exchanges between Bishop Tuttle and Rockwell unless Tuttle broke the law. Rockwell was a lawman and pioneer; but theological discourse didn’t ever appear to be on his plate.”

    Isn’t that the truth Alma!

    “On minor error above has Rockwell away on a mission when Joseph Smith was killed. He was instead waiting at home in Nauvoo, Illinois as were the rest of Smith’s bodyguards as they had been directed to be by Smith.”

    That could well be. I used this account for my statement that he was away on assignment:

    In researching Rockwell I found a great deal of contradictory material. A lifetime could be spent attempting to get everything straight in his story.

    “The so-called Danites were a short-lived group during the Missouri period (1833-38)that was disbanded when Church leaders learned of it.”

    That is open to debate.

    From the Utah History Encyclopedia:

    There is incontrovertible evidence that a few “rough-rider” type minute men were appointed by Brigham Young as early as l847 to act as lawmen in the new Mormon settlements on the plains, and later in the Salt Lake Valley. This was necessary in the absence of any civil administration. Handy with their guns and with a knowledge of frontier life, these men were on call for Indian uprisings and immigrant problems such as the July, l849 arrival of the California gold-seekers into the valley. Brigham’s “Minute-men” were kept busy in this period when stealing, rustling and murder increased as travelers entered the territory. Local residents who committed crimes were dealt with by their bishops and not the “Minute Men”.

    The name “Danite was applied to four or five of these early lawmen by the Eastern Press because of an earlier semi-religious organization begun in Missouri in l838 by Dr. Sampson Avard. This early group disbanded almost before it started when the motives of Dr. Avard became suspect and he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church. However, the ideas he promulgated persisted with some for several decades in the Utah Territory. Based on the biblical scripture, Genesis 49:l7, non-Mormon “Gentiles” who persecuted the Mormons were to be punished by losing their possessions.

    It is unknown how many of the Utah period so-called “Danites” had been members of the original Missouri organization. What is known is that there were never “70 Destroying Angels” appointed by Brigham Young. The number seventy came from the Church priesthood calling of the “Seventy”.

    After Sir Richard Burton’s visit to the Salt Lake Valley in l860, the Eastern press most prominently identified as “Danites” William Adams “Bill” Hickman, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Ephe Hanks, Robert Burton, and Lot Smith. All had taken a prominent part in the war against the U.S. Army troops in l857-58, and had been appointed by Brigham Young. These men served with honor during the Mormon War and also the later tumultuous Camp Floyd period.

    Orson Hyde, an apostle in the Church and one who had benefited from the protection given by lawman Bill Hickman in Winter Quarters in l848-49, failed to later discourage Hickman’s gang in l860 for depredations committed against the U.S. Army at Camp Floyd. Hyde contended that Hickman probably “had a revelation to act as he did.” This lawless period should have ended with the official announcement by Brigham Young on 9 September l860, that said, “…if the Lord wants any stealing done he would reveal it to me as soon as to Bill Hickman or others.”

    There continued to be isolated incidences attributed to the “Danites” in Anti-Mormon books and press articles until the railroad came to the territory in l869. By then the original territorial lawmen were mostly dead, retired, or had been replaced by a new group of sheriffs and policemen with civil rather than religious powers. However, the name “Danite” continues to excite readers and historians of the early Utah period, even though the evidence of excessive wrong doing outside the law, appears to be greatly exaggerated.

    Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton”

    Anti-Mormon writers have attributed all sorts of nefarious actions to the Danites. I find the history lacking to support these allegations.

  • It is difficult to sift the myth and legend out of accounts of Porter Rockwell because so many people think that a story worth telling is worth telling better.

    It is true that Brigham Young appointed “minute-men” or Mormon Marauders as they became known in the 1857 war. But history notes that they were under strict orders from Brigham Young not to shed blood. They were able to stop the US Army from entering into the Salt Lake Valley without the loss of any human life.

    The idea of a lawless society with Brigham’s destroying angels was good fodder for newspaper and dime novel sales, but the reality was that Brigham Young governed about 50,000 people in over 300 communities with a handshake and a smile. A lot of sayings attributed to him didn’t find their way into reports of his comments that were published weekly. Consider this statement: “I am sorry that some of our brethren have been killed by the Indians, but am far more sorry that some of the Indians have been slain by the brethren. I have often said, and I say again, if any person is to be killed for stealing, let that one be a white man, and not an Indian, for white men know better, while Indians do not.”

    My own great-great grandfather was a member of the Danites in Missouri; but this group was so short lived (except in folklore) that Mormons have ever after been embarrassed by its presence in history.

    One book on Rockwell was written by a journalist named Schindler. He found the material so contradictory that he provided alternate accounts for many of the stories. It makes for interesting citations since you get opposite readings on the same page.

  • Fascinating.

    What little I know of the early Utah days of the Mormons comes from a pair of truly enjoyable books I read as a kid by Catholic author John D. Fitzgerald: Papa Married a Mormon and Mama’s Boarding House.

    Fitzgerald is more famous for his (much more heavily fictionalized) Great Brain books, but these two, written more for adults, are a less fictionalized biographical account of Fitzgerald’s parents: his father was a Irish Catholic who fell in love with and married a Mormon girl — a marriage which was not blessed by either church for a number of years. The two books tell about his family’s life in a small Utah town, living in between the calm Mormon community and the wild west Gentiles.

    Though given that they’re so enjoyable (and have to do with history) I’m guessing they may not be news to Don…

Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

Sunday, April 18, AD 2010

Like many intellectual men in Revolutionary America and Western Europe, Alexander Hamilton bought into the Deist ideas of a Creator, but certainly not a Creator who needed a Son to rise from the dead or perform miracles, and certainly not the continuous miracle of the Eucharist. Most leaders of the American Revolution were baptized Anglicans who later in life rarely attended Sunday services, the exception being George Washington.  The first President was the rare exception of a Founding Father who often attended Anglican-Episcopal Services, though he occasionally did leave before Holy Communion, which many intellectuals in the colonies (and most of England) decried as “popery.”

Hamilton was a unique man, who unlike many of the Revolution was not born in the colonies, but in the Caribbean and was born into poverty at that. He was practically an orphan as his father left his mother and she subsequently died from an epidemic. At a young age Hamilton showed so much promise that the residents of Christiansted, St Croix (now the American Virgin Islands) took up a collection to send him to school in New England. As a child, Hamilton excelled at informal learning picking up on what he could from passersby and those who took the time to help him. In August of 1772,  a great hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hamilton wrote about it in such vivid detail that it wound up being published in New York.

It was at this point that the residents of Christiansted answered the local Anglican pastor’s request and enough money was raised to send Hamilton to school in the colonies. While in school, Hamilton would excel and wound up in the Revolutionary Army as a young officer. By the time of Yorktown, General Washington thought enough of the 24 year old to have him lead a charge on one of the redoubts of Yorktown. It was here that the “Young Americans” and their French counterparts on land and sea, overwhelmed the British and the world turned upside down.

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12 Responses to Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

  • Thanks for an excellent and engrossing essay, Dave. There’s always something new to be learned from history, especially when written from a Catholic perspective.

  • Very interesting.

    A few minor points:

    Hamilton is the only non-President on US currency

    Franklin, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, and Salmon Chase.

    Hamilton was a self made man.

    The local community paid for his college education then he married into wealth.

    I disagree with your point about money:

    Hamilton was a strong advocate of agriculture and manufacturing subsidies. Of course the vast majority of people don’t like taxes. But Hamilton and others understood that taxes used for the general welfare were necessary. Those who understand it best often come from disadvantaged childhoods. Hamilton, Obama, Clinton. People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

  • As Thomas DiLorenzo in his book Hamilton’s Curse points out:

    “Hamilton complained to George Washington that “we need a government of more energy” and expressed disgust over “an excessive concern for liberty in public men” like Jefferson. Hamilton “had perhaps the highest respect for government of any important American political thinker who ever lived,” wrote Hamilton biographer Clinton Rossiter.

    Hamilton and his political compatriots, the Federalists, understood that a mercantilist empire is a very bad thing if you are on the paying end, as the colonists were. But if you are on the receiving end, that’s altogether different. It’s good to be the king, as Mel Brooks would say.

    Hamilton was neither the inventor of capitalism in America nor “the prophet of the capitalist revolution in America,” as biographer Ron Chernow ludicrously asserts. He was the instigator of “crony capitalism,” or government primarily for the benefit of the well-connected business class. Far from advocating capitalism, Hamilton was “befogged in the mists of mercantilism” according to the great late nineteenth century sociologist William Graham Sumner.”

    Hamilton the first of the “Rockefeller Republicans” or “Big Government Conservatives.”

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I mede the necessary correction.

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I made the necessary correction (it is awful early in the morning!)

  • Far better for the world if Hamilton had stayed in it and Burr, a true blackguard, had departed it.

  • Thanks Dave great stuff as always!

  • Speaking of Hamilton and Burr, the Creative Minority Report posted a funny account that mentions them in response to the news that George Washington, Hamilton and others failed to return library books:

    “Dueling for Dummies”: what a hoot!

  • Pingback: The Duel « Almost Chosen People
  • Given that Obama’s grandmother was a bank president and he attended a prestigious private school in Hawaii, I have a difficult time seeing his upbringing as “disadvantaged,” unless you wish to argue that simply being of mixed race automatically places one in the ranks of the disadvantaged.

    People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

    My, tea party haters really need to get their memes straight. One day we’re being characterized as ignorant trailer trash, and the next we’re folks with all sorts of advantages and no sympathy for the poor. It might behoove you to simply attend one yourself and take a good look at the country instead of mindlessly repeating whatever the media line du jour is about the tea partiers. When I went to one, the great majority of people struck me as utterly ordinary; neither toothless hicks nor BMW-driving swells.

    I did not know the details of Hamilton’s last hours. Thank you for a very interesting and informative post, Dave.

  • Donna, thank you for your kind words. I think you succinctly described the way critics of Big Government are described in the Mainstream Media. It does appear critics are either described as the toothless characters one saw chasing Ned Beatty in Deliverance, or a modern version of Mr Howell, upset that more taxes are being heeped upon Lovie and him.

    In truth the alternative “Coffee Party,” that the mainstream media seems to smitten with is indeed the new elite. Gone are Mr & Mrs Howell and their Polo Club Membership. Instead the new elite holds Cocktail Party fundraisers in cosmopolitian neighborhoods in spring, or a large Cape Code home in Marth’a Vineyard in the summer. For the Heinz-Kerry Yachting crowd, maybe a little gnosh in Monaco for the fall.

  • Pingback: Rank and File Conservatives & Conservative Intelligentsia United In Outrage Over Mosque Near Ground Zero, Not So With Same-Sex Marriage « The American Catholic

Using Religion To Defend Slavery

Friday, April 16, AD 2010

My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute.  As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World  and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just.   Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position.  For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire?   If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white?  Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.

Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822.  A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755.  A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19.  An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.

A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies.  With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.

Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil.  By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”. 

It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster.  However, such is not the case.  He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike.  The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible.  The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter.  Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina: 

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17 Responses to Using Religion To Defend Slavery

  • Obviously I missed the recent headline describing any living person who can spell both words “moral” and “compass,” let alone put them together, actually defending slavery.

    Perhaps you intend to dissect the reverend’s presumably learned discourse? I’ll need the cliffnotes, or some other reason to waste my time on the concept of slavery as a moral undertaking. Does this apply to moral instruction needed by anyone?

  • Catholicism’s place in slavery was not the one of Catholic quick internet written versions and not the list (which they are based on) of anti slavery bulls that Pope Leo XIII and another Pope gave in the 19th century… with simply Catholic laity disobeying and Popes objecting.
    John T. Noonan dispels that myth in “A Church That Can and Cannot Change”/ Nortre Dame/ 2005. What Pope Leo XIII left out of his list of anti slavery bulls was the late 15th century Popes who gave perpetual slavery as a right to Spain and Portugal when new natives resisted them in the new world. One can clearly see the beginning of this turbo charge of imperialism online in “Romanus Pontifex” 1453 by Pope Nicholas V (a follow up to his “Dum Diversas” which it is referring to) in the middle of the 4th large paragraph…see words in caps for essence:

    “We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to REDUCE THEIR PERSONS TO PERPETUAL SLAVERY, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit…(then at the end of the bull a fateful voiding of future bulls for the Portuguese crown)…And if anyone, by whatever authority, shall, wittingly or unwittingly, attempt anything inconsistent with these orders we decree that his act shall be null and void…Therefore let no one infringe or with rash boldness contravene this our declaration, constitution, gift, grant, appropriation, decree, supplication, exhortation, injunction, inhibition, mandate, and will. But if anyone should presume to do so, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.”

    Noonan points out that three subsequent Popes in the latter part of the 15th century confirmed the above for Portugal after Pope Nicholas V passed on and Pope Alexander VI in 1593 repeated the same rights for Spain as that bull divided the world between Spain and Portugal. You will remember that Alexander VI was in some ways the worst Pope we ever had in terms of scandal.
    In the Catholic Universities, theologians had a number of just causes for slavery and unforetunately one was already in the decretals (born to a slave mother) and was mentioned by Aquinas in the Supplement to the ST on Marriage (of a slave):

    “children follow the mother in freedom and bondage; whereas in matters pertaining to dignity as proceeding from a thing’s form, they follow the father, for instance in honors, franchise, inheritance and so forth. The canons are in agreement with this (cap. Liberi, 32, qu. iv, in gloss.: cap. Inducens, De natis ex libero ventre) as also the law of Moses (Exodus 21).”
    Supplement to the Summa Theologica
    Question 52 article 4 (“I answer that” section).

    Religious orders had slaves as England was in the process of stopping slavery.

    Noonan: “In 1792, six French Sulpicians arrived in Maryland, and one of them,
    Ambrose Marechal, leased a former Jesuit parish in Bohemia, where among other business in 1793 he sold ?Philis and her infant 3 weeks old for 35 pounds, and a month later sold Clara, Philis other child, 4 years old for five pounds. Marechal thought the proceeds belonged to the Sulpicians as profits of the estate, like the crops, the increase of stock, and firewood not fit for building. The Jesuits (organized as regular clergy since their suppression by the Pope in 1773) objected: like timber the Negroes belonged to the landlord. No objection was registered as to the sales, not even that separating Philis and Clara.” …A Church That Can and Cannot Change?/ pages 91-92/ John T. Noonan Jr.

    Noonan goes on to note that Marechal later became archbishop of Baltimore and argued with the Jesuits over property and Marechal reported to the Vatican pertaining to the dispute that concerning the wealth of the Jesuits: “They have about 500 African men bound in slavery to them, of whom the mean price is about 200 scudi.” And he goes on to note in the next sentence the large number of animals they also own. He is saying all this to get Rome to side with his contention that the Jesuits have property that rightly belongs to the Diocese since the Jesuits at that time were not an order (suspended) but were in the interim regular clergy.

  • I’ll grant you, this day after Tax Day, that Obama is doing his best to make slaves of us all. Other than than, I fail to comprehend the value in the discussion.
    And given the decidedly autocratic, politically tone-deaf bent to our national legislature of late, I am not sure I want anyone reminded that at one time reasonable men could reach different conclusions about the matter of chattel slavery and still be considered reasonable!

  • Cardinal Dulles had a review of Noonan’s book in 2005 in First Things. Here is the portion of the review which dealt with slavery:

    “More than half of the book deals with slavery, a subject that Noonan has researched in considerable detail. Slavery was practiced by almost every known society until modern times. Throughout the biblical era, Noonan shows, slavery was taken as a given, although the Israelites practiced rather mild forms of slavery and did not permanently enslave their compatriots. Jesus, though he repeatedly denounced sin as a kind of moral slavery, said not a word against slavery as a social institution. Nor did the writers of the New Testament. Peter and Paul exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters. Paul urges Philemon to treat his converted slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. While discreetly suggesting that he manumit Onesimus, he does not say that Philemon is morally obliged to free Onesimus and any other slaves he may have had.

    For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law. St. Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were all Augustinian on this point. Although the subjection of one person to another (servitus) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, St. Thomas taught, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin.

    The leaven of the gospel gradually alleviated the evils of slavery, at least in medieval Europe. Serfdom did not involve the humiliation and brutality people today ordinarily associate with slavery. Moral theologians recognized that slaves, unlike mere chattels, had certain rights even against their masters, who no longer had over them the power of life and death, as had been the case in pagan antiquity.

    For St. Thomas, slaves (servi) had the right to food, sleep, marriage, and the rearing of their children. Provision had also to be made for them to fulfill their religious duties, and they were to be treated with benevolence. With the conquest of the New World and the enslavement of whole populations of Indians and Africans, theologians such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and Cajetan began to object to the injustices of subjecting conquered peoples and of engaging in the lucrative slave trade. Some prominent Catholics of the early nineteenth century, including J.M. Sailer, Daniel O’Connell, and the Comte de Montalembert, together with many Protestants, pressed for the total abolition of slavery.

    Throughout this period the popes were far from silent. As soon as the enslavement of native populations by European colonists started, they began to protest, although Noonan gives only a few isolated examples. Eugene IV in 1435 condemned the enslavement of the peoples of the newly colonized Canary Islands and, under pain of excommunication, ordered all such slaves to be immediately set free. Pius II and Sixtus IV emphatically repeated these prohibitions. In a bull addressed to all the faithful of the Christian world Paul III in 1537 condemned the enslavement of Indians in North and South America. Gregory XIV in 1591 ordered the freeing of all the Filipino slaves held by Spaniards. Urban VIII in 1639 issued a bull applying the principles of Paul III to Portuguese colonies in South America and requiring the liberation of all Indian slaves.

    In 1781 Benedict XIV renewed the call of previous popes to free the Indian slaves of South America. Thus it was no break with previous teaching when Gregory XVI in 1839 issued a general condemnation of the enslavement of Indians and Blacks. In particular, he condemned the importation of Negro slaves from Africa. Leo XIII followed along the path set by Gregory XVI.

    Although the popes condemned the enslavement of innocent populations and the iniquitous slave trade, they did not teach that all slaves everywhere should immediately be emancipated. At the time of the Civil War, very few Catholics in the United States felt that papal teaching required them to become abolitionists.

    Bishop John England stood with the tradition in holding that there could be just titles to slavery. Bishop Francis P. Kenrick held that slavery did not necessarily violate the natural law. Archbishop John Hughes contended that slavery was an evil but not an absolute evil. Orestes Brownson, while denying that slavery was malum in se, came around to favor emancipation as a matter of policy.

    In 1863 John Henry Newman penned some fascinating reflections on slavery. A fellow Catholic, William T. Allies, asked him to comment on a lecture he was planning to give, asserting that slavery was intrinsically evil. Newman replied that, although he would like to see slavery eliminated, he could not go so far as to condemn it as intrinsically evil. For if it were, St. Paul would have had to order Philemon, “liberate all your slaves at once.” Newman, as I see it, stood with the whole Catholic tradition. In 1866 the Holy Office, in response to an inquiry from Africa, ruled that although slavery (servitus) was undesirable, it was not per se opposed to natural or divine law. This ruling pertained to the kind of servitude that was customary in certain parts of Africa at the time.

    No Father or Doctor of the Church, so far as I can judge, was an unqualified abolitionist. No pope or council ever made a sweeping condemnation of slavery as such. But they constantly sought to alleviate the evils of slavery and repeatedly denounced the mass enslavement of conquered populations and the infamous slave trade, thereby undermining slavery at its sources.”

  • Donald
    Dulles does a neat trick which is to again leave out the late 15th century Popes and secondly Dulles studiously does not notice if the anti slavery Popes followed up with interdict when Catholic countries ignored them.
    I read that Dulles piece long ago in First Things and it is not good reviewing when you seem not to have read what Noonan wrote. Dulles simply copied from Leo XIII or a drivative thereof which was the problem all along. It is as though Dulles skimmed the Noonan book…missed the central point of the late 15th century and thus skipped from Aquinas to Las Casas who was early 16th century… and then went to Leo’s encyclical and took on the reviewing assignment thinking no one would really read the Noonan book with close attention.

    Dulles fails to mention and Noonan does mention that the Canary Island case was a Pope objecting to slavery on Canary islands because the people in question were baptized. You can see that from the document itself online. That same Pope,EugeneIV,later gave Portugal the right to conquer those Canary islands which were infidel in 1436 in a separate “Romanus Pontifex” from Nicholas’ fateful one of 1453.

    Dulles goes on to tell of Pope Paul III issuing a bull against slaving in 1537 in the new world but he fails to mention why it was necessary (the late 15th century Popes had given carte blanche to enslave if the gospel was resisted) and further Dulles misses (which Noonan had documented) that ten years later, that same Paul III praised domestic slavery within Italy.

    Read the Noonan book and you will have done more than Dulles did. You can see from my piece above that Noonan documented the sale of a woman away from her child by the Sulpicians with the Jesuits taking that conduct for granted while Dulles goes on in cover up style about how the gospel alleviated the details of slavery. Please read Noonan, a Federal judge…one used to evidence and not used to making things look better than they were. What we did on sexual abuse was not new. We have done it with history on topics like slavery.

  • Bill, in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race. One feature of the enslavement of muslim captives is that they normally had to be freed if they converted to Christianity. Romanus Pontifex was part of Nicholas V’s attempts to launch a crusade as the Ottoman Turks were finishing off Constantinople.

    There are many passages in Romanus Pontifex that indicate that the war against the Saracens, muslims, was the prime concern of the Pope:

    “Moreover, since, some time ago, it had come to the knowledge of the said infante that never, or at least not within the memory of men, had it been customary to sail on this ocean sea toward the southern and eastern shores, and that it was so unknown to us westerners that we had no certain knowledge of the peoples of those parts, believing that he would best perform his duty to God in this matter, if by his effort and industry that sea might become navigable as far as to the Indians who are said to worship the name of Christ, and that thus he might be able to enter into relation with them, and to incite them to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet, and to preach and cause to be preached to them the unknown but most sacred name of Christ, strengthened, however, always by the royal authority, he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole.”

    Removing the bull from its historical context distorts what the Pope was trying to accomplish: destroy Islamic power in Africa and Asia and convert the populations to Christianity.

  • Donald,
    You paint a prettier picture but you didn’t get it from Romanus Pontifex which is the cat’s meow on what Romnaus Pontifex was about.
    Giving it an exclusive purpose concerning Islam which makes it seem more religious is distortive when the text does not support that is what is happening? Imperialistic converting of all foreign peoples is what is happening by force of arms….something Vatican II now forbids in the strictest terms.

    Pope Nicholas discerned three groups as the document progresses and only one of those groups was the Saracens. He obviously saw slaves in person by that time and discerned that Blacks from lower Africa had zero to do with Saracens.

    The text shows that Pope Nicholas distinquishes between the Saracens and the people of lower Africa and…and… a group living between who also are not Islamists (third paragraph) and all are to be conquered even lower Africa which had no record of attacking Iberia as the Moors did so the self defense thing is not relevant with them.

    You will recurringly see a couplet…”Saracens and other infidels”…”enemies and infidels” and no where does Nicholas restrict slavery to male soldiers…prior to his reign, the decretals…Church law… as I showed above in Aquinas allowed for the slavery of women and their children who would then follow them in slavery.
    Throughout the centuries, this would be the loophole whereby slavery perdured…a canon law that said children followed the mother if she was a slave. The other just titles for slavery were capture in a just war/ selling one’s children to feed one’s other children (Tomas Sanchez)/ self selling of self to pay debt as with endentured servants. The loophole Portugal used was to buy blacks that were captured in a presumably just war in the interior of Africa.
    The sellers said the war was just. Your mutual fund tells you they never trade in and out of Playboy Enterprises; you are allowed to take their word for it.

    Romanus Pontifex first paragraph:

    “not only restrain the savage excesses of the SARACENS AND OF OTHER INFIDELS, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations, though situated in the remotest parts unknown to us, and subject them to their own temporal dominion..”

    second paragraph:

    “also to bring into the bosom of his faith the perfidious enemies of him and of the life-giving Cross by which we have been redeemed, namely the SARACENS AND ALL OTHER INFIDELS WHATSOEVER, [and how] after the city of Ceuta, situated in Africa, had been subdued by the said King John to his dominion, and after many wars had been waged, sometimes in person, by the said infante, although in the name of the said King John, against the enemies and infidels aforesaid

    Thrid paragraph which now talks of conquering three distinct groups which will be repeated near the ending:

    “to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet…he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole”

    paragraph 4…future undiscovered lands perhaps motivated by the very remoteness of Antartica mentioned mention of Saracens…just infidels and pagans:

    “all those provinces, islands, harbors, and seas whatsoever, which hereafter, in the name of the said King Alfonso and of his successors and of the infante, in those parts and the adjoining, and in the more distant and remote parts, can be acquired from the hands of INFIDELS OR PAGANS, and that they are comprehended under the said letters of faculty.”

    Next to the last paragraph then mentions the three groups while forbidding non Portuguese to bring things to those three groups:

    “that they do not by any means presume to carry arms, iron, wood for construction, and other things prohibited by law from being in any way carried to the Saracens, to any of the provinces, islands, harbors, seas, and places whatsoever, acquired or possessed in the name of King Alfonso, or situated in this conquest or elsewhere, to the SARACENS, INFIDELS, OR PAGANS…”

  • Bill, I think the document is clear that crusade is what the Pope had in mind. Of course it also helps to have some knowledge of the period and of the pontificate of Nicholas V. The encroaching threat of Islam consumed the pontificate of Nicholas V as it did the pontificates of most of the Popes of this time. Nicholas V viewed the explorations being undertaken by the Portugese as a prime opportunity to spread Christianity and make an end run around Islam. To attempt to read this bull as the Pope giving permission to found a slave trade or a slave empire is ahistoric. The Pope was attempting to encourage the Portugese in their endeavors, and hence that is why he granted them a monopoly in these territories.

    How Nicholas V would have dealt with long term slavery based on race is suggested by his bull in 1449 overturning statutes of the city of Toledo discriminating against Conversos, Catholics of Jewish Ancestry, on the grounds that “all Catholics are one in body according to the teaching of our faith.”

  • Donald,
    I’ll end briefly too. Were Pope Nicholas only about crusade, he would not have promised all the lands and assets of conquered countries to the Portuguese with the conquered people being perpetual slaves…unless there is a new definition of crusade that I never saw. And you then in your paradigm have the conquered males being slaves and the women and chidren as free as you and me. That is an odd picture of a conquered country with two classes of people…free women and enslave males. Sounds like the beginning of women’s lib. Romanus Pontifex said “perpetual slavery” not slavery til ransom as you said way above as you tried to subsume it under war practices.
    Pope Nicholas did not envision what the slave trade would become just as Henry Ford did not picture the New Jersey Turnpike and people being maimed in accidents… but he was responsible in great measure for giving slavery it’s license from Heaven prior to Protestantism and its justifications of slavery. And you are ignoring the text of Romanus Pontifex and its listing of two groups at first and its eventual listing of three groups of which Islamists were only one.

    A previous bull of “Unam Sanctam” mistook the two swords the disciples told Christ they had in the gospel… as saying that the Pope had both a secular sword and a relgious sword….power over the Church and power over the world. In the actual text of the gospel, scholars now feel Christ was exasperated with the two disciples taking His reference to swords as literal and so Christ says “Enough”. “Unam Sanctam” said Christ was saying that the “enough” meant that the two swords for the Pope are sufficient in the sense of over the Church and one over the world…the most dire misinterpretation of Christ that perhaps ever occurred.

    Pope Nicholas was the next step for the two swords; he actually carried that two fold purpose out with a nation. He saw himself capable of giving the world to Portugal due to his dominion over the secular sword and that they must convert others during that conquest as an integral part of conquest. Soon after Nicholas, in 1493, a Spanish Pope who had more children as Cardinal than the average NFP person today…Alexander VI… divided that entire world between Spain and Portugal each getting half of the world and that Pope gave the longitude they were to go by which oddly resulted in Brazil being Portuguese and the rest of South America being Spanish. It had nothing to do with Islam whatsoever. He was Spanish himself and was making sure the Portuguese did not get the whole world thanks to Nicholas. And the same rights of invasion and dominance and perpetual slavery were given Spain as were in Romanus Pontifex for the Portuguese (Noonan)…including the right of taking assets of those who resisted the gospel which Niall Ferguson of Harvard and Oxford in his recent best seller, “The Ascent of Money”, notes allowed a priest accompanying the conquistadors to hand a Bible to the leader of those natives in Peru as constituting preaching the gospel and see if he resisted the gospel; the leader did not open the bible…perhaps he could not read Latin and it was very lengthy. Anecdotes say that he threw it on the ground and that constituted resisting the gospel. Spain was subsequently to take that kingdom and all their silver for over 200 years from that area…at first with paid labor and later with local slaves and then after that black slaves….all of whom were easily maimed from falling stones in that type of mining and that silver and Mexico’s were 44 percent of Spain’s budget by the end of the 16th century and thus of the Inquisition’s budget…and Spain still waned before Britain due to her European wars. Ferguson quotes an Augustinian monk, Fray Antonio de la Calancha writing in 1638 AD: ” Every peso coin minted in Potosi(Peru)has cost the life of ten Indians who have died in the depths of the mines.”

    Historical context? Romanus Pontifex must be seen as the logical outgrowth of the mistake within Unam Sanctam…that the Pope literally owns the world in the name of Christ and so can give it to a nation that will conquer and convert under the threat of arms. That is how Filipinos and their country came to be named not after one of their heroes… but in honor of Phillip II of Spain who conquered them… much as Islam still threatens to conquer for God. God’s Providence removed throughout history land from the papacy… perhaps precisely in order to correct those several bulls.

  • Presuming to know God’s providence is a tricky business Bill. But for the actions of the Popes in sponsoring crusades across the centuries I have little doubt but that Islam would have conquered Europe. Perhaps God had the Popes assume secular authority during those centuries in order to prevent this. The answer to these type of questions will be in the next world.

    In regard to my point about Nicholas V and his overturning of the decrees against Conversos, I would note that in 1462 Pius II condemned the enslavement of baptized natives in the Canary Islands, calling slavery itself a great crime. Sublimus Dei of 1537 can thus be considered an application of the teaching regarding baptized natives and applying it to the non-baptized. Since readers of this thread might be unfamiliar with the text of Sublimus Dei I quote it in full:

    “To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come, health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction.

    The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office ‘Go ye and teach all nations.’ He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.

    The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.

    We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.

    By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.”

  • Donald
    Paul III whom you quoted above was not quite as consistent as you would like. He did not want enslavement based on conquering as the previous Popes did (see below). Yet Noonan found a later motu proprio of the same Pope Paul III “Statutorum almae urbis Romae libri quinque (Liber bullarum 19 v.)1548…11 years later than 1537 which stated: “from a multitude of slaves,inheritances are augmented.” Remember that Catholic moral theology until 1960 (Tommaso Iorio,S.J….Theologia Moralis…5th printing 1960)still contained several just titles for slavery in general and I actually regret that but accept it and that Leviticus 25 does mean at minimum that in some eras of debilitated economy and political structure, it can be existent morally and that John Paul II erred in calling it “intrinsic evil” in section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” (the ordinary magisterium can err in morals…see Ludwig Ott/ end paragraph of section 8 of the intro to Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith) (see section 40 of Evangelium Vitae for John Paul’s rather unconventional estimation of the severe within the OT as not coming from God).
    The Jesuit Salvatore Brandi centuries later in 1903 said that Paul III in the above motu proprio praising slavery was referring to mild slavery but as Noonan noted…he offered no proof.

    And I would urge intelligent readers to look at that one sentence within the piece that Donald presented just above:

    “notwithstanding [[whatever may have been]] or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty”.

    Pope Paul III is referring in the double bracketed words above to a series of 5 Popes minimum at the end of the 15th century whom Leo XIII left out of his encyclicals on the papal history with slavery and which Dulles left out of his First Things piece.

    And it was not just Pope Nicholas V and Alexander VI but included Pope Calixtus III who incorporated Romanus Pnotifex and its “perpetual slavery” (not temporary) into his own Inter Caetera 1456 as did Sixtus IV 1481 and then Pope Leo X confirmed Romanus Pontifex in writing for the Portuguese in 1514.

    We…Leo XIII and Cardinal Dulles… leave that out much as we tried leaving out many things in modern times related to the present revived scandal in the media. Opacity is over for us and for Goldman Sachs and Toyota and for everyone. But it works as long as people do not read micro history.
    But that is what the media specializes in making people read.

    Gone for real. Slavery topics kill weekends.

  • Paul III in 1545 abrograted the ancient privilege of slaves claiming freedom under a certain statue in Rome. From what I can glean online this abrogation had much to do with his desire to reduce the number of vagrants and homeless who had flocked to Rome. In 1548 he allowed the use of Muslim slaves, recall the whole crusade idea, in the Papal states.

  • “in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race.”

    Bingo! Are we really supposed to be all torn up about this?

    It’s a commonplace that classical and chattel slavery were two different institutions, and that the sort of slavery resulting from war between Christendom and Islam was far more representative of the former than the latter.

    This obsession, moreover, with “INFIDELS AND PAGANS” has nothing to do with black slavery. Infidels meant Muslims. Pagans could have meant any number of non-Muslim ENEMIES of the Church.

    None of the people of Africa or the Americas were thought of in such a way, as is made obvious by the long series of Papal bulls that were for some reason summarily dismissed at the beginning of this discussion.

    The Church wouldn’t have condemned chattel slavery in the New World over and over again if she didn’t see a difference. There’s no “contradiction” and there’s no “mistake.” The mistake is on the part of those who fail to understand the difference between what an “enemy of the Church” is, and what they aren’t.

    The “mistake” is on the part of liberals and others with a political agenda attempting to re-open old wounds by judging the past by modern standards – modern standards which are hardly any better, given the 40 million plus innocent children this country has seen legally murdered since 1973.

  • Joe
    Read detail before you post on detail. Saracens, infidels, and pagans are separated by commas in e.g. the last paragraph of Romanus Pontifex and could not therefore be identical and below Pope Paul III will name them (“Indians of the West and the South”) within that generation as he corrects the earlier bulls.

    Secondly it is the Pope, Paul III, who contradicted the five above mentioned Popes during the same time in history (Paul III was the brother of Pope Alexander VI’s mistress, Giulia Farnese)and that presents a difficulty for theories like yours of that time having different standards.
    Paul III had different standards than the Popes who just preceded him immediately which means that at that time, there were two standards as to perpetually enslaving conquered blacks and native Americans if they resisted the gospel.
    So there is not one standard of enslaving in 1536 and prior; that is why Paul III wrote his bull in 1537. There were 265 Popes throughout history and relatively few took a stand against slavery and bulls in some centuries meant little beyond the immediate Pope unless they were backed up with interdict for those countries who ignored them and Paul III even did not interdict Spain or Portugal in their ignoring of him. Popes for centuries needed Kings just to have the papal territories survive and that made political bulls weak. Venice and its Bishops and priests totally ignored a papal interdict during that time of the Renaissance. That is why Pio Nono did not condemn France in the 19th century for the 2nd Opium war in China; he needed her to defend the papal territory which she did but then it was soon lost again anyway and France as papal rep within China in the second opium war both opened China to missionaries at the end of a gun but also forced the British opium trade on China simultaneously. Current Popes speak bravely against wars because current Popes get nothing from modern nations…ancien regime Popes were always dependent on nations and rarely backed up bulls with interdict so that a bull was permanent only if nations gained from what it said as in the case of Portugal and Spain who were not about to listen to an Italian Pope after a Spanish one had given them conquering rights and enslavement rights.

    And it is Paul III who further refutes your no blacks involved theory in Paul III’s own words regarding who the previous Popes gave permission to enslave. Here are the words of Paul III in 1537:

    ” The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.”

  • Pope Nicholas V by the way gave the right to perpetually enslave those who resisted the gospel. He did not say that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel so that Paul is also dealing with a further lower level of evil which had crept in since Nicholas…ie that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel. Apparently Spanish and Portuguese were running into an unforeseen problem:
    if natives accepted the gospel according to Nicholas, they were not to be enslaved and that meant that believers would interfere for example in Iberia taking specific land en masse since there existed believing natives on that land. Apparently the solution was to say that natives were too dumb to believe and thus the conquistadors were actually probably trying to undo even Nicholas V caveat that implied that natives accepting the gospel could not be enslaved or stolen from.
    Paul III did not issue an interdict to back up his words but he did issue a brief, Pastorale Officium, of excommunication mentioning the King of Castile and Aragon ….but Spain protested and so he rescinded it.

  • Bill,

    Ok. I’m going to try and be nice about this, because I admit, I could have some reading comprehension deficiency that isn’t allowing me to see your point.

    I would ask you to follow your own advice, and read the bloody details before you criticize others for not having read them.

    This is what you quote:

    “We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it.”

    First of all, what is the evil being done here? The evil is that there men – probably the Conquistadors and others, were trying to use the supposed idiocy of the natives to justify their enslavement. The whole purpose of this bull is to REFUTE THAT IDEA. He goes on to say:

    “Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters… that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.”

    Is there something about this that is unclear to you?




    Someone here has severe reading comprehension deficiencies. It could be me. But I think it’s you. And I don’t know if you are motivated by anti-Catholic bigotry or you really just don’t understand the plain and simple meaning of words. You work that out for yourself.

  • Joe

    Your first post criticized my reading of words from not Paul III who you cite immediately above but from “Romanus Pontifex” by Pope Nicholas V and the words were: “Saracens, infidels and pagans” which you sought to conflate into “muslims” only. I responded to that.

    Now your above and second post is talking about an entirely different bull by an entirely different Pope as though that is one you were writing about in the first post as to the detail problem that I alleged as to those words and it was not. Your first post was about the words “infidels and pagans” within the 1453 bull not the 1537 bull by another Pope.

    You now are quoting Pope Paul III in 1537 who was opposing two of the Popes and one of the conquistadors: A. the error of the Popes prior to him who gave the right of perpetual slavery IF..IF…IF… natives resisted the faith….and B. error two (the one you mention) of those (probably conquistadors)who even wanted to go beyond what Pope Nicholas V had given them: which was the right to enslave those who resisted the gospel. They wanted to also enslave simply all natives who seemed to them too dumb to accept the gospel.
    Why did the conquistadors want to go further than enslaving perpetually those who resisted the gospel?? Probably because too many natives with clergy help were not resisting the gospel which meant that according to Pope Nicholas V who gave them the right to enslave those who resisted…it meant that they could not enslave all natives and that would leave them with land distribution problems because historically the conquistadors took vast areas for themselves and their descendants…the best land tracts; and therefore allowing some natives to hold onto their homes because they did not resist the gospel would get in the way of that land system which was later referred to as the “encomienda” system and that system is the reason there is so much poverty in South America today according to some authors like Trevor-Roper I believe it was.

Ben Franklin and the Turkey

Friday, November 27, AD 2009


After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm.  The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle.  In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.

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7 Responses to Ben Franklin and the Turkey

  • We had ham for dinner on Thanksgiving. We are surrounded by turkeys, starting with Congress, all year long.

  • Eagles are magnificent creatures. No wonder the early writers in the OT refer to eagles often.
    The Australian Sea Eagle is, I believe, a close relative of the American Bald Eagle. While living in Oz during the 80’s, I was out fishing with a friend. As we watched, this sea eagle, only about 50 meters away, swooped down and plucked a fish out of the water – not just a little fish, what the Aussies call a southern salmon (not a true salmon) which would have weighed around 12 pounds.

  • Oops!

    4th. line – “livivd” should be “living”.
    (maybe I lived in Oz too long) 😉

  • I fixed it for you Don, although I imagine at least once while you were living in Oz you were livid. Most Aussies I’ve known have been fantastic, but a few have been truculent! 🙂

  • Actually Don, it was quite an enjoyable experience. I do have Aussie cousins, and we moved to Wollongong NSW where they lived, to be with people we know, and within weeks had a great circle of Aussie friends – all with young families, as Sandy & I did then. And, of course, I got called “Kiwi” – (hopefully because I epitomised all those manly qualities other nationals expect of us rugged antipodean outdoors men 😉 ) and the name stuck, hence my combox name.
    I did , of course, cop a lot of stick, as is usual with banter between Aussies and Kiwis, and the Aussies can be more outspoken and course than us more genteel people from the islands to the East :-), but I found, give back as much crap as you cop, and you’re respected – otherwise you keep copping it.
    Only had one punch-up, and that was in a game of Touch Rugby – go figure. Had plenty of robust arguments though, being a builder/labour contractor on some of the building sites around Sydney.
    Have many good friends in Oz – haven’t visited for about 5 years now, but each time I have, I’m sure that within a few days, if I moved back, everything would be the same.
    But I’m not moving – Tauranga, NZ is home and I’ll be buried here; though after, I hope, many more travels.

  • While I agree that he may have been saying it a bit tongue in cheek, he got it right. Given the turkeys in DC (& at lower levels of government as well), the turkey would have been a better symbol.

    PS 1776 is my favorite all time movie.

  • Do you remember the opening game of the World Series in 2001? It was less than a month after 9/11. A beautiful bald eagle soared over the Stadium during the opening ceremony. My eyes misted over and I got a lump in my throat. I’m sure millions of Americans had the same reaction.

    Sorry, Ben, but a turkey running across the field just would not have had the same effect.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, AD 2009

A roundup from around the web …

1.  Jay Anderson gives us a history lesson on “The First Thanksgiving”:

Every gradeschool boy and girl in the U.S. will confidently tell you that their history books say that the very first Thanksgiving on American soil took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 when the English Pilgrims who had arrived the year before and the Patuxet Indians shared the food from their respective harvests in one great big happy feast.

As is often the case, however, the history books are wrong on this account…

2.  The Maverick Philosopher engages in a thanksgiving reflection:

We need spiritual exercises just as we need physical, mental, and moral exercises. A good spiritual exercise, and easy to boot, is daily recollection of just how good one has it, just how rich and full one’s life is, just how much is going right despite annoyances and setbacks which for the most part are so petty as not to merit consideration…

3.  How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims — When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, they established a system of communal property. Within three years they had scrapped it, instituting private property instead. Hoover media fellow Tom Bethell shares some economic history.

4.  News has it that President Obama’s decision whether to pardon a turkey could come at any day now!

5.  And it wouldn’t be the celebration of another American holiday without a screed from the Catholic Anarchist (reaching the height of self-parody).

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Thanksgiving 1863

Thursday, November 26, AD 2009

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

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