The worst thing about slavery was, well, slavery.  A distant second bad thing was that in the mid-19th century, Americans with deep convictions about dual sovereignty and limitations on federal power picked slavery as the ideal test case.  As a result, the lesson generations of Americans took from their struggle was that, if you give some people too much sovereignty, they'll use it to perpetuate horrifying schemes like slavery, thus undermining their supposed allegiance to the concept of freedom. Ergo, maybe this freedom experiment has gone too far.

One of the best ways to lose your freedom is to abuse it.  It's never a natural or foregone conclusion.  As Walter Hudson said today,
Therefore, when I look at the Confederate battle flag as a black libertarian, I see tragedy for all parties concerned. I see the history of racism and human indignity which motivates the current debate. But I also see the loss of state sovereignty which compromised the Founding Fathers vision for republican government. To the extent people choose to fly the Confederate flag in honor of that latter heritage, I can’t fault them.
That said, let’s be clear why state sovereignty was lost. It was lost because the southern states delegitimized it.


Grim said...

The same objection would apply, of course, to the entire American experiment as a whole project had the British won the War of 1812 with a reconquest of the American states. By the Napoleonic wars, the British were opposed to the slave trade and were trying to stamp it out on the high seas. Every slave ship in the Atlantic flew an American flag, and the US Navy was the pre-eminent defender of the slave trade against the Royal Navy.

'The reason you don't throw off kings and nobility is that commoners, given such power, will use it to do terrible things to each other like slavery (and exterminating the Native Americans, which was the project to be completed right after the Civil War). This freedom thing went too far when they declared independence.'

A lot of the lessons-learned comes down to who wins the war, and who writes the history. In political philosophy, though, we should at least try to set those accidents aside and consider instead: what is just? What is right? How should power and liberty be distributed?

In that light, a Federal system that balances state against central authorities looks a lot better.

Texan99 said...

I won't argue that every attack on liberty is motivated by a desire to rein in jerks who would abuse their liberty. Sometimes it's motivated simply by the desire of people to dominate others for their own convenience. Or the dominators may be genuinely convinced that other people are abusing their liberty by resisting dominance, and yet be completely wrong. In this case, they weren't wrong.

Grim said...

That's right. It's just that the British could have made the same argument in 1815. And they'd have been right, too. The Americans were abusing their liberty by profiting wildly off the slave trade, while building an agricultural system based on slave labor.

We say now that we're justified by the subsequent history: by the price of blood in the Civil War, by the Civil Rights struggle, etc. If the British had reconquered the American states, though, that subsequent history would not exist: and the American flag (at least the flag as it stood in 1815) would be the one today described as representative only of racism and treason. As indeed, in its hour, it really was: both racism and treason were at the core of the project.

Ymar Sakar said...

The Democrat party never forgets and never forgives. The South will die by their hands, if nobody else's. All Southern nostalgia, anti Sherman hate, anti Northern hate, wasn't going to save them. Besides, they were only ever cultural conditioning artifacts the Democrats used to justify white Southerners dying in Democrat slave wars.

The Democrat reason for seceding was pro slavery and pro Democrat rights, not state rights. It was the right of states like New York that they wanted the federal government to override, in enforcing anti fugitive slave laws. The Democrat land owners and politicians had the power needed to push through those secession clauses. The poor whites or the patriots like Lee, Jackson, or others merely fought and suffered in a war created by Democrat aristos. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a lone exemption, a Southern aristocratic land owner that volunteered to fight, when most political and wealthy land owners in the South were exempt from the draft and service entirely.

The South until recently has been living under a de facto Democrat totalitarian political and religious system. They were taught to hate Northerners, blacks, or any other minorities, under fear of the KKK coming in the night to lynch any white or black person that disagreed. Jim Crow was the law that forbid whites from having their own conscience, they couldn't serve blacks equally if they wanted to, the Democrat Law would wipe them from existence for that.

The Gaystapo merely adopted something similar.

But no matter how much Southerners stay loyal to their Programming, no matter how much Southerners blame their internal problems of obedience on Sherman or Northerners (Republicans, never Northern Democrats), the Democrat party will Never Forgive you for betraying them, for Disobeying the Democrat Rule.

They will never allow the South to get away unscathed, now that they have the power. They will never allow you to do as you please, to have your own conscience, even if you thought you freed yourself from 'Republican Reconstruction' by voting Republican in the South to get back that economic miracle.

They will destroy you. Not Sherman, Sherman didn't kill the Democrat land owners and politicians behind the pro slavery secession in Civil War I. No, what will destroy the South are their old masters, the Democrat party.

Stay loyal to Democrat programming Southerners, it will be a fine grave stone for the loyalists. They who were loyal unto death to the Democrat cause, in obedience to their orders.

Grim said...

The Democrats have nothing to do with this, Ymar. Republican governors (and corporate donors who want to see the history banished to avoid boycotts) are behind it.

Southerners like myself are considering it, not because of the Democrat's nuanced and wise rhetoric about how we're all racists and traitors, but because we really do want to take some positive steps to show brotherhood for black Southerners at this time. The voters (and they are Republican voters) in South Carolina haven't weighed in yet, but it's clear that they are thinking about it for what are good reasons.

We'll see what comes of it. I hope it gets thought through carefully: a lot depends on how this discussion shakes out. But it is entered into for honorable reasons, and if Southerners go along with all or part of it, it will be for good reasons.

Texan99 said...

Funny how quickly your mind goes to "profit" as the gravamen of the slave trade!

Somehow I'm not buying that the English felt they just had to reconquer their former colony because they couldn't bear the thought that some states were continuing the slave trade. But leaving their motives aside, if the best reason the U.S. could think of for resisting a British invasion was "how dare you criticize our slave trade," I'd have thought the U.S. had thoroughly undermined its pretensions as a sovereign nation interested in preserving its independence and liberty. And if the U.S. had lost on that basis, I doubt many would be mourning them today.

Grim said...

Nevertheless, the US in 1815 was responsible for every evil of Southern slavery, plus the far worse evil of the transatlantic slave trade. It protected that trade, and yes, built it's industry and wealth on the profits.

The one thing it didn't do is justify it. The Confederacy said they believed in races created unequal. The Founders believed the same thing, but justified themselves with rhetoric they did not deserve.

Texan99 said...

Not getting your point today, but I'm sure we've gone far beyond anything that's edifying anyone else, and you and I never shed much additional light for each other after two or three exchanges.

Gringo said...

A distant second bad thing was that in the mid-19th century, Americans with deep convictions about dual sovereignty and limitations on federal power picked slavery as the ideal test case.

The slavers wanted as much Federal power as possible as it related to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. State's Rghts for the slavers, but no State's Rights for the North when it came to fugitive slaves. Don't take my word for it. Look at this excerpt from the South Carolina Causes of Secession:

But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution.

Note that the Confederate Government had very little tolerance for State's Rights when states of the Confederacy disagreed with Richmond.

The only consistent political principle of the slavers was that which would maintain the Peculiar Institution.

Disclaimer: I had family die on both sides: a Confederate Colonel of a slaveholding family and one of John Brown's men at Harper's Ferry.

Gringo said...

Nevertheless, the US in 1815 was responsible for every evil of Southern slavery, plus the far worse evil of the transatlantic slave trade. It protected that trade, and yes, built it's industry and wealth on the profits.

I beg to differ with your analysis of the situation in 1815, as the importation of slaves to the US from overseas was banned in 1808.

Nonetheless, it is certainly true that many New England shipowners profited from the slave trade up to 1808. Triangle Trade. Rinse and repeat.

Texan99 said...

Yes, I'm afraid we're sadly given to enjoying or detesting federal power depending on whether we think it's accomplishing good ends. I do try to be consistent on this subject, but the best I can do is try to think through which functions won't work properly unless they're in the hands of a strong central power, and to limit them as much as possible.

Almost my entire bringing led to me to view federal powers as white knights who would circumscribe the evils of local prejudices. Imagine my chagrin when I found it's not that simple! The problem of limiting government assails us at all levels, local, state, and federal.

Texan99 said...


Grim said...


I beg to differ with your analysis of the situation in 1815, as the importation of slaves to the US from overseas was banned in 1808.

Nevertheless, the trade continued to the Caribbean and Latin America. They didn't bring slaves into the United States anymore, but that was the least bad part of a terrible practice: unlike slaves imported into Latin America and the Caribbean, which had a 90% death rate, slaves imported into the United States tended to survive. It was that natural population growth that allowed the United States to ban importation of slaves while continuing to increasingly employ slavery through the 1860s.

Many of these ships were still flagged American to avoid British interception, and for a time the US flag was the flag of international slavery. But by the 1850s, the US Navy had already begun to turn itself around and assist British efforts to stop the trade.

Still, if you pick the right date for the counterfactual, the "Star Spangled Banner" of 1815 -- Francis Scott Key's flag -- looks just as bad.


Edifying or not, the point was that the right way to judge a political idea is philosophical, not by association. The reason to think that the American ideal of "all men are created equal" is better than the Confederate ideal of "the black race is not created equal" is that the idea is true -- not that it was believed or acted upon. It shouldn't fall into discredit, even if (counterfactually) the British had re-conquered America in 1815.

Had they done, though, you can imagine how they might have tried to discredit the idea. "That all men are created equal is obviously false," they would have said, "as doubly proven by the American revolution. It is manifest that they did not believe the idea themselves, because of how they treated the African. And it is manifest that the idea is simply false, because of how much worse these commoners behaved without the noble, guiding protection of our king and his bishops."

That argument would have been just as good as the argument your OP is forwarding. As long as we never go back to the ideas themselves, philosophically, we'd have no reason ever again to consider that 'all men are created equal' -- we would have received it as an entirely discredited position since the early 19th century.

Texan99 said...

I didn't think the South discredited the idea of racial equality. I thought they discredited the idea of state sovereignty by yoking it so securely to slavery.

Grim said...

Yes, I understand that. I'm just saying that the idea of human equality could have been discredited by an exactly similar argument -- the foremost nation advancing the principle also yoked it to slavery, by embracing, advancing, and protecting slavery so robustly in the late 18th and early 19th century.

We should evaluate the worth of the yoked ideas independently. I think (and I believe you agree) that the right to leave a union whose basic terms have been violated is probably a worthy right, just as I believe that human beings really were created by a God who loves them equally. That those ideas have at times been yoked to a system that emphatically embraced and practiced slavery ought not discredit the worth of the ideas themselves.

Texan99 said...

I agree it's better to evaluate ideas separately. On the other hand, that's not what we do, so people do a serious disservice to important ideas by allowing them to get confused with terribly ugly ones, usually by means of blatant hypocrisy that encourages their enemies to misunderstand them completely.

Ymar Sakar said...

Human equality is a joke, merely another slave shackle, visible or not. Democrats erred by using inequality as a justification for the oppression of women, property law corruptions, and totalitarian political/religious restrictions.

As for Democrats being involved on this incident, we'll see what the Left has to say on this matter. Only the feds have enough power to consolidate and orchestrate such an instantaneous order for Amazon and other business to ban selling of goods.