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sufrensucatash

news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.

 

I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.

 

I welcome all opinions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Reblogged:
   George Washington on Morality and Democracy. Disengaged

Over the past few days, I have been engage in a battle of wits with another guest commentator on one of my favorite blogs, Port McClellan. It is a great exposition of some of my thoughts and beliefs.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been a fair fight....

However, kudos, thanks and much appreciation to Mike McClellan for runnnig such a fine site and tolerating my lengthy commentary.

1 Comments:

Blogger Jay Cline said...

August 12, 2005
George Washington on Morality and Democracy

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?"

-- Farewell Address, 1796

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Can morality exist without religion? Well, if you consider that there are many who are moral people without necessarily being religious people. But even in those cases, what formed that moral code in those individuals? The general consensus of a population. And what formed the general consensus over key issues of right and wrong? Mostly religion. Religion can form all types of moral standards.

I guess the question becomes:What is holding people to a standard of conduct and to their word if not a fear of God and the expectations of their fellow man(which are created by a moral standard which was created by religion)? Their oaths mean nothing without some kind of loyalty to a set of principles.

Perhaps that is the reason why morality in America has fallen by the wayside and our system of popular government has become so rife with corruption. People no longer fear God. People do not feel that they answer to anyone for their actions. The lack of respect has dripped to include all authority, be it celestial or human. So their code of ethics will always seem like shades of grey instead of the black & white that religion deems it to be.

Posted by: KSR | August 12, 2005 12:44 PM

Exactly what reason is there to believe that "morality in America has fallen by the wayside and our system of popular government has become so rife with corruption"? An unsubstantiated statement like that should be backed with some credible evidence. The quote itself is offered by a man who held hundreds of slaves. What moral standard was held then? Was such conduct that of fearing God? The 2/5ths Compromise (shades of grey if you will) is no excuse for the man himself holding on to his slaves. How about the womens' vote or that of non-property owners? Surely corruption and moral standards in government are not the product of less democracy instead of more democracy. Perhaps it is the movement away from separate-but-equal that has resulted in the corruption and low moral standards. The fact that government could get away with the Alien & Sedition Acts, but is holding on dearly to something comparably as non-harmful as the Patriot Act is no sign of dishonest behavior. So I ask again, where is the eivendence of morality fallen by the wayside? Maybe we just need to burn a few people by the stake to get it back, kill some mentally handicapped or some minors.

Posted by: DSC | August 12, 2005 03:21 PM

Do you sniff glue before you post, or are you just naturally argumentative for the sake of being argumentative?

Posted by: KSR | August 12, 2005 03:33 PM

That was mean.

Posted by: DSC | August 12, 2005 03:46 PM

I'm aware. Bomb throwing tends to be..and you should know!

All those examples you show... They are valid in the sense that they were examples of how society had not evolved past outdated and wrong systems of behavior. Slavery had been around since tribal society was the dominant form of civilization. They had slaves! What a shocking revelation! We didn't know that! Women didn't have the vote...Wow! These new arguments are coming faster and faster!
What is interesting to note was why these things eventually changed. It was through the evolution of what morality was. Most of these movements(including the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's) began in churches. Religion influenced the mainstream into altering their ideas about what is moral. So religion influenced change in morals for the better. It was religious movements that drove them.

What is wrong about todays society is that religion does not hold as many people captive as their audience..it influences less people. People have no God, so they replace it with material possessions...misplaced families and obligations with the easy temporary pleasures. Our government is run by people who want to see how many votes they can buy with programs and how much they can get away with by abusing their own access to power.They have no fear of repercussions and have no fear of final judgement.(want examples?:See ENTIRE government in the state of Georgia)
You can dictate all the evils done in the name of religion til kingdom comes. The English massacred the Irish in the late 16th century without batting an eyelash because they were of a different religion...Salem Witch Trials...the Spanish Inquisition...etc etc. However, you cannot refute the fact that religion can be used as a vehicle for change, reform, and morality in this country in todays society.

Posted by: KSR | August 12, 2005 04:15 PM

One of the most common attacks on the founding fathers, and of the Virginians in particular, is that they spoke in terms of natural rights, yet violated those rights by holding slaves, and denying equality to wide segments of society.

It is vital that such arguments be addressed and that they be addressed fully.

Let me start by recommending two books: 1) Vindicating the Founders by Thomas West and 2) New Birth of Freedom by Harry Jaffa.

I will formulate a response to address your concerns as fully as I am able.

Posted by: MBMc | August 12, 2005 04:24 PM

Wow. DSC - aren't I nice in comparison?

Posted by: kat | August 12, 2005 04:57 PM

I do not know of Vindicating the Founders, but Jaffa's work has gone to the political necessity of slavery and compromise, not the personal decision for Founders themselves to hold slaves. I can buy the former necessity, but not the latter. The First Emancipator, Robert Carter, tends to disprove any personal necessity argument, excusing the immorality.

Posted by: DSC | August 12, 2005 05:02 PM

DSC --

Being aware of my own limited wisdom, I asked Professor Jaffa how he would answer you question.

In a paraphrase he offered the following.

Men do not choose the world they are born into. Ultimately, we must judge the value of a man based upon whether or not they moved the world towards a better place.

There is no question that in spite of each of their individual failings that the founders collectively and individually moved the world to a better place. They successfully created a government dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. That idea has by and large conquered the world. We have the founders to thank for that.

It was their principles that motivated Lincoln, and for that matter Dr. King. They are deserving of our respect and veneration.

Posted by: MBMc | August 12, 2005 10:10 PM

These people that MBMc wants us to venerate created a Constitution that sanctioned slavery, a Constitution that ensured the preservation of slavery long after much of world, including the Empire from which they revolted, had abandoned it.

But unfortunately—I guess—slavery was not economically viable in what was then much of the United States. And so the descendents of "the venerated ones" fought a war against Mexico, a war that Lincoln called "the most unjust war in the history of mankind," in order to acquire yet more territory into which to spread the institution of slavery. (While under the sovereignty of Mexico, the territory that the U.S. extorted from Mexico in 1848, was free of slavery, because the Mexican Constitution, unlike the American one, abolished slavery).

This is why William Lloyd Garrison referred to the U.S. Constitution as "a covenant made in hell with the devil." Garrison, by the way, was an eminently religious man, while neither Lincoln nor Washington, despite their rhetoric, were.

One final word: MBMc, forget Jaffa and read Beard, specifically, his "Economic Interpretation of the Constitution" (1913). And read him critically, as his interpretation is far from flawless. You need to think more and venerate less.

Posted by: Robert Calrton | August 13, 2005 12:45 AM

Some not-too-disconnected thoughts on the discussion thus far:

“...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Washington is talking about national morality, the will of a people to resist evil and behave properly. Religious institutions and shared religious values are historically the sinews that bind a people to moral behavior. It does not say or explain how individuals are moral, nor does it posit a requirement for a sociological force to enforce individual morality.

Some persons are just simply good.

A people, on the other hand, has no conscience thought and therefore ascribing any modes of individual behavior are and should be treated as suspect.

Washington starts off with "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.".

He is talking political prosperity, not individual. Washington is making a deliberate distinction. Washington is expounding a common Founding Father fear, that a mob cannot be expected to exercise self-control as a matter of course. Fear of mob rule among those venerable men came from direct and personal experience. The Sons of Liberty and the Boston Tea party, the Shaw and Whiskey Rebellions, the acts of Parliament and the corruption of the King of England by self-serving interests, all these influenced the minds of the creators of the United States.

Religion has been, since the beginning of history, the moral and binding force of society. Come up with something better, and then we’ll talk.

“The quote itself is offered by a man who held hundreds of slaves. What moral standard was held then? Was such conduct that of fearing God?”

This is circular logic.

The Bible itself acknowledges slaves. But I do not remember any of the Ten Commandments, the moral foundation of the Bible, proscribing slavery. The implication that, as a slave owner in a society that permits or tolerates slavery, Washington is not a legitimate authority on morality should be dismissed with extreme prejudice.

If modern moral values are used to pass moral judgment on 18th century society, then we need to junk everything Western Civilization represents, including the philosophies of Ancient Greek and Roman slave owners.

But modern Western philosophy is founded upon those ancient philosophies, so if they are discredited, then so is modern thought and so is the conclusion that dismisses it.

Unless you believe that philosophy is revealed and not discovered and therefore is not dependent nor built upon rational thought.

But that is what the Bible is, is it not?

So, religion must be “indispensable supports” of “political prosperity”.

I’m getting dizzy.

“These people that MBMc wants us to venerate created a Constitution that sanctioned slavery, a Constitution that ensured the preservation of slavery long after much of world, including the Empire from which they revolted, had abandoned it.”

Here is where reality hits the pavement. The Constitution wouldn’t have existed to the present (or even into the 19th Century, for Christ’s sake, or Chrissake?) if a compromise hadn’t been effected. Benjamin Franklin, no less, attempted to challenge the slavery exclusions in the constitution. But by 1805, it became impossible to even discuss slavery without threatening the Republic. So the whole issue was shelved for 55 years until the Republic was strong enough to survive the inevitable conflagration. I say inevitable because slavery had been around since the beginning, and probably before, recorded history. As long as religion.

What arrogance to assume that the institution of slavery could be defeated in a fortnight! What is a person to do in the face of such opposition? Persevere, or cry that it is too difficult and just give up? Or throw out the baby with the bathwater?

Response to two quoted quotes:

William Lloyd Garrison referred to the U.S. Constitution as "a covenant made in hell with the devil.". Given that the US Constitution was, is, and has become, the shining light of liberty from the city on the hill, then the natural (?) conclusion is we need more covenants. Maybe Satanism should be declared the state religion? (misquote or take history out of context and it will bite you in the hindquarters).

Professor Harry Jaffa, “Men do not choose the world they are born into. Ultimately, we must judge the value of a man based upon whether or not they moved the world towards a better place.”

Mike, I really do need to start reading from your reading list. That gem had to come from the proverbial philosopher's stone!

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 13, 2005 12:16 PM

The Constitution WAS never considerered "the shining light of liberty from the city on the hill" by any outside observers. Since the quote was referring to Washington's tme when slavery was protected (not just allowed), a time when slavery was not accepted in any western society then how is it out of context? The Civil War Amernments, the women's right to vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 64 may make it into a document of liberty, but understand context before you state that it is out of context. Your out of your league here.

Posted by: DSC | August 13, 2005 01:42 PM

I'm tired of this, so I'll just make one more point. This one is in response to Mr. Cline's inane comments about slavery. Even if he were correct about the necessity of tolerating slavery until such a time when the Republic was strong enough to end it—by sacrificing over 500,000 lives out of a population of 32 million—does that justify the individual slaveholder? To suggerst that it does is like saying that until such time that abortions can be made illegal, it's morally acceptable to get one. (The reason that slavery had to be ended through a bloody civil war is because the Constitution created a governing system in which the only political entities that had the legal authority to abolish slavery—the states—lacked the political will to do so—at least the southern ones did—while the only political authority that might have had the political will to abolish it— the Congress—lacked the constutional authority to do so. About this, Taney was right. And that's why instead of damning the Dred Scott decision, we ought to damn the Constitution that gave rise to it. At least all the "original intent" advocates ought to).

Jefferson didn't make his money primarily by employing slaves as workers. He paid the bills, or at least some of them, the rest went unpaid, by trading in slaves. But then again unlike Washington, Jefferson was not non-religious, he was anti-religious, as were so many of the Founding Fathers, as they were deistic followers of "The Enlightenment." Perhaps this explains Sally Hemmings, and Hamilton's adulterous affair as well.

Unlike Jefferson, unlike most people born into a slave society, who, like us, are prisoners of culture, Washington became convinced that slavery was wrong. That's why his will included a clause freeing his slaves. He would have done so earlier, had it not been for his sweet wife Martha, who apparently went ballistic when she read the will for the first time after Washington's death. George was no fool, he got most of those slaves in the first place by marrying Martha, who was the richest woman in Virginia.

It was by the way those damn non-religious French advisors of General Washington who convinced him that slavery was wrong. Those same folks tried in vain to convince Jefferson of the evils of slavery while "the sage" was representing the U.S. in France.

Wow, I'm glad I only had one point to make.

Posted by: Robert Calrton | August 13, 2005 01:50 PM

Accepting slavery as historical fact is not the same as accepting it as moral fact. I don't, and Robert acknowledges that Washington didn't.

Robert implies that 500,000 people died in slavery needlessly; that they could have been saved and we, as a nation should have done everything within our power to prevent that. However, Robert also very neatly agrees with my comments that we DIDN'T have the power; that in the political environment of the times, that was impossible. As Robert excruciatingly details, the South had the legal authority but not the political will and the North had the political will but lacked the CONSTITUTIONAL authority to abolish slavery.

We cannot ignore that the Founding Fathers deliberately laid the seeds, in creating a Constitution, that enabled the forces of anti-slavery a real chance to end slavery. I despise the vaguarities of alternate histories, and Robert infers that if the Founding Fathers had forced the issue, those 500,000 people would have survived and the 32 million others would have been set free.

If I had Robert’s crystal ball, I might agree with him. But it is even more possible that the Union would never had been, and at best, we would have had two separate and distinct sovereign governments, North USA and South USA. With separate and distinct sovereign Congresses. No Civil War; no moral irritation on the South; no political motivation NOR authority for the North to force the issue.

Robert’s comments on Jefferson's religious views and how they affect his moral values blurs the line between individual moral will and popular/communal/consensus moral will. I guess he either didn't read, understand or agree with my original admonishments that started with Washington's quotes at the top of these posts.

I give DSC's comments all the time and respect they deserve and I ask again, explicitly, if the Constitution was a covenant with the devil and the consequence of the Constitution has been to serve as an example and model for the liberation of man for the whole of humanity (shining or not), and that covenants with the devil are part and parcel of Satanism, then does not logic demand we pay homage to Ol' St. Nick?

The context of Mr. Garrison's comment was the disgust that abolitionists had for a piece of paper that didn't wipe slavery off the face of the earth. Yet that same document was the foundation of "The Civil War Amernments, the women's right to vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 64" that DSC trumpets.

Do I really need to sling the circular epitaph again?

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 13, 2005 03:07 PM

Bravo.

Jay, did I mention it is great to have you back?

Mr. Carlton, you are of course aware that the anti-constitutional rhetoric of William Lloyd Garrison freed not a single slave.

The prudence of Lincoln freed them all.

Lincoln held the framers to their principles, not their compromises. We should have the prudence to do the same.

Posted by: MBMc | August 14, 2005 03:12 PM

Lincoln sought to hold them to their compromise not their principles. He, like the Framers, sought to sustain the Union over all else. His early political compromises that were rejected by the South are ample evidence of that. It was not until the South seceded that Lincoln used his war power for the end of slavery. It was a war that he sought to avoid over all else. Let's not rewrite history for your need for veneration. Lincoln, in his pursuit to preserve the Union, acted unconstitutionally on several occassions (whether justified or not), to win the war. Was it the Constitution that laid these principles?

And I remind you, that none of you have answered the simple question: Why are the Founders any source of moral authority when they personally held slaves? It is one thing to have a national compromise that is morally reprehensible for a greater good (i.e. Jaffa's long-winded way of saying the ends justify the means), but they themselves were personally benefited by the compromise that was so immoral. It is not whether the Founding Fathers could have forced the issue to end slavery altogether, it is whether the Founding Fathers held slaves themselves. A crystal ball is unnecessary to predict whether a master of slaves has the power to free his slaves. All that is required is a simple document of emancipation (e.g. George Washington's will).

However, a crytsal ball is necessary to make a leap that the "deliberately" laid a seed to end slavery. Political pressure may have made it necessary for those sourthern Virginians to leave the future of the expansion of slavery to a future Congress, but a mere glance at the Constitution itself shows no signs of the end to slavery. Instead, many clauses contain protections. The irony of what Mr. Cline states is that a war was necessary to end slavery, not the political process. A war, antagonism between competing state interests, was one of, if not the prime objective of the Constitution's clauses (See just about all the Federalist Papers). So, in some unbelieveable fashion, the Founders deliberately wrote a Constitution that would lead to civil war and the eventual end of slavery.

In fact, most strict constructionists, those who venerate the Founders so much as to politicize the Court, find the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unconstitutional (beyond the enumerated powers of Congress). I believe George Sr., along with many "southerns" at the time, campaigned on the issue back in Texas. They have an excellent argument too. It is a breaking of the very document that has led to its greatest leaps towards liberty, not its seeds of "liberty." Most strict constructionists, such as Judge Robert Bork (and probably Justice Scalia if he was conssitent), saw the decision of Brown v. Board of Education as the Court rewriting the Constitution. As he has said, it was a great usurpation of power by the unelected that led to an unjustified expansion of the Constitution by judges, not the Founders.

Posted by: DSC | August 14, 2005 05:03 PM

Sorry, not the "very document" and "consistent"

Posted by: DSC | August 14, 2005 05:25 PM


Mike, thanks! It is great to be back. There is nothing like a heated argument to burn away bad reasoning. The heat of the debate purifies my own sword of imperfections.

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 15, 2005 06:17 AM


Lincoln's prosecution of the Civil War was not about slavery; nor was it about holding the Union together.

It was about both.

Lincoln did not use the Emancipation Proclamation as a political or war device; when he presented it to his Cabinet (Presidential Cabinets back then were much freer and independent from the President than they are now), he presented it as fiat accompli. And the Cabinet was very much opposed to it. It was not a cheap political tactic.

People seem to forget the South seceded from the Union BECAUSE Lincoln was elected; BECAUSE his rhetoric before being elected was clearly anti-slavery.

"Why are the Founders any source of moral authority when they personally held slaves? "

My apologies for not answering your simple question. I was unaware it had been asked.

I have never supported the use of litmus tests in politics, then or now. But to take DSC to task, I will attempt to rise to the occasion and employ a favorite rhetorical device of the Venerable Mr. Franklin (though perhaps even he is not eminently qualified to speak on moral issues, that randy rapscallion!).

What criteria, what level of respectability, what bar is high enough to qualify a person to speak on moral issues? DSC and Robert seem to be setting the bar so high that only God could qualify. Are they advocating a belief in God as political moral foundation?

Abraham had slaves. So I guess that dismisses the Bible, the Torah and the Koran as having moral authority. - whether one believes in God or not, you cannot argue all Ten Commandments lack moral authority. You know, Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not commit Adultery; Honor thy Father and Mother. All good moral statements. Of course, the Torah has over 600 commandments, or mitzvot, but I won’t list them here -

Many of The Founding Fathers had slaves. So I guess that dismisses the Declaration and the Constitution as having any moral authority (though DSC and Robert keep going back to those documents to justify their arguments - so I guess they don’t have moral authority either).

What person, past or present, has ever lived the perfect life to have the kind of moral authority that appears to be a prerequisite here?

There. That is three questions posed that I have not yet received an answer.

I never said war was necessary. I fervently disavow any association with any philosophy that strictly promotes the end over the means. Please let me know what other beliefs I need to disavow. Please do not paint me in your reconstructionist logic, as you have unsuccessfully attempted with Prof. Jaffa’s simple and clear statement. I believe this is an example of the strawman argument, but I could be wrong. I never studied rhetoric.

Necessity implies prerequisites; that you must have war before the slaves can be freed. Causality just happens. If I stop going to work, it is inevitable that I will be unemployed. But there are other ways to unemployment.

I said that war was inevitable because the political process was not up to the task. Question number four. If we are going to second guess the Founding Fathers, you tell me. What should have been done, politically, to free the American slaves before the founding of the country? Emancipate them, as Washington did? And does that single act not qualify him for at least consideration for moral authority? But emancipation in the 18th century would have only brought about the inevitable war four score and seven years earlier.

They were not smart enough to come up with a viable alternate solution; and neither am I.

Criticizing the Venerable efforts of the Founding Fathers without demonstrating what they could and should have done is just pissing in the wind. Veneration does not necessarily equate to worship, though I understand all who knew him did worship Washington.

Finally, a personal note. Please explain why I am also being painted as a “strict constructionist”. We started with a simple sociological statement on mob rule. How, pray tell, does that make me an opponent of political evolution?

I seem to be taking some personal fire here. Let me ‘splain. I am not a conservative. I am a liberal; not the George McGovern variety, but the George Washington and the Thomas Jefferson and the John Locke et al variety.

I do not subscribe to the dictates of the current Liberal Party because I am also a libertarian, though privatizing First Responders is ludicrous, so I am not a Libertarian.

And if you paint me a progressive, I will not take offense, unless you mean Progressive.

But I do not believe, with extreme passion, that a man’s politics makes or breaks his legitimacy.

Only his words.

There seems to be a current thread in today’s politics that requires certain credentials before you can be taken seriously. A modern take on the "kill the messenger" tactic, I suppose. I have never subscribed to relativism, either, so I guess I have issues with that philosophy, too.

Not that I am counting, but that is now five unanswered questions. Please let me know if I have left unanswered any unasked questions.

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 15, 2005 07:19 AM

best thread yet on Port McClellan. DSC...I don't think Jay is the one "out of his league" here.

Posted by: TRA | August 16, 2005 03:39 PM

Maybe the reason Lincoln's cabinet was opposed to “the emancipation proclamation” was because it was "a political or war device." But in fact the cabinet was divided over the issue, as it was on practically every other issue during the Civil War.

Lincoln was our greatest leader, as no other president has wielded power as wisely or as ruthlessly as he did. And no other president has ever had so difficult a goal to achieve: preserving a Union in which almost half of the people wanted out and the other half didn’t much care if they left. But hold it together he did, by weighing every thing in terms of the war effort. If it served the interests of the war effort, Lincohn supported; if it didn’t, he opposed it.

Since he knew, for example, that the will to fight was fragile at best in the North—a will that he helped manufacture by duping Davis into attacking for Fort Sumter, he knew that the Northern will to fight wouldn’t survive much criticism. And so he closed down newspapers critical of his policies and threw their publishers in jail. (Oh, if only Nixon could have closed down but one).

Of course, all this involved violating the Constitution. And yet, it was necessary for the preservation of the Union. And so Lincoln did it. As he explained, what’s the purpose of preserving a Constitution at the expense of the country? For the Constitution is only the arm of the country, and you don’t preserve the arm at the expense of the body. And so, under Lincoln, during America’s greatest domestic crisis, the law of necessity transcended the Constitution.

And just like the Constitution had to be subordinated to interests of the preservation of country, so too did the question of slavery. If its abolition served the interest of preservation, as it did by the summer of 1862, as abolition would keep the British from intervening and it would keep the abolitionists from defecting, then Lincoln would support it, as he did. If, however, abolition would have subverted preservation, as it would have in 1861 and early ’62, by driving the Border states into the Confederacy, then Lincohn would oppose it, as he did. He was, after all, an eminently practical man who knew what he wanted and he knew how to achieve it.

I know of nobody else who could have achieved what he did. As a result, Lincoln, and perhaps only Lincoln, changed the course of American history in a fundamental way. Because of him, that which followed was profoundly different. Unlike FDR, in other words, Lincoln didn’t just influence great events, he altered their outcome. As a result, he is our greatest president.

But, like most people of his generation, he was a racist. He stated—often—that whites and blacks could not live together harmoniously.1 That's why he wanted the slaves, once liberated, sent back to Africa while Garrison wanted them freed and granted full citizenship. And Garrison wanted this done immediately, which meant no compensation for the slaveholders. Lincoln, on the other hand, thought abolition should only be done gradually, as the slaveholders were entitle to compensation. And so, under the Lincoln plan, the federal government would purchase and then export a certain number of slaves each year, with the last of them being liberated some time in the early 20th century. After all, slaves were expensive and the federal government, financed only by the tariff, had limited funds.

Who, then, ended slavery? Perhaps it was people like Garrison and John Brown, who convinced southerners that they had to secede from the Union in order to preserve their “peculiar institution.” At least Lincohn thought so. That’s why he said to Harriet Beecher Stowe, “so you’re the little lady who caused the big war.” A big war that eventually led to the passage of the 13th Amendment.

1. In his September 18, 1858 debate with Douglass, Lincoln said the following “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor intermarry with white people.”

“I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”


Posted by: Robert Calrton | August 16, 2005 09:08 PM

Robert, you know, until you called Lincoln a racist, I thought I was the author of your last posting.

"Lincoln was our greatest leader, as no other president has wielded power as wisely or as ruthlessly as he did. ... Of course, all this (Lincoln’s prosecution of the War - jc) involved violating the Constitution. And yet, it was necessary for the preservation of the Union. And so Lincoln did it. ... And so, under Lincoln, during America’s greatest domestic crisis, the law of necessity transcended the Constitution."

Robert has just demonstrated that he believes the end does sometimes justify the means.

Saints Be Praised!

Did Lincoln abdicate the right to exercise moral authority as President, when he earlier commented on the proposal of others that slaves should be freed and given free passage to the land of their abducted ancestor’s birth?

Is it not practicality, instead of ideology, when Lincoln believed, as many others believed,

that any man held bondage,

that any man whose children had no future other than bondage,

that any man whose parents had been held in bondage,

that any man whose ancestors had been forcibly kidnapped and held in bondage,

that any man with such a deep and personal and tragic family history of bondage

might not revolt and rebel against their enslavers when the shackles were broken, regardless of who broke the shackles?

Is it not instead a sign of compassion and empathy (and personal self-interest and preservation) to offer compensation and a free ticket home. Would a true racist show such compassion, or just push the lot off the seawall?

Is a man a racist for recognizing that race had been a prime condition of the current enslavement?

(Lincoln, for what it is worth, and for historical accuracy’s sake, did not originate the concept of resolving the slavery issue by sending freed slaves back to Africa, or that the concept of whites and blacks living together in peacefully was not possible. Those ideas predate his own birth.)

I guess I am a racist. When I am visiting friends in a part of the city where murder and rape and assault are daily occurrences within a three or five block area, when I leave their house after dark, I take extra precautions like looking over my shoulder and walking in large groups. When we see three young black men walking down the street, I get more nervous than if I saw three young white men or three young hispanic men or three young asian men.

Or three elderly black men.

Does that make me a racist? If so, what kind of racist? Is there more than one kind, or do you just paint them all with one broad stroke? And is that itself not a brand of racism? If I were a black man (am I? think about it. look deep within yourself. compare the You that existed before you read this paragraph and the You that exists now) and I said the same thing, would I be a racist? an Uncle Tom? or just someone who really knows that neighborhood?

btw, if I were to see those same three men, regardless of color and age, in my neighborhood, late at night, I would be much less anxious.

I honestly don’t know the context of Robert’s quote, branding Lincoln as an abject racist, but if the half-life of this post is long enough, I will be back to respond after I dig a little deeper. But I am familiar enough with Lincoln and the man he was and the time he lived, far beyond grade school history, to suspect something is amiss. Lincoln was far from perfect, but I smell a rat.

However, the original argument against George Washington's quote was, "Why are the Founders any source of moral authority when they personally held slaves?"

To (mis)quote Robert, “Of course, all this (creating the first modern nation of free men) involved violating the rights of slaves. And yet, it was necessary for the establishment of the Union. And so the Founding Fathers did it. ... And so, under the Founding Fathers, during America’s greatest crisis, domestic or otherwise, the law of necessity transcended the rights of some men.”

To restate some questions that have not yet been answered, questions that are at the core of my refutation of the original argument questioning Washington’s moral veracity, questions that are at the core of my own arguments, I would ask for an answer, or at least a clear refutation with clear rationale:

1) does not logic demand we pay homage to Ol' St. Nick?

(ok, I think Robert finally agreed with me on this, but I may be misreading)

2) What criteria, what level of respectability, what bar is high enough to qualify a person to speak on moral issues?

Does it take the goodness and perfection that can only be found in a theoretical or divine God?

3) What person, past or present, has ever lived the perfect life to have the kind of moral authority that appears to be a prerequisite here?

In order to understand why Washington did not have the moral authority to assert that religious institutions and shared religious beliefs are “indispensable supports” to “to political prosperity”, we need to define what is minimally necessary to have that kind of moral authority.

I believe DSC made similar objections to a previous statement by exclaiming “Exactly what reason is there to believe that "morality in America has fallen by the wayside and our system of popular government has become so rife with corruption"? An unsubstantiated statement like that should be backed with some credible evidence.”

Maybe DSC and Robert believe their arguments have lower standards for their veracity...

4) What should have been done, politically, to free the American slaves before the founding of our country?

You cannot argue (or at least I personally won’t accept it) that when a man or a people are caught between a rock and a hard place, that circumstance automatically negates any moral authority. If they had a clear, or even not so clear, moral choice, then what is it? As has been pointed out, Washington did free his slaves. Yet his moral authority is still called into question. So mere individual emancipation certainly cannot be the only solution.

I’ll give the fifth question a pass, as it is merely my objection to being painted into a political theology that I have never subscribed or even intimated. Though I would have no hesitation to cast the first stone in accusing anyone, who has made such intimations, as being, if not racist or bigoted, at least guilty of making assumptions without facts and based solely on their own preconceptions.

Finally, I disagree about who was the greatest president. If, as has been alleged here, that Lincoln was a racist, and Washington emancipated his slaves in his will, and given that both men saved and preserved the Union, my first vote goes to Washington.

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 17, 2005 12:53 PM

In an earlier post, I mistakenly said that Washington's slaves were freed upon his death. They were not. His will, Gordon Wood informs me, called for their liberation upon the death of Martha.


Lincolln's statement that "there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality” is about as racist as you can get.

But no matter. There will always be those, like Mr. Cline, who will deny it. As, after all, up is down, in is out, and O.J.is innocent.

Lincoln, by the way, repeated this statement about the incompatibility of the races several years later during the Civil War. See: Kennth Stampp's "The Era of Reconstruction."

George Wallace , of course, agreed with Lincoln, but Wallace only wanted whites and blacks to attend different schools; Lincoln wanted them living in different continents. But then again I guess Wallace wasn't a racist either. I suspect if Mr. Cline were a German, he would be claiming that the Nazis were not Antisemetic. They were just misunderstood.

And yes, I believe the end sometimes justifies the means. Indeed, as Milton Friedman once suggested, if the end doesn't justify the means, what the hell does?

I don't know about DSC's league Mr. Cline, but you are out of mine.

Posted by: Robert Calrton | August 17, 2005 07:52 PM

fyi,

Cline is an American bastardization of the good German surname, Klein.

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 17, 2005 08:42 PM

Mike,

Please, pray tell, that Robert Calrton is not one of your pseudonyms used to provoke incredulity...

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 17, 2005 08:46 PM

My little girl, who turned 4 last May, just corrected me when I told her to look for her viewer in her toy box.

She informed me that she couldn't find her viewer because she has a toy basket, not a toy box.

Thank God I have her as a refuge providing rational discourse.

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 17, 2005 08:52 PM

I concede, capitulate and surrender unconditionally.

I am most definitely NOT in the same league as the good Robert Calrton.

Posted by: Jay Cline | August 17, 2005 08:57 PM

8/17/2005 8:09 PM  

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