Posts tagged Slavery

Re: claim they have native american blood


It’s hilarious. The tribe of choice is always Cherokee as though they were the only ones. … As far as AAs making claim, the likelihood is a little greater considering that many runaway slaves were protected by Native Americans.

Well, that, and also because some Indian nations, notably the Cherokee and to a lesser extent the Muscogee, enslaved black folks prior to Emancipation.

The attitude towards slavery varied a lot from nation to nation. (The nation that most famously protected black refugees from slavery — the Seminole — were deeply divided on the question of slavery, and partly as a result of that Seminole bands eventually ended up dividing and fighting on both sides during the U.S. Civil War.)

macon d.:

I’ve read that the Cherokees were considered less “savage” than others,

They were the largest groups in what were called the “Five Civilized Tribes” by white slave-owners. The main reason white slave-owners considered them especially “civilized,” as compared to other American nations, was the fact that the Cherokee also practiced field slavery and settled agriculture, just like the white slave owners.

Re: Government at Work

Thanks for the link.

Note that both of these tyrannies primarily involve local and state government.

Do they?

The Interstate Highway System and the earlier U.S. highway system, for example, certainly involve state and local government. But I’d hardly say that the federal government was only “secondarily” involved in them.

Similarly, police brutality has existed always and everywhere where there are unaccountable government police, regardless of what level of government was involved in running them. But the specific phenomenon of increasing numbers of police on city streets and increasing militarization of the arsenal, training, personnel, and attitudes of police, over the past 40 years or so, has largely been the result of locally-administered federally coordinated programs (e.g. the War on Drugs and targeted repression of political “extremism”), and it has been bankrolled by the federal government to the tune of billions if not trillions of dollars in domestic nation-building exercises like “homeland security” grants, federal “community policing” initiatives, free federal training, subsidized military equipment sales, etc. (Where would small-town cops in South Carolina be getting a tank, if it weren’t for federal grants and subsidized federal sales of U.S. military equipment to local cops?)

These aren’t examples of local tyranny where the Feds are just standing by watching, or where the Feds could even potentially be enlisted as a countervailing force.The Feds are actively complicit and have been one of the primary forces in making things as bad as they are.

Just as peaceful secession would actually have profoundly destabilized slavery in the Southern states — because it meant the end of Fugitive Slave laws, the moving of the line of freedom from the Canadian border to the Mason-Dixon, and the removal of Northern military resources from the effort to suppress Southern slave revolts and John Brown raids — I think there’s good reason to think that, ceteris paribus, without the Feds at their back, the local Growth Machine types and the local paramilitary constabulary would be in a much more precarious position than they are now.

Of course, this is no reason to cry about “federalism” or “judicial activism” or some other conservative claptrap when looking at the handful of specific cases where the Feds do act against locally-administered tyrannizing (say, Miranda, or the recent Gant decision). But if we’re trying to figure out how things would “work out” on balance, then we do have to look at how much these forms of tyrannizing are incited, coordinated, and bankrolled from the center.

Re: You Say You Want a Revolution

TGGP: Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the “country party” of England the Tories and the “court party” the Whigs?

Other way round. The Tories were known as the “Court Party” for their political loyalties to a powerful and interventionist Crown; the Whigs distinguished themselves as the “Country Party” in opposition to the royal court. (Cf. WikiPedia: British Whig Party, etc.)

ajay: I was with you until that point… why shouldn’t slavery have continued in (say) the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia etc? Obviously not on the same scale without the ex-French states of the Deep South, but the “died of strangulation” argument doesn’t really ring true.

Well, a few reasons.

First, it’s not clear that plantation slavery would have remained economically viable without expansion into the Deep South and the old Southwest. In the upper South (Maryland and Virginia especially) unsustainable farming practices had already stripped much of the land, and the slavers’ livelihoods had become substantially dependent on the American slave trade — “selling down” slaves to the Deep South or to the Caribbean — rather than on actual planting. (This is part of the reason why Virginian slavers like Jefferson and George Mason pushed so hard for the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade: not because they wanted to roll back slavery, but rather because they wanted to eliminate foreign competition.) Had it not been for the expansion of U.S. territory, and the slavocracy along with it, into the Gulf states, slavery might well have died out for economic reasons, at least in the upper South.

Second, without the centralized system created by the Constitution there would have been no enforceable federal Fugitive Slave laws. The Southern slavocracy depended on the federally-assured cooperation of the free states, and without those assurances — with freedom beginning not at the Canadian border, but rather at the Mason-Dixon line — individual refugees and coordinated efforts like the Underground Railroad, operating without any fear of slave-catchers or federal judges, would very quickly have made slavery unsustainable even in those states where it would otherwise have remained economically viable.

Third, on a similar note, without Union bayonets and cannon, and without the Slave Power’s expansionist program, there would have been no Seminole Wars, and far more territory outside of the U.S. for fugitive slaves to flee to and establish maroon communities. This threatened to dramatically destabilize the slave system in the Carolinas and Georgia prior to the Seminole Wars, and would have had a profound effect had it not been for the subjugation of Florida by the Federal military.

Note that it’s for precisely these reasons that many radical abolitionists — most famously William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and, early in his career, Frederick Douglass — argued that the Northern states should secede from the Union, and that the Constitutional system of compromise and political centralization was one of the chief bulwarks holding up the slave system in the Southern states.

Re: Worth reading

You write:

The Constitution gives the federal government ultimate authority over immigration, for good reason, in my view.

Well, but this just relocates the question. If the Constitution delegates authority in such-and-such a way, what gives authority to the United States Constitution to decide the question? (I can write “Open borders and amnesty for all” on a napkin, and then write “THIS IS A CONSTITUTION FOR THE UNITED STATES” on the top of it; but obviously just writing it down isn’t sufficient to actually delegate the authority.)

If the answer is the authorization of a handful of long-dead men, who were a tiny minority of the population even at the time, then I certainly don’t see where they get the right to impose positive obligations on hundreds of millions of people today as to who should properly make decisions about whether or not to forcibly exclude immigrants from homes or workplaces.

If the answer is unanimous consent by the people currently held subject to the Constitution’s provisions, well, clearly, it doesn’t have that, any more than the particular immigration policies have unanimous consent.

If the answer is the authorization of some subset of the people currently held subject to the Constitution’s provisions (say, the majority of eligible voters or somesuch), then, again, the question is what right one group has to dictate terms to the other group, who does not authorize or consent to the terms.

Both here and in my next point, a question for you is whether a federal compact like the Constitution represents a contract, obligation, and statement of purpose that carries significant weight for you, and if so (as I provisionally assume it does), how much.

A contract between whom? If it’s a contract among individual citizens of the United States, or between each individual citizen and the government, then it is certainly nothing of the sort: I never signed it, was never asked to sign it, and have never been expected to sign it before its terms would be inflicted upon me. I expect the same is true for you. Personally, if I had been asked to sign it, I certainly would have refused, if that meant I would not be held to its terms.

If the compact is understood as a contract among something other than individual citizens — say, among the governments of the several states — then it might very well count as a contract, but then it’s entirely unclear how it gains any authority to settle political questions for either individual citizen, or would-be immigrants, unless some other compact, contract, or other relationship independently establishes an obligation by those individual people to the governments of the several states. I for one never authorized any of the several states to act as my agent, or to contract obligations on my behalf, so if they have a binding contract amongst themselves or with the federal government, then I still don’t see, as yet, how that has anything to say about who I may or may not welcome onto my own property.

Taking care not to imply that immigrants are a “bad”, there’s still the possibility that one locality’s decision will affect its neighbors willy-nilly in ways they perhaps should not have to accept.

I’m not clear on what you have in mind here. Could you be more specific what kind of effects you have in mind that people should not have to accept?

I mean, after all, suppose that all the people in my neighborhood (E. Rochelle Ave.) want to have a very welcoming policy towards would-be immigrants, while all the people the next neighborhood over (University Ave.) wants to keep them all out. If we voluntarily choose to invite immigrant guests into our homes and apartments, to rent or sell land to them, to invite them to work in our shops, etc., while the people on University choose to turn them away, refuse to rent or sell to them, refuse them employent, etc., and if the different policies in each neighborhood are consistently respected, then how exactly does our welcoming policy on Rochelle “affect … willy-nilly” the exclusionists over on University? The immigrants won’t be in their homes or workplaces or renting neighboring property. The only effect is that if people from University want to come over to Rochelle, then they will encounter the immigrants that we have invited to live and work with us. But while I sympathize a great deal with people having to deal with unwanted effects on their own property or in their own communities, I have very little idea why I should care about whether or not people in one neighborhood get their way about how other people should use their own property or what communities other than their own community ought to look like. If the question is properly devolved, then I can’t imagine how it is any of a University resident’s business how we live over here on Rochelle; let alone any business of somebody in New York or Washington, D.C. who I choose to live or work with here in Las Vegas.

Call me crazy, but “states rights” and “local polity trumps all” seem to me to often be a smokescreen for “let us mistreat people the way we want to, come hell or high water.”

I’m not defending a “states’ rights” position.

While I think that, when there are disagreements between states over immigration policy, different states should be able to enact different policies, I also think that, when there are disagreements within a state over immigration policy, different communities should be able to enact different policies, and different neighborhoods within a community should be able to enact different policies, and, ultimately, different individual people should each be able to enact different policies about the use of their own homes and workplaces. I agree that many people who have defended “states’ rights” position use it as a smokescreen for shitty treatment of other, less powerful people within their state. But that’s precisely because they stop devolving the question once they get to the level of the state. Thus, for example, defending the right of states to peacefully secede from the jurisdiction of the federal government, but then turning around and insisting on the supposed right of state governments to brutally crush any efforts by enslaved Southern blacks to peacefully secede from the jurisdiction of state governments or their local taskmasters. The problem there was too little devolution and secession, not too much.

My whole point, on the other hand, is not to fetishize the claims of any particular level of centralized political authority (such as state or even municipal governments), but rather that the question should be devolved downward until you reach genuine consensus on the localized question — if necessary down to the neighborhood; if necessary down to the individual property-owner.

Thus, on the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, I think that the right approach for Northern whites to take would have been, first, the Garrisonian strategy of cutting all political ties with the slaveholding states — thus allowing for the repeal of all Fugitive Slave Laws in the North, removing Northern bayonets from the Southern slavers’ arsenal, and moving the line of freedom from Canada south to Ohio. And then, second, the Harriet Tubman and John Brown strategies of aiding slaves in their efforts to escape slavery, instigating and providing aid to slave uprisings, and aiding efforts to create autonomous Maroon communities within the South. That is to say, strategies that focused on solidarity with black people struggling for their own freedom, rather than strategies which focused on white political prerogatives, or on “saving” black people from slavery through the outside intervention of a white-led, white-manned, white-controlled military engaged in a conventional war of invasion and conquest. Solidarity-based strategies like those proposed by the radical abolitionists could, I think, have ended slavery with substantially less bloodshed (and especially less collateral damage against non-slaveholding Southern whites), and with substantially more empowering results for Southern blacks who had been empowered to fight for and win their own freedom, rather than having to depend on the goodwill, ongoing concern, and military campaigns of Northern whites for it. Indeed, I think that those strategies probably could have averted the dreadful century of immiseration, dispossession, lynch law, and American apartheid that ended up following the formal emancipation, precisely because the Northern white political and military apparatus ended up dropping that goodwill and that concern, and selling out Southern blacks, in the name of “reconciliation” with Southern whites.

To return to open immigration and “undercutting legal labor markets,” I think there’s a basic problem in the way you’re framing the issue. It’s true that, under certain circumstances, when large numbers of poor immigrants move to a particular community, the average wage for existing native-born workers will tend to go down as a result of competition. But the average wage for the immigrant workers goes up from what they could have expected had they not moved; after all, that’s generally why poor immigrants move long distances to begin with. But the status of the native-born workers as “legal” residents can’t be used as part of the justification for making a legal distinction between native-born and immigrant workers, without simply making the argument circular and thus begging the question. And if we are discussing some other difference between the two — like a difference in nationality, or language, or ethnicity, I don’t see how any of those could make the standard of living among the relatively more privileged native-born workers somehow more important than the standard of living among the relatively less privileged immigrant workers. Certainly U.S. workers deserve a decent standard of living, but so do Mexican workers, and it’s not at all clear to me why the former should be able to force the latter out of the country in order to support their own standards of living at the expense of Mexican workers’ standards of living. I think there is no way to treat this sort of market dynamic as a reason for excluding Mexican workers (say) except by tacitly or explicitly accepting the nativist premise that the lives an livelihoods of U.S. workers somehow matter more than the lives and livelihoods of Mexican workers, just because the one group are from the U.S. and the other group are from Mexico. Which claim I find morally and politically indefensible.

(For myself, I’d say that the best solution is to empower all workers, regardless of race, nationality, language, ethnicity, or any of the other lines which are used to divide us. But that’s best accomplished by means of fighting unions that organize the entire working class, and by transnational labor solidarity, not by means of political gamesmanship and immigration policies which protect the wages of one group of workers only by means of screwing other, even more vulnerable and exploited groups of workers out of homes and jobs that they’d otherwise be able to get.)

Does that help clarify?

Re: No I don’t understand why

Arthur B.:

Racism is at best stupid not immoral.

So you say. But why do you say this? I can think of lots of examples where racism has led people to do incredibly violent things, which I think that you would clearly agree to be vicious. I can also think of lots of examples where racism has led people to do things that, while not violent, were extremely cruel. Do you mean to claim that that’s not immoral? Or to claim that the cruelty is immoral but not the racism which produced and justified it? Or something else again?

The only reason there are historical problems with racism in the US is because of forced integration through slavery (forced for the slaves that is) and then forced integration through the end of segregation (for the rest).

Your account of the history of racism and the law in the United States has an interesting lacuna. Specifically, the period from roughly 1865 – 1965.

For a hundred years of U.S. history black people and white people were forcibly segregated, partly through the use of contractual exclusions made on the market, but mostly as the result of government segregation laws. The connection between the existence of those laws and the prevalence of white supremacism among white people, especially among politically powerful and well-connected white people, was probably not entirely accidental.

However, I might also note that, as an account of “racism” in general, your explanation is somewhat lacking. There are more races of people in the U.S. who have been subject to racism, in its various forms (especially white supremacism) than just black people. The history of white prejudice and oppression against black people is a very important part of the story about American racism, but people of American Indian, Irish, Polish, Italian, Chinese, Filipin@, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Central American, Arab, etc. etc. etc. descent have all suffered from racist prejudices, racist exclusion, and at times racist violence, whether at the hands of mobs or at the hands of state, local, or federal government agencies. But it’s very rarely the case that any of these histories involved “forced integration” of any kind prior to the mid-1960s. Therefore, I conclude that American racism and the “historical problems” associated with it probably have at least some explanatory conditions other than what you call “forced integration.”

No I don’t understand why women might want to be treated “equally” with men. Women and men are not “equal”, in fact they are not even commensurate, the whole concept of equality is meaningless here. The closest thing to what you describe would be : treated without regard for the gender… I don’t see why.

Semantically speaking, “equality” is not just used to refer to position within a quantitative range (as in “equal portions”). It’s also often also used to refer to the lack of a particular difference or distinction (as in “treat me like an equal,” or “equal opportunity,” neither of which makes any claim about comparative quantities of treatment or opportunity). So if a woman or a group of women demand equal treatment to men, then what they’re likely talking about, in perfectly good English, is treatment which doesn’t make a distinction based solely on her or their sex.

As for why a woman or a group of women would want that, well, honestly, who cares whether you “see why” or not? Presumably those who are making it have their own reasons, which many of them have explained at length in conversation, in articles, in films, in music, in books, etc. If you have some specific case against those reasons as they have been presented, it would help to explain what you’re taking issue with and why, by engaging with those arguments rather than just playing dumb. If you acknowledge those positions, but have some specific reason to go on insisting on making sex-based distinctions in how you treat other people, whether or not they want you not to make those distinctions, then it would help to explain what are your own reasons for insisting on making those distinctions nevertheless.

Re: “Not just the signature on a series of essays”


You may or may not be aware of this, but many active slavers, among them John Taylor of Caroline, described slavery as an “evil” while simultaneously opposing, both in their words and their deeds, all immediate efforts to end it. “Evil” is a word which has many shades of meaning, and in the 18th and 19th centuries it was far more commonly used than it is today to refer not only to deliberate acts of wickedness, but also to more generally bad conditions such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or general ignorance and folly. Many anti-abolitionists and slavers viewed slavery as an “evil” in the latter sense (in that they would rather be rid of it, but did not believe that white slavers had any immediate moral obligation to stop enslaving the black people that they held captive). Robert E. Lee, for example, was of this school of thought (the letter in which he famously described slavery as a “moral and political evil” was actually a letter primarily devoted to denouncing abolitionism as a doctrine and Northern abolitionists as a group). So was John Taylor of Caroline. So was Jefferson, at times, although at other times he made hypocritical gestures towards a more anti-slavery position. It is either pure ignorance, pure folly, or pure chicanery to try to represent this position (which recognizes no moral obligation to stop enslaving actually existing slaves, and which explicitly prefers the indefinite continuation of slavery unless and until all black people could be ethnically cleansed from their life-long homes in the American South and forced to foreign colonies in Africa) as an anti-slavery position. Real abolitionists in the 19th century were quite familiar with this position (since it was the official position of the American Colonization Society, an organization of which John Taylor of Caroline was an early supporter and officer), and they denounced it furiously. (See, for example, William Lloyd Garrison’s Thoughts on African Colonization.) As well they should have, since the position is, first, racist rubbish, and, second, quite clearly calculated to ease the consciences of squeamish slavers rather than to free those held in bondage. Those who sentimentally wished for slavery to end, somehow or another, in some far-off day which they perpetually deferred in the name of some other goal that justified their keeping slaves in the meantime — as, for example, with John Taylor of Caroline and his dreams of a Negerrein Virginia — no more count as anti-slavery for those idle remarks than George W. Bush counts as anti-war for having said (in his speech announcing the Iraq war) that war is terrible and he longs to live in peace.

This is the necessary context — that is, the context of John Taylor of Caroline’s actual thoughts about the nature of the “evil” in question and what if anything ought to be done to “alleviate it” (short of “wholly cur[ing]” it), and what all that actually meant in practice for the many black people whose slave-labor he himself was living off of while he wrote those lines — that your isolated use of that single quotation, and your frankly outrageous attempt to paint this active slaver as being anti-slavery, omits.

As for your accusations of plagiarism, I thank you for quoting the passages that you claim to have “caught” me plagiarizing. I’ll be happy to let the reader judge whether what I wrote could fairly be described as “plagiarizing” either of the other passages that you mention here.

Re: “Not just the signature on a series of essays”


Far more difficult is to consider the status of slavery in its own time …

The “status of slavery” where and for whom?

For black people in Virginia, or for that matter for white slavers in Virginia, it was a pretty important issue.


… and ask the question that all persons of moral character asked at the time: what can we do to get rid of this wretched institutional inheritance? If American history shows nothing else, it is that there was no easy answer to that question.

What do you mean by the question “What can we do?”

If it’s intended to be a moral question about what those who were in positions of legal power, or who perpetrated slavery as individuals should have done to get rid of it, the answer is easy: immediate, complete, and unconditional emancipation. This is something that Garrison, Spooner, and Gerrit Smith all believed in, advocated, and acted (in different ways) to bring about. It’s something that Jefferson and Taylor explicitly rejected in favor of continuing slavery, and gradual emancipation conditional on forced exile from America.

If it’s intended to be a strategic question about what abolitionists ought to have done in order to get around the efforts of obdurate or unrepentant slavers to prevent or halt emancipation, then that’s a more difficult question, but it’s a question that is only difficult because of the difficulties inserted by slavers like Jefferson and Taylor. It’s certainly not a “difficulty” that offers any reason to mitigate the judgment on Jefferson’s character, or his libertarian credentials.


The same may be said with equal relevance to Jefferson’s concept of decentralized republicanism. And I’ll leave it at that.

I’m going to repeat this one last time, to make sure that we are clear. Nothing that I have said concerning Jefferson’s political views is a denunciation of “decentralized republicanism.” I’m an anarchist, so I don’t believe in any form of government, no matter how decentralized or how republican. But as it happens, I think that political decentralization is better than political centralization, and republican and democratic governments are better than monarchical governments.

The issue here is not that I’m using slavery in order to stop discussions of decentralized republicanism. This is either a careless or a deliberate distortion of what I’ve explicitly and repeatedly said. What I’m doing is denying that the political system actually advocated by Thomas Jefferson counts as a form of decentralized republicanism, any more than the Roman Catholic Church counts as a “democracy” on account of the cardinals voting for the Pope.

You may want to talk about decentralized republicanism more than you want to talk about Thomas Jefferson and slavery. That’s fine; it’s an interesting subject. But this post is, again, about Thomas Jefferson and slavery. You are the one changing the subject in order to try to redirect conversation to something other than the original topic. Not me.

As for your comments on John Taylor of Caroline, again, you are taking the passage out of its context and directly ignoring the many other things that Taylor said about slavery. I quoted several of these. Taylor was a colonizationist, not an abolitionist, and he explicitly stated that while slavery was an “evil” that continuing to enslave black people was preferable to freeing them without the condition of forced deportation to Africa. He specifically criticized Jefferson’s own writing on slavery because he felt that Jefferson was too negative about it, and that “well managed” slaves were better off than free blacks in America. I gave you several direct quotations in order to contextualize your own quotation and to explain the ways in which his views were a point of transition between the older anti-abolition views of Jefferson and the later positively pro-slavery views of Calhoun, Ruffin, Fitzhugh, et al. You have simply ignored these quotations rather than engaging with them and repeated the original quotation, apparently unaffected by direct evidence to the contrary of your interpretation of it. I don’t know whether or not you have any actual knowledge of John Taylor of Caroline’s political writings on slavery other than the quotation you’ve misused here, but I do know that so far you haven’t engaged with his full views in anything resembling a comprehensive or accurate way, even when the full content of those views has been directly pointed out to you.


And I agree that it’s easy to imagine that we would have applied our modern sensibilities …

Abolitionism is not a “modern sensibility.” It already existed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Jefferson in particular was familiar with the abolitionist arguments; at times he even made some of them himself, while consistently refusing to act on the conclusions that he drew.

Re: “Not just the signature on a series of essays”


What is being argued, though, is that the late 18th century system of Jeffersonian republicanism in the U.S. (though indeed marred by the imperfection of slavery) …

Chattel slavery was not some minor “imperfection” marring a fundamentally humane system. It was the central organizing principle of the law and daily life in Jefferson’s Virginia. It was a crime against humanity that sustained a thoroughly hideous cannibal-empire filled with self-satisfied thugs and posturing hypocrites, who lived on the blood and labor of their fellow creatures, and who passed law after law to protect their neo-feudal economic system and fortify their prison camp plantations at government expense. In Jefferson’s Virginia, this legal cannibalism devoured the lives, property, and labor of three hundred thousand souls, about 40% of the entire population of the state. A conversation about early American politics that ignores such plain facts or marginalizes them as “imperfections” in a basically worthwhile system (rather than what they were — the ghoulish essence of the system itself) is bullshit. And bullshit conversations like that ought to be stopped.


You forgot to add an important qualifier. What you no doubt meant to say was “the decentralized republicanism advocated for white people by Jefferson.”


Of course such a qualifier was hardly “forgotten” as I had acknowledged Jefferson’s fault on slavery from the outset and readily contextualized that grievous fault aside his better characteristics long before you got here. So you return to the slavery canard not to inform the discussion, that discussion already being informed of it, but rather for its conversation-stopping shock value.

No, the reason that I return to chattel slavery is that to describe Jefferson’s slavocracy as “decentralized republicanism” is to carelessly spread an absurd lie. What Jefferson actually believed in, and actually practiced, was decentralized republicanism for white men, patriarchal tyranny for white women and children, and a hereditary, invasive, absolute tyranny accountable to none save God alone for all black people regardless of age or gender. You may as well describe the Roman Catholic Church as a democracy, because, after all, the Cardinals all get to vote on the Pope.


First, by means of comparison between Hamilton’s “views” and Jefferson’s “practice” it appears that you intend to cast the latter as comparatively more offensive.

No, I don’t intend anything of the sort. As I’ve repeatedly said, I consider Hamilton to have been perfectly loathsome, and to be directly responsible for all kinds of political rot. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I’ve never claimed that Jefferson is “worse,” from a libertarian perspective, than Hamilton. I don’t even know how that kind of global comparison would be made — each one was clearly much worse than the other in some respects, and much better than the other in others, and I neither know, nor much care, how you’d make those different respects commensurable with one another to make the comparison.

The reason for linguistically leaning on Jefferson’s practice is that, in addition to being a slaver, he was also a posturing hypocrite, especially on this issue, so the preferences manifest in hisd eeds sometimes need to be stressed over his idle words, when it comes to assessing his character or his legacy.


Second, why the need to constantly qualify Hamilton’s faults …

I don’t.


Why is it not sufficient to fault Hamilton as Hamilton for things he did in and of themselves?

It is.

However, Wilkinson’s original post was about Thomas Jefferson. It was not about Alexander Hamilton at all. My post was about Thomas Jefferson. It mentioned Alexander Hamilton only to explain what a dangerous creep I think he was. Wilkinson’s kind notice of my post was, again, about “Thomas Jefferson’s loathsomely anti-libertarian credentials.” It is only the people trying to apologize for Jefferson who keep insisting on dragging Alexander Hamilton into the discussion, apparently in order to try to change the subject from Jefferson’s anti-libertarian positions to something else — e.g., Hamilton’s Caesarianism, or European monarchy, or the United States Constitution, or just about any damn thing other than the original topic. I responded to some of these comparisons, initiated by you and not by me, by pointing out that American chattel slavery is actually a salient issue in the comparison you’re trying to make, not something that can be waved or set aside, and now, for my trouble, I am told that I ought to be faulting Hamilton as Hamilton rather than comparing him to somebody else. This is really too much. If you want to know my views about Alexander Hamilton or George Washington or the U.S. Constitution or the Whiskey Rebellion or slavery in New York or slavery in the Caribbean or central banking or the Civil War or the Ludlow Massacre or any number of other things, I’ve written about them all, on their own, elsewhere, and I’d be happy to discuss them with you, on their own, in a forum other than this one, but for here and now you should not be surprised that my focus is on Jefferson, not Hamilton, in discussing an article on Jefferson; and you also should not be surprised that if you insist on inserting a comparison with Hamilton into the discussion, I’ll urge that you consider the crime of slavery if that’s one of the salient issues in the comparison. I certainly will not waste my time “faulting Hamilton as Hamilton” in a discussion that’s about something other than Hamilton’s many follies, vices, and crimes.


And that is why I make the claim that decentralized republicanism is a lesser evil than monarchy or other autocracies.

For what it’s worth, I agree with you about this. What I deny is that Jefferson advocated decentralized republicanism, if either the term “decentralized” or the term “republican” means anything at all. What he actually advocated, and practiced, was a form of brutal autocracy for everyone other than his fellow white men.


If you doubt that ask yourself this: is a child inherently marked with evil character if, by pure chance of his birth, he happens to inherit the plantation of his slave-owning father?

No. However, if, as an adult, he continues to spend the rest of his life enslaving those people, even though he had decades in which to legally emancipate them, or simply to treat them as free men and women (by letting them come and go as they pleased, work or not work on what they chose, distributing his unearned lands to the people his father had forced to till, and generally treating them as his equals rather than his servants), and did nothing of the sort for his long life, and continued to live his life of idleness on the backs of his victims and their forced labor–well, then, that certainly does indicate very deep and grave vice in that man-stealer’s character.


But he also advanced in goodness, even on slavery, …

Well gosh, William, that was mighty white of him. But the only way that a slaveholder can “advance in goodness” that matters more than a tinker’s cuss is to stop holding innocent people as slaves. Jefferson didn’t do that. And that’s important.


He called the agrarian trades morally superior to manufacturing based on the fact that manufacturing interests at his time were using the government to subsidize their own existence and tax their competitors abroad.

As opposed to Southern “farmers,” who never sought favors or subsidies for their interests from the United States government.

I don’t know whether you actually intended to endorse this view of Jefferson’s, or merely to explain it. But whether you do or not, it’s worth noting that this is just another example of Jefferson’s posturing hypocrisy. And it’s certainly true that the Southern slavocracy went on for the next three-quarters of a century demanding and getting more and more privileges and protections from the state and federal governments (gag orders, fugitive slave laws, etc. etc. etc.) through the same processes of political back-scratching and log-rolling; something that Jefferson somehow failed to predict.


I’m no expert on Jefferson’s correspondences, but I do know of his influence on the most prominent follower of his agrarian model, John Taylor of Caroline.

Another Virginia slaver and “colonizationist,” who wrote that the abolition of slavery without forced exile for the freed black people, would bring “miseries on both their owners [sic] and themselves, by the perpetual excitements to insurrection,” and that “the blacks will be more enslaved than they are at present; and the whites in pursuit of an ideal of freedom for them, will create some vortex for engulphing the liberty left in the world and obtain real slavery for themselves,” and who had the shamelessness, after a life of man-stealing and useless slave-driving parasitism, to dare to assert that free black farmers, when not forced into exile from their homes, are “driven into every species of crime for subsistence; and destined to a life of idleness, anxiety, and guilt.” Perhaps less of a posturing hypocrite than Jefferson, in the sense that he was rather more explicit and consistent about his belief that the “evils” he condemned were to be remedied by ethnic cleansing, not by emancipation, and, if that wasn’t available, the lesser-evil alternative in his view was for “well managed” slaves who were “docile, useful, and happy,” and a slave-lord “restrained by his property in the slave, and susceptible of humanity.” Taylor is widely considered to have been an important step in the ideological transition from the older Jeffersonian “necessary evil” defenses of slavery to the later Calhounian “positive good” arguments.

You’re making things harder on yourself by bringing up John Taylor of Caroline, not easier.

Re: “Not just the signature on a series of essays”


… the decentralized republicanism advocated by Jefferson ….

You forgot to add an important qualifier. What you no doubt meant to say was “the decentralized republicanism advocated for white people by Jefferson.”

The system of rule that Jefferson advocated, and personally instituted, for black people, was not “decentralized republicanism,” but rather hereditary, personal, absolutist tyranny–tyranny of a form almost unparalleled in human history for its invasiveness, immiseration, and ruthless brutality against its unwilling subjects.

Re: Smearbund Funnies

Have I been inducted into the Beltwaytarian Illuminati without having heard about it? If so, I eagerly await my imminent influx of cocktail party invites and Kochtopus cash.


The declarations of states are not reflective of their citizens …

No, but they are reflective of the opinions of the state governments at the time that those state governments determined to secede.

Of course, many if not most people in many southern states at the time felt differently. For starters, many if not most people in many southern states at the time were black slaves.

The white southerners who fought as common soldiers often had very different views of the import and justification for the war than those held by their governments. But of course it was their governments, and not they, who made the political and military decisions that we’re discussing here.

Charles H.,

I agree with you that any honest review of what the secessionists said (especially what they said at the time of the secession debate, rather than when they wrote their memoirs in the 1870s) would very quickly reveal that the perpetuation and expansion of race slavery was absolutely central to the Confederate cause. However, it would be an ignoratio elenchi to follow that evidence with the conclusion that ending or limiting race slavery must have been absolutely essential to the Union cause.

When people claim that the Southern states had the “right” to secede, what they mean is that a minority– adult white male landowners– had the right to decide for everyone else what form of government they would live under, and whether their basic human rights would be recognized.

I’m sure that when many people claim that, that is indeed what they mean, but I don’t think it’s at all fair to impute that meaning to most of the writers at or the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Whatever faults they may have (and some of them have a lot), most of the people in question are anarchists, who believe that no government whatever, state, federal, or other, has any legitimate right to compel anyone’s allegiance. Their point about the right of secession is that adult white male Southern landowners had a right to determine for themselves (and themselves alone) what form of government, if any, they should live under, a right which any principled and honest believer in the principle of government by consent would have to concede they do have. The obvious and hideous atrocity of southern race slavery hardly justifies military invasion and bayonet-point Unionism; what it justifies is the (Garrisonian) strategy of embracing peaceful disunion, and then supporting southern slaves in their efforts to secede from the from the illegitimate government created by their quasi-secessionist slave-drivers.

If you’re not already familiar with it, I’d like to recommend J.R. Hummel’s excellent book, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, which ably defends the Garrisonian-disunionist position and presents a much more accurate and sophisticated libertarian analysis of the war than the stuff churned out by, for example, Tom DiLorenzo or Tom Woods.


I think the issues at hand are a bit more complex than cultural affinities. When I see Yankees like Tom DiLorenzo running around affecting a fondness for the ol’ Moonlight-and-Magnolias, I just find it ridiculous. But when I see them actively distorting history for polemical purposes, in order to whitewash rabid slave-driving statists like John C. Calhoun, Robert E. Lee, or Jefferson Davis (cf. for example 1, 2, 2, 3, etc., not to mention DiLorenzo’s periodic attempts to portray Lysander Spooner, the author of the Plan for the Abolition of Slavery and a conspirator in an abortive attempt to rescue John Brown from the gallows, as an advocate for “peaceful” gradualist emancipation, I think there is something deeper and nastier at work that needs to be exposed and confronted.

Of course, those people who, in the name of “moderation” or “compromise” or politesse, attempt to water down or dissemble about libertarian principles on hard cases, or who try to marginalize radical libertarians for simply for making uncomfortably libertarian points — a group that intersects with, but certainly does not exhaust and certainly is not limited to — the staff at Cato and Reason deserves nothing but contempt for that kind of hand-wringing opportunism. But I don’t think it’s true that that’s the only reason that the Paulitarians and the VMI/LRC crew draw the kind of flak that they draw from within libertarian circles, or even from the Cato and Reason crowds specifically.