Posts tagged William Lloyd Garrison

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.


… big thinkers like Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand, and the like …

May I suggest that Thomas Jefferson be excluded from consideration, along with any other so-called “liberal” or “libertarian” who unrepentantly presumed to dominate his fellow human beings and force them into an abject condition of chattel slavery?

As for genuinely libertarian heroes, off the top of my head, I’d like to recommend Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Sarah Moore Grimké, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lysander Spooner, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Ezra Heywood, Angela Tilton Heywood, Benjamin Tucker, William Graham Sumner, Mark Twain, Dyer Lum, Voltairine de Cleyre, Emma Goldman, Randolph Bourne, Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess, and Samuel E. Konkin III.

For what it’s worth, to-day is the 200th birthday of Lysander Spooner, one of America’s foremost radical libertarian heroes.

Re: Immigration is an Extremist Issue

I think we agree that incremental reforms, where they can be gotten, would be preferable to the status quo. The important thing is to be clear about the difference between (1) supporting incremental measures for strategic reasons, in order to pry whatever limited relief you can out from under a horrid political system, and (2) compromising moral principle by accepting, or pretending to accept, that some kinder, gentler, more efficient form of international apartheid could possibly be just or prudent or excusable. (1) is a perfectly reasonable political strategy, but it is worth nothing, or even less, when accompanied by (2) rather than by a principled moral opposition to the violent punishment of peaceful immigrants.

As Garrison said, “Urge immediate abolition as earnestly as we may, it will alas! be gradual abolition in the end. We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be we shall always contend.”