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View Diary: A legal artifact of slavery (96 comments)

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  •  Some commenters here seem to think (6+ / 0-)

    that slavery was due more to economic factors than not.

    In 1820 John Quincy Adams, in my view, described V. Tyrannica (one of the two living varieties of humankind) when he noted the characteristics of those who practiced and supported slavery. Adams was Secretary of State in the cabinet of President James Monroe when he was called to a meeting in Monroe’s office to consult on the admission of Maine as a free state and on the Missouri Enabling Act. Adams recommended that Monroe approve both, even though he, Adams, was against slavery and Missouri was likely to be admitted as a slave state. He thought that the Constitution prevented the government from abolishing slavery. After the meeting, Secretary Adams continued the conversation about slavery with Secretary of War John C. Calhoun of South Carolina as they walked back to their offices. Afterwards, Adams made some entries in his diary which, in my view, explain the differences between tyranni and democrati very well:

    The discussion of this Missouri question has betrayed the secret of their souls. In the abstract they [the defenders of slavery] admit that slavery is an evil, they disclaim all participation in the introduction of it, and cast it all upon the shoulders of our old Grandam Britain. But when probed to the quick upon it, they show at the bottom of their souls pride and vainglory in their condition of masterdom. They fancy themselves more generous and noblehearted than the plain freemen who labor for subsistence. They look down upon the simplicity of a Yankee’s manners, because he has no habits of overbearing like theirs and cannot treat Negroes like dogs.

    It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice; for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin? It perverts human reason, and reduces man endowed with logical powers to maintain that slavery is sanctioned by the Christian religion, that slaves are happy and contented in their condition, that between master and slave there are ties of mutual attachment and affection, that the virtues of the master are refined and exalted by the degradation of the slave; while at the same time they vent execrations upon the slave trade, curse Britain for having given them slaves, burn at the stake Negroes convicted of crimes for the terror of the example, and writhe in agonies of fear at the very mention of human rights as applicable to men of color.

    Adams was no fool. He was the son of two important Founders; he was raised to understand America’s founding principles, he was well educated, he was Secretary of State and would soon become President. After he finished his presidential duties he served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts. He was not an extremist; he was speaking plainly and his words represented very well the position of many American democrati of the time. His words found the most important point. He realized that the men who could “treat Negroes like dogs,” and who “burn at the stake Negroes convicted of crimes for the terror of the example,” performed those horrible, shameful acts because it was in them, in their souls, in their very beings—it was natural. Such men are tyranni. They are products of Evolution by Natural Selection.

    I do have one slight disagreement with Adams’ words. He said that slavery “taints the very sources of moral principle,” it “establishes false estimates of virtue and vice,” and it “perverts human reason.” He speaks as if slavery is not a creation of men but that it is created by nature and in turn corrupts men. But the opposite is true; slavery is created and supported by certain men who hold moral principles that other men regard as tainted, who hold views of virtue and vice that others reject, and who follow a kind of reason that other men think is perverse. The tyrannus who wields the whip means to do it—and he thinks, no, he “knows,” that he is right to do it. I know, it sounds overwrought, but that is the way things work. We are who we are. V. Tyrannica perform tyrannical acts.

    The more extreme tyranni are willing to use force to get their way. Such tyranni are ruthless, and very aggressive. They seek power over others wherever they can find it. This meant that every leadership position in government, North and South, was an eligible target for tyranni, but in the South the leadership requirements were so ghastly that democrati did not qualify, or at least did not have the will to “treat Negroes like dogs.” So once a culture of official violence developed, new tyranno-leaders who condoned that violence were more likely to win and keep power than those who preferred a softer, kinder approach. In 1820, the tyranno-governments of the solid, stolid, squalid, sullen, sordid, surly, sorry, slaveholding southern states were rotten, and America was not beautiful.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 02:42:32 PM PST

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