“Every solution to a diagnosis begins with a unified theory”– Dr Gregory House
America proves there comes a time when even the best laid plan must march up to the abyss where it must then decide either to turn around or jump. That’s the twilight zone when confronted by two separate realities.
America has actually been to that jumping off place before, with slavery. But only shouldering one reality, it survived. Now we shoulder two.
But that first march to the cliff began at the time of writing of the Constitution, not when Lincoln was elected 75 years later. Of the original founding fathers there were that array of extraordinary men, but all of whom ordered their thinking differently. Considering how they prioritized their thinking in dealing with almost every issue confronting, not only slavery, but the Constitution itself, is my purpose in writing this today. For in that period there was only “one ring to rule them all” (liberty) and it overrode all other considerations…except that of slavery, which was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t sort of omission, for it was guaranteed that if slavery were dealt with in 1776, there would been no Declaration of Independence, and had it been dealt with in 1787, there would have been no United United States south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and finally, if slavery were left totally silent, as it was, it simply postponed to a later date to deal with it.
We can only speculate how quickly the states might have dealt with slavery in that first generation of national leaders, 1824 thru 1828, but a case could be made that it might have been completed before the passing of the last Founder, James Monroe had there been a compelling reason to do so. A theological argument could be put forth that the Devil Himself may have entered the fray by insuring that the slavery issue would be decided by the next generation, men with a more political view of America, with less philosophical zeal for the underpinnings of the Constitution as they lacked any memory of our original struggle for freedom. The Law of Generations.
(For a more recent understanding about this Law of Generations just consider the patriotic realities of the World War II generation in America…not just the millions of soldiers who fought but the parents and wives they left behind…then stretch that 20 years to the next generation of able bodied men…who, also in thmillions, but in a much smaller venue, about the size of Italy, but over a period of time twice as long…8 years vs 4…and with a diminished patriotic and moral reality attached to the Vietnam War. Then rush ahead to the third generation another 30 years, where 2.7 million Americans have been deployed in the Middle East since 2001, for 19 years! and where for at least 12 of those years, they have become plaything for very cynical geopolitics having nothing to do with any of those American virtues, e.g., the Four Freedoms, enumerated by FDR in 1941. Clearly, the Law of Generations could be a major plaything or chess piece for Evil, if you believe there is such a thing.)
But back to slavery and the Founders, there’s a lesson here, as their internal prioritizations were universal in nature, just never in the same order.
Even on the issue of forming a “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” (A Lincoln, 1863) not everyone was of the same understanding about what “all men are created equal” part, which Lincoln borrowed from Thomas Jefferson’s Preamble to the Declaration in 1776, meant. To some that declaration of rights was for “freemen” only (not white as many of you think you know, as there ere many free-born Africans as well as freed-slaves at that time). Slavery was a legal status, not a racial one.
A good example is Thomas Jefferson, who was himself a slaveholder, in a major pro-slave colony, but opposed slavery, only had to make some accommodation for how he wanted to see slavery end while believing it should be abolished. He even wrote a strongly-worded paragraph in the Declaration that was later removed or the slave colonies would not sign on. He freed a few slaves upon his death, but Virginia forbad the wholesale freeing of slaves, so he willed his remaining 260 to other family members who would care for them. His philosophical opposition to slavery is well chronicled in his own hand, but depending on whether you like him or have a political bone to pick with him, he can be called all sorts of names.
For our purposes a conclusion about any man, not just Founders, requires a unified theory. And since we lack clairvoyance (which many seem to claim these days) most conclusions about any man’s intentions, short of finding Professor Plum red-handed in the Library with a Derringer, would probably fail to gain a conviction except in front to the friendliest jury.
But unlike Southern reasons for holding onto slavery, Yankees were opposed to slavery. But while Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1783, even before the Constitution was written, the other states were a bit slower, New York taking until 1817 to fully end it. John Adams, a Founder, while adamantly opposed to slavery, felt that since the economies of many of the colonies depended on slavery, it would be best to create the circumstances to cause it to die a natural death. We (at least I) can’t know Adams heart except from his letters to Abigail, so it’s impossible to know if this view was entirely pure, or just a little bit mercenary in that while the profit of slavery of slavery was made in the South, the profit of the “slave trade”, the people who rounded them up in Africa and brought them to various southern ports enriched Yankee traders from Boston and New York.
The problem is, all this thinking was based on “slavery” as the colonists knew it to be in the 1770s-1780s, many believing it would simply die out eventually. This thinking abruptly ended in 1794 when a Massachusetts inventor, Eli Whitney, no doubt for personal gain, patented the cotton gin, which caused an explosion for slavery profits, and the need for more, not fewer slaves. Still. fourteen years later, Congress ended the “legal” slave trade in 1808, although black-market slave runners continued to work the coast, especially New Orleans, which we had only recently acquired in 1803. Like wildfire cotton growing expanded to Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, each becoming states by 1818, before the Missouri Compromise in 1820.
Moreover, while the old Virginia-Carolina slave holders had been there for three or more generations dating back to the 1600s, the western cotton belt’s “new rich” were a mix of Americans, much like a gold rush, featuring a lot of second-and-third sons of plantation owners in the East who could not, under existing law, inherit the family plantation, which was reserved for the eldest son. This was called “primogeniture”. They were money-hungry. But also there came first generation land-hungry sons from the later-arriving Scotch-Irish immigrants who entered the Western Carolinas and piedmont Appalachians in the early-to-mid 1700s. One such was Andrew Jackson, whose family didn’t migrate to America until 1765. He was was only 9 when the Declaration was written, but did give service as a teen-aged orderly for the North Carolina militia during the Revolution. And by 1788 at age 21 he was in Nashville, a lawyer, a slave-holder and aspiring politician….with an entirely different view and understanding of the Constitution and how America had evolved from the minds of the Founders.
One of my favorite themes of Andrew Jackson as the quintessential “first generation” American, for both good and ill.
With the cotton gin slavery became a whole new ball game. The Antebellum South rose from the Louisiana Purchase to the Civil War, with two entirely views of life; New Money with what that produces vs Old Money and what that had produced. Still, both built upon the freedoms of association and speech found in the Constitution. Two entirely different cultures arose, each with its own charm, grace and philosophies, yet ostensibly joined by a common moral foundation, except for slavery. It was also in this period, 1805-1830 that slavery began being melded into the fabric of southern religion, which was largely Protestant and Presbyterian in the New South, often at logger heads with the Church of England which dominated in Virginia and the Carolinas. (The southern Baptists did not become dominate until after the Civil War and the old plantation aristocracy had been killed off.) Mark Twain jokingly compared the two as between Heaven and Hell….”Heaven for climate, and Hell for society.” Prophetic perhaps, you would be surprised at how many today now choose Society once they can just convince themselves that either He’ll isn’t really there, or it isn’t that hot down there, or that a thermostat can be purchased at the Gates.
The pre-slavery Antebellum South was largely built by a rush of new-Americans from the Carolinas while the prairie states were first generation for other parts of Europe, but with strong anti-slavery religious biases. The poorer Scotch-Irish who swarmed over the south seemed less disposed against slavery than were German and Scandinavian Europeans who had strong beliefs against it. Those two conflicting worldviews met in Missouri in 1820 when the Congress had to agree to allow Missouri into the union as a slave state contingent on the admission of Maine as free state, essentially establishing a tit-for-tat calculation of statehood that eventually would lead to the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and Roger B Taney’s famous Dred Scot dicta about slavery (one the the Court’s three worst decisions ever…the other two, Roe v Wade, 1973 and National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 2012, where Chief Justice John Roberts decided in a 5-4 vote to change the meaning of Obamacare in order to declare it constitutional). But the Missouri Compromise of 1820 set it all into motion, and perhaps even more ominous, it also caused the forming of the Democratic Party, co-founded by Martin Van Buren, an abolitionist and 6th generation Dutch-New Yorker, and Andrew Jackson, as mentioned, a first generation Scot-Irishman and slaveholder. They saw profit in this arrangement of having a Congress trapped by the immovable object called slavery, and an equally intransigent anti-slave territorial persuasion. Tit-for-tat was good politics, and the idea of Big Government was first cynically hatched.
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This leads us to the Twilight Zone in which we now find ourselves.
On trial here is not the Democratic Party, Leftism, or even William Barr or John Roberts, but our unwillingness (or inability) to complete the puzzle as to why things are happening the way they are today. It all begins with the acknowledgment…to ourselves…that we live in a nation composed of two separate realities now, one based on the original Declaration that all men are created equally, and they are endowed by their Creator with the power to pursue just about anything they desire, including choosing their own leaders and managing their own affairs, while the other is based on the far more ancient reality that a clique of self-appointed guardians of the universe should order their universe for them. Power versus Liberty, and tale of the rise of one is also the tale of the fall or the surrender of the other.
Both now have a different reality, but both trying to command the entire territory, which, for all historical and practicable purposes, is indivisible.
Everything that went on in the past, including that issue of slavery, as just described, is now subject to review in view of that second reality, which in the period 1776 through 1865, just discussed, did not exist. That new reality now concludes that Abraham Lincoln was not a fit man to free the slaves in 1865 because he did not fully wear the weight of the black man’s struggle as that separate reality sees it today and should thereby lose his name on some high school in some silly cubby-hole of that separate universe.
That separate reality is no more than 80 years old. And it spews only hate for all those beliefs and those who believe. We know who the Haters are, and we know who their Messengers, Appeasers, Manipulators, Profiteers, and Protectors are.
If we are going to have a war, let it be with the purveyors of this separate reality. No holds barred. (After all, they set the rules.)