Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Part 4

Dave Killion — September 2, 2015

The Victoria LBC recently discussed “The Real History of Slavery”, which is the third essay in Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals“. As per the Kindle reading app, here are some popular highlights;

“…racism was neither necessary nor sufficient for slavery, who’s origins antedated racism by centuries. Racism was a result, not a cause, of slavery and not all societies that enslaved people of another race became pervaded with racism to the extent that the American south did.”

“People were enslaved because they were vulnerable, not because of how they looked.”

“…within Western civilization, the principal impetus for the abolition of slavery came first from very conservative religious activists – people who would today be called “the religious right.” Clearly, the story is not “politically correct” in today’s terms. Hence it is ignored, as if it never happened.”

In addition, I found the following passages notable;

“Over the centuries, as more and more territories around the world consolidated into nation states with their own armies and navies, raiding those territories to capture and enslave the people who lived within them became more hazardous in itself and also risked military retaliation against the countries from which the raiders came.”

“When the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire first raised the issue of abolishing slavery with the sultan in 1840, he reported this response: … I have been heard with extreme astonishment accompanied with a smile at a proposition for destroying an institution closely inter-woven with the frame of society in this country, and intimately connected with the law and with the habits and even the religion of all classes, from the Sultan himself on down to the lowest peasant.”  (Personal note – I found this striking because of how completely the prevailing sentiment has changed concerning slavery. And if this can be done with slavery, it can be done with tyranny.)

“It was the abolitionists doctrinaire stances  and heedless disregard of consequences, both of their policy in their rhetoric, which marginalized them, even in the North and even among those who were seeking to find ways to phase out the institution of slavery, so as to free those being held in bondage without unleashing a war between the states or a war between the races.”

“… nowhere did Burke view this as an abstract question without considering the social context and the consequences and dangers of that context. He rejected the idea that one could simply free the slaves by fiat as a matter of abstract principal, since he abhorred  abstract principles on political issues in general. Thomas Jefferson likewise regarded emancipation, all by itself, as being more like abandonment than liberation for people “who’s habits have been formed into slavery.” “

“Even at the individual level, it was not always legally possible for a slaveowner to simply set a slave free, for authorities had to approve in many states. When the motion was introduced into the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769 to allow slave owners to free their slaves unilaterally – a motion seconded by Thomas Jefferson – there was anger at such a suggestion and the motion was roundly defeated. An unlimited power to release slaves into the larger society was considered too dangerous to leave in private hands.”

“In later times, as slavery became evermore repugnant to people throughout Western civilization and even beyond, apologists  for the South would stress other factors.” (Personal note – I think Sowell might be in error here. One can find instances in which contemporaries of the ‘Civil War’ who were strident critics of slavery insist that the Federal Government’s motivations had very little to do with slavery, and a great deal to do with cementing federal power. Lysander Spooner is a good example.)

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