Monday, February 2, 2015

An Emancipation Proclamation Three Centuries Before Lincoln's

I mentioned the other day that Nicolas Copernicus dedicated his book in which he described and argued that the earth went round the sun to Pope Paul III.  The same Pope issued one of the first condemnations of slavery in the New World and declared those enslaved were free in 1537 . In that encyclical,  Sublimus Dei, he said.

The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God's word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.

We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.

Note that it wasn't only Christians among the Indians who were to be left to "enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property"; nor in any way enslaved,  but those "even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ".   That's about three and a quarter centuries before Abraham Lincoln issued The Emancipation Proclamation, and almost as long as he made his great declaration of a slave's right to eat the bread that SHE earned by her own labor.   That Paul III's encyclical was not nearly as effective as Lincoln's was due to the fact that The New World was remote and he didn't have the Army of the Republic to enforce it.   It shouldn't ever be forgotten that a lot of the intent of Lincoln's proclamation and related promises were also deferred by the end of Reconstruction, Jim Crow and other betrayals of the promise of emancipation.

You can profitably compare the intentions of both Paul III and Abraham Lincoln with what the atheist icon,  Thomas Huxley, said of Lincoln's emancipation in 1865.

QUASHIE'S plaintive inquiry, "Am I not a man and a brother?" seems at last to have received its final reply–the recent decision of the fierce trial by battle on the other side of the Atlantic fully concurring with that long since delivered here in a more peaceful way.

The question is settled; but even those who are most thoroughly convinced that the doom is just, must see good grounds for repudiating half the arguments which have been employed by the winning side; and for doubting whether its ultimate results will embody the hopes of the victors, though they may more than realise the fears of the vanquished. It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men; but no rational man, cognisant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still  less the superior, of the average white man. And, if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favour, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites. The highest places in the hierarchy of civilisation will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins, though it is by no means necessary that they should be restricted to the lowest.

But whatever the position of stable equilibrium into which the laws of social gravitation may bring the negro, all responsibility for the result will henceforward lie between nature and him. The white man may wash his hands of it, and the Caucasian conscience be void of reproach for evermore. And this, if we look to the bottom of the matter, is the real justification for the abolition policy.

I will mention that Huxley put about the worst and most cynical spin on one of the most sacred of acts ever undertaken by an American president, clearly understood by Abraham Lincoln, the slaves effected by it and all of those who had worked for centuries for it as an act in accord with the law of God for the good of those who had been enslaved.   It  ranks right down there with what those who opposed it had to say for sheer repulsiveness.

It wasn't many years after that that his close and much admired scientific colleague, Ernst Haeckel,  would rank the human species according to racial inferiority and superiority and anticipate the total genocide of inferior groups by those he put over them, the Europeans as the champions.  In his History of Creation he anticipated that the people Paul III was talking about as our equals would be extinct, largely at the hands of "superior" Europeans, something which he saw as the inevitable result of natural selection, which Huxley was also clearly counting on in that passage.  And that greatest of all icons of atheists, Charles Darwin, both cited Haeckel as valid science but also enlisted Hermann Schaaffhausen in his eager anticipation of that genocide.

 At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. 'Anthropological Review,' April 1867, p. 236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

I will mention that as far as I can tell from trying to research that, Schaaffhausen didn't say anything like that and Darwin was misrepresenting him to present genocide as a natural phenomenon, which was inevitable, while not mentioning who was going to be doing the killing.  Haeckel was more explicit on that count.

You can read all of those men so much admired by the antagonists of Christianity and see that I'm not misrepresenting them.   And anyone who isn't lying about it would see that Paul III and Abraham Lincoln were the figures you could derive anything you can honestly define as liberalism from.   Why that is the case can also be seen in Paul III's encyclical.  He cites the definitive difference between people as objects to be ranked according to worth of "fitness" and beings endowed by God with rights and responsibilities.

The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office 'Go ye and teach all nations.' He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.

As those who didn't see Indians, Africans and other people as possessing the gift of equal rights proved, they felt little to no responsibility to them as people whose rights they had to respect.  Thomas Huxley gave it rather crudely - I always imagine him as being a silver tongued trash talker sounding like Christopher Hitchens, now - once relieved of their free labor, forced from them, white people were free to not worry about the welfare of former slaves and they could use their giant brains to .... well, he doesn't say it but obviously wipe them out as not useful to them.   Yet Huxley is held up as some kind of icon of liberalism while the very thing that makes liberal treatment a commandment is seen as everything that liberalism is to despise and subdue.

Update:  Answer to Hate mail - I'm not going to spend the rest of my life being silent about these things because there are a lot of people who can't distinguish between the fact of evolution and  Darwinism, which is one attempt to account for how evolution happens.  Through studying Darwinism I've become completely skeptical of the ability of human science to ever have an adequate explanation of how and why the stupendously large, long and complex phenomenon of evolution happened and presumably still happens.  That doesn't make it any less of a fact, though it is ideologically inconvenient for people who want to make ideological use of evolution.   I won't be limited by what I look at by common ignorance in the allegedly educated class who think they understand what they don't.


  1. Especially after reading Lessl, I realize most people's idea of science is what they read in popular versions: and even if those versions are by Einstein or Hawking, they are badly distorted in one way or another.

    Which is fine, everything is distorted, including religion: but the distortions in religion today get the baby thrown out with the bathwater. In science, the distortions become the undeniable truth which must be defended to the last breath. Just like, you know, religion.

    But you can't say that, because religion is what's wrong with the world, not science. Of course what's really wrong with the world is how people want to mistreat others, and the ways they find to justify it (or just do it anyway). But seeing that means seeing your complicity in it, and as the poet said, humankind cannot bear very much reality.

  2. I don't think there has been anything as liberating as the realization that a lot of what I'd learned as the common received "TRUTH" of modernism was as false as the worst of some of fundamentalism. I'm not sure if I'd think there was more of a chance for a fundamentalist who took the Hebrew-Christian scriptures seriously to arrive at liberalism than for a materialist to do so but I am sure there is everything necessary in the scriptures to do that and nothing in materialism that would. At best materialism can produce an indifferent libertarianism which is what the pseudo-left is based in. Alternet is such an obvious expression of that as are several other webloids and blogs.