Saturday, February 28, 2015

we wish to be just as it pleased our Creator to have made us, and no avaricious and unmerciful wretches, have any business to make slaves of or hold us in slavery

It has been typical up till now to see a white face on the abolitionist movement, as if those held in slavery and who were in danger of being abducted into slavery had only a supporting role to play in resisting the institution they were the primary victims of.  That is one of the things I hope will be corrected as more primary source material becomes available online.  There must be be huge numbers of documents, written by slaves, former slaves, family and friends of slaves, black ministers, that could tell us a lot about how the most crucial obstacle to resistance to slavery was broken and the slaves, themselves, risked everything to free themselves and others held in slavery.    Here's part of one thing I've found,  from David Walker's 1829 Appeal
Oh! pity us we pray thee, Lord Jesus, Master.—Has Mr. Jefferson declared to the world, that we are inferior to the whites, both in the endowments of our bodies and of minds? It is indeed surprising, that a man of such great learning, combined with such excellent natural parts, should speak so of a set of men in chains. I do not know what to compare it to, unless, like putting one wild deer in an iron cage, where it will be secured, and hold another by the side of the same, then let it go, and expect the one in the cage to run as fast as the one at liberty. So far, my brethren, were the Egyptians from heaping these insults upon their slaves, that Pharaoh's daughter took Moses, a son of Israel, for her own, as will appear by the following.
"And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, [Moses' mother] take this child away, and nurse it for me and I will pay thee thy wages. And the woman took the child [Moses] and nursed it.
"And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said because I drew him out of the water."
In all probability, Moses would have become Prince Regent to the throne, and no doubt, in process of time but he would have been seated on the throne of Egypt. But he had rather suffer shame, with the people of God, than to enjoy pleasures with that wicked people for a season. O! that the colored people were long since of Moses' excellent disposition, instead of courting favor with, and telling news and lies to our natural enemies, against each other—aiding them to keep their hellish chains of slavery upon us. Would we not long before this time, have been respectable men, instead of such wretched victims of oppression as we are? Would they be able to drag our mothers, our fathers, our wives, our children and ourselves, around the world in chains and hand-cuffs as they do, to dig up gold and silver for them and theirs? This question, my brethren, I leave for you to digest; and may God Almighty force it home to your hearts. Remember that unless you are united, keeping your tongues within your teeth, you will be afraid to trust your secrets to each other, and thus perpetuate our miseries under the christians!!!!! ☞ Addition,—Remember, also to lay humble at the feet of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, with prayers and fastings. Let our enemies go on with their butcheries, and at once fill up their cup. Never make an attempt to gain our freedom or natural right, from under our cruel oppressors and murderers, until you see your way clear; when that hour arrives and you move, be not afraid or dismayed; for be you assured that Jesus Christ the king of heaven and of earth who is the God of justice and of armies, will surely go before you. And those enemies who have for hundreds of years stolen our rights, and kept us ignorant of Him and His divine worship, he will remove. Millions of whom, are this day, so ignorant and avaricious, that they cannot conceive how God can have an attribute of justice, and show mercy to us because it pleased Him to make us black—which color, Mr. Jefferson calls unfortunate!!!!!! As though we are not as thankful to our God for having made us as it pleased himself, as they (the whites) are for having made them white. They think because they hold us in their infernal chains of slavery that we wish to be white, or of their color—but they are dreadfully deceived—we wish to be just as it pleased our Creator to have made us, and no avaricious and unmerciful wretches, have any business to make slaves of or hold us in slavery. How would they like for us to make slaves of, or hold them in cruel slavery, and murder them as they do us? But is Mr. Jefferson's assertion true? viz. "that it is unfortunate for us that our Creator has been pleased to make us black." We will not take his say so, for the fact. The world will have an opportunity to see whether it is unfortunate for us, that our Creator has made us darker than the whites.
Fear not the number and education of our enemies, against whom we shall have to contend for our lawful right; guaranteed to us by our Maker; for why should we be afraid, when God is, and will [pg 23]continue (if we continue humble) to be on our side?
The man who would not fight under our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in the glorious and heavenly cause of freedom and of God—to be delivered from the most wretched, abject and servile slavery, that ever a people was afflicted with since the foundation of the world, to the present day—ought to be kept with all of his children or family, in slavery, or in chains, to be butchered by his cruel enemies. ☜
I saw a paragraph, a few years since, in a South Carolina paper, which, speaking of the barbarity of the Turks it said: "The Turks are the most barbarous people in the world—they treat the Greeks more likebrutes than human beings." And in the same paper was an advertisement, which said: "Eight well built Virginia and Maryland Negro fellows and four wenches will positively be sold this day to the highest bidder!" And what astonished me still more was, to see in this same humane paper!! the cuts of three men, with clubs and budgets on their backs, and an advertisement offering a considerable sum of money for their apprehension and delivery. I declare it is really so funny to hear the Southerners and Westerners of this country talk about barbarity, that it is positively, enough to make a man smile.

he typical use that David Walker's words would be put to, today, is to use his attempt to shame Christians to act as the words of the Gospel command them to do to discredit the very arguments he was making.  To expropriate his weapons against slavery for ends he never intended.  Walker was calling on slave holders  to do justice, equally and impartially to treat those they held in slavery as they would have themselves treated, using the Exodus narrative to point out the especially barbaric nature of American slavery.  To reduce his criticism of Christians who were not acting according to the teachings of Jesus into a weapon to attack Christianity would be to negate his attack on slavery.

I used to have an irrational and unfounded faith that the good things that happened in history, especially such rare hard things as the formal abolition of slavery, just, somehow happened and that, as Jurgen Habermas implied, they can happen without regard for the particular means by which they happened in history, in the places those happened.   That was a faith founded merely on a generalized sense of fairness - the idea that it could have happened anywhere if it occurred to the people, since we are all equal and a superficial knowledge of how the anti-slavery struggle happened.  But reading more of the primary material left by those who struggled and, against enormous interests, habits and even such scientific thinking as Jefferson was considered to practice, I think that the sources of their inspiration and, especially, what fueled their resolve to make the enormous sacrifice and effort cannot be pushed aside to make up some generalized assertion that those are unimportant.

I have, a number of times, pointed to the counter document to this one and all of the others I've been presenting this month, the 1865 essay written just as the forces of reaction against emancipation were gathering, by the eminent scientist and Charles Darwin's right hand man and enforcer, Thomas Huxley, in which he asserts, on the basis of natural selection, that abolition would deprive slaves of the protection of those with a financial interest in them and in a modern struggle for existence, based on brain power, they were doomed.   That argument was not a one-off, it became commonly believed in science through those promoting natural selection and its entirely accepted logical conclusion, eugenics, which early became and remained mainstream science.   The eugenics campaigns had some of their greatest successes in ending the lines of members of racial minorities, even, as I've documented, in such places as Vermont, places which, now, are entirely unaware of what was done there in the name of science, modernism and even with the pose of scientific humanism, and that it continues far after that.   I think the idea that we have outgrown the arguments that were effective in forcing legal equality in even the limited way that abolition turned out to be is grotesquely premature and uninformed.   When science can reestablish the worst of racism as it did in the late 19th and 20th centuries, when, even in the post war period, such eminent, post-Nazi era scientists as Francis Crick could campaign for legally enforced racism, calling for inequality in fact and action, we're not safe from that kind of thing.

Note:  I'm considering extending my series about eugenics into the post-war period but it's going to be a major effort and as still living people will be named it's a bit more complex than dealing with those who are safely dead and beyond legal threatening.   Reading Crick going on in letters about how reading Karl Pearson on Francis Galton was inspirational to him, in the 1970s, as he was advocating scientific racism and being lauded as a great humanist is pretty scary. Racism, inequality, is not in the past, it just changed its vocabulary and forms.  

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