Streetwise Professor

July 5, 2021

The Haters Don’t Take These Truths to be Self Evident

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:02 pm

A few posts back I said that the America Founding is a political Rorschach test. Yesterday–4 July 2021–proved that beyond cavil: the haters were out in force. The NYT claimed that flying the American flag is divisive–reading between the lines, what they meant was only knuckle dragging right wingers do it. NPR–your tax dollars at woke!–makes the banal point that people were not equal under the law–some were indeed enslaved–at the time that Jefferson penned “all men are created equal.” It adds that the Declaration includes a racist slur–“Indian Savages.” (I guess I will have to take a sledgehammer to may GGGGGF’s tombstone, which reads: “Here Lies the Body of ABEL SHERMAN Who Fell By The Hand of the Savage,” said Abel being ambushed and scalped by Silverheels on 15 August, 1794.)

The likes of NPR were joined by some of our illustrious solons, including Rep. Cori Bush:

(Pssst. Cori. You’re living on stolen land! Please move!)

And Maxine Waters:

As I said before, this point is so banal. FFS, people (including especially the British) were pointing this out about, oh I dunno, 5 July, 1776.

But it completely misses the truly subversive effect of the Declaration. Accepting it as a statement of founding principle made the reality of slavery untenable. These things could not coexist. The logical tension was too great–one would have to give way. In the end, slavery did. Not easily, but it did.

This was a point Lincoln pounded on in speech after speech, starting from the Lyceum address in 1838, and especially in his debates with Douglas in 1858. If you believe in the Declaration, you must believe slavery is wrong. You cannot have both. Pick one.

That is, the Declaration started two revolutions, one immediate, against the British, and one that took generations to ripen, culminating in the Civil War four score and five years after the first. The very contradiction between ideal and reality that so exercises midwits (feeling generous today) like Bush and Waters and NPR sparked a dialectic that culminated in emancipation. (Leaving, of course, other contradictions, meaning that the dialectic continues to operate.)

The language of the Declaration–“that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”–reveals plainly its natural rights roots. And this is another thing that drives leftists mad–although they are more circumspect in criticizing this aspect of it. The modern left in particular finds natural rights an anathema. (Not all conservatives embrace natural rights, but the modern left loathes the idea.)

Those of you who are old enough might remember Joe Biden’s weird questioning of Clarence Thomas about natural rights at the latter’s confirmation hearing, back when Joe was a compos mentis Senator idiot rather than a non compos mentis President idiot (not feeling that generous). To Biden and his ilk, the idea that rights exist independently of the government is dangerous crazy talk.

Relatedly, the Declaration is subversive because it asserts that the people have the right to revolt against a government that deprives them of their natural rights. It’s that subversive thinking that leads Joe to threaten nuking anyone who dares act upon it.

Lincoln’s treatment of the Declaration–which he venerated, over the Constitution, in fact–represents a far more sophisticated and lucid approach than the simplistic screeds of the NPRs, the Cori Bushes, and the Maxine Waters of the world. (I could expand that list greatly.) Lincoln venerated the principles the Declaration espoused, and dedicated his life to making those principles reality–and eventually gave his life in the attempt. The haters can’t get past the fact that the principles weren’t the reality instantaneously. And many of the haters don’t actually venerate the real principles–the natural rights principles–of the Declaration. In fact, they loathe them.

And that’s the nub of the real division in America today. The Declaration, though a statement of universal principles, is not universally embraced. Not just because the principles were not reality in 1776. But because some venerate the Declaration’s principles of liberty and natural rights–including the right to resist a tyrannical government–and some don’t. What’s happened progressively over the years (pun not intended) is that the ranks of the don’ts have swelled, and the ranks of the dos have thinned. The Fourth of July has therefore become a national Rorschach test that reveals the shift in that balance.

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  1. This revisionism for National Holidays in rampant in the West in an attempt to denigrate the underpinning of national pride. Here in Oz Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet but is invariably called “invasion day’ or ‘Sorry Day’ by the usual whingers.

    Comment by Cliamh Solais — July 5, 2021 @ 9:46 pm

  2. ‘makes the banal point that people were not equal under the law – some were indeed enslaved – at the time that Jefferson penned “all men are created equal.”’

    It may be banal but the point is unanswerable. On this matter Jefferson, and many of his cronies, were indeed hypocritical scoundrels. “Accepting it as a statement of founding principle made the reality of slavery untenable” really won’t do. Slavery was abolished earlier elsewhere without any need for such hypocrisy, nor any need for civil war. Competing interests wrestled politically and the matter was settled peacefully: the new religion of Abolition won.

    If I were an American I would rather make a fuss of the Constitution – a fine document – rather than Tom’s seedy advertising flyer, filled as it is with baseless assertions and simple untruths.

    Still nobody seems to be complaining about Tom’s racist/creedist attack on the Quebecois. Thus: “For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies”: Tom really doesn’t like those Papist Frogs. That is what he meant, isn’t it?

    Comment by dearieme — July 6, 2021 @ 9:37 am

  3. “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”


    The Royal Navy spent 1.7% of UK GDP per year for forty years trying to stop slaves being exported from Africa. If reparations are required, perhaps they should be paid to those who funded that campaign.

    Shame it took so long, prof. Better late than never.

    Comment by philip — July 6, 2021 @ 4:07 pm

  4. @2 dearieme “Slavery was abolished earlier elsewhere without any need for such hypocrisy, nor any need for civil war.

    How many black slaves were present in the UK when slavery was there abolished? The UK itself profited from international trade in slaves until 1833.

    It was English law that allowed importation of slaves to North America prior to our independence. The American Slave Trade Act prohibited American ships from participating in slave transport in 1794. The UK did nothing similar until 1807.

    Any importation of slaves into the US was outlawed in 1808, 25 years before the UK outlawed slavery in its Caribbean possessions.

    Jefferson and the US were faced with an intolerable position of the UK’s making. No magic wand was then available to transform all of culture in a single swoop.

    There may be hypocrisy involved, but it’s less Jefferson’s than in opportunistic moral posing.

    Regarding Canada, one can only admire an early American desire to help them escape POHMery; entrenched slavery by a different name.

    Comment by Pat Frank — July 6, 2021 @ 4:14 pm

  5. “How many black slaves were present in the UK when slavery was there abolished?” It never was abolished there: it had died out by some time around 1200.

    “The UK itself profited from international trade in slaves until 1833.” Nope, the slave trade was abolished in 1807. In 1833 slavery itself was abolished – which meant principally in the Caribbean and also South Africa.

    “Any importation of slaves into the US was outlawed in 1808”: outlawed indeed, but of course not stopped.

    “Jefferson and the US were faced with an intolerable position”: oh come now. Ben Franklin changed his mind and freed his slaves. Jefferson was free to do the same, and Washington, and, and, and. Hell, ten of the first dozen Presidents owned slaves.

    Comment by dearieme — July 6, 2021 @ 5:22 pm

  6. @5 dearieme, again importation of slaves to North America prior to our independence was under English law, not American.

    Following 1784, the US population in the South was entrenched in a slave economy and a slave-owning culture of long standing. The US itself was faced with a large domestic slave population.

    There was no instant cure for that situation and to suppose otherwise is mindless.

    Civil war over slavery was inevitable, apart from the alternative of wholesale secession.

    Following 1808, importation of slaves to the US <a href=""was made illegal.

    Obviously, I wrote of Jefferson as president, i.e., “to transform all of culture” not as a slave-owner.

    Comment by Pat Frank — July 6, 2021 @ 6:49 pm

  7. Oh, red indians were savages, absolutely. I guess the french now have to denounce their voltaire for his candide – since he does specifically calls his idealistic hero a savage. our “progressive betters’ are nothing but humorless literal bores.

    all the current wave of black liberation did (I consciously removed the quotes, on a slight chance there are some people in it that seriously think it such), is to ensconce popular negative opinion they ostensibly fight against. seeing the riots (or being a victim of them), the crime, the insane accusations, the savagery (yes, and to see examples one only has to read crime chronicle in NY) one can’t help but think the stereotypes are just polishing the grim reality, and the truth is much more brutal.

    one big regret is the current population of USA doesn’t have the courage, the spirit of independence and decisiveness of the Founders

    Comment by Tatyana — July 7, 2021 @ 7:43 am

  8. nice try, Tatyana, it was Rousseau, not Voltaire, who talked about the bon sauvage/ noble savage.

    Comment by [email protected] — July 7, 2021 @ 11:57 am

  9. @8 the correction doesn’t change Tatyana’s point. Voltaire’s Candide is a contemplation of civilized savagery. Perhaps Tatyana had that in mind.

    Comment by Pat Frank — July 7, 2021 @ 1:10 pm

  10. “There was no instant cure for that situation”: but no cure was even attempted, instant or otherwise.

    “apart from the alternative of wholesale secession”: although no effective action was taken towards trying to solve the slavery problem, suddenly huge piles of cash and hundreds of thousands of lives were made available to solve the secession problem. What a butcher’s bill.

    Comment by dearieme — July 7, 2021 @ 4:46 pm

  11. My bad: I was thinking of L’Ingénu, or Huron.

    Comment by Tatyana — July 7, 2021 @ 4:47 pm

  12. @10 dearieme, “but no cure was even attempted, instant or otherwise.

    A cure was attempted at the writing of the Constitution. The debate resulted in the 3/5 compromise. Without that much, the slave-holding states would not have joined the Union. They’d have either retained autonomy as independent slave-holding republics or perhaps joined in a union of their own.

    You should understand that in the 18th and half of the 19th century, the states considered themselves as independent though confederated. Residents saw themselves as citizens of their state first, then of the US.

    Adamant insistence on slavery commanded the butcher’s bill. One which Americans paid to rid themselves of their malign inheritance. Promoted, I add, by 150 years of English Law. One set for home, the other for the colonies.

    Comment by Pat Frank — July 7, 2021 @ 9:45 pm

  13. I would like to tweet this article out, but I can’t. Twitter banned me for telling the truth.

    Comment by Richard Whitney — July 9, 2021 @ 3:25 pm

  14. “A cure was attempted at the writing of the Constitution.” No, that was an accommodation, not a cure. Perfectly reasonable given the ambition to form an all-embracing federation, but no cure.

    It was a failure of politics under the Constitution that ended up presenting the butcher’s bill. Fine document though it was, it was presumably largely to blame for that bill.

    You could argue that the Constitution offered no solution, or help towards finding a solution, when a new religious enthusiasm – abolition – swept much of the nation. Will it do any better when faced with Wokeism?

    Comment by dearieme — July 10, 2021 @ 5:31 am

  15. dearie, did your lack of Constitution do better when encountered with wokism?
    in fact, what advantage you got from your monarchy when your sore excuse of an empire submitted to the yoke of socialists in disguise of “Labour” after the War? nice gratitude you displayed to Mr. Churchill for saving your collective ass and leading the nation to victory.

    for almost 70 yrs you have been a world’s joke. elites hobnobbing with arab sheikhs while pakistanis ruling (and raping) your countryside, your healthcare system prematurely buried millions, you are a nation under surveillance (even in 2006 when I was in london, the cameras were everywhere, up to every second building in the street), your manufacturing and formerly famous engineering is gone with the wind, englishman’s home is not emphatically his castle, but a “council”s property and liberties are an empty word.
    your knives are outlawed, let alone guns! you have no self-respect left, only dreams of your former glory.

    and you try to lecture us?!

    Comment by Tatyana — July 10, 2021 @ 7:16 am

  16. @14 dearieme, “No, that was an accommodation…” An accommodation accepted because the attempt at cure failed.

    The US Constitution begins, “We the People of the United States…” That defines the cure, seen in the larger context of the political humanism that governs both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

    The fact that initiating the full cure took a further 60 years and its completion another 110 is evidence of cultural viscosity.

    As to wokeism (unreason-on-a-stick), that war is not yet over in the US. As Tatyana has observed, an extreme of decay threatens the UK. However, if the recent gigantic demonstrations against covidism harbinge a true change, we may see a newly vigorous UK emerge. One can only hope.

    Comment by Pat Frank — July 10, 2021 @ 5:48 pm

  17. Just came across:
    And our UK commenters delude themselves they have every right to criticize US!

    Comment by Tatyana — July 12, 2021 @ 4:31 pm

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