We have, thus far, established that Ron Paul's version of the Civil War is wrong on chronology, and wrong on economics. But what of Paul's contention that slavery was ended in every other country without the violence that swept over America:
Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I'm advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. You, you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean, the hatred and all that existed. So every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war.
I think we can grant the technicality here--that the specific sort of violence. a civil war launched by slave-holders to establish an empire of White Supremacy, makes America different. But if Paul's point is simply one of nomenclature, or specimen, it doesn't has little import on his greater argument--that the horrific violence that attended America in 1860 was, somehow, preventable.
I'm fairly sure, for instance, were we to use the terminology of some of Paul's fellow travelers "The War Of Northern Aggression" his point would remain. His argument is about violence and war--that "every other major country" somehow managed to purge itself with a minimum of bloodshed or through magnanimous nonviolence. As with virtually everything else Paul says about the Civil War, the facts have taken leave.
The obvious counter-example is Haiti, where black people fought a bloody two year war of liberation against the French, and then a second war against the French under Napoleon. The Haitians triumphed in each instance and thus authored one of the few (if only) successful slave rebellion in world history. I spent some time, via twitter, talking with Laurent Dubois, author of Avengers Of The New World, one of the most heralded histories of the Haitian Revolution. We have a source here putting casualties at over 100,000, in era before the minie ball.
But in talking to Dubois, (I really wish I had storyfied our convo) it became clear that comparing figures obscures a larger reality--from the time slavery was introduced to Haiti to the time it left, there was violence. Slavery is violence and any survey of its history violence at its onset, violence at its height, and violence attending its end.
The most important was the Baptist War of 1831 in Jamaica, a full-scale slave rebellion that was put down thanks to the maintenance of a force of British regulars in Jamaica, in recognition of several prior wars and rebellions by the slaves (and the populations of free blacks who needed to be bought off in order to maintain peace). The Baptist War was the one that broke the system and led to nominal emancipation in 1834 and freedom in 1838. Simply put, insurrection and the inefficiency of a slave labor system had made slave labor too expensive, the sugar economy of the British Empire was in ruins, and it was recognized that garrisoning every slave society in the Empire would be necessary to preserve it, and simply too expensive for the state to maintain.
"[The] prospering coffee planters in Sao Paulo province seemed determined to resist all antislavery measures until 1887, when slaves themselves took the initiative and began to flee the great coffee fazendas (farms). Nothing in the history of slavery (except in the Hebrew Bible) approximates this mass exodus of thousands of bondspeople, who had no invading army, as in the American Civil War, to give them shelter. Antonio Bento, a radical pentecostal abolitionist - a Brazilian version of America's John Brown - encouraged slaves to escape and created a large secret network that provided shelter on trains and in shanty towns and in some cases even found jobs (326).
Bolívar once again issued a manifesto explaining his view of the failure of the republican cause in Venezuela. His famous Letter from Jamaica, though ostensibly written to one man, was an appeal to Great Britain specifically and the European powers in general to aid the cause of Spanish American independence, but it found no significant response. So he turned to the small and isolated republic of Haiti, that had freed itself from French rule, but being composed of mostly former slaves, received little aid from either the United States or Europe. Bolívar and other Venezuelan and New Granadan exiles were warmly received by the Haitian president Alexandre Pétion.
The growing exile community would receive money, volunteers and weapons from the Haitian president enabling them to resume plans to continue the struggle for independence. There was debate, however, over who should be in charge, but his ability to win over Pétion and a Curaçaoan sea merchant, Luis Brión (he is traditionally referred to by the Spanish form of his name), who had just acquired a much-needed warship in England to aid the embattled Cartagenan Republic, forced the other Venezuelan leaders to grudgingly accept his leadership. Pétion, for his part, convinced Bolívar to expand the fight for independence to include the liberation of slaves.
If you are faced with a system which was--at its core--rooted in horrific torture. murder, and human trafficking, and then told that it was all made to go away via faerie dust, you should be skeptical. If someone then generalizes and says that this system was ended everywhere by such means, you should be double so. Ron Paul's rendition of history depends on a lack of that skepticism among his audience, and a faithful belief that they know nothing of Nanny, Toussaint, or Zumbi and have no sincere interest in finding out. Ron Paul is banking on your incuriosity.
We should always be weary of lapsing into morbid worship of violence, and we should be equally weary of rendering violence as the only shade of resistance. I learned that lesson many years ago, as a Malcolmite. Part of my intense scrutiny of Paul is that (as I've said) I see something of an earlier self in his young followers. I know what it is to hunger for a Comfortable History, but more importantly I know what it means to attempt to shoehorn history into the your particular ideological values.
I wrote, in comments, the other day about being a young Malcolm disciple, and having to come to grips with all that he was wrong about, with having to say, "No, it would not have been intelligent to start running guns to Selma. And, yes it was right, ruthless, and effective to meet Southern resistance with nonviolence." That notion ran counter to all the values of my family, my neighborhood and my life. It was deeply wounding, for it meant abandonment of a One True Belief System. But it exposed to me that a strange brew of saviorism, and presentist history can make you a lazy thinker. Laziness, too, was against the values of my world.
The Civil War didn't happen to justify or nullify Iraq. It can inform your chosen ideology, but it can't make it right. History has to be more than debate club and extrapolation. Malcolm X and Dessalines can not be gods.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle and the forthcoming Between the World and Me.
I traveled to every country on earth. In some cases, the adventure started before I could get there.
Last summer, my Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca landed at Malabo International Airport in Equatorial Guinea, and I completed a 50-year mission: I had officially, and legally, visited every recognized country on earth.
This means 196 countries: the 193 members of the United Nations, plus Taiwan, Vatican City, and Kosovo, which are not members but are, to varying degrees, recognized as independent countries by other international actors.
In five decades of traveling, I’ve crossed countries by rickshaw, pedicab, bus, car, minivan, and bush taxi; a handful by train (Italy, Switzerland, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, and Greece); two by riverboat (Gabon and Germany); Norway by coastal steamer; Gambia and the Amazonian parts of Peru and Ecuador by motorized canoe; and half of Burma by motor scooter. I rode completely around Jamaica on a motorcycle and Nauru on a bicycle. I’ve also crossed three small countries on foot (Vatican City, San Marino, and Liechtenstein), and parts of others by horse, camel, elephant, llama, and donkey. I confess that I have not visited every one of the 7,107 islands in the Philippine archipelago or most of the more than 17,000 islands constituting Indonesia, but I’ve made my share of risky voyages on the rickety inter-island rustbuckets you read about in the back pages of the Times under headlines like “Ship Sinks in Sulu Sea, 400 Presumed Lost.”
According to Franklin, what mattered in business was humility, restraint, and discipline. But today’s Type-A MBAs would find him qualified for little more than a career in middle management.
When he retired from the printing business at the age of 42, Benjamin Franklin set his sights on becoming what he called a “Man of Leisure.” To modern ears, that title might suggest Franklin aimed to spend his autumn years sleeping in or stopping by the tavern, but to colonial contemporaries, it would have intimated aristocratic pretension. A “Man of Leisure” was typically a member of the landed elite, someone who spent his days fox hunting and affecting boredom. He didn’t have to work for a living, and, frankly, he wouldn’t dream of doing so.
Having worked as a successful shopkeeper with a keen eye for investments, Franklin had earned his leisure, but rather than cultivate the fine arts of indolence, retirement, he said, was “time for doing something useful.” Hence, the many activities of Franklin’s retirement: scientist, statesman, and sage, as well as one-man civic society for the city of Philadelphia. His post-employment accomplishments earned him the sobriquet of “The First American” in his own lifetime, and yet, for succeeding generations, the endeavor that was considered his most “useful” was the working life he left behind when he embarked on a life of leisure.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
Climate change means the end of our world, but the beginning of another—one with a new set of species and ecosystems.
A few years ago in a lab in Panama, Klaus Winter tried to conjure the future. A plant physiologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, he planted seedlings of 10 tropical tree species in small, geodesic greenhouses. Some he allowed to grow in the kind of environment they were used to out in the forest, around 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Others, he subjected to uncomfortably high temperatures. Still others, unbearably high temperatures—up to a daily average temperature of 95 degrees and a peak of 102 degrees. That’s about as hot as Earth has ever been.
It’s also the kind of environment tropical trees have a good chance of living in by the end of this century, thanks to climate change. Winter wanted to see how they would do.
A tattooed, profanity-loving Lutheran pastor believes young people are drawn to Jesus, tradition, and brokenness.
“When Christians really critique me for using salty language, I literally don’t give a shit.”
This is what it’s like to talk to Nadia Bolz-Weber, the tattooed Lutheran pastor, former addict, and head of a Denver church that’s 250 members strong. She’s frank and charming, and yes, she tends to cuss—colorful words pepper her new book, Accidental Saints. But she also doesn’t put a lot of stock in her own schtick.
“Oh, here’s this tattooed pastor who is a recovering alcoholic who used to be a stand-up comic—that’s interesting for like five minutes,” she said. “The fact that people want to hear from me—that, I really feel, has less to do with me and more to do with a Zeitgeist issue.”
The tension between religious liberty and same-sex marriage may eventually come to a head in the courts, but probably not through the Kentucky clerk’s case.
As Rowan County clerk Kim Davis crawls further and further out on a limb, Supreme Court experts agree that she has little chance of prevailing. District Judge David Bunning, on August 12 ordered Davis, in her capacity as county clerk, to issue marriage licenses to all couples who meet the statutory criteria for marriage in Kentucky—a definition that, since the Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, includes same-sex couples.
Davis has refused, citing “the authority of God.” The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, denied her emergency request for a stay. This throws the case back to the Sixth Circuit, which will hear the appeal of Judge Bunning’s order. Assuming she loses in the Sixth Circuit—a fairly good assumption—she would then have the alternative of petitioning the Supreme Court to hear her religious freedom claim. The Court will eventually hear a case about religious freedom and same-sex marriage, but I don’t think it will be this one.
Massive hurricanes striking Miami or Houston. Earthquakes leveling Los Angeles or Seattle. Deadly epidemics. Meet the “maximums of maximums” that keep emergency planners up at night.
For years before Hurricane Katrina, storm experts warned that a big hurricane would inundate the Big Easy. Reporters noted that the levees were unstable and could fail. Yet hardly anyone paid attention to these Cassandras until after the levees had broken, the Gulf Coast had been blown to pieces, and New Orleans sat beneath feet of water.
The wall-to-wall coverage afforded to the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina reveals the sway that a deadly act of God or man can hold on people, even 10 years later. But it also raises uncomfortable questions about how effectively the nation is prepared for the next catastrophe, whether that be a hurricane or something else. There are plenty of people warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but that doesn’t mean that the average citizen or most levels of the government are anywhere near ready for them.
A federal judge in Kentucky held the Rowan County clerk in contempt of court on Thursday. Federal marshals escorted her to jail immediately after the hearing, the AP reported.
Davis had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a federal district court order, citing her Christian faith. In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples could not be denied the right to marry.
As my colleague Garrett explained yesterday, Davis’s appeal was doomed to fail from the start. The Supreme Court denied her request for an emergency stay of the lower court’s order on Monday. Davis continued to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples after the highest court weighed in, prompting today’s hearing.
Some people see threats even when none are present. Strangely, it can make them more creative.
For much of his life, Isaac Newton seemed like he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In 1693, the collapse finally arrived: After not sleeping for five days straight, Newton sent letters accusing his friends of conspiring against him. He was refraining from publishing books, he said at one point that year, “for fear that disputes and controversies may be raised against me by ignoramuses.”
Newton was, by many accounts, highly neurotic. Brilliant, but neurotic nonetheless. He was prone to depressive jags, mistrust, and angry outbursts.
Unfortunately, his genius might have been rooted in his maladjustments. His mental state led him to brood over past mistakes, and eventually, a breakthrough would dawn. “I keep the subject constantly before me,” he once said, “and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”
In continuing to tinker with the universe she built eight years after it ended, J.K. Rowling might be falling into the same trap as Star Wars’s George Lucas.
September 1st, 2015 marked a curious footnote in Harry Potter marginalia: according to the series’ elaborate timeline, rarely referenced in the books themselves, it was the day James S. Potter, Harry’s eldest son, started school at Hogwarts. It’s not an event directly written about in the books, nor one of particular importance, but their creator, J.K. Rowling, dutifully took to Twitter to announce what amounts to footnote details: that James was sorted into House Gryffindor, just like his father, to the disappointment of Teddy Lupin, Harry’s godson, apparently a Hufflepuff.
It’s not earth-shattering information that Harry’s kid would end up in the same house his father was in, and the Harry Potter series’ insistence on sorting all of its characters into four broad personality quadrants largely based on their family names has always struggled to stand up to scrutiny. Still, Rowling’s tweet prompted much garment-rending among the books’ devoted fans. Can a tweet really amount to a piece of canonical information for a book? There isn’t much harm in Rowling providing these little embellishments years after her books were published, but even idle tinkering can be a dangerous path to take, with the obvious example being the insistent tweaks wrought by George Lucas on his Star Wars series.