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Frederick Douglass, The Columbian Orator, and the 1619 Project

On September 3, 1838, the most famous slave in American history began his escape to freedom. Dressed as a free black sailor and equipped with forged identification papers, Frederick Douglass fled Maryland. Remarkably, this fugitive carried with him a book, which was perhaps his sole possession: The Columbian Orator.

In his three autobiographies, written over the five decades of a very public life, Douglass consistently paid tribute to The Columbian Orator. He describes the book as an intellectual turning point that liberated him from the mental shackles of slavery. Indeed, the connection between slavery of the mind and slavery of the body is a recurrent theme in Douglass’s political thought. In his autobiographical Narrative (1845), he explains:

I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man.

Thus, reading and education were the first steps in his journey to freedom. Considered a quick learner by his Baltimore owner Lucrezia Auld, who taught him his ABCs, the lessons abruptly stopped when Thomas Auld discovered that his wife was teaching their slave, something strictly prohibited at the time. But Douglass developed creative stratagems to learn to read and write, including trading bread to “poor white boys” in exchange for lessons. His remarkable account of his early self-education in these autobiographies includes a touching report of his companions’ universal sympathy to his plight as a slave. He states that he did not “remember to have met with a boy…who defended the slave system; but I have often had boys to console me, with the hope that something would yet occur, by which I might be made free. Over and over again, they have told me, that they believed I had as good a right to be free as they had….” Contrary to our current obsession with racial consciousness, he never considered that these young boys, being white, cannot understand him, nor does he doubt their sincerity.

After hearing some “little boys,” perhaps some of the “hungry little urchins” who taught him to read, reciting pieces from The Columbian Orator, Douglass purchased a copy of the book for fifty hard-earned cents. He studied it closely. He was most moved by a fictional dialogue in the book between a master and slave who had been recaptured after three attempted escapes. The master upbraids him for ingratitude, claiming that he had generously provided all of life’s necessities. The slave is then allowed to speak freely in response, and effectively refutes all of the master’s arguments. In his second autobiography, My Bondage, My Freedom, Douglass observed that, “The master was vanquished at every turn in the argument; and seeing himself to be thus vanquished, he generously and meekly emancipates the slave, with his best wishes for his prosperity.” Recalling his first foiled escape attempt, Douglass again mentioned the inspiration of The Columbian Orator: “That…gem of a book….with its eloquent orations and spicy dialogues, denouncing oppression and slavery—telling of what had been dared, done and suffered by men, to obtain the inestimable boon of liberty—was still fresh in my memory.”

The Columbian Orator was a collection of political writings, published in 1797, and edited by Caleb Bingham, a devout Congregationalist, New England educational reformer, and valedictorian at Dartmouth. Politically, Bingham was a Jeffersonian in a Federalist region. As clearly reflected in his book, he shared his party’s enthusiasm for the French Revolution and the universal rights of man. He displayed a life-long sympathy to Native Americans and opened the first private school for women in Boston. In its time, The Columbian Orator was so popular that it went through 23 editions. Consisting of 84 short selections of inspiring political speeches, poems, and dialogues, it included such diverse authors as Socrates, Philo, John Milton, Cicero, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. Though supportive of the ideals of the French Revolution, it also included British statesmen who were sympathetic to the colonies and the cause of human rights, some of whom made a lasting impression on Douglass. Its pedagogical intent was to prepare the youth of the revolutionary generation for the responsibilities of republican citizenship. In so doing, it united a concern for both elocution style and moral substance. Its ethical, religious, and political teachings drew upon four great traditions that Bingham believed had shaped the American mind: Enlightenment rationalism, Greco-Roman republicanism, British constitutionalism, and protestant Christianity.

The historian David Blight, who was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his outstanding biography of Frederick Douglass, sums up the legacy of The Columbian Orator as “more than a collection of stiff Christian moralisms for America’s youth. It was the creation of a school reformer of decidedly antislavery sympathies, a man determined to democratize education and instill in America’s youth the immediate heritage of the American Revolution the habits and structures of republicanism.” And historian John Stauffer notes in his book Giants—The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln that it “was one of two books that started Douglass on his journey to eloquence and freedom…. The other book was the King James Bible.” Given its antislavery message, The Columbian Orator was placed on a blacklist of abolitionist works and banned by prominent southern newspapers during the sectional crisis of the 1850s.

What The Columbian Orator reminds us, and what Douglass himself passionately argued over a lifetime of advocacy, is that the United States was a nation with a complex history, that it was based on great ideals that it had failed to live up to. This is quite the opposite of the view presented in New York Times’ 1619 Project, the stated goal of which is “to reframe American history, making explicit how slavery is the foundation on which this country is built.” According to the Times, such reframing is necessary since slavery “grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional.” The very title of the project comes from the Times’ extraordinary claim that 1619—the date that the first Africans were brought to Virginia—should replace 1776 as the symbolic birth of the American experiment. Emblazoned in bold print on the first page of the lead article is the cynical declaration that, “Our founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written.” This brash assertion confuses the important distinction between principle and practice made by Douglass and many of the Founders themselves. On the contrary, as confirmed by The Columbian Orator and Douglass’s own testimony, there were significant antislavery voices in America who hoped to close the gap between the ideal of equality and the reality of slavery. The struggle for equality would nonetheless continue, leading ultimately to the Civil War and the cost of over 700,000 American lives.

As Andrew Sullivan has aptly noted, the Times has exchanged news reporting for political activism. Its message is that the stated ideals of the United States were never sincere, but were just a cover for racism—and that such structural racism and insincerity continues today. To propagate its message, the Times offers resources, websites, and links for teachers to re-educate impressionable students about a Manichean racial struggle that has no foreseeable end. In this narrative, all whites were oppressors or complicit in oppression and the stated principles of the Revolution were a mask to conceal the operations of naked power.

This re-framing of American history by the 1619 Project is not entirely new. Ironically, the Times is uncritically repeating Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s opinion in the infamous case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857. Surveying the American Founding, Taney similarly concluded that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.” Taney’s pro-slavery narrative, repudiated by Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Republican Party at the time, often reads like contemporary critical race theory: “This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals treated as well as in politics which no one thought of disputing or supposed to be open to dispute, and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted… without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.” But as the popularity of The Columbian Orator and as Douglass’s experience both make clear, Taney was not reporting “fixed and universal” opinions.

For Douglass, the struggle for equality and human rights transcended racial lines. Given his view of our common humanity, he extolled the speeches of British and Irish statesmen found in The Columbian Orator for helping to articulate and support the cause of liberty. In particular, he lauded the efforts for Irish emancipation, because they contained “a bold and powerful denunciation of oppression, and a most brilliant vindication of the rights of man.” These speeches, he confesses, were “choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance.” Douglass has no notion like the contemporary one of “whiteness,” which reduces all thinking to racial struggle. Nor does he worry about “cultural appropriation” in his appeal to western ideals. On the contrary, he considered the British and Irish statesmen as fellow travelers in the cause of universal human rights. Appealing to our common humanity rather than particular racial consciousness, he confessed: “The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery and a powerful vindication of human rights.”

While prophetically rebuking America for its hypocrisy in failing to live up to its stated ideals, the mature Frederick Douglass nonetheless struggled mightily to distinguish between principle and practice in American politics. Repudiating the proslavery re-interpretation of the Constitution advanced by Taney and southern Fire-Eaters, on March 26, 1860 he stated:

[T]he constitutionality of slavery can be made out only by disregarding the plain and common sense reading of the Constitution itself; by discrediting and casting away as worthless the most beneficent rules of legal interpretation; by ruling the Negro outside of these beneficent rules; by claiming everything for slavery; by denying everything for freedom; by assuming that the Constitution does not mean what it says, and that it says what it does not mean; [and] by disregarding the written Constitution. It is in this mean, contemptible, and underhanded method that the American Constitution is pressed into the service of slavery.

Although the 1619 Project may contribute to our understanding of slavery and the African-American experience, its major premise that our founding ideals were insincere, and that slavery was the foundation and motivation for our regime, ignores antislavery voices of the Founding era in works like The Columbian Orator that Douglass affirmed so eloquently in his biographies.

As fate would have it, a young Abraham Lincoln was reading the Columbian Orator around the same time as Frederick Douglass. The two would famously meet on three different occasions during the Civil War. For both, that treasured book would express the principles they carried with them throughout their lives. Although Lincoln and Douglass differed over how best to achieve black freedom, they shared a common antislavery vision of the American idea that was clearly reflected in Bingham’s now forgotten book. This vision of universal human rights based on our common humanity was the common ground shared by these two antislavery giants in American history, and it is the common ground now renounced by the 1619 Project.

 

Joseph R. Fornieri is a Professor of Political Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology and author of several books on Abraham Lincoln’s political thought and statesmanship, including Abraham Lincoln, Philosopher Statesman. He is also the Founder and Director of the non-partisan Center for Statesmanship, Law, and Liberty. 

Comments

  1. The 1619 project seems another fundamentally racist endeavour to demonise and denigrate everything about western civilisation by focusing exclusively on racism.

    Two salient facts not mentioned in the article is that undermine the narrative in the 1619 project that the sale of 20 slaves at that date was the start of american slavery slavery was an established practice widespread within the americas before any europeans arived (even the vikings!). That the only two unique things regarding western slavery was the scale and distances over which slave trafficing occured and the almost universal prohibition and suppression of slavery by the west. The scale and distance were a product of technological advances by the west from which almost everyone n the modern world benefits enormously.

    Every civilisation has a mixed record of good and bad. The more powerful it is or was the more impact it has for good or ill. The idea that western civilisatiion is uniquely immoral or racists is ridiculous and itself racist in intent and practice. No civilisation has been less racist and more concerned about equal tratement of all groups and to prevent slavery.

  2. Your suggestion that “Aztecs and Mayans [and] many African tribes” did not practice chattel slavery is false.

    Most other instances of slavery in history, while also morally repugnant, involved prisoners of war, debt servitude or other arrangements that offered the possibility of the enslaved person or their descendants eventually re-gaining their freedom through their own efforts.

    This is also false. And no, I’m not going to provide you with Wikipedia links.

  3. That’s an outrageous smear by author Fornieri, who lazily repeats the right-wing trope that anti-racists are the real racists. Were they alive today, Douglass and Lincoln would have no home in the modern Republican party.

    That’s an outrageous smear of a misreading. His point is that they read like echoes of each other when they argue that white people of America were and are essentially and perhaps universally racists.

  4. The one question that should be asked of the Left’s cynical belief that everything is about the power of one arbitrary group over another- whether it be men over women, white over black or straight over gay- is, if that were the case, why on Earth would patriarchal white heterosexual men have ever given up their hold on absolute power? Because if it were true, slavery would still exist, women would not have the vote and homosexuality would still be a criminal offence. The narrative that these evils were somehow vanquished by the struggles of the oppressed (with the notable exception of black military units in the Union Army), is laughably absurd. The history of the British Empire was replete with periodic brutal suppressions, despite being largely more peaceful than the pre-existing conditions which they supplanted. So, it was not through the lack of the exercise of vital powers, that power was lost.

    The real story of the unshackling of oppression casts white men as liberators, voluntarily giving up their power over others, just as surely as those who sold their brothers and sisters into slavery in Africa, were almost always African. History is inevitably more complex, and shaded by subtle nuances of distinction than the Left would have us believe, just as the human heart, regardless of race, sex or sexuality, is just as capable of good, as is it is of committing evil. In all of these cases of liberation, it was the triumph of the better angels of our nature that accomplished these Herculean tasks, just as surely as the mechanism for this triumph was the empathy of our common humanity, which the author of the article quite plainly mentions.

    Which makes one wonder why the Left is so intent on replacing this common humanity, with the Manichean narrative of the common enemy. The only possible explanations are that they are largely ignorant of the damage they are doing, or that it’s simply a craven attempt at political power. I suspect that it’s a mixture of both- with the constituency of these ideas largely uninformed of the true purpose of the concepts, simply seeing them as an empathy-building tool, whilst the more Machiavellian circus masters orchestrate the weaponisation of this philosophy, as thought-leaders. The evidence of this cynical truth can be found in the observation that when those on the Right simply misspeak, they are ostracised, whilst when others, like Justin Trudeau, commit what would otherwise be unforgivable sins, they are absolved of all wrongdoing through the simple mechanism of an apology.

    Thankfully, this veiled strategy for the transformation of society can never work. Because the unity of demographics that the Left so wishes for, can never be held together. In most Western societies, the percentage of women who define themselves as feminists, is single digit. Contrary to Republican talking-points, there are only a tiny percentage of African Americans who will openly admit to voting for Trump, but the question remains, just how many do so secretly, not wishing to attract the ire of their compatriots? With the Latino vote, 30% openly admit to voting for Trump, so God only knows how many do so secretly. And this is Trump we are talking about… Of course, the truth is that. far from these “oppressions” interlocking, there is always tension and competition between these groups- such as the recent Muslim protests outside schools in the UK, over the inclusion of teaching on the subject of the LGBT community.

    But back to history, and onto the subject of the Enlightenment. When Oscar Wilde said “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” he was probably unaware that it could become a description of human history. Because before the Enlightenment, apart from a small merchant class, and an even smaller aristocracy, the overwhelming majority of us had no choice but to keep our eyes on the gutter- mindful of the tendency of others to step on the human effluents beneath our feet, and slip into poverty and squalor, on the slim chance that we weren’t fully immersed in it already. Less than two centuries ago, the British government had to ban orphans in workhouses from breaking down animal bones for fertiliser, because they were fighting over the rotten marrow.

    The tragedy is that the human transformation that the Leftists so crave, is happening already. In the past two centuries 85% of the world’s population has been lifted out of absolute poverty, and those that remain in this horrible position, are down to single digits. And contrary to the Left’s usual admonition, this improvement is mirrored at every level, right up until you reach the working and lower middle classes, in Western societies. Because the alleviation of global inequality, has come at the cost of an increase in specific inequality, within Western countries. Still, some might say that a little Western hardship is a small price to pay for a huge reduction in wars, famines, diseases and death.

    But the champions of the fifth horseman, Socialism, don’t see it that way. Their argument is that a little bloodshed is a small price to pay, for the Socialist Utopia. Of course, it’s never a little bloodshed. It never bloody works. And the body count is always high, often in the millions. From the point of Independence for India, the Indian government oscillated between top-down Keynesian economics, and socialism. In the decades that followed they made almost no human progress. Since 1991, when they embraced the free market, they have made huge strides, economically and socially. It’s a situation mirrored throughout Scandinavia, with the stagnation of Socialism rapidly thrown out and exchanged for free market capitalism, albeit with larger social safety nets.

    And that was the point of quoting Oscar Wilde- because what Enlightenment progress and Capitalism combined afford us, is the opportunity to look up, from the shit passing beneath our feet, to the stars- yes- but also to look into the eyes of our fellow travellers, and ask ourselves what we can do for them? Because it’s not power we crave, not truly. But rather the chance to be trusted with an important job in the service of others, which rewards us not just materially, but with the admiration of others. In the final analysis, this is probably why the Leftists at the top of their hierarchy are so irate all the time- because it makes their keen, but misguided, observations on humanity and social transformation largely irrelevant- and replaces it with a Utopia by degrees, increment by painful increment.

  5. @Jack B.

    “That’s an outrageous smear by author Fornieri, who lazily repeats the right-wing trope that anti-racists are the real racists. Were they alive today, Douglass and Lincoln would have no home in the modern Republican party.”

    It’s always the other guy that is the problem. America must face up to its legacy of slavery and bare the shame. Yet when suggested the Democrat Party face up to its legacy of defending slavery and segregation, the refrain becomes “that stain has been purged or those people no longer exist within our ranks.” Perhaps we should begin banning symbols of the Democratic Party as monikers of slavery, segregation and oppression.

    The fact is the United States as a whole should be celebrated for how much it has done and how far it has traveled to cleanse the stains of slavery and segregation. The neglected other side of the historical coin that is seldom told is: The United States is the only country where the majority race went to war with itself to liberate a minority race. That’s epic. The United States sent in troops to end segregation and protect the voting rights of blacks and then furthered legislation to enshrine those gains. Yet there remains those who continue to dispense contempt and scorn under the mantra not enough has been done. Perhaps. But also there is no greater moralist than a reformed prostitute.

  6. The Democratic Party was the party of segregation and slavery.

    The U.S. fought a civil war to free slaves.

    The U.S. sent in troops to end segregation.

    The U.S. passed the 14th Amendment and civil rights legislation.

    None of these are myths, you can look them up.

    “That’s an outrageous smear by author Fornieri, who lazily repeats the right-wing trope that anti-racists are the real racists. Were they alive today, Douglass and Lincoln would have no home in the modern Republican party.”

    Whereas presupposing where long dead people would be comfortable in present day is a classic example of myth making.
    Of course the good and the bad of history need to be discussed. Who said otherwise? Regarding my post: The U.S. fought a war to end the practice of slavery. (Practicing slavery bad, ending slavery good).

    The U.S. sent in troops to enforce desegregation orders. (Segregation bad desegregation orders good). Does that make it more clear?

  7. What is indisputable, Jack, is that prior to the Enlightenment, the history of humanity was one of man’s unremitting inhumanity to man. There was not a single civilisation, small or large, primitive or sophisticated, that managed to summon the slightest bit of benevolence to outsiders, let alone their people. By modern standards these people were often monsters and the vast majority of their people serfs, and little better than slaves themselves. Michael Eric Dyson might want you to believe that the situation of the typical Roman slave was in some way superior to that of the plantation slave, and that might have been true, if you were a household slave, or an owned skilled artisan, but if you were worked in the mines, the quarries or the land, then your experience would have been directly comparable to the plantation slave. It’s the only thing that explains the Roman Empire’s rapacious and continuous need for slaves. It was only when the Empire expanded sufficiently to ensure a constant stream of locals in penury, willing to sell themselves into slavery, that it’s borders stabilised.

    Or perhaps you fancy having to burn your mother to death, when your father dies. Killing and eating your best friend, when the next tribe runs out of young men to kill, so that you can prove yourself a man. Maybe, a good way to make money, when times are hard, would be to sell your neighbour, his wife and their children into slavery, to some distant power, to make ends meet, or to buy weapons. And that’s presuming that you are lucky enough not to be born a serf, an untouchable or an eta.

    My point is that the situation we live-in, is largely a product of modernity, our Western idea of individual liberty and the luck of all the right cultural factors coming into alignment for the Enlightenment. Our moral ascendancy from the brute and inhumane humanity that comprised all pre-Enlightenment civilisation, is largely one caused by the luxurious alleviation from the evil necessity that haunted our pre-technological forbears. They might have produced Art, but they buried their servants with the Pharoahs, or cut out the hearts of a steady stream of subjugated neighbours, whenever the food supply was tenuous.

    What is really troubling is that it appears to be an incredible fragile and unstable thing, this combination of material cornucopia and culturally socialised moral sentiment. All it takes is a marginal change of government, to a politics that supports socialism over capitalism, for it all to come tumbling down. Don’t get me wrong- you can have socialised systems within free market economies, but you have to recognise that the available resources need to be rationed. So free higher education, universal healthcare, good pay and pensions for public sector workers, or social security with healthcare for the uninsurable. Pick one. Unless of course you’re willing to dismantle the military, cut corporate welfare, convince Americans in the working and middle classes that they need to give more money to the government, or tell your elderly that they need to take a considerable cut in their social security every time there is no money in the budget. Then you just might be able to pay for two. Because every attempt to tax the wealthy more heavily, has ended in a loss of tax revenue. After FDR, the top tax rate might have been 90%, but wealthy people paid less then, with all the exclusions, than after the Reagan reforms.

  8. The left has been working on this project for a century. Back in 1920 they understood that to overcome the population’s resistance to socialism it was first necessary to tear down and discredit the idea of America. Even at the mention of the idea of American being founded on the self correcting principles of the enlightenment we cue up mockery from the left.

  9. There was a lot of chattel slavery throughout time. For every educated Greek slave teaching some Roman noblemen kids rhetoric, there were ten being worked to death in the silver mines of Spain.

    Chattel slavery existed anywhere where large groups of slaves could be put to work in a robotic manner and supervised in a relatively small controlled area producing raw materials that could easily be converted to “cash” (or in the case of silver mines, cash itself).

    Sometimes it’s called “serfdom” or has some other name. Russian serfs were freed around the same time as American slaves, and I’ve yet to read a single thing about Russian serfdom that let me to believe it was a qualitatively better then American slavery in any meaningful way.

    Slavery in the Americas outside of the USA didn’t require generational slavery because all of the slaves were worked to death in relatively short time periods. The American practice of enslaving children probably resulted in the natural population increase we saw in America.

  10. Like saying, “He risked his life and saved hundreds but privately he was a coward.” Did Eisenhower do the right thing in Little Rock? Yes. Did the Republicans leave a hole that Jack Kennedy could drive through in MS, AL, GA ect…? Yes. Was desegregation and the battle over civil rights an internal battle in the Democratic Party? Yes. These are all a part of our country’s history and the history of its political parties. This is the history from which we have progressed and hopefully heed. All of the good people are not congregated on one side and all the bad on the other. History should not be skewed so as to make it appear that way. I believe the American story is one of the triumph of freedom. Others may disagree but let the all the facts speak for themselves so that all can be fully informed, educated and not indoctrinated.

  11. I know you were replying to Jack, but you’ve identified one of the latest progressive tactics on the issue of American slavery, control over the definition of the word “chattel”.

    It’s a fluid kind of control and will vary sometimes with individual progressives, but the reason for it is this: Slavery as practiced by white Americans was worse than slavery practiced by any other people during any other period of time. Why? Because it was chattel slavery.

    I won’t waste anyone’s time with the standard dictionary definition, but as much as possible, it is important to progressives to take African, Asian and Native American slavery out of the realm of chattel slavery. When black Africans enslaved other black Africans, it was not chattel slavery, according to progressives. Likewise, when the Ottomans enslaved other people - not chattel slavery.

    You can argue that it was chattel slavery and give reasons why you think so, but inevitably, you get buried under a snowstorm of internet links to studies published by obscure academics claiming that black Africans and Aztecs did not practice chattel slavery - only white people did that, particularly, white Americans. Viola, evidence.

    Chattel slavery is worse than other slavery - so the progressive narrative holds - because white people considered their slaves to be be property or things, not people. Need proof? Printed bills of sale! Black Africans didn’t give printed bills of sale for their slaves. Black Africans considered their slaves to be people! Hence, black slavers were morally superior to white slavers. But that can’t be true unless black slavers did not practice chattel slavery.

    The progressive definitions of chattel slavery and non-chattel slavery will adjust to meet any objection, so long as it is important to progressives to control the chattel slavery narrative.

  12. I’m not interested in getting you to admit that you’ve been incompetent or dishonest. Calling you out for bullshit is for the sake of other readers.

    They will either think I’m right to call you out, or they will ignore me.

    You are not directly involved.

  13. This is way off-topic, but I’m so irritated that I have to bring it up.

    “ [T]he constitutionality of slavery can be made out only by disregarding the plain and common sense reading of the Constitution itself; by discrediting and casting away as worthless the most beneficent rules of legal interpretation; by ruling the Negro outside of these beneficent rules; by claiming everything for slavery; by denying everything for freedom; by assuming that the Constitution does not mean what it says, and that it says what it does not mean; [and] by disregarding the written Constitution.”

    See that “[and]” at the end? It’s bullshit. The unaltered quote is in no way grammatically incorrect, and a close reading makes it obvious that the (article) author’s inclusion actually makes the sentence make less sense: Douglass very deliberately left it out. The author of this article ought to ask himself if he truly believes that he has a better command of the English language than Frederick fucking Douglass had. Ugh.

    Edited to add: I actually googled The Colombian Orator, since (at the time of this edit) such a work is referenced early in the article. The proofreading standards at Quillette being what they are, I should have known better. Unsurprisingly, the article’s author is in much more serious need of an editor than Douglass ever was.

  14. Jack here calls to mind the Marxist troll, who recently created a thread in which he tried in vain to promote the new Leftist dogma that “colonialism” is the dominant factor distinguishing advanced vs failed societies today. There are many more stupidities in that narrative than were called out in the thread, but as it happened, the troll was beset by people offering counter-examples, which forced him to constantly revise the definition of the “colonialism” that actually mattered (to his thesis).

    Similarly, while most Leftists, who never actually engage anyone who disagrees with them, are content to pretend that America was the only society that ever had slaves (I’ve seen some seriously argue that America invented slavery, or was it Christianity?), Jack is forced to more specifically condemn chattel slavery, knowing as he does how badly his thesis would fare if he didn’t include the adjective.

    But he still fails, of course. Not only is chattel slavery not remotely “unique to America” as his agenda requires it to be, but also, the notion that there’s a vast moral difference between chattel and non-chattel slavery is ludicrous.

    I’ll spare him the indignity of taking the inevitable next step of citing stories of the civility of slave treatment in other cultures by reminding him that by the same logic, we’re to believe that 100 years ago, nobody in Western Society had extramarital sex!

    I mean, hey, if we’re going to believe some ridiculously optimistic narrative about primitive, barbaric eras of history, why not believe the Disney version of the 1920s?

    Get real, Jack. Slavery in America was not “uniquely bad” in any way at all, and was markedly less awful than a lot of contemporary evils. America was not “founded on it”, the Founders did not rebel against the British to “keep slavery”, nor does the US owe its prosperity to slave labor. Unfortunate as it is for your ideology, the principles of individualism that underly the free market are the basis for the stigmatization and eradication of slavery. MLK was right - American ideals were wonderful; all that was left was to extend them to everyone.

    There is nothing that is not evil in the 1619 scribblings, and those who support them are the “real racists”, as they always have been. Identity politics is foundational to left-wing politics.

  15. And now we have a situation where schools are more segregated than ever because people still don’t want their kids going to school with gang bangers.

    You just can’t force middle class whites to send their kids to schools run by underclass brown kids. Either they move far enough away that there are no underclass or they pay through the nose for private school. Sending their kids to a underclass school would make them child abusers and terrible human beings.

    In my city there is literally a road where the “white” school districts are on one side and the “black” school districts are on the other side. The white school districts have an average income of $150,000+, the black school districts about $30k. They have only one thing in common, both voted about 90/10 for Hillary Clinton.

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