Tag Archives: America

How Was Slavery in America Abolished?

Emancipation

W.E.B. Du Bois challenged the idea that American slaves were emancipated by outside liberators with the notion of slave insurrection and self-emancipation. He painted a picture of slaves rising up against the Confederacy to undermine it while pressuring the White House to pass anti-slavery legislation. Others have taken up this line of thought to argue that slaves, in fact, started The Civil War in order to free themselves.

Allen C. Guelzo, the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, sees many problems with this view and reviews two books for the Claremont Review of Books that demonstrate how Du Bois was wrong. Of the longer of the two, Guelzo writes:

Rael’s book is a comprehensive history of slavery’s end, well-informed, subdued in tone, and in most cases forgiving. He does not believe (as David Waldstreicher, Paul Finkelman, and George van Cleve do) that the founders were unqualified hypocrites who cunningly crafted a pro-slavery Constitution, and he is more willing than most to acknowledge that it was the rise of bourgeois notions of property rights which made property in human beings seem repulsive in an age which had abandoned hierarchy as the governing principle of social life.

Perhaps the self-emancipation idea is an attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy, the idea that if they believe they liberated themselves back then, they will liberate themselves again today. But the fact that Du Bois and others saw the need to argue for a new emancipation is evidence enough that the previous one had not be entirely of their own making. (via Prufrock News)

Rage Against Cops Makes Us Less Safe

Dallas police
“We’re in the midst of the greatest delegitimation of law enforcement in recent memory,” says the scholar behind a new book on policing in America today. “Officers are backing off of proactive policing, and as a result, crime in big cities, above all cities with large Black populations is going up at a very alarming rate.”

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. In her just-released book, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, she says the communities most in need of active policing are receiving less of it in part because of aggressive tactics citizens are taking to hold cops accountable. Officers do need training and support to uphold the law and seek justice, but much of this citizen accountability is an effort to get a cop off the street entirely.

From a piece in City Journal, Mac Donald writes:

The growing mayhem [this year in Chicago] is the result of Chicago police officers’ withdrawal from proactive enforcement, making the city a dramatic example of what I have called the “Ferguson effect.” Since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the conceit that American policing is lethally racist has dominated the national airwaves and political discourse, from the White House on down. In response, cops in minority neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities around the country are backing off pedestrian stops and public-order policing; criminals are flourishing in the resulting vacuum. (An early and influential Ferguson-effect denier has now changed his mind: in a June 2016 study for the National Institute of Justice, Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri–St. Louis concedes that the 2015 homicide increase in the nation’s large cities was “real and nearly unprecedented.” “The only explanation that gets the timing right is a version of the Ferguson effect,” he told the Guardian.)

There are many steps on the road to dealing with this problem. I doubt most of the efforts made by our churches will be reported, so let’s not fall into the trap of looking at atrocities and asking where the church is. The small interactions of a community seeking better health are not front page news. We are praying, seeking restoration, counseling, teaching, and loving. There’s plenty more to do. (via Instapundit)

7/13 update: Thomas Sowell reviews The War on Cops, saying, “Such facts would have spoiled the prevailing preconceptions. Many facts reported in The War on Cops spoil many notions that all too many people choose to believe. We need to stop this nonsense, before there is a race war that no one can win.” (via Prufrock News)

Tipping Off the American Pedestal

Cheryl Magness tells us how the recently departed author Elie Wiesel’s message will continue to resonate.

As Americans we are taught, and most of us believe, that there is something special about America. We speak reverently of the independent and pioneering spirit that sparked a new nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We cherish the “rugged individualism” that enabled us to build a “shining city on a hill.” We think of ourselves as being the most generous and compassionate people on the face of the earth.

This view of ourselves as something unique in history, a nation markedly different from, and superior to, any other, has the potential both to motivate us for good and to lead us into laziness and neglect. For it is in believing too fully in our pedestal that we have the greatest capacity to fall off of it.

Elie Wiesel Is Gone, But His Message Is Forever

What Americans Claim to Read

Last week, the Library of Congress opened a new exhibit called “America Reads” to “celebrate the public’s choice of 65 books by American authors that had a profound effect on American life.”

It’s a follow-up to the 2012 exhibit “Books That Shaped America.” At that time, “the Library of Congress urged members of the public to name other books that shaped America and to tell the Library which of the 88 books on the list were most important to them. Thousands of readers responded.”

We, the people of these United States, chose books such as Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, both Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Anthem, The Book of Mormon, Stephen King’s The Stand, Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, The Cat in the Hat, AA’s Big Book, The Feminine Mystique, and Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

The LOC reminds us, “The volumes featured in the ‘America Reads’ exhibition do not necessarily represent the best in American letters, nor do they speak to the diversity of our nation and the books it produces.” No, but it does speak to the type of people who visit the Library of Congress and respond to reading surveys with what amounts to Boaty McBoatface without the priceless publicity.

The Big Book? Baby and Child Care? How many actual people who put on pants in the morning responded to this survey? It couldn’t be thousands, unless almost everyone picked a unique title, making the three votes for Baby and Child Care a standout choice.

The exhibit will run through the end of the year.

Who Could Oppose Us? We’re So Nice.

R.R. Reno suggests terrorism is not about hate, but political warfare. We aren’t threatened by a network of criminals or people who are psychologically unhinged; we’re threatened by a network of people who believe the American way of life is immoral and dangerous to the world. But our leaders ask themselves why the terrorists hate us.

Our leaders cannot imagine a rational anti-Americanism. This is due in part to the narrowing effect of multiculturalism. Paradoxically, instead of broadening our capacity to entertain ways of thinking not our own, multiculturalism has made us parochial. We compliment ourselves endlessly for our tolerance, inclusiveness, and diversity. Since we are so tolerant of others, we assume, there is no reason others shouldn’t tolerate us. Since we are never offended, we must be inoffensive.

Aren’t we the world? Aren’t we all on the same page, if we could just talk to each other? But if one of us has offended them, it must be those hatemongering Christians, who tell us to love Jesus and keep sex inside of marriage. If anything’s offensive, that is. (via Prufrock News)

On the Faith of Our Neighbors

Matt McCullough reviews Joseph Bottum’s An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, which focuses on a newly developed class of self-righteous Protestants who have redefined redemption in social terms.

These folks aren’t self-consciously religious, though they may consider themselves “spiritual.” They blame the Protestant Christianity of their parents for much of what’s worst in the world. But if they’ve cast off their parents’ theological and ecclesial commitments, they have inherited a robust confidence in their own “essential moral rightness” (13). In fact, without the work of Christ or the fellowship of the church to fall back on, their sense of moral enlightenment becomes all the more crucial. It’s how they know their lives are justified; it’s how they know they belong among those who “get it.”

… They’re set apart as a class by their ability to recognize and personally reject the forces of evil—especially bigotry, militarism, oppression, and (sexual) repression. And they enjoy calm assurance that they’re insiders to a better world coming just around the corner.

Tocqueville on the Tyranny of the Majority

And if you want a refutation of the wisdom of crowds—the “theory of equality applied to intelligence,” Tocqueville scoffs—look no further. As someone who believes that “freedom of the intellect is a sacred thing,” as Tocqueville does, “when I feel the hand of power weigh upon my brow, it scarcely matters who my oppressor is, and I am not more inclined to submit to the yoke because a million arms are prepared to place it around my neck.”

That same majoritarian tyranny explains why America’s elected officials are so mediocre. To win votes, they have to flatter public opinion with the obsequiousness of Louis XIV’s most sycophantic courtiers. Andrew Jackson is Tocqueville’s Exhibit A. He “is the slave of the majority,” Tocqueville sneers; “he obeys its wishes and desires and heeds its half-divulged instincts; or rather, he divines what the majority wants, anticipating its desires before it knows what they are in order to place himself at its head.” Like most politicians, he cares only about reelection, so that “his own individual interest supplants the general interest in his mind.” His (ultimately successful) vendetta against the Second Bank of the United States is a perfect example. Even though it inestimably benefits the nation by ensuring its monetary stability, Jackson happily attacks it, accusing its directors of being an aristocracy in the making, opposed to the democratic majority—and, incidentally, to Jackson as well. But of course, Jackson’s Democrats, the party that stands for the infinite expansion of the power of the people, have a permanent majority over the rival Federalists, who could win election only when the country needed to navigate the perils of the Founding, a unique emergency that prompted the Federalist Party’s superior men to accept public office.

From Myron Magnet’s essay, The End of Democracy in America” on Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the French Revolution. (via Prufrock)

Hamilton Resonates, Shapes Our Political Imaginations

Millennials must heed the Founders’ warning when voting in 2016. They explicitly warned us about inflammatory candidates (read: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders), and endeavored to structure a system that would protect the angry masses from themselves. In “Federalist No. 1,” Hamilton cautions against men gaining power through igniting the public’s fury, warning that they start by “paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”

Kayla Nguyen, a fellow at the John William Pope Foundation, writes about the popular musical Hamilton and how it could speak to her generation and inspire them to believe in the American Experiment.

Freedom of What Exactly?

The [current] debate over religious freedom has generally assumed that the primary contest is over defining freedom, not religion. We assume that we more or less know what we are talking about when we say ‘religion’ . . . [I want to] question the assumption that Christianity is a religion to begin with, and examine both the advantages and the problems with claiming religious freedom for the church.

On the face of it, the question I’m raising seems ridiculous. Of course Christianity is a religion. A deeper look at the recent government arguments about the free exercise of religion, however, makes clear that what does and what does not count as religion is at the heart of the matter.

William Cavanaugh, quoted on the site for Mars Hill Audio Journal, from his book Field Hospital: The Church’s Engagement with a Wounded World.

The Heresy of “Me and Jesus”

I confess that far too often I have fallen into the heretical idea that it’s “me and Jesus,” which leads to the conclusion: If I am faithful, I know His pleasure; if I am unfaithful, I experience His loving but painful discipline. There have been many times in my life, when because of a particular unconfessed sin from which I have not repented, I have experienced with the Psalmist “my bones wast[ing] away . . . [and] groaning all day long. For day and night [the Lord’s] hand was heavy upon me [and] my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer”(Ps. 32.4).

But far too seldom, until of late, have I understood that it isn’t just “me and Jesus.” Only in my old age have I begun – and I have only just begun – to realize that as part of a covenant community the sins of my people are also my sins, and that I am responsible before God to confess these sins, to ask His forgiveness, and to repent both personally and corporately of such sins, to turn from them, and to return once more to the way of the Lord.

Dr. Caines, who has been my pastor for many years, writes about his reluctance to accept responsibility for the negligence of God’s people in defending and uplifting those who suffered various abuses during the civil rights and Jim Crow eras.

While I would assume that some in my church in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s spoke out against injustice and prejudice, the overwhelming majority in my church and its leaders seemed more concerned about the possibility of whites and blacks intermarrying than about blatant injustice and mindless prejudice. In fact, some even twisted the Scripture to defend the “ways thing are.”

Part of his thinking comes from the idea that my Christian life is just a matter between me and Jesus, that I come to the garden alone for Jesus to walk strictly with me. Sure, he is walking with others too, but all of us are walking with him individually.

How Climate Cultivated Revival

Philip Jenkins describes the climate of the Great Awakening and how bitter cold and other calamities provoked people to cry out to God.

Clearly, the apocalyptic forces were running wild – famine, plague, insurrection, and war. What a proclamation of human powerlessness in the face of unknown powers, and the futility of all human efforts! How could anyone doubt that Judgment was near, or that revival was the only solution?

The End of Democracy?

Democracy can lose its soul when it “exaggerates” its principles, when it forgets the legitimate place of hierarchy, authority, and truth within their own spheres. As Dominique Schnapper argues in a brilliant new study inspired by Montesquieu’s insight (The Democratic Spirit of Law), in an “extreme democracy” equality risks becoming indiscriminate egalitarianism, the defense of novelty risks giving rise to the “temptation of the unlimited,” and healthy skepticism risks decaying into “absolute relativism.” As another contemporary French thinker, Pierre Manent, has put it, “To love democracy well it is necessary to love it moderately.”

This is what we should mean if we say we want to get back to a better America, rejecting hubris and restoring healthy boundaries in our civilization. People in the old days were not sinless, but they did understand the morality that builds and maintains a nation a little better than perhaps we do today. How do we get back there? It is partly by politics, but politics only as an outgrowth of godly community, by healthy church life, and by following the Good Shepherd wherever he goes.

How Un-European America Is

A brief story about the aftermath of September 11 nicely illustrates how different things are in secularized Europe. I was at a conference of European and American lawyers and jurists in Rome when the planes struck the twin towers. All in attendance were transfixed by the horror of the event, and listened with rapt attention to the President’s ensuing address to the nation. When the speech had concluded, one of the European conferees—a religious man—confided in me how jealous he was that the leader of my nation could conclude his address with the words “God bless the United States.” Such invocation of the deity, he assured me, was absolutely unthinkable in his country, with its Napoleonic tradition of extirpating religion from public life.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia in his 2002 essay, “God’s Justice and Ours.

Also, The Federalist has collected fifteen quotations from Scalia’s wonderful pen, like this one: “Campaign promises are, by long democratic tradition, the least binding form of human commitment.”

American Zombies: Enemies Next Door

Kurt Schlichter ruminates on our current obsession with zombies. Not long ago, many mainstream stories focused on foreign threats or nuclear fallout. Today, we entertain ourselves with mysterious outbreaks that turn people into flesh-eaters.

“What does it say,” Schlichter asks, “that our collective subconscious senses less of a threat from fanatical outsiders who, in the last couple decades, have killed thousands of us via terrorism, than from each other?

. . . The foreigners are a threat, but that’s under control. What is out of control, or what seems like it is out of control, is our society itself.”