Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Right Wing Revisionist History - 1st, in an ongoing series

The photo to the left appeared on facebook, on a liberal page. It is factually correct, although it has a serious omission. Part of what led John Newton to write Amazing Grace was in fact his deep regret over his abuse of his fellow human beings and selling people into horrific conditions for profit, after his faith in Christianity deepened. Newton not only wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, he worked very effectively towards the voluntary ending of slavery in and by the UK, during the same century as our American Revolution. 

The rape and torture of slaves is not a contradiction or hypocrisy on the part of Newton, but rather represents a cause and effect relationship in the creation of a very famous piece of religious music. 
Slave trade in England was big business and initially the church supported it. A preacher named John Newton was one of the first clergymen to attack slavery after becoming a “changed man”. John Newton was a slave trader in the mid 1700’s. He had considered his trade to be honorable as did most Europeans of the time. He shared in the common practice of sexually abusing slave women and using torture devices such as thumb screws to control them.
 “  Newton shared in the brutality against his fellow creatures. If naval, life had been brutal it was for a high cause. The Slave Trade was for gain, and in 1745 not a pen nor a tongue had questioned or condemned it. In old age John Newton revealed what it had done to his character as a young man when he told a Committee of the Privy Council, from his own experience, that he knew no method of getting money which had so direct a tendency to efface the moral sense, to rob the heart of every gentle and humane disposition and to harden it like steel."
  "About a third of the cargo was female. As black women and girls came on board, naked, trembling, terrified, almost exhausted with cold, fatigue and hunger, they were exposed to the wanton rudeness of the crew. The poor creatures could not understand English, but looks and manner were sufficiently  intelligible as in imagination  the prey was divided upon the spot for future use... John Newton let lust run unchecked. His heart lay with Polly but his body refused to be denied. Since the women were kept on deck at liberty in daytime, a seaman’s opportunity came easily and he need ask no consent, since resistance or refusal would be in vain. Sometimes, he might take one at night while on duty, for owing to the heat and filth the crew went naked in the holds where the women lay, especially before the holds grew crowded. Any consequence would be born far away in the sugar islands, perhaps adding to the profit of the voyage. It is a curious fact that there may be American or Caribbean blacks in whose veins runs the blood of John Newton.”
That the UK, and other old and new world countries like Mexico, VOLUNTARILY opted to end slavery, without a civil war is key here.

One of the comments on the graphic included this phrase, which I take to be from a conservative of the variety who tout American exceptionalism and who tend to ignore, deny or at least minimize American faults or failures with revisionist history:
"...BTW Barack Obama's family owned slaves and slavery is still practiced today in Africa. This is the only country that fought a war ending slavery."
It is true that on his mother's side of Obama's family tree, there were slave owners.  It does not in some way excuse or legitimize slave ownership.  And it has nothing to do with Barack Obama, since he shares no responsibility for those actions.  This is a classic 'straw man' argument, that attempts to wrongly define the terms of the argument or discussion.

But the real FACTUALLY FALSE conservative revisionist history is the notion that the United States fought a war TO END SLAVERY.  The United States fought a civil war that INCIDENTALLY ended slavery in this nation, but that was not why the United States fought that war.

These tend to be the same crackpot conservatives who fantasize about new treasonous modern secession.

The Union side of the civil war went to war AFTER the Confederate side declared war on the USA by attacking Fort Sumter.  That war was to preserve the Union, NOT to end slavery.  In fact in the early years of the war, President Lincoln was not in fact in favor of ending slavery, in the vain hope that not pursuing that change would help end the war, and because even when he thought it was wrong, Lincoln upheld the provisions of the Constitution, as he had sworn an oath to do.  His political position was to restrict slavery expansion, not to end slavery.

From wikipedia:
In the 1850s, Lincoln was politically attacked as an abolitionist, but he did not consider himself one; he did not call for the immediate end of slavery everywhere in the U.S. until the proposed 13th Amendment became part of his party platform for the 1864 election.
In 1842, Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd, who was a daughter of a slave-owning family from Kentucky.

...During the American Civil War, Lincoln used the war powers of the presidency to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free" but exempted border states and those areas of slave states already under Union control. As a practical matter, at first the Proclamation could only be enforced to free those slaves who had already escaped to the Union side. However, millions more were freed as more areas of the South came under Union control. Lincoln pursued various plans to colonize free Blacks outside the United States, but none of these had a major effect.
At the beginning of the war, Lincoln prohibited his generals from freeing slaves even in captured territories. On August 30, 1861, Major General John C. Frémont, the commander of the Union Army in St. Louis, proclaimed that all slaves owned by Confederates in Missouri were free. Lincoln opposed allowing military leaders to take executive actions that were not authorized by the government, and realized that such actions could induce slaveowners in border states to oppose the Union or even start supporting the enemy. Lincoln demanded Frémont modify his order and free only slaves owned by Missourians working for the South. When Frémont refused, he was replaced by the conservative General Henry Wager Halleck.
The situation was repeated in May 1862, when General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers in the occupied district under his control. Soon afterwards Hunter issued a statement that all slaves owned by Confederates in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina were free. Despite the pleas of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln ordered Hunter to disband the black 1st South Carolina Regiment and to retract his proclamation. At all times Lincoln insisted that he controlled the issue—only he had the war powers. Lincoln's view was that in order for freedmen to effectively and legally rely on the promise and declaration of freedom it had to be grounded in the president's constitutional authority.

On August 22, 1862, just a few weeks before signing the Proclamation and after he had already discussed a draft of it with his cabinet in July, he wrote a letter in response to an editorial by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune which had urged complete abolition. Lincoln differentiates between "my view of official duty"—that is, what he can do in his official capacity as President—and his personal views. Officially he must save the Union above all else; personally he wanted to free all the slaves:
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
We did NOT, in the good old US of A, fight a war to end slavery.  We fought a war to preserve the U of U-S-A, and to do so, we had to kill many confederate slave proponents who would not otherwise give up their treasonous secession in order to continue slavery (as distinct from attempting a legal secession) and pretty much grind the remaining confederate slavery proponents into the dirt to stop their death hold on owning, raping, and torturing a significant population of human beings they held in slavery.

If you doubt that the core, central cause of the civil war was the continuation and expansion of slavery, I refer you to the primary documents that show otherwise.  Even when there were secondary issues, like tariffs, they were about tarrifs on products produced by slave labor, like cotton.  The argument about states rights was an argument that the federal government could not stop states from continuing SLAVERY, specifically.  In every argument of the Christian Conservative Confederacy, CONTINUING AND EXPANDING SLAVERY WAS PROMINENT AND FUNDAMENTAL TO THEIR REBELLION.

In more humane nations, including those with a more genuinely Christian conscience like Newton and the UK, NO WAR TO END SLAVERY WAS REQUIRED.  Basic human decency and conscience was sufficient.

This notion that we deserve some sort of credit as the "ONLY NATION TO FIGHT A WAR TO END SLAVERY" is nothing more nor less than pure, total, unmitigated bull crap.

I would argue to you, our good readers, that if you cannot look at the failures of your nation squarely, and without flinching, AND STILL LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, you lack individual integrity of intellect and you are a damn poor patriot.  Every country has a checkered history of good and bad.  It is imperative to know both, honestly and factually, in order to be a good citizen.

Using such guidelines, conservatives are not patriots at all, they are just liars and fools.  They do not love their actual country, they are in love with and loyal to a non-existent ideology-drunk fantasy.

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