IF we have a video of a crime being committed, as in one man attacking another, we may be relatively certain of innocence or guilt. Yet, in order to arrive at a verdict, the evidence must be evaluated by an informed jury. In a similar way, interpretations of history also need a thorough examination before we can simply conclude virtue or vice. The video of the man chasing another out of a bank and wresting him to the ground, may leave out the portion which showed the man taking money from the teller at gunpoint. It may also be unclear on the video, that the man giving chase was a security guard. Therefore, the self-evident appearance of guilt may be misleading.
This is but one poor example of jumping to conclusions without fully evaluating and understanding context. Morality changes over time. Principles are more rigid. One persons freedom fighter is another beings terrorist. Some see a person as a radical, another sees the same as a free thinker. The challenge in thought is not to reinforce your own ideas, but instead to understand the thinking of others. Why do two people look at a coin and adamantly defend heads or tails instead of navigating to the other persons vantage point? It is then easy to see the coin has both heads and tails.
What follows is long. Yet, given the issues of today, the subject matter is important. In a divided populace one side screams justice. The other side broadcasts law and order. Those that are objective see the issues as similar. If it takes two to tango it also takes opposition to fight. It is certainly childish to blame one side and excuse the other.
It is my hope that if you read this paper you will be confused as to the intent. The paper is not intended to take sides. IT is intended to expand the context of current day disputes, so that people may develop a better understanding of the polarity. While some questions may offend, the subsequent answers will bring comfort. Take some time and read this paper, there is so much at stake.
This Question is so Self-Evident, yet it is Almost Never Asked.
Just about two years before I was born, a U2 spy plane discovered missiles in Cuba. That would make me a frigid baby, as it was near the peak of the cold war. America stood for freedom, prosperity, democracy, and human rights. The Soviet Union stood for tyranny and food lines. Free market capitalism versus central market planning. Interesting historical tidbit is that the cold war was named by Orwell.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident was just over two months before I was born. The game of dominoes was in full force as I was a child. Vietnam would be the first war America lost, was this a rebuttal of providence? Perhaps this was a turning point in many ways for our culture. What I remember from those days is the antiwar comments that were represented by John Kerry in the 2004 election. In 2020 we are treated to anti American sentiment on many fronts. What triggered the shift in perception from the country that stood for liberty, democracy and human rights, to the country that murdered civilians, promoted inequality and bigotry.
How did America become the evil empire, after defeating the evil empire? How did we lose hearts and minds? How is it that Jihad is not racist or judgmental, but America is systemically racist? How is it that the country with the least opportunity has the most immigrants? How is it that reason is lost to hysteria and hyperbole? How is it that a nation founded on freedom of thought now considers anyone who dissents an infidel to be silenced?
It seems that the chickens are coming home to roost as a vocal congregation claim Slavery is America’s original sin. Of Course, no taxation without representation rings hollow when people clamor for redistribution. Due process means nothing if the judicial system is systemically racist. Freedom of speech means nothing if it makes people uncomfortable. Freedom of religion means nothing since Christianity supports white privilege. Economic prosperity means nothing if it is unequal. Unreasonable search and seizure means nothing unless you do something wrong. And, guns kill.
AS many of America’s detractors lean towards socialism, and the BLM founders may be communist, Surplus labor theory begs a question. Marx based his theory on subsistence living. This is far different than pursuit of happiness, private property, due process, and human rights. Yet, the current affinity for socialism which pursues equality, eliminates property, streamlines justice, and negates the individual, implores the question. What is wrong with slavery?
WE know that slavery is bad. Still, have you ever endeavored to evaluate the reasons why? Is it morality? Before, same sex marriage was immoral, now it is mainstream. Likewise, abortion was immoral, now it is applauded as choice. Obviously, morality changes over time. For millennia slavery was the norm, now it is abhorrent. Someday, when sustenance comes from a pill, farmers will be slandered for providing food in a barbaric and cruel fashion. How could they think of eating meat? Yes, someday grocers will be demonized for promoting nutrition in inhuman ways. What if the reason is not based in morality, but something more penetrating?
After the Civil War, which rights were extended to the freedmen. First, we look to the 13th amendment which abolished slavery. The 14th ostensibly aimed to create equal protection under the law, and the 15th amendment which was intended to give freedmen the right to vote. Under Grant, who received five hundred thousand black votes the military occupied the South to insure black rights and Republican election wins.
Voting rights had long been an issue in America. North Carolina required property ownership to vote until 1856. It was not until the late 1820’s that universal white male suffrage was a major political Issue. Given the large number of black voters in the South it is fair to question the motivations of those that supported black and poor white suffrage. Women would not have protected voting rights until 1920.
Why are we regurgitating history? Because, freedmen had the same rights as poor white men. Freedmen could be educated, think for themselves, freedmen could own property, freedmen could go to church, freedmen could travel. Freedmen could vote and freedmen could be persecuted for voting Republican, as poor whites were. AS a juxtaposition a citizen of a communist country and some socialist countries cannot own property, vote, freely travel, speak freely, think for themselves, worship or enjoy due process. Repeat, why is slavery wrong? Can you promote socialism, which denies basic human rights, and be against servile society?
Throughout most of history the reality of life was scarcity of food, shelter and clothing. Technology and process improvement led to increased production. Increased production resulted in industrialization. Prior to industrialization, the means of production were land. Imagine then that in England, land had to be granted by the crown. In fact, eleven of the thirteen original colonies began as proprietorships. If you had no rights to own property, then what rights did you have. Perhaps you had the right to be property. Hence the concept of sovereign immunity as subjects had no rights with respect to the King. Even the Magna Carta only guaranteed due process to landholders, or the top one percent.
Often times indentured servitude is compared to slavery. Yet, the institutions were very different. Servitude was a contract and the servant had some rights. A servant may be given land at the end of his contract. It is interesting that in early America, only landowners were given political rights. Where did that custom come from?
African slaves were property with no rights and no expectation of becoming a property owner. Coverture also made women and children property of their husband. What are the sociological and economic impacts of having nothing to look towards, no future, just existence? What is the impact on the seed of human virtue to have no future, no hope?
Indentured servants had hope. Africans did not. some servants may have migrated voluntarily, others were given no options. Africans were captured and traded. By whom does not impact their status as property. Nor does the status of Native Americans as property make amends for the African slave trade.
Does anything explain the common practice of humans as property? More importantly do institutions still exist today that deny basic human rights as we currently understand those human rights. Where do gulags, concentration camps, and victims of genocide stand in comparison? How about the Kurds?
Looking back to Athens, citizens had the right to speak, vote, own property, and the duty to assemble, vote and pay taxes. The rights of citizenship were given only to males eighteen years and older provided their parents and grandparents were born in Athens. Citizens also had the duty to defend Athens and be well educated. It is evident that the founders were influenced by Athens. It should be noted that eventually Sparta defeated Athens.
The right to own property has been intermingled with natural rights since the Renaissance period. In 1948 a right to property is recognized in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The European Convention on Human Rights affirmed property rights in 1950. Stunningly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966 and The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights do not recognize property rights.
What happened in a period of sixteen years to detach property rights from Human rights? It becomes apparent to the astute observer that the founders were caught in a conundrum. If natural rights and liberty were inextricably tied to property rights, how could you promote liberty if you took property from citizens?
Now, we must look to The Proclamation of 1763 which restricted colonial settlement west of the Appalachians. Moreover, only the King had the right to purchase land in the territory. This upset the King’s subjects even though it was primarily symbolic. Americans took property rights very seriously, even taxes, which were an obligation in Athens, were considered plunder. Here we have a group of men enticed to settle the west with property rights and freedom that suddenly were confronted with deceit. In this context were slaves property to be left alone, or people protected by natural law?
Slavery existed for millennia. Liberty was an experiment. Rights were derived from property. When confronted with multiple enemies which do you defeat first? Does the primary target negate concern for the subsequent targets? Or, must you choose a sequence? Significant in the evaluation of past activities is present day context. The context of their time, as opposed to our time. Following the Ratification of the Constitution in 1788, in 1789 The French National Assembly adopted the Declaration of The Rights of Man and Citizen.
The Declaration codified that men were born free and equal in rights as it cast away the notion of nobility. Natural and Imprescriptible rights included liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. Of the most precious rights is the free communication of ideas. Article 17 declares property an inviolable and sacred right. The similarities to our Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights are hard to miss.
Perhaps another historical coincidence is the cross Atlantic view of citizenship. Political rights in France and America were bestowed primarily to landowners. Prior to the Naturalization Act of 1790 citizenship was controlled by the states. IN 1790 the standards for free white men were laid out. This may be seen as elitist by some, by a continuation of a class structure amongst equals by others. Or, it may reflect the Athenian requirement of being well educated. Notably, the Declaration of Rights did not revoke the institution of slavery in France.
Although the Constitution protected the International slave trade until 1808. Jefferson authorized the federal prohibition of the international slave trade in 1807, by signing the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. Earlier, the Slave Trade act of 1794 prohibited American ships form being used for the slave trade. By 1807 only South Carolina engaged in the International Slave Trade, all other states had already legislated bans. Unmistakably the Founders were occupied with the contradiction between the enlightened principles that sparked the revolution, and slavery.
On the other hand, compromise is the norm in politics. We see the deal making every day in Washington and other governments. Maybe only one or two voices can sneak in a poison pill under the pretense of progress. What evil lurks in the hearts of men under the cover of shadows? Would Virginia have ratified the Constitution if slaves were freed? Would Massachusetts have ratified without a Bill of Rights? Would the world be a better place if Britain suppressed the Revolution?
Distinctly, the Colonies were not Homogeneous. The protestant north contained yeoman farmers and many small manufacturers. The Anglican South more closely resembled the manorial system common in England and other parts of Europe. The North had a robust middle class while the South had the wealthy, the poor, and the slaves.
In the North land was divided amongst many landholders while in the South property was concentrated amongst large plantation owners. Two Americas, with two different ideologies. For a poor white man in the South surely the inferior position of slaves contributed to the social order. Yet, after emancipation, it was the poor whites and freedmen that elected Republicans during the reconstruction era. A biracial coalition in support of opportunity.
As when England enticed settlement of the colonies with land grants to settlers during the colonial period. Lincoln signed the Homestead act and the Pacific Railway act in 1862. WE should ask ourselves was the emancipation proclamation an act of morality or an economic policy to make westward migration a reality. Awarding land so that people could elevate the condition of men hints at a possible answer to our conclusion. We do not question that slavery is wrong, we conclude slavery is wrong. Was it philosophy or economics that was driving change, or are they inextricably intertwined?
Is it true that the one that is against the rights of others, abjures his own rights in the process? Is it also true, that relegating any part of society to a position of impotence becomes a burden to the entire community? Who amongst us is so gifted as to determine the potential of another? Any person that believes they have this ability, is transparently, not a believer in equality. How is dependence a benefit to the community? Now we move to property, self-reliance, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Enlightenment gave us both natural rights and political rights. Political rights may be interpreted by many as power. Political rights in France and America, were originally tied to property. Land provided a person the ability to be self-reliant, self-respecting, independent and able to accumulate wealth. Labor merely allows a person to survive. Social mobility has always been linked to property ownership. Again, it is self-evident, that denial of property rights cements a status of dependence and subservience.
We are utterly challenged with the notion of humans as property. If natural law declares that liberty and property are fundamental and imprescriptible rights, and that social distinctions can only be founded on the common good. Then we must assume that all men are created equal and therefore entitled to the opportunity to improve their position. That all men are to be able to break their caste. That no man has the right to inhibit the growth of another. For if some seek preference then all are injured. Here again, we are steered towards our conclusion.
In a broader context, if natural law allows us liberty and property, who does our industry belong to? Which social contract promotes the removal of property rights? Do those that encourage confiscation not repudiate the rights of humanity? Is taking from one and giving to another, equal treatment under the law? Are those that encourage ending property rights, leading us to a new plantation?
While the North won the civil war in kinetic terms. The ideology and the culture of the South was never defeated as the Jim Crow period from 1877 to 1954 illustrates. Even when blacks could own land they were deprived of political rights and consequently political power. Was there a great awakening in the 1960’s? Or did the battle for hearts and minds during the cold war necessitate confronting contradictions between our actions and our words. How could you promote human rights and democracy around the world while people were subjugated at home?
Optimistically, we could promote the idea of cultural evolution. Realistically, in an ideological battle between tyranny and liberty, democracy and communism, it was just natural to condemn prejudice, racism, and slavery, whether heartfelt or with duplicity. After all, in communist countries, there was no religion, no property, no trial by jury, and no vote. Everybody was a slave in a communist country, so it must be terrible. Hence, are denunciation is nearly universal and clearly unquestionable. Yet, the radical movements today denounce slavery and promote communism. Implicating they actually believe in systemic oppression of all people equally.
Once again, similar to the Civil War, America may have won the Cold War against communism, but the ideology survived the defeat. IN fact, the ideology has infiltrated our institutions with a systemic hate for America. The hatred of the left for the enlightened principles of dual revolutions is similarly toxic to the Jim Crow hatred of Republicans and equality.
You could not tell a Confederate Democrat that the denial of human rights to anyone, threatened the rights of everyone. Nor can you tell a BLM supporter that their solution is tantamount to the universal denial of natural rights. They will not understand or listen to another point of view, which is why the tendency to suppress free thought and expression are typical of oppressors.
Slavery is wrong as it is inherently unnatural. It makes one man a king over another, without respect to virtue or ability, rather by accident of birth. It stifles mankind’s desire to improve, by creating privilege where none is earned. It is a societal pathogen that breads hate and contempt while promoting idleness. As an institution slavery suppresses thought and limits contribution in favor of subservience, thereby taxing all humanity without notice or process. In a hierarchy absent of merit or virtue, what but malfeasance can determine order?
AS current events bring to light the attitudes of the social justice army, we can see they have learned from Marx. Cancel culture is attacking the ideology of our history in order to aggrandize political power. Yet, if they understood what they are trying to erase they may be perplexed. If slavery is wrong because it made people property instead of citizens, denied political rights, denied property rights, denied the right to freely think or dissent, and denied due process. Then how can their solution be to deny every right associated with the Declaration of the rights of man? If they understood why, instead of concluded why, slavery is wrong. They would also understand their remedy is a curse, worse than the disease.