01 August 2010

Senator James Webb On The Old South

"The clearest example of today's misguided policies comes from examining the history of the American South.  The old South was a three-tiered society, with blacks and hard-put whites both dominated by white elites who manipulated racial tensions in order to retain power. At the height of slavery, in 1860, less than 5% of whites in the South owned slaves. The eminent black historian John Hope Franklin wrote that 'fully three-fourths of the white people in the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery.'" ~ Virginia Democrat Senator, Jame Webb, The Wall Street Journal, 22 July 2010

9 comments:

Chaps said...

This is the second sensible thing Webb has written recently. The first was advocating an end to affirmative action programs. I wonder what he's up to.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Saving his bacon. He's always been critical of "elites", yet he goes to Washington and votes with them at every opportunity. I think he's a phony.

msimons said...

Liberals always play fast and loose with the FACTS!

Vince said...

"The eminent black historian John Hope Franklin wrote that 'fully three-fourths of the white people in the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery.'"

...which raises the question, what was their immediate social interest in the maintenance of slavery?

I don't think we can underestimate the power of telling one group of people that another group is inherently inferior to it.

That power was demonstrated well in the mid-nineteenth century North on issues of race and ethnicity. I imagine it was even more present in the South, where blacks were treated not just as inferior but as property in a system whose foundation was the threat of violent punishment.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I don't think Hope's statement "raised the question . . . ", but there was, of course, social motivations.

But your comment:

"I don't think we can underestimate the power of telling one group of people that another group is inherently inferior to it."

. . . does raise a question:

Aren't we seeing that exact same "power" in the ruling class micro-managing our lives today?

Vince said...

I don't know if I understand your question without a couple definitions/clarifications: what are the groups pitted against each other (is the "ruling" class one of them, or does it manipulate two other groups?), which group benefits from being told it is superior to the other, and how does the "micro-managing" tie into that relationship?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

The Ruling Class, pseudo-intellectuals, academic elites, government bureaucrats that believe the Country Class is inferior and needs to be told what food to eat, what kind of cars to drive, what medical treatment they can have . . . need I go on?

http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas-ruling-class-and-the

Vince said...

Oh, ok, thanks for clarifying. I was confused as there were three parties at work in the American slavery example: a "ruling" class that manipulates the others, powerless whites, and slaves. But the same "power" could exist in a system with two parties...

And from reading the article I think I understand the comparison you proposed: "[The ruling class's] attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that 'we' are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained.'"

So, yes, then, it seems like a similar power--a power derived from belonging to a group to which others can't belong. Bringing this conversation back to the original topic, I guess we conclude that a system structured so that one group is guaranteed to be superior to another can be very appealing to that one group. It explains (at least partially) why many Northern immigrant groups reacted with hostility toward free blacks. And it also explains (again, at least partially) why many Southerners would take up arms to protect slavery as an institution, even while they had no direct financial interest in the system.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"[The ruling class's] attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that 'we' are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained.'"

Precisely. That is the attitude of the elites - in government (both parties) and much (though not all) of academia.

And, yes, "at least partially", though I believe the reasons for Southerners fighting were as diverse and nuanced as they are in any war. Thanks for your comments Vince.