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Recently, Clayton E. Cramer commented: >The loss in human capital, in both dead and disabled, was also enormous, >and hard to quantify. And Doug Harvey commented: >I completely commiserate with Professor Reece's discomfort with the >reference to human beings as commodities. However, I would argue that >that's the way slaves and workers generally were, and continue to be, >seen by the propertied. I'd like to offer a general observation about these above comments and others like them. They seem to me to privilege, now, the attitudes of white masters over the attitudes of servants of color, in precisely the same manner that the attitudes of white masters were privileged, then, over the attitudes of servants of color. If there is such a thing as "presentism," in which attitudes of the present are illicitly backposted into a previous era to which they do not apply, contaminating our thinking, then surely there is also such a thing as "pastism," in which attitudes of the past are illicitly brought forward, and continue to lay a dead hand upon our spirits, contaminating our thinking. Notice how, in all these tabulations of the losses due to the American civil strife of the 1860s that have been posted to this list, no accounting is ever made of what the "freed" slaves lost, equity to which they were clearly entitled. They had, all their lives to that point, been taken from: their entire labor had been taken, under duress and force, by slavemasters, it had been taken almost entirely without compensation, and almost entirely without any provision for education or for illness and old age. That was a massive overhanging debt, and it was a debt that now falls squarely within the rubric of our discussion, "Economic Effect of Uncompensated Emancipation in the American South." At the completion of the Civil War, that massive overhanging debt was, in the attitude of the surviving white people of the South, and in the attitude of the white people of the North, simply erased. --Erased simply by being ignored, as for the following century they themselves, as colored "sharecroppers," would simply be ignored. -- The elephant at the party, the invisible negro and the invisible debt. -- We should, as historians, be studying what the impact would have been on the American economy, in particular on the Southern economy, if the post-war "emancipation" of the slave in the American South had been properly compensated by providing to the former slaves the equity which very clearly they had earned, and to which they were entitled. Perhaps this would have, and perhaps this would not have, contributed to a resurgence of the Southern economy, but whether it would have or would not have is a subject for investigation, not a subject for presumptive disregard. I don't know what I'd like to do about reparations, I really don't, but I do know what I'd like to do about this pastism. It is simply wrong to privilege the attitude of one group of people, because they are white, over the attitude of another group of people, because they are not. Wrong, and it is just as wrong when a historian does it as when anyone else does it. To bring the interests of the white owners forward into present writings of history, while ignoring the interests of their black subjects in present writings of history, is wrong. It is a sin of our spirits and it is an error of our historians. It is unfortunate. It is something we should try to do without.