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Austin Meredith (I believe -- it is unsigned so I cannot be sure, as : Kouroo@BROWN.EDU) writes as follows; (I also have intentionally left his entire post below my sig.line): "Nothing could be more clear than that Professor Finkelman is here and now privileging the attitudes of those 19th-Century white masters over the attitudes of those 19th-Century servants of color in precisely the same manner that during the 19th Century those attitudes of the white masters were privileged over the attitudes of those 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" of which Professor Finkelman is revealing that he is himself guilty, in which we are illicitly bringing attitudes of the past forward, so that they may continue to lay a dead hand upon our spirits, contaminating our thinking. He demonstrates the accuracy of my analysis." As a historian (despite my law school affiliation I have not given up my Ph.D. in history) I am not sure whether I should be insulted, proud, or amused that I am "guilty" (I didn't know it was a "crime") of commiting "pastism" (whatever that might be) because I am actually trying to understand and explain the past. Mr. Meredith seems to be angry that the past played out as it did, and thus he wants to change the past to suit his own present day ideological needs. Thus, he calls black slaves "servants of color." This is almost amusing, since he is now adopted the exact language of most southern planters who used the term "servants" to desrcibe their slaves because they knew that "slave" bothered people, especially in England and the North. It reminds me of visiting Monticello thirty years ago (this has changed there) or Mount Vernon more recently, or various other places in the South and listening to the guides tell me about the "servants" Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Washington, or Mr. Lee, or some other planter owned. By trying so hard to rewrite the past to suit ideological urgency, Mr. Meredith instead has simply played into the hands of the apologists for slavery. His words could have easily come from the mouth of James Henry Hammond, John C. Calhoun, or Goerge Fitzhugh. Consider this passage from DeBow's Review "Now, well know, that the condition of the servant of the Roman empire, was much less free than that of the southern negro." Or more to the point, Rev. A. T. Holmes, in Duties of the Christian Master, wrote "A master may mvoe among his servants, a father among his children." Later he says "The Christian master . . . will, directly tend to improve the moral condition of his servants." This essay, by the way, won a prize in 1849 from the Alabama Baptists Convention, for the best essay on the subject of a Christian's duties towards his slaves. So, Mr. Meredith, welcome to the 1840s. The issue here is central to our understandind of the past and the present. Mr. Meredith seems to be claiming that the descendants of slaves are entitled to some sort of reparation. But, he denies they were even slaves. I am apparently "guilty" of "pastism" for saying they were slaves, and moreover, for pointing out that as slaves they were treated like property. But, if they were not treated as property (and there a form of wealth), and if they were not slaves at all, but as Mr. Meredith now claims, merely "servants of color" then surely they owed nothing when Lincoln, Sherman, Grant, and finally Congress and the States throught 13th Amendment, tore up their contracts and forced these servants to find a new way to make a living. Mr. Meredith also says I am "privileging" 19th century masters by acknowledging that they owned slaves. This seems to me to be another example of someone who does not like what happened in the past (who does when it comes to writing about slavery) and so, rather than explain the past and understand, I am condemned as some sort of 21st century apologist for slavery because I undertand that in the 19th century slaves were bought and sold and treated as property, and as such had economic value. Indeed, if this were not the case -- if slaves were not sold and bought and treated like property, then why would anyone be concerned about a dept that might have been owed to former slaves? Along this same line, Mr. Meredth further writes: Professor Finkelman alleges that this was *not* a massive overhanging debt, *not* a debt that now falls squarely within the rubric of our discussion, "Economic Effect of Uncompensated Emancipation in the American South." And why not? --because he is privileging the attitudes of the debtors over the attitudes of those to whom this debt was owed. The white people did not consider themselves indebted, and therefore in his mind they were not indebted, and why not? --because, perhaps, for Professor Finkelman, it is only the attitudes of white people that matter? I have no idea why he thinks I said any of this, because I did not. I did not discuss what the "overhanging debt" might have been to former slaves. That is a entirely separate issue. It is surely worth a serious discussion, but that would require some rigorous analysis about slavery, the economics of slavery, what slaves "earned" as slaves in an economic sense (that is how much of the wealth they produced came back to them in the form of food, clothing, housing, etc.) I have not said anything about any of this, so I cannot comprehend what Mr. Meredith might think I said about this. Of course, to even being this discussion would have to have a serious historical analysis and investigation, and that would probably cause us to commit the "crime" or the "sin" (I am not sure which it is) of "pastism." -- Paul Finkelman Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law University of Tulsa College of Law 3120 East 4th Place Tulsa, OK 74104-3189 918-631-3706 (office) 918-631-2194 (fax) firstname.lastname@example.org > From: Kouroo@BROWN.EDU): > >I suppose I can rest my case -- the accuracy of my analysis has been >demonstrated by Paul Finkelman, Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law >at the University of Tulsa College of Law. He writes that my posting: > > > >>confuses historical analysis with modern sensibilities and questions of >> >>morality; it further confuses economic analysis with what we might all >> >> >>moral analysis. >> >>Surely, before the Civil War slaves were "property." They were bought, >> >> >>sold, exchanged, taxed, and in every other way we can describe >>property, treated like property. (For some circumstances they were also >> >>treated by like people but that is not terribly relevant here.) As long >> >> >>as slaves were treated as property, then determining the "cost" of the >>Civil War >>-- or of "uncompensated emancipation" -- must start from the premise >>(however unpleasant) that the United States -- and especially the 15 >>southern states -- considered slaves (not blacks) to be property. >> >> > >Nothing could be more clear than that Professor Finkelman is here and >now privileging the attitudes of those 19th-Century white masters over >the attitudes of those 19th-Century servants of color in precisely the >same manner that during the 19th Century those attitudes of the white >masters were privileged over the attitudes of those 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" of which Professor Finkelman is revealing that he is >himself guilty, in which we are illicitly bringing attitudes of the past >forward, so that they may continue to lay a dead hand upon our spirits, >contaminating our thinking. He demonstrates the accuracy of my analysis. > >In tabulations of the economic losses due to the American civil strife >of the 1860s, Professor Finkelman is allowing no accounting of what the >slaves lost when they were freed without compensation, although very >clearly they were entitled to this equity. They had, all their lives to >that point, been taken from: their entire labor had been taken, under >duress and force, by slavemasters, almost entirely without compensation, >and almost entirely without any provision for education or for illness >and old age. Professor Finkelman alleges that this was *not* a massive >overhanging debt, *not* a debt that now falls squarely within the rubric >of our discussion, "Economic Effect of Uncompensated Emancipation in the >American South." And why not? --because he is privileging the attitudes >of the debtors over the attitudes of those to whom this debt was owed. >The white people did not consider themselves indebted, and therefore in >his mind they were not indebted, and why not? --because, perhaps, for >Professor Finkelman, it is only the attitudes of white people that >matter? > >We asked Willie Sutton (1901-1980) why he robbed banks. Evidently we >though it to be relevant, what a bank robber thought about where money >ought to be kept! However, as we notice, Willie was a white man, and as >we notice, the attitudes of white men matter. If Willie had been a black >man and a former slave, would Professor Finkleman be willing to ask him >whether anyone owed him anything? > >Over the course of the antebellum years, in various of the states of the >American south, more and more restrictions had been laid in the path of >manumission. White slavemasters were simply not allowed, under the >existing law, to sluff off slaves, or to abandon them when they were no >longer useful. Typically, a law of manumission in a Southern state that >still allowed manumission would specify that when a slave was >manumitted, the manumitter must bestow upon the manumitee the tools of >the trade in which he or she was skilled. Thus, for instance, a black >blacksmith being manumitted was entitled to all the tools of the trade >of blacksmithing which he had been practicing, etc. This was an >obligation and was treated exactly as a debt. At the end of the Civil >War, however, such legalities were ignored. The former slaves were >simply abandoned into freedom. As Professor Finkelman accurately points >out, this was morally wrong and moral wrongs are for us an irrelevancy. >I would point out, however, that this talk about moral wrong is a red >herring: ignoring this liability was both illegal (it seems in some >states to have been in direct violation of existing laws of manumission, >written by white legislators) and economically damaging (in interfering >with the former slave's ability to continue to do productive work and to >contribute to the general economy). > >