Plantation Politics

For some nostalgic observers of the Antebellum era, there exists a sort of curious romanticism wedded to the images of sweeping plantations and genteel folk in their crisp clean clothing, drinking mint juleps on the grand front porch. Indeed, in the mid-19th century, some considered the “southern cotton planters as the last survival of a noble and knightly virtue…a sort of American aristocracy holding its own against the onslaught of Yankee capitalism” (Guelzo 26). Romanticism emerged as “a backlash against the Enlightenment” from “the shambles of post-Napoleonic Europe, which snarled at the failures of reason and glorified the romance of authority, especially when it was rooted in knightly myth, chivalrous orders, and medieval faith” (Guelzo 26). Prevailing political sentiments turned from the presumptive importance of natural rights to the “ineffable experience of nationhood…It was each nation’s collective and organic experience that made its people what they were, not some inherent human qualities shared equally by everyone”(Guelzo 27). This shift in thinking helped justify the plantation culture because the plantation embodied the mystery of Southernness” (Guelzo 27). With its medieval imagery and allusions to nobility and tradition, plantation culture appealed those who wanted to create a particularly southern aristocracy. To maintain economic viability, planters needed slave labor, and any threat to it was perceived as an attack against the control of the collective.

Until the 1850s the United States had put off dealing with the issue of slavery, but “opponents of capitalism–especially those who disparaged northern factories and big cities–began their attacks in earnest for the first time in American history.” They pointed out that as cities were inundated with immigrants, crime increased alongside prostitution, begging, and gangs. Most immigrants came from Europe “lured by jobs, land, and low taxes, a small standing army (with no conscription), a relatively tiny government, complete absence of mandatory state church tithes, no state press censorship, and no czarist or emperor’s secret police” (Schweikart and Allen 252- 253). A large influx of Irish stayed in Northeast urban areas, while Germans gravitated to the Appalachian Valley and the northern Midwest. By 1885 Jews owned all but 17 of 241 clothing firms in New York City. The point is that all the immigrant groups found niches, and all largely succeeded except African Americans. Although there were pockets of free blacks who were successful in their own right, millions more were held in bondage (Schweikart and Allen 256-257). Because the vast majority of immigrants were European, the Africans’ “complexion marked them off as a different race of beings to European eyes, so fugitives could be more easily identified and recaptured. Owners saw all people of African descent as a coherent group—black—so their labor could be bounded with an entirely different set of assumptions than would prevail for white labor.” (Guelzo 29). As agriculture flourished in the South, so did the institution of slavery: the planters believed it created a genteel way to avoid the evils of the urban North.

Governance on Southern plantations obviously relied on the subjugation of individuals to the needs of the collective. In a disturbing echo of the past, it has become de rigueur today to segregate politicized groups by superficial traits, and to promote collective desires by vilifying and silencing anyone who does not follow the collective’s prescribed belief system and political identity. Most alarming is that the arguments made in support of slavery in the antebellum era are eerily similar to those made today in support of collectivist governance and, arguably, set a dangerous precedent for the trajectory of oppressive power globally and within the United States.

In the Antebellum era, “a slave, by simple definition, had no legal or social existence: a slave could have no right to hold property, could enjoy no recognition of marriage or family, and could not give testimony (even in self-defense) before the law…Slaves could be beaten and whipped, bullied, brutalized, and raped” (Guelzo 30-31). They were “prohibited by law and public opinion…from reading the Book of Life. [Their] intellect ha[d] been destroyed as much as possible, and every ray of light…shut out from [their] minds. The oppressors… ha[d] become weak, sensual, and rapacious” (Daley 2-3). They “provided a docile workforce that did not require an equal share of one’s wealth or success, and… seemed to set the region off, not only from the North but also from the rest of the nineteenth century” (Guelzo 28). Basically, “slavery embodied the worst aspects of unfettered capitalism wedded to uninhibited government power, all turning on the egregiously flawed definition of a human as ‘property’” (Guelzo 257).

As popular sentiments began changing, particularly in the North and areas that did not depend on slavery to succeed, it became difficult to ignore the humanity of Africans, so “Southerners needed the force of government to maintain and expand slavery… without it a combination of the market and slave revolts would have ultimately ended the institution (Schweikart and Allen 257). Eventually, “many slave owners felt paralyzed by guilt not necessarily because of slavery but because of the abuses endemic to southern slaveholding” and this “produced a clamorous urge on the part of white Southerners to justify the continuation of slavery on the grounds that slavery was actually a benefit of sorts to African Americans” (Guelzo 31-31). Schweikart and Allen contend that “When Alabama’s Franklin W. Bowdon wrote about the property rights in slaves “if any of these rights can be invaded, there is no security for the remainder,” Northerners instinctively knew that the inverse was true: if one group of people could be condemned to slavery for their race, another could suffer the same fate for their religious convictions, or their political affiliations” (257). This was an impetus to stand against slavery.

But slavery’s proponents argued that it was merely a reflection of the best kind of collectivism. Socialist and Communist leaders in France consisted of “the most cultivated and profound minds in the nation,” postulated George Fitzhugh in 1854,

and we have conclusive proof that liberty and equality have not conduced to enhance the comfort or the happiness of the people… We proceed to show that the war of the wits, of mind with mind, which free competition or liberty and equality beget and encourage, is quite as oppressive, cruel and exterminating as the war of the sword, of theft, robbery, and murder, which it forbids. It is only substituting strength of mind for strength of body.”             (Gilder Lehrman Course Reader 5)

Fitzhugh insisted that the free market fails to protect the weak from oppression, and that the promise of opportunity to succeed on one’s own merits is cruel to those, like African slaves, who are not capable of navigating capitalist society. “We do not set children and women free because they are not capable of taking care of themselves,” he reasons. “To set them free would be to give the lamb to the wolf to take care of. Society would quickly devour them…But half of mankind are but grown-up children, and liberty is as fatal to them as it would be to children” (GLCR 5). Fitzhugh argues that a free society destroys morals, families, businesses, and well-being (GLCR 6), but that the institution of slavery in the South allows “small properties [to] descend from generation to generation in the same family; there is…stability and permanency of property” (GLCR 7). In fact, the slave is happy on the plantation, insists Fitzhugh, because he is promised security:

We provide for each slave, in old age and in infancy, in sickness and in health, not according to his labor, but according to his wants. The master’s wants are more costly and refined, and he therefore gets a larger share of the profits. A Southern farm is the beau ideal of Communism; it is a joint concern, in which the slave consumes more than the master, of the coarse products, and is far happier… he is always sure of a support; he is only transferred to another master to participate in the profits of another concern; he marries when he pleases, because he knows he will have to work no more with a family than without one, and whether he live or die, that family will be taken care of.” (GLCR 7)

Furthermore, “a state of dependence is the only condition in which reciprocal affection can exist among human beings…the relation of master and slave is one of mutual good will…[and] the ready submission of the slave, nine times out of ten, disarms his [master’s] wrath…” (GLCR 7).

Some followers of the French utopian Charles Fourier envisioned slave plantations that would slowly emancipate slaves, claiming “that their strategy of peaceful social reconstruction was an enlightened and workable alternative to the more aggressive antislavery tactics of moral suasion and political coercion.” Fourierists believed that plantation slavery was simply one form of “‘servitudes’ inflicted upon humanity by corrupt and immoral social arrangements” endemic to capitalist civilization, such as employment and marriage (Guarneri 6). But even as they touted emancipation, the Fourierists used slaves as their pawns in their plan to accomplish socialist utopia, envisioning them working their way to freedom as “attractive labor” (Guarneri 13).

John C. Calhoun argued that “never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually” (Calhoun 3) through southern plantation enslavement. Anti-slavery sentiment must be confronted aggressively, he said, because it “will continue to rise and spread, unless prompt and efficient measures to stay its progress be adopted. Already it has taken possession of the pulpit, of the schools, and, to a considerable extent, of the press; those great instruments by which the mind of the rising generation will be formed” (Calhoun 2). “Blind fanatics” would teach children to hate slavery, yet “there is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North” (Calhoun 3).

In Georgia planters believed that “by soliciting state investment in internal improvement projects, [they] simultaneously encouraged development and ensured their continued dominance over growing bourgeois and white working classes.” Hungry for continued control “in the final decade of the antebellum period, key slaveholding intellectuals evolved a cogent argument for a “progressive” slave society based on state mediation of the economy” (Morgan 2-3).

These were not just fringe opinions relegated only to backwater Southern towns. The federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 arguably recognized and supported this institution of subjugation. Fugitives could be arrested without due process. Their testimony was moot and fines up to one thousand dollars were levied against anyone else who did not comply with the law (GLCR 20).  The law “established no statute of limitations for runaways, which meant that runaways from as long as twenty years before (and more) could be captured and reenslaved (Guelzo 72). “It virtually made every Northerner an accomplice to the betrayal and seizure of runaway slaves;” they were now “forced to consider how they would act if a slave owner or federal marshal in hot pursuit of a runaway should summon them to join a federal slave-catching posse” (Guelzo 73). In 1850 Jermain Wesley Loguen, an escaped slave, appealed to the city of Syracuse, New York, to stand against the Fugitive Slave Act and declare itself a refuge against “the bloodhounds.” He encouraged “the people of Syracuse and of the whole North [to] meet this tyranny and crush it by force, or be crushed by it. This hellish enactment has precipitated the conclusion that white men must live in dishonorable submission, and colored men be slaves.” He explained that organizations had offered to purchase his freedom, but he refused because he owed “[his] freedom to the God who made [him]…and w[ould] not…consent that anybody else shall countenance the claims of a vulgar despot to [his] soul and body” (Daley 9). Harriet Beecher Stowe “made her readers hate slavery, and she made them hate the Fugitive Slave Law, too,” by awakening “Northerners to the hideous realities the new law was bringing to their own doorsteps” (Guelzo 75).

As sentiments shifted, it is likely that abolition would have inevitably occurred without a Civil War—or perhaps secession would have successfully created two nations from one—slaveholding and free. Despite great efforts to force the abolitionist cause to the forefront of the American conscience, political opinion before the advent of technology was comparatively slow to conform to popular opinion. With the proliferation of radio, television, computers, smart phones, social media, instant news and information, this is no longer the case. Of great concern today is the increasing number of young people who claim to believe that government control in the name of safety and security is preferable to freedom and, in many ways, the popular political opinion within the United States appears to be regressing back to antebellum sentiments in the guise of equality.

Just this year BuzzFeed News and Maru/Blue conducted an online survey of millennials. The study found that “roughly one out of three millennials (31%) say they are a democratic socialist, a socialist, or would identify as either,” and “nearly half of all millennial Democrats (48%) identify as democratic socialists or socialists” (Haltiwanger). Fifty-seven percent of all Democrats feel positively about socialism (Gallup, Inc.).

The goal of socialism is to transform society from the traditional to a new world order. There exist various opinions about what this means and what will ultimately be accomplished, but socialism, as designed by Marx and Engels, is a violent step in the process of transforming society from traditional family/work/church existence (bourgeoisie) to one that is controlled by the working class (proletariat) and, inevitably, the State. Socialism itself has never been the end goal; it has always been a means to a completely revolutionary end: “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air” (Marx and Engels 11). There lies a “civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat,” for the bourgeoisie’s “existence is no longer compatible with society.” What “the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers” (Marx and Engels 12).

To Bela Kun, a Hungarian Communist revolutionary who was the de facto leader of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, those words “toll the death knell of moribund capitalist society and sound the tocsin of the attacking proletarian armies” which are “storming the fortresses of capitalist exploitation and oppression” to establish a utopia that “has become a science and finally a reality.”(Kun 4)

Utopia has always been the perfect society whose details vary with the desires of its dreamer. Thomas More envisioned “magistrates never engag[ing] the people in unnecessary labour, since the chief end of the constitution is to regulate labour by the necessities of the public, and to allow the people as much time as is necessary for the improvement of their minds, in which they think the happiness of life consists” (More 24). “Their chief dispute is concerning the happiness of a man” (More 30), but this community also consists of subservient women, torture, and slaves. Many versions of Utopia exist, and most create equal, fair societies—equal and fair for those who are not being tortured or put into slavery—under a strong central authority.

Today those with a socialist utopian vision of a State-imposed equal society call themselves progressives or social democrats. Kun denounced the social democrats of the 1930s, mocking them as watered-down “piffle,” “vulgar,” “irksome” and a “garbled apology for capitalism” (Kun 21), yet the Democratic Socialists of America just as openly declare their desire for revolution (DSA). Their platform consists of redistribution of wealth, using a variety of tactics to create a “more just” society, and to radically transform many government and economic structures as part of the Democratic Party. Of particular note, much like the abolitionists of Fitzhugh’s fears, they find that schools, colleges and universities are important to American political culture. They are the places where ideas are formulated and policy discussed and developed. Being an active part of that discussion is a critical job for young socialists. We have to work hard to change people’s misconceptions about socialism, to broaden political debate, and to overcome many students’ lack of interest in engaging in political action. Off-campus, too, in our daily cultural lives, young people can be turning the tide against racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as the conservative myth of the virtue of “free” markets. (DSA)

This growing movement of American society towards socialism might be credited to teacher unions and the militant work of socialists on campuses. According to a publication of the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission and the Young Democratic Socialists of America titled “Why Socialists Should Be Teachers,” strong unionism has contributed to “rich, militant labor history…many teachers and service personnel have begun to view politics through the lens of class consciousness. With socialists active in our organizing, we’ll be in a strategic position to make bold, visionary demands to take on the capitalist class” (DSA 2).  They openly declare that “we, as socialists need to build a “militant minority” of class conscious teachers that can move our unions in a more militant and democratic direction” (DSA 7). Addressing potential young teachers, they promise that “your exchanges with students can help shape a generation of critical thinkers and political actors. You will be a key source for how many young Americans come to perceive the world around them. You may even have the opportunity to teach about social justice and liberation history. And, crucially for organizers, your political work doesn’t end at the classroom door. Your interactions and shared struggle with co-workers can be just as fulfilling” (DSA 9).

Also, the National Education Association, one of the most powerful lobbyist groups in the country, lists as its core values “a just society,” and “collective action” for the “common good” (NEA). Although such language appears harmless and pleasant, it is core to communism, the ultimate goal of socialism. Jonathan Daly explains that

As one Communist pedagogue [A. Sventsitskii] wrote, “It is necessary to educate the child in such a way that he will achieve happiness only by being a socialist. To speak more colorfully, it is necessary to tune the strings of the human soul in such a way that these strings create harmony only when playing the melody of the socialist order.”15 Or, in the words of Anatoly Lunacharsky, the commissar for enlightenment, “Each person must think as WE, must become a living, useful corresponding organ or part of this WE.” Such training, he insisted, should begin at age five.16 Indeed, the Eighth Party Congress in March 1919 defined schools in Soviet Russia as “an instrument for the Communistic regeneration [pererozhdenie] of society.”17 Yet, according to Nikolai Bukharin, education should be viewed in the broader context of “proletarian coercion in all its forms.” (Daly 5-6)

Unfortunately, this militant ideology and the often aggressive behavior of socialist groups targeting college and K-12 campuses to influence young Americans to create social justice utopias resembles that of the very despots they claim to hate, who ironically owned oppressive cotton plantations, expounded the virtues of slavery, and claimed that the antebellum genteel lifestyle was necessary for the common good of the collective.

For instance, despite the oft-touted moral high ground of progressive perceptions, a 2018 study revealed that “32.3 percent of the 461 colleges and universities analyzed maintain policies that seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students” in the guise of social justice (FIRE). These “cultural Marxists drive society morally into an identity crisis by the means of the false standards of a hypocritical” ethos (Mueller). Disturbingly, a growing faction of disaffected millennials aligned with the Democrat Party believe that government should be allowed to silence speech that triggers negative emotions (Poushter). And some on the forefront of the political and cultural Marxist revolution call for violence and marginalization against anyone who does not agree with them (Scalise), taking no umbrage at limiting rights of others (Barrett).

Much of the most recent impetus for this ideology comes from curriculum taught in universities and colleges, particularly teacher certification programs that inculcate the Critical Race Theory and White Privilege. These are rather new approaches to the same social class war. Critical Race Theory starts with the presumption that white racism is endemic, permanent, and permeates all aspect of the culture, both conscious and unconscious (Solorzano 6).  Critical Race Theory boasts an overall commitment to social justice and the elimination of racism, but is only part of the greater goal of ending gender, class and sexual discrimination (Solorzano 4). Therefore, White Privilege must be uncovered, admitted, and interrupted in the classroom because

Whiteness is a complex, hegemonic, and dynamic set of mainstream socio-economic processes, and ways of thinking, feeling, believing, and acting (cultural scripts) that function to obscure the power, privilege, and practices of the dominant social elite. Whiteness drives oppressive individual, group, and corporate practices that adversely impact schools, the wider U.S. society and, indeed, societies worldwide. At the same time, whiteness reproduces inequities, injustices, and inequalities within the educational system and wider society. (Lea and Sims 1-2).

New teachers in the k-12 classroom, therefore, teach students that whiteness is hateful, and that skin color is more important than individual character when determining a person’s worth. Students carry this belief onto the streets, and since whiteness inherently seeks to oppress and marginalize people of color, classes, women, LGBTQ, etc., whiteness must be oppressed and marginalized.

Antifa in the United States, which was born of this mantra in Europe and imported “is often called ‘revolutionary anti-fascism’ that could form the foundation of the broader revolutionary struggle;” a kind of “ideology, an identity, a tendency or milieu, or an activity of self-defense…it is simply one of a number of manifestations of revolutionary social politics (broadly construed)…a collective [militant] self-defense” says Mark Bray, the author of the Anti-Fascist Handbook (xvi).

However, “Bray presents today’s Antifa as though it were the glorious legitimate heir to every noble cause since abolitionism,” notes Diana Johnstone, “but there were no anti-fascists before fascism, and the label “Antifa” by no means applies to all the many adversaries of fascism” (Johnstone 2). “Since historic fascism no longer exists,” argues Johnstone, Bray’s Antifa have broadened their notion of “fascism” to include anything that violates the current Identity Politics canon: from “patriarchy” (a pre-fascist attitude to put it mildly) to “transphobia” (decidedly a post-fascist problem). The masked militants of Antifa seem to be more inspired by Batman than by Marx or even by Bakunin” (Johnstone 2-3).

Maybe, but the hypocrisy of using militant force to bring about peaceful change is evident, and teaching that a group of human beings is inherently bad and lesser based on their skin color smacks of antebellum rhetoric. Adherents argue that only whites have the capacity to be racist, as they are the largest, richest, and most powerful group. This justification is simply a mirror of Fitzhugh and Calhoun’s argument that blacks must be kept in slavery because they are the smallest, poorest and least powerful group. To purposely inundate schools with educators who believe it, teach it, mirror and model it, can only be considered indoctrination. This is not an abolitionist movement. If anything, its goal is to create a new kind of slave—one that relies on the government for all things.

Antifascist movements have inspired college and university campuses to allow freedom of speech in only very limited, so-called free speech zones (sometimes only a few square feet in quiet areas of campus), and become hosts to violent scenes such as at “University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary and the University of California at Berkeley, among others, where appearances by controversial speakers resulted in protests with armed police officers reminiscent of a war zone, with students doing their best to interrupt speakers” (Selingo 1).

In 2017, Gallup, the Knight Foundation and the American Council on Education partnered with the Charles Koch Institute and the Stanton Foundation and found that thirty seven percent of college students said that shouting down speakers was acceptable. Ten percent said it was acceptable to use violence to prevent someone from speaking (Selingo 2). In the same poll, “when asked whether free expression or diversity and inclusion is more important, they tilt toward saying diversity and inclusion are. Students are as likely to favor campus speech codes as to oppose them, and they overwhelmingly favor free speech zones on campus. Students do not believe the U.S. Constitution should protect hate speech, and they continue to support campus policies that restrict both hate speech and wearing stereotypical costumes” (Knight Foundation). Definitions of hate speech are as reliable as those who write them. Limiting ideas, stifling discussion, insulating through forced segregation based on skin color, political persuasion, voting records, anatomy, or chosen profession is indicative of plantation politics.

Similarly, less-educated looting mobs disrupt traffic, threaten police, and attack drivers. They are easy pawns for organizations looking to instigate revolution. Groups that destroy Civil War statues because they memorialize individuals associated with the South are also arguably born of this trend in cultural Marxism and social justice indoctrination in lower education that does not accurately educate or educate at all about the many facets of the Civil War and all its shades of blue and grey. This is the “‘dangerous class’, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society,” that “may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue” (Marx and Engels 11).

The ideological conflict is ethically framed, in that anyone who does not agree with the demands and expectations of the moment is vilified as hateful and dangerous and must be criminalized, marginalized, oppressed, scared, and limited. The ones who participate feel good about their involvement and righteously indignant in their misguided attempt to eliminate so-called fascists (republicans and, therefore, supposedly capitalists) to create a revolutionary world order (Yost). Ironically, they utilize violent, oppressive measures and do not perceive their own hypocrisy.

Conspicuously missing in education today is the in-depth study of historical documents and literature as they were understood in the era in which they occurred. Common Core State Standards encourages deep reading of complex texts like Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and “Second Inaugural Address” (Common Core 10) without giving students any contextual information (Digital Chalkboard). History has become social studies—more of a focus on society as a collective human entity, rather than on historical events and individuals who contributed to them. Younger generations are not being taught about the vast problems of socialism and communism in practice, and the death millions under such regimes. They aren’t learning about the contributions to the world that individualism in the form of capitalism has provided, and that millions have been lifted out of poverty by allowing individual freedom of speech and press, even when the words are uncomfortable or hurtful. By silencing those with which we disagree and marginalizing groups based on superficial attributes, and encouraging young people to believe the government should provide economic and safety security to the collective, we run the risk of allowing central government control to create citizen slaves dependent on its reciprocal affection and management of individual lives in much the same way African American slaves were forced to be dependent on plantation owners.

 

 

Barrett, Lisa Feldman. “When Is Speech Violence?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 July 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/opinion/sunday/when-is-speech-violence.html.

Bray, Mark. Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook. Melville House Publishing, 2017.

Calhoun, John C. “Slavery a Positive Good.” Teaching American History, teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/slavery-a-positive-good/.

“Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks.” Corestandards.org, Common Core State Standards Initiative, corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf.

“Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) -.” Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), http://www.dsausa.org/.

Daley, James. Great Speeches by African Americans: Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, Jr., and Others. Dover Publications, 2006.

Daly, Jonathan. “Bolshevik Power and Ideas of the Common Good.” Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Educating for Liberty, Modern Age A Conservative Review, 10 Mar. 2016, home.isi.org/bolshevik-power-and-ideas-common-good.

“DIGITAL CHALKBOARD.” Unit 3: Supporting Student Comprehension of Informational Text 3.1 What Is Close Reading?. http://www.mydigitalchalkboard.org/portal/default/Content/Viewer/Content?action=2&scId=306592&sciId=18604. Interview with California State University, San Diego professor, Dr. Douglas Fisher.

FIRE, “Speech Code Reports.” www.thefire.org/spotlight/reports/.

Gallup, Inc. “Democrats More Positive About Socialism Than Capitalism.” Gallup.com, 13 Aug. 2018, news.gallup.com/poll/240725/democrats-positive-socialism-capitalism.aspx.

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Guarneri, Carl J. “Two Utopian Socialist Plans for Emancipation in Antebellum Louisiana.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, vol. 24, no. 1, 1983, pp. 5–24. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4232237.

Guelzo, Allen C. Fateful Lightning: a New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Haltiwanger, John. “A Large Percentage of Millennials Are Embracing Socialism and a Majority Disapprove of Trump, a New Poll Indicates.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 4 Oct. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/millennials-are-embracing-socialism-poll-indicates-2018-10.

Kun, Bela. “Address Delivered at Plenum Executive Committee of the Young Communist International.” Marxism Versus Social Democracy, Marxists.org, http://www.marxists.org/archive/kun-bela/pamphlets/1932/12.htm.

Johnstone, Diana. “Antifa in Theory and in Practice.” Www.counterpunch.org, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/09/antifa-in-theory-and-in-practice/.

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Lea, Virginia and Sims, Emma Jean. “Undoing Whiteness in the Classroom: Different Origins, Shared Commitment.” Counterpoints, vol. 321, 2008, pp. 1–28. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/42979956.

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Frederick. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” Marxists.org, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm.

More, Thomas. UTOPIA. Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2130/2130-h/2130-h.htm.

Morgan, Chad. “Progressive Slaveholders: Planters, Intellectuals, and Georgia’s Antebellum Economic Development.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. 86, no. 3, 2002, pp. 398–422. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40584570.

Mueller, Anthony P. “Is Cultural Marxism America’s New Mainline Ideology? | Antony P. Mueller.” Mises Institute, Mises Institute, 1 Oct. 2018, mises.org/wire/cultural-marxism-americas-new-mainline-ideology.

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Poushter, Jacob. “40% Of Millennials OK with Limiting Speech Offensive to Minorities.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 20 Nov. 2015, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/20/40-of-millennials-ok-with-limiting-speech-offensive-to-minorities/.

Selingo, Jeffrey J. “College Students Support Free Speech – Unless It Offends Them.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 Mar. 2018, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/college-students-support-free-speech–unless-it-offends-them/2018/03/09/79f21c9e-23e4-11e8-94da-ebf9d112159c_story.html?utm_term=.517414b509b4.

Scalise, Steve. “Rep. Steve Scalise: When Eric Holder, Other Dems Call for Violence, That’s a Direct Threat to Our Democracy.” Fox News, FOX News Network, www.foxnews.com/opinion/rep-steve-scalise-when-eric-holder-other-dems-call-for-violence-thats-a-direct-threat-to-our-democracy.

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Solorzano, Daniel G. “Images and Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Racial Stereotyping, and Teacher Education.” Teacher Education Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 3, 1997, pp. 5–19. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23478088.

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Yost, Zachary. “Antifa’s Handbook: A Primer on Violent Illiberalism.” The American Conservative, www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/antifas-handbook-a-sinister-primer-on-violent-illiberalism/.

 

 

Motivations and Consequences: Signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence

It is often argued that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were men of strong character and elevated principles who were willing to risk their lives, property, and families for the freedom and ideals the document espouses; conversely, some say they were rich, entitled, elitist white men who merely took precautions to avoid losing wealth to the British, and who wanted to capitalize on the war. In order to understand which description is more accurate—or that the truth is a combination of the two—it is necessary to explore sources that view the Revolutionary Era through different lenses.

Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese, authors of Signing Their Lives Away, state in their introduction that the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration risked their lives to defy the British (Kiernan and D’Agnese 8), which suggests that they must have had great motivation to take a public stand, whatever its genesis. Most sources today consider the signers privileged members of the elite upper classes. But did they begin their lives that way and simply fight to hold on to their privilege, or did they create their own wealth and status through the liberty afforded the colonies that rejected primogeniture and honored hard work? What were the underlying motives and desires that made them willing to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor?

None of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence were killed over their endorsement. None of them lost everything or died in penury as a direct result of the rebellion. So, were the signers willing to stand merely on principle to fight for independence from Britain? Or is it possible that they were confident that they could profit with little risk and, therefore, were operating on greed rather than ideals of freedom and liberty? Was their biggest concern to maintain the economic and social status quo and insulate themselves from rebellion and mingling with the lower classes that included minorities, women, and other non-voters?

Revisionist historian Howard Zinn argues that the continental Congress was dominated by rich men (Zinn 81) and that the American Revolution was an internal class war, as much as a war against the British—not a war for equality.  He claims that through the propaganda of rebellion, the Sons of Liberty aroused such passions in the lowest classes that they feared their wealth would become a target (Zinn 65). He suggests that as they reacted to the Stamp Act, the riled-up rioters alarmed the wealthy Loyal Nine when they became too destructive and destroyed the Stamp Master’s property. The rich then set up armed patrols to insulate them from the chaff. Consequently, colonial leaders took charge and insisted on “No Mobs…Tumults…disorders” (Zinn 66) in order to protect their own interests. Therefore, the Revolutionary War was not fought for lofty ideals, but to suppress internal rifts between classes by having the poor fight to keep the rich safe and wealthy (Zinn 79). The rebellion merely swapped the colonial elite for the British, leaving the situation of the poor the same (Zinn 86).

Furthermore, Zinn argues that Patrick Henry’s speech was not merely an impassioned plea for freedom, but a layman’s call to arms meant to relieve tension between the upper and lower classes to form a patriotic bond against the British—it was just vague enough to avoid class conflict (Zinn 68). Ultimately, “The reality behind the words of the Declaration of Independence,” he claims, “ is that a rising class of important people needed to enlist on their side enough Americans to defeat England without disturbing too much the relations of wealth and power that had developed over 150 years of colonial history” (Zinn 74).  Zinn offers evidence of their elitist privilege and power that sixty-nine percent of the signers originally held colonial office under England (Zinn 74), that the rich could pay substitutes for conscription (Zinn 75), and that loyalist land was confiscated and doled out heavily to each other with just enough to the middle class that it created a safe buffer between the rich and the dispossessed (Zinn 84).

Zinn suggests that the enlisted farmers only earned $6.66 per month, while a colonel earned $75 per month, which made them angry enough to boycott rent. This led powerful landowners to assuage the protesters by awarding them land, in order to create a committed voting bloc to ensure the adoption of the Constitution, which further added to the social status buffer (Zinn 85). He posits that there can be no equal rights when there exists a stark difference in wealth (Zinn 73).

After the war, Madison apparently argued in Federalist Paper #10 for representative government as a way to control the people (Zinn 97). The Constitution, therefore, “serves the interest of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle income mechanics and farmers, to build a broad base of support…who… are buffers against the blacks, Indians, the very poor whites…made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity (Zinn 99).

Zinn glosses over the fact that after the Revolution the number of independent farmers grew (Zinn 84), that the revolution created space and opportunity for blacks to begin making demands on white society (Zinn 88), and doesn’t mention much about the personal motivations or consequences suffered by the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  His stance that there is no equality when there are discrepancies in wealth seems strongly favorable towards a Marxist interpretation of history and leaves out any discussion of equality of opportunity. One would expect, if this is true, that the signers started out wealthy members of the ruling gentry, lost nothing substantial in their stance against the monarchy, and that only they profited handsomely as a result.

But, according to Alan Taylor, George Washington “projected a dignified and selfless devotion to the republican cause” (Taylor 321). Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence, but most likely would have had he not been defending Manhattan against the British. Thomas Jefferson “declared that Washington’s virtuous self-restraint had ‘prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish’” (Taylor 322). Washington did not approve of hereditary rights of aristocracy, standing up against its establishment as honorary president of the Society of Cincinnati. By retiring after the war, George Washington gave up power that he might easily have been granted and utilized to his advantage. This does not demonstrate greed. He did attempt to recover runaway slaves from British commanders who refused to release them. This outraged the Patriots, but one wonders if the anger was due to losing slaves or to the continued refusal of Britain to capitulate to colonial Congress under the peace treaty. In the end, the British only granted a “stinted freedom to the black refugees, denying them political rights” (Taylor 323). Many froze and starved on the coast of Novia Scotia.

After the war, loyalists faced beatings, coats of hot tar and cool feathers, and lynching. This violence troubled some elite Patriots, and General Nathanael Greene denounced the “intolerance to persecute men for opinions which, but twenty years before, had been the universal belief of every class of society” (Taylor 326). Loyalists fled to Britain but suffered prejudice and hardship. Others fled to the West Indies, Bahamas, and the Bahamas, but most went to Nova Scotia and other northern colonies. Lord Dorchester and William Smith, Jr., attempted to unite Quebec and the Maritime provinces under one governor-general and an elected parliament under British oversight. In an attempt to induce thousands to migrate north and weaken the United States, they offered virtually free land for loyalist settlers in British Canada, which rendered land more expensive in the U.S. Ironically, Canadians paid lower taxes as a result of British subsidies than did the Patriots, who had fought a war largely over taxes (Taylor 332). The economy determined prices, not just the “rich” landowners; it is not as simple as declaring it a class war.

If the Patriots were interested in maintaining power, one would expect elections to be controlled and infrequent. However, in New York elections were “more frequent, important, and accessible to a larger electorate” (Taylor 335). Polls were permitted in every township, and written ballots replaced oral voting. The postwar voter chose his governor and lieutenant governor every three years, state senators every two years, and assembly representatives annually (Taylor 335).

It is true that the Patriots desired peace and to avoid contentious battles for power among the states; when rivalries over land and borders threatened safety and justice, a union became necessary. But the Patriots worried about centralized power and the usurpation of smaller states by larger states. As John Adams explained, “they were composed of so many different nations, their Customs, Manners, and Habits had So little resemblance, and their Intercourse had been so rare, and their Knowledge of each other So imperfect, that to unite them in the Same Principles in Theory and the Same System of Action, was certainly a very difficult Enterprize” (Taylor 339). The Articles of Confederation and perpetual union built an alliance of states rather than a cohesive nation, with the states alone holding “Power to act coercively against their Citizens” (Taylor 341). The new government was of the people, by the people. This was not a country built to give power only to its founders.

Still, in the 1780s Benjamin Franklin opined that the states were “on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats” (Taylor 352), and John Jay declared that if there were no peace treaty, the United States would split “into three or four independent and probably discordant republics or confederacies, one inclining to Britain, another to France, and a third to Spain, and perhaps played off against each other by the three” empires in perpetual, destructive wars—”North America was riven with competing allegiances and multiple possibilities” (Taylor 352-353).

Patriot leaders did maintain status quo thinking about leadership, believing that the “better sort” should govern (Taylor 355) but in 1786 the French minister to the U.S. reported that a class of gentlemen aspires “to a preeminence which the people refuse to grant them (Taylor 356). The “gentlemen” needed common men to fight, women to manage the home front, and approval from the common folk. “Patriots offered a new republican order in which sovereignty derived from the people, who chose their rulers and enjoyed equal legal and civil rights” (Taylor 356). They could continue to govern only by “winning electoral consent” and appealing to religious dissenters who “longed to escape domination and taxation” (Taylor 356). The Patriot cause did appeal primarily to common white men with some property, but the “republican promise of equal opportunity invited the dissatisfied to seek more sweeping reforms meant to reduce the power and privileges of genteel leaders” (Taylor 357). Common people began to demand greater changes as a result of the revolution. New trade and political influences created opportunities for new wealth and power; “during the early 1780s, three-quarters of New York’s legislators and middle-class origins, unlike the wealthy gentlemen who had dominated the smaller colonial assembly” (Taylor 357).

The revolution served as inspiration for new state constitutions that limited executive power and gave, according to John Adams, three million people “full power and a fair opportunity to form and establish the wisest and happiest government that human wisdom can contrive” (Taylor 359). The states’ bill of rights forbade government from impairing freedom of the press, liberty of religion, the right to petition, trial by jury, access to habeas corpus, and due process under the law. Some conservatives worried that the state governments were too sensitive to public sentiment and regarded state constitutions as “pretty on paper but failures in practice” (Taylor 372) as demagogues pandered for popularity. By 1787 some conservatives concluded that the revolution had gone too far and wanted to substitute a constitutional monarchy to control democracy in the states. Taylor claims that by ditching the weak Articles of Confederation and writing a new constitution, conservatives hoped to kill two political birds with one stone: while rescuing the federal government from impotence and irrelevance, they would also subordinate the state governments (373).

James Madison, who was the eldest son of the wealthiest man in Virginia county, grew weary of “regional rivalries and the weak confederacy” and concluded that a “popular majority could act as tyrannically as any king” and that in a republic the “few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many.” A just republic needed to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority” (Taylor 374). Taylor claims that Madison sought a truly national government superior to the states with power to restrain state legislatures that sometimes favored debtors at the expense of creditors. Madison defied conventional thinking, insisting that the large the territory, the better a republic could protect minorities, especially those with great property (374). In one big republic, the many interest groups would have to compromise to build coalitions, sustaining social stability and managing the many interests of a vast nation of diverse people. A national republic would “extract from the mass of Society the purest and noblest characters which it contains,” establishing a “natural aristocracy of merit” (Taylor 375). Surely the intentions of the signers and early founders were limited in scope, and they really had no model for conception of total economic and social equality, but their ability to provide the framework for freedom was unprecedented. They were interested in protecting their interests, but also provided a means to success for common people.

In A Patriot’s History of the United States Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen explain that when John Adams worried that ancient governments only had to govern small city states, not “20 or 50 states” (Schweikart and Allen 89), he missed demographic facts: first that the United States was young, with half the nation’s population of four million under the age of sixteen in 1790, sharing Whig/Enlightment principles like egalitarianism and democracy. Also, the designers of post-Revolutionary governments were localists and provincials who wanted government close to home. Schweikart and Allen admit that “American Revolutionaries did not envision citizenship for Indians, women, and blacks, even in their most radical egalitarian fantasies” but they “lived in what was undoubtedly the most radically democratic society on the face of the earth” (90). Originally land was abundant and cheap, and since voting was tied to property, more Americans became voters every year; it is estimated that 50-75 percent of the white, male Revolutionary population obtained the right to vote. They quote Thomas Jefferson stating that “if a farmer and a professor were confronted with the same problem, the ‘former will decide it often better than the latter, because he had not been led astray by artificial rules’” (90) and John Adams claimed that the “mob, the herd, and the rabble” were as entitled to political rights as nobles or kings (90).

Whig political thinkers of the day adopted civil libertarianism as a fear of abusive goverment—the separation of power doctrine borrowed from Montesquieu, the need to sustain a people’s militia and the right to keep and bear firearms, due process, habeas corpus, freedom of speech, petition, assembly, religion, and the press. Schweikart and Allen claim that the “founders’ intentions were clear: the right to speak out against government…was the single most important right they addressed, aside from possession of firearms” (91). They did not forget their difficulties with King George III, which led them to require that legislators directly represent their constituents with frequent elections, recall, and impeachment and “an array of strong principles grounded in localism, egalitarianism, and libertarianism” (91) demonstrating constraint, not ambition for power.

The Articles of Confederation period is often explained by revisionists as a bungling brush with anarchy, indicated by Shay’s Rebellion and plummeting economy, saved by Big Government heroes coming to the rescue. Schweikart and Allen argue that “little of this interpretation is accurate” (92). They claim that the “Articles created a remarkably weak central government, precisely because that was what the radical Whigs wanted” (94). Their “definition of federalism differed significantly from the one taught in a modern political science class…a system of parallel governments—state, local and national—each with its specified power, but sovereignty ultimately rested in the states and by implication, the people themselves” (94). “Constitutional law stood as close to natural law (God’s law) as mere mortals could possibly place it. In this the drafters inherently sided with classical thinkers like Aristotle over modernists like Thomas Hobbes…the natural basis of constitutional law made it fundamental law which positioned it much higher than statue law” (95-96). Nearly all the new constitutions “expanded suffrage, republicanism, and the civil liberties of the constituents” (96).

As the American religious experience grew, it developed characteristics different from European counterparts: it de-emphasized clergy and emphasized salvation and moral living over religious structure. America was a Protestant nation. Jews, nonbelievers, Muslims, etc were treated with indifference. They were believed to remain in the minority, so in the legal context the debates never included non-Christian groups in deliberations. The Christian faith “wherein everyone agreed to disagree, served as a unifying element by breaking down parish boundaries and, in the process, destroying other political and geographic boundaries. The Great Awakening had galvanized American Christianity…served as a springboard to the Revolution itself, fueling the political fire with religious fervor and imbuing in the Founders a sense of rightness of cause” (Schweikart and Allen 97). This fit with republicanism, as noted by Alexis de Tocqueville who observed that the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom “were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country” (98). Additionally, religion “facilitated free institutions” (98). Early writings and speeches of the Founders were “timeless and uplifting. Their message of spiritual virtue, cloaked in republican processes of civic duty, reflected a sense of providential mission for the young country” (98). Christian influences on the Constitution and Bill of Rights were so predominant, that “as late as the mid-twentieth century, the chairman of the Sesquicentennial Commission on the Constitution answered negatively when asked if an atheist could become president: “I maintain that the spirit of the Constitution forbids it. The Constitution prescribes an oath of affirmation…[that] in its essence is a covenant with the people which the President pledges himself to keep with the help of Almighty God” (125). Schweikart and Allen contend that “modern interpretations of the Constitution that prohibit displays of crosses in the name of religious freedom would rightly have been shouted down by the Founders, who intended no separation” (125). Therefore, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists worked to synthesize their political viewpoints through American Christianity that emphasized duty, civic morality, skeptical questioning of temporal authority, and economic success, as well as through Enlightenment doctrines of fallible man, competition, political parties, and a marketplace of ideas. They were able to turn the “fountain of hope” into a “river of liberty, nourishing the new nation as it grew and prospered” (Schweikart and Allen 126). This does not sound like the behavior of greedy, power-hungry bigots intent on simply bloating their own bank accounts.

So, what did happen to the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Did they all prosper because they were elite white men? Did they, indeed, think less of patriotic ideals than filling their personal coffers? Of the fifty-six signers, most died wealthy. Is this because they were greedy? Thirty-one of these men were wealthy from birth. The characteristics shared by these men reveal a lot about the kind of people they were.

For example, Caesar Rodney of Delaware struggled with facial cancer that left him peculiar looking and unmarried. One might expect he would use his money as a figurative battering ram or defense mechanism, but he is described as temperate, forbearing, patient, and pragmatic (Jackson).

Charles Carroll of Carrollton’s family descended from Irish kings but was forced to flee catholic persecution. Carroll concluded after watching Parliament that the colonies “must be independent” (“Charles Carroll of Carrollton”), and he ended up in Maryland where he was not allowed to practice law as a Catholic. He fought against British tyranny, for religious freedom, and introduced a bill to abolish slavery (Kiernan & Agnese 153-154), manumitting hundreds of slaves before he died. According to John Adams, Carroll “hazard[ed] all, his immense fortune, the largest in America, and his life” (Kiernan & Agnese 152) by standing against the British.

Maryland’s William Paca had money, but only due to his family’s hard work; his great grandfather was an indentured servant who worked for his freedom and eventually bought land, as did Paca’s grandfather and father. He fathered two children with a mulatto woman and provided for them (White). Paca was described as beloved, respected, honest, and sincere  (Kiernan & Agnese 160). He also supplied Maryland’s troops with his own money and assisted veterans (Kiernan & Agnese 161).

Pennsylvania’s John Morton’s family immigrated from Sweden or Finland, and when his father died Morton was raised by his stepfather. He was highly active in church and acted as an advisor and advocate for townspeople (Stromberg). Morton might have maintained his popularity by voting against independence, but as it turned out he cast the deciding vote in favor. Moderate Pennsylvania ostracized him. He was deeply affected by this treatment and wrote on his deathbed nine months later that “they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service I ever rendered to my country” (Kiernan & Agnese 104).

George Wythe (Va) was born to a planter father who died when he was three. He said that “freedom is the birthright of every human being” and Thomas Jefferson said he had “virtue of the purest tint; his integrity inflexible, and his justice exact; of warm patriotism, devoted to liberty, and the natural and equal rights of man (Lockwood and Warden).

Adjectives used to describe the wealthy signers were intelligent, self-confident, benevolent, amiable, mannered, elegant, political, genius, open, frank, polite, well-rounded, good man, citizen, patriotic, untarnished, undebased, venerable, principled, public-spirited, eloquent, genial, pious, well-disposed, worthy, upright, faithful, and self-deprecating.

Rather than acting on greed, it appears that the wealthy Patriots often loaned Congress their own money to fund the Revolution and never received compensation. Although they had a lot to lose financially and personally by signing the Declaration of Independence, they accepted the risk, knowing full well that they would become direct British targets. William Williams from Connecticut stated “I have signed the Declaration of Independence. I shall be hung” (Kiernan & Agnese 62). Rhode Island’s William Ellery watched the signers to “see how they look as they signed what might be their death warrant” and saw “undaunted resolution” on their faces (Kiernan & Agnese 47). He struggled to pay his bills and care for sixteen children because Congress did not pay a salary. Thomas Stone from Maryland, who got his education by riding his horse tend miles to school every day and had to borrow to pay tuition although his father was rich said, “the dye is cast, the fatal stab is given to any future connection between this country and Britain. May God send victory” (Hagan).

Ultimately, about half the wealthy signers suffered considerable losses such as torched houses and plantations, their families forced to flee. Some suffered loss of social standing and friendships, persecution, mob attacks, imprisonment, war wounds, heavy financial losses, and even Thomas Jefferson ended up broke and hopelessly in debt, forced to sell his ten thousand-volume library to Congress (Glynn). Many also were personally against the institution of slavery, and would either write or support legislation to end it, setting their own slaves free.

This evidence suggests that the wealthy signers were men of good character who gave all they had to support ideals of freedom.

Of the less affluent signers, by way of birth, most did not have formal education and were homeschooled by a relative or clergy. Their determination and hard work earned their place in society and a seat at the Continental Congress.

New Jersey’s John Hart rode thirty miles round trip to court the girl he would marry and became a successful farmer and businessman (Staller). Fellow NJ Congressman Francis Hopkinson was the eldest of eight siblings, fourteen when his father died, leaving him in charge. His mother made sure he got an education and became a musician (Pyne “Francis Hopkinson”). Benjamin Franklin read from the bible at age five and did not do well in school. He was apprenticed to his brother James but ran away from what may have been an abusive indentured servant situation (Kiernan & Agnese 106). Pennsylvania’s Robert Morris’ father was an ironworker and merchant. He died when Morris was sixteen, leaving him orphaned. Morris worked to create the predecessor of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. He said, “It is the duty of every individual to act his part in whatever station his country may call him to in hours of difficulty danger and distress,” (Morris); he acted his part by helping finance the Revolution and ended up in debtor’s prison because of it (Kiernan & Agnese 117). North Carolina’s Joseph Hewes’ parents had to move from New England due to Indian massacres and religious intolerance for Quakers. He worked the farm under a strict upbringing, attending a public school. He was apprenticed as a merchant and made his own fortune in shipping (“Joseph Hughes”). He suffered personal loss and severed ties with the Friends saying, My country is entitled to my services and I shall not shrink from her cause, even though it should cost me my life” (Kiernan and Agnese 198). George Walton from Georgia was a poor, orphaned child apprenticed to a possibly cruel carpenter (Kiernan & Agnese 224) who read at night and educated himself (“George Walton”), as did Samuel Huntington and Roger Sherman from Connecticut. Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Rush lost his dad at six and his mother opened a grocery store and China store to pay for his education.

These men, more than the wealthier signers, understood how hard it was to survive without money and how hard they worked to earn it, yet they also willingly risked everything to sign the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Rush wrote that there was a “pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up one after another to the table of the president of Congress to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants (Kiernan & Agnese 128). Losses suffered include homes ransacked, furniture destroyed, entire fortunes lost, indebtedness, titles stripped, houses torched, death warrants, imprisonment, and family members imprisoned. Many of these self-educated men died with fortunes they made through hard work, fortitude, and diligence—not greed.

Working together as Patriots gave this group compatriots with the same goals—they supported each other’s success and business ventures, so they became members of an elite group. It is short sighted to say that they were all privileged or fought for independence merely for self-interest. As a rule, these were men of endearing, generous, hopeful, giving, liberty-seeking character. Many who owned slaves in the beginning began to question the practice. Some wrote legislation to end the import of slaves, some manumitted slaves either during their lifetimes or when they died. There was no precedent for such a republic as the United States with its focus on individual rights, and these men had no one to look to for advice about these matters other than scripture and their relationship with God. They had to work through the philosophical and economic issues on their own. But for their willingness to do so, Lincoln may not have been able to push through his Proclamation. The signers of the Declaration of Independence selflessly forged precedents that allowed amendments to the United States Constitution that still protect the natural liberties Americans enjoy today.

 

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McNamara, Rieman, Jr. “Thomas Lynch Jr.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 30, 2011. Accessed April 30, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/thomas-lynch-jr/.

Morris, Robert. “Robert Morris.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 30, 2011. Accessed April 05, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/robert-morris/.

Nelson, John D. “Thomas Nelson Jr.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 29, 2011. Accessed April 30, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/thomas-nelson-jr/.

Peterson, Robert A. “Education in Colonial America | Robert A. Peterson.” FEE. September 01, 1983. Accessed April 05, 2019. https://fee.org/articles/education-in-colonial-america/.

Pyne, Frederick. “Francis Hopkinson.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 30, 2011. Accessed April 03, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/francis-hopkinson/.

Pyne, Frederick. “James Smith.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 30, 2011. Accessed April 28, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/james-smith/.

Pyne, Frederick. “Samuel Huntington.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. January 02, 2012. Accessed April 06, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/samuel-huntington/.

Pyne, Frederick. “William Ellery.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 30, 2011. Accessed April 06, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/william-ellery/.

Pyne, Frederick. “William Floyd.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. August 16, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/members-only/william-floyd/.

“Robert Treat Paine Papers.” Robert Treat Paine Papers – Massachusetts Historical Society. Accessed March 31, 2019. http://www.masshist.org/publications/rtpp/index.php/family.

Schweikart, Larry and Michael Allen. A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror. New York, NY: Penguin Group. 2007.

Smith, Shirley Hunter. “Abraham Clark.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 30, 2011. Accessed April 06, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/abraham-clark/.

Staller, Grace Keiper. “John Hart.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. March 31, 2016. Accessed April 03, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/john-hart/.

Stromberg, Richard. “John Morton.” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. December 30, 2011. Accessed April 05, 2019. https://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/john-morton/.

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Falling

Mid-September in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Morning dawns with a chill, while Daylight still strokes rosy tendrils along its rocky coast well into the night.

This is my favorite season to run along the river. Winding along the banks under the evergreen canopy of Douglas fir and hemlock, the last blackberries bake in the sun, their heady perfume wafting through the air. The last vestiges high off the ground are still good for cobbler,  if you can brave their thorny concertina wire. 

In the spring, tiny bunnies wait on the path for my approach. When I’m close enough, they spring across to the other side and disappear into the undergrowth. 

In the fall the bunnies are off-duty, but the path is carpeted with fuzzy orange and black Woollybear caterpillars moseying along to find a new sheltering piece of bark. It’s nearly impossible to run without stepping on one, so my stride shortens tentatively.  

PAVELS/ SHUTTERSTOCK

Gnats swarm in thick clouds without regard for those of us who are breathing. Frog sentries screech warnings just before plopping into water. Stagnant pools thickly braid earthy ropes of rotting leaves, scaly creatures, hidden secrets, and nature unbroken. 

Response to “America is Slowly Sucking the Life out of Education Starting with its Teachers “

1. Early education actually evens out by third grade. There is no reason to put a three year old in school.

2. There is no logical comparison to Finland or any country that isn’t as open, diverse, as big, or that has such high expectations of ALL students as the US.

3. Teachers are never considered finally professional – – professional development is never ending, and it never stays the same. Every new superintendent, principal, and education secretary brings a penchant for new “development.”  The one thing every teacher needs is more time. Not meetings, not training, not collaboration. TIME to use in planning and preparation and grading. The powers that be somehow cannot stand when there is unplanned time available.

4. Also, until we end social promotion and admit and recognize its limitations, and that of inclusion policies on the success of classrooms, teachers will continue to feel overwhelmed and under- supported.

America is slowly sucking the life out of education—starting with its teachers

A Peculiar Book Review 

Two years ago,  I won a classroom library of about 150 brand new beautiful young adult literature books at a district professional development training session. Since then I’ve been able to add a second full library collection, and many of my own copies. 

I’ve scrounged up bookshelves from surplus, Craigslist, garage sales, and the dusty corners of the garage. At the end of last year, I entered each isbn# into an online classroom library for individual electronic check out, so hopefully I’ll be able to easily track the books–and get them returned! We haven’t gotten to that point yet this year, so we’ll see how it goes.  

Since then I’ve planned to read a different ya novel every month, on top of my teaching duties, but I admit I’ve heavily failed. Best laid plans, and all that. But I was able to read a few, one of which was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

I fully enjoyed this part fantasy part science fiction part historical novel part thriller. You can find a good summary elsewhere on the webbernet, but my favorite aspect is that Riggs has taken actual fabulous photos found in antique stores–you know the ones that make you wonder whose baby that is or the story behind that couple, and why it’s in an antique store instead of  displayed as a cherished family hierloom–only these are the weird ones, 

and he’s crafted background stories that connect like the old erector sets to formulate this funky, creepy tale.

Technically, I give Riggs a pass for a few raggedy seams because he’s so creative. These improve in each book that follows Miss Peregrine’s to complete the series. Riggs spins a story I didn’t want to put down; I can only imagine it’s that much more fun for kids.

 I don’t subscribe to the “it doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they read” mantra; there are concepts and images that have no business in young minds. But if it’s age appropriate, absolutely. This series is probably best for age 12 and up. There are a few adolescent scenes and scary monsters. There may be some curse words. I tend to be conservative in my assessments. 

I’ve been planning to use old pictures as prompts for my students when I can work them in, which certainly isn’t a new approach, but I haven’t employed it before. I’m excited to give it a shot and watch creativity blossom. 

If you’re looking for a book for a young person, pick up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and enjoy it first – then give it to your kids.

P. S. Skip the movie. It’s rather terrible. 

Political Question of the week #1

How many people do you know who have shifted from belief in a small federal government to pushing an all-powerful,  all-controlling central government? I’m willing to bet not many. In fact, I would be truly shocked if you know any. Not wafflers or milquetoasts, but staunchly political. I know of many people who have moved the opposite direction. Why is that? What makes a person flip 180° politically? 

I found a great series of videos that provide first hand primary accounts that are very helpful in answering this question. Here are 10 of them. Peruse and consider where you stand. Are you often overcome by emotion? Do you support lofty ideals in hope of  building utopia on Earth? Are you pragmatic, basing your beliefs on logical understanding of the economy and history? Why do you align with your political party? 

#1  Thomas Sowell-economics 

#2 John Stossel-free market competition

#3 Penn Gillette – logic

#4 Dr. Ben Carson- Personal responsibility

#5 Elbert Guillory-civil rights

#6 Melanie Phillips-intolerance

#7 David Horowitz – ideology

#8 David Mamet-common sense

#9 PJ O’Rourke – corruption 

#10 Lee Hyeon-Seo – freedom