Shelby Foote, the Mississippian who wrote a very readable history of the Civil War, describes the reaction of Southerners to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on p 707 of volume one (The Civil War: A Narrative):
What was this, they asked, if not an invitation to the Negroes to murder them in their beds? Bestial, they called Lincoln, for here he had touched the quick of their deepest fear, and the Richmond Examiner charged that the proclamation was “an act of malice towards the master, rather than one of mercy to the slave.”
On p. 678 of volume two the Southern heritage is seen born in the exploits of men like Morgan, “the legends and songs already being told and sung in celebration of earlier, lesser horseback exploits by Morgan and his “terrible” men: an inheritance, in short, to be handed down to Confederate patriots yet unborn….”
That became the Code of the South, The Southern Way of Life, and the one hundred year fascist terror state known as Dixie.
In my search for an understanding of Conservatism, I keep coming across tantalizing bits and pieces. Amazon shows related books when you have ordered one and I had ordered and am reading I’ll Take My Stand, essays by a dozen Southern White men in the 30s. Related, supposedly, was an equally old book by a Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences. Described as great insight into conservative thinking my Amazon reviewers, the book appears to be erudite and a bit of a difficult but worthwhile read. However, it seems those who think it worthwhile also agree with the author that everything went to hell when the manor house was invested by the peasants.
What intrigues me is the suspected, by me, connection between conservative thinking and Blacks. That is why I started this blog entry by quoting Foote on the reaction of Southerners to the emancipation of Black people. They clearly feared most that Black people would do to them what they had been doing to Black people for two hundred and fifty years. Why people do not see that the reaction to Black Lives Matter is the exact same thing: “Yes, we have had our constabulary shoot down Black people just to keep us feeling safe, but now this BLM is the boomerang that will murder us all in our beds.” It is so damn obvious where this is coming from.
Most people probably do not know that Thomas Jefferson said “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” rather than the expected “and property” because that word was commonly understood to mean slaves or at least include slaves, and Jefferson was throwing a sop to the abolitionists, deliberately saying that slave holders had a right to their slaves. Initially, Whites, or British, as they were called, regarded Africans as just other people. But as time wore on it became convenient to set Africans apart as uniquely qualified to be slaves. That history is itself “curious”, being, as it is, part of our history of science. The substance is that in being set apart, Africans were gradually turned into a caste. Wisely, Isabel Wilkerson, in her book Caste, looks closely at caste in India, and thereby shows us how caste is different from all other social distinctions, viz. wealth, religion, class, region, dialect, etc. Indians, even Muslim ones, cannot get over caste and neither can Americans.
The connection of Conservatism to race cannot be ignored. At times, Conservatives’ confusion is apparent in their contradicting each other as when one Amazon reviewer of Ideas Have Consequences cited how Richard Weaver complains about jazz but gets contradicted by Robert Bork: “for instance, he complains bitterly about jazz, “the clearest of all signs of our age’s deep-seated predilection for barbarism.” This reminds me, amusingly, of Robert Bork’s similar complaints in _Slouching Towards Gomorrah_ — except that Bork complains that rock and roll is the degenerate music of adolescence, in contrast to the serious and adult-themed music of… you guessed it… jazz.” Note Weaver’s use of ‘barbaric’, a side swipe using the old trope of Black African savagey. Richard Kimball is noted in the reviews and he is one who approvingly quoted James Burnham that, newly emerging from colonialism, African nations were ‘cannibalistic tribes and slave-holding nomads.”
So here are a couple of thoughts: since the Southern Way of Life, noted for its gentility, launched the slavocracy into the status of aristocracy, included slave-holding. Is it only their settled life-style that kept them from the same status as ‘slave-holding nomads’? And Weaver stakes freedom on property rights and property ownership; so in order to restore property rights taken away from people of the First Nations by European colonists, should we settle Louie Manyfeathers on half of Roger Kimballs land as part of reparations? Oh, and speaking of reparations, if you want to drive a Conservative crazy, or “own him,” say the R word and then cite the Bible about the laborer being worthy of his hire. Forget it, he’ll come back with some b.s. about ‘drawers of water and hewers of wood.’
Not to put too fine a point on it, but here is Wiki’s introduction to Richard Weaver: “Richard Malcolm Weaver, Jr (March 3, 1910 – April 1, 1963) was an American scholar who taught English at the University of Chicago. He is primarily known as an intellectual historian, political philosopher, and a mid-20th century conservative and as an authority on modern rhetoric. Weaver was briefly a socialist during his youth, a lapsed leftist intellectual (conservative by the time he was in graduate school), a teacher of composition, a Platonist philosopher, cultural critic, and a theorist of human nature and society.” Perhaps he became a conservative rather than a ‘leftist’ when he discovered the Party was not going to pay for grad school.