the peculiar institution

APUSH The Musical Part One: songs from musical theater that explain concepts from apush chapters 2-26 of american pagent 

8tracks / playmoss / youtube 

1. Molasses to Rum from 1776: explains the triangle trade as well as the hypocrisy of the revolutionary era on the topic of slavery 

2. Sit Down John from 1776: the apprehension of moderates to declare independence during the continental congress

3. But Mr. Adams from 1776: the declaration of independence (this is partly on here bc it’s about jefferson wanting to bust his nut) 

4. Non-Stop from Hamilton: the formation of the federal government, the constitutional convention, and the federalist papers

5. Cabinet Battle #1 from Hamilton: arguments between federalists and democratic republicans over assumption, excise taxes on whiskey, and slavery 

6. The Room Where It Happens from Hamilton: the dinner that jefferson hosted which decided assumption as well as where the capital would be located 

7. The Election of 1800 from Hamilton: the election of 1800 would lead to the creation of political parties 

8. Alll American Prophet from Book of Mormon: the formation of mormonism and its westward expansion 

9. Rock Star from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: the anti-elitist sentiments that would lead to an increase in populism as well as how jackson’s anti-elitist populism contradicted with his own superiority complex 

10. Corrupt Bargain from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: the bargain which got JQA elected during the tie breaker for the election of 1824

11. Populism Yea Yea from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: the rise of populism and jacksonian democracy 

12. Ten Little Indians from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: the awful awful treatment of native americans (especially during jackson’s administration) 

13. Someone In a Tree from Pacific Overtures: the treaty of kanagawa and the “opening” of japan 

14. The Wild Wild West from Harvey Girls: westward expansion and the wild west

15. Paint Your Wagon from Paint Your Wagon: the california gold rush and westward expansion 

16. A Peculiar Institution from Civil War: the awful awful treatment of slaves 

17. The Glory from Civil War: the civil war in general 

18. The Ballad Of Booth from Assassins: john wilkes booth’s assassination of abraham lincoln 

19. The Ballad of Guiteau from Assassins: charles guiteau’s assassination of president garfield because he wanted to place chester a arthur in power so his faction would reap benefits of patronage 

20. The Bottom Line from Newsies: business owner’s cost cutting methods which often disenfranchised the workers 

21. The World Will Know from Newsies: the organization of labor unions against big business during the gilded age 

22. The Ballad of Czolgosz from Assassins: leon czolgosz’s assassination of president william mckinley because he felt the working class was oppressed


March 20th 1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin published

On this day in 1852, American author Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published. Previously published as a serial in the anti-slavery periodical the National Era, Uncle Tom’s Cabin tells the story of a black slave and recounts the harsh reality of his enslavement. Stowe was an ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery, and wrote the novel in response to the passage of the controversial 1850 Fugitive Slave Act which was part of the Compromise of 1850. The Act ordered Northern citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves from the South, thus forcing the generally anti-slavery North to become complicit in the continuance of the ‘peculiar institution’. The popular discontent over the slavery issue helped make Uncle Tom’s Cabin the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century and saw its translation into sixty languages. The novel helped keep the flames of anti-slavery sentiment alive, and is therefore sometimes attributed with helping start the American Civil War. While still hailed as a great anti-slavery work of its day, the novel falls short of modern expectations with its stereotypical portrayal of African-Americans.

“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war”
- what, according to legend, Abraham Lincoln said upon meeting Stowe in 1862

While we’re being spicy, I don’t see the notion of tearing down memorials to Confederate officers from public land as “erasing history.” If anything, those monuments exist mostly for the express purpose of erasing history, making the Civil War a noble “war between the states” or even a “war of Northern aggression.” Or at least about honorable men in a lost cause for state’s rights. All nonsense.

Preserving those monuments isn’t like airing an old movie with all its racist bits intact. This is insisting that we honor traitors in perpetuity on the American dime.

Fuck ‘em all. If someone wants to buy them, let them. Otherwise, they should be discarded with all the respect we maintain for their peculiar institution.


John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, seriously got my attention the other day when he suggested that the Civil War could have been averted had people on both sides been more willing to compromise, which thought he then followed up with a wistful observation about the consequences of parties in opposition being unwilling to meet each other halfway: “…men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand [as a result] where their conscience had to make their stand.” In other words, Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, was putting forth the notion that the deaths of almost a million people (including soldiers on both sides, free civilians, and slaves) could have been averted, possibly even totally, had people with opposing views only been willing to reach a compromise that would have been at least marginally satisfactory to all sides without requiring that anyone on either side compromise his or her own principles unduly…or at least impossibly. But is that really true?

There are two ways to approach that question. One is to note that the decades leading up to the Civil War were filled with so many compromises set in place to hold the union together that it’s hard even to remember their precise chronological order. (The correct order is as follows: the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise Tariff of 1833, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. There were also any number of lesser-known, unnamed efforts and initiatives intended to defuse the tension between slave states and free states, each of which too was some sort of compromise.) So to say that these people simply couldn’t compromise isn’t quite right: in a sense, all they did was compromise. But, in the end, because each of these compromises ended up permitting slavery to continue, even if managing in one way or another to delimit its extent (and particularly outside of the traditional South) or its terribleness, they all came to naught. And that was because people who loathed the “peculiar institution” could never truly be content with any compromise that allowed men and women in bondage to be treated as chattel that could be bought and sold rather than as actual human beings possessed of inalienable human rights. To suggest, therefore, that the responsibility for the bloodiest of all American wars rests equally on the shoulders of all concerned because their shared disinclination to compromise led inexorably to war—that is the viewpoint I’d like to write about this week.

Time has not been kind to our founders with respect to their inability to see slavery as a pure evil to be eradicated, not tolerated…and regarding which compromise aimed at making slavery less bad was therefore impossible.

Some readers may have come across an extremely interesting essay by Noah Feldman, a professor of Law at Harvard, that was published in the New York Times last week. (For readers who didn’t see it, click here.) In it, Feldman writes about James Madison, our fourth president, and suggests that people trying to unravel the racial politics of modern-day American start by contemplating his willingness to compromise. Madison was a principled man. He regularly referenced the inherent right to liberty of enslaved individuals, including his own slaves. At one point he suggested—apparently entirely seriously—that Congress sell the western lands acquired through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 to raise the $600,000,000 he estimated it was going to take to purchase every slave in the United States, all 1,500,000 of them, and grant them their freedom. (His plan was for Congress to find the money to send the newly-freed slaves back to Africa, where he felt they could flourish best absent the inherent “prejudices of the whites” that would have made it unlikely that they could simply live as free Americans in this country.) He left clear instructions to his wife, Dolley, to free all his slaves after his death, which instructions she for unknown reasons did not obey. In other words, here was the man among our founders who truly understood the perniciousness of slavery…and who wished, not only for the slaves he personally owned, but for all slaves held in bondage in the United States to be freed.

In other words, here was a man whose middle name was Compromise. He understood the badness of the institution and he came up with suggestion after suggestion to seek the kind of compromise that would end it permanently without wrecking the economies of states that were built on slave labor. Yet he went along with the idea of prolonging the slave trade for decades after independence (the importation of slaves from overseas only ended here in 1808) as the price for bringing Georgia and South Carolina into the union.  It was Madison who first proposed that each individual slave be considered the equivalent of three-fifths of a free person for the sake of determining how much each state owed the federal government. That specific proposal was not accepted, but the Constitutional Convention of 1787 did indeed adopt Madison’s proposal in order to determine representation in Congress based on the population of each state. Was that the specific kind of thoughtful compromise that General Kelly wishes men like Madison had been around to implement in the 1850s?

Is compromise always a virtue? In the years leading up to the Second World War, compromise after compromise was reached with Nazi Germany in an attempt to head off war. But if, instead of offering up other people’s land to the Germans in 1938, France and England had gone to war, it seems at least possible that a swift victory, followed by regime change, could have been attained. If the United States had been involved from the beginning, victory would have been not merely possible, but more than likely. Compromising with evil—with the fascism behind Nazism or the racism behind pro-slavery sentiment—nothing too good can ever come of that kind of compromise.

I have a special relationship with James Madison, but I’m guessing no readers will be able to guess what it is. Do you give up? You might as well: my relationship with our fourth president is rooted I the fact that the apartment house in Queens that I grew up in was called, of all things, “The James Madison.” (Most of the six-story red-brick apartment houses along Yellowstone Blvd. and 108th Street in Forest Hills were named after some historical figure from our nation’s past. Before we lived in the James Madison, we lived up the hill from there in the Benjamin Franklin, also known as 103-26 68th Road.) So I grew up feeling some sort of strange kinship with the man. And he was, in many ways, one of our nation’s most worthy founders.  As Jefferson’s Secretary of State, he managed to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase that expanded our nation’s borders far beyond the Mississippi. He successfully guided our nation through the War of 1812, which resulted in the firm establishment of the U.S among the family of nations and made of us a naval power to be reckoned with. He personally wrote the Bill of Rights.  But he was willing to tolerate slavery even though he clearly believed the institution to be morally indefensible. In other words, he was prepared to compromise…even if doing so meant abandoning one of the most basic of all principles upon which our national ethos was and is based, the inalienable right of every individual to live free.

Is it fair to look down on people for accepting as givens the basic beliefs about the world that “everyone” simply believes to be true? A few years ago, I remember reading and slightly liking Markus Zusak’s 2005 novel, The Book Thief.  The plot was a bit contrived and the writing, I thought, easily betrayed the book’s origin as a so-called “young person’s novel.” But what interested me was the framework itself in which the story unfolded: set among eleven-year-olds in 1943, the plot concerns children who have in their lives only known Nazism as their nation’s guiding philosophy. All the figures of authority in their lives are openly anti-Semitic and fully subscribed to the principles of Nazi fascism—and that list includes their teachers in school, their minister in church, the policemen in their town, the mayor and his town council, all the shopkeepers, the librarians in the public library, and their doctors and dentists.  In other words, the characters in the book are children who have never known life other than under the Nazis. Mostly, they accept as obvious truths the lies they hear from all the authority figures in their town. But not all do, and in particular one specific girl, the so-called “book thief” herself, does not—and so comes to understands the perniciousness of Nazism without anyone explaining it clearly to her, rebelling against a philosophy so pervasive in her time and place that her friends barely even notice its existence as a thing that even could be evaluated, let alone rejected.

We tend to lionize people who somehow find it in them to look past what everybody just “knows” to see a truer, clearer version of reality—like those in antebellum America who somehow knew to reject all those quasi-scientists and ardent theologians (including rabbis) who felt certain that slavery was a reasonable institution because black people were intellectually and emotionally inferior to white people. Today we laugh at that kind of “scientific” justification of racism…but what of people who lived in a world in which everybody just “knew” that to be true, the same way we today just “know” that it is reasonable to own and trade animals—and to eat their flesh and wear their skins—because they presumably exist in the first place solely to serve humankind?

General Kelly was wrong when he argued that the Civil War could have been averted by compromise not because yet another compromise could not conceivably have been worked out between free and slave states, but because any compromise that ultimately left chattel slavery intact was almost by definition doomed to collapse eventually. Those possessed of a clear moral vision understood that easily, and also that enduring compromise is only truly possible when both parties to it can respect the other side’s opinion and its proponents’ right to hold it. But when the other side favors something openly evil and wrong, compromise is impossible…and reprehensible. The Civil War could have been averted by abolishing slavery in all states and working out a way to keep the economies of the slave states from collapsing. That would not have been labeled a compromise—it would have been labelled a bold stroke to preserve the union not by compromising its most basic values but by affirming them.

anonymous asked:

Drag your most hated historical figure

Thomas Jefferson, how in the wide world of fuck do you fuck up so badly?

Can’t keep your bullshit to yourself when you’re with Washington and Adams

Rape your 14 year old slave (but i mean, who needs to care when they’re not human, right? you piece of shit) 

Call slavery “a peculiar institution” and have the gotdamn audacity to call yourself an abolitionist or whatever the hell while having slaves (and raping them, you piece of shit)

Write the Declaration of Independence and then fuck the country so bad that when we come back and fight the British, we had to pull some houdini-ass historical revision bullshit just to say we didn’t lose, only then to spend the next 200 damn years pulling the same shit out our asses every time the US obliterated a race of people 

I hope your coffin collapses and the dirt (probably made up of the bodies of your slaves) crushes the rotten-ass remains of your hypocritical dumb ass


But the consequences of human exploitation run much deeper than Tizon appeared to recognize, and perhaps much deeper than our own editorial staff realized. One of the common critiques of “My Family’s Slave” is that it failed to shed much light on the fascinating woman Tizon called “Lola,” and seemed to only view her in the wide angles of Tizon’s arc of redemption. That critique seems somewhat limited to me—Tizon did chronicle his efforts to interview her, and did present some moments when we saw her personality. But perhaps it’s also true that her lack of voice and independence from his story are part of the nature of enslavement. The worst sin of the peculiar institution in any of its worldwide forms is that it erases some lives to nurture others. Tizon’s account does not grasp the extent of Pulido’s erasure, but that inability highlights just how slavery warps both the enslaver and the enslaved. To this writer, that makes “My Family’s Slave” all the more necessary to read, and mourn.
—  The Enslaved Woman they Called Lola, Vann R. Newkirk II
One of the most shocking things she learnt was that it was common to make accessories out of the skin of slaves that died. There were wallets and bags, and they were prized possessions. ‘It doesn’t get more horrific than that,’ she says.

Lupita Nyong'o on her research for her role as Patsey in 12 Years A Slave



March 6th 1857: Dred Scott v. Sandford

On this day in 1857, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in the landmark case Dred Scott v. Sandford. The case originated when Dred Scott, a slave, claimed that because his master - army surgeon Dr. John Emerson - took him to the free territory of Wisconsin, he was a free man. By the time of the case, Scott and his family belonged to Emerson’s widow Eliza Irene Sanford, who refused to allow Scott to purchase his freedom. In response, Scott sued her and argued that he was already free due to his time in Wisconsin. State court declared Scott free in 1850, but Sanford’s brother appealed the decision and the case ultimately made its way to the Supreme Court in 1856; a clerical error meant Sanford’s name was mispelled in court records. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that African-Americans were not United States citizens because they were not part of the Constitutional ‘political community’, and thus could not sue in federal court. The decision also established that Congress could not ban slavery in federal territories, and held that slaveowners’ right to slave property was guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. The Court’s complete rejection of African-American rights evoked outrage from Northern anti-slavery forces, and emboldened Southern slaveowners as they sought to expand the ‘peculiar institution’. The decision, written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, is thus considered one of the causes of the American Civil War as it flared sectional tensions. Taney’s tenure ended with his death in 1864, but due to his role in the Dred Scott decision, he has gone down in history as one of America’s worst Chief Justices. Scott and his family were freed by a new master two months after the decision, and found employment in St. Louis; however, Scott died of tuberculosis in November 1858. The Dred Scott decision is one of the most disastrous in American history, and was overturned by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.

“[African-Americans] had no rights which the white man was bound to respect…the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit”
- Chief Justice Taney’s opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford

Why Abraham Lincoln Is Important

“Graphic art was powerless before a face that moved through a thousand delicate gradations of line and contour, light and shade, sparkle of the eye and curve of the lip, in the long gamut of expression from grave to gay, and back again from the rollicking jollity of laughter to that far-away look.” — John G. Nicolay, Lincoln’s private secretary


To borrow one of his most famous oratorical devices, it was ten score and six years ago that Abraham Lincoln entered life and began one of America’s most unlikely and extraordinary journeys.  To us, Lincoln will always be a statue; a painting; a bust on Mount Rushmore; a monument on the Washington Mall; a solid, stoic, staid symbol staring back at us from a dull, green five-dollar bill, a rusty-looking penny, or a black-and-white photograph.  Yet, he was one of us — a human just as colorful of any American that has ever existed, and through his rise and his triumph, he told us a story that Republicans claim as the standard for their party, that Democrats claim as the inspiration for their party, and that Independents of all backgrounds do not dare to turn away from.

Lincoln’s story is so extraordinary that we don’t even think of him as a member of our species.  He’s on a higher level.  He’s almost mythological.  A legend.  We see his face like we see the face of God.  The halo surrounding him almost downplays the fact that he lived the same way we did.  He needed oxygen and water and food.  We all have sensitivities about how we are perceived by others, and Lincoln was no different.  To many, he was a freakishly tall, gangly, ugly man.  During his life, people called him a “baboon”.  They made fun of his high-pitched, nasally voice.  They made fun of his country accent — the way that he pronounced “chair” as “cheer” and said “hain’t” instead of “haven’t”.  They laughed at his careless clothing choices, and snickered at the fact that he never combed his hair. 

In Lincoln’s lifetime, more people probably rolled their eyes instead of listened intently when he launched into yet another backwoods joke or a funny anecdote that he couldn’t stop repeating.  He had family problems.  His mother died when he was very young, and he had lifelong daddy issues.  His crazy wife was domineering and a pain in his ass, and his young children ran roughshod over the White House.  He had no real close friends.  He was simultaneously considered inexperienced and weak, heavy-handed and harsh. 

Honest Abe was the cleverest, sharpest, and most vicious politician of his time.  The gentle and joking country politician destroyed his enemies, threatened his opponents, and steamrolled his rivals.  This beacon of liberty and protector of freedom bypassed the Constitution and suspended Habeas Corpus.  No matter what, Abraham Lincoln was going to save the Union in whichever way possible — even if it meant allowing slavery to continue.  The “peculiar institution” was abhorrent to his beliefs, but an acceptable sacrifice if the result was the Union’s survival.

Like many, if not all, of our greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln was a man full of paradoxes.  Beneath the solemn visage that was Lincoln’s complex face was a cheerful, jovial, informal man who loved nothing more than a good joke or a witty story.  Yet, beneath that genial layer was also a dark, depressed man who lost the love of his life when he was young, seriously considered suicide on numerous occasions, felt unsatisfied with his accomplishments and about his qualifications, and faced the death of his favorite child while he wrestled with the nation’s biggest crisis.

Lincoln may have been our nation’s greatest orator, perhaps even America’s greatest pure writer.  His writing — and not just his speeches, but his private letters and messages to Congress — is memorable and poetic.  If the Civil War was a symphony, his words were the lyrics to its beautifully terrible music.  When the war was going badly, he used his words to simultaneously challenge his generals, assuage the public, and exert his control over the many crises his country faced.  When the war was going well, his words were soothing, inspirational, and a bridge to the South that invited capitulation without humiliation.  Lincoln’s words were the words of a writer who spent all of his life studying the English language, yet Lincoln was largely self-educated by the light of a candle in a dark, damp log cabin.

We will never know why it was Abraham Lincoln — a virtually unknown frontier lawyer who had served just one term in Congress a decade before he even ran for the Presidency — who was destined to lead the United States through the Civil War, but can we even imagine another person equipped to do so?  Like a shooting star, Abraham Lincoln appeared and against all odds, he saved the Union.  Then, when the war ended, he disappeared again.  Not a day earlier or a day later, either — on literally the first day that he truly felt that the Civil War had ended, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, perhaps the last casualty of the Civil War.

The next time you think that all hope is lost or that you’ve failed at something or that you are “only human”, think of Abraham Lincoln, who overcame a lifetime of obstacles and challenges and failures to save the Union that he loved and believed in and became a legend and hero to the world today.  Remember that we are “only human”, but so was Abraham Lincoln.  You could be a lot worse off than being only human.


August 21st 1831: Nat Turner’s rebellion begins

On this day in 1831 the Virginian slave Nat Turner began the deadliest slave rebellion the United States had ever seen, which resulted in the deaths of 55 whites. Turner, a slave preacher, had come to believe that God intended for him to lead a black uprising against the injustice of slavery. In the evening of August 21st 1831, Turner and his co-conspirators met in the woods to make their plans and early the next morning began the rebellion by killing Turner’s master’s family. Turner and his men, who soon numbered over 80, then went from house to house assaulting the white inhabitants. Eventually a local militia, and then federal and state troops, confronted the rebels and dispersed the group. Turner himself initially evaded capture but was captured on October 30th. Subsequently Turner, along with over fifty other rebels, was executed. However the retribution for Nat Turner’s rebellion did not end there. The uprising sent shockwaves across the South, and while full scale rebellion such as Turner’s was rare in the Deep South due to the rigid enforcement of the slave system, caused widespread fear of another rebellion. In the ensuing hysteria over 200 innocent black slaves were killed by white mobs. Turner’s rebellion came close to ending slavery in Virginia, as in its wake the state legislature considered abolishing the ‘peculiar institution’. However the measure was voted down and instead the state decided to increase plantation discipline and limit slaves’ autonomy even further by banning them from acting as preachers and learning to read. Similar measures were adopted across the slave-holding South and thus Nat Turner’s rebellion increased the South’s commitment to slavery, despite undermining the pro-slavery argument that it was a benevolent system and slaves were content. Turner has left behind a complicated legacy, with some seeing him as an African-American hero and others as a religious fanatic and villain; his memory raises the eternal question of whether violence is justified to bring about necessary change.

The Issue on the Table

Per my last post, here’s some Hamilton musical-inspired lyrics on how a rap battle between Jefferson and Hamilton on the Haitian revolution might have gone down. This counts as fanfic, right? Not technically a Cabinet Battle since they were both out of the cabinet by then, but close enough. More Jefferson being a douchecanoe.


A message from the president! A message from the president!
From John Adams, Esquire, the issue on the table:
“Haiti has revolted and the former slaves now control the island; should we
trade with them independently and risk the ire of France?”
Vice-President Jefferson, your response?


What’s that smell in the air? *sniffs* Oh - hypocrisy!
But what else can you expect from aristocracy?
Now I’m seem to recall, when it came to France
Not a single one of y’all would give them a chance.


Not one.


And here you’re askin’ us to fund and arm slaves?
Uh you’d best build a dam to stop those waves
Cause once that torrent opens there’ll nothing left to save.
You Federalists had been worried ‘bout your heads
But we in the South will be killed in our beds.
First you target the French with your Sedition and Alien Acts
And then you gonna go and give the vote to blacks?
Tell me, where is your loyalty
Or are you so busy playing royalty
There ain’t nothing left but disloyalty?
I thought we were here to serve the public,
All this talk of arming slaves, I can barely stomach;
How you gon’ help the cannibals of this terrible republic?


Thank you, Mr. Vice-President. General Hamilton, your response?


Now just why is it that all the men in the government accusin’ traitors
Just so happen to be the barons of the South, each of ‘em slavers?
Face the facts, trading with the island just makes financial sense
But judgin’ from your cheque book, on that subject, no wonder you’re dense.


Say what?


The French have been harassing us for years
Can’t go anywhere without cries of Jacobinism in our ears.
If we let the directory dictate who we can trade with
We’re nothing more than part of this monolith,
This French empire - They conspire and you desire
But it’s a misfire because see we’ll inspire
Our “peculiar institution” to expire.
All your talk of liberty is very pretty, I see
So long as the revolutionaries look like you and me
All men deserve to rise above their station
And call me crazy, but ain’t Haiti an independent nation?


A message from the president! A message from the president!
From John Adams, Esquire, on the issue of supporting the Haitian revolutionaries:
“It is my decision that opening trade with the island is more in line
with the continued economic and political interests of the United States.”


Damn straight.


Oh John Adams, I can hardly believe this bag of tricks
Comes from the man I had supported in Seventy-Six.


He’s too shrouded in monarchy.


Enough to give aid to a slave colony.
Alas. I guess we’ll just have to bide our time.


But to sit on our hands and let him do this would be a crime -


The real crime will soon reveal all the facts
Once everyone gets sick of his Alien and Sedition Acts.
Soon Hamilton and Adams will be at each other’s throat
While we’ll be waitin’ to pick up the pieces - Not to gloat,
But when I become president, I’ll secure American safety
By withdrawing our ships and embargoing Haiti.

26 October 1861, Ashwinds, Virginia

“Mrs. Wythe-Bolling,” Judge Barnette said, looking over his spectacles at her. The glass glimmered with the faint yellow of a detection charm, the better to help him spot a liar. “This is the fourth time you have been brought before this council on charges of aiding and abetting the removal of property from the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“People,” Marella Wythe-Bolling interjected. “Not property.”

Judge Barnette stared at her in imperious silence, but the bailiff cast a charm that sizzled the magical chains encircling her wrists. “The defendant will remain silent until asked for a response.”

“Furthermore,” Barnette continued, “you have repeatedly and wantonly violated the International Statute of Secrecy by using concealment charms on said illicit property, assisting their transit on the so-called Underground Railroad, and by impeding the efforts of authorities, both wizard-kind and Muggle, in their lawful pursuits, by means of befuddlement charms and a variety of curses and jinxes. In deference to your pure blood and high birth, this council has been lenient in the past, but it seems that repeated fines are no deterrent to your behavior. This council finds you guilty, for a fourth time. Have you anything to say on your own behalf?”

Marella stood with her chin high, thinking of the irony. Part of the Southern District’s reason for secession was to challenge the International Statute, but they were happy to use it against her when they could. “My defense,” she drawled, “is that of true justice, higher and truer than the laws of man or the authority of this council. There is nothing noble about our ‘peculiar institution’. It is a sin against man and God, and I shall fight it as long as I draw breath, Statutes be damned.”

“Very well,” said the judge. “In light of your recalcitrance, this council sentences you to five years’ imprisonment at the Merring Herbological Plantation.” This set up quite a murmur from the crowd. Sending a woman to Merring was rare enough; sentencing one who was enceinte, and clearly unsuited to the rough conditions and hard labor of producing potion materials on a massive scale – well, that was unheard-of. But Judge Barnette seemed to have anticipated the response. “However, due to your… delicate condition, this council will transmute your sentence to one of house arrest. You will return to your husband’s home, there to be subjected to a Restraining Hex, and the bounds of the property to be enhanced with the necessary protective charms to ensure you remain where you are put.”

Marella nodded; she had expected as much.

“Let me make myself absolutely clear, Mrs. Wythe-Bolling,” the judge said as he rose. “If you transgress another time, we shall snap your wand, place every inhibiting ward at our disposal on you, and turn you over to the Muggle authorities. Perhaps a few years of living without magic would increase your respect.”

“Perhaps,” Marella said, “if you did so, it would increase your empathy.”

It turns out that, even in the early nineteenth century, [in New Jersey] women heads of household as well as free African Americans were identified as voting blocs loyal to the Federalist Party. Contemporary reports drawn from newspapers on both sides tell us that women property holders preferred the Federalists to the Republicans, perhaps for both religious and economic reasons. Free blacks tended even more strongly to vote Federalist because of the overall connection in black voters’ minds of the Republican Party with slaveholders’ interests. Thus, it became the Republicans’ mission in New Jersey to deny women and blacks the vote….

Jeffersonian politics initiated low appeals to race and gender prejudice for instrumental reasons. Republican Party organizers also fostered and nurtured blatant race prejudice among poorer whites, who were unenfranchised themselves and resented any blacks being given the right to vote. In the 1803 election, the vote in Hunterdon County jumped by nearly 50 percent. The total vote for the Republicans swamped the Federalists and was probably fraudulent. Only two-thirds of the men in the county would likely have met the £50 requirement and the county’s total vote was 25 percent higher than the total adult male population.

In 1806 the Republicans were still charging vote “corruption.” The editor of the Republican Trenton True American indignantly addressed the Federalists playing up race resentments against African Africans (“vast numbers of blacks who were known to be worth nothing?”), gender resentments against “misses” (“Why shove in votes of those who declared they were not worth a cent?”) and upwards against college students (“Why admit Princeton students?”).

What we see in the following election is the triumph of racial and gendered democracy over property-holding democracy. We might call this the “boots on the ground” effect: unpropertied/unqualified voters turned out at the polls and forced a retroactive extension of the suffrage. Men were prompted to the polls in part by antipathy - nurtured and sustained by the Republican organizers - to the political power allegedly enjoyed by propertied women and prosperous free African Americans.

The election of 1807 in New Jersey marks the beginning of a turning point from the colonial criteria of citizenship defined by property to a concept of American democracy defined by race. In one sense, Republicans were the agents of democratization. They eliminated the property requirements in New Jersey for all adult white males nearly two decades before neighboring New York followed suit. Furthermore, by promoting meetings providing “correct information on public officers among [their] fellow citizens,” Republicans encouraged a politics of widespread deliberation. At the same time, however, Republicans in New Jersey were the agents of democratic restriction. Initially because of strategic reasons, Jeffersonian Republicans and their political descendants, the Jacksonian Democrats, became increasingly wedded to the idea that the United States was a democracy for white men only.

—  Andrew W. Robertson, Democracy: Americans Other “Peculiar Institution”
The logic of ‘race as a social construct’ must be tightened and the focus sharpened. Just as it is unhelpful, to say the least, to euphemize racial slavery in continental Anglo-America as 'the Peculiar Institution,’ instead of identifying the 'white race,’ itself, as the truly peculiar institution governing the life of the country after emancipation as it did in slavery times; just as it is not 'race’ in general, that must be understood, but the 'white race,’ in particular; so the 'white race’ must be understood, not simply as a social construct, but as a ruling class social control formation.
—  Theodore W Allen, from #8 of his summary of his arguments in The Invention of the White Race
[E]ven if Americans became serious about emulating the citizen militias of the ancient republics in order to avoid creating a standing army, Hamilton’s own principles would exclude the possibility because of the “peculiar institution” that made the ancient militias possible, namely, slavery. What the devotees of citizen militias sometimes forgot was that the ancient republics relied on slaves to provide their citizens with enough leisure to train and to fight. For America to have had true citizen militias rather than the pallid versions found in the states, slavery would have had to become more pervasive. Not coincidentally, the strongest proponents of citizen militias in America - Jefferson, Madison, Patrick Henry, John Taylor, etc. - generally came from the slaveholding South. Slavery, however, was morally repugnant to Hamilton. He also believed that America’s slaves, like the helots in ancient Sparta, constituted an Achilles heel. During the Revolutionary War, he accurately predicted that Great Britain would exploit America’s vulnerable southern flank by issuing proclamations that promised freedom to American slaves who escaped and joined the Loyalist side, and he singled out Virginia for being “incumbered by a numerous body of slaves bound by all the laws of injured humanity to hate their Masters.” Hamilton would express similar concerns during the Quasi-War with France. Thus, to the extent that effective citizen militias required a substantial slave population, prudence and justice precluded relying on them for the nation’s defense.
—  Michael Chan, Aristotle and Hamilton on Commerce and Statesmanship

April 12th 1861: Firing on Fort Sumter

On this day in 1861, the American Civil War began when the first shots were fired upon Fort Sumter. Several Southern states had already seceded from the United States when this conflict occurred. The Southern slaveholding states had long been at odds with the anti-slavery agenda of the North, but secession was immediately preciptated by the election of anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln as President in 1860. Fort Sumter was a Union base in South Carolina, which was the first state to secede and thus its government demanded Union forces leave their state. The moment the siege became a battle and the fort was fired upon by Confederate forces, it seemed clear to all that civil war had begun. No one was killed in the conflict, perhaps a false omen that the civil war which became the bloodiest in American history would not be a costly one. The Union forces at the fort eventually surrendered, thus making it a victory for the Confederates. In the aftermath of the struggle each side called for troops and war soon broke out in full force. The American Civil War saw the defeat of the Southern secessionists and the end of slavery - the ‘peculiar institution’ - in the United States.

the-backspin-alchemist  asked:

Out of curiosity, may I ask what the story behind the Hanklerfish is? Where did the idea come from?

Yeah, I just realized that that’s actually what that last ask was asking. They weren’t asking “Could you please comment on the peculiarity of the cultural institution of autographs and how it relates to the concept of self.” They were asking “What’s the connection between you and Anglerfish.”

The connection is that one of my most popular songs is about Anglerfish.

Then, when John was signing 150,000 “J Scribble"s for TFiOS, I wanted to do something on a small percentage of them, but signing a book that I didn’t write with a name that most people who bought the book wouldn’t recognize seemed like a silly thing to do. Katherine suggested that I draw anglerfish on them, so that’s what I did. Those 7500 "Hanklerfished” copies of TFiOS are pretty rare and sometimes go on eBay for hundreds of dollars, which is weird. 

You can see us talking about that whole era of Nerdfighteria here.

Your Random History Minute…

I teach in a northern state, and I grew up most of my childhood in a northern state, and at no point in school was I ever taught about how slavery ended in those states.  Just that they had abolished slavery before the civil war.  It’s something that makes northerners feel good about their history, but let me tell you the story of slavery abolition in New Jersey.

Gradual abolition was a practice by which slavery was ended in many northern states and it generally followed the pattern of New Jersey.  In 1788 the importation of new slaves into the state was banned (as was the settling of free blacks from out of state), and in 1804 a law was passed that made all children born of slaves free after that date.  Their parents would be freed at a certain age (a legal fiction because they were then “apprenticed” to their masters), and all slaves would be freed in the state at a fixed date in the future.  The idea behind such laws was that by the time the general abolition happened there should be relatively few slaves left and the state could, among other things, avoid paying slavery reparations (that is not money to the slaves but money to the slave owners who had been denied their “property”).

But here is where the evil of this system comes in.  During this process the value of slaves in New Jersey depleted each year as the term of slavery shortened.  The law banned the exportation of slaves out of New Jersey during this process but left no enforcement means and the states existing law enforcement was disinclined to go after slave owners shipping their slaves to the deep south (getting them to Delaware only risked their running away to New Jersey and somehow telling the authorities about the illegal export, and at the time the boom in the slave economy was in cotton growing states much further south where the value of slaves was skyrocketing).

But remember what I said earlier?  All children of slaves born after 1804 in New Jersey were free.  But their parents were not.  Mothers were given a terrible choice, abandon their children in New Jersey with no resources and no support system to take care of them but where they would live their lives (short under the circumstances) free, or take them with them on export where they to would legally become slaves (as they had never been before) as soon as they landed on the docks in New Orleans.  

Nearly the entire population of New Jersey’s slaves were shipped south during the gradual abolition and hundreds or perhaps thousands of children born free were enslaved during the process.

And today northerners are taught in school a narrative about how their states wisely ended the “peculiar institution” willingly and did not need to be forced at the point of a gun and civil war.