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March 25, 2013

George Washington, cautious abolitionist

George Washington and 18th-Century Abolitionist Thought | s-usih.org
With a library of over 1,000 volumes, it can be difficult to tell which books Washington actually read and which simply collected dust. Most of his books were given to him, and in thanking friends for these gifts, he rarely indicated that he had actually read them. Even books he was known to have read have few markings inside, as was the case with volumes in the library of John Adams, for instance. However, Washington seems to have signed many of the books he read, and the ones that were particularly important to him he had bound. Of particular importance for the study of antislavery thought, Furstenberg argues, is a bound volume of six pamphlets, five of which were from foreign authors. Collectively, these pamphlets articulated abolitionist sentiments that Washington is known to have held in his later years. These include the idea that slavery was a stain upon a nation’s honor, that it was an inefficient economic system, and that slavery should be gradually abolished through legislation. Washington never advanced a religious argument, thus it comes as no surprise that a pamphlet from Granville Sharp did not make it into the bound volume and was clearly never read by Washington, as the pages had not been separated. In addition to this bound volume, Furstenberg examines the personal connections with individuals whom network theorists would label nodes in a growing intellectual network. We know, for instance, that both Washington and the Marquis de Condorcet were well acquainted with Lafayette, and thus can reasonably assume Lafayette passed on Condorcet’s antislavery ideas, ideas that Washington replicated nearly verbatim in a conversation. Brissot, a key figure in the French antislavery movement and author of one of the pamphlets Washington owned, visited Mt. Vernon in 1788, providing another connection between Washington and transatlantic abolitionist networks. The bound volume that now rests in the Boston Athenaeum, Furstenberg argues, sheds important light on Washington’s antislavery thought, but it also “makes visible the contours of a largely hidden international circuit of authorship, publication, and readership that stretched across the Atlantic, connecting salons in Paris, debates in London, and publishers in Philadelphia to readers in Virginia.”[3] For intellectual historians studying the antislavery movement, the methodology that Furstenberg employs constitutes a valuable addition to the close reading of abolitionist texts to which we are so accustomed.

March 19, 2013

Oh, Canada . . .

Jimmy Fallon's 'Do Not Read' List For Spring 2013...

Continue reading "Oh, Canada . . ." »

March 11, 2013

Did you ever wonder who the worst Supreme Court Justice in all of history was?

DownWithTyranny!: I'm Surprised There Are No Bible Law "Schools" Named For Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
In Prigg v Pennsylvania (1842), he voted to allow Southern slave holders to come up North and kidnap freed blacks and their children. He also voted to prevent northern states from passing laws to prevent this kind of kidnapping. But the 1847 Dred Scott Decision, written by Taney, guaranteed him his place in history-- and hell. It was certainly what conservatives now call unfounded judicial activism and there were unsuccessful attempts to impeach Taney because of it. His position is that Congress had no authority to prevent the spread of slavery and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional (which is why he is honored by the racist dogs of Taney County today). In the reviled opinion he wrote as Chief Justice he insists that Blacks were "an inferior order" and not protected by the Constitution at all. It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. He routinely referred to abolitionist sentiment as "Northern aggression," something that helped rally southerners towards secession. Today Scalia and several other right-wing activists on the Supreme Court falsely claim racism is dead in the South and that there is no longer any need for the protections for Blacks from disenfranchisement in that unfortunate part of the country. Their arguments fly in the face of reality and have no bearing in facts on the ground.