The latest attempt at further fracturing race relations towards ensuring politicians are employed well into the future is the idea of reparations for blacks in the US. Just like the Republicans of the late 1860s and early 1870s, the Democrats of today want to use blacks in the US to enrich their future to provide a government service in the form of money to offset past wrongs. It isn’t that politicians want every black person in the US to get a check, oh no, it is that they would “manage” this enormous fund and determine who is worthy to receive other taxpayer’s money.
Walter E. Williams in a 2014 piece (yes, this subject has been cycling thorough the US for many decades) explains the complexities involved:
One of the most ignored facts about slavery’s tragic history — and it’s virtually a secret today — is that slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years. It did not become a moral issue until the 18th century. Plus, the moral crusade against slavery started in the West, most notably England.
By worldwide, Walter means that blacks AND whites were slaves at one time or another. Even post that:noted in this recent
Yes, slavery is evil, but this was something that was universal. Slavery was the backbone of our ancestral civilisation, the Greco-Roman World. Slavery has been universal for at least 5,000 years. Slavery still exists in the Muslim world. The monstrous evil of sexual slavery, which is a major concern of mine, exists everywhere, and I want to help destroy it.
To be specific, a decade ago there was NO slavery in Libya, but today, thanks to the US/NATO overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, this horrible practice is again thriving in this region. Bombing the world for “democracy” should be the US Empire’s tagline!
So lets get back to Walter E. Williams list of complexities to consider.
First and foremost:
.. let me say that I agree with reparations advocates that slavery was a horrible, despicable violation of basic human rights. The gross discrimination that followed emancipation made a mockery of the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. I also agree that slave owners and slave traders should make reparations to those whom they enslaved. The problem, of course, is that slaves, slave owners and slave traders are all dead. Thus, punishing perpetrators and compensating victims is out of the hands of the living .. What moral principle justifies punishing a white of today to compensate a black of today for what a white of yesterday did to a black of yesterday?
Exactly. Great question. However, there is more!
Government has no resources of its very own. The only way for government to give one American a dollar is to first — through intimidation, threats and coercion — confiscate that dollar from some other American .. A large percentage, if not most, of today’s Americans — be they of European, Asian, African or Latin ancestry — don’t even go back three or four generations as American citizens. Their ancestors arrived on our shores long after slavery. What standard of justice justifies their being taxed to compensate blacks for slavery? For example, in 1956, thousands of Hungarians fled the brutality of the USSR to settle in the U.S. What do Hungarians owe blacks for slavery?
Another great question. How on earth is government going to do this “fairly”? DNA testing? Even that has issues in trying to determine the descendants of both white slave-owners and black slaves. But wait, there is more!
During slavery, some free blacks purchased other blacks as a means to free family members.
But other blacks owned slaves for the same reason whites owned slaves — to work farms or plantations. Are descendants of these slaveholding blacks eligible for and deserving of reparations?
Exactly. How does one determine the motive of people that lived in the US states of MD, KY, MO, DE (yes, these were slave states too) as well as TX, LA, AK, MS, AL, TN, GA, SC, NC, and VA prior to December 1865 when chattel slavery was abolished?
Adding to the complicated nature of this issue is the way slaves were captured in Africa (by African blacks) and placed on US New England slave ships, financed by US New England investors to get the slaves to Washington DC (yes, slave auctions were a thing there), Richmond, VA and Charleston, SC.
When African slavery began, there was no way Europeans could have enslaved millions of Africans. They had no immunity from diseases that flourished in tropical Africa. Capturing Africans to sell into slavery was done by Arabs and black Africans. Would reparations advocates demand that citizens of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya and several Muslim states tax themselves to make reparation payments to progeny of people whom their ancestors helped to enslave?
The final thing Walter corrects is the myth that the slave system made for
Reparations advocates make the foolish unchallenged argument that the United States became rich on the backs of free black labor. That’s nonsense that cannot be supported by fact. Slavery doesn’t have a very good record of producing wealth. Slavery was all over the South, and it was outlawed in most of the North.
Buying into the reparations argument about the riches of slavery, one would conclude that the antebellum South was rich and the slave-starved North was poor. The truth of the matter is just the opposite. In fact, the poorest states and regions of our nation were places where slavery flourished — Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia — while the richest states and regions were those where slavery was absent: Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.
Basically, the only reason the North could do what it did in 1861 when it commenced a war on Southern civilians was because it had prospered much more than the South from 1820s on to 1860. It was not always that way as from 1775 to the War of 1812 it was the South that was the most prosperous section of the young nation. So strong was the South that the North considered secession in 1798 and again in 1814 but never pulled the trigger.
Lastly, do we really want to open up this can of worms in the 21st century as to reparations for past slavery? The fact is that every nation in the world owes REPARATION to somebody ELSE.
Case in point is in this 2002 post about a case for reparations that was filed here in the US by Jack Kershaw of Menphis, TN:
[Jack] wants to file a class-action lawsuit against the US government for reparations. Not on behalf of the descendants of slaves but on behalf of Southerners of all races whose ancestors were the victims of the US government’s rampage of pillaging, plundering, burning, and raping of Southern civilians during the War for Southern Independence [so-called American Civil War]
While the Southerners of 1865-1877 and beyond were undoubtedly trashed by the vindictive Northern army and later Republican politicians, should we go back multiple generations across this globe and transact billions or trillions of dollars IF there is evidence to do so?
To be honest, the South took it on the chin for only wanting out of the marriage to this psycho partner called the Yankee/Northerner/Defender of the Union. Not only was this a legal move constitutionally (Lincoln was very careful to never acknowledge that secession took place), it was the right thing to do as it was well known by 1860 that the North got rich in part due to the tariff revenue generated in the South being REDISTRIBUTED to Northern “improvements” (steel industry, railroads, etc).
Some examples of wartime atrocities abound. To start with, the specific targeting of civilians was outright illegal when the North started the war against the “insurrection” (Lincoln’s word) in the South:
In 1860 international law — and the US government’s own military code — prohibited the intentional targeting of civilians in war, although it was recognized that civilian casualties are always inevitable. .. The kind of wanton looting and destruction of private property that was practiced by the Union army for the entire duration of the war was forbidden, and perpetrators were to be imprisoned or hanged. This was all described in great detail in the book, International Law, authored by San Francisco attorney Henry Halleck, who was appointed by Lincoln as general in chief of the Union armies in July 1862.
Early on in the war, frustrated Union officers took war to a new level and outside the bounds of law:
Unable to subdue their enemy combatants, many Union officers waged war on civilians instead, with Lincoln’s full knowledge and approval. Grimsley describes how Union Colonel John Beatty warned the residents of Paint Rock, Alabama, that “Every time the telegraph wire was cut we would burn a house; every time a train was fired upon we would hang a man; and we would continue to do this until every house was burned and every man hanged between Decatur and Bridgeport.” Beatty ended up burning the entire town of Paint Rock to the ground.
Note that this vengence was not aimed only at white civilians in the south (only 5% of them actually owned slaves since in a typical family of 5 at that time, the father generally owned the slaves), …
Slave states NOT in the Confederate States of America (CSA):
… but the targeting included the slaves themselves. This actually makes more sense as post-war there was NOT a mass migration of blacks to the Northern states. Blacks may have initially thought that the white army from the North was there to free them, but the fact is, most Northerners did not want blacks competing for their jobs. The very potential for this mass migration was what prompted Lincoln, a “free-soil” Republican, to seriously consider sending blacks back to Africa or to the Caribbean.
In October of 1864 Sherman even ordered the murder of randomly chosen citizens in retaliation for Confederate Army attacks. He wrote to General Louis D. Watkins: “Cannot you send over about Fairmount and Adairsville, burn ten or twelve houses . . ., kill a few at random, and let them know that it will be repeated every time a train is fired upon . . .” (See John Bennett Walters, Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, p. 137).
The indiscriminate bombing of Southern cities, which was outlawed by international law at the time, killed hundreds, if not thousands of slaves. The slaves were targeted by Union Army plunderers as much as anyone. As Grimsley writes, “With the utter disregard for blacks that was the norm among Union troops, the soldiers ransacked the slave cabins, taking whatever they liked.” A typical practice was to put a hangman’s noose around a slave’s neck and threaten to hang him unless he revealed where the household’s jewelry and silverware were hidden. Some slaves were beaten to death by Union soldiers.
It is no doubt that black slaves knew that the North was not their true friends. The “Underground Railroad” went to Canada, not to any particular northern state. Only Wisconsin ever nullified the Fugitive Slave Act which mandated that escaped slaves were required by law to be returned to their owners in the slave states.
The fact that when both Indiana (1816) and Illinois (1818) abolished slavery upon statehood, they also ensure that black immigration was minimized by requiring blacks to produce legal documents proving they were free and posting bond of up to $1000 (in 1860 dollars – approximately $30,000 today!). Additional anti-immigration legislation was enacted (and supported by Lincoln) in Illinois in 1819, 1829 and 1853 and in Indiana in 1831 and 1852 as well as in the Michigan Territory in 1827. The bottom line was that Northern whites, and politicians themselves, feared black immigration!
In summary, reparations are best applied in real-time, within the generation of the offense. This is why even an author who suggests that Southerners are hard on General Sherman and Sheridan would state on the record:
Historian Lee Kennett, author of ‘Marching through Georgia: The Story of Soldiers and Civilians during Sherman’s Campaign’ page 286:
“Had the Confederates somehow won, had their victory put them in position to bring their chief opponents before some sort of tribunal, they would have found themselves justified (as victors generally do) in stringing up President Lincoln and the entire Union high command for violation of the laws of war, specifically for waging war against noncombatants.”
Now you know.