Analyzing our world through the lens of first principles, right reason, faith and a practical application of the humanities.
Discussions pertaining to the bodies of knowledge contained in humanities arts and sciences that attempt to define, explain and elucidate humankind’s condition and future.
Study and discussion of the humanities has traditionally been the keystone to understanding why cultures and people behave as they do and in informing policy decisions. The humanities have helped us ask and answer questions about our world and existence itself. The value of the knowledge contained within these disciplines has been indispensable to mankind.
However, in recent decades the study of these areas has fallen into a category of superfluous. Hard sciences and business acumen are valued over academic discussions about the nature of existence or rights or the condition of man.
Mankind sits on the precipice of monumental transformational change – the sort we have never faced before. Technology, within the next two decades, will fundamentally alter all aspects of life, government, our expectations of privacy, community and perhaps notions of existence and consciousness as well.
Science and engineering have and are crafting miraculous wonders in terms of artificial intelligence, genetics and others but science has failed, because it is ill-equipped for the task, to account for humanity.
There has never been a more important time to step back and look at first principles of moral law and the current and desired condition of humans. The disciplines of the humanities are the link that will enable us to transition into the future digital state post-postmodernity and retain our humanity.
I have been conducting a bit of research, watching a lot of mega-church pastor’s sermons, and I have noticed a trend that the Babylon Bee nailed recently in a satirical story of a preacher that placed himself in the middle of a sermon about election.
Churchgoers were impressed by Vickery’s theological illustration and his general ability to always make himself look good in his messages.
“Some Sundays, I’ll admit, I have no idea how he’s going to end up making himself look great, cool, popular, important, or heroic. Especially with this one—I was thinking, ‘How is Pastor Chuck going to make himself the man in a message on election?’ I mean, it’s election,” said church member Becky Lenhardt, adding that despite her doubts, somehow he was able to pull it off.
“I can’t wait until next Sunday to see how he’ll become the hero of a sermon on creation,” she added.
I have come to the conclusion, after watching dozens of videos from various mega-church pastors, that this is pretty much par for the course. I suspect they would be incapable of preaching a funeral or a wedding without performing the verbal equivalent of photo-bombing.
This sort of behavior is closely related to the story of the worship leader that took 16 hours to explain to his congregation why he selected a particular song for that morning and what it meant to him. Me, me, look at me.
Satire is a pretty good way of addressing the absurd and getting after a reality that makes no sense. I thought I was alone in this observation of crass interposition but apparently not.
We often view the world through a limited perspective and fail to see the larger narrative, the foundational differences in world views. A liberally inclined person may look at some conservative ideas and see totalitarianism. A conservative invariably does the same. Neither is absolutely wrong, but it is also unlikely that when a person right or left speaks these words or has these thoughts that they understand why this is true.
Within the umbrella of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, within the context of millennia of Western political, philosophical and theological thought, both left and right, conservative and liberal ideas of freedom, economics and government exist side by side. They are complementary, they share the same basic world view. Conservatism and liberalism, left and right, in the Western tradition, are based upon realism, rationalism, and acceptance of truth – this is Classical Liberalism.
The image above represents the various ideations of thought that derive from the Enlightenment. Obviously there is a vast swath of difference across this spectrum but at the core the most rigid forms of republicanism and the most liberal forms of scientific socialism share in common an acceptance of materialism, rationalism, realism and objective truth. From right to left, there is a difference in agreement as to what constitutes objective truth but everything that is true to the Enlightenment, everything above the ‘cut line’ agrees on the foundational world view, there is an agreement that truth exists.
The Enlightenment itself was subjected to a counter-revolution, beginning with Immanuel Kant and continuing through philosophers like Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche and finally to the modern era and postmodernism. The counter-revolution was a slow but steady assault on the ability of men to know truth and finally of the existence of truth at all.
This shift perverted the classical liberalism philosophical spectrum. Without an understanding of the nature of man, universal truths, natural moral law, and natural rights the poles of the spectrum devolved into dangerous ideologies. Far-right republicanism gives birth to statism, far left progressivism gives birth to pseudo-marxism and totalitarian communism. Finally, a third way was born to address the inadequacies of perverted classical liberal ideologies, fascism, a phenomenon that can exist on the right and left of the spectrum below the classical liberal cut line.
The great political divide we observe at almost all levels of the process is a direct result of the abandonment of truth, or perhaps agreeing that truth exists. No longer does the definition of liberal or conservative reach across the spectrum to some degree as it did under a classical liberal view, no longer is there a middle. To be certain, there are still those that term themselves conservative and liberal but almost all on each side have succumbed to various postmodern ideological influences. This must invariably lead to some sort of totalitarianism, a form of fascism.
Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or a mode of discourse that rejects the possibility of reliable knowledge, denies the existence of a universal, stable reality, and frames aesthetics and beauty as arbitrary and subjective. It can be described as a reaction against scientific attempts to explain reality with objective certainty, recognizing that reality is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own personal circumstances. It is characterized by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward the grand narratives and ideologies of modernism, often denying or challenging the validity of scientific inquiry, or declaiming the arbitrariness of the aesthetics of artistic works or other artifacts of cultural production, or questioning various assumptions of Enlightenment rationality.
Postmodernism relies on critical theory, an approach that confronts the ideological, social, and historical structures that shape and constrain cultural production. Common targets of postmodernism and critical theory include universalist notions of objective reality, morality, truth, human nature, reason, language, and social progress. Postmodernist approaches have been adopted in a variety of academic and theoretical disciplines, including political science, organization theory, cultural studies, philosophy of science, economics, linguistics, architecture, feminist theory, and literary criticism, as well as art movements in fields such as literature and music.
Everything that derives from postmodernism is poison to the Western tradition, right reason, morality, and ethics based upon truth. Critical Theory, as applied to Critical Race Theory, has divided the populace by reigniting racism. Feminist Theory has destroyed the family. It has slipped into traditional organizations such as:
Most of mainline Christianity in the form of Social Gospel
The core ideology behind the formation of the megachurch growth, seeker-sensitive and emergent church movements – Peter Drucker, the Leadership Network The Gospel Coalition and others.
Almost all of academia.
Neoconservatism, neoliberalism and progressivism – meaning most of the Republican and Democratic parties and most of the organizations and individuals that advocate in the public square for either are affected in some way by postmodern ideology.
My daughter asked me recently, “how can two sides look at the evidence and issues related to Trump’s impeachment and see the facts so differently?” The answer is simple: people are incapable of thinking from first principles and agreeing on the existence of universal truths. And so it is, so long as the vast majority are mired in bad ideology the situation will persist and intensify.
I do not know a lot about Twitter. I really only just began to use it. I think I just got into my first Twitter skirmish, and it was informative.
Like all good stories, this one begins with “so there I was”. I posted a piece on James McPherson and the 1619 Project controversy and I noticed that a person with Ph.D. behind their name (honestly who does that on Twitter), posted a comment about how disappointing and sad it was that McPherson and other historians would criticize the project, and that “the way we do our work is important”. This person is a professor of history at a major university, criticizing another historian, an accepted expert on the subject at hand, and stated it was “sad and disappointing” that McPherson would find fault in this project.
I am no fan of McPherson, but he has written a lot on the subject of slavery, and this other person I have never heard of.
I commented essentially that if they were sad about McPherson’s critique and could not see the error themselves that spoke more to their qualifications than his and that good methodology was a friend. Ok, yes, perhaps provocative, but at the time I thought it appropriate. Their original post was a provocative attack as I read it.
The first reply I received was that my post was “embarrassing because I had obviously not looked at the person’s bio”. A blatant appeal to authority, a clear fallacy. I replied that I had noticed but it did not matter to me and my assessment stood as written.
What was most interesting was what followed. A trove of lemmings chimed in. Some said I could not comment on the issue because I am a white guy (who says that out loud). Others that I was mansplaining because the Ph.D. in question is a woman, or that I am a misogynist, etc. etc. ad nauseum. They conjured all of that from a few simple words from me, amazing.
As I said, perhaps I do not know a lot about Twitter. Perhaps a new guy with no followers ought not to call out someone with 2K drones following their words, ready to pounce. Maybe real Twitter wars happen when one guy with a bunch of lemmings says something to another guy and then their little ducklings fight it out.
This entire thing reminded me of a forum I followed years ago. Every once in awhile controversy and disagreement would break out. There was one camp on the boards that followed a guy called Jeff. Jeff appealed to authority all the time, he claimed to have been there and done it and that alone was enough to make his opinion better than others. He had a following that bought into his story no matter how banal his opinions at times. When disagreements would break out between the various factions, and Jeff was not online, there would be 20 posts from his followers with a variation of “wait to Jeff gets online and squares you away”.
Jeff would eventually post, usually to personally attack the credibility of the person making a counter-argument with one post. That would be followed by twenty or thirty “jeff told you, enough said” posts. It was insane.
I believe that is what Twitter might be. Echo chamber insanity, appeals to authority, bandwagoning, confirmation bias and a slew of other fallacies.
I have read that Milinials primarily get their news from Twitter. That is a bit troubling and not a small bit confusing. We have lost the ability to talk to anybody that does not agree with us, 100%, I perhaps count myself in that number as well. Without dialogue, a republic cannot long stand.
Update: Soon after posting this I had a dialogue with a socialist, a man that pointed out that Critical Theory was opposed by true socialist, who knew. Perhaps there is some use for Twitter. This man and I would never have spoken otherwise, me a paleoconservative and he a socialist, I would have happily proceeded to conflate the progressive and socialist ideologies together lock-step. It seems it is possible to actually talk on Twitter, and to learn something.
I once wrote in a review of James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom that,
James McPherson is a master of prose and storytelling as evidenced in Battle Cry of Freedom. He has mastered the art that Shelby Foote noted many historians lack, that of telling history in a way ordinary men will read. However, for all his skills at penmanship McPherson makes several critical errors in Battle Cry, errors common to his generation. It is likely that the influence and ascendance of this work and the myriad of others in the same vein will be short lived in the realm of serious scholarship on the causes of The War.
James McPherson’s central theme within Battle Cry, in his words, “the multiple meanings of slavery and freedom, and how they dissolved and reformed in the crucible of war”. His work is typical of most historians of his generation in that it rejects the thematic and topical analysis of events utilized by previous scholars.
My opinion of his worth as a historian has not changed. He is an accomplished storyteller but he is a man of his generation, he shares flaws common across most historians trained the 1960s. There was a trend, beginning after WWII and the collapse of the academic and political old right, to tell the narrative of the United States from a more left and decidedly more centralist point of view. Much of the discussion and scholarship in the first half of the 20th century had dealt with the examination of sectionalism, original intent, and states’ rights. In the 1950s and going into the 1960s the standard narrative was less comprehensive, looked less deeply for the complexity of issues that divided America in the mid 19th century and came more and more to talk just of “rebellion and slavery”.
While I admire his ability to tell a story, I remain unconvinced of his view of American history in the 19th Century. It was, therefore, extremely curious to learn that McPherson and other historians publically called out the New York Times for errors in their 1619 Project. It seems the NYT journalist, that is folks that went to school to tell stories and master the written word as opposed to the study and analysis of history, went too far afield in the ever-evolving new American narrative. Painting American history essentially as one long list of events designed exclusively to dominate and manipulate black folks. That was too much, even for folks like McPherson. You can view their letter to the NYT here.
I applaud McPherson and his partners in this effort. It is dangerous, increasingly dangerous, to speak out against anything of the radical agenda. oftentimes those that are punished the worst, canceled the hardest and suffer the most, are left-leaning folks that fail to toe the line or speak up when things go too far astray.
It has caused a bit of a stir on Twitter, with half-baked defenses, incompetent lemmings and false historians and journalists coming out of the woodwork to defend the NYT.
In researching the topic I read Russell Moore’s Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Culture. In Retrenchment, I described Moore’s book as a much more optimistic version of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option and that mine was the most pessimistic of the three. Each tackled the issue of how Christians survive and thrive in a post-Christian civilization.
I was perhaps too kind.
Despite the fact that my denominational orientation and background are much closer aligned to Moore than Dreher, I found myself in agreement with Dreher much more than Moore. I explained this in Rethrenchment as perhaps a result of Moore’s book being with his publisher when Obergefell v Hodges was decided. I gave Moore the benefit of the doubt for being more touchy-feely, including social gospel innuendo and ignoring the massive cultural shift manifested into law in 2015 because Obergefell was not yet a reality.
I read within Onward some head-scratching notions, nuanced rather than stated outright, that smacked of some of the ideas that derive from bad ideology and sociological theories. After viewing a documentary by Founder’s Ministries called By Who’s Standard, I came to understand that the nuanced error I read in Onward was just that, a glimpse at the ideology Moore, and some leaders in the SBC, have come to embrace.
Christians have to change much of what we have been doing, but Moore’s prescription seems poisonous to me. From the front cover of Retrenchment.
fall apart, the center cannot hold
Old strategies no longer work, Christians no longer comprise a silent moral majority, our ideas are alien and our understanding of truth is difficult for the world to comprehend; something must change. Increasingly the general culture, the zeitgeist of the age, is hostile to our ideas. Ancient institutions based upon the Christian concept of truth have fallen; more will fall. Old assumptions about the nature and extent of our liberty and religious freedom seem to be proven false as we watch. Allies, once beacons of principle, have crumbled under the pressure of radicals; more will fall. Strange and false doctrines have replaced Christian teachings; entire denominations that once held to orthodox Christianity have succumbed. No church is immune, alien ideas, philosophies and theological doctrines have crept in everywhere.
Update: 8 January 2020
How many Southern Baptists actually know that their number one public representative and the most influential man in the denomination is in cahoots with George Soros? I suspect not many.
Abstract: Why did classical liberalism fail to achieve the results its original proponents envisioned? Given the popularity of social liberalism, modern liberalism and progressive causes and ideologies, as derivatives and permutations of classical liberalism, one might argue it has not failed in the first place, rather, perhaps it has not yet been fully realized and implemented. But the fact is classical liberalism has failed, as can be conclusively proven, it has failed because it ignored immutable metaphysical laws, the historic reality and an approach to human nature based upon realism. At the end of the road of classical liberalism, the West arrived at social liberalism and progressive liberalism which beckon its adherents to seek greater authoritarianism to compel compliance and ultimately reduce individual liberty and increase governmental power.
I propose a unified theory of sorts that combines The Strauss-Howe generational theory with a hybrid of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilization’s hypothesis explains in part the observation that the West has not reached the End of History as some propose. Rather, classical liberalism, as expressed through derivative ideologies of progressivism, social liberalism, socialism, and communism, has failed to provide the social order and tranquility that early proponents envisioned. At its core, classical liberalism failed to acknowledge immutable metaphysical laws, the historic reality and an approach to human nature based upon realism. The overarching intent of this work is to provide an umbrella under which related research will reside that fleshes out specific and more detailed aspects of the larger hypothesis presented above.
This is the question I seek to answer in a new project, one that will undoubtedly find its way into much of my writing and thoughts. This is a theory I first broached in A Philosophy of Commonsense and will elaborate in further detail progressively over time.
I humbly submit my very rough working list of First Principles. It is ironic that since Elon Musk said he thinks in first principles the Interwebs are all aquiver with folks publishing list that generally have nothing at all to do with fist principles – usually, their list do not comport the requirements of real first principles, which are:
First principles are true
First principles are necessarily true
First principles are indemonstrable
And most importantly, generally these lists do not derive from First Causes.
The same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time
Nothing comes from Nothing
There is/are a creator (G)god(s)
Natural Moral law exists and is written into the spirit of all men in all times
There exists a Transcendent Order
Social Continuity is Good
Variety is Good
No fear if you are reading the above and think I have become a transcendental theist or polytheist even. I personally believe in one God, the Christian God. My effort with this is to build philosophical proofs into a list of first principles that argue against atheism, secular humanism and metaphysical naturalism and to articulate the foundations that bias my opinions on other subjects. In fact from the above I infer:
Inferences, Deductions and Syllogisms
11. The God of the Bible is most likely the true God
Aligns best with the Natural Moral law
Historical evidence in support of Biblical narrative
I. There is a God that created the universe (3 a.-d.), Christianity presents a system supported by evidence that aligns with natural law and is supported by reason, therefore, the God of the Bible and Christianity must be true.
II. The God of Christianity is God and the Creator of the Universe, the text of the Bible is provably accurate and authentic and states it is the word of God, therefore, the Bible must be an accurate testimony of God’s word.
Last evening, the wife and I had a dinner date that included attending a performance of Silkroad Ensemble at the Maxwell Theater over at Augusta University. I am always game for musical entertainment that may perhaps broaden my perspective a bit so a hybrid fusion ensemble of talented musicians seemed like a nice evening event. I am not a musical expert, let us establish that up front. However, I do not believe I actually heard anything that could pass as actual music last night.
Let me explain.
At one point early in the presentation one of the performers mentioned how the group was formed some twenty years ago to bring together all sorts of musical styles, put them in a pot and cook them into what Silkroad produces. They mentioned that 2+2 could be 5. As a metaphor, I could accept the premise. Concerning music and what music actually is, I cannot. Good music in all places, times and cultures has followed certain mathematical rules.
At another point the musicians stood on stage, essentially silent for 45 seconds, perhaps two minutes, I do not know for certain, doing ma. Ma is Japanese for a pause or gap in a sequence. I looked about the crowd in attendance and it seemed to me folks thought this was the most brilliant thing possible. I saw seven people standing on stage not playing music.
I actually had to stop the wife from laughing out loud at this point.
Music in all paces and in all times has been based upon certain mathematical certainties. (Well that and the obvious requirement to actually play your instrument and not stand silent – actually playing something is a requirement for music also I think.)
You can look anywhere, across history, and find that some cultures added 20+20 to get 40 and others 200+200 for 400 and others 5+5 to arrive at 10, etc., but all followed what can be clearly interpreted as mathematical rules to produce actual music that humans enjoy. Good music follows a mathematical ratio, the golden ratio, that all humans everywhere recognize. Tempo, style, instrumentation all vary, but real music always follows this rule. In fact, all art, architecture and even what we perceive as beauty in other humans is related to how closely something aligns with the golden ratio. It is almost like this is the mathematical basis of beauty that God wrote into the universe when he created it and we all intrinsically recognize it even for those that do not recognize a Creator.
When one of the performers stood up and told the crowd that 2+2=5 they actually meant it. Each performer clearly had talent in playing various instruments, but what they did on the stage was not at all music. It is not that I did not like it, that is not relevant. I can dislike a style of music but still, accept that it is actually music. My radio dial is filled with music that I dislike but that I still accept as actual music. It is not that I am an ignorant creten that simply cannot appreciate art. I may, in fact, be such, but as a human, I am attuned to the universal law of math and the golden ratio, I can easily discern noise from art.
The question I ask is why would otherwise talented people travel the world performing noise rather than music? Why would educational institutions such as Augusta University spend money to bring talented people to the school so that they can perform noise? Why would a small audience sit and pretend that they “get it”? Well, the answer to those questions are not very pretty I am afraid.
If one looks at the description of Silkroad it seems innocent enough:
Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world.
Seems innocuous enough, after all, who can really be opposed to a “more hopeful world”. There is, however, I suspect a lot of imagery and code in that simple sentence. When a person tells you who they are, you ought to actually believe them. The 2+2=5 statement at the beginning of the show was not merely a metaphor for perhaps thinking differently. It was a statement that these folks believe that the foundation of what has come before is not worthy of their time or effort. It is essentially a statement that the rules of the universe, created by God, are not relevant to them. It is a bold statement of rebellion against tradition. They might as well have stood on stage and stated that the Earth is flat and gravity does not exist. There is a palatable ideological bent to this group.
In the free market I would say let these folks make what ever noise they want and try to sell it as music. In a truly free market they would be on the side of the street with a bucket accepting donations for supper. However, the market this ideology exist in is not free. It is supported by funds from large endowments and educational institutions.
Make no mistake, the profit this group took from their performance on Saturday was not based upon ticket sales. Augusta University paid to have this group here under the guise of providing an enlightenment opportunity for students (I saw few students in attendance by the way). As a public institution, this means that ultimately two groups paid for this, the taxpayers and students out of their tuition and fees. Imagine that some student will pay some small amount of interest on the cost of this for the next 30 years in the form of repayment of student loans – all in the name of allowing a few eccentrics the luxury of declaring that they are smarter than all of the world’s great composers and musicians to come before them and smarter than God himself.
This performance was nothing more than another expression of the supremacy of man, a self-centered secularism that seeks to dispense with all that has proven good and acceptable through centuries of human history. It was not just the innocent act of a few otherwise talented musicians banging on drums to produce noise that three eight-year-olds running amuck in a music room might similarly produce.
I enjoyed the evening, dinner was nice, accompaning the wife was nice and watching this event was informative, but I am left to shake my head at what passes for art and enlightenment.
The real story of the Hamburg Incident is that two groups of South Carolinians, each with much more in common than they possibly realized did violence to each other. They shared commonalities of misplaced hate, fear, insecurity and pride of principle. The events of 8 July 1876 shaped the future of South Carolina more significantly than any event to occur here before or since. The loss of life was tragic, but if a common narrative that binds us together as South Carolinians is to be found in this event is that of blood sacrifice on the eventual road to who we are today – it is our story. It should not be a story of this group versus that group, told from two sides. All involved were sons of our fair State.
As a one so recently introduced into the myriad of issues that seem to be inflaming passions related to monuments, interpretive plagues and the proper utilization of historic properties within the city I cannot say that I know all of the personal histories that may be fanning the current flames of emotional distress. I can say as a son of the State of South Carolina and a fellow that has been intently interested in the history of the state and her people coupled with the fact that I endeavor and pray for God’s wisdom in the application of critical thinking skills I do have a perspective to offer on this entire situation.
It is not my purpose here to discuss if the city council should have selected a different site for the new public safety headquarters. I suspect there are better properties from a logistical and access point of view but my intent here is to address the counter-arguments related to the Flythe house and the Hamburg Incident (or Massacre if you prefer). I submit that it is very important to discuss North Augusta’s history vis-a-vis Hamburg but that it is not helpful to conflate the discussion of the location of the public safety headquarters into that discussion. The bottom line is the city, could, if planned properly, construct a headquarters building that is architecturally true to the original Seven Gables design and accommodates some homage to Starkey Flythe onsite. If they are intent on building at that location, these points are for a separate discussion.
Something of a more weighty matter, that is lost in the conflation of political discussions and debate, is the narrative and history of this side of the river. I ask humbly that you bear with me through my argument, it may seem to offend sensibilities of all sides at one point or another but I believe there is an important common ground and story to be told. I contend that this is where discussions of monuments and historical interpretation should be aimed.
In terms of its greater impact what happened in Hamburg on July 8, 1876 was the most significant historic event to occur in North Augusta/Hamburg. That event set in motion a series of other events that fueled the eventual election of Wade Hampton and the end of the Federal Occupation of South Carolina and Reconstruction. We must be very careful to deconstruct what that meant and not merely jump to faulty conclusions. Ending the occupation of South Carolina was a positive good – independent of any and all of the other potentially negative impacts that followed. Those unfortunate reactionary measures should not be conflated with or tarnish the positive of being free of a foreign army of occupation. Arguments against Jim Crow and the disenfranchisement of Blacks in South Carolina are valid but it would be a faulty analogy to argue that because bad things followed the end of occupation reconstruction itself must have been a good thing for South Carolina. It was bad for all South Carolinians, black, white, rich and poor.
To provide some idea of how bad reconstruction really was for South Carolina one need only look at the fraud and scandal surrounding the state legislature and the treasury from 1867-1874.
“…in 1870–1871, the state’s financial board secured the authority to print and sell $1 million in state bonds; there were to be $1,000 bonds numbered 1 to 1,000. Members of the board printed two sets— both numbered 1 to 1,000—and sold both sets. They kept no records of their transactions and were caught only when a New York investment firm came into possession of two bonds with the same number on both. Partly as a result of such malfeasance, and partly because of legitimate increases in expenditures such as the creation of a public school system from scratch, state budgets skyrocketed during Reconstruction and the state slipped further and further into debt. ” SC Encyclopedia
For many from the North, with an eye toward profit, Reconstruction served as a perfect mechanism to extract from the South and South Carolina treasure for their own purposes. The South, and her people black and white, became easy prey to anyone with an entrepreneurial and unethical frame of mind. Infrastructure was ruined, the social security provided by the former slave system was gone. Sharecropping became the economic model – a system that provided no security at all for the laborers at the bottom of the system. Northern investors provided high-interest loans to plantation owners, and when the price of cotton plummeted in the late 1860’s these loans could not be repaid. The first people to suffer under this system were sharecroppers. The only people to profit were Northern investors supported by an occupation army.
It is perhaps even more nefarious. Northern Republicans were only too happy to use the majority black vote to secure state offices. Even being so “kind” as to admit several black legislators don’t you know. Of course, they never allowed or conceived of allowing the black population to actually control state politics or hold the highest offices. This was paternalism coupled with manipulation and not so subtle disdain. They used the black population to attain power.
Additionally, rather than quelling racial animosity in the State, the policies and actions of the occupying army and Northern opportunist served only to incite it. I shall explain.
People often focus on racism as the cause of so many ills. I suggest racism is just a version of hate -sim. Hate based upon race is just easier to spot, it is obviously in the pigment of skin, it is easy to identify a target of one’s hatred. But hate -ism is really no different anywhere it is found. It is almost always a result of misplaced angst. People come to view the source of their problems in another group and begin to hate them. In the former Yugoslavia, we observed the exact same thing. Families that lived alongside each other for a couple of centuries turned to hate – ism and identified the source of their problems in the identity of another group. I suggest the real root cause of why hate – ism manifested in the South was more fundamental than the mere color of a person’s skin. Karl Marx was wrong about most things but argued that history is the story of economics. I tend to agree that people fundamentally get most invigorated over economic issues, particularity those related to survival. The political and economic policies of the Reconstruction government fed hate and animosity as opposed to building tranquility and harmony. Let’s dispense then, at least for the moment, of racism talk and perhaps acknowledge that there was a lot of misplaced hate going around. People hated their circumstances and their rulers but were powerless to change things.
By misplaced hate, of course, I mean, both the black and white population of South Carolina had good cause to be upset with the occupation, with the running of the state government, with finances and with the economy in general. Many whites had been outright disenfranchised, blacks could now vote but still did not really run the affairs of the state and both groups shared the burden of a failed economy and a dismal future if the circumstance did not change.
If my assessment of the Union occupation and Republican rule of South Carolina seems too harsh perhaps I can allow that the US was essentially an amateur at nation-building and occupation in the late 1800s. Many of the mistakes I personally observed in Iraq were the same mistakes the Union Army made – disenfranchising an entire population and leaving them with no political voice, failure to address economic issues etc. Obviously, those failures throughout the decade of the 2000s resulted in the formation and expansion of ISIS so after 130 years the US has really gotten no better at the task. That being said, the problems created by reconstruction and the violent reactionary movement that resulted from it still must be laid clearly on those that created the problem and not simply chalked up to the mysterious boogeyman of racism -it is so much more complex than that.
So we arrive on the fateful day of July 4th, 1876. The militia in Hamburg was conducting a 4th of July Parade. Consider, the South simply did not celebrate the 4th until the Spanish American War and not wholly until the First World War. It simply did not happen, it was a Union holiday. However, the predominately black population of Hamburg was celebrating that day, replete with their militia on parade.
Consider how inflammatory this entire circumstance was, Governor Robert Scott, a “real estate speculator” and former Union officer from Pennsylvania had armed the Hamburg militia with state arms. Whites were precluded from serving in or forming militias. Captain Doc Adams, proud of his position and the patronage shown by the Republicans in charge of the state proudly paraded his company that day in Hamburg. One cannot really fault him for this, the real culprit that set up this situation is the marionette occupying the state capital.
Then we have of course the two white farmers from Edgefield that confronted Adams on the road that day. Did these two likely know about the 4th of July celebration? Probably? Is it reasonable to assume they were out to make a scene or cause trouble? – Perhaps.
The events of the next four days are fairly well documented, and unfortunately, occupy much of the narrative and disagreement over how the events of 8 July 1876 ought to be remembered. I argue again, that the tragic outcome of that day should not be the keystone of the story.
The real story of the Hamburg Incident is that two groups of South Carolinians, each with much more in common than they possibly realized did violence to each other. They shared commonalities of misplaced hate, fear, insecurity and pride of principle. The events of 8 July 1876 shaped the future of South Carolina more significantly than any event to occur here before or since. The loss of life was tragic, but if a common narrative that binds us together as South Carolinians is to be found in this event it is that of blood sacrifice on the eventual road to who we are today. It should not be a story of this group versus that group, told from two sides. All involved were sons of our fair State.
If the city wants to tackle this issue and create a narrative that tells history in context we should create one near the old armory site and depict that day as a tragic but perhaps necessary part of South Carolina learning and growing to be who we are. This ought not be mixed in with talk of a public safety building.
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