The Other 13th Amendment – TTG

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I ran across this series of twitter postings by Susan Simpson, a DC lawyer. She discovered some surprising (at least to me) antebellum congressional documents at the Federal Archives showing how far politicians were willing to go in appeasing the southern states in order to preserve the Union. If those hotheads in Charleston could have controlled their emotions for just a little longer, our Constitution could have been far different than it is today… at least for many decades. 

Given this discovery, the articles of secession of most of the Confederate states, and Stephens’ Cornerstone Address, I am more convinced than ever that preserving the institution of slavery was central to the Confederate cause and abolition was not at all a serious consideration for the Union cause. I don't think proponents of either side wanted these documents to see the light of day again.

————

In honor of Juneteenth, a brief story about the America that almost was. I was at the Federal Archives once, searching for a very different document, when I came across a stack of papers titled "Joint Resolutions Proposing Amendments to the Constitution of the United States." The words "Article 13" were underlined on the page below.

"Oh wow," I thought. "An original draft resolution for the 13th Amendment." I was kind of surprised they had just left it lying around with a bunch of totally unrelated documents. Then I kept reading. "Article 13. The right of property in the labor of any person lawfully held to service in the States [ ], … shall not be abolished or impaired by Congress[ ]; and the United States shall protect all rights of property wherever federal jurisdiction extends."

It was the original 13th Amendment, introduced in January of 1861. 

A version of it was passed by both the House and Senate by a two-thirds vote. It was signed by President Buchanan, and the states began to ratify it. Then it stalled out, due to the whole Civil War thing.

The amendments that almost were did not get better from there.

The 14th Amendment: "The power to regulate commerce … shall not be construed to authorize Congress to make any law impairing the right of the Master to remove from one State to another persons held to service[.]"

Congress drafted these amendments in order to preserve what they believed were important Constitutional rights — through these amendments, they would ensure that Americans "shall not be deprived of the right of property in the service or labor of any person."

The would-be 16th Amendment would have imposed harsh penalties on any state interfering with slavery: "If any state shall enact … any law impairing [the Fugitive Slave Act] such state shall not be entitled to any representation in Congress [ ] until the the repeal of such law."

And then there's the would-be 17th Amendment, in which the Senate would be divided into two classes — the slave-state class and the non-slave-state class — and "a majority of the vote of each class shall be necessary to the passage of the presiding motion, bill or resolutions."

And to ensure the slavery question would be forever settled, one last amendment was needed. The 18th Amendment: "The provisions of … the several amendments to this Constitution, numbered Articles 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, shall forever be unalterable."

To the proponents of these amendments, what they sought was no more than the preservation of the Union as it had always been, and had always been intended to be: "We ask nothing but that which is in the Constitution itself. The Constitution recognizes slaves as property." The idea that "all men are created equal" had literally meant *all* men was "too absurd to talk about. The men of the Revolution were white men… It was all they meant; it was all they intended; it was all that was understood by any man then living to have been intended by it."

As Senator Wigfall, TX, noted: "What is the fact as to Massachusetts? Why, on the 18th of July, 1776, they published the Declaration of Independence in the Boston Gazette; and, before God, they published an advertisement for a runaway negro, and offered another for sale. [Laughter]"

In the end, these six proposed amendments would not pass in their entirety, because the Northern states could not accept the parts that expanded slavery to new states – thereby upsetting the balance of power with the South. But the other parts, the North was willing to accept.   (@TheViewFromLL2)

————

The discussion continued at Susan Simpson’s Twitter page: @TheViewFromLL2

TTG

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50 Responses to The Other 13th Amendment – TTG

  1. Avatar LA Sox Fan says:

    There is no reason to believe these amendments would have been ratified by 2/3s of the states if the Civil War was delayed. The Republican Party was an abolitionist party and it’s candidate had just won the presidential election. That’s why the South Carolina and the other Southern states left the Union. They could tell the days of slavery were numbered. They also most likely saw these proposed amendments to the Constitution never would be ratified by 2/3 of the states.

  2. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TTG
    Good stuff but IMO the word “appeasement” is inappropriate. The Southern states were equal partners in the Union. The Northern states could have let their “erring sisters” go in peace. Instead, the North and four slave states went to war to re-integrate the seceded states in their Union. Why did they do it? You believe that abolition was not the reason they went to war? Why did they do it?

  3. Avatar turcopolier says:

    LA Sox Fan. The Republican Party had been created out of Northern Whigs, Know-nothings, the anti-masonic party, and Freesoilers. The abolitionist party was a small faction until the butcher’s bill became so high after the first couple of years that a moralistic cause had to be proclaimed to keep the masses in line. The mid-term congressional elections in 1862 were a warning that the North would only sacrifice so many of its own sons to reunify the country under Northern control. Foreigners enlisted overseas and Blacks enlisted for less pay than Whites kept the numbers up long enough to win. Oh yes, the Army of The Potomac had lost so many men by the time Grant took over that the big fat fortress artillery regiments that had “defended” Washington had to be brought out and committed as infantry where they lost their hats, asses and overcoats in the Overland Campaign.

  4. Avatar doug says:

    LA Sox Fan,
    Ratification requires 3/4 of the States, not 2/3. That would be an even larger hill to climb which amplifies your point that ratification would have been nigh impossible.

  5. Avatar Polish Janitor says:

    TTG,
    Wow, this was truly fascinating! It is interesting to imagine how different America’s constitutional foundation would have become had these proposal been passed as the laws of the land. Couple of points came to my mind after reading this post:
    #1 based on these new findings and your analysis, it could be inferred that the North (and the Congress?) would have followed through with the compromise that went further than the “popular sovereignty” plan of Stephen Douglas and would have actually protected the institution of slavery at the federal level for the ultimate purpose of preserving the Union.
    #2 Would these new amendments have passed under a natural rights interpretation of the phrase “all men are created equal”, as Harry Jaffa in this book “The Crisis of the House Divided” argued? Jaffa also puts forth his thesis that Abraham Lincoln was against Stephen Douglas’s popular sovereignty plan and slavery as they clearly violated the universal rights of all men and the most fundamental tenet of the Declaration of Independence.
    #3 If the Congress was comfortable with such a pro-slavery proposal by passing it with two-thirds majority and on top of that president Buchanan actually signing it into law (a version of it as you mentioned), the whole spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the very idea of the establishment of the U.S. as a ‘free’ nation based on the preservation of natural rights would have been thrown down the gutter. I understand that there are popular and even established interpretations that reject the idea that natural rights interpretation of the Declaration of Independence never meant to be extended beyond the ‘white male land owners’ (i.e. the progressive historiography) and that the framers never included them in order to protect their social, political and economic privileges. I believe that America has seen the gradual but firm movement toward extending natural rights to groups that were not explicitly mentioned within the legal framework, i.e. African Americans, women, native Americans. To me Lincoln represents a historical turning point that ultimately led the effort to include the recognition and protection of African Americans’ natural rights. Same thing can be said in the case of the passage of fourteen amendment.
    #4 Had democracy prevailed and popular vote was set to determine the legal status of slavery in new states, and the southern political elites waited long enough to see Congress passing the new pro-slavery amendments and seeing their demands being tuned into federal law, America would have taken a drastically different turn indeed.
    This post made me think about more recent cases, where the constitutionality of certain issues has been determined not by reason but by popular sentiments. Examples are numerous so I will not mention them.

  6. Avatar Barbara Ann says:

    Great find TTG, very interesting.
    I see that the version of the Thirteenth Amendment that the 36th Congress passed is known as the Corwin Amendment. Its wiki is educational. The amendment reads as follows and the intent is crystal clear:

    No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

    Lincoln supported the amendment, explicitly stating as much in his first inaugural address.
    Many of the respondents to @TheViewFromLL2’s Twitter thread seem to have missed the central point; that the Congress that passed this amendment certainly didn’t have abolition foremost in their minds – quite the opposite.
    As for the war, it seems clear that holding the Union together by force was the primary casus belli, with abolition being the excuse used to justify the war after the fact. It is a shame Lincoln’s first inaugural address is not read as often as his Gettysburg address. What might have been.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corwin_Amendment

  7. Avatar Fred says:

    TTG,
    “The idea that “all men are created equal” had literally meant *all* men was “too absurd to talk about.”
    Justice Roberts and four of his colleauges will probably have a go at defining the meaning of the word “men” soon.

  8. Avatar Cold War Colonel says:

    This is interesting. I am familiar with the proposed 13th Amendment (it wasn’t the first, there was a proposed 13th Amdt to prohibit Titles of Nobility), but the 14th through 18th was news to me.
    With respect to this proposed 13th Amendment, I don’t think President Lincoln intended to keep his support for it a secret. Once he took office, the newly sworn-in President Abraham Lincoln addressed it in his first inaugural address. His quote:
    “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution–which amendment, however, I have not seen–has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”
    In other words, President Lincoln at the time of his swearing-in believed that the federal government had no right to interfere with slavery in the states, and he had no objection to that amendment making that understanding “express and irrevocable.”
    Anyone arguing that the Civil War was fought over slavery is oversimplifying a vary complex period in American history. It may have evolved in the North (the victors and therefore writers of history) into a moral fight over slavery to justify the grievous, huge and nearly pyrrhic losses, but it certainly didn’t start out that way in the North.

  9. Avatar JP Billen says:

    On 4 March 1861 Lincoln said in his first inaugural address: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
    https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/lincoln1.asp
    Five weeks later the militia in SC fired on Ft Sumter. The north responded. Unfortunate that. If hostilities had not started then there would have been no way that ratification of any kind of emancipation amendment would ever have passed the 3/4 state threshold (if it had even been proposed and passed by congress?).
    For myself I believe that war was started by hotheads on both sides. Too bad! We could have saved ourselves an ocean of blood, the destruction of much of the south, and 155 years of bitterness and animosity towards each other.

  10. Avatar Deap says:

    And the authenticity of these original draft documents ……”just laying around” …was verified exactly how? Sounds a bit like finding the long missing Hilary Clinton’s Rose Law Firm files suddenly on the White House dining room table. Trust, but verify?

  11. pl,
    Why do I think the Union fought? It was to preserve the Union. They thought the immense agricultural wealth of the South was important to sustaining a prosperous and growing United States. A Union without the Southern States would be a diminished Union. While the North feared an increasingly wealthy and powerful South if slavery expanded into the western territories, slavery as an institution was not abhorrent to them. At the same time, the South feared the growing power of the North and their efforts to keep slavery out of the western territories. Slavery was an integral part of their engine of growth and they fought to preserve that institution. I think the Confederates overestimated the influence of the abolitionists.

  12. Avatar doug says:

    The congregation of Boston minister, Cotton Mather, gifted him a slave, Onesimus. Onesimus introduced Cotton to smallpox inoculation. A disease that ravaged the colonies, not to mention the native Americans, on a regular basis. It was crude since it caused a milder smallpox but the fatality rate was 3% compared to 20% or more for those that otherwise caught it. But that wasn’t his legacy. Seems Cotton got caught up in Witch Hunts for which he is mostly remembered.

  13. Avatar scott s. says:

    We shouldn’t ignore the influence the Fugitive Slave Act had on opinion in the north. See for example In re: Booth and the opinion of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, and the passage of personal liberty laws in other states. Then add Kansas-Nebraska and the LeCompton constitution and the corrupt dealings of Taney and Buchanan over Dred Scot. All leading to the conclusion that a slave power was taking over the national government.
    As an aside it’s interesting to see in SF they tore down Grant’s statue. I guess he wasn’t woke. But he did strongly dislike (I don’t think hate is too strong) Gordon Granger who issued the “Juneteenth” proclamation. Grant also disliked his boss Canby. So Grant got the war department to install Sheridan as a higher headquarters so Sheridan could counter-mand Canby’s orders to Granger. As far as Grant and Granger IMHO Grant hated Rosecrans and that rubbed off on all of Rosecrans subordinates (in particular Thomas and Granger).

  14. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    TTG
    I think you are missing an essential aspect of the War Between the States, viz. the religious sentiment of the anti-slavery Notherners and not only the so-called Abolitionists.
    John Brown was not trying to preserve the Union, he was carrying out a Righteous Religious Mission with the aims of which millions of real human beings agreed, in my opinion.
    I have not seen a discourse on the causes of this change in sentiments in the North. Clearly, something changed between 1776 to 1856 that caused the institution of chattel slavery to become paramount in the minds of so many.

  15. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TTG et al
    So, a “version” of that passed both houses by 2/3 and went to the states for ratification which actually began only to be halted by Ft. Sumter? How was the version passed different from this draft? Who voted for it in Congress? Which if any states ratified? There were 33 states in 1860. 3/4 would be 25 would it not? The 11 states of the Confederacy and the 4 slave states that stayed in the Union later might have ratified. That would be 15. I can’t imagine that 10 states in the NE, Mid-West and Pacific coast could have been found to ratify, so it is really just a historical oddity is it not?

  16. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TTG
    “A Union without the Southern States would be a diminished Union.” Yes. I think that is the essence of it. As to why the volunteers of 1861 signed up for the Union Army IMO this is yet another instance of war fever. By the time they learned that the people on the other side were fearsome opponents it was too late to go home. As one historian said the Civil War gave the average rural Southerner the chance to be all he could be and they made the best use of that chance. Their history and traditions in the old country and new all came together in 1861. My great grand-father in the 5th Wisconsin said that the Johnnies would sometimes walk around under Union rifle fire sailing over them while their own fire came in at you about knee high. There was a qualitative difference between them and most Union Infantry with the exception of the US Regulars, northern New England units and those from the mid-west like the Iron Brigade.

  17. Avatar Barbara Ann says:

    To me the version that passed looks even more strongly anti-abolition than the draft, as it seeks to immunize the amendment from future amendments.
    Kentucky and Maryland did ratify, along with Rhode Island, Ohio & Illinois. Here are the ratification dates from Corwin Amendment wiki, all bar Kentucky were after Sumter:
    Kentucky: April 4, 1861
    Ohio: May 13, 1861 (rescinded ratification March 31, 1864)
    Rhode Island: May 31, 1861
    Maryland: January 10, 1862 (rescinded ratification in 2014)
    Illinois: June 2, 1863

  18. Avatar ponderer says:

    The threat of abolition wasn’t a threat to subsistence farmers in the South, it was the (threatened) destruction of the Southern Elite by the Northern Elite. I think that’s where the outcome was decided, not in frilly, feel good messaging. Keep in mind the cultural aspects of slavery were different between the North and the South. In the South slaves where generally well cared for compared to the North or the Caribbean. For the North the cost of abolition was low, and “freed” labor could be transferred to sweatshops and wage arbitrage ensured debt slavery which we still have today.
    For the South the sunk costs for slaves were higher (well documented by studies on the economic costs associated) than northern “free” workers, and reticence to changing economic and traditional norms prevented the large influential plantation owners from taking advantage of the reduced cost that modern wage slavery allows. It’s an example of the sunk cost fallacy, though I’m sure pride was also an issue. The economic resources of the South (largely pillaged during war and reconstruction) is rarely given as a cause for the war much like economic interests are largely discounted for our modern adventures. Today’s “Spreading Democracy and Freedom” was yesterdays “Freeing the Slaves”.
    I’m not sure any compromise would have really averted war as I think the pivotal parties were decided on conflict. If firing on Fort Sumter (injuring no one) was enough to convince Lincoln to demand the states to call up their militias then most likely it was destined to happen eventually. What might be interesting is if there were any proposals to compensate slave owners in the South for abolition. Like what we have today with our TBTF FIRE sector where the government bails them out occasionally if they are well enough “connected”. That would at least show some non-belligerence on the part of the North instead of the “Fourty Acres and A Mule” (stolen from the Native Americans no doubt).

  19. Avatar Jack says:

    Are there any good examinations on the prevailing politics and the public perceptions and sentiments as well as the deliberations that led to the political decisions around secession and the suppression of that through the use of military force?
    I’d prefer to read something that presents the perspectives of all sides and the evolution of the politics in a chronology culminating in the war.

  20. Avatar robt willmann says:

    As mentioned by Barbara Ann and Cold War Colonel, the first inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln is very important to know about, because it does reveal Lincoln’s position, which was to keep the union together, and if slavery continued in some states and those states did not leave the union, that was fine with him. This is why the ‘main stream media’ does not like to talk about the first inaugural address.
    An interesting and revealing exercise is to do a word-for-word comparison of the Constitution of the Confederacy and the U.S. Constitution (at that time, and now).

  21. Avatar Mark Logan says:

    IMO the issue of slavery only became a very serious point of contention when the West was opened up. It could be said the Civil War didn’t start at Fort Sumter, it started in Kansas and Missouri. The attempt to address that with the 13th did not address the real problem so its existence in process didn’t mollify the secessionists one bit.
    I suspect Lincoln’s oddly hard insistence on union was based on his opinion that the two nations would have had to fight a series of wars to decide the issue, maybe endlessly, and the Great Powers would have used the opportunity to play in that game. Gave up trying to find evidence of that some time ago though. If he held that opinion he kept it to himself. It seems plausible Lincoln judged openly stating that politically and strategically unwise. It would have been a simple matter for the South to swear on a stack of bibles they would not contend for any Western territories but change their minds after the CSA was established and recognized.

  22. Avatar Barbara Ann says:

    Jack
    Sounds like Anne Norton’s book Alternative Americas fits the bill. The author divides the book into two sections dealing with the antebellum political culture of both the North and South. It is a very well referenced scholarly work. Our host recommended it and though I now have a copy it is a little way down my reading list.

  23. Avatar turcopolier says:

    Mark Logan
    Gentlemen

  24. Avatar Mark Logan says:

    turcoplier.
    Politicians?

  25. Avatar Leith says:

    Scott S –
    Grant’s dislike of General Canby had deeper roots than Granger. In the New Mexico theater, Major Isaac Lynde disgraceful performance and cowardly surrender led to charges by Canby and Lynde’s dismissal from the service. Lynde was related to Grant by marriage. After the war in 1866 General-in-Chief Grant reinstated Lynde.

  26. Avatar Diana Croissant says:

    I have always wanted to believe that fighting the Civil War, with its enormous loss of life, should have a more altruistic motive behind it—which would be the abolition o of slavery. But upon reading the comments here, I’ve come to understand many other motives that might cause men to go into that war and fight.
    However, as a person who studied the literature of the time, not the published political documents, I can still believe that the idea that slavery was an immoral practice was becoming a very widely held belief.
    I know that perhaps one of the most widely read novelists in the Western world of all time is Charles Dickens. I know that some who aren’t acquainted with all his work may view him only as a sentimental author whose stories had little depth.
    Many who haven’t read most of his works or studied him also aren’t aware of how extremely popular he was in his time. When the last installment of The Old Curiosity Shop was arriving on the boats in the harbors of New York, crowds of people formed and were unwilling to wait to read it to find out if Little Nell had died. They came simply to find the answer.
    Perhaps Dickens’ best novel Bleak House should be mentioned because of the seemingly minor passages in it in which Dickens writes sarcastically point out what he calls “telescopic philanthropy.” It was during about this time that Belgium King Leopold was a known force in the Congo. Victorian Ladies were doing all sorts of charity work for the poor Black children of Africa. Dickens’ having been an extremely poor child himself in London, was showing their hypocrisy for not being concerned as much about the poor children of England. That said, the point is that Black children were a concern for many of the women of the time.
    Many of the most revered authors of the time period in America were not very clear in regard to their feelings about slavery. However, I am always haunted by the last line of Melville’s Moby-Dick, which is spoken by the only survivor of the Pequod, a Black man: “Call me Ishmael.” And, as many may know, that is also the opening line of the novel. Christians know the name as the son of Abraham and Sarah’s maidservant Hagar. Sarah’s son Isaac, of course, is the beginning of the line of people who receive God’s blessing in creating his nation. Hagar is promised that her son Ishmael will be the progenitor of a huge nation of people also—whom we believe are the Arabs, though that is not a term mentioned in the Bible
    I mention all of this to suggest that the causes of the Civil War, the reasons for engaging it, may have been diverse and complex. This was a time period in the world in which questions about race were percolating in various ways. I am also convinced, however, that the general religious feeling of the time was that slavery was not a righteous practice, that people of different color than white were to be considered also as God’s people, not chattel for one race of humans. Even slightly before this time, Daniel Defoe’s main character in Robinson Crusoe presented a ‘Man” who became the main characters’ best friend and helper, his MAN Friday, a man who was not a slave and not of white skin.

  27. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    Stephanie
    Having just seen your comments on a different thread, I think it is an established fact that every single extant religion, including all variants of Budhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, had historically endorsed Slavery as constituting part of a Just & Proper Order.
    I wonder then if all the Temples, Churches, and Mosques be closed.

  28. Avatar turcopolier says:

    Mark Logan
    Politicians have no honor.

  29. Avatar Tidewater says:

    Diana Croissant,
    You are saying that Ishmael in ‘Moby Dick’ is black?

  30. Avatar Jag says:

    If there had been no civil war, how long would it have taken for changes in economic and social factors to eventually end slavery in the South?

  31. Diana Croissant,
    Are you confusing Ishmael with his friend, Queequeg the harpooner? Queequeg was a heavily tattooed South Sea Islander. Ishmael was a merchant seaman up from New York. I don’t know if he was ever referred to as black by Melville. I loved that book as a youngster. My family would go to Mystic Seaport often and I would wander the whaler Charles W. Morgan. I would sit on the deck or in one of the bunks and read Moby Dick. The ship was made fast on the rocks when I was young. Recently she was totally refurbished and now sails New England waters.

  32. Jag,
    That’s a good question. Even without slavery, cotton and sugar cane production in the South was not mechanized until WWII. Slavery was an integral part of Southern culture. White Southerners, even most of those without slaves defined themselves in relation to slavery. Social pressure, rather than economic pressure, would have ended slavery, but I don’t know how quickly it would have happened. Would it have lasted into the 20th century? Possibly.

  33. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TTG
    Manual labor was cheap under the share cropping system or even without share cropping. Labor was cheap when you did not have to bear the costs implicit in slavery, i.e., housing, food, clothing, medical attention, etc. The slaves were major capital assets and had to be maintained. Hired day labors were cheaper than slaves. Under conditions of slavery farm machinery would have made slaves excessively expensive.

  34. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TTG
    “Slavery was an integral part of Southern culture. White Southerners, even most of those without slaves defined themselves in relation to slavery.” Is this your personal opinion?

  35. Avatar Mark K Logan says:

    turcopolier,
    I assumed Lincoln would’ve viewed the Fire Eaters as fellow politicians.

  36. Avatar Tidewater says:

    TTG and Diana Croissant,
    I have been mulling over the intriguing question of Ishmael’s race. I had always assumed he was a Caucasian, but I never thought much about what he looked like. Still don’t. But once the question of race comes into it, I think it is useful to think about what others in the crew looked like, and we do know that Pip, the cabin boy, was black. And there are two or three more blacks, I forget, probably one of the mysterious professional hit team hidden away below decks for the run-in on Moby Dick at the right time. One thing, Queequeg is of a Polynesian race, is an unrepentant tatooed cannibal, and is more purple-colored than black or white, and has his head shaved completely except for a top-knot. He is said to look sort of like George Washington! (The strongest beast in the forest.) He would also be chief of his tribe by the time of the Pequod voyage if he had stayed on his island. Like Ishmael he is very curious about the larger world, and each recognizes this in the other. It makes them friends.
    We also know that Queequeg went down with the ship.
    Now, how do we know that Ishmael is white? I think that Chapter 54 holds the answer to the question; usually, of course, a question never asked. This goes to the racial complexity of Lima, Peru. Slavery existed in Peru until roughly 1855. To this day the Spanish upper class of Peru guards its racial identity carefully. There are actually pre-Incan tribes even the Incas left alone, called “chunchos” (savages, with legendary uncanny, paranormal powers), and these Selva tribes are part of a weird racial mix that includes, among others, Afro-Peruvians, native highlanders, Orientals, and, of course, the descendants of the Spanish colonial overlords.
    In Chapter 54, Ishmael has grown older–some years have gone by since the voyage of the Pequod– and we do not know when that fictional journey took place, though we do know that Melville’s actual voyages in the Pacific took place in 1841, and his book was published in 1851. This later Ishmael seems to have become financially successful, since he is staying at the Golden Inn of Lima, an expensive, most likely, the preminent hotel. Here he is in conversation with two Spanish dandies, Don Pedro and Don Sebastian. He is telling of an incident on another ship, the Town Ho. The two Spanish dandies pepper him with questions. “Where is Buffalo?” (Which, come to think of it, is a pretty strange name.)
    Now, the long and the short of it is that if Ishmael had been a black man, or even a metis, he most likely have not been allowed in that hotel at that time. The Spanish have two terms, ‘castizo’ and ‘mestizo’–pure-bred or mixed–which state the old and well-established Iberian and colonial racial view. It is most unlikely that two Spanish dandies would have accepted a black man, a man of the slave caste, even if he were financially successful, a foreigner, as a social equal, or been willing to sit down and have a merry hour or two drinking and eating tapas with him in a very posh bar, I assume, surrounded by elegant couples. (And even today in Lima, I have read that a man might be rich, successful, important, but nevertheless having Indian blood, he might be a complicated problem for an old colonial family if women were involved.)
    I assume that this encounter at the Golden Inn took place after slavery was abolished in Peru, but that wouldn’t change the fundamental rules of conduct at all. It would be an unbearably tense situation. In South Carolina, when Wade Hampton–to this day regarded as a great hero–on an occasion, after the War, sat down at table with a black man and broke bread with him, it caused a tremendous sensation. In much the same way, at either the Hot or the Warm, as the Springs were called, when General Lee went over and cordially introduced himself to some Northerners vacationing there, this too was seen as a significant leadership signal. Of course, I don’t think it worked all that well in South Carolina, though it did in Virginia.
    One other reason I think Ishmael was white: Melville would have told us if he were black. And one needs to read ‘Benito Cereno’ for his chillingly ambiguous commentary on the black man. One line in that story struck me when I noticed it again last night and learned that Ralph Ellison in his famous ‘Invisible Man’ had used it, or part of it, the shadow part, only, as an epitaph for the novel. Benito Cereno does not get over becoming a prisoner of Babo, and he simply seems to give up and wither away and die not long after the whole incident should have been over with and recovered from. Justice has been done. The sinister, very small, thirty- year old Senegalese named Babo, who has led the mutiny, has been taken to Lima and executed. Burned alive? (Incidentally, the story is set in 1799, so slavery will be legal in Peru for many decades more.) Benito Cereno is asked what possibly can be the matter with him, what is this “shadow” that seems to be hanging over him?
    Benito Cereno says simply: “The Negro.”
    Exactly.

  37. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Tidewater
    Ishmael was served a meal in an inn at the start of the novel. He must not have been a African-American.
    And who but a Western Diocletian would muse about taking a sea voyage for reasons of “spleen”?
    This is the same Wunderlust Spirit that also had possessed Thor Heyerdahl, who organized the Kon Tiki voyage in 1948. Outside of the Western Diocletia, all sane and proper people would have considered him mad as a hatter.
    By the way, there was an un-named Persian sailor that went done with that ship.

  38. Avatar Fred says:

    Babak,
    As I recall Heyerdahl was trying to prove it possible to sail across the Pacific with a stone age technology. In doing so he established that the civilization preceding the Incas could possibly have done so, he also established that the pre-Incans could have used fleets of such craft for off-shore fishing or north-South travel along the coast. There is an documentary on the expedition on youtube and I believe a more recent expedition took place.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22RvS372DlQ

  39. pl,
    Yes, it is my opinion that slavery was an integral part of Southern culture. A massive segment of the Southern population, approaching half, consisted of enslaved blacks. How could Southern culture not include slavery. The economic growth enabled by slave labor is what allowed Southern white “high” culture to develop and flourish. There was much in that culture worthy of admiration including the practices of honor and chivalry, but I can’t ignore the enabling institution of slavery in the development of that high culture. This high culture sprang from the cavalier/royalist English beginnings where everyone was expected to know their God ordained place in society, be it aristocrat, yeoman or slave. The poorer, non-slave holding white farmers could aspire to that ideal, but only if they did not have to compete with the slave population.
    I have seen these and similar ideas proposed by several historians, but I found a short essay by Gordon Rhea which lays out how slavery was incorporated into antebellum Southern society.
    https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/why-non-slaveholding-southerners-fought
    I intend to read Anne Norton’s “Alternative Americas” upon your suggestion. I am curious to see how she addresses the non-white half of the antebellum South.

  40. Babak,
    Although I agree that Ishmael was most certainly white, his being served a meal at the inn is not a determining factor. The whaling industry and whaling ports were dominated by Quakers. Their beliefs of equality were far before their time. The Quakers and Mennonites denounced African-American slavery in 1688. They remained a hotbed of abolitionism.
    I detect your disdain for the Wanderlust Spirit. I see you are a Hobbitt content to live a quiet life within the confines of the shire rather one who “breaks the hearts of kith and kin and roams the world at will.”

  41. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    TTG
    Not disdain, only an observation.
    Another item that separates Western Diocletians from others, the Spirit of Exploration.

  42. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    Fred
    T.H. was a dreamer.
    Any sensible man from the Near East to the Far East would have considered him to be mad: “Why is not he pursuing a degree in Law or Medicine, marry a suitable girl from a good family with better connections, and spend his life acquiring land and property? An in time, earn the respect of others as ossified as himself.”
    For this obtains to this day in the Near East, in India, and in China: where Wunderlust and the attendant Light of Intellect are extinguished in hundreds of millions of minds.

  43. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TTG
    This is not a front page post.

  44. pl,
    Wasn’t meant to be. It was just a brief response to your last question. I have since seen your last suggestion of a leading a CW/WBS initial cause discussion. I’m up for that. But I first have to read up on the deeper whats and whys of the Morrill Tariff. The civic and political virtue thing might be a bridge too far, bur we’ll see how it goes.

  45. Avatar Jack says:

    Babak,
    Thor Heyerdahl was not just a dreamer but an ethnographer, zoologist and botanist. The Kon-Tiki expedition held a special fascination for me. I recall visiting the museum in Oslo some decades later.
    He could be considered an experimental scientist who wanted to prove certain hypotheses. He aimed to demonstrate the possibility of cultural cross-pollination among widely dispersed ancient people.
    I have also read diaries of Portugese sailors from the 16th century who describe amazing markets of produce, fabrics and spices across the eastern coasts of Africa and the western coast of India. It would appear that the “natives” too got around.

  46. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    Jack
    T.H. could not have existed anywhere but West of the Diocletian line.
    1948, 3 years after the end of a war that had seen the occupation of Norway, he is out there trying to get an expedition organized.
    I heard of an Italian who was studying the music of song birds, never ever East and South of the Diocletian line.

  47. Avatar Kilo 4/11 says:

    @TTG
    Re: “if those hotheads in Charleston could have controlled their emotions just a little longer”
    If they had “controlled their emotions” a bit longer, Lincoln would have succeeded in bottling up the South’s most important port. From there, interdiction of seaborne trade would have been easy, cutting off the South’s lifeline to the wider world. Reinforcing Sumter was an act of war; Lincoln’s cabinet knew this, that’s why most of them advised him against it. Lincoln was simultaneously pursuing the takeover of Fort Pickens, at the entrance to Pensacola Harbor. With these two harbors rendered useless to the South, the Confederacy would have been severely weakened before a shot was fired.
    As for your being “more convinced than ever that preserving the institution of slavery was central to the Confederate cause”, frankly, TTG, I don’t give a damn. I wish to hell that the South had been able to keep blacks enslaved for another two or three generations; it might have trained them up enough to be useful, to eschew crime as a way of life, and in general, to appreciate their freedom.

  48. Avatar Leith says:

    Babak –
    Strange comment that you make regarding exploration and Diocletian’s Line. Maybe currently, but I tend to doubt even that. Historically you seem to discount exploration by ibn-Rustah Isfahani, Ali of Herat (the original Kilroy-was-here worldwide graffiti tagger), Sataspes, ibn-Battuta, ibn-Hawqal, ibn-Majid (the Lion-of-the-Sea and perhaps the original model for Sinbad, either him or maybe a composite of the hundreds of Arab & Persian sailors that roamed throughout the Indian Ocean. Don’t forget Zhang Qian, Gan Ying, Hong Bao, Zheng He, Polynesians, and Micronesians. All east of the line I believe.
    And of course predating them were all the Phoenician seafarers of Pygmalion of Tyre and his predecessors who probed the Mediterranean & Red Seas, and investigated the littorals, ports & islands of the eastern Atlantic. Perhaps they sailed to Ptolemy’s ‘Fortunate Isles’ in the western Atlantic long before Columbus. And they probably circumnavigated Africa long before the Portuguese.
    I think you are right about Heyerdahl though. Regarding the Polynesians, Heyerdahl had it backwards. He should have sailed east from the Tuamotus in a good Polynesian double-hulled canoe instead of an unmanageable balsa raft. He completely ignored the large body of works on Austronesian maritime technology, their wayfinding aptitude, and their far ranging voyages across the South Pacific.

  49. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    Leith
    Ibn Rustah of Isfahan lived in 10 century, before the Light of Intellect and the attendant idea of exploration was extinguished, across an entire civilization.
    I know that my discourse on the Diocletian Line’s contemporary ramifications make many people uncomfortable, both Eastern and Western.
    Easterners because they find it insulting and Westerners because it goes against their firm belief in their own normativeness.
    I am going to stick to my opinion.

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