Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th of July Post


Lew Rockwell, www.lewrockwell.com is currently having their take on the 4th of July. Thomas DiLorenzo is emphasizing it is secession, http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo103.html and another contributor is very upset with the Battle Hymn of the Republic http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance84.html with an essay titled "Blasphemy in Song." Neo-Confederate really hate this song.

Interestingly enough, the expression "Old Glory" as a name for the American flag comes from the story of Capt. Driver, a unionist in Tennessee and an opponent of the Confederacy. This is one link http://www.usflag.org/history/oldglorystory.html.

The full story has some dramatic elements. Confederate soldiers and secessionists threaten Capt. Driver, he had to hide it in a quilt during the dead of night, and before an assemblage of American soldiers the quilt was opened up and the hidden flag revealed. It captured the imagination of the nation.

Prior to the Civil War the American flag was little thought of in national life, but when the Civil War started the interest in the American flag was widespread and intense. The various flag codes and rules on how to use the American flags comes from the 1920s. Prior to this time, Americans arranged the stars on the flag as they saw fit, and would think nothing of using the flag as an apron at a social function where they were serving food and wanted to be seen as patriotic. A good book on the American flag is "The American Flag, 1777 -- 1924: Cultural Shifts from Creation to codification," by Scot M. Guenter, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

When Olympic athletics win a medal, often they will run across a field with the American flag in their hands or as a cape, and sure as the sun comes up some pious whiner will write in to the daily newspaper of their town rattling off what flag codes the athlete violated. However, this ridge flag cult is a product of the 1920s and the Red Scare and other social factors. In the 19th century the American flag was owned by the people and its use much more free.


I tried to purchase a good copy of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at Tower Records. There is a store here in Dallas that is huge. However, the typical rendition of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" that you find on CDs is some weak watery thin version. If they sang it like that in the Civil War, the Confederacy would have succeeded. Neo-Confederates hate this song. I remember growing up that it was one of the few songs that we enjoyed singing in school, and we sang it with passion. We also had a burlesque version which I can't remember, but involved the word "tangerine" and "hit the teacher with a rula." Though the last thing in the world I would want to participate would be a real Civil War battle. They were simply horrible, modern technology had arrived, modern medicine hadn't, and neither had modern military tactics had arrived to handle the modern technology. So the casualties were high, the medicine had no painkillers or anesthesia and the common method to prevent death, was amputation. If the percentage of casualties of the Civil War period was applied to the current population, it would be like 5 or 6 or 7 million people that would die. Not surprisingly, the Civil War had more casualties than all other American wars combined.

It would be interesting how patriotic the current Republican party is about the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."


A recent book, is "Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies & Sparked the American Revolution," by Alfred W. Blumrosen & Ruth G. Blumrosen, which argues that the American colonies opted for independence to escape British anti-slavery sentiment, in particular the famous 1772 Somerset case decision that slavery was incompatible with English common law and was "odious."

It seems plausible, and I could certainly believe that information supporting this historical view would not be in high school American history books, or in that species of popular American history books which are little more than blaring trumpets. However, plausible, isn't enough, you need historical data to support your case. The Blumrosen's don't. I emailed them and they didn't have any additional references to support their case and they don't have evidence in their book. The Blumrosen's do show how slavery was incorporated in the Constitution and was present as an issue during the American Revolution, which was certainly true, but they don't have evidence as for it being a cause for Independence.

The book is good in documenting the issues of slavery in the American Revolution and the early period right after. The issue of slavery in the American Revolution and of the Founders is ignored or deflected with the insipid and stupid argument about presentism. We judge the Founders as great heroes by our present standards, but when the issue of slavery is brought up, then that is presentism. It is the the historical equivalent of "heads I win, tails you lose."

Actually, at the American Constitutional Convention the issue of slavery was brought up and it was judged as a great horror and crime, but the delegates from the southern states, said that if they didn't get their way on it, there would be no American nation involving them.

Another thing to think about is the American Constitution. It is touted as a brilliant piece of work. By what rational standard this is, I don't know, I think it is the blaring trumpets of patriotism standard of writing American history that says it is so.

An objective standard of history would say that it had great flaws. I think the Civil War can be traced back to the slave clauses in the Constitution, making it national, making the Constitution a compact over slavery. If slavery had just been a state issue, with no powers to pass a Fugitive slave act, no 3/5ths clause for representation, it is probably not as likely that there would have been a Civil War. Few Constitutions are marked by a disastrous Civil War shortly after their writing.

Also, one time I calculated the representation in the U.S. Senate some figures of representation of the American population there. 10% of the American population is represented by 40% of the Senate and 40% of the American population is represented by 10% of the Senate. (I type this from memory, to quote it, I would get out the Atlas and check these figures. New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania have ten senators.)

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