Sunday, February 17, 2013

Emory University President calls 3/5th compromise over slavery honorable UPDATE: Emory president gives a NON-apology apology, greatly expanded media coverage of the story.

David Daley, editor at Salon, seems to have broke the story first, of Emory University president James Wagner's column in the university's magazine in which Wagner praised the 3/5ths compromise regarding slavery as a great example of pragmatism. Daley comments:

So under Wagner’s formulation, one of the basest and demeaning political deals of American history, if not the basest, is an example of working toward a “highest aspiration.” Counting slaves as three-fifths of a person becomes an example of American politicians setting their sights high!

The article is online here: 

James Wagner's article is here: 

Read it quickly, it might be pulled off the web.

The story so far has been picked up by Gawker and Raw Story.

Emory University is where Donald Livingston, former head of the League of the South Institute, and currently head of the Abbeville Institute is a professor. 

Consider this comment by Col. George Mason in the debate over slavery and the constitution at the Constitutional Convention. 

Col. George Mason [VA]. This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. The British government constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to it. The present question concerns not the importing states alone, but the whole Union. The evil of having slaves was experienced during the late war. Had slaves been treated as they might have been by the enemy, they would have proved dangerous instruments in their hands. But their folly dealt by the slaves as it did by the tories. He mentioned the dangerous insurrections of the slaves in Greece and Sicily; and the instructions given by Cromwell, to the commissioners sent to Virginia, to arm the servants and slaves, in case other means of obtaining its submission should fail. Maryland and Virginia, he said, had already prohibited the importation of slaves expressly. North Carolina had done the same in substance. All this would be in vain, if South Carolina and Georgia be at liberty to import. The western people are already calling out for slaves for their new lands, and will fill that country with slaves, if they can be got through South Carolina and Georgia. Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the emigration of whites, who really enrich and strengthen a county. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of Heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities. He lamented that some of our eastern brethren had, from a lust of gain, embarked in this nefarious traffic. As to the state being in possession of the right to import, this was the case with many other rights, now to be properly given up. He held it essential, in every point of view, that the general government should have power to prevent the increase of slavery.
Emphasis added. 

The coming of the Civil War with its horrific casualties makes Col. George Evans truly prescient. To give an idea of how horrific it was, when the percentage loss of life during the Civil War is applied to the present day population of America the casualties are calculated to be 7,000,000 persons.

The compromise over slavery was, as Col. George Evans feared it might be, a great national calamity. 

The entire debate over slavery at the Constitutional Convention can be read here.

UPDATE: Emory president has given one of those NON-apology apologies. The reporting on it at Salon is here:

The president isn't apologizing for what he said, but is sorry if others were hurt etc. He is reducing criticism of his statement to emotionalism, rather than rational criticisms of what he said.

The full statement of his apology is online here:

Wagner still doesn't seem to get the point of the criticism. As stated in the Washington Monthly, by Samuel Knight:
But he did manage to demonstrate —albeit inadvertently — the crude immorality of compromise for compromise’s sake.

The media coverage of the article and the apology is getting major media attention locally in Atlanta and in national publications for people in higher education and other media outlets. So far one article overseas. The following are the links.

From The Root, a major national online media source for African Americans:

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Atlanta major daily:

From the Chronicles of Higher Education, one of the major national newspapers for people in the higher education profession:

Also Inside Higher Education, the other major publication for people in higher education has picked up the story and refers to some blogs covering it:

Even the British tabloid Daily Mail has picked it up.

Will keep this posting updated as things develop.

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