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The Republican Party in Context: 1854-2016? (Part D)
I am trying to show that Donald Trump's Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America is not the anomaly that it appears to be on the surface. I am saying that his candidacy is not representative of a "deterioration" of the "Party of Liincoln," contrary to what the American center-left, the MSNBC crowd, as I call them, might think. I am trying to show that the "Party of Lincoln" never existed, as such.
The Democratic party of the nineteenth century was the racist, pro-slavery party. The Republican party was the relatively racially progressive abolitionist party. However, I have been arguing that the Republicans largely, perhaps even primarily, drew its abolitionist energy from what I call the abolitionist-deportation school of thought, not from what I also call the abolitionist-integrationist school.
Furthermore I would argue that the abolitionism of the American Republican party was more utilitarian in nature than moral.
The American Civil War was a clash of models of national development. The Northern Republicans and Southern Democrats had different ideas about the way land should be used. The Northern Republicans, followers of the vision of Alexander Hamilton, wanted to use land to lay down railroad tracks, string telegraph wires across, and build factories on, to facilitate the development of the country along the lines of modern industrial capitalism.
The Southern Democrats, followers of the vision of Thomas Jefferson, wanted to hang on to a rural, proto-feudalist status quo.
The South's use of land for plantation agriculture was land that could not be used for industrialization. Abraham Lincoln did not run for the White House on the basis of abolition, but for the purpose of foreclosing the western territories from the expansion of slavery.
Those of you who have been following this series know that I have already talked about the American Colonization Society (ACS), established in 1816 by prominent white Americans for the purpose of shipping liberated blacks out of the country; Congress's appropriation of $100,000 to the ACS for this activity; and Washington's recognition of the black refugee colony of Liberia in 1862.
Part of thhe mystique around the "Party of Lincoln" comes from the fact that he freed the slaves. I agree, Lincoln did free the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation, whatever his motives might have been. I won't argue the point. All I am saying is that the British ought to get credit for having attempted to do the same thing eighty-eight years earlier, during the last quarter of the eighteenth century over the course of the American Revolution (1776-1783), as I discussed in Part C.
The British tried to overthrow slavery, by force of arms, in the American Thirteen Colonies, while trying to prevent the secession of the American colonists. London failed to overthrow slavery on the North American mainland because the Revolution succeeded.
The North tried to overthrow slavery, by force of arms, in the American South, while trying to prevent the secession of the region. Washington succeeded in overthrowing slavery in the South because the Southern Rebellion of the Confederacy failed.
A major reason the American Revolution (1776-1783) succeeded is because the rebels had the assistance of France and Spain. The historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto wrote this about the American Revolution:
"The war was in one sense an English civil war, pitting self-styled 'free-born Englishmen' against an intrusive government, recycling the rhetoric of seventeenth-century conflicts in Britain itself in which 'the commonwealth' had fought the crown.
"At another level, it was an American civil war, in what at least 20 percent of the white population, and most of the black people and Native Americans, sided with the British.
"After the first two years' campaigns, when the raw American forces proved surprisingly effective, France in 1778 joined by Spain in 1779 saw the opportunity to inflict a defeat on the British" (1).
A major reason the Southern Rebellion of the first half of the 1860s failed, because the South did not receive external European or other foreign military assistance.
We will look at the implications of that in Part E.
I want to continue to deal with what I have called a misguided idea, held by some on the Left: that slavery in America had to be destroyed in order to open up economic opportunities for free white men.
We have already taken a look at what state legislatures in the nineteenth century were doing, in order to insulate free white male labor from competition, even from free blacks; in addition to the measures the states took to formally re-enslave legally free blacks.
I continue to insist upon the following: Free blacks and slaves were no more in "competition" with free white males for jobs than undocumented migrant Mexican laborers are with American citizens today.
Not only were blacks, slave or free, not a "drag" on the wages or working conditions of free white males in America-------I believe that there is evidence to suggest that black urban slaves were used as a cushion to make work easier for the white male working class.
I'll say that again.
Not only were blacks, slave or free, not a "drag" on wages and working conditions of free white male workers; but I believe that there is evidence to suggest that black urban slaves (and perhaps tehnically free blacks as well) were used in a complimentary fashion, in order to make the working conditions of white male workers much, much, much easier. More research needs to be done on urban slavery in America.
The first thing to say is that slaves were not just used in the fields or in the big house. In fact, black slaves were used in just about every area of economic endeavor. There were slave carpenters, slave shoemakers, slave inventors, and whatever you can think of. Phyllis Wheatley, you'll remember was an enslaved poet.
Most people probably don't know this, but black slaves built the White House and many of the federal buildings in Washington, D.C. (2).
The historian Thaddeus Russell wrote this about the working conditions for white males during the "early American economy":
"In the early American economy, workers, not bosses, decided when they would show up and when they would go home. Long afternoon periods of eating, drinking, and sleeping were taken for granted. On the eighteenth-century worker's schedule, Sunday was followed by another day of rest known as 'Saint Monday,' which, Benjamin Franklin was irritated to see, 'is as duly kept by our working people as Sunday; the only difference is that instead of employing their time cheaply in church, they are wasting it expensively in the ale house'" (3).
How were workers able to do this?
Sociologist, John Bellamy Foster had this to say about working conditions enjoyed by white American workers in the nineteenth century. He writes:
"In the nineteenth-century capitalism, workers were in a position retain within their own ranks the knowledge of hos the work was done, and therefore exercised a considerable degree of control over the labor process. Hence, control of the labor process by owner and managers was often more formal than real. As corporations and their workforces and factories got bigger with the rise of monopoly capitalism, however, it became possible to extend the division of labor, and therefore to exercise greater top-down managerial control. This took the form of the new system of scientific management, or 'Taylorism,' within concentrated industry. Control of the conception of the labor process was systematically removed from the workers and monopolized by management. Henceforth, according to this managerial logic, workers were merely to execute commands from above, with their every movement governed down to the smallest detail" (4).
Now we see where the workers got their authority from.
A Typical Workday in the New York Shipyards (1830s)
Now, I would draw your attention to a YouTube video of a lecture given by Dr. Megan J. Elias, a professor of history at CUNY Queensborough. She is a specialist in the area of food history. The lecture is called "Eating the Past: Why and How to Study Food History."
At one point in her talk, Dr. Elias has occasion to read out a schedule of a typical workday in the New York shipyards in the 1830s.
- First of all the workers would have been at work since sun up---I guess that's five or six in the morning.
- 8:30-9:30: This is the time for the pastry break. Someone would come around with baskets of pastries, cakes, donuts, cookies, and the like; and the workers would hang out and munch for a while and relax. There was a saying: "No one ever hurried during cake time." Then back to work until...
- 10:30-11:00: An hour later, its time for another break, for the candy man (not Sammy Davis, Jr.) has come with various sweet and good things to eat. Then back to work---or not.
- 11:00-12:00: This is whiskey time. Now, this hour was not a hard and fixed time. Dr. Elias's understanding was: "Who knows when they came back from whiskey time?" At eleven, the men would clear out and go to some alcohol-serving establishment to relax again and drink whiskey, or perhaps some other kinds of alcoholic beverages.
- 3:30-4:00: Whenever they got back from whiskey time, at three-thirty it was time for the "cake lunch." What's happening here is that someone who used to work at the shipyards and is now retired, is making his living selling pastries and so forth. Then back to work until...
- 5:00-5:10: The candy man makes his return.
- Sundown: Quitting time!
This is not the schedule of workers who seem to be afraid of any competition, slave or free. If slavery really had been a "drag" on the wages and working conditions of white male workers in the United States of America---wouldn't white workers have been more desperate to hold on to their jobs? Wouldn't they have tried to impress their titular bosses by pushing themselves a little harder than this?
What if, after sundown, six o'clock or so, a group of black shipyard-working enslaved men were brought in to work until, say, midnight, one, or two in the morning, to pick up the slack, as it were? What if black urban slaves were regularly used to, shall we say, subsidize a relatively easy-going tempo of labor for white industrial workers?
I know what you're thinking.
The Naysayer: But there was no slavery in the North in the 1830s.
Devil's Advocate: As far as we know there wasn't. But this is why more research needs to be done in the area of urban slavery. Slaves didn't just work in the fields or in the big house. Slaves were used in many fields of economic endeavor...
The Naysayer: Yeah, yeah, I got that. But blacks were free in New York in the 1830s.
Devil's Advocate: More research remains to be done. Look, slavery in the North was generally more mild than in the South. The tapestry of slavery had variations. Slaves in the North tended to be more gently treated than Southern slaves. Northern slaves were more likely to be literate, for example. Slaves with skills (artisans, cobblers, carpenters, etc.) who lived in urban areas had a better deal still---though they were still slaves. But they were better off than a slave working in the tobacco fields of Virginia or the cotton plantations of Mississippi.
The Naysayer: So what are you saying?
Devil's Advocate: For all we know, there may have been many white people and institutions that did not think of urban slavery (especially in the North) as "real" slavery, as it were. And this may have led to the phenomena being overlooked by historians and other researchers.
Let's back up a bit
Both Megan J. Elias and John Bellamy Foster agree that relative (white) worker autonomy of the kind I have alluded to, basically comes to an end with industrialization.
That fits my idea rather well. Because, historically, societies that have had access to virtually unlimited amounts of disposable---and I emphasize the word disposable---labor, didn't really bother too much with mechanical innovation.
The Naysayer: What do you mean "unlimited amounts of disposable labor"? You do know that the United States outlawed the slave trade in 1808, don't you?
Devil's Advocate: Yes, that is true. But an illegal slave trade went right along without missing a beat. For example, after the War of 1812 it was generally admitted that American capital, American ships, and American sailors were carrying on an extensive slave trade between Africa and the New World (5).
This displeased London because of her commitment to eliminating the slave trade. In all her treaties with the new republics of Latin America, Englad forced them to promise not to engage in the slave trade (6).
Nuumbers were also kept up by slave breeding, whereby girls would become mothers at thirteen and fourteen years old. By the time they were twenty many girls would have had up to five children. Prizes and bounties were offered for "prolificacy." In some cases mothers who bore between 10 and 15 children gained their freedom (7).
I have already told you about Fernando Wood, in this series, the Mayor of New York, who proposed that the city secede from the Union right after South Carolina did so. We think we know all the reasons for this move: financial ties to the South and financial investment in the expansion of the cotton trade.
What if there is something else? What if urban New York City was dependent on black urban slave labor---in a similar way that the Southwestern United States economy is dependent on undocumented migrant Mexican workers?
It would be interesting to learn if any other Northern cities contemplated secession along with the South. It would be interesting, also, to learn about their relationship to urban slavery, after their states had outlawed slavery.
Thank you for reading!
1. Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States. W.W. Norton & Company, 2014. 106
2. see Holland, Jesse. The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House.
3. Russell, Thaddeus. A Renegade History of the United States. The Free Press, 2010. 7
4. (2011, July-August). Foster, Bellamy J. Education and the Structural Crisis of Capital: The US Case. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
5. Franklin, John Hope & Moss, Jr., Alfred A. From Slavery To Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. (Sixth Edition, paperback). Alfred A Knopf, 1988. 110
7. ibid, 106