Pre-Civil War Ignorance

by Dahni

© Copyright 3/23/10

all rights reserved

HOW can WE the People regain control of OUR right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” WE have delved into what won’t work in order to find what will work.

The List (simplified)

8.   Establish a new service to restore OUR rights to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Today: Pre-Civil War Ignorance

Last time WE looked at the hypothetical possibility of what life would look like today, if the Southern states were allowed to secede from the Union in 1860-1861.  The previous post ended where this one begins and it begins with slavery. Despite the many experts and theories as to the cause or causes of the Civil War, I do not believe slavery was the issue. Does this surprise anyone? Slavery was not an issue! It was made an issue, by both the North and South!

WE will now look at some history of slavery in what is now called, the United States of America. This understanding is important as it relates to “legal fiction,” the corrupt, corrupting and corruptible “system” and the “mindset’ WE have been endeavoring to discover and remove from OUR republic.

This “mindset” is related to the title of this post, “Pre-Civil War Ignorance.” Let us now look at “mindset” and its origins in this country, as it pertains to slavery.

Everything has an origin or a beginning. The words ‘gene,’ ‘genetics,’ ‘genealogy,’ and the first book of the Jewish and Christian Bible, ‘Genesis,’ all share the same root word. From the Greek word [genus], its definition is origin, beginning, race, kind etc.

Before actions are taken, they are preceded (originate, begin) by thoughts. Through time, a ‘mindset’ develops. This thinking and the corresponding actions get passed on from generation to generation. An evolving or otherwise civil society, when faced with something that is not understood, will often seek to justify or rationalize its position even through logical discourse. But in logic, no matter how logical the premise, if the premise is wrong, the conclusion will be wrong.

So without knowledge, WE are ignorant. Ignorance is just the state of being without knowledge or understanding.

Stupidity is to know and understand, but refusing to change.

As long as people have been a species upon this planet, slavery in some form or another has existed. Every continent, country and culture has some history of slavery in their societies. It has not always been an issue of race or the color of skin. Any person or people could have been under the subjugation, involuntarily servitude, or considered as the property of others. Some of those under whatever form or names you want to call slavery were enslaved, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and all of the above. Some were treated kindly and some cruelly. But slavery kind or cruel is, still slavery!

Imagine living in a little village thousands of years ago. It makes no difference the color of your skin or your race, but everyone in you village are all the same color or race. One day, for the very first time in your life, you meet someone that looks similar, but has a different color of skin, culture and even language. What would you think?  The world has a history of making up stuff. Instead of finding the answers to OUR differences by conversing with the person and instead of looking at OUR similarities, the differences become the focus. Maybe WE ask others instead of the person WE meet about these differences. Maybe they don’t know and no one wants to look foolish, so things often get made up, fictionalized and even vilified. What WE do not understand, WE often fear. WE often defer to others that seem to be wiser or have some connection to the ‘divine ear.’ These wise and ‘spiritual’ people are, themselves, people too. And if they don’t know, they make up stuff too. So here WE see clear examples of ignorance and how it is often passed from one generation to the next. Religion is often the source from which this ignorance begins and continues.

Slavery as it came to this country must have had some beginning. To the best of my understanding, slavery as it evolved in America, started with the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1441, Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão captured 12 Africans in Cabo Branco (modern Mauritania) and took them to Portugal as slaves. This no doubt continued so that around 10 years later, the Roman Catholic church was the dominate religion of the area and addressed slavery officially.

June 18, 1452, Pope Nicholas V issues ‘Dum Diversas’, a bull authorizing the Portuguese to reduce any non-Christians to the status of slaves.

“We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property […] and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery.”

Excerpt from: ‘Dum Diversas’ by Pope Nicholas V

Note: A papal bull is a letter or announcement from the Pope to the Catholic world. It is so named, because a lead bulla or seal was attached to the Pope’s edict by a cord, thus authenticating it was from the Pope.

January 8, 1454, Pope Nicholas V issues ‘Romanus Pontifex’, a bull granting the Portuguese a perpetual monopoly in trade with Africa. Nevertheless, Spanish traders brought slaves from Africa to Spain. By the time Christopher Columbus sailed the blue in 1492, slavery was already imbedded in his country of Spain.

Natives of various countries were enslaved by the Conquistadors (from Spanish and Portuguese languages meaning “Conqueror”); were taken as slaves from one place and put or sold as slaves in other places.

By the 1700’s, African slaves was the preferred choice for the Colonies.

Note: The reason African slaves were the “preferred choice,” was that as a people, they were found to be more adaptable to conditions and training (discipline); could work harder and longer than Native Americans, or slaves from South America, Central America and the Caribbean. This is just one fact that should shut the door to the argument that the African slave was an inferior race.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to have slaves. Although there is no evidence to support that they were cruel to their slaves, slavery is still slavery. Perhaps they thought it was their Christian, civic, or human duty to help those inferior? The ‘mindset’ of slavery nonetheless, prevailed in the minds and the culture of the colonies and our founding fathers.

When George Washington was 16 years old, he had copied by hand, ‘110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.’ These rules were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English translation, appeared in 1640, and is ascribed to Francis Hawkins, the twelve-year-old son of a doctor.

These many rules today may seem fussy and silly, but courtesy, manners, decency and good behavior were believed to be an absolute necessity, if one desired to be a true civic minded person; a gentleman or a gentlewoman of the 1700’s.

Thomas Jefferson was by the standards of the 1700’s, a highly educated man. He lived in or near Williamsburg, VA as a young man and was tutored and mentored by many of the finest minds of his day. Through his association with George Wythe, young Jefferson was afforded many opportunities and was introduced to the Governor and became a frequent visitor to the Governor’s mansion, in what we now call, Colonial Williamsburg.

George Wythe was the first signer from Virginia whose name appears on the Declaration of Independence. He was also a framer of the Constitution and instrumental in the design of the seal for the state of Virginia.

Jefferson wrote of George Wythe the following.

“No man ever left behind him a character more venerated than George Wythe,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. “His virtue was of the purest tint; his integrity inflexible, and his justice exact; of warm patriotism, and, devoted as he was to liberty, and the natural and equal rights of man, he might truly be called the Cato* of his country.”

*Cato – Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95 BC, Rome – April 46 BC, Utica), commonly known as Cato the Younger (Cato Minor) to distinguish him from his great-grandfather (Cato the Elder), was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy. He is remembered for his legendary stubbornness and tenacity (especially in his lengthy conflict with Gaius Julius Caesar), as well as his immunity to bribes, his moral integrity, and his famous distaste for the ubiquitous corruption of the period.

Wythe lived a long and prosperous life and was well respected. He was the first Law Professor of the College of William & Mary. He even boarded many students and treated them as his own children. He was long opposed to slavery and freed his own, which included one that chose to stay with him for the rest of Wythe’s life. One of Wythe’s heirs had gambling debts and forged checks of his uncle to pay them. To avoid detection and inherit his uncle’s estate, he is believed to have murdered George Wythe. The evidence was circumstantial and there was no conviction. The only possible witness was the black woman, the once former slave that chose to stay with him. But no black person was allowed to testify against a white person in court.

This is just one example of the consequences of ignorance, which ironically allowed a guilty person to go free, because of the ‘mindset’ of slavery.

But of books and learning and influence, there can be no doubt of the education of Thomas Jefferson. Even his work in the Declaration of Independence was inspired by the Magna Carta and clear influences from John Locke.

John Locke (1632 –1704) was widely known as the Father of Liberalism. He was an English philosopher and physician and regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of the times. In London in 1689, he published, ‘Two Treatises of Government,’ which arguably offers a justification for slavery.

Many Europeans came to America for religious freedom. But slavery was a form of persecution which, in the eyes of colonial America, had to be justified. So the black slave was viewed as being inferior, subhuman, and fated for servitude. The early Christian churches did not consider eliminating slavery until much later in the century. In 1693, Cotton Mather, a famous theologian from Boston, in his ‘Rules for the Society of the Negroes’ wrote,

“Negroes were enslaved because they had sinned against God.”

Later, Mather included a heavenly plan for the slaves in writing,

“God would prepare a mansion in Heaven.”

In the Colonial religious mind, the plight of the slave was servitude on earth and freedom was only possible in heaven.

King George on Dec. 10, 1770, issued an instruction, under his own hand, commanding the governor of Virginia,

“…upon pain of the highest displeasure, to assent to no law by which the importation of slaves should be in any respect prohibited or obstructed.”

In 1772, the Virginia Assembly earnestly discussed the question, “How shall we get rid of the great evil?” Jefferson, Henry, Lee, and other leading men anxiously desired to rid the colony of it. “The interest of the country,” it was said, “manifestly requires the total expulsion of them.”

Interestingly, the 1600’s and 1700’s is commonly referred to as part of the ‘Age of Enlightenment,’ with such forward thinkers as Descartes, Isaac Newton and John Locke among others. All of these influences had significant weight in the mind of Thomas Jefferson.

Despite the rules of conduct, manners, and civility as mentioned earlier about Washington and the learned environment of the Colonial mind and the mind of Jefferson, slavery was wrestled with as “the great evil,” but left uncorrected, continued to be justified.

From a capitalistic or economic view, slavery was justified as for the good of the people, and slaves were not people but property.

Some indentured servants were freed after their terms expired. Some of these became slave owners themselves. Some slaves were freed and some of them also, became slave owners. Some servants and slaves had their issues by others challenged in court and were successfully freed legally. Some of these cases were overturned by other courts. But in practice and policy, slavery continued, deepened and expanded in the consciousness of people as a whole.

From a religious or humanistic point of view, slavery was justified as the master’s duty to treat their property kindly and to bring them to independence in heaven or their contented place on earth, under the benevolent hand of the superior master race.

Looking back to the history of this ‘mindset,’ and comparing it with OUR most treasured documents, many people see exclusion and hypocrisy. What then is the profit of such beautiful and flowery words as, The Declaration of Independence?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

From the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson

Though slavery existed in the home of the writer and perhaps even in very room where these words were penned and “men” did not include slaves, women, or children on July 2 – 4, 1776, the truth of these words cannot be negated!

How can such language be justified when in practice, it was exclusive, contradictory or hypocritical? There is no justification as WE will see this definitively in the next post. But neither is there justification for discarding truth, because it is not practiced of, for, and by ALL of US, WE the People!

These words were authored by Enlightenment and penned by a collective civil and learned, Colonial ignorant mind or ‘mindset!’ It was and is wherever it may exist today, part of a corrupt, corrupting and corruptible “system.”

The concepts and practice of slavery was wrestled with during the formation of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, but was never settled; never corrected.

The whip or shackles are not the only means to enslave. The pen can be used to enslave. The law and the courts to enforce them can enslave. Even OUR Constitution if interpreted, has and in the present-day,  can, enslave. But it is ignorance; a “mindset;” a corrupt, corrupting and corruptible “system” which perpetuates the ignorance and enslaves the bodies, souls and spirits of people.

Though it is possible that some knew the truth during these times and practiced otherwise and therefore, were and may still today be hypocrites, slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, to occur almost 100 years hence. It was a “mindset” passed down from one generation to the next. It was part of a corrupt, corrupting and corruptible “system.”  In a single word, it is simply, ignorance.

Next Time: Civil War Ignorance

Check out the other blogs listed to the right. Come often. Bring others. Get involved. Do something. See:

How You Can Help

Ask not what your country can do for you

or what you can do for your country,

but what can WE the People do, for each other!”

1 of WE,

An Amer-I-Can eagle

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