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Saturday, July 02, 2011
Preparatory academy for the Dunning School
The commenter in my mammoth Monday post recommends the "Dunning School". William Dunning wrote about Reconstruction: of its aims, viz. equality of blacks and whites in the South; of its events; and of its failure. Dunning blamed its failure not on that it ended too soon but on that it never had a hope of achieving its aims. A google turned up Gail Jarvis at LewRockwell.
The Dunning School provided a justification for the "Democratic" Party of the 1870s-1920s. This Party brought back a caste system in the South whilst maintaining a sham sufficient to mollify the North.
I'd heard of the Dunning School before - from a Leftist, James Loewen. Loewen, of Vermont, believes this school a mite convenient to the racists. He has written several books which in passing lambaste the Dunning School, as inherently compromised and not worthy of a historian's time. For my part I credit Loewen with at least rekindling interest in the topic. I never got to learn this history in school - neither for it, nor against it. All I heard was he-said-she-said about scalawags and carpetbaggers and Southern racists, and awareness of such popular mummery as Gone With The Wind (which I never read nor watched; I just knew it was out there). It is in part Loewen's success that gave to Chuck Lane a market for The Day Freedom Died.
I can find some nits to pick in Jarvis's article.
Jarvis holds that slavery was dying out. As evidence he points to that the Middle Passage slave-trade ended in 1808. I do not find this relevant. Blacks maintained their own population in North America, which they did not in the Caribbean. Slave-owners here had no further need for a trade from outside the US to inside. Jarvis would be better off pointing to the internal slave-trade. Slaves were at first all over the United States (excepting maybe Vermont). The North found stuff to export which were more economic, for that climate and soil, than were plantation cash-crops; the South, Deep South anyway, was better placed for agriculture and faced even more demand for slaves than before. Outposts held out in several "Yankee" states and territories into the 1840s, along the coasts and rivers: New Jersey, Long Island, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York City, and southern Illinois. As the economics of the various American climates shook themselves out, masters faced the choice between freeing their slaves and "selling them down river". We can say that slavery drained away: first into the border-North, then into border-South states like Kentucky; finally into Georgia. This is a long way of getting to a similar point - that slavery was draining itself out of most of the USA's surface area, and was benefitting (directly) proportionately fewer whites. But this model of "slavery was dying" doesn't explain how the Deep South was to grow out of the Institution; at least, if it does, I never read how. [UPDATE 9/14/2018: Around 2015 or so I'd leafed through the Sublettes' American Slave Coast. The Tidewater bred slaves.]
And then there's that all-too-typical Southern whining. It seems no pro-South article is complete without an outburst of BECAUSE OF THE HYPOCRISY against the North. Jarvis's article does not disappoint:
The much praised Fourteenth Amendment gave freed slaves the right to vote but withheld that right from Indians, women, and those involved in the Confederate war effort. (In fact, none of the three famous amendments enacted during the Reconstruction era gave civil rights to Indians. This was the Radical Republicans' version of Jim Crow.)
This isn't relevant either. Indians were legally independent nations, to be dealt with by treaty and not by the Constitution. Women weren't enfranchised anywhere until the empty territory of Wyoming made a bid to inflate its numbers. And why in the name of all that's fair should rebel secessionists receive civil rights - any rights? When you lose the poker game, you have to pay.
But that's just Jarvis, not necessarily Dunning and those with him.
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