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Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Tale of Two Countries

"A Likely Young Negro Wench, who is a good Cook, and can 
Wash well is to be disposed of. Enquire of the Printer hereof." 

"To be Sold. A Likely young Negroe Wench, about 18 
Years of Age, speaks good English, and is fit for either Town 
or Country. Enquire of the Printer hereof." 

"To be Sold. A Likely Molatto Girl, aged about 16 Years, 
has had the Small Pox, is fit for either Town or Country, to 
be disposed of very reasonable, enquire of the Printer hereof." 

"To be Sold, A Likely young Negroe Fellow, about Twenty- 
six Years of Age, suitable for any Farming or Plantation 
Business, having been long accustomed to it and has had the 
Small- Pox. Enquire of the Printer hereof." 

"To be Sold. A Negro Man Twenty-two Years of Age, of 
uncommon Strength and Activity, very fit for a Farmer, or a 
laborious Trade, he understands the best methods of managing 
Horses, and is very faithful in the Employment : Any Person 
that wants such a one may see him by enquiring of the Printer 
hereof." 

"To be Sold. A Likely Negro woman, with a man-child, fit 
for town or country business. Enquire of the Printer hereof."

"To Be Sold, A Lusty, young, Negroe Woman, fit for 
Country Business, she has had the Smallpox, and Meazles. 
Enquire of the Printers hereof.”

"To be Sold. A Prime able young Negro man, fit for labori- 
ous work, in town or country, that has had the smallpox : As 
also a middle aged Negro man, that has likewise had the 
smallpox. Enquire of the printer hereof: Or otherwise they 
will be exposed to sale by publick venue, on Saturday the 
tenth of April next, at 12 o'clock, at the Indian-king, in Mar- 
ket-street." 


The Printer of the newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette, and also the salesman of the ‘Negroes’ above advertised, is none other than Benjamin Franklin, the eldest and wisest among the Founding Fathers of the USA.

Being a printer and publisher for most of his life, Franklin was also a jack of all trades, buying and selling whatever could land him a profit, like the slaves above (the ads probably run circa 1740s).

P. Leicester Ford, one of his biographers of a century ago, tells us that:
Some of these slaves he procured from New England, where, as population grew in density, the need for them passed, leading to their sale in the colonies to the southward; and there was not always a profit, for Franklin, of one purchase of husband and wife, wrote to his mother : "We conclude to sell them both the first good opportunity, for we do not like negro ser- vants," with a result that " We got again about half what we lost." In spite of this prejudice, Franklin took with him two negro servants to England on his second visit, with slight benefit, for one, who "was of little use, and often in mischief," ran off within a year, and the other behaved only" as well as I could expect, in a country where there are many occasions of spoiling servants, if they are ever so good." "He has as few faults as most of them," the philosopher observed, “and I see with only one eye and hear only with one ear; so we rub on pretty comfortably." 

Franklin, as he grew in years, came to disapprove  heartily of the whole slave system, and he expressed  satisfaction " that a disposition to abolish slavery prevails in North America, that many Pennsylvanians have set their slaves at liberty, and that even the Virginia Assembly have petitioned the king for permission to make a law for preventing the importation of more  into the colony." When the initial abolition society in 
America was formed, he became its president, and his  name was signed to the first petition for the abolition  of the slave-trade ever sent to Congress, an act which 
resulted in his being personally vituperated on the floor  of that body, less than a month before his death. The  debate on this petition drew from him the last public 
paper he ever penned, in which, with his usual "Socratic " cleverness, he took all the arguments advanced by the favorers of slavery, and by putting them into the mouth of an Algerine, as reasons for continuing the holding of Europeans in bondage, made each one become a reason for ending the system. 

Though Franklin sometimes took a loss, as described above, slaves turned out to be an excellent long term investment, as another Founding Father found out:

The critical turning point in Jefferson's thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, "I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers." His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.   […]

Jefferson's 4 percent theorem threatens the comforting notion that he had no real awareness of what he was doing, that he was "stuck" with or "trapped" in slavery, an obsolete, unprofitable, burdensome legacy. The date of Jefferson's calculation aligns with the waning of his emancipationist fervor. Jefferson began to back away from antislavery just around the time he computed the silent profit of the "peculiar institution."


And this world was crueler than we have been led to believe. A letter has recently come to light describing how Monticello's young black boys, "the small ones," age 10, 11 or 12, were whipped to get them to work in Jefferson's nail factory, whose profits paid the mansion's grocery bills. This passage about children being lashed had been suppressed--deliberately deleted from the published record in the 1953 edition of Jefferson's Farm Book, containing 500 pages of plantation papers. That edition of the Farm Book still serves as a standard reference for research into the way Monticello worked.


Not to mention his turning of Sally Hemings, a fair skinned slave who was also a younger half-sister of his first wife, into his sexual serf since she was a teenager. 



Taken together, the historical snippets above still resonate with present day America, a country which, notwithstanding its past, strives like no other to be a better place for minorities - the ‘Franklin side’ - versus the country that still elects someone like Donald Trump - the ‘Jefferson side’.

32 comments:

erp said...

What on earth does any of this have to do with Trump?

Clovis e Adri said...

Well, Erp, if you are in the mood, take a look at this prophetic piece (take notice it is from 2015).

erp said...

Clovis, I read as far as I could. Whoever the writer is, he's made some irrelevant and ridiculous comparisons (Jefferson believed the black race was intellectually inferior and that all the Indians should be expelled to the wilderness. Trump believes in direct sales of weight-loss products and is promoting something called Donald Trump the Fragrance. Do you really believe these two statements, even if true, are comparable????

Trump and Jefferson - different times and different circumstances and even if Trump is the reincarnation of Jefferson, so what?

This is all you need to know about the state of the world today:

HILLARY IS NOT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

IMO if Trump weren't on the ballot opposing her, she would have been elected because a lot of people, maybe us included. wouldn't have bothered to vote and the utterly unthinkable grifters would be back in the White House.

May Trump live long and prosper. :-)

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

You don't get satire.

erp said...

Satire needs brilliance. This is jejune at the smartest kid in the class level.

Clovis e Adri said...

Excellent satire, Erp.

erp said...

Perhaps, like beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Clovis e Adri said...

I've meant your other last comment was also excellent satire.

See, I can take a bit of laughing both ways. You should try it too.

Bret said...

Owwww!

Comparing Jefferson to Trump just hurts. Perhaps, like many Americans, I idolize the founding fathers more than I ought (according to some politically correct standard, anyway), but comparing Jefferson and Trump, even satirically, is just ... ouch - I don't really have words for it.

Other than that (and until the last paragraph), I enjoyed the post - showing the human (ie flawed) side of those who achieve greatness (in my opinion) is always enlightening in my opinion.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

The 33 years old Jefferson who wrote "All men are created equal" in 1776 is not quite the same who 20 years later was a lot more quite about slavery. I don't doubt he somehow still believed his ideals, just could not live up to them.

My last paragraph is not meant to compare Trump to Jefferson (my link above was to tease Erp), but to say that America, upon electing him, followed Jefferson's pattern - IMHO.

Bret said...

Many of us are hoping the election of Trump is anomalous and doesn't follow any pattern that repeats. And, as you know, I don't hate Trump to the degree of many of my fellow citizens. Nonetheless, his rise to power shows a severe sickness in the american political system and culture, in my opinion, which will hopefully cure itself.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

BTW, I am happy that my post was both good to you (in part) and, in the end, tough to digest (hurts?).

You did creat a monster by giving me license to post. I am sorry, but I intend to keep punching whenever I can :-)

Bret said...

Please keep posting. I haven't been very prolific lately so someone's gotta do it. I've started posts, but I haven't managed to actually finish one in a while.

Hey Skipper said...

Taken together, the historical snippets above still resonate with present day America, a country which, notwithstanding its past, strives like no other to be a better place for minorities - the ‘Franklin side’ - versus the country that still elects someone like Donald Trump - the ‘Jefferson side’.

This sentence is a non-sequitor: the country that elected Trump is nothing like the country of the 18th century.

One of the more common, and easy, intellectual mistakes to make is judging our ancestors based on contemporary mores. During Franklin's time (and well before that), extending through to the latter half of the 20th century, it was nearly universally accepted that blacks -- and indigenous Americans -- were sub-human. I'm old enough to have at one time uncritically accepted that once widespread belief, and be, therefore, amazed at how quickly it has virtually disappeared from American society.

Which makes your versus difficult to sustain. Racism, properly defined (which means not the way Harry Eagar ever uses the word), is so thin on the ground that it cannot be an explanation for Trump's election. Nevermind that Trump's alleged racism is a symptom of progressive derangement.

So the comparison simply doesn't hold, both due to the immense change in attitudes, and the complete absence of evidence that Trump is anything like a white supremacist.

[Bret:] Nonetheless, his rise to power shows a severe sickness in the american political system and culture, in my opinion, which will hopefully cure itself.

On the contrary, I think Trump's election shows a healthy American political system: that the citizens can, in fact, shake up the political establishment.

Unfortunately, his performance since then makes likely he will ruin a historical chance to do anything more than that.

erp said...

Skipper, I'm more than 20 years older than you and never for a moment thought blacks or members of the indigenous peoples were subhuman and neither did anyone else I ever met?? You're that right that at the time our FF's figured out how to get everyone on board with founding our nation, that was the prevailing thought. However, they gave blacks 3/5th of a human being status (along with women) -- a remarkable accomplishment in both cases for the time.

If Trump only shakes up the establishment, that too will be a remarkable accomplishment, but I think he's giving them enough rope to hang themselves and in their remarkable hubris, they're falling for it.

After Trump's eight years, our country will have been cleansed of the hot mess Obama left and perhaps set up a way for us all to play nicely together. Couldn't be worse than the absurdity of deliberately orchestrating setting one group against each other when we don't have warring groups in the U.S.

Bret said...

I agree with erp. I'm only a few years younger than Skipper and while maybe some folks in my Grandmother's generation (born around 1900) maybe thought blacks subhuman, I never once heard a single contemporary say anything like that. Was there prejudice and racism? Yeah, sure, but not to the extent that they were considered subhuman.

Hey Skipper said...

Okay, I may have slightly overegged "subhuman".

However, in the 1960s it was widely accepted that blacks were deficient both morally and intellectually -- anti-black prejudice and racism was pervasive. And the consequences were just as pervasive. Red-lining, housing covenants, etc.

Now could scarcely be more different. The turnaround within 50 years is astonishing, and considering its magnitude, came about with scarcely any violence.



erp said...

The only violence came from the left who orchestrated the violence then and the now. As I've repeatedly said, things were getting much better after the war when soldiers from different backgrounds and parts of the country fought and died together. That wasn't the way our march into socialism was supposed to go, so hyphenated Americans and the anti-war movement were invented and funded by Moscow and pushed by the media. Then unions got control via Kennedy's EO permitting in the public sector until Soros using his puppet Obama almost completely destroyed We, the People by the pitting the hyphenateds against each other.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
One of the more common, and easy, intellectual mistakes to make is judging our ancestors based on contemporary mores.
---
Well, then it is a good thing I did no such mistake. Please notice I am judging Jefferson by his own stated standards.


---
Which makes your versus difficult to sustain. Racism, properly defined (which means not the way Harry Eagar ever uses the word), is so thin on the ground that it cannot be an explanation for Trump's election. Nevermind that Trump's alleged racism is a symptom of progressive derangement.
---
Maybe you - probably more by my fault than yours - misses my point in the comparison. The first use of the word "racism" in this thread comes from you, not me. At no point I argued Trump is a racist.

Actually, I was careful enough to not level that accusation even to Jefferson - have you noticed so?

If we could take a time machine and be like ghosts observing Jefferson's private life, I can tell you I would not even be surprised if, upon closer inspection, we find out he did really love (or at least had affection) for Sally.

And maybe, upon closer inspection, Trump may well be a better human being than it looks like from afar.

Yet, none of the above would excuse both men from their failures in setting good examples when the light was shining upon their public pulpit.

erp said...

Clovis, I've asked you this question before: what about Trump makes him so objectionable as a human being in your eyes. I actually know very little about him other than the nonsense in the media. He has solid gold fixtures in his home!!! Was a playboy and had several wives!!! Trash talked with the boys!!! Paid no taxes (very doubtful, especially with Soros et al.'s IRS on the job)!!!

Jefferson set many good examples for his day and we have him largely to thank for our nation. Skipper is correct to say we can't judge earlier times by the standards of our time. The FF's made women and slaves 3/5 of a person -- a big step up from non-persons aka as chattel. As far as his slave Sally, they couldn't marry by law. Let's leave that one alone.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

No law forbade Jefferson from freeing up Sally and then marrying her - but then she would have a say on that decision, wouldn't she?

To wit, after Jefferson died, his will ordered freedom for Sally and their children-slaves. They were among a handful of slaves Jefferson selected to be free after he was gone.

erp said...

Clovis, the anti-miscegenation laws forbidding interracial marriage were only struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967 and we were taught that Jefferson freed his slaves. Since my school days, I've not felt the need to confirm that and have grave reservations about Google's search.

Clovis e Adri said...

And what about the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, would it be a credible source?

You can check yourself there which slaves were freed by Jefferson.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

---
Clovis, the anti-miscegenation laws forbidding interracial marriage [...]
---

BTW, thanks for bringinp up that matter, I was not aware of how pervasive those anti-miscegenetion laws were back then. They were mostly State enacted, not federal law, but few states had not such.

And to the extent I could see, Jefferson was already acting against those laws by having sexual relations with Sally.

Which, given the protections to individual freedom that, supposedly, are an important aspect of the US Constitution he helped to write, the whole matter is quite ironic: he betrayed both his own philosophy and the laws of his land at that matter.

erp said...

Since slaves were considered property, I don't know that they had any rights and masters no doubt had lots of sexual relations with them given that most blacks in the U.S. have white ancestors somewhere in their backgrounds. The fact that we're still talking about Tom and Sally is an indication that their relationship was quite different from one of master and slave and ...

BTW - all women were considered the property of their fathers and then their husbands and until recent times had little autonomy.

In fact, we bought our first house before we got married and John was still in school, the fact that I was making a lot of money had no bearing on our getting a mortgage, because a women's income didn't count. My father-in-law who made less money than I (yes, true) had to co-sign the loan.

Clovis e Adri said...

Good old times, right?

erp said...

Most of the old times were good, but not everything and I'd trade that insult to my earning power for the horrible new times any day.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Well, then it is a good thing I did no such mistake. Please notice I am judging Jefferson by his own stated standards.

Are you sure?

Near as I can tell, at the time Europeans viewed Africans and indigenous Americans as subhuman. Jefferson didn't violate his own standards, because he -- and essentially everyone else at the time -- did not include them within the set of "all men are created equal."

85 years, Lincoln didn't, either.

Sure, it is easy now to see how blinkered Europeans were. But given what they knew -- Africans and indigenous Americans were essentially living in the stone age, and for the most part didn't even have written languages -- it is easy to see how they would arrive at that conclusion, as horribly wrong as we now know it to be.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
did not include them within the set of "all men are created equal."
---
Which he had ample interests to rationalize away, but nonetheless the argument that they were equally human was in the essence of the anti-slavery movement of the times.

erp said...

Clovis, I already explained this one. The wording was a compromise. We'd have no country if we didn't.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Which he had ample interests to rationalize away, but nonetheless the argument that they were equally human was in the essence of the anti-slavery movement of the times.

No, it wasn't

The most surprising part of the book is Dattel’s documentation of the racism of northern abolitionists. As early as the 1790s, about a decade after Massachusetts had abolished slavery and while Connecticut was in the midst of its gradual abolition, the white townspeople of Salem and New Haven fretted that the movement of blacks into their neighborhoods would crash property values by up to 50 percent. Nor did Yankees make any distinction between freeborn blacks and freed slaves, as an 1800 survey by the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences found. Yale president Timothy Dwight, who sponsored the survey with lexicographer Noah Webster, summed up its consensus on the state’s blacks: “Uneducated to principals of morality, or to habits of industry . . . they labor only to gratify gross and vulgar appetites. Accordingly, many of them are thieves, liars, profane drunkards, Sabbath-breakers, quarrelsome, idle.”

Clearly, for them, knowing what they knew, it was possible to conclude that slavery was too awful even for ex-Africans.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

Then you have the burden to explain away this part of the draft of the Declaration of Independence Jefferson wrote:

-----
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another. "
-----

See, in the same document he wrote "all men are created equal", he also wrote "Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold,".

I may think Jefferson was a flawed man, but I can easily concede he was gifted. If you believe he did not understand the meaning of the words he wrote himself, you sure have him in less regard than I do.