Thursday, January 17, 2013

1/17 Black Progressives and the Early Civil Rights Movement

J.L. Giles, "Reconstruction," 1867
Note the use of religious imagery

The Battle of Antietam was fought in Maryland on September 17th, 1862. This was the first time the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee had "invaded" the North (the second invasion would lead to the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863). At Antietam, the confederates were beaten in one of the bloodiest battles in history, with more than 25,000 killed or wounded more Americans died on this one day than on any other day in history and more than twice as many as those who died in D-Day in 1944. Five days later, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which would take effect on January 1st, 1863. This executive order freed all the slaves still in confederate territory. Notably, it did not outlaw slavery in the whole union and permitted Southern states who had sided with the Union like Kentucky to keep their slaves. 

Joseph Keppler "Conkling as Mephistopheles," Puck, 1877
Shows Sen. Roscoe Conkling (R-NY) who helped arrange the election of Hayes who is seen walking away with the "South" as a woman.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1865, also while the war was still going which officially abolished slavery in the U.S. The 13th Amendment was considered the first of the "Reconstruction Amendments" passed between 1865 and 1870. 

The 14th Amendment (1868) grants full citizenship rights (including the right to vote) to anyone born in the U.S. and also requires the states to provide equal protection under the laws. This amendment is crucial because it creates the legal pathway to applying the Bill of Rights to the states.   However, because of fierce opposition these protections have had to be fought for in a series of court cases, most notably the civil rights cases of the 1950s and 1960s. 

The 15th Amendment (1870) passed during the administration of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877), who was the commanding general of the Union army, grants voting rights to all persons regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude," however notably, not to gender. It is after this that the women's right movement separates itself from the abolition movement. These amendments were named for the Reconstruction program led by Republicans aimed at rehabilitating and rebuilding the South. This period roughly stretched from 1865-1876. Many historians, like Eric Foner, speak of a "Second Civil War" that was fought during this time which the South won. They point to the rise of terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), made up of former confederate soldiers and generals, and the forced imposition of segregation (or Jim Crow, a pejorative name for blacks) laws which effectively reasserted white supremacy at least until the 1960s. Grant used the Union army to suppress the Klan. 

Tilden has won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. Hayes wins because of LA, FL, and SC which were disputed.

Reconstruction is usually considered to have ended after the election of 1876 (the first Centennial of the Declaration of Independence), when the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly made a "corrupt bargain" with Southern Democrats to gain 19 "disputed" electoral votes in Southern states: South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida. Hayes had lost the popular vote to Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden, the Governor of New York, however Hayes was awarded the disputed votes in exchange for withdrawing federal troops from the South, and thus appeasing Democrats. After becoming President, Hayes withdrew the troops and this allowed Southern Democrats to sweep back into power. 

W.E.B. DuBois
“To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.” This begins William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) DuBois’s (1868-1963) landmark study in race relations, The Souls of Black Folk (1903). The problem to which he is referring to, the problem which he defines as the issue of the 20th century, is "the color line" that exists not just in America but throughout the world. Although relating mostly to the American experience, DuBois would argue that a proper understanding of the color line is essential for understanding imperialism which dominated foreign affairs in the late 19th and early 20th century.

DuBois then challenges the prevailing consensus, established since Tocqueville that there is a singular American tradition based on the ideas of natural rights and equality. Instead DuBois is concerned with what Rogers Smith will later term "Ascribed Americanism" (ascribed, meaning to attribute characteristics to someone, literally coming from the word "scribe" meaning to write). In other words that there are distinctly "American" characteristics "written on" people. "Ascribed" status then is used in opposition to "achieved" status and refers to an unchangeable status you have at birth. Put simply, some people are "born Americans" and some are not, this ideology can be understood to be the opposite of the idea of "transnationalism" described by Bourne.

Smith will define this ideology in direct contrast to the ideas of an American consensus we have already touched upon with Tocqueville (mores) and Hartz (irrational Lockeanism), but also with Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish economist who is ironically best known for his book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy first published in 1944—still in DuBois' lifetime but slightly ahead of the period of time we are discussing. The thesis of the book is important for what we are looking at now because Myrdal like Tocqueville shares a similar idea of an American consensus (or creed), however he argues that racism in America can essentially be explained by a failure to realize these values or to live up to these principles. DuBois then begins the line of inquiry which goes to show that an established, well-developed racist ideology has been prevalent in the development of the laws and institutions of the U.S. and continues to be in the present, that is not simply the result of a lack of values, the absence of liberal ideology, but is in fact a developed system of values and opinions in itself.

In 1903 the world had basically been divided into colonial empires between the so-called ‘Great Powers of the World’: Great Britain, France, Russia, since the 1880s Germany and Japan, and after 1898 the United States. Beginning in 1884 into the following year, the Berlin Conference was held to organize and coordinate the efforts of the imperial powers in dividing up the regions of the world, in response to the rise of Germany in the late 19th century. The results of this conference begins what scholars call the "Scramble for Africa" an intensification of the efforts of European powers to divide up the regions of Africa between 1880-1914 when World War I begins. 

Before the 1890s, the United States was engaged in a continual process of Westward expansion that dated back to the earliest origins of the nations and only concluded by then. This was the frontier thesis by Frederick Jackson Turner who established the discipline of history in the U.S. 

The U.S. then challenged the once powerful Spanish Empire resulting in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Although the U.S. annexed Puerto Rico as a result of this conflict and made Cuba a dependent (though nominally independent) state, the U.S. made significant gains in the Pacific region as well annexing former Spanish colonies Guam and the Philippines. U.S. influence in the Caribbean and South America went at least as far back as the Monroe Doctrine of the 1820s. In 1855, a private expedition was led by William Walker to intervene in a civil war in Nicaragua, and after setting up his own puppet government, Walker himself became President of Nicaragua in 1856, he was later executed in 1860. Before the Panama Canal and the transcontinental railway were constructed, Nicaragua was used a route for Atlantic traffic crossing to the Pacific, and Walker's expedition was funded by U.S. business interests like Cornelius Vanderbilt who controlled railroads and steamship lines. U.S. involvement in the affairs of Nicaragua would reach another high point in the 1980s.

Having territories in the Pacific—including Hawaii, which was also annexed in 1898 after having overthrown its monarchy in 1893—was something new. However, the acquisition of overseas territories like Puerto Rico creates the first influx of immigrants from the these territories in the early 1900s. Mexican immigration begins even earlier, however the status of "immigrants" on land that was recently part of Mexico is highly contentious.
"School Begins," Louis Dalrymple, Puck, 1899
Uncle Sam (US) is seen discipling new additions to the American Empire:
Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hawaii, and the Philippines
An African-American, working, and a Native-American, reading upside down, and a Chinese immigrant, a new addition to the class (?) can be seen as well
The blackboard in the back says, "the U.S. must govern these territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves."

 It is ironic then, that a war against a fading European power justified by its atrocities committed towards Cuba and the Philippines, had the ultimate outcome of securing the U.S. presence in the Pacific. The war against Spain on a level not usually explicitly acknowledged also reinforced the idea of a clash between civilizations. The Spanish Empire was a reminder of a once great empire that had declined in power and prestige. In a way the relative ease in which the U.S. defeated Spain reinforced the idea of the transient and fleeting nature of glory and power. At the same time in which war is being fought against Spain, the U.S. Congress votes to annex Hawaii in June 1898.The acquisition of the Philippines and Guam, however cemented the U.S. presence in the East and Southeast Asian regions. Before the U.S. troops had landed in Cuba, the U.S. Navy had already attacked and destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay under the command of George Dewey who became one of the biggest heroes of the war. 

The tenacity of the U.S. in holding on to its newly established overseas Pacific territories is testament to the prolonged occupation of Philippines islands from 1899-1902 in which as many as 1.5 million Filipinos were killed. Although not as well-known this was the Vietnam War of the early 20th century. An insurrection by the Muslim "Moros" on the Philippines lasted from 1899-1913.
Jolo Massacre, 1906

Five years before war was declared the U.S. had also suffered its worst financial panic to date at that time in 1893. The feeling of divisiveness lingering from the Civil War compounded with the dread of financial ruin and unemployment after the “Panic of ’93” weakened the American public’s susceptibility to “war fever.” 

Estimates of the impact of the depression of 1893 are difficult to determine due to a lack of reliable empirical data from this period of time. For example, determining the level of unemployment in the country from 1893 and on falls within a diverse range of interpretations. Romer, estimates unemployment higher than 11% in 1895, and still over eleven in 1898. By 1900, unemployment had dropped down to 5% (Romer 1986). However, other estimates put the unemployment levels even higher and more volatile. Lebergott estimates unemployment at almost 14% in 1895, dropping only slightly to 12%, before also reaching 5% unemployment in 1900 (Lebergott 1992). By most estimates though, unemployment was well over 10% between 1894-1900, when it drastically decreased to around 5%. As the once reluctant President McKinley said after mobilization for war began, “There is no division in any part of the land. North, south, east and west, all alike cheerfully respond. From cap and campaign there comes magic healing which has closed ancient wounds.”

The development of American imperialism obviously was not the first encounter that Americans had of people of different backgrounds. Although it was now coming into area of the Asian states directly, tensions between whites and Asians was nothing new. Threats of the “Yellow Peril” had long been a part of American discourse since the early 19th century. As the U.S. became more of an overseas power it had more and more contact with the empires of Japan and China as well. Japan had actually been "opened" to the West by the U.S. in the 1850s after U.S. Naval Commodore Perry sailed his "Black Ships" into Tokyo. China or at least its port cities in the late nineteenth century was being divided by different European powers. The U.S. tried to maintain an "Open Door" policy of free trade in China (in reality to give itself an opportunity to trade in China which had already been monopolized by Europeans especially the British).
Theodore Roosevelt

The rhetoric used to justify these policies is summed by the theme of "responsibility." Since the U.S. is the strongest and the wealthiest nation (Social Darwinism) it should use this power responsibly. This sentiment is summed up in the phrase "White Man's Burden" after the poem by Rudyard Kipling in 1899. Probably the best representative of this idea was Theodore Roosevelt, who became President in 1901 after McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist. Roosevelt had become a national celebrity for his exploits in the Spanish-American War and became Governor of New York in 1899 before becoming McKinley's running mate in the Presidential election of 1900, which they won decisively. In one of the most famous political speeches, entitled, "The Strenous Life" first delivered in 1899 Roosevelt lays out the basis of the "responsibility" of the U.S. to play a greater role in foreign affairs, and compares the U.S. to another fading empire at this time, China:

We of this generation do not have to face a task such as that our fathers faced, but we have our tasks, and woe to us if we fail to perform them! We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in a scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk, busying ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day, until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities.
Roosevelt would be re-elected in 1904 on the strength of his most famous achievement the acquisition of the Isthmus of Panama and the beginning of the construction of the Panama Canal in 1904, a vital linkage between East and West. This was followed by the election of Roosevelt’s handpicked successor William Howard Taft in 1908, the former governor of the Philippines.

Other influential progressive leaders like Indiana Republican Senator Albert J. Beveridge also spoke in favor of imperialism and the supremacy of Anglo-Saxon civilization like in this speech from early 1900 during the Philippine-American War:
God has not been preparing the English speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master-organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns….He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples….He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America….The Philippines are ours forever. We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world (Butterfield 1957, p. 287).

Beveridge would later help Roosevelt found the Progressive Party for the 1912 Presidential election. 

In the media and academia these attitudes were also echoed by influential progressive elites like Kansas editor William Allen White who wrote in the Emporia Gazette in March 1899: “Only Anglo-Saxons can govern themselves. The Cubans will need a despotic government for many years to restrain anarchy until Cuba is filled with Yankees….It is the Anglo-Saxon’s manifest destiny to go forth as world conqueror. He will take possession of the islands of the sea….This is what fate holds for the chosen people” (Butterfield p. 287). Similarly, John W. Burgess, who founded the discipline of political science in the U.S. and the journal Political Science Quarterly, also a professor to Theodore Roosevelt at Columbia University wrote of the superiority of the Teutonic peoples in 1884: “The creation of Teutonic political genius stamps the Teutonic nations as the political nation par excellence, and authorizes them, in the economy of the world, to assume the leadership in the establishment and the administration of states” (Hofstadter 1955, p.175). 

Not all culture was pressed into servicing the myth of white supremacy and not all segments of American life favored imperialism. I mentioned last class William Graham Sumner, who founded sociology in the U.S. was opposed to imperialism and some could see through the sham of "ascribed Americanism," even then, for example Mark Twain who wrote in his travel book, Following the Equator (1897): “There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.”

However, the average American was less concerned with issues of international trade than with having to compete against immigrant laborers. Most notably Chinese immigrants competed with whites as cheap labor (Germans, Scandinavians, Poles, Scots, English, Irish, and others) for jobs working on railroads. The Transcontinental Railroad, started under Lincoln, would not have been completed without Chinese labor.
Chinese workers building the Transcontinental Railroad, circa 1868

The economic conflict over jobs that turns into racial conflict was something that DuBois noted carefully having observed a similar pattern in the South. Patterns of industrialization seem to begin first in cities and then pushes itself gradually into the rural countryside. The mechanism that explains this development is the search for cheap labor and land. As the wages of workers go up in cities, and other production costs increases like rent and transportation, manufacturers look outside the cities for a cheaper supply of workers and cheaper land. Regionally this pattern repeats itself on a larger scale: industrial factories start moving to the South. This sets off a conflict between whites and blacks for these factory jobs.

The "Great Migration" of African-Americans out of the South into Northern cities beginning about 1910, caused in large part by the end of Reconstruction and the establishment of Jim Crow laws roughly between 1870-1900. Chicago especially becomes one of the most popular destinations for blacks who are moving North. This is one reason why Chicago is sometimes referred to as "the Capital of Black America."

Distribution of African-American population, 1890

Overall as the 20th century was beginning it appeared as if race relations were getting worse in the country. In the Pacific states in the West anti-Chinese, and anti-Japanese feelings had already boiled over into full race riots. Legislation had also been passed limiting the number of Chinese and Japanese immigrants and putting strict limits on citizenship. In the South, lynching was escalating. 
Lynching of Laura and Lawrence Nelson, 1911

The first official segregation laws are passed supposedly intended as a way of diffusing more extreme forms of violence. In the North the conflict over industrial jobs was repeating itself as in the South, as some blacks begin migrating to the North for the first time. Also forms of “scientific racism” are coming into vogue at this time. All sorts of reputed “scientific studies” proving the superiority of the white race are being published during this time. Many of these theories that are equally popular in Europe and produced by many European intellectuals, become the basis of Nazi racial ideology.
Thomas Nast, "Scientific Racism," Harper's Weekly, circa 1882. Depicting Irish (Hibernian), Anglo-Saxon (Teutonic), and Negro

As African studies professor Molefi Kete Asante has said, before Dubois, African-Americans had "sporadic episodes of brilliance" and people like Phyllis Wheatley or Frederick Douglas might come to mind (Asante 2008). DuBois however was able to expand the work of African-Americans by creating institutions, in terms of education, of political activism, and other voluntary associations to provide a forum and an arena for African-Americans to mobilize themselves as a population. He also, almost single-handedly, confronts the myth of white supremacy head on to prove scientifically that blacks are not inferior to whites. He is willing to confront the supposedly scientific studies that prove white supremacy and debunk them one at a time. One way to do this is to provide real scientifc studies of African-Americans. DuBois' first major work is The Philadelphia Negro (1899), which was a systematic study of the black community in Philadelphia, the first systematic and unbiased study of African-Americans, as well one of the first major works of urban sociology, and one of the first major works to incorporate statistical analysis.

DuBois is closest to the intellectual heritage of Henry David Thoreau and the descendents of the Puritans. He was born and raised in Massachusetts as was Thoreau and Sam Adams. Later, he attended Fisk University a predominantly black college in Tennessee founded during the Reconstruction Era in 1866. He later attended Harvard, however, during his time at Harvard he transferred to the University of Berlin (1892-1894) and studied under German social scientists and economists who at that time were considered the best in their field. Despite wanting to stay on in Germany, Harvard made him come back and he finished his degree there. During his time in Germany, DuBois notices the conditions of Africans in Europe and other ethnic and racial groups. From these experiences, DuBois is able to "internationalize the African struggle" by showing that it was a global struggle. DuBois was instrumental in creating the first Pan-African Conference in 1900 and served as a delegate. He would later argue that imperialist competition over Africa is what pushed Europe into World War I.

The influence of his German philosophical training shows up in one of DuBois’ most important contributions, the idea of “Double Consciousness”. DuBois argues that everyone has a consciousness or awareness of who they think they are and who other people think they are. In German the word is Geist, and also means spirit. In Germany at this time they were teaching every people and every race has their own "spirit" and so DuBois picks up this line of thought in his work which is to depict the spirit or the souls of black folk. In the case of African-Americans, there is a greater tension between their own self-image and societies image of themselves. He argues that this causes significant tension but also allows the individual to be more self-consciously in control over their societal or public image of themselves. 

The opposite DuBois argues could be far worse, when there is no tension between your private self and your public image there is the tendency to forget there is a difference and the public self overwhelms the private self. With many Anglo-Saxons since there is less tension between their private and public selves, there is less self-awareness. In other words DuBois argues, a certain distance or tension between the two strengthens the inner spirit of the individual, however in the case of most blacks in America he argues the tension is too great and does more harm then good. Some modern African studies thinkers have critiqued this view which they regard as coming from DuBois' own mixed background.

DuBois’ had a famous feud and rivalry with Booker T. Washington, over Washington’s conformity with dominant white values and what he saw as an attitude of submission on the part of Washington. Instead DuBois favored direct political action and he was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. As the editor of its journal The Crisis, DuBois published articles that confronted racism directly and critiqued racist arguments.

He was also one of the first to write about the importance of the church in the black community. He also believed that a small part of the population “The Talented Tenth” as in ten percent of the black population was necessary in order to form a class of leadership, which has somewhat of an anti-democratic aspect to it.  

In the 1960s, he joined the Communist Party. Part of the reason DuBois is such an important thinker is because he was around so long. In terms of output he is responsible for over 2,000 publications in the course of his life. In historical terms, he is a thinker whose experience expands from the end of Reconstruction to the Cold War. He also moved to Ghana, the first sub-Saharan African nation to declare independence after World War II, where he became a committed African nationalist, Asante argues that at this point that DuBois abandons the notion of "double consciousness."

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Evidence of double-consciousness can be seen for example in the work of African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), who is known for his poems that are written in the more classical style and then poems written in "Negro dialect." It is notable that publishers usually insisted on his "Negro" poetry and was popular with a white audience. Dunbar himself always suspected the "marketability" of these poems, feeling it was in some way demeaning:

(From "Dreams")
What dreams we have and how they fly
Like rosy clouds across the sky;
Of wealth, of fame, of sure success,
Of love that comes to cheer and bless;
And how they wither, how they fade,
The waning wealth, the jilting jade —
The fame that for a moment gleams,
Then flies forever, — dreams, ah — dreams!

(From "A Warm Day In Winter")
"Sunshine on de medders,
Greenness on de way;
Dat's de blessed reason
I sing all de day."
Look hyeah! What you axing'?
What meks me so merry?
'Spect to see me sighin'
W'en hit's wa'm in Febawary?

Langston Hughes
In contrast, later poets like Langtson Hughes (1902-1967) sought to develop a more uniquely African-American perspective. Hughes came to prominence in the 1920s, as part of the Harlem Renaissance, and many of his early poems were published in DuBois' journal The Crisis. However Hughes and many other black artists and activists of his generation criticized the older generation represented by DuBois for being too accommodating to Eurocentric values, and thus anticipating the criticism of contemporary scholars like Asante. Hughes is usually credited with the phrase, "Black is beautiful."

Next class we will look at the Progressive Era. The articles by Bourne and Chesterton we read at the beginning of class were written during this time period.

Assignment (Due 1/22): Choose a passage from DuBois' writing and from the poems by Hughes  and write out the passages. Interpret them and explain why you chose them. 

Also go to African-America Odyssey and choose one section on Reconstruction and one on the "Booker T Washington Era." Summarize and interpret them on your blogs as well. If you are choosing a photo or an image, post the picture on your blog. If you are summarizing something that is written, write out the passage in your blog.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

1/16 Social Darwinism and Class Politics

"History Repeats Itself—The Robber Barons of the Middle Ages and The Robber Barons of Today," Samuel Erhardt, Puck, circa 1889

After the Civil War, class politics becomes the central political issue of the late 19th century, in many ways displacing race as the central conflict in America, even though racial conflict only intensified in the next several decades. Next class we will talk more about Reconstruction. 

In many ways, Americans throughout history into the present, have tended to obscure or deny the importance of class politics, or politics centering around economic inequality between different groups. The ever expanding American frontier made it possible to  deny the importance of economic inequality. This is suggested in historian Frederick Jackson Turner's essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," (1893). Whenever social pressures between classes were intensifying the government had the option of passing laws that would enable poorer people to attempt to settle areas along the American frontier, thus diffusing the tensions generated by inequality (i.e. the Homestead Act of 1862). This lasts until about 1890, after 1890, there is more of less continuous settlement throughout the continental U.S (from the east coast to the west coast). 

Slavery itself served first of all to take attention away from inequality in the North because so much attention was devoted to the moral evils of slavery. In the South, slavery served to conceal the inequalities between whites because slavery created a sense of "racial solidarity" between whites even though there were such huge economic gaps between rich and poor whites in the South. In this case, race transcended class. However, with the abolition of slavery and the rapid pace of industrialization Americans were forced to have a greater awareness of economic inequality between the working classes (the propertyless) and the ownership classes (those who owned private property especially industrial property).

The pace of industrialization increases dramatically after the 1860s because of innovations in the railroads, coal mining, and beginning in the 1850s, the production of steel.
Similarly, the Republican party becomes more and more identified as the party of "Big Business" which also continues into the present. Although originally formed as an anti-slavery party, with the abolition of slavery (at least in a legal sense) the party has to find a new reason for being. Promoting business and industry was one way to recreate itself. Many Republicans, including Lincoln, were Whigs before they became Republicans, the party of the business interests before the Civil War. Winning the war had in large part had to do with the superior technology, transportation, and larger population of the North. Railroad operators who used their lines to transport soldiers during the war now wanted compensation for their service and "patriotism," the same with manufacturers and large agricultural interests as well.  Also after the civil war, the Democratic party being identified as the party of slavery is in disgrace, and the Republican party dominates government for most of the rest of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Between 1860 and 1932 only two Democratic presidents are elected: Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897 the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms) and Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921).
At this time the Republican party did not subscribe to the free market ideology it has now, instead they stressed a cooperative relationship with business leaders for the sake of economic growth. The ways in which the party promoted industry were threefold: 1) The tariff, the government taxed foreign products being imported into the U.S. so as to encourage people to purchase American made industrial products (this was originally part of Alexander Hamilton's strategy); 2) Currency, the government controls the supply of money, based on the gold standard and the supply of gold. This creates a standard exchange rate between all the major currencies of the world at this time, like the British pound. This also keeps the supply of money small and stabilizes the prices of products which helps the profits of businesses; 3)Putting down labor strikes, the government helps industry put down strikes by workers by sending in soldiers often violently putting down the strikes and killing workers.

William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), who founded and organized the discipline of sociology in the United States at Yale beginning in the 1870s, is writing against this business-government collusion in his essay "What the Social Classes Owe Each Other," (1884) when he says: 

My notion of the state has dwindled with growing experience of life. As an abstraction, the State is to me only All-of-us. In practice–that is, when it exercises will or adopts a line of action–it is only a little group of men chosen in a very haphazard way by the majority of us to perform certain services for all of us. The majority do not go about their selection very rationally, and they are almost always disappointed by the results of their own operation. Hence, "the State," instead of offering resources of wisdom, right reason, and pure moral sense beyond what the average of us possess, generally offers much less of all those things. Furthermore, it often turns out in practice that "the State" is not even the known and accredited servants of the State, but, as has been well said, is only some obscure clerk, hidden in the recesses of a Government bureau, into whose power the chance has fallen for the moment to pull one of the stops which control the Government machine....( p. 302).
Sumner is usually identified as one of the more influential social darwinist thinkers (the most influential being Herbert Spencer, who Chesterton mentions in his book), who develop the liberal conception of "natural law" while also taking the so-called inner worldly asceticism of the Puritans and stripping it of its religious content:
To make such a claim against God and Nature would, of course, be only to say that we claim a right to live on earth if we can. But God and Nature have ordained the chances and conditions of life on earth once and for all. The case cannot be reopened. We cannot get a revision of the laws of human life. We are absolutely shut up to the need and duty, if we would learn how to live happily, of investigating the laws of Nature, and deducing the rules of right living in the world as it is. These are very wearisome and commonplace tasks. They consist in labor and self-denial repeated over and over again in learning and doing. When the people whose claims we are considering are told to apply themselves to these tasks they become irritated and feel almost insulted. They formulate their claims as rights against society–that is, against some other men. In their view they have a right not only to pursue happiness, but to get it; and if they fail to get, they think they have a claim to the aid of other men–that is, to the labor and self-denial of other men–to get it for them. (p. 303)

Social Darwinism, as the name implies, draws on the biological theories of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), most notably the concept of natural selection, more commonly known as the principle of "survival of the fittest."  The social aspect of it suggests that the analysis of natural selection is taken at a higher level of analysis (thus less empirical) the the individual biological organism. This idea was combined with theories of modernization from traditional societies to develop a general theory of social development and more important to create a hierarchy of "fit" societies. Obviously this analysis favored Western societies that were more industrialized and urbanized than other parts of the world:
A society based on contract is a society of free and independent men, who form ties without favor or obligation, and co-operate without cringing or intrigue. A society based on contract, therefore, gives the utmost room and chance for individual development, and for all the self-reliance and dignity of a free man. That a society of free men, cooperating under contract, is by far the strongest society which has ever yet existed; that no such society has ever yet developed the full measure of strength of which it is capable; and that the only social improvements which are now conceivable lie in the direction of more complete realization of a society of free men united by contract, are points which cannot be controverted. It followed, however, that one man, in a free state, cannot claim help from and cannot be charged to give help to, another (p. 305).
Social Darwinism is criticized for being a business ideology, due to its development at a time when industrial interests were rapidly expanding their control over the State (even though Sumner is opposed to this). Later social darwinist thinkers like Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) used this rhetoric to justify imperialism. However, when the U.S. became an imperalistic power after the 1898 Spanish-American War, Sumner became one of the most vocal critics of imperialism and was a co-founder of the Anti-Imperialist League.

Growing resistance to the power of the "Plutocrats" (from Pluto, Roman god of wealth and the underworld, and the Greek kratos meaning "rule") who now dominated the Republican party came from, the Populists, mainly Midwestern and Southern farmers (notably mainly were west of the Rainfall line and had to rely on the government to supply water) who resented the abusive practices of economic trusts, like the railroad trust. Trusts or monopolies are able to control markets by controlling prices. Farmers resented the high rates they had to pay to get their goods shipped to market. In fact, there was a prolonged agricultural depression in the country from about 1873-1893, even as industrialization grew rapidly, the prices of crops, even cotton were steadily decreasing. For many farmers even if they produced more every year they would get less money for it. The movement was limited mainly because of divisions between Midwestern farmers and urban ethnic populations. The indignant response of farmers to what they saw as a corrupt system was not shared by the urban populations who were less likely to oppose the system directly for fear of seeming entitled and were more concerned with assimilation.

The Populists were more sophisticated than many modern commentators give them  credit for and were able to focus their criticism against the economic system and not merely against isolated individuals. Unlike evangelists of today who attribute blame solely to individuals, the Populists, who also used the religious rhetoric of natural law in their speeches, stressed the failures of the social system. In this regard, the Populists had more of a sociological awareness than many later commentators give them credit for, later progressives instead tending to portray them as irrational. 

A national People's Party was formed in 1890 to challenge both Democrats and Republicans, but despite winning some Congressional elections, they were unable to win any kind of significant majority in Congress or gain the Presidency in 1892. However, they continued to grow in popularity, and when in 1896 the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, the most populist-leaning Democrat as their candidate, the Populists joined with the Democrats and supported Bryan. The Democrats lost narrowly in one of the most important elections in American history.

Instead politics tended to favor people like Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), who made his fortune in steel. After his death, the Carnegie Steel Corporation was bought by J.P. Morgan, as in J.P. Morgan Chase the bank. It was then renamed the U.S. Steel Corporation which still exists today, the first billion dollar corporation and for many years the largest corporation in the world, although since the 1960s steel production was been on the decline. Carnegie believed in a notion of "benign paternalism" (kind father) similar to the original Federalist idea of the "wise property-owner" who looks after the affairs of his community, now updated to the "wise industrialist" or "captain-of-industry" (the polite alternative to the term "robber baron"). 

Carnegie reflects the dominant social darwinist zeitgeist (German for "spirit of the times" zeit=time geitst=spirit) when he says: 
But, whether the law be benign or not, we must say of it, as we say of the change in the conditions of men to which we have referred: It is here; we cannot evade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race. Having accepted these, it follows that there must be great scope for the exercise of special ability in the merchant and in the manufacturer who to conduct affairs upon a great scale. That this talent for organization and management is rare among men is proved by the fact that it invariably secures for its possessor enormous rewards, no matter where or under what laws or conditions (p. 328).
Many steel workers on strike were killed or wounded by Carnegie's men, but at the same time Carnegie believed that the proper administration of wealth was not incompatible with the teachings of Christ. Carnegie is also known for his philanthropy and patronage of the arts such as Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Carnegie Corporation which provides funding and grants to academics through organizations like the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and the Carnegie Institution for Science.

A dramatized engraving recreating the Haymarket Riot, 1886

 Strikes in urban centers had been rapidly growing since the late 1860s and especially after a severe economic depression from 1873-1879. One of the most violent was the Haymarket Riot May 4th, 1886 in Chicago. Even in the present Chicago still has a reputation for being a hotbed of radical activity. In the 1960s, groups like the Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had large headquarters in Chicago, and was also the site of the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention. 

Some activists still refer to Chicago as the "capital of Black America," due to its heavy concentration of black political and social activists including Jesse Jackson (who continued the program begun by Martin Luther King in Chicago in 1966), entertainers like Oprah Winfrey, its importance in the history of jazz and blues music, and of course President Obama's political career began in Chicago as well. 

During a confrontation between police and workers on strike for an eight hour workday, a bomb exploded and police started shooting. As a result of the violence, seven police officers and four protestors were killed, with several dozen more  injuries. Seven anarchists were put on trial for this and four were executed despite lack of evidence tying any of the defendants to the bomb. Unsurprisingly this had little effect in decreasing the frequency and intensity of conflicts between industrialists and workers.

 The Populist opposition of the 1890s was led by activists like Henry Demarest Lloyd (1847-1903), a journalist in Chicago (notable as middle-ground between agricultural and urban interests) who became known as one of the first "muckraking" journalists exposing corruption or abusive business practices. He also wrote articles in defense of the Haymarket anarchists. In an era before there is an organized Socialist Party (1901) in the country and long before a Communist Party (1919), the loose network of populists composed mainly of journalists, farmers, preachers, and professors from the Midwest formed the socialist opposition to the system. 

This pattern of conflict between classes becomes evident almost throughout the world as socialist parties in Europe and then later in European colonies develop socialist parties in opposition to capitalist-led (bourgeois) political institutions and parties modeled on constitutionalism and the separation of powers. In European states like Germany (which only became a unified state in 1871) the class conflict was more concentrated in the urban centers, rather than in the rural areas of the country. The growth of the labor movement and the growth of the Socialist Party in the United States under leaders like Eugene Debs (1855-1926) mark the point at which the urban class struggle becomes more the focal point of class conflict than the agrarian struggles of the 1870s through the 1890s.

Next class we will look more at the consequences of the Civil War for African-Americans and how an evolving political system adapts to the inclusion of African-Americans in the political system (not very well), as well as the development of imperialism.

Assignment (Due 1/22): Choose a passage from Sumner, Lloyd, or Carnegie. Write out the passage, explain the meaning of the passage and its relevancy to the themes of this lecture.

Go to the link for the Labor History Timeline. Choose an event from the period we are looking at (1860-1900), research this event and explain its significance to class politics.

Friday, January 4, 2013

1/4 The Puritans

Puritans Praying

Since religion played such an important part in the last lecture it is important to understand the religious origins of the country. The Puritans then would be in the words of Randolph Bourne, "the first immigrants" to arrive. This is the first class in which you were supposed to have read from the course packet. Although this week's readings are fairly short I have to admit the older style of writing can be difficult (that means somewhat boring) to read. This is true. But I want you to be aware of how different we are today and to notice differences in language, and since we think in language, differences in thought. This is important because for all the differences there is also a surprising amount of similarity in the way they think at least in principles of government. Certainly, people in the present at least claim to be following the principles set down in the beginning. So, by becoming aware of how different they thought and wrote back then you will become more aware of the differences and similarities between early American thinkers and more contemporary ones. Anyway, hopefully by putting the readings into context it will make them easier to understand as well.

The legacy of the Puritans is probably best well-known through the writings of early 20th century sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) who wrote the highly influential essay and later book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, first published in 1905. In other words published during the height of the industrial age, Weber's objective was to unearth what made capitalist and industrial development take off in Europe and the U.S. in the 19th century. He wanted a way to explain this without resorting to the kind of racial superiority theories that were in vogue at this time.

Weber found in the Puritan lifestyle a perfect model of behavior necessary for the development of the capitalist "free market" system. Put simply, the moral restraints of Puritanism require a person to work hard, save their money, and live simple. As it turns out this kind of behavior was almost the perfect complement for the kind of behavior needed for the accumulation of capital. Weber termed this behavior "inner-worldly asceticism," meaning that it was a form of religious behavior oriented towards the world instead of behavior oriented towards the next world, what he termed, "other-worldly"–monks who live in a monastery would be an example of other-worldly ascetics. Asceticism, refers to conduct characterized by self-denial as opposed to "mysticism" which is geared towards changing consciousness or "hedonism" which is behavior oriented to pleasure.

Weber uses the famous American Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) as an example of this ethic at work, however Weber stresses that as time goes on, the religious foundation of this ethic declines as capitalism itself develops as a self-sustaining economic system. Weber's analysis is still influential for those who seek to understand the complex dynamics between culture and economics. 

As we will see however, the earliest Puritan communities did have laws that regulated the distribution of wealth and provided for public services and social welfare. So literally in terms of culture, politics, and economics the fingerprints of the Puritans are everywhere in the American political system.

Besides the legacy of the Puritans for the development of capitalism, the other enduring legacy of the Puritans are the Salem Witch Trials from 1692-1693 and most memorably dramatized in The Crucible by Arthur Miller first performed in 1953 (a crucible is a container that can withstand high pressures). In Miller's writing, the witch trials become an allegory for the "Red Scare" of the 1950s, most infamously the House Un-American Committee and the McCarthy hearings, as well as the surveillance activities of FBI director J Edgar Hoover. "Puritanical" is now synonymous with being intolerant, repressive, rigid, formal, etc.

The influence of Puritan thought on late progressive thinking is also strong. The Puritans for all their faults were early leaders in the Abolition movement against slavery (as were other groups like the Quakers who were even more marginalized). It is not a coincidence that the state of Massachusetts is still considered to be a stronghold of progressive liberalism today (and makes it so much more ironic that a Catholic like John F. Kennedy would later represent New England liberals). To this day, the term "Boston Brahmins" is used as a sarcastic put-down of the "progressive ruling class" that dominates Massachusetts politics, the term Brahmin being a reference to the ancient Indian ruling class of priests.

In the context of this class, however we are more interested in the influence of the Puritans on the later development of the the political system, although as suggested their impact upon economic development and cultural mores cannot be underestimated, nor can those dimensions be separated from the development of the political system as well.

The Puritans are important to understand the American political system because they are the "genetic ancestor" of the current system. This can be understood two ways: the current system has "evolved" out of the Puritan system of self-government through history. In another sense, the "township" or "municipality" is like the "nucleus" or the "cell" out of which the larger "organism" (the political system) grows out of. In other words, it is at the local level in which most people feel directly the impact of political life, or as it is common to say "all politics is local," which may not always be true, but is always a popular saying.  Tocqueville describes life in the New England township around 1830:

The existence of the townships of New England is, in general, a happy one. Their government is suited to their tastes, and chosen by themselves. In the midst of the profound peace and general comfort that reign in America, the commotions of municipal life are infrequent. The conduct of local business is easy. The political education of the people has long been complete; say rather that it was complete when the people first set foot upon the soil. In New England no tradition exists of a distinction of rank; no portion of the community is tempted to oppress the remainder; and the wrongs that may injure isolated individuals are forgotten in the general contentment that prevails. If the government has faults (and it would no doubt be easy to point out some), they do not attract notice, for the government really emanates from those it governs, and whether it acts ill or well, this fact casts the protecting spell of a parental pride over its demerits. Besides, they have nothing wherewith to compare it. England formerly governed the mass of the colonies; but the people was always sovereign in the township, where its rule is not only an ancient, but a primitive state (Tocqueville, Book 1 Ch. 5).

Tocqueville also speaks of the political education and traditions of equality. Culturally, besides the tradition of democratic self-government, the strong religious beliefs of the Puritans has imprinted itself upon American culture. Even today, most people tend to assume that local politics: the town, city, municipality, etc is the most natural or organic level of politics compared to national or international politics and Americans, public opinion polls show, tend to be more religious than European nations. 

The first communities established by the Puritans were established by the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1630. However they were not the original inhabitants in the so-called "New World." Besides the Native American civilizations like the Iroquois and the Powhatan who had already established large tribal nations other European colonies by the French had been established, but most importantly the Spanish who had dominated South and Central America since 1492 and who established the first "city" in the continental U.S., Saint Augustine, Florida in 1565. However sometime after 1588 after the first Spanish Armada was sent against England and failed, England ruled at the time by Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) began to move past Spain as the dominant power in Europe. 

Around the same time the Dutch are founding their own nation, in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium, the United Provinces in 1581. The English, who were mostly Protestant, would support the large Protestant and Calvinist-minority Dutch in their revolt against the Catholic Spanish who at the time controlled the region, this in turn was a motive for the Spanish to attack the English. So even in the 16th century, international politics were fairly complex and intricate. To complicate matters more, in the following century the English and the Dutch would both become economic trading powers and enter into competition with each other. This in turn led to several wars between the English and Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries–this is notable also in that competition over trade was considered the major catalyst for war.

The city of New York was originally, New Amsterdam, a Dutch trading outpost, founded in 1614 and the capital of New Netherland (Henry Hudson, working for the Dutch, sailed up what is now called the Hudson River in 1608). It was captured by the English in 1664 and renamed after the Duke of York, later James II. This in turn provoked the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667) which the Dutch won and would continue to dominate world trade until the 18th century. Ironically, it was the placement of a Dutch king on the throne of England, William III, in 1689, known as the "Glorious Revolution" that led to Dutch merchants choosing to conduct business through London that led to British dominance over the Dutch in the following century.

This was the backdrop in which the earliest successful English settlements in North America were established first at Jamestown in Virginia (1607); then at Plymouth, Massachusetts by the Pilgrims (1620); followed by the Puritans who settled in what is now Boston (1630). Jamestown  was originally founded as a commercial settlement intended to be a trading outpost. It struggled until about 1612 when it started producing tobacco one of the first "cash crops." Slavery was introduced in 1619.

In the North, the first settlements were established first by the Pilgrims who were "Separatists" meaning they were leaving the official Church of England (headed by the monarch) to found their own religion. The Puritans did not see themselves as separating from the church, they saw themselves as "Reformers" and thus saw themselves as trying to "purify" the corrupt aspects of English life, which they thought was pretty corrupt. Puritan was originally meant as an insulting term but as is sometimes the case they took this insulting term and changed the meaning into something positive.

Early New England

Obviously we cannot go too deeply into Puritan theology and what exactly it is that they believed that made their beliefs different from other religious groups.  However, certain aspects of their theology is important to understand their later political beliefs which they used to organize their society. Chief among them, and I suppose common to all Christian denominations, is the belief in "The Fall," the inherent corruption and limitations of humanity as they are depicted in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, told in the Book of Genesis. 

However, while the Puritans saw humankind as corrupt they saw this as a motive that brings people together. A perfect person could be totally self-sufficient, but anything short of that you are going to need other people. This is not to say that they were unaware of the desire to be free of other people and not be dependent, but they saw this as an expression of pride which they equated with "original sin" the fundamental imperfection and corruption of humanity. Original sin was also equated with our desire to control other people, and thus slavery was a part of humankind's fundamental flaw.

"The Expulsion from Paradise," Charles Joseph Natoire, 1740, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New  York
Puritanism was influenced by John Calvin (1509-1564) who was one of the founders of the Protestant Reformation and also the magistrate (from the Latin magistratus similar to the word "master" or even "magic") of the city of Geneva in Switzerland in the mid 1500s. What the Puritans inherited from "Calvinism" (-ism a suffix meaning a set of beliefs or theory) was the emphasis on bringing Christian values into the practical world of politics. The most distinct belief of Calvinism is probably the idea of "predestination." This doctrine states that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will not and there is no way to know beforehand. This is a difficult belief to psychologically accept because it means for the most part, most people are destined for Hell, and only a very few have been saved by God, they are "the Elect" (the chosen in other words). This belief fits in with their beliefs that stress the uncertainty and limitations of humanity and a more scientific understanding of the natural world which de-emphasized the idea of spirits in nature or that God acts through nature. Puritans were not anti-science and accepted that the best way to understand the universe was through the mathematical laws of nature. God is very distant in the Calvinist doctrine. Calvin also emphasized the "classics" i.e. ancient Greek and Roman texts, especially the political philosophy of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322BC).

Aristotle had believed that humans were a "political animal" by nature, in other words that the natural behavior of humans is to create small political communities to cooperate in order to survive and thrive, or to rest peacefully (civis in Latin or in Greek 
κεῖμαι). This relates to what Tocqueville said about the township being not just ancient, but primitive. In this regard, Aristotle, who also founded zoology and almost all the other natural sciences probably saw humans as no different than animals who build nests or other habitats or animals that travel in flocks or herds. Just as they are following their natures it is human nature to form communities with each other. He also believed in teleology or the belief that everything has a telos or "final purpose." Virtue, is defined by how well an object achieves its purpose or potential. For humanity its telos was to develop itself to its highest level which could only be attained in a political community. Individuals who lived outside of the community or did not participate in the community were seen as "incomplete" or defective in someway.

Politics, virtue, and development were all interconnected with each other in a way that is not normally stressed in modern politics. Politics itself was seen as an "art," its purpose was to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of human development. 

Knowledge of the art of politics was referred to as praxis and was different from other forms of knowledge in that it was not strictly technical or academic knowledge but practical knowledge aimed towards a specific goal in this case knowledge of what is good for people combined with knowledge of how to get things done (a rare combination). 

Praxis itself was a form of phronesis which again was practical knowledge as distinct from techne or technical knowledge. "Reason" or the ability to use logic or form coherent arguments was an essential part of this process. In sharp contrast to contemporary "Christian" movements in the U.S. that are "anti-intellectual," the original Puritan settlers believed that acquiring knowledge was a fundamental requirement of a good Christian and in a sense pays homage to God's creation. Reason itself is a tool and a gift from God which allows to humanity to strive towards goodness.

Puritans then sought to bring together their version of Calvinist theology with classical political philosophy in an environment that was largely but not completely unsettled but where they were free of the interference of other European powers. However the lack of settlement forced the Puritans to have to settle the land and make it livable. The combination of these intellectual forces and the natural environment they were in became the matrix for the Puritan township which as I already said is the basis from which the American political system is built from. The Puritan township is distinct for the high level of participation by the members of the community. However, they still had leaders and in the first reading we have a speech by the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop (1587-1649).

John Winthrop
Sometime on the voyage over from England in 1630 Winthrop delivered his "city on a hill" speech, otherwise known as "A Model of Christian Charity," which I mentioned last class. The phrase comes from Matthew 5:14-16:

Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do [men] light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (italics added).

This idea of glorifying God through work expresses perfectly the idea of what Weber calls "inner-worldly asceticism." So from the very beginning they saw themselves as a model for the world which as I already said fits in with their project of trying to purify the corrupt practices of England (who they always considered themselves loyal subjects of). But they did intend on taking their theology stressing human limitation and uncertainty and classical political philosophy and using it to guide the political affairs of their community.

Some of their distinctive beliefs were:

1) Although stressing the limits of humanity, Puritans argued there are different levels of corruption and perfection not absolutes. The goal of the political community was simple: to "minimize the effects of sin in the population."

2) The "covenant" was the basis of all social relationships. Covenant implies a mutually binding obligation people enter into with each other and with God. It is different from a contract in that it stresses the ethical obligations people owe to another whereas a contract is just an agreement made on the basis of self-interest. Puritans defined different kinds of covenant relationships: the covenant of the Elect (those who are saved); the natural covenant based on the people in your environment; the civic and church covenants to respect the laws of the state and the church.

3) Economic legislation was passed that regulated commerce and trade, created public works projects that benefitted the community, provided for unemployment, injuries, and assistance for the poor.

4) Church and state were not seen as separate but instead were meant to complement each other, the state "punishes vice" the church "rewards virtue." However both in reality must overlap to some extent and the church must also punish and the state must reward. This also meant that formal limits to the power of the political leaders must be removed which is what Winthrop in the speech we are going over today, "The Little Speech."

The reasons why the magistrate must be free to act, he says, is because of the need to preserve civil liberty which he distinguishes between natural liberty. Natural liberty we can say is the kind of liberty people have in the pre-political state of nature when they are isolated and alone. He has only negative things to say about this kind of liberty. Civil liberty refers to the liberty one gets from being part of the community which as I already said is the only way to "minimize sin" and achieve the "telos" for which humanity is intended or in other words to develop its highest potential.

Winthrop also argues that the citizens must be tolerant to the leaders, and not criticize them as much when they make mistakes. This might sound strange to hear a politician say this today, although many of them still do. The reason for it goes back to the earlier passage from Tocqueville: since the government is not separate from the people, the people have to take their share in the responsibility when things do not turn out as well. The leaders are not semi-divine beings set to rule over them, but chosen from the people themselves and subject to the same flaws and weaknesses of all the people. 

In other words, in a democracy you have to put up with a government that makes mistakes but the mistakes are tolerable because people feel as if they participate in the community to some extent. One of the main aspects of fascism in the 20th century was its supposed efficiency. A common statement made about Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in Italy (1922-1943) was that "he made the trains run on time."In other words do you want everything to run smoothly but have no freedom, or do you want freedom but have to deal with more mistakes and more flaws? This is usually posed as the essential question to choose between fascism and democracy. However many would argue that popular government has always been the most efficient form of government.

The readings by Roger Williams (1603-1683) undermine the basis of the Puritan community even though we now recognize Williams' contribution to the argument for the "separation of church and state" today. Williams was censored by the Puritans and eventually forced to leave the colony where he founded the colony of Rhode Island. Unlike Winthrop and Calvin who stressed the activist spirit of Christian theology, Williams tended to emphasize the idea of purity and corruption so strictly that everything secular including politics seemed hopelessly corrupt and beyond saving.

Roger Williams
Williams came to Massachusetts in 1631 after being trained in England at Cambridge and witnessed first hand the religious persecutions of the middle of the 17th century. By the 1640s religious conflicts in England had escalated into a full fledged Civil War (1642-1651) between the Puritans and the Anglicans (Church of England) in Parliament. This conflict itself overlapped with the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) mainly fought in Central Europe in present day Germany between Catholics and Protestants, but also involving England, the Spanish and the Dutch as well. This war, also a religious war was the most destructive war in European history until the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). 
Les Grandes Miséres de la guerre, (The Great Miseries of War), Jacques Callot, 1632

In 1644 Williams writes:

So that magistrates, as magistrates, have no power of setting up the form of church government, electing church officers, punishing with church censures, but to see that the church does her duty therein. And on the other side, the church as churches, have no power (though as members of a commonweal they may have power) of erecting or altering forms of civil government, electing of civil officers, inflicting civil punishments (no not on persons excommunicate) as by deposing civil magistrates from their civil authority, or withdrawing the hearts of the people against them, to their laws, no more than to discharge wives, or children, or servants, from due obedience to their husbands, parents, or masters (p. 21).
Although Thomas Jefferson is usually given credit for the principle of the separation of church and state, or as he called it "a wall of separation," you can see that Williams writing more than a century before is clearly talking about the same concept.

The Puritans under Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) won over the Anglicans, the Royalist supporters (or Cavaliers) and the English king Charles I was executed in 1649. The Commonwealth of England was then established (1649-1653) until England was placed under the "Protectorate" of "Lord Protector" Cromwell (1653-1658) and then his son until 1659.

The English Parliament really under the control of Cromwell then ruled England until the "Restoration" when Charles II took power and was placed on the throne in 1660. During Cromwell's reign besides fighting against Catholics and Anglicans in England, Cromwell invaded Ireland in 1649 and his army massacred many Irish Catholics, also causing famine and plague, thus setting into motion the centuries old conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. The first Anglo-Dutch War is also fought between 1652-1654.

In 1652 Williams writes, referring to the tenet or belief in persecution for "cause of conscience" or religious belief:
A tenet that fights against the common principles of all civility, and the very civil being and combinations of men in nations, cities, etc., by comixing (explicitly or implicitly) a spiritual and civil state together, and so confounding and overthrowing the purity and strength of both...(p. 22).

It is important to keep in mind that the English Civil War  happened after the colonies had been established in the "New World." Initially, the civil war cut off the flow of immigration and led to an economic depression in the 1640s and 50s. 

The state of Virginia's nickname for example is "The Old Dominion."  This is because during the civil war the colony was strongly loyal to the king and recognized Charles II before he officially became king. After becoming King of England the then Colony of Virginia was nicknamed the old dominion because the king ruled there first before he ruled all of England. 

In the folklore and mythology of the South of which Virginia was the largest state, this is important to explain some of the aristocratic tendencies of the Southern plantation class who believed themselves, not without reason, to have strong lineages to the English royalty and to the highest levels of the English nobility who went into exile. Randolph Bourne attributed the predominance of Anglo-Saxons in the South with the region's overall backwardness and underdevelopment. According to Forbes magazine the three richest counties in the U.S. are in Virginia: Loudoun, Falls Church (technically an "independent city" not a county), and Fairfax, all in Northern Virginia.

In the Puritan colonies in the North, this led to stricter controls being placed on the colonies who were virtually independent before this. The king even appointed a royal governor to oversee the colonies and would only be answerable to him. The economic depression of the 1640s had created gaps between rich and poor for the first time in the community. By this time, most of the original generation of the Puritans who had made the journey over and who had to build the community almost from scratch had either died or were elderly. 

The younger generations were able to benefit from the work of the parents and grandparents but did not have to work as hard for them. People did not need to stick together as much anymore and gradually the covenant ties binding the community began to weaken. 

Shipping and trade had grown considerably and Boston had become one of the most active ports in the New World which helped sustain industries like lumber, fishing and fur trading. Industries like hunting for whales to make lantern oil (the inspiration for the later novel Moby Dick) was also a vital industry. Rum manufacturing was also another major industry but one that what was connected directly to the Atlantic slave trade. 

As private fortunes grew little by little the economic legislation was overturned. The emphasis on limitations and humility began to change as people tried to devise means to determining who was saved and who was not. Wealth began to be seen as a symbol of God's favor and gradually those who were saved came to be seen as those who were wealthy and vice versa. Religion came to be seen as a private matter not a public concern. The relationship to God was through the individual not the community. The Puritans tried to pass on their culture which was quickly dying and established colleges like Harvard  (1636) originally to train new ministers, but even if they could pass on their theoretical knowledge they could not pass on their practical knowledge. 

In 1691 Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay are unified in one colony, the Province of Massachusetts. The infamous Salem Witch Trials occurred in the 1690s which probably expressed to what level social relations between people had declined even with increasing material prosperity.

This was the backdrop in which John Wise (1652-1725) is writing in the early 1700s. In other words, Wise unlike Winthrop and Williams is writing after the peak of the Puritan settlement in America, when it was in decline. Wise unlike the other two immigrants was born in the New World. Wise then sees himself as trying to revive the older teachings of the Puritans. He is similar to Winthrop in his emphasis on the "political nature" of humanity taken from Aristotle who also created the schema of: monarchy, aristocracy, democracy that Wise uses. Where he differs from the more authoritarian Winthrop is his emphasis on the direct democracy of the people:

This form of government, appears in the greatest part of the world to have been the most ancient. For that reason seems to show it to be most probable, that when men (being originally in a condition of natural freedom and equality) had thoughts of joining in a civil body, would without question be inclined to administer their common affairs, by their common judgement, and so much necessarily, to gratify that inclination, establish a democracy; neither can it be rationally imagined that fathers of families being yet free and independent should in a moment or little time take off their long delight in governing their own affairs and devolve all upon some single sovereign Commander, for that it seems to have been thought more equitable that what belonged to all should be managed by all when all had entered by compact into one community (p.23).

By the time Wise is writing, the size of the community had grown large enough to produce a separation between leaders and followers that did not exist in Winthrop's time. As such he is concerned with the idea of equality in a democracy, just as when actual inequalities are increasing dramatically:
Also the natural equality of men among men must be duly favored, in that government was never established by God or Nature to give one man a prerogative to insult over another; therefore in a civil, as well in a natural, state of being, a just equality is to be indulged so far as every man is bound to honor every man, which is agreeable both with Nature and Religion (p. 27).

Wise argues that democratic government is clearly implied by Jesus' teaching and is the most natural and the most beneficial form of government. However, even if democracy and Christian values can co-exist, Wise's own suggestions that democracy is the most ancient form of government suggests a different origin. Besides, the cultural and historical lineage of Greek city-states and the early Roman republic, the pre-Christian Germanic tribal customs of the Anglo-Saxons allowed for the election of kings by the freemen of the clan or tribe. This practice continued for awhile even after the conversion to Christianity in what is known as the "Witanagemont" an assembly of the ruling class to advise the king and was permitted to select the king from the leading members of the ruling family, and considered to be a precursor to the British Parliament.

Winthrop, Williams, and Wise had many things in common. They both combined political and spiritual authority in one person even Williams who despite his beliefs was in fact a political leader of his followers. American politics has been heavily impacted by the original Puritan settlers both in its emphasis on democratic self-government and Christian values which are both highly interconnected if not in fact identical which at least seems to be what John Wise is arguing.

Next class we will explore the contributions of the European Enlightenment on American thought leading up to the American revolution. Remember it is the Declaration of Independence that Chesterton sees what he calls the "creed of America" and is even more important from the perspective of understanding the American political system as a civil religion.

Assignment (Due 1/7): Choose a passage from one of the readings. Write out the passage. Under that interpret the passage of what the author is saying, and why they are saying it. Explain why you chose this passage and what it means to you.

Also, go to the link that says "Puritans" and read the summary on the Puritans. Summarize on your blogs either "The New England Way," "The Half-Way Covenant," or "The Plain Style," and how this relates to what we have learned about the Puritans. 

There is also a list of books written about the Puritans. Select one of those books and look up reviews of the books either on Google, JSTOR, or Academic Search and summarize the book. You do not have to read the book itself but if you read a few book reviews you will gain a good understanding of what the book is about. It will also give you an idea how to write a review of the book you are looking at. Please remember to include the author and title of the book. 

  • Perry Miller's "The Marrow of Puritan Divinity" in Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge:  Harvard UP, 1956): 48-98.
  • Emory Elliott, Power and the Pulpit in Puritan New England
  • Charles Lloyd Cohen, "Covenant Psychology" in God's Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1986)
  • John von Rohr, The Covenant of Grace in Puritan Thought (Atlanta, GA:  Scholars Press, 1986)
  • Darrett Rutman, American Puritanism
  • David Hall, The Faithful Shepherd
  • David Hall, The Antinomian Controversy
  • Sargent Bush, The Writings of Thomas Hooker
  • Michael McGiffert, "Grace and Works:  The Rise and Division of Covenant Divinity in Elizabethan Puritanism," Harvard Theological Review 75.4 (1982): 463-502.
  • Amy Schrager Lang, Prophetic Woman

  • Janice Knight, Orthodoxies in Massachusetts