The Modern Structure is the 500 year evolutionary consequence of Martin Luther’s Reformation.
It is the Dark Mirror of the Catholic Church.
Luther’s “priesthood” of all believers, premised on theological equality, is what has led to equality being one of the central faiths of this era.
What is the Modern Structure’s theory of human nature?
Firstly, it owes some of its conceptual content to Christianity, in particular Protestant Christianity; however, it has undergone evolution and synthesis with other theories from “Protestant” philosophers John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau.
The Modern Structure’s theory of human nature is an incoherent combination of Locke’s “blank slate” and Rousseau’s “Noble Savage”.
Steven Pinker, in his book The Blank Slate: and the Modern Denial of Human Nature, calls the above doctrines as forming the “Official Theory.” (Sounds a little like the Catholic Church no?)
Here is Pinker on Locke:
“His alternative theory, empiricism, was intended both as a theory of psychology—how the mind works—and as a theory of epistemology—how we come to know the truth. Both goals helped motivate his political philosophy, often honored as the foundation of liberal democracy. Locke opposed dogmatic justifications for the political status quo, such as the authority of the church and the divine right of kings, which had been touted as self-evident truths.”
Isn’t that an interesting term, “motivate”? There is a scholarly question as to if this is an accurate description of Locke’s intention – that his theory of human nature was “motivated” or designed to weaken the political formula of “divine right”; let’s assume that it is accurate however. Reactionary Future, has a lot to say on this subject of empiricism’s role in the Cathedral (the policy and propaganda arm of the Modern Structure). It is excellent research, though the actual epistemological status of empiricism remains untouched.
Locke’s notion of a blank slate also undermined a hereditary royalty and aristocracy, whose members could claim no innate wisdom or merit if their minds had started out as blank as everyone else’s. It also spoke against the institution of slavery, because slaves could no longer be thought of as innately inferior or subservient.
During the past century the doctrine of the Blank Slate has set the agenda for much of the social sciences and humanities. As we shall see, psychology has sought to explain all thought, feeling, and behavior with a few simple mechanisms of learning. The social sciences have sought to explain all customs and social arrangements as a product of the socialization of children by the surrounding culture: a system of words, images, stereotypes, role models, and contingencies of reward and punishment.”
“The Blank Slate has also served as a sacred scripture for political and ethical beliefs. According to the doctrine, any differences we see among races, ethnic groups, sexes, and individuals come not come from differences in their innate constitution but from differences in their experiences. Change the experiences—by reforming parenting, education, the media, and social rewards—and you can change the person. Underachievement, poverty, and antisocial behavior can be ameliorated; indeed, it is irresponsible not to do so. And discrimination on the basis of purportedly inborn traits of a sex or ethnic group is simply irrational.”
Now, you can see how philosophy, politics, history and ethics form a continuous whole; however, you also see how ideas are used as weapons in the struggle for power.
A political formula – such as the one used by the Nazis – premised on intellectual, physical and moral differences, resulting from innate characteristics, could justify a different political formula.
Now, for the second element of the formula; here is Pinker on the noble savage:
The concept of the noble savage was inspired by European colonists’ discovery of indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, and (later) Oceania. It captures the belief that humans in their natural state are selfless, peaceable, and untroubled, and that blights such as greed, anxiety, and violence are the products of civilization.
No one can fail to recognize the influence of the doctrine of the Noble Savage in contemporary consciousness. We see it in the current respect for all things natural (natural foods, natural medicines, natural childbirth) and the distrust of the man-made, the unfashionability of authoritarian styles of childrearing and education, and the understanding of social problems as repairable defects in our institutions rather than as tragedies inherent to the human condition.
Thomas Sowell has developed one of the best analytical treatments of left and right and how their different visions of human nature logically lead to different political visions.
I am going to adapt Sowell’s terminology slightly in what follows. In Conflict he uses the term constrained and unconstrained, then in a later book he uses the term Tragic and Utopian to mean the same things; I will use both to refer, on the one hand, a vision of human nature, and the second to the two political visions that follow, more or less deductively, from premises about human nature.
The following is my summary.
1: Constrained Vision of Human Nature.
There is a definite, universal, human nature that is a product of evolution. Man is constrained by physical, biological and psychological forces (constraints), as well as social and economic ones. These constraints range from being absolutely fixed – the need for water, food and heat – to somewhat fixed – physical, intellectual and personality traits – to more culturally flexible – particular language and religious belief. Furthermore, humans are constrained in terms of intelligence, time-preference and sympathy for others.
2: Human are diverse in their physical, cognitive and emotional abilities and dispositions: humans are thus not equal, except as a moral preference. Given this, and because all human desires cannot be satisfied in principle, cooperation, competition and conflict will be persistent features of human life. Such problems as war, inequality, nepotism, ethno-centrism and various forms of rivalry cannot be eliminated.
3: Since human social problems cannot be solved, they can only be managed; thus, political, social, legal and moral constraints are necessary to constrain conflict.
Politics is thus Tragic.
1: Unconstrained Vision of Human Nature.
Humans have no nature. Whatever dispositions they have, are given by society. Because man has no innate influences, or constraints, there are no limits for radical change.
2: Social problems – crime, poverty, inequality and war – result from unjust social design.
3: Enlightened social and political engineers can re-design society in order to bring about justice, equality, peace etc.
Politics is thus Utopian.
For a constrained vision, it is necessary not only that (1) man’s resources, both internal and external, are insufficient to satisfy his desires, but also that (2) individuals will not accept limits on the satisfaction of their own desires commensurate with what is socially available, except when inherent social constraints are forcibly imposed on them as individuals through various social mechanisms such as prices (which force each individual to limit his consumption of material goods) or moral traditions and social pressures which limit the amount of psychic pain people inflict on each other “second criterion—the need for systemic processes to convey inherent social limitations to the individual—applies to all mankind, including the wisest thinker, the noblest leader, or the most compassionate humanitarian. Only when all are included within the human limitations it conceives is the constrained vision complete.
Man, as conceived in the constrained vision, could never have planned and achieved even the current level of material and psychic well-being, which is seen as the product of evolved systemic interactions drawing on the experiences and adjusting to the preferences (revealed in behavior rather than words) of vast numbers of people over vast regions of time. The constrained vision sees future progress as a continuation of such systemic interactions—and as threatened by attempts to substitute individually excogitated social schemes for these evolved patterns.
The enormous importance of evolved systemic interactions in the constrained vision does not make it a vision of collective choice, for the end results are not chosen at all—the prices, output, employment, and interest rates emerging from competition under laissez-faire economics being the classic example. Judges adhering closely to the written law—avoiding the choosing of results per se—would be the analogue in “avoiding the choosing of results per se—would be the analogue in law. Laissez-faire economics and “black letter” law are essentially frameworks, with the locus of substantive discretion being innumerable individuals.
That the constrained vision relies on “revealed behaviour” rather than “words” is similar to Mosca’s and Moldbug’s form v reality distinction. Secondly, the use of systemic processes is how patchwork and neocameralism work. Thirdly, the use of “black letter law” with judges adhering closely to the law as written is legal formalism.
Sowell on the unconstrained vision:
It is unnecessary for the unconstrained vision that every single human being individually and spontaneously arrive at this ultimate level of intellectual and moral solution, much less that they do so at the same time or pace. On the contrary, those in the tradition of the unconstrained vision almost invariably assume that some intellectual and moral pioneers advance far beyond their contemporaries, and in one way or another lead them toward ever-higher levels of understanding and practice. These intellectual and moral pioneers become the surrogate decision-makers, pending the eventual progress of mankind to the point where all can make social decisions. A special variant in Godwin is that each individual acts essentially as a social surrogate, making decisions individually but with social responsibility rather than personal benefit uppermost in his thinking. This tradition of “social responsibility” by businessmen, universities, and others implies a capacity to discern the actual social ramifications of one’s acts—an assumption implicitly made in the unconstrained vision and explicitly rejected by those with the constrained vision.
Central to the unconstrained vision is the belief that within human limits lies the potentiality for practical social solutions to be accepted rather than imposed. Those with the unconstrained vision may indeed advocate more draconian impositions, for a transitional period, than would be accepted by those with the constrained vision. But the very willingness of some of those with the unconstrained vision to countenance such transitional methods is predicated precisely on the belief that this is only necessary transitionally, on the road to far more freedom and general well-being than exist currently.
Here, Sowell hints at the chaos that those with the unconstrained vision can cause in their quest for change. Here is Moldbug being more explicit:
Progressives do not, in general, believe in chaos. (Imagine breaking into the Obama website and replacing all uses of the word “change” with “chaos.” Happy, chanting crowds, holding placards that just say “CHAOS…” frankly, the whole thing is creepy enough as it is.) Nor do they believe in disorder, mayhem, destruction, or doing a massive pile of crack and smashing the crap out of some poor woman’s car.
Rather, when you look at what progressives, Whigs, republicans, and other anti-reactionaries actually believe in – whether they are supporters of Obama, Lafayette, Herzen, or any other paladin of the people’s cause – it is rarely (although not never) the simple, nihilistic liquidation of the present order. It is always the construction of some new order, which is at least intended as an improvement on the present one.
However, in order to construct this new order, two things need to happen. One: the builders of the new order need to gain power. Two: they need to destroy the old order, which by its insistence on continuing to exist obstructs the birth of the new.
In the progressive mind, these indispensable tasks are not objectives. They are methods. They may even be conceived as unpleasant, if necessary, duties.
Something like this perhaps.
Lenin, Stalin, Mao all gave orders to kill people and to destroy the old culture. The people who participated in this, at least some of them, thought they were doing good work. The historian – Eric Hobsbawn, for example, thought that the millions of deaths that the Soviet regime caused would have justified – if it had of worked.
It didn’t work because it was premised on a false view of human nature.
Stephen Pinker, after several chapters of reviewing the scientific evidence, sifting through arguments, dispelling sophistry and illusions has this to say about how the sciences of genetics, evolutionary psychology and cognitive science impacts political philosophy:
My own view is that the new sciences of human nature really do vindicate some version of the Tragic Vision and undermine the Utopian outlook that until recently dominated large segments of intellectual life.
Notice the use of the word “dominated”. Remember, it is the intellectuals and their ideas which dominate not only the universities, but the legal systems, the media, and the public education systems. However, Pinker is wrong when he thinks that the “official theory” dominates no longer. The recent violence at Middlebury over Charles Murray shows that the “official theory” continues to exert its theocratic grip.
Pinker summarises what findings disconfirm the liberal, progressive, left-wing worldview:
“The primacy of family ties in all human societies and the consequent appeal of nepotism and inheritance.
The limited scope of communal sharing in human groups, the more common ethos of reciprocity, and the resulting phenomena of social loafing and the collapse of contributions to public goods when reciprocity cannot be implemented.
The universality of dominance and violence across human societies (including supposedly peaceable hunter-gatherers) and the existence of genetic and neurological mechanisms that underlie it.
The universality of ethnocentrism and other forms of group-against-group hostility across societies, and the ease with which such hostility can be aroused in people within our own society.
The partial heritability of intelligence, conscientiousness, and antisocial tendencies, implying that some degree of inequality will arise even in perfectly fair economic systems, and that we therefore face an inherent tradeoff between equality and freedom.
The prevalence of defense mechanisms, self-serving biases, and cognitive dissonance reduction, by which people deceive themselves about their autonomy”
So that’s what science apparently has to say according to Stephen Pinker, a Harvard linguist and all round polymath; indeed, Pinker is, in many ways, a consummate Brahmin, so his patient, sober, demolition of the “official theory” cannot be dismissed as either politically motivated, or the work of a crank.
The following link, however, contains numerous scientific articles and other resources investigating human nature and politics.
Again, we must ask what role the Enlightenment vision of human nature, derived from an emerging secular Protestantism, played in the catastrophe of the 20th century.
Indeed, here is philosopher, Jonathan Glover, who we saw in Part B, commenting on “human nature” and the events of the 20th century:
Now we tend to see the Enlightenment view of human psychology as thin and mechanical, and Enlightenment hopes of social progress through the spread of humanitarianism and the scientific outlook as naïve. John Maynard Keynes said of Bertrand Russell, a follower of the Enlightenment, that his comments about life and affairs were ‘brittle’ because there was ‘no solid diagnosis of human nature underlying them.
There was no solid diagnosis because the liberal, “Enlightenment view” does not really believe in human nature, and if it does it held to the naïve, erroneous and dangerous “black slate” and “noble savage” vision.
Glover argues that this needs to change:
“replace the thin, mechanical psychology of the Enlightenment with something more complex, something closer to reality.”
The trouble is that this view of human nature is a modern myth – and taboo; like with Genesis, it is the foundation of the left’s intellectual edifice; consequently, like some Christians with Darwin, they will oppose science on this point because (like some Christians) they will claim that it will have moral and political consequences that they find distasteful.
More importantly, they will resist it, because it means that their justification for power, their social engineering and persecution of heretics, will be seen for what it really is.
And when that happens, when their previous justification of the social order (that was to their benefit) is exposed and when scepticism and resistance becomes widespread, the struggle for naked power, once camouflaged, will no longer be contained.
Which brings us back to the question of violence, in particular, organised violence and human nature.
“There has been much philosophical discussion about what factors restrain people from ruthlessly selfish treatment of others, and what reasons there are for accepting moral restraints on conduct. These ‘moral resources’ will be central. There are questions about what happened to them when the First World War started, when the atomic bomb was dropped, in Stalin’s Russia, in Nazi Germany, or, more recently, in Bosnia and in Kosovo. The aim in using ethics to interrogate history is to help understand a side of human nature often left in darkness.”
Moldbug, however, sees the problem very differently. To Moldbug, the problem is not a moral, but an engineering one:
The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable.
This entire problem can be described as one of security.
Sound political engineering, however, will require an accurate perception of the facts of human nature, history, economics and much else.
Welcome to the Dark Enlightenment.
What is the Dark Enlightenment?
Here is my succinct answer.
The DE is the dialectical opposite of the “received” view of what the Enlightenment was.
If this, received view – whose key proponents were Locke, Rousseau and Kant – was optimistic about human nature, reason and reason’s ability to re-shape society, then the Dark Enlightenment, drawing upon history, the human sciences, and contemporary political, economic and social analysis, judges it to not only be a failure, but a catastrophe. More ominously, the Dark Enlightenment offers a prophecy – we are not progressing, but decaying in a vicious Cathedral caused feedback loop, a degenerative socio-politico ratchet.
The core of the Dark Enlightenment is, as of 2017, dark, unpleasant, dispiriting truths about human nature.
Yet, these “truths”, that the Dark Enlightenment dispels, were not completely held by the Elite in the past. Indeed, men of impeccable Protestant, Puritan, leftish tendencies did not accept it, even if they once did.
I am, of course, talking about Samuel Francis Adams Jr – a scion of the Brahmins (in both senses of the term). He fought in the American Civil War on the side of the North. He believed that slavery was wrong – at both ends of his life. Yet, in what must count as the most stunning admission of error in the history of America, Adams informs his audience that the premises under which the North fought, and acted upon post-war, were “dangerous” and “erroneous.”
There is much to ponder in the following excerpt from his reflections – Tis Sixty Years Since, published in 1913.
Adams rewards study (see here for another “consciousness raising” reads; here however, I want to make only one key point.
Truths about human nature, about race, and about America, were once recognised, understood and, if with regret, accepted by the “great and the good” – the social, intellectual and political elite of Harvard, Princeton and Yale; these truths were not abandoned, suppressed and forgotten because of scientific evidence and rational argument. Truth was replaced because beliefs that hold that human nature can be changed by social and political engineering of the university trained, social scientists and government bureaucrats will out-compete any rival set of beliefs in a democratic struggle for power.
The reason why the constrained and Tragic vision of politics loses in a democracy is because the answer it gives, to genuine human suffering, is that suffering and disenchantment can only be managed or soothed, not transcended or solved. The Utopians, like the quack doctors that they are, offer drowning men hope – where only tragedy exists.
Progressivism, or the Utopian vision, is really nothing more, on an individual and existential level, the sigh of the disenchanted creature, heartless self-pity in a pitiless world; it is the opium of the open-minded progressives. In a different political structure, it would be expressed via charity and communal resignation, in a democracy it becomes collective criminal insanity.
Richard Dawkins attacks the God Delusion with glee, but would he dare attack the Black God Delusion?
What is a delusion? A delusion is a persistent, and often pernicious, belief; a belief held in the teeth of contrary or contradictory evidence.
With the exception of a few cuts at the start, I leave you with a long excerpt from Adams.
If, when I entered Harvard in 1853, it had been suggested that in 1913, I,–born of the New England Sanhedrim, a Brahmin Yankee by blood, tradition and environment–had it been suggested that I, being such, would sixty years later stand by invitation here in Columbia before the faculty and students of the University of South Carolina, I should under circumstances then existing have pronounced the suggestion as beyond reasonable credence. Here, however, I am; and here, from this as my rostrum, I propose to-day to deliver a message,–such as it is.
Here is his message:
When in 1853 I entered Harvard, so far as this country and its polity were concerned certain things were matters of contention, while others were accepted as axiomatic,–the basic truths of our system. Among the former–the subjects of active contention–were the question of Slavery, then grimly assuming shape, and that of Nationality intertwined therewith. Subordinate to this was the issue of Free Trade and Protection, with the school of so-called American political economy arrayed against that of Adam Smith. Beyond these as political ideals were the tenets and theories of Jeffersonian Democracy. That the world had heretofore been governed too much was loudly acclaimed, and the largest possible individualism was preached, not only as a privilege but as a right. The area of government action was to be confined within the narrowest practical limits, and ample scope was to be allowed to each to develop in the way most natural to himself, provided only he did not infringe upon the rights of others. Materially, we were then reaching out to subdue a continent,–a doctrine of Manifest Destiny was in vogue. Beyond this, however, and most important now to be borne in mind, compared with the present the control of man over natural agencies and latent forces was scarcely begun. Not yet had the railroad crossed the Missouri; electricity, just bridled, was still unharnessed.
First and foremost, overshadowing all else, was the political issue raised by African slavery, then ominously assuming shape. The clouds foreboding the coming tempest were gathering thick and heavy; and, moreover, they were even then illumined by electric flashes, accompanied by a mutter of distant thunder. Though we of the North certainly did not appreciate its gravity, the situation was portentous in the extreme.
Involved in this problem of African slavery was the incidental issue of Free Trade and Protection,–apparently only economical and industrial in character, but in reality fundamentally crucial. And behind this lay the constitutional question, involving as it did not only the conflicting theories of a strict or liberal construction of the fundamental law, but nationality also,–the right of a Sovereign State to withdraw from the Union created in 1787, and developed through two generations.
Beyond all this, and coming still under the head of individual theories, was the doctrine enunciated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence,–the doctrine that all men were created equal,–meaning, of course, equal before the law. But the theorist and humanitarian of the North, accepting the fundamental principle laid down in the Declaration, gave to it a far wider application than had been intended by its authors,–a breadth of application it would not bear. Such science as he had being of scriptural origin, he interpreted the word “equal” as signifying equal in the possibilities of their attributes,–physical, moral, intellectual; and in so doing, he of course ignored the first principles of ethnology. It was, I now realize, a somewhat wild-eyed school of philosophy, that of which I myself was a youthful disciple.
But, on the other hand, beside these, between 1850 and 1860 a class of trained and more cautious thinkers, observers, scientists and theologians was coming to the front. Their investigations, though we did not then foresee it, were a generation later destined gently to subvert the accepted fundamentals of religious and economical thought, literary performance, and material existence. The work they had in hand to do was for the next fifteen years to be subordinate, so far as this country was concerned, to the solution of the terrible political problems which were first insistent on settlement; yet, as is now apparent, an initial movement was on foot which foreboded a revolution world-wide in its nature, and one in comparison with which the issues of slavery and American constitutionality became practically insignificant,–in a word, local and passing incidents.
Finally, it remains to consider specifically the political theories then in vogue in their relation to the individual. In this country, it was the period of the equality of man and individuality in the development of the type. It was generally believed that the world had hitherto been governed too much,–that the day of caste, and even class, was over and gone; and finally, that America was a species of vast modern melting-pot of humanity, in which, within a comparatively short period of time, the characteristics of all branches of Indo-Aryan origin would resolve themselves. A new type would emerge,–the American. These theories were also in their consequences far-reaching. Practically, 1853 antedates all our present industrial organizations so loudly in evidence,–the multifarious trades-unions which now divide the population of the United States into what are known as the “masses” and the “classes.” As recently as a century ago, it used to be said of the French army under the Empire, that every soldier carried the baton of the Field-Marshal in his knapsack. And this ideal of equality and individuality was fixed in the American mind.
And here I enter on a field of discussion both difficult and dangerous; and, for reasons too obvious to require statement, what I am about to say will be listened to with no inconsiderable apprehension as to what next may be forthcoming. Nevertheless, this is a necessary part of my theme; and I propose to say what I have in mind to say, setting forth with all possible frankness the more mature conclusions reached with the passage of years. Let it be received in the spirit in which it is offered.
So far, then, as the institution of slavery is concerned, in its relations to ownership and property in those of the human species,–I have seen no reason whatever to revise or in any way to alter the theories and principles I entertained in 1853, and in the maintenance of which I subsequently bore arms between 1861 and 1865. Economically, socially, and from the point of view of abstract political justice, I hold that the institution of slavery, as it existed in this country prior to the year 1865, was in no respect either desirable or justifiable. That it had its good and even its elevating side, so far at least as the African is concerned, I am not here to deny. On the contrary, I see and recognize those features of the institution far more clearly now than I should have said would have been possible in 1853. That the institution in itself, under conditions then existing, tended to the elevation of the less advanced race, I frankly admit I did not then think. On the other hand, that it exercised a most pernicious influence upon those of the more advanced race, and especially upon that large majority of the more advanced race who were not themselves owners of slaves,–of that I have become with time ever more and more satisfied. The noticeable feature, however, so far as I individually am concerned, has been the entire change of view as respects certain of the fundamental propositions at the base of our whole American political and social edifice brought about by a more careful and intelligent ethnological study. I refer to the political equality of man, and to that race absorption to which I have alluded,–that belief that any foreign element introduced into the American social system and body politic would speedily be absorbed therein, and in a brief space thoroughly assimilated. In this all-important respect I do not hesitate to say we theorists and abstractionists of the North, throughout that long anti-slavery discussion which ended with the 1861 clash of arms, were thoroughly wrong. In utter disregard of fundamental, scientific facts, we theoretically believed that all men–no matter what might be the color of their skin, or the texture of their hair–were, if placed under exactly similar conditions, in essentials the same. In other words, we indulged in the curious and, as is now admitted, utterly erroneous theory that the African was, so to speak, an Anglo-Saxon, or, if you will, a Yankee “who had never had a chance,”–a fellow-man who was guilty, as we chose to express it, of a skin not colored like our own. In other words, though carved in ebony, he also was in the image of God.
Following out this theory, under the lead of men to whom scientific analysis and observation were anathema if opposed to accepted cardinal political theories as enunciated in the Declaration as read by them, the African was not only emancipated, but so far as the letter of the law, as expressed in an amended Constitution, would establish the fact, the quondam slave was in all respects placed on an equality, political, legal and moral, with those of the more advanced race.
I do not hesitate here,–as one who largely entertained the theoretical views I have expressed,–I do not hesitate here to say, as the result of sixty years of more careful study and scientific observation, the theories then entertained by us were not only fundamentally wrong, but they further involved a problem in the presence of which I confess to-day I stand appalled.
It is said,–whether truthfully or not,–that when some years ago John Morley, the English writer and thinker, was in this country, on returning to England he remarked that the African race question, as now existing in the United States, presented a problem as nearly, to his mind, insoluble as any human problem well could be. I do not care whether Lord Morley made this statement or did not make it. I am prepared, however, to say that, individually, so far as my present judgment goes, it is a correct presentation. To us in the North, the African is a comparatively negligible factor. So far as Massachusetts, for instance, or the city of Boston more especially, are concerned, as a problem it is solving itself. Proportionately, the African infusion is becoming less–never large, it is incomparably less now than it was in the days of my own youth. Thus manifestly a negligible factor, it is also one tending to extinction. Indeed, it would be fairly open to question whether a single Afro-American of unmixed Ethiopian descent could now be found in Boston. That the problem presents itself with a wholly different aspect here in Carolina is manifest. The difference too is radical; it goes to the heart of the mystery.
As I have already said, the universal “melting-pot” theory in vogue in my youth was that but seven, or at the most fourteen, years were required to convert the alien immigrant–no matter from what region or of what descent–into an American citizen. The educational influences and social environment were assumed to be not only subtle, but all-pervasive and powerful. That this theory was to a large and even dangerous extent erroneous the observation of the last fifty years has proved, and our Massachusetts experience is sadly demonstrating to-day. It was Oliver Wendell Holmes, who, years ago, when asked by an anxious mother at what age the education of a child ought to begin, remarked in reply that it should begin about one hundred and fifty years before the child is born. It has so proved with us; and the fact is to-day in evidence that this statement of Dr. Holmes should be accepted as an undeniable political aphorism. So far from seven or fourteen years making an American citizen, fully and thoroughly impregnated with American ideals to the exclusion of all others, our experience is that it requires at least three generations to eliminate what may be termed the “hyphen” in citizenship. Not in the first, nor in the second, and hardly in the third, generation, does the immigrant cease to be an Irish-American, or a French-American, or a German-American, or a Slavonic-American, or yet a Dago. Nevertheless, in process of tune, those of the Caucasian race do and will become Americans. Ultimately their descendants will be free from the traditions and ideals, so to speak, ground in through centuries passed under other conditions. Not so the Ethiopian. In his case, we find ourselves confronted with a situation never contemplated in that era of political dreams and scriptural science in which our institutions received shape. Stated tersely and in plain language, so far as the African is concerned–the cause and, so to speak, the motive of the great struggle of 1861 to 1865–we recognize the presence in the body politic of a vast alien mass which does not assimilate and which cannot be absorbed. In other words, the melting-pot theory came in sharp contact with an ethnological fact, and the unexpected occurred. The problem of African servitude was solved after a fashion; but in place of it a race issue of most uncompromising character evolved itself.
A survivor of the generation which read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as it week by week appeared,–fresh to-day from Massachusetts with its Lawrence race issues of a different character, I feel a sense of satisfaction in discussing here in South Carolina this question and issue in a spirit the reverse of dogmatic, a spirit purely scientific, observant and sympathetic. And in this connection let me say I well remember repeatedly discussing it with your fellow-citizen and my friend, Colonel Alexander Haskell, to whom I have already made reference. Rarely have I been more impressed by a conclusion reached and fixed in the mind of one who to the study of a problem had obviously given much and kindly thought. As those who knew him do not need to be told, Alexander Cheves Haskell was a man of character, pure and just and thoughtful. He felt towards the African as only a Southerner who had himself never been the owner of slaves can feel. He regarded him as of a less advanced race than his own, but one who was entitled not only to just and kindly treatment but to sympathetic consideration. When, however, the question of the future of the Afro-American was raised, as matter for abstract discussion, it was suggestive as well as curious to observe the fixed, hard expression which immediately came over Haskell’s face, as with stern lips, from which all suggestion of a smile had faded away, he pronounced the words:–“Sir, it is a dying race!” To express the thought more fully, Colonel Haskell maintained, as I doubt not many who now listen to me will maintain, that the nominal Afro-American increase, as shown in the figures of the national census, is deceptive,–that in point of fact, the Ethiop in America is incurring the doom which has ever befallen those of an inferior and less advanced race when brought in direct and immediate contact, necessarily and inevitably competitive, with the more advanced, the more masterful, and intellectually the more gifted. In other words, those of the less advanced race have a fatal aptitude for contracting the vices, both moral and physical, of the superior race, in the end leading to destruction; while the capacity for assimilating the elevating qualities and attributes which constitute a saving grace is denied them. Elimination, therefore, became in Haskell’s belief a question of time only,–the law of the survival of the fittest would assert itself. The time required may be long,–numbered by centuries; but, however remotely, it nevertheless would come. God’s mill grinds slowly, but it grinds uncommon small; and, I will add, its grinding is apt to be merciless.
The solution thus most pronouncedly laid down by Colonel Haskell may or may not prove in this case correct and final. It certainly is not for me, coming from the North, to undertake dogmatically to pass upon it. I recur to it here as a plausible suggestion only, in connection with my theme. As such, it unquestionably merits consideration. I am by no means prepared to go the length of an English authority in recently saying that “emancipation on two continents sacrificed the real welfare of the slave and his intrinsic worth as a person, to the impatient vanity of an immediate and theatrical triumph.” This length I say, I cannot go; but so far as the present occasion is concerned, with such means of observation as are within my reach, I find the conclusion difficult to resist that the success of the abolitionists in effecting the emancipation of the Afro-American, as unexpected and sweeping as it was sudden, has led to phases of the race problem quite unanticipated at least. For instance, as respects segregation. Instead of assimilating, with a tendency to ultimate absorption, the movement in the opposite direction since 1865 is pronounced. It has, moreover, received the final stamp of scientific approval. This implies much; for in the old days of the “peculiar institution” there is no question the relations between the two races were far more intimate, kindly, and even absorptive than they now are.
That African slavery, as it existed in the United States anterior to the year 1862, presented a mild form of servitude, as servitude then existed and immemorially had almost everywhere existed, was, moreover, incontrovertibly proven in the course of the Civil War. Before 1862, it was confidently believed that any severe social agitation within, or disturbance from without, would inevitably lead to a Southern servile insurrection. In Europe this result was assumed as of course; and, immediately after it was issued, the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln was denounced in unmeasured terms by the entire London press. Not a voice was raised in its defence. It was regarded as a measure unwarranted in civilized warfare, and a sure and intentional incitement to the horrors which had attended the servile insurrections of Haiti and San Domingo; and, more recently, the unspeakable Sepoy incidents of the Indian mutiny. What actually occurred is now historic. The confident anticipations of our English brethren were, not for the first time, negatived; nor is there any page in our American record more creditable to those concerned than the attitude held by the African during the fierce internecine struggle which prevailed between April, 1861, and April, 1865. In it there is scarcely a trace, if indeed there is any trace at all, of such a condition of affairs as had developed in the Antilles and in Hindustan. The attitude of the African towards his Confederate owner was submissive and kindly. Although the armed and masterful domestic protector was at the front and engaged in deadly, all-absorbing conflict, yet the women and children of the Southern plantation slept with unbarred doors,–free from apprehension, much more from molestation.
Moreover, as you here well know, during the old days of slavery there was hardly a child born, of either sex, who grew up in a Southern household of substantial wealth without holding immediate and most affectionate relations with those of the other race. Every typical Southern man had what he called his “daddy” and his “mammy,” his “uncle” and his “aunty,” by him familiarly addressed as such, and who were to him even closer than are blood relations to most. They had cared for him in his cradle; he followed them to their graves. Is it needful for me to ask to what extent such relations still exist? Of those born thirty years after emancipation, and therefore belonging distinctly to a later generation, how many thus have their kindly, if humble, kin of the African blood? I fancy I would be safe in saying not one in twenty.