Join the Abbeville Institute,
the Premier Organization in America for the Study of
that Glorious Place South of the Mason-Dixon Line.
by Gene Kizer, Jr.
If I was on Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek (God Bless him! Rest in peace, Alex!) asked me to name one personality from the Old South that is typical of the scholarly firepower and spirit of the Abbeville Institute, I would unhesitatingly state Alexander Hamilton Stephens, "Little Alec," as his friend Robert Toombs called him, and I would cite as proof his brilliant two volume set of over 1,200 pages, A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States; Its Causes, Character, Conduct and Results. Presented in a Series of Colloquies at Liberty Hall.
Or perhaps Albert Taylor Bledsoe, or William Gilmore Simms, maybe Edgar Allan Poe or Joel Chandler Harris. If the question extended into the 20th century maybe Douglas Southall Freeman or Richard Weaver, maybe C. Vann Woodward, definitely Shelby Foote, William Faulkner and D. W. Griffith.
There are too many to list but the point is, you can find all of their spirits and SO many others from our rich Southern culture alive and well at the Abbeville Institute.
Join and support the Abbeville Institute!
America desperately needs the discourse and scholarship the Abbeville Institute is injecting into this pathetic "woke" twenty-first century we find ourselves in.
We are in an uncharted time in American history when as a country we desperately need the good sense and character of Southerners who are grounded, solid and proud of the fact that we founded this great nation and impressed our values on it from the beginning with Georgia Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to Robert E. Lee.
Just like before World War II, when the German American Bund and their Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda was warmly welcomed in many Northern cities, penetrating the South was much more difficult. We know who we are and we like what we know.
At the Abbeville Institute, you might meet your future spouse, perhaps a like-minded individual in a lecture full of ladies and gentlemen enjoying and contributing in a fun learning atmosphere.
There are Podcasts, excellent Blog Articles daily by email (Thank you Dr. Brian McClanahan!), Seminars like this one I went to in 2018: Charleston, SC: Attacking Confederate Monuments and Its Meaning for America. It featured several distinguished speakers, then an open bar and dinner in the evening with keynote address by former Georgia Congressman, Ben Jones, whom you might know better as "Cooter" in the Dukes of Hazard! It was GREAT and there were hundreds of people (maybe over 1,000!) there at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in North Charleston. They have events like this all over the country. Check out their Past Events and Photo Gallery.
They have done 17 week-long Summer Schools at beautiful Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island, South Carolina where the food and atmosphere is excellent, and the days are long with relaxing evening discussions after the day's activities.
I don't want to leave out anything because there is also a Review of Books, the Clyde Wilson Library (great articles by, you guessed it, Clyde Wilson!), the Abbeville Institute Press, and Recommended Books, Music and More.
Their Purpose and Principles are stated in a video by founder, Don Livingston.
Please DONATE to this outstanding organization (I do NOT get a commission for this! This promo in my blog is a labor of love because I want to be effective for the truth of Southern history and this is one way to do it!).
To give you a taste of what to expect out of the Abbeville Institute, here is an article from their Fall, 2020 newsletter that came out recently. The emphasis is theirs. Article is entitled:
The Charleston City Council Signals Its Virtue to the Left
by Tearing Down the Monument to South Carolina's
On June 24, in the middle of the night, the city's magnificent monument to John C. Calhoun was destroyed. You have to wonder why. Calhoun has been judged by many to be a model of statesmanship. A senate committee chaired by John F. Kennedy ranked him among the top five senators of all time. And he was the first American to work out an original political philosophy, his Disquisition on Government is in league with the work of great modern political philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Hume. Nineteenth century British philosophers, John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton admired it, and it is studied around the world today.
Why was the monument to this great statesman reduced to rubble? What was so horrible that even Clemson University removed his name from the Calhoun Honors College, which sits on the ground of his plantation and home and was given by the family to create the university?
The answer is that in a Senate speech given in 1837 Calhoun said, "slavery is a positive good." Historians have taken him to mean that slavery "abstractly considered" is a good thing and have presented Calhoun as a moral monster, against which a self-congratulatory American liberalism defines itself. There is no excuse for this because the senate stenographer records that Calhoun strongly, "denied having pronounced slavery in the abstract a good." All he said was that given "existing circumstances" in the United States, it was the best arrangement for the African population and the country. What were those circumstances? And what was the morally right thing to have done about slavery in antebellum America?
First, slavery was not a wrong peculiar to the South. Massachusetts, in 1641, was the first colony to legalize the slave trade. New England ran a slave trade with Africa for 170 years. As of 1860, the wealth of the Northeast was built on financing, servicing, shipping, and insuring slave produced staples. By some estimates the North received 40 cents of every dollar made by the planters. From the first, most federal revenue came from the South's vast export trade. In short, slavery was a national wrong. So, the morally right thing would have been a nationally funded program to emancipate slaves, compensate the planters, and integrate the African population into American society.
Yet during the entire antebellum era, no Northern leaders ever put forth a nationally funded plan of compensated emancipation and integration. Integration was especially out of the question. The constitution of Lincoln's Illinois prohibited any free blacks from entering the state. Every state in the Midwest and West either prohibited or severely restricted their entrance. The Republican Party platform of 1856 said, in part, that: "all unoccupied territories of the United States, and such as they may hereafter acquire, shall be reserved for the white Caucasian race, a thing that cannot be except by the exclusion of slavery." Lincoln agreed, saying the region should be kept free of "the troublesome presence of free Negroes."
Lincoln explained why no national plan of emancipation had been put forth. If slaves were freed without civil rights most would be thrown in to vagabondage and crime which would make them worse off. But neither could they be emancipated with civil rights because he said: "My own feelings will not admit of this," nor would those of the "great mass" of Americans. He concluded: "We cannot, then, make them equals." And he confessed: "If all earthly power were given to me, I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution." So, he kicked the can down the road.
Next to colonizing blacks abroad, Lincoln (and the North) favored segregation. "What I would most desire," he said, "is a separation of the white and black races." By this he meant continental segregation, keeping the North and West white and the South bi-racial. Slavery, he said, might last a "hundred years" if confined to the South. A virtually all white North and West was not a pipe dream. By 1860, it was nearly a fact. Blacks in New England were a mere 0.8 percent. In the rest of the North, 1.8 percent, and in the West, 1.1 percent. By contrast, blacks in the Upper South were around 20 percent. In the Deep South, 42 percent.
But many anti-slavery advocates were not content with confining blacks, slave and free, to the South. They urged policies that would gradually lead to the extinction of blacks. The Republican controlled House Committee on Emancipation Policy said in its 1862 report: "the highest interests of the white race, whether Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, or Scandinavian, requires that the whole country should be held and occupied by these races alone." The extinction would happen "naturally" because it was thought blacks were structurally inferior, and without the cradle to grave care of the plantation system, could not compete with whites in a free market in labor. They would die out or move to racially mixed Mexico or be willing to accept federally funded colonization.
Though it forms no part of our public history, what I shall call the "extinction thesis" was widely held in Northern society and at the highest level. Consider Theodore Parker. He was the very exemplar of radical abolitionism, a charismatic minister, and a supporter of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. Yet he was so convinced of black inferiority that he declared: "When slavery is abolished the African population will decline in the United States and die out of the South as out of [New England (Abbeville italics)]." Horace Bushnell was an abolitionist and one of the North's distinguished theologians. It did not bother him that emancipation would mean the extinction of blacks: "since we must all die, why should it grieve us, that a stock thousands of years behind, in the scale of culture, should die with few and still fewer children to succeed, till finally the whole succession remains in the more cultivated race." Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, said that emancipation means "the inferior [blacks] will disappear . . . before the more vigorous race." And Reverend J. M. Sturtevant, president of Illinois College said that with emancipation, blacks would "melt away and disappear forever from the midst of us." The Yankee sage, Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed: "the black man" in America, he said, is "destined for museums like the Dodo."
Southerners were excoriated in Congress without mercy for perpetuating the "evil" of slavery. Calhoun challenged anti-slavery Northern senators that if they really believed slavery, as practice in the South, was an unmitigated evil, they were morally bound "to put it down." But that would mean paying their share in the cost of emancipation and in allowing free blacks to settle in their societies. It also meant losing the enormous profits gained from servicing the institution. None of that was acceptable. So, despite all the handwringing and vilification, slavery was to remain. In saying slavery was a positive good, Calhoun was being intentionally outrageous to jar the Yankee critic out of ideological posturing about slavery (which only inflamed passions, was morally corrupting, and produced no positive good for the slave or the country), into examining the actual practice of slavery to see what good it produced.
Calhoun was a man of the nineteenth century who believed in progress, and he viewed slavery as an evolving, progressive institution. The Africans had arrived a demoralized people, torn from their tribal roots and devoid of a European culture. Calhoun considered it a great achievement that (unlike in the North), blacks, slave and free, had become an integral part of Southern society through the plantation household. Masters and slaves attended the same church. Their lodgings were often in the same yard and sometimes the same house. Calhoun took pride in the fact that in the arts of "civilization": some had "nearly kept pace" with their masters. And he put no limit on what they might achieve or how the institution of slavery in the South might evolve.
He argued that as to physical well-being, slaves were arguably better off than Yankee factory workers who could be cast aside after years of service if they became ill or were otherwise not useful. Some corroboration for his argument can be found in Time on the Cross, a study of the economics of Southern slavery by Robert Fogel, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Stanley Engerman, an authority on slave economies. Historians, they say, have exaggerated both the cruelty of slavery and the abolitionist's belief in the inferiority of blacks. They show (as Calhoun argued) that slavery was an evolving institution. As international markets became more competitive, planters educated slaves in valuable production, engineering, and management skills that required initiative and more responsibility. These qualities, the authors say, could not be generated by force alone but required incentives in pecuniary gain as well as more liberty and respect.
By 1860, the institution for a great many slaves, had evolved into a condition of what the authors call "quasi-slavery" and "quasi-liberty," which intimated eventual emancipation. By 1860 nearly half the blacks of Maryland were free. When John Brown invaded Harpers Ferry to start a slave uprising, there were 1,251 free blacks and 88 slaves. The first man he killed was a free black man going about his work. As of 1860, free blacks in the South owned property worth $25,000,000 or $800,000,000 today.
If Calhoun's vision of slavery as a progressive, evolving institution is rejected, what alternatives did Northern anti-slavery advocates provide? They were the following. (1) The abolitionist's demand for "immediate and uncompensated" emancipation. This was pure fantasy and morally reprehensible because it failed to acknowledge the North's responsibility for the origin and continuation of slavery. (2) Colonization abroad was impractical because few blacks wanted to leave, and few Northerners wanted to pay. (3) The policy of continental segregation confined slavery to the South where it would eventually die out, leaving the nation virtually free of blacks. But given the great racial imbalance in the South, the "dying out" would be long drawn out and painful for the black man before he became what Emerson called the "Dodo" in a "museum."
All the Northern anti-slavery alternatives were fantasies, mere attempts to escape the presence of blacks. None confronted the true moral challenge, namely a national program of emancipation, compensation, and integration. But worse, there was not concern for the welfare of blacks as there was in Calhoun's vision. All were about the interests of white Northerners. And that disposition continue into and after the War. The Emancipation Proclamation was a mere military measure designed to cause a slave uprising to end the War. No provision was made before hand to care for those freed. When Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens asked Lincoln how he was to provide for the mass of slaves, he replied: "Root hot!" (from the saying "Root hog or die"). Recent studies show that tens of thousands died of starvation an disease, uprooted by the Emancipation Proclamation and from the care of the plantation.
After the War, the vast western territory could have provided farms to give the freedmen a fresh start, and there was a great demand for labor in postwar Northern industry. But both land and jobs were closed to the freedmen in favor of European immigrants. In contrast, the railroads were given more land than the territorial size of Germany!
Finally, Lincoln would not allow the South to secede and work out an eventual emancipation on its own terms. He invaded and conquered the region not to free slaves (as he repeatedly confessed) but to prevent secession in order to build a regime of economic nationalism controlled by the New York-Chicago industrial axis. The death toll for the invasion, if civilians and the humanitarian disaster of the Emancipation Proclamation are included, is around a million.
When Calhoun's vision of slavery as an evolving progressive institution is compared to the Northern anti-slavery alternative of continental segregation and the macabre Darwinian notion of gradual black extinction through emancipation to achieve an all-white America, the Yankee alternative appears morally reprehensible. In some respects, Calhoun's vision is morally superior. It is certainly not worse. In any case, Calhoun does not deserve the treatment meted out by historians who treat his limited, circumstantial defense of slavery as a reprehensible universalist attachment to bondage---something he explicitly disowned.
Antebellum America is a strange and complex place but not to the one-dimensional Woke mind of Charleston's mayor and city council. They made rubble of the monument to one of America's greatest statesmen and political thinkers because he endorsed "white supremacy," as if the Northern segregation and extinction policies of Lincoln, Bushnell, Parker, and Emerson did not. This impious act has impoverished the rich and complex cultural inheritance that should be passed on to the youth of South Carolina, black and white. Students will see no reason to read Calhoun and, consequently, will be bereft of the wisdom contained in his philosophical explanation of how tyranny arises in the American system and how it can be prevented.
Experience has shown that thoughtful black students, given the opportunity to gain a clear-eyed view of the continental segregation and extinction policy of Northern anti-slavery, often come to see Calhoun as an honorable and humane man seeking to do the best, given the constraints of his time, and are more inclined to take down a monument to Lincoln who talked about freedom abstractly but did nothing to ameliorate the condition of black people before or during the War.