America’s sin debt for slavery was paid for long ago.
“Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural, March 4, 1865
Delivered a scant forty-one days before Lincoln gave, as he himself put it in his address at Gettysburg, the “last full measure of devotion,” our sixteenth president’s language sings, it soars; it is high poetry. Somebody called Lincoln “that sad poet of a president,” words which capture pretty completely what in essence this great man was. The only other American public figure who has even arguably come close to wielding the English language so profoundly and effectively is Martin Luther King. And it is no coincidence that both men were animated by the same cause, in different iterations.
It was in his Second Inaugural that Lincoln spoke, not just as a skilled political actor, or a poet, but, in a sense, as a prophet. He seemed to have had a unique insight into the heart of the tragedy that was the American Civil War.
I’d been thinking about his ‘wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil’ observation, and wondering how close to the truth Lincoln had struck. It turns out, in fact, that he had struck very close to the truth.
The common accepted death toll for the American Civil war is 618,000. That figure was recently reliably revised upward to 750,000 . At any rate, I decided to compare that number with the total number of Africans imported as slaves to the continental US throughout her colonial and national history. I was wondering, frankly, whether the life of at least one American taken during the Civil War, of which its proximate cause was the existence and spread of slavery, was balanced out for every African brought here.
American historian Henry Louis Gates says the following:
“Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. And how many of these 10.7l milion Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.”
So, given the death rate of 14.4% of those who did not survive the Middle Passage, that raises the number of slaves destined for American ports to 443,000.
Now I have a rather grim question for you — is the death of 750,000 Americans, and the maiming of thousands more, as a direct consequence to the presence of slavery in this country, an approximately fair price to pay for the forced importation of 443,000 Africans to America, for two hundred fifty years of unrequited toil, plus another ninety or so years of Jim Crow laws?
Well, this is an issue only God can fairly adjudicate. But it puts things in an entirely new and interesting perspective- for me, at least.
You may be surprised, given recent events, that the condition of black Americans has actually been improving over the last decades. Here’s Kyle Smith writing recently in the New York Post:
“The Economic Policy Institute found that the difference in high school graduation rates between whites and blacks fell from 27 percent in 1962 to 5 percent in 2004. Last fall, the rate of black and Hispanic unemployment hit an all-time low. Since 1980, the percentage of black adults with college degrees has tripled. Life expectancy of white Americans exceeded that of black Americans by more than seven years as of 1970; that gap has been cut in half, to three and a half years. The percentage of black Americans earning more than $75,000 more than doubled (adjusting for inflation) between 1970 and 2014, according to Harvard professor William Julius Wilson, who studies upward mobility among black Americans.”
So what’s the problem, one might ask? With all this wonderful progress, why all this recent brouhaha? The answer can be distilled to a couple major factors: 1) the creation of a permanent black underclass thanks to the unintended consequences of civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s which have given economic incentives for fatherless households in the black community, and 2) the steadily advancing agenda of cultural Marxism, which has led to the tsunami of political correctness and the instant shaming and expulsion of liberals and conservatives of principle from positions of power and influence. Throw in the convulsive collective deliverance from three months of, as it turned out, mostly unnecessary lockdown, and you have a perfect blueprint for bad behavior.
Not all of this is bad, of course. Police tactics can always stand scrutiny, since they’re the only ones in a civilization entrusted with the threat of and the use of force to apply local laws effectively. Individuals who have an irrational distaste for people having a different paint job than they do need to do some serious self-reflection.
Is life more difficult for a black man? Well, yes, it is. Much of this is cultural, however, and not racial. It follows from the fact that 40% of violent crimes are committed by 6% of the population, i.e., black males. If that’s “institutional racism” in the view of a lot of rather shallow thinkers, then march until your shoes wear out; it won’t change until crime stats change. And crime stats won’t change until a revolution takes place in the black underclass.
The first rumblings of that revolution are happening even as we speak; there is very slow tectonic shift taking place in the African-American community as black Americans, by ones and twos, by dozens and hundreds, are slowly waking up to the fact that they’ve been had by the Democrats. That they’ve always been had by the Democrats, who were the fiercest opponents to emancipation, the staunchest supporters of Jim Crow, and the steely backbone of the KKK.
Democrats are scared stiff that they’ll lose their African-American constituents. They should be. If they don’t take their party back from the extreme Left and get their act together vis a vis their historic mistreatment of their most loyal demographic, they’ll be shunted off to the sidelines as a semi-permanent minority party. And that’s bad for the republic. One-party rule always is.