NRO: How the 1619 Project Rehabilitates the ‘King Cotton’ Thesis

Sharecropper Sam Williams with family members and laborers in cotton field (1907). Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/08/1619-project-new-york-times-king-cotton-thesis/

This NRO analysis bears on a recent discussion here at Tidewater Forum where the discussants disagreed on the economics of slavery in America.

A key proposition of the NRO piece is that the “King Cotton” thesis was originally used to justify slavery and the secession of the Southern states, but is now used to criticize American capitalism for having once relied on slave labor, presumably an indelible stain on the nation.

22 thoughts on “NRO: How the 1619 Project Rehabilitates the ‘King Cotton’ Thesis

  1. ” . . . presumably an indelible stain on the nation.”

    “Presumably?!”

    “Actually, slavery wasn’t that bad, some guys made some rounding errors,” is a very tough sell. Then again, we know how Buckley felt about black people. I’m surprised the NR didn’t pull out old faithful: “uh, it was actually the Democrats who were pro-slavery and Lincoln was a Republican.”

    Maybe you guys should just sit this one out.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. RE: “Presumably?!”

      Yes, as in making an assumption that the stain of slavery cannot be removed. In fact it can be, just as Frederick Douglas predicted the institution of slavery would be eradicated, and was.

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      1. While slavery itself ended as an institution, it took a Civil War to do so. However, it IS a large part of the history, both economically and politically, of this country. It is a stain, and not one that can be removed by any means of yesterday, today or tomorrow. To suggest otherwise is to ignore how this country was built and on whose backs.

        Like

      2. RE: “To suggest otherwise is to ignore how this country was built and on whose backs.”

        If you read the article, you’ll see there are scholars who argue against the proposition that the country was built on the backs of slaves.

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      3. The stain can removed. But use hydrogen peroxide, chlorine does not remove blood, vomit or other body fluids, it reacts and leaves a stain that is harder to remove.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Yes, as in making an assumption that the stain of slavery cannot be removed.”

    Fair enough. But lets not pretend we’ve come anywhere close to atoning (or even fully acknowledging) this country’s original sins.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: “lets not pretend we’ve come anywhere close to atoning (or even fully acknowledging) this country’s original sins.”

      By what standard and according to whom?

      I’d say that 600,000 dead in a Civil War, a decades long Civil Rights movement, and the popular election of a black president represent more than adequate atonement and acknowledgement.

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      1. Well, the racial wealth gap, the fact that being murdered by police is among the leading causes of death for young black men, that descendants of American Indians are relegated to impoverished reservations . . .
        And then there are the many people of color who would disagree with you. I’ll take their word for it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Until you’ve walked a mile in a black man’s shoes in this country, you have absolutely no standing to judge one way or the other.

          The racial wealth gap is real and very well documented. Black men, armed or, more importantly unarmed, are killed by police at an alarmingly higher rate than their white counterparts. Native Americans were forced to move to, and continue to live on, impoverished reservations.

          I know you to a better informed individual than what your comment displays.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. RE: “Until you’ve walked a mile in a black man’s shoes in this country, you have absolutely no standing to judge one way or the other.”

          That’s ridiculous.

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          1. “That’s ridiculous.”

            Because you say so? How is it you can judge someone without fully understanding where they have been, their journey, their experiences? It is unfair to do so. And to ignore those lives and where they have been is a disingenuous thought process.

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  3. The “indelible stain” was evidenced by the century following emancipation. The horrors if the Jim Crow South and the de facto, and legal, segregation of the North sustained for 5 or more generations the concept and culture of White Supremacy. A form of apartheid that lasted longer than South Africa’s.

    And the lasting, though diminishing, effects of such enforced second class citizenship that are evident today.

    The dispute over the economic impacts of slavery in the NR is really about numbers, and it is of limited relevancy. However, the racist culture defined a good portion of America for most its history.

    “…a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.” Mississippi Declaration of Secession

    “A blow at civilization”. Just to think along those lines did not evolve on its own.

    IMHO

    Liked by 3 people

    1. RE: “‘…a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.’ Mississippi Declaration of Secession”

      That would be the King Cotton thesis, as described in the article, which now you are using, as the article describes, to promote the guilt of original American sin.

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      1. Could be interpreted that way. But the idea of slavery as an institution that was important to the South is the point. And it was whether as King Cotton or just a Jack.

        And many Northern institutions still profited handsomely.

        But as I have asserted many times, the shame of slavery was the treatment of freed slaves and their descendants. Treatment that cannot be excused as anything other than a racist national culture.

        A culture that had thrived for centuries no matter the size of the economic impact.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. RE: “Treatment that cannot be excused as anything other than a racist national culture.”

        I don’t buy it. I see no reason to excuse (justify) slavery, attribute it to racism, or feel guilty about it.

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        1. Guilt is an individual feeling.

          Of course there is no good reason to justify slavery for economic gain. That’s the point. That is the travesty of racism, which was uses for centuries in our country to justify forced labor based on skin color.

          And the legal and extra-legal means of enforcing 2nd class citizenship into the modern era. That is also nothing but racism for economic gain and racial supremacy.

          Laws are passed by majority consensus in our nation. If the majority decides that a black man cannot ride in the front of the bus or go to the same schools as whites or buy a house in a white neighborhood then there no other reason than racism.

          South Africa was certainly considered a racist nation for their apartheid laws. Ours were no different except in some details. .

          Liked by 1 person

  4. “I don’t buy it. I see no reason to excuse (justify) slavery, attribute it to racism, or feel guilty about it.”

    And therein lies the problem I have with your take oin htis issue. Just because slavery ended does not mean it never happened. Just because you personally did not own slaves does not mean you can just wish it away.

    There WAS a post emancipation racist culture throughout this country long after the 13th Amendment was approved. To ignore that it happened, and still exists in pockets of this country today, is to ignore the facts. Just because YOU don’t see the racism that still exists does not mean it doesn’t exist.

    Liked by 1 person

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