". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Account of Reconstruction, 1865 - 1866 by a British Imperialist

K -- you will find this fascinating, in light of the books you're currently reading. 

"Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke’s fascinatingly odd Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries," (published 1868).

The heads-up for this from a blog I like, though some of the blogger's statements are, if not exactly wrong, not correct. For example the blogger states that the UK backed the Confederacy. The UK government never did back the Confederacy in any of the ways that mattered, and for which the Confederacy lobbyed until the end: financially (no loans), no weapons and no embargo of the Union, either diplomatic or mercantilist.

As for the blogger's conclusion, I have to agree wholeheartedly:

But the most telling passage for me, is this one — which occurred in the ellipsis above — in which we see most clearly how the problem of black free labor literally disappears under racism. When he asks the assembled whites about what kind of work the free blacks do, they literally cannot answer him. Though he has seen almost nothing in the entire town but black industrious labor, free black labor is so unthinkable to the ” poor trash” that when he points it out, they erase his very words with a spelling lesson on race hatred:

Strangers are scarce in Norfolk, and it was not long before I found an excuse for entering into conversation with the “citizens.” My first question was not received with much cordiality by my new acquaintance. “How do the negroes work? Wall, we spells nigger with two ‘g’s,’ I reckon.” Virginians, I must explain, are used to ” reckon” as much as are New Englanders to ” guess,” while Western men ” calculate ” as often as they cease to swear.) ” How does the niggers work? Wall, niggers is darned fools, certain, but they ain’t quite sich fools as to work while the Yanks will feed ‘em. No, sir, not quite sich fools as that.” Hardly deeming it wise to point to the negroes working in the sun-blaze within a hundred yards, while we sat rocking ourselves in the verandah of the inn, I changed my tack, and asked whether things were settling down in Norfolk.
That non-work ethic of the former confederacy? It’s alive and well among certain white southern populations still, as we learned while living in New Orleans.


Unknown said...

You're right, that might be an overstatement (though the British and French were pretty openly looking for ways to help the south). They did in fact sell them warships, I believe. But calling it British-supported is a little bit of a stretch, since they never actually stepped over the line, and that's important too.

K. said...

An early carpetbaggers initial impressions of the white South included an account of how lazy everyone was. He couldn't understand how the war lasted as long as it did.

Virginia was one of the few, if not the only, southern states not to succumb to the anti-black and anti-Republican violence, although it certainly climbed on the back of Jim Crow readily enough.

Foxessa said...

There were more than equal pressure groups in Britain and France that had no interest in helping the confederacy -- first they'd already abolished slavery in all their colonies. At the time of the Civil War the only other New World slave states were Cuba and Brasil. Britain and France could not keep any prestige as beneficent imperiums and back the slaveholding Confederacy.

There were many discussions with the Confed's ambassadors and lobbyists -- if they'd freed their slaves, they might possibly have had some luck with their petitions, but that wasn't gonna happen.

In the meantime Britain's own colonialist cotton industry got a big boost from the disappearance of confederate cotton; so did France. And that was the only reason and the only groups who had an interest in backing the confederacy: the textile industrialists -- who treated their own hands very little better than the confederacy treated its own manufacturing slaves.

In fact, I do believe a group of them in the north of England banded together to buy the confederacy a warship.

Here is a quick source for what the Brits could not do in that area, and why.

It does not escape our notice that Liverpool was the center of slave ship building and the slave trade for England in the 18th century.

Love, C.

Foxessa said...

O, yes, and Norfolk is one of the cities we'll visit and include in our book, during the Patrick Henry Writer's Fellowship this coming academic year.

Love, C.