“A Species Of Madness”

I don’t do this often, but I must share with you a comment I received on Monday from a frequent and insightful contributor to the ongoing discussions on this blog. I know a lot of you folks don’t dive into the comment section, but you really should. You will learn a lot of stuff or be directed to places where you can learn a lot of stuff, or you can be one of those who teach the rest of us a lot of stuff.

In case you missed this one, here it is:

thegeneralist commentThe book, The Fall of the House of Dixie, can be purchased here, and here is a link to a review from NPR Books, which includes this:

As its ranks dwindled and in a last gasp, the Confederacy, too, had a plan to recruit black soldiers. In 1864, Confederate President Jefferson Davis approved a plan to recruit free blacks and slaves into the Confederate army. Quoting Frederick Douglass, Levine calls the logic behind the idea “a species of madness.”

One factor that contributed to this madness, he says, “is the drumbeat of self-hypnosis” that told Confederates that “the slaves are loyal, the slaves embrace slavery, the slaves are contented in slavery, the slaves know that black people are inferior and need white people to … oversee their lives. … Black people will defend the South that has been good to them. There are, of course, by [then] very many white Southerners who know this is by no means true, but enough of them do believe it so that they’re willing to give this a chance.”

Considering what might have happened had there been no war at all, Levine thinks slavery could well have lasted into the 20th century, and that it was, in fact, the Confederacy that hastened slavery’s end. “In taking what they assumed to be a defensive position in support of slavery,” he says, “the leaders of the Confederacy … radically hastened its eradication.”



  1. Absolutely true and insightful. My Virginia-born wife and I have had numerous discussions on the notion that slaves were often content with and desirous of their paternalistic relationship with their owners. It was a theme deeply embedded in her thinking and it was only through a discussion that lasted over some years, and seeing some movies like “Mississippi Burning”, that she eventually saw the truth for what it is.

    Somehow, we are still married. 🙄


  2. Jane Reaction

     /  April 17, 2013

    Jane always applauds truthfulness, and Randy and Jim have put a couple of nails in the mouldered Confederate coffin. Thank you.


  3. Jane Reaction

     /  April 17, 2013

    Jane was too hurried and forgot that thgeneralist gave us the gist of it.


  4. To me, the great irony in all this is that blacks sought comfort in Christianity. And no doubt the teachings of Jesus helped them cope with the cruelty of slavery. But it’s the OT that’s the problem. God had no problems with slavery. In fact, he directs his “chosen people” to take the people that survived their conquests, not as prisoners, but as slaves — including women and children. You won’t find any of God’s covenants that say, “Thou shalt not buy and sell human beings.”


    • Herb,

      Yes, the slaves learned just enough Christianity to give them hope that in the sweet by-and-by there would be hope for them, just “not yet.” I wonder how that meme came to be permitted? In any case, I couldn’t agree more with your take on the slavery issue in the OT. But if the slaves had learned that the OT formed the basis of the NT, they might have been more skeptical of their future in heaven and more willing to slash the throats of their masters.

      Funny how that works.



  5. Duane, I’m humbled to have been quoted in your august blog. I was poleaxed by this book. I grew up very close to Richmond, Virginia’s famous and beautiful Monument Avenue with its statuary tributes to Lee, Davis, Stuart, Jackson and Maury. The spirit that would erect and maintain memorials to those who would launch loyal young men into the teeth of slaughter to sustain their own personal opulence, bigotry and regional dominion is alive and well in the Tea Party, the NRA, Randian Libertarianism and hyper-Capitalism which are clawing and scratching to turn the US into a perpetual feudal state. The book also reminds us that among those most complicit in the philosophical arguments advocating for slavery were the southern Ministers of the Gospel — not all, but most — and across all denominations. And today — it’s those same ministers who whip their congregations into falling into step behind rich masters by telling them there is honor in poverty and all will be well in the sweet by and by.


  6. ansonburlingame

     /  April 19, 2013

    To all,

    Arguing over slavery today seems….. Of course it is wrong. But for several millenia it was considered part of life on earth. Then, as man progressed things began to change. Great Britain outlawed slavery long before we did and they did it without a war. Brazil outlawed slavery a couple of decades after we did, and they did so without a war. Saudi Arabia did not outlaw slavery until the 1950’s as I understand it. Who knows what the legal status of slavery might be in the Sudan, today???

    Start with ancient Egypt and move forward in history and slavery became outlawed in various places by various means throughout the world but only in the last 200 or so years compared to millenia.

    And if you listen to liberals we still need many “new” laws to deal with the after affects of slavery in America, about 150 years since it was outlawed, through a bitter war.

    I grew up in the South, sort of but not the deep south. NEVER did I hear arguments that slavery was “right”. Rather the arguments were “yes, but…..” in condemning Yankee intrusion into the South. I don’t know of many today that still hold that resentment. I sure don’t but it was part of my childhood upbringing within the society in which I grew up.

    Every “red blooded” American today came from roots of people fleeing tryanny. My own family tree begins in America with a religious man arriving on American shores in 1649 and living out his life in New England. Farther down that line is a man that fought hard to help Chinese “coolies” in the 1870’s. (google Burlingame Treaty for more info). I just happened to be part of that legacy within a small part of that tree that moved to Kentucky around the late 1800’s as far as I can tell.

    Again, as far as I can tell, every member of that family tree, starting in 1649 used the concepts of the American Dream, individual hard work and constant efforts to improve their lot in life through basically their own efforts as individuals. It worked for some 13 generations so far. As far as I can tell also there were no slave owners in that tree but several abolutionists (but none of the radical sort either that I can tell).

    I doubt that Jim’s wife ever attempted to condone slavery. But as well I can understand her background, growing up in Virginia in the 1940s (or 30s or 50s, but so what) and influences of that society. But just because she came from such a society does in no way mean she retains the harsh criticism we hear today against those older days and part of American society.

    Yet how often do liberals try to compare the likes of Mitt Romney to that old ruling class of slave owners today? Does that not sound ridiculous? I guess not as I hear such often, on this blog site!! It would be like a conservative trying to “link” Obama to Bolshevics from earlier days in America which would be equally ridiculous, at least to me.

    Any man or woman retains part of their past, genetically I suppose. But men and women can take the good part of any legacy and reject the “bad” influences as individuals. Good men and women do that all the time and their politics is as varied as there are individuals, both “good and bad”.



    • Anson,
      I found the gratuitous interjection of family history interesting. I, too, have “abolutionists” in the decaying woodpile. Several were Catholic priests. My great-grandfather broke with Rome and married a Swiss Lutheran, enabling me the pleasure of memorizing Luther’s Small Catechism. Orlando’s separation from Catholicism, tempered by Lutheran doctrines that maintained the old rituals of transubstantiation and the Sacrament of Penance, made family reunions less stressful. Since both faiths shared a fondness for incorporating liquor into social events, I imagine this helped lubricate any friction that might have arisen should the subject of justification mar family gatherings.

      I assume you misspelled absolutions However, if you intended to write abolitionists then I will save my droll story about Ishmael (Orlando’s whacky younger brother) for another time.


  7. As a “son of the south” I have some regard for grace and good manners: the best things to have survived from Dixie. None of the rascals I mentioned (Mittens, Sheldon, and the brothers Koch) have a modicum of the charm, and politeness I grew up with — as none are true southerners — but they all have the sense of entitled domination that would have made them brutal slave holders 165 years ago. They have demonstrated this time and again with their own employees and with their attitudes toward the common man. I make this case emphatically and unapologetically, Anson. To deny it is to not be paying attention.


  8. ansonburlingame

     /  April 20, 2013

    Good for you, General, to acknowledge that the “old South” was not just a bunch of greedy slave owners. Nor was the “Our eyes have seen the Glory” Yankees all a bunch of greedy capitalists. Both sides had good and bad men therein. And most of the men from the South were not big slave owners (or even little ones) they were rallying to a cause to protect their way of life, homes and families.

    My “gratuitous” rendition of a family of some 13 generations tried to make that point. One great grandfather, two grandfathers, my Dad and my Mother were all from Kentucky. For sure NONE of them owned any slaves nor did they try to teach me that slavery was “right”. Just the opposite. As well they taught me to try hard to treat all people with dignity and compassion in my daily life, which I failed to do all the time, regardless of where I was “raised”. I went through some tough times for a year after HS but before going to college being treated like a “white hill billy for Kentucky”. It took a couple of bloody noses to sway that disdain in “prep school” and some growing up on my part as well.

    If some liberals want to try to say Mitt Romney (or most conservatives are) is “just like a slave owner” in terms of his morality, well free speech, even misguided free speech is alive and well and rebutal to such ideas is free as well.



  9. True, Anson, there were regular folks in the South like my Civil War era ancestors: small, independent farmers, confectioners, wheelwrights, teachers, and coopers. Their way of life was not at stake or being somehow protected by secession. In fact, as is often the case today, their support of the war flew in the face of their professional self interest. The men who drove the South were the rich planters/slave holders. In the early days of the war they’d convinced many of the southern freemen (via conscription) to fight on behalf of saving slavery, but there was not universal compliance and as the war ground on many of the non-slave-holding families withdrew their support and their young men. The same is true today: effectively presented with the truth, more and more unconscious followers of the addled and dishonest noise of the job-sucking “job-creators” are washing their hands of the lords of the manor and embracing the true democratic ideas of HONEST American diversity and patriotism, leaving fundamentalist, racist churches and the extreme views of the new GOP. The angry old white guys are dying. The GOP has nothing to offer their progeny.


  10. ansonburlingame

     /  April 22, 2013

    For sure we can agree on most discussions of why the Civil War was ever fought in the first place and who, exactly caused it. And of course we can both take that “fight” all the way back to 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was finally agreed upon, was well, and signed by all sides. The tragedy of the War was the inablility to find compromise to avoid it, just as compromise is what it took to even begin to form our nation, much less preserve it later on.

    That is becoming a similar challenge, it seems to me today. And there are “angry men” (young, old and in between) on both sides of today’s political wars. I hope we can agree that such war must remain only political and not move into the streets and beyond from that point.

    You see “nothing to offer” from the GOP, seemingly in its entirety. I could not disagree more, obviously. I on the onther hand see “nothing to offer” from the likes of OWS rallies, militant black rages and rants from the likes of New Black Panthers, etc. But I do not accuse the whole Democrat Party of such malfeasance, either.

    And then we can both go back and watch the “protests” in Wisconsin of a year or so ago. No sense arguing, again, herein over those protests. But if a right wing supported mob took over a state House of Legislation to protest…….? Well I am sure you would object strongly to such actions as well.

    If Misslouri “right to work” legislation comes up for a vote in the near future, well we might see both sides trying to take over our own state legislature, might we not?? I can I guess who might be there with the left side, if such came to pass.

    Such “fights” MUST remain arguments using FIRST Amendment “rights” not ones evolving from, supposedly, the Second one, amendment that is. “Occupying” anything, Wall Street or houses of legislatures is NOT the kind of First Amendment “rights” that I respect, from either side, for sure.



    • Anson, the idea that anything non-GOP is Democratic Party oriented is irresponsibly FOXian. Shame on you. Anarchists are not Democrats and you know it. I can see how desperate your lack of legitimate argument is, however. The only people injured in the occupy protests were the occupiers as opposed to all sorts of innocents at risk when the NRA rules, and the families at risk when the Romney’s of the world build their fortunes on the earners of an unrealistic minimum wage and the wanton gutting of businesses and the jobs they provide — while hiding their wealth and tax responsibilities off-shore. The Black Panthers are not Democrats. Adelson, Romney, and the Koch’s ARE Republicans. Don’t be a nit wit.


  11. ansonburlingame

     /  April 23, 2013

    Anarchists are not Democrats you say, but Duane writes a blog about someone calling for using 2nd Amendment rights to “fix” legislators and brings down the house on the whole GOP. And you call me a nit wit????

    You are so stuck on the greed and malfeasance within the GOP ranks that you fail to even acknowledge the malfeasance with Democratic ranks. And to include a man such as Mitt Romney in such a category of GOP malfeasance is so obviously political and slanted that YOU wind up with egg all over your face as well.

    Use all the terms used just in the this blog over the campaign 2012 saga against Romney and then watch what happens herein if someone cuts loose calling Obama a “communist”.

    And there we go again, radicalizing our politics with each side trying to out shout and out link the other. Calling me a nit wit does NOTHING to make your points sound reasonable to any conservative even considering accepting some Democrat policies. I am used to it herein for sure and keep coming back for more. My friends think I am nuts to do so as well, but so what. They at least are comforted that around these parts in the voting booth, they have a lock on things and think “you guys” are just……. I do not defend that attitude for sure.

    I instead prefer to use the First Amendment rights to counter some of what they and I consider to be “radicalization” herein. And of course you, Duane and several others will call ME a radical to even attempt to rebut many of the points made herein!! And there we ALL go again, down further in any reasonable political discourse. Now read my column in today’s Globe.



    • Okay, Anson. Enough. You and I are starting to sound like a couple of disagreeable cousins at the family reunion. We don’t agree. Peace. Let’s move on.


  12. ansonburlingame

     /  April 23, 2013

    Disagreeable cousins is not my concern at all, wherever they might interact. But I don’t call you further names for defending your position herein either. But if you want more, then, again, check out my blog or column in the Globe as to my real concerns today in America.

    But no more herein as well and PEACE to you, General!



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