Douglas Wilson

Happy Slaves
Racial Insensitivity
What Saith the Scripture?
Test Case
John Brown's Body
Whosoever Will
Hobgoblin of Little Minds
Neighborhood of Boston
French Revolution
Spoiling the Egyptians
Slippery Slope
League of the South
Birds of a Feather
Cultural Inferiority

The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, Edward John Poynter
The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon

Happy Slaves

Douglas Wilson has become a prominent Christian apologist, and no doubt the atheists with whom he interacts feel they have good reason to build him up. This Reformed author wrote a book called 'Black and Tan' which makes the case that the secessionist Southerners were the 'good guys' in the Civil War, whereas the benighted North was simply evil. This author believes that the South was right about the central issues in the Civil War, even though the South, God's favorites, were punished by an ungodly nation (the North) who are God's enemies:

"And although the South was correct about the central issues of that war, southern diehards must learn the hard lesson of Habbakuk, who had to accept that God can use an ungodly nation to judge another nation which is 'not as bad' (Hab. 1:13)." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 1211).

Just as God used the wicked Assyrians to chastise Israel, God used the wicked Northerners to punish the South for its minor deflections from a purported Biblical paradigm of godly slavery: "'A righteous God, for our sins towards Him, has permitted us to be overthrown by our enemies and His.'" (quote of R. L. Dabney, Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 232). According to Wilson, the Southern slave-owners won the Bible debate with the abolitionists, because the "Christian defenders of antebellum slavery" "knew the apostolic instructions precisely, had their exegesis in hand, and consistently bested the abolitionists in debate." (Black and Tan, Kindle location 305). He reiterates his verdict of victory: "Did the Christian apologists for slavery in the antebellum South have the advantage over the abolitionists when it came to their debates on the subject of slavery? Again, there is no question: 'The God-fearing southern people turned to the Bible to justify slavery, and the Bible did not disappoint them.'" (Black and Tan, Kindle location 850).

This book incorporates in part an earlier pamphlet asserting that the black slaves in the antebellum South were happy and content with their lot. The original pamphlet, so I understand, was fairly clear-cut and straight-forward in its thesis:

"Slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since."

"Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world."

"One could argue that the black family has never been stronger than it was under slavery. It was certainly stronger under the southern slave system that it is today under our modern destructive welfare state."

"Ironically, if slavery had not been so pleasant an experience for the majority, this mentality would not likely have such a strong hold upon the minds of some of their descendants today."

"And nothing is clearer — the New Testament opposes anything like the abolitionism of our country prior to the War Between the States. The New Testament contains many instructions for Christian slave owners, and requires a respectful submissive demeanor for Christian slaves. "

"Nearly every slave in the South enjoyed a higher standard of living than the poor whites of the South — and had a much easier existence."
(Southern Slavery as It Was, as quoted on Wilson's blog).

Douglas Wilson has never withdrawn nor renounced this viewpoint; he has, however, hedged it round with pro forma disclaimers. Characteristically, most of his surviving defense of the original thesis consists of venomous attacks on those who do not subscribe to it. This vision of slavery is by no means a new or unfamiliar perspective; who has not heard,

  • “Massa make de darkeys love him,
  • Cayse he was so kind;
  • Now, dey sadly weep above him,
  • Mourning cayse he leave dem behind.
  • I cannot work before tomorrow,
  • Cayse de tear-drop flow;
  • I try to drive away my sorrow,
  • Pickin' on de old banjo.
  • Down in de cornfield
  • Hear dat mournful sound;
  • All de darkeys am a-weeping,
  • Massa's in de cold, cold ground.”

  • ('Massa's in de Cold Ground,' by Stephen C. Foster).

John Stewart Curry, John Brown

It's a shame such a lilting, lovely tune is weighted down by unspeakable lyrics. Usually I myself try to rescue Stephen Foster by bowdlerization: say 'neighbors,' as in 'It's summer, the neighbors are gay.' It's not clear how to salvage this one. The argument runs, abolitionism is quite beside the point, because the slaves enjoy their current status and do not wish to change it. Sources were cited in the pamphlet in such a fashion as to suggest the authors had consulted primary sources; when it was pointed out they had not, instead of correcting the citations, they withdrew the pamphlet. Though the pamphlet has been withdrawn, it remains the thesis Douglas Wilson intends to defend, swamp it round as he may with muddy waters of obfuscation. It ascribed to the institution of southern slavery the production of a "mutual intimacy and harmony" between the races:

"Wilson's and Wilkins' booklet, published by Wilson's 'Canon Press' in Moscow, argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks. Wilson and Wilkins are quite specific about the many benefits of slavery for African-Americans, and they conclude that southern slaves genuinely appreciated those benefits and supported the system that provided them. As such, they claim that 'slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.' (p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. 'There has never been,' they argue, 'a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.' (p. 24). ('The Late Unpleasantness in Idaho: Southern Slavery and the Culture Wars,' by William L. Ramsey, December 19, 2004, History News Network).

While by no means unfamiliar, the 'happy slave' case strikes many as retrograde, in that an abundance of evidence survives, in the form of diaries, autobiographies, and oral history transcripts, suggesting that the slaves were only as content with their lot as one would expect from people who, glancing around the plantation, noticed that they were the only ones doing any work, but not the primary beneficiaries of the work product. One would imagine they were about as happy as were the Russian kulaks, upon demand from the Soviet Commissar that they surrender their grain reserves, without compensation. People are human after all, and so there likely were some Commissars who did not take all the grain, leaving the farm families to perish from hunger, as indeed entire villages did in that sad and starving land. However the Commissars who did not take all the grain were probably never described by the villagers, however grateful they may have been to the man who permitted, for a time, their survival, as "kind," because what is so kind about not stealing everything? That's not the right word. People who work, but don't get paid, are not customarily a happy lot, and so it is not difficult to believe the ex-slaves' own testimony that they were not especially happy under the slave system.

Further evidence of trouble in paradise are the draconian gun-control laws that were prevalent in the antebellum South. If you love and trust someone, what is the problem with him possessing a gun? Perhaps you would even be encouraged, thinking that now he can protect you when the motorcycle gang roars into town. But the Southern slave-owners were not encouraged when they thought about their slaves obtaining firearms, rather they feared being murdered in their beds. It was this atavistic fear that John Brown tapped into when he raided the arsenal at Harper's Ferry. He intended to distribute the looted weapons to Southern slaves. Now, if you support the Second Amendment, what exactly is the problem with that? The fact is, these people were perfectly well aware that their slaves were not singing songs about how devoted they were to Old Master and Missus, rather they harbored other thoughts. So the 'Happy Slaves' concept does not pass the reality test, and it is actually ludicrous in the present day that anyone should still be trying to retail it.


Racial Insensitivity

Some people accuse Douglas Wilson of racial insensitivity, although he insists he is not a racist. Indeed he dislikes racists for their less than sleek and glossy appearance and manner of personal presentation (he thinks they only have one tooth. . .like a narwhal, maybe?). He agrees with his neo-Confederate brethren, of course, on the central issue of the Civil War:

"So I also take it as a given that the South was right on all the essential constitutional and cultural issues surrounding the war, and this is my reason for calling myself unreconstructed." (Douglas Wilson, 'Black and Tan,' Kindle location 267).

His son wrote the forward to this book, for what reason I'm not sure — to humanize his Dad, over against the Southern Poverty Law Center, who think he ought to be watched? To appeal to that sliver of the readership who finds it heart-warming that the father his passed on his penchant for alcoholic beverages to the son? In any event, the son explains that this used to be a "white country:"

  • “A once white country is no longer white, having been broadened and strengthened by the victims of its white fathers.”

  • (Nathan Wilson, Foreword, Black and Tan, Kindle Location 39).

This makes the reader wonder: when was this ever a "white country"? Thomas Jefferson's America probably had more real multi-culturalism than we have today; the Native Americans, then a force to be reckoned with, were still mostly pagan; the African-Americans, whose unwilling importation ceased early in the nineteenth century, were as numerous relative to other groups as they would ever be. The majority of this group were originally pagan animists, though some few were Muslims. When, in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution denied to opera singer Marian Anderson the opportunity to sing at their Constitution Hall, many pointed out the irony, that African-Americans were more, not less, likely than others in our society to have had an ancestor present in this country at the time of the Revolution.

Or can it be these people agree with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who determined in the Dred Scott case that, whatever a black man might be, whether free or slave, he could never be a citizen, because that population were "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect?" Evidently these people are just here the way piping plovers are here, not like residents, and certainly not like citizens. But even piping plovers are where they are. By the time of the Civil War, most African-Americans were native born, and so how the Wilsons can imagine our nation was at the time a "white country" defies analysis.

What is this once "white country"? It is a country of the mind, and I think this is what people mean by 'racial insensitivity:' no African-American would ever talk about this country being a once "white country." It sounds like these folks don't get out much, and don't talk to very many African-Americans.

Douglas Wilson gets accused of racism a lot, a charge which he meets head-on, as he does all criticism, by accusing other people, not party to the conversation, of racism and various other kinds of malfeasance. According to him, the abolitionists were racist,— "Not only was the historical practice of slavery all bound up with racism, so was abolitionism," ('Black and Tan,' Kindle location 1266); in his eyes the North was if anything more racist than the South. This is not historically defensible, but it is his way of taking racism off the table as an accusation against the Southern slavers. He does seem to understand that racism is sinful and deeply unbiblical, which leaves the reader wondering when he proceeds to minimize and down-play this fault upon finding it in his heroes. When racism is the issue, he leaps onto the Bible bus; on this topic, he simply appropriates the abolitionists' familiar Bible arguments, without attribution, and gives them his endorsement:

"And so we as Christians, and especially as American Christians, must denounce as a matter of biblical principle every form of racism, racial animosity, or racial vainglory. God created man in His own image and has made from one blood all the nations of the earth (Acts 17:26)." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 503).

But then he falls off when it comes to slavery, because he is pro-slavery, this despite the fact that, unlike his atheist fellow-travelers in this matter, he is aware of Bible institutions like the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee. If he understands that racism is unbiblical, then why is he eager to commend the testimony of Southern slavers he freely acknowledges are racists, when the Bible says, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20). He insists the Southern slavers' arguments against abolition are determinative, even though these same arguments are not only shot through with racism, but are in fact premised upon racism. If we subtract the connective tissue holding the classic pro-slavery arguments together, which is racism, which he concedes is unbiblical, we are left with a pile of dust. Nevertheless, as far as he is concerned, the slavers won the debate; he calls "their exegesis on slavery" "solid and compelling." ('Black and Tan,' Kindle location 1278). This wildly illogical conclusion leaves the reader wondering whether he actually means what he says when he condemns racism, or whether we are in the realm of code words and dog whistles.

Mr. Wilson repeatedly tries to establish the bizarre connection in the reader's mind between Christian abolitionism and scientific Darwinian racism. 'North' and 'South' are geographic terms, not ideological ones; in what region did this ideology achieve its greatest popular penetration? 'Social Darwinism' was the policy arm of evolutionary racism; this was the policy perspective which wanted to withhold assistance from the poor, lest they breed. In what region of the country did this set of policy objectives find its greatest success and acceptance? In what part of the country was the policy of sterilizing feeble-minded women (which in practice meant poor, black women; they were rarely given an IQ test) enshrined in law, and actually applied to large numbers of helpless, indigent women who often were not even told what was being done to them? He says, "In the nineteenth century when Darwin first made his appearance, no one had any problem with the racist implications of his theory." (Douglas Wilson, 'Black and Tan,' Kindle location 418). Who is the "no one" who had no problem with racism? Not the North, which did not generally adopt these racist, eugenic measures; surely it must be the South, which did generally adopt them:


What Saith the Scripture?

By definition, the neo-Confederates are disloyal, seditious, and unpatriotic. History must admit, with weeping, that treason happened, but woe to those who celebrate and glorify treason. The worst thing about this man is the way he keeps spitting upon the graves of the brave Union dead, and upon the American flag. To clean up the mess, the custodians of every tidy little New England cemetery had better get out the cleaning buckets:

"On a thousand small-town New England greens,
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic." (For the Union Dead, by Robert Lowell).

After this man gets done spray-painting his hateful graffiti and strewing trash around, they are going to need a clean-up job. To be sure, when God listened to the cries of African-Americans held in bitter bondage in the South and determined to act, he used imperfect men as His instruments; what other kind of men are ever available? We must never forget the terrible cost at which the liberty of the bond-servant was bought:

"We had three million slaves in this country, and before they could be set free, half a million men had to lay down their lives. The choicest of the nation marched to their graves before our slaves gained their deliverance." (Dwight L. Moody, A Life for Christ, Kindle location 1114).

But the second worst thing is the way he keeps propagandizing in favor of the claim that the Bible does, really and truly, support slavery, just like the atheists say. The crux of the dispute is his claim that the abolitionist interpretation of the Bible failed, blown away by the far superior Southern slave-owners' rival interpretation, which he admits was founded upon racism, which he admits is unbiblical. There is an evident synergy here between this author and his atheist friends; both agree the Bible sanctions slavery, the atheist because he wants to discredit the Bible, Douglas Wilson because he wants to vindicate the Southern slave-owners. But is this true? Did the abolitionist interpretation really fail, or did it prevail amongst those open to persuasion, and with very good reason?:

The atheists, who are his biggest fans, have found in Mr. Wilson a 'useful idiot,' one suspects, because he repeats their loudest claim against the Bible, that it is pro-slavery: "But you're cherry picking the good parts. Explain to me how a book that is written by God, who is perfect, there's so much — it's pro-slavery, pro-polygamy, it's homophobic. God in the Old Testament is a psychotic mass murderer — I mean, there's so many things in it." (Atheist Bill Maher, quoted in My Christianity Daily, 'Talk Show Host and Panel Bash Bible: God is a 'Psychotic Mass Murderer,' July 31, 2013, Christian News Network.) Leaving out the modern, nonsense word 'homophobic,'— the names of the phobias are formed from the Greek, and 'homophobia' means 'fear of the same [...],'— we are left with the accusation that the Bible is "pro-slavery" and "pro-polygamy."

The Bible makes its points by telling stories. We hear, in the Bible, about Joseph, unjustly sold into slavery, and the children of Israel groaning under Egyptian captivity. We don't hear the slave-owner's perspective. God cannot be assumed to have infinite patience for hearing that viewpoint. It would be different if the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt were not one of the central points about which the whole construction pivots:

"It was necessary also as a preparation for the later history of Israel, when the Lord God would bring them out from their house of bondage by His outstretched arm, and with signs and wonders. As this grand event was to form the foundation and beginning of the history of Israel as a nation, so the servitude and the low estate which preceded it were typical, and that not only of the whole history of Israel, but of the Church itself, and of every individual believer also, whom God delivers from spiritual bondage by His mighty grace."

(Edersheim, Alfred (2014-06-29). Bible History: Old Testament: Books One Through Four (The Works of Alfred Edersheim Book 4) (Kindle Locations 2690-2694).

To this oft-heard atheist accusation, 'The Bible is pro-slavery,' Douglas Wilson's rejoinder is, 'You're right.' But they are not right. The most that can be conceded to this entire crew is that, while the Bible is undeniably anti-slavery, God's perspective on this institution is not presented in the immediate programmatic political dimension they demand. The Lord left the political work to be accomplished by His followers. I often get the impression that atheists put the Bible into the same literary category as the platform planks put out by the political parties every four years. But this is, if not a category error, at least a misapplication of the Dewey decimal system, because the Bible is a book which proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ, not a set of finite, secular policy demands. Nevertheless, the gospel does indeed have political consequences.

Is it true, as our author claims, that the abolitionists hated the word of God: "It is simply the recognition that on the slavery issue the drums of war were being beaten by the abolitionists, who were in turn driven by a zealous hatred of the word of God." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location),— or were they the ones who wanted to follow the word of God, and studied it diligently to find out how to do that?:


 Goodsell Buckingham 
The Bible Vindicated
Evan Lewis
An Address to Christians
John Newton
Thoughts Upon the
 African Slave Trade 
John Rankin
Thoughts on
 American Slavery 
John Wesley
 Thoughts Upon Slavery 
Theodore D. Weld
 Bible Against Slavery 

People are expected to believe John Wesley was a free-thinker? He is reviving the mythology of the South's victimization: "The idea that the South as a region had been crucified by a materially superior but spiritually degenerate North became one platform of the white myth of the Lost Cause. Southern loyalists repeated it into the twentieth century." (Richard W. Fox, Jesus in America, Kindle location 3916).

According to the atheists, the Southern slavers read the Bible 'literally,' while their abolitionist opponents read it, how?— spiritually? In historical reality, defenders of Southern race-based slavery contended that blacks were not even human beings: "In The History of Jamaica (1774) Edward Long developed the outrageous argument that in the Creator's 'series or progression from a lump of dirt to a perfect man,' African negroes were inferior to human beings. 'When we reflect on. . .their dissimilarity to the rest of mankind, must we not conclude that they are a different species of the same genus?'" (quoted from Edward Long, The History of Jamaica, pp. 351-356, in Issues Facing Christians Today, John R. W. Stott and John Wyatt, pp. 271-272). This is patently unbiblical,— the Bible teaches we are all children of Adam and Eve,— so Wilson flips it, making the Northern abolitionists to argue in favor of polygenesis and the Southern slavers to defend Biblical monogenesis. Wilson quotes with approval, "'The religiously orthodox Old South, in contradistinction to the religiously liberal Northeast, stood on its prejudice in favor of a literal reading of the Bible's account of the monogenesis of the human race. . .' So I do believe that in the broad sense the War Between the States could be described as a religious war." (Douglas Wilson, 'Black and Tan,' Kindle location 1301).

Literal or spiritual? Let's take an example. On the subject of fugitive slaves, God's word says, what?— literally and exactly,

“You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him.” (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

God's word says, literally and exactly, not to return him. And so the Northern abolitionists said, in response to the slavers' demands, shall we follow God, or man? We cannot return the fugitive slave. What did the slavers care what the Bible said? They wanted him back. And this pattern recurs over and over again. In fact, Mr. Wilson is aware of some of these provisions of the Mosaic law; so what is his solution to the dilemma? He claims that nineteenth century American was a pagan country, and so it doesn't matter that they weren't following the law of Moses! This external site maintains a treasure trove of abolitionist literature:

Test Case

Douglas Wilson proposes a test case, to prove the abolitionists wrong, of a contemporary slaver presenting himself for membership in a church:

"Suppose a man presented himself for membership in your church. . .And if he is refused membership, then what are you going to do when he (his name was Philemon) goes back and tells the apostle Paul what you did to him?" (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 561).

To this author, as to N. T. Wright, church membership is hugely important, and essentially substitutes for salvation. There is a little bit of a 'cheat' in this test case, because the time stream starts slip-sliding away in the middle of it for some reason. For the sake of clarity, let us hold that constant, please. Now, what should you do when a man comes to your church and applies for membership; and when you start chatting with him and ask him what he does for a living, he explains that he has a shipping container full of Indonesian ladies he has smuggled into the country, who are busily sewing garments, for no wages, and they are forbidden to leave the locked shipping container? Such cases actually happen, though thankfully not often. What do you do? You call the cops, of course. What possible scriptural justification can you find for doing such a thing; how dare you defy Peter and Paul, who said nothing about calling the cops on Philemon and his peers? Because Christians are to be good citizens, and slavery is against the law: "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same." (Romans 13:3).

And why is slavery illegal? Because this is a democratic republic, and the people, whose Christian consciences were formed in part by study of Moses' law, made it so. Moses freed the slaves, at the Sabbatical and the Jubilee; realizing this, Christian folk might understandably be nervous that defying God's law, by not ever freeing those unlawfully and unwillingly kidnapped from Africa, might bring down a curse. Wilson's luminary Dabney is hostile to democracy: "And both the French and the Yankee Jacobins, deriving from it an impious deification of the will of the mob which happens to be the larger, as the supreme law, have reduced their theory to practice in the most violent, ruthless, and mischievous oppressions ever perpetrated on civilized communities." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3031). Wilson shares this hostility: "God was to be toppled, and a new god, the god demos, was to be honored in His place." (Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 31); "'. . .the government schools were a rebellious idea from the start.' The nature of this rebellion was democracy— the rule of demos, the people." (Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 34). Proponents of democracy are idolaters, in short. He looks forward to the day when "that fundamental faith [in democracy] is rattled and abandoned in repentance." (ibid. p. 36). But hating the world as it is does not make it otherwise. In the debate over American slavery, the abolitionists had tradition on their side, because it had been a long time since any Christian European had been sold as a slave; however, playing the race card confused the issue for a time, though it ultimately got corrected, and not by his side. So after all the excitement dies down and the cops and immigration agents stop swarming around the place, you visit the man in prison and explain that your church has a vibrant prison outreach.


John Brown's Body

Reformed author Douglas Wilson, at the outset of his book 'Black and Tan' telegraphs his paradigm for changing the debate. Since his earlier claims that slavery was benign did not set people's heads to nodding, he wants now to claim that a social movement, abolitionism, the vast majority of whose adherents were scrupulously non-violent and committed to lawful transformation through the democratic political process, was actually a campaign of violent terrorism. How do you do that? By making the one violent man representative of the whole:

  • “Suppose Christians two hundred years from now are being embarrassed with stories about the old evil days when their twisted twentieth-century Christian ancestors blew up abortion clinics, shot abortion doctors, mailed anthrax to abortion clinics, etc. 'That's all they ever did, day in and day out,' the instructor said calmly, finishing his lecture. Now the Bible condemns all these murderous activities, and it is not necessary for our future brother to reject this slander of us and our peaceful pro-life activities in order for him to stand for the abstract truth that the Bible condemns murder.”

  • (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle Location 81).

See how it's done. He has seen it done, he knows how to do it, and he intends to proceed with it. Just as one killer, Paul Hill, shoves aside a whole populace of law-abiding pro-lifers, so one killer, John Brown, will be made into the face of abolitionism:

  • “At the same time, because the gospel of Christ necessarily brings liberty to captives, it should also be obvious that the spread of the gospel over time necessarily subverts the institution of slavery generally. But this gradual subversion would have been reformational and gradual and not revolutionary and bloodthirsty, as radical abolitionism was.”

  • (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle Location 567).

Now you see, children, how we transform the debate, not like it's honest or fair or anything. But in truth, the debate between the Southern slavers and the abolitionists was not over the mode, timing and method by which abolition was to be achieved, but whether there was to be any such thing at all. Wilson's guiding light on slavery, Southern racist Robert Lewis Dabney, looked down time's alley before that nasty Civil War and saw a bright future unfolding: "Thus did African slavery among us solve this hard problem; and place before us a hopeful prospect of a long career of freedom and stability." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3595).

Certainly for Christians violence can never be any other than a last resort. John Brown, rejected by all at the time of his raid on Harper's Ferry,— neither did the slave rise up in Spartacus rebellion, nor did the abolitionist rally to his cause,— was recognized posthumously as a sort of prophet, the one man who had understood Southern intransigence, and realized that only when Northern armies of liberation swept through the South and pried the key to the slave's chains from the cold, dead hand of the Southern slaver would abolition be accomplished. That, tragically, is just how it happened. Would it have happened otherwise? As his friend Frederick Douglass said, "They could kill him, but they could not answer him." (John Brown: An Address at the 14th Anniversary of Storer College). The recalcitrant Southern racists had no intention of freeing the slaves, nor was it happening, either visibly or invisibly. If any slaves were being freed, it was only at a glacial pace, and as Wilson's guiding light, Southern racist Robert Lewis Dabney, malevolently observes, a freed slave in the American Southland was "still debarred as much as ever from social equality by his color and caste. . ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1901).


Whosoever Will

Douglas Wilson is a Reformed pastor, who has by no means been ostracized by his peers over his unorthodox understanding of antebellum slavery. He is well within the Calvinist mainstream, a respected brother and esteemed teacher, which makes you wonder. Calvinism holds that God's freedom cannot be preserved and vindicated, unless only God is free. Some contemporary Calvinists do not believe there is any human freedom at all, even for regenerate persons to make morally indifferent choices such as whether to wear the blue socks or the brown socks. This was not John Calvin's original doctrine, but a subsequent development therefrom; it is not uncommon for later adherents to a particular teaching to erect a hedge around it, as happened here. Against this doctrine are various Bible testimonies that ascribe 'grace failures' to human agency:

“Will they fall and not rise? Will one turn away and not return? Why has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit, they refuse to return.” (Jeremiah 8:4-5).

Do they refuse to return, as it says, or has God refused to return them, and this verse is empty mockery? Who is willing, and who is not willing?:

One place where you see the influence of Calvinism on Douglas Wilson's role model, Robert Lewis Dabney, is on the question of minimalism or under-achievement. Calvinists vigorously deny the charge of antinomianism sometimes levelled against them. However, under no other system will you see this type of ethical reasoning, whether on the topic of slavery or any other: unless you can prove Biblically that all slave-owners go to hell, which of course you cannot, then slave-owning is okay. What about God's will as expressed in His law, in His hatred of oppression, His desire to break the captive's yoke? They have a tendency to defend a kind of aggressive slacking as a consequence of their system, not to mention Dabney's category of racial 'inherited sinfulness,' unknown to other schools of interpretation: not our common inheritance from Adam, but rather an invidious distinction between differing people-groups. The imperative to do the bare minimum we can get away with is simply not understood by other schools of thought.

In fairness to Calvinism, some Calvinists perceive their school of though as uniquely incompatible with slavery and oppression:

"If Calvinism places our entire human life immediately before God, then it follows that all men or women, rich or poor, weak or strong, dull or talented, as creatures of God, and as lost sinners, have no claim whatsoever to lord over one another, and that we stand as equals before God, and consequently equal as man to man. . .Hence Calvinism condemns not merely all open slavery and systems of caste, but also all covert slavery of woman and of the poor; it is opposed to all hierarchy among men. . ." (Abraham Kuyper, Six Lectures Delivered in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, pp. 25-26).

On one point it is strange that Calvinism, with its teaching of Total Depravity, should testify on behalf of allowing one (totally depraved) man to hold total, uncontested, absolute dominion over another (totally depraved) man. Is this really such a good idea? Granville Sharp, in his treatise against slavery, brings up the frequently heard claim that Christianity is incompatible with slavery: "The honorable Mr. Justice Barrington (in his observations on the more ancient statutes, p. 280.) mentions a notion originally inculcated by Wycliff and his followers, which began to prevail so early as the time of the great lawyer Fitzherbert, 'OF ITS BEING CONTRARY TO THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, THAT ANY ONE SHOULD BE A SLAVE,' and from hence, (says he) 'in more modern times, Slavery hath been supposed to be inconsistent with the common law, which is said to be founded on Christianity.'" (Granville Sharp, A Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery in England, pp. 161-162). In his discussion of this point, Granville Sharp mentions, not only that slavery is inconsistent with charity, but also that it assigns immense power to "worldly minded men:"

"For mankind in general, howsoever religious they may esteem themselves, are not so perfect as to be safely entrusted with absolute power. Avarice, choler, lust, revenge, caprice, and all other human infirmities, according to the different dispositions of men, will too frequently enslave the master himself, as as to render him entirely unfit to be entrusted with an absolute power over others." (Granville Sharp, A Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery in England, pp. 162-163).

So on this one point, of entrusting one man with total dominion over another, it does tend to run against the current of Calvinism to advance full speed ahead, although no less a Calvinist than Robert Lewis Dabney responds to the self-evident problem of evil and malevolent slave-owners with a shrug of the shoulders. On other points, however, it may be there is synergy.

Robert Lewis Dabney was not stupid, and he realized that the popular pro-slavery arguments heard before the Civil War: that 'black skin'='the mark of Cain,' for example, were good for nothing but to give giggling fits to Northern abolitionists. And so he razed that structure and built again from the ground up. One might wonder at his timing: what is the need for a defense of slavery, first published after the war, when slavery was gone, other than to provide a rationale for the deprivation of civil liberties of the newly-liberated slaves? Much of his 'Defense of Virginia' consists of hacking through the thicket of abolitionist anti-slavery argumentation, but the pro-slavery part rests upon a novel but purportedly 'Biblical' concept: that the black race is cursed, that God has no intention of saving these people, and that society must think in terms of control and damage limitation when dealing with this population. It is unsurprising, given this framework, that the man was skeptical when hearing testimonies from African-American Christians. But this new and improved argument, while it is not as silly as prior pro-slavery arguments, cuts its target constituency right down the middle. What Methodist or 'Free-Will' Baptist is likely to sit still while hearing that God does not intend to save a certain population? They will fidget and protest, 'But if they repent, God will surely accept them; God has never said 'nay' to the repentant sinner.' This is a pro-slavery 'Bible argument' only for Calvinists, and not even all of those.

One of the underlying failures of Biblical interpretation that undergirds Calvinism is over this very issue: is God for the slave, or for the slave-owner? Recall that the central narrative of the Old Testament is the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from bondage in Egypt. Who is God for: the Hebrew, or the Egyptian? The Calvinist says, God says He is for the slave, but of course, like the rest of us, He is really more impressed by the slave-owner; therefore His election of the slave is only intended to demonstrate His arbitrary power. Some people continually fail to see the main point, ever looking instead for some loop-hole, anomaly or exception. This author calls to mind an imprisoned man seated before a massive cement wall. He squints: why, there are little cracks in the cement wall! Perhaps I can take my spoon and work at these cracks; surely the wall-builder would not have left them there, if he did not really want me to undermine this useless wall! But the wall is, after all, the main point; sometimes it is helpful to notice the obvious. That God is for the burdened Hebrew slave and against the mighty, powerful and wealthy Egyptian is another point; God leans to hear the cry of the oppressed, not the blurted self-satisfaction of the oppressor. They have turned the Bible inside-out, yet they're convinced they're doing an excellent job of explicating God's will; they are teachers in their own eyes. Is 'Reformed' doctrine biblical, either in its original form as John Calvin propounded it, or in the form in which it is held today by its modern-day salesmen?:


  • “But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

  • (John 5:38-40).

T - Total Depravity U - Unconditional Election
L - Limited Atonement I - Irresistible Grace
P - Perseverance of the Saints

The system's founder is John Calvin, who created a structure of admirable internal consistency, which however is not altogether scriptural:

John Everett Millais, The Good Samaritan

Hobgoblin of Little Minds

They say that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and no one can accuse our author of being in bondage to any such nagging little demon.

Casus Belli

On the one hand, the Civil War was not about slavery:

"We have been told many times that the war was over slavery, but in my view it was actually over the biblical meaning of constitutional government." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 581).

Nevertheless, even though the Civil War was not fought over slavery, the abolitionists, who had no other issue than slavery, are responsible for six hundred thousand lives:

  • “One goal of this small essay is to show that if this impression is largely false, then the instructions laid down in the New Testament for Christians in slave-holding societies were applicable straight across—and those instructions did not include a war which would kill over 600,000 men.”

  • (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle Location 535).

Inasmuch as the known Civil War was not over slavery, was there some other not known Civil War, this one started by abolitionists firing on Fort Sumter, which actually was about slavery, in which case it would be rational and to the point to say, "Jesus Christ really is the ultimate Jubilee. But this is not accomplished through revolutionary means, through the bloodletting of social cataclysm." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 591). Who is he chiding here? There was no abolitionist war, according to him, therefore no abolitionist revolution.

The reader who consults neo-Confederate web-sites will find this to be a constant, the Civil War was always about something other than slavery: tariffs, economic exploitation, good government, or whatever. Our author is no exception (in some moods):

"The war was over the meaning of constitutional government, the nature of federalism, the life of republics, and the definition of civic liberty." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 949).

But then, suppress it how you will, the truth comes bubbling up, and it turns out that the abolitionists, who qua abolitionists take no common or distinctive position on federalism, constitutionalism, tariffs, or the like, are responsible for the loss of 600,000 human lives. Where does our author's hero, slavery apologist Robert Lewis Dabney, stand on this issue?

"Then the North, having ceased to find its own interest in the slave trade and slavery, changed its ground, and began to cast about, merely from a desire of sectional power in the confederacy, for means to destroy the institution. It is unnecessary to argue that the whole free-soil controversy, and the war which grew out of it, were really designed by them to destroy slavery in the States: for they themselves, in the pride of success, have long ceased to conceal that fact." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 4178).

Hmmm. . .the Civil War was a clever Northern plot to destroy slavery. Some Christians espouse pacifism, Biblically and consistently; our author, whose heroes are Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, is not one of them. Only in the case of slavery does he insist on the necessity of pacifism. . .for the other side! Hmmm. . .what's that von Clausewitz said, “The conqueror is always a lover of peace; he would prefer to take over our country unopposed.” Wouldn't it have been more helpful to preach pacifism to the men who fired on Fort Sumter? It is not clear why people he dislikes have to be pacifists, while people he likes are free to celebrate their glorious military tradition; there is a certain asymmetry here. Our author does not understand the Sermon on the Mount's protocol of non-resistance to evil; to him, if there is no command to resist at arms, then there is no evil. This is partly why he imagines there must be a 'Biblical' form of slavery; it is as if someone hearing, in the Sermon on the Mount, that one should hand over to the expropriator the cloak as well as the coat, should say, 'Aha! There is a Biblical form of stealing!'

Truly no historian could deny that the Civil War was fought over, among other things, the right of American states to secede from the federal union. But it was not fought over this right in a vacuum. Suppose passers-by should tackle a man, shot-gun in hand, chasing his wife down the street while yelling, 'I'm going to kill you!' These 'gun-grabbers' grab his gun away and sit on him until the cops come. In a sense the fight was over the right to bear arms, but not only over that. We cannot be sure of the actual position of these Good Samaritans vis-a-vis the Second Amendment, because the real-life conflict was not over the right to 'open carry' in a vacuum, but over the right to bear arms if it is evident you intend to shoot somebody, right here and now. As the signing statements of the Southern states at the time of secession made clear, they wished to secede from the union in order to keep millions of human beings in perpetual bondage. For such a nefarious and unbiblical purpose, most in the North perceived no right to secede.


In a like vein, our author is "grateful" slavery is over and done with:

"I am profoundly grateful that chattel slavery no longer exists in our nation." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 589).

He is profoundly grateful that it's gone, though he wants it understood that the people who got rid of it are moral monsters. If Southern slavery was really so wonderful as he says, why isn't nostalgia called for rather than gratitude for its demise? Put on your hip boots before you wade through this morass of contradictory impulses interspersed with publishable denials. Our author keeps circling around the ideas, clear at their source in the original pamphlet, returning, one might almost say, like a dog to its vomit, convinced that if he can just 'frame' them properly, others will see what he sees. He cannot stop whining that people are not nice to him, though what he and his collaborator, with the 'Anglo-Celtic'-centric 'League of the South,' are proposing is treason, and nobody has to be nice to traitors.

It is difficult to fathom the depths of shamelessness and dishonor from which this man is looking up at us, from which a man would venture to slander brave men who died for freedom, a value of which he has no conception, and who are not here to defend themselves against his raucous taunts. This self-indulgent, confessional book does not display any tendency toward clear thinking or sound logic. He wants to trace his roots; but when he does so, the current propels him towards slave-owning Southerners. (Or does it? He is guru-in-residence for a small neo-Confederate cult in Idaho; why Idaho? Last time I checked a map, this state was north of the Mason-Dixon line. He explains, in his book, that he grew up in Maryland, which has at least this much in common with Idaho, that it was not one of the Confederate states.) The Southern slave-owners must, therefore, after all and in spite of everything, have been good people, because he is a good person and they are his people; his narcissism will allow no other conclusion. The reader cannot remain aboard for the journey, because who, after all, has any reason to believe our author is a good person?


The book 'Black and Tan' is a multi-layered journey through time, with the earliest content being the unapologetically pro-slavery pamphlet (his half of it, at any rate) that started the controversy. Words have meanings, and this pamphlet is not very difficult to decode; it is frankly pro-slavery. When a writer comes to believe he spoke in error, he is always free to retract; but this our arrogant author will never do. Instead, he envelops and encases the material in an opaque sheath of confused, garbled 'explanations' that seem intended only to conceal the original, perfectly clear intent. Just as the Soviet revisionists used to air-brush Trotsky out of the photographs spoiled by his smiling visage, so here, a minimalist project, an improved method of eliminating slavery, is substituted for the original unabashed defense of slavery. You cannot introduce retroactive 'context' in this way, simply by including the original material in an anthology; yet he and the little gang who follow him on the internet attack all who quote the original pamphlet, a stand-alone publication, without adding, or rather substituting, the later revisions and clarifications, for quoting 'out of context.'

This author, who recommends the pagan warrior Sun Tzu on the matter of truth-telling, often seems to want to conceal rather than clarify. For example, he, like his mentor Robert Lewis Dabney, is willing to condemn certain aspects of slavery, namely the "attendant evils:" "It is obvious that in a fallen world, an institution like slavery will be accompanied by many attendant evils." (Douglas Wilson, 'Black and Tan,' Kindle location 559). Wilson, numbering himself among those who "so strongly identify" with Dabney, (Kindle location 1359), cannot really be distinguished from Dabney on this point. For both, their willingness to decry these "attendant evils" represents only a partial, strictly limited, and circumscribed critique of certain aspects of slavery, not any global condemnation of the institution. They are willing to condemn incidental circumstances, like the habit certain slave-owners fell into, of using their slaves as a harem. Slavery they think benign, the 'attendant evils' deplorable; they imagine these evils might have been reformed, though in actual history they were not. These, in their mind, were blemishes upon an otherwise blameless and attractive instituion. Yet some readers, driven by confirmation bias mainly, prefer to 'hear' Mr. Wilson issuing a categorical condemnation of slavery when he condemns the "attendant evils;" instead of correcting this error, he, and his rambunctious crowd of internet followers, encourage it, indeed seem to want to make it mandatory.

Secret Plan

Readers getting on in years may recall that Richard M. Nixon won election to the presidency in part by claiming he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. This plan was so secret, no one ever found out what it was! The war dragged on for years. Likewise, our intrepid author has a secret plan to free the slaves, without the loss of 600,000 lives. Thus his critics want to kill 600,000 people! Alas, the secret plan turns out to be no more and no less than a Confederate victory in the Civil War. Let's say the Union had simply given up, cried 'Uncle' in this war the South started, some time prior to hitting the 600,000-life mark, then, according to our author, slavery would have painlessly withered away of its own accord, much as the Marxists talk of the withering away of the state.

This wonderful prospect is a deus ex machina, because no such natural tendency was visible in process of occurring. His proposed wondrously irenic Confederate victory is no road-map for a better emancipation, but rather no emancipation at all. The viciously racist slave-owners known to history (Gosh, isn't it a shame they were racists; racism is bad, don't you know) are to be transformed into benevolent Christian gentlemen; how does this happen? The pagan Roman slave looked upward, not to a glass ceiling, but at an achievable if arduous climb, a career path; he could escape slavery, become a client to his master as patron, and ultimately live as a free man. The slave trapped in race-based Southern slavery had no such expectation of upward mobility; manumissions were few, and in many cases even discouraged by civil law. Sprinkle pixie dust, and slavery ends as if by magic? It wasn't happening; it is sheer fantasy.

Universal Law

The reader who inspects Douglas Wilson's (bizarrely respectful) Wikipedia profile will discover that he is a theonomist. While it's certainly true you can't believe everything you read on the web, this designation evidently has some merit. . .some of the time. The theonomists believe Moses' law was intended as universal legislation binding on all persons in all places at all times. However, not even the Jews believe that all provisions of the law are binding on Israel at all times and in all places, because why otherwise is it said, 'When you come into the land"? Mohammed ibn Abdallah, the unlettered Arabian 'prophet,' complained that when the Jews of Medina read out the law to him, they blocked a portion with a finger. I would suspect this was to avoid explaining what is in reality a very complicated situation. Jews in the diaspora observe some but not all of Moses' legislation. This is not simply because the civil authorities of the places where they reside claim a monopoly on the use of force; in seventh century Arabia there was no central government enforcing law and order. As there was no civil authority above the level of the tribe, the Jews of Medina could have punished (Jewish) adulterers with stoning if they so chose. No one would have arrested them for murder. However, they did not so choose, probably for complicated reasons including the fact there was no Sanhedrin sitting, Moses' designated appellate court for capital cases. With no Sanhedrin, there can be no lawful capital verdict.

The church conference in Acts 15 refused to obligate Christians to follow the Mosaic law in all respects, including its civil, social, economic and political enactments; however, Christians do understand that the Bible, inspired of God, incorporates within its covers a proposal for a model, exemplary commonwealth, albeit one from long ago. While Christians are not bound directly to Moses' polity, any majority Christian society that legislates for itself institutions markedly less just than those of Moses has got a lot of explaining to do, as Ricky used to tell Lucy, because God is still a God of justice, just as He was under the Old Testament. In some cases, King Jesus' direct commands come into play; but Jesus never rescinded the Sabbatical or the Jubilee. The people of the American Southland lived as a democratically self-governing polity (though the slaves of course were disenfranchised); the laws they lived under were the laws they themselves chose to live under, their legislation was not imposed from outside. They had slavery so long as they wanted it, not one second longer. They said they were Christians.

There is a little-bitty problem with slavery as practiced in the American Southland versus the Mosaic law: namely, it is altogether illegal. Persons held in bondage must be liberated every seventh year. This recurrent Sabbatical year occurs on a fixed, not a relative, schedule, and so a Hebrew man or woman can only be held in a condition of involuntary servitude for a period of up to six years:

“If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.” (Deuteronomy 15:12-15).

Uh-oh, there's trouble down on the plantation! There is no provision in Moses' law for permanent, life-long involuntary servitude, although those pagan idolaters who are so attached to pagan idolatry that they refuse to renounce it, even understanding that renouncing idolatry will win them their freedom within six years, may have to wait as long as forty-nine years for their liberty. Incidentally, King Jesus legislated on this very question of 'Who is the neighbor.' So what is the theonomist who wishes to excuse Southern slavery to do, realizing that it is simply illegal? Or are we to adopt the Mosaic legislation, which we are not obligated to do, but then class ourselves as foreigners? Hallelujah, we're not under law, we're under grace!:

"A common confusion blurs an important distinction between Hebrew slavery— i.e. slavery in a nation covenanted with God, with laws received from His hand— and the slavery that is seen in the pages of the New Testament. In the former, we see how God's laws govern and regulate the practice of slavery in a nation called by His name and covenanted with Him. In the latter, we see God's laws as they teach His people how to live within a culture having ungodly laws concerning slavery." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 633).

Wilson's mentor, the racist Confederate Robert Lewis Dabney, is far more astute than his student, realizing that if you want to retain slavery, you will just have to send Moses packing: ". . .and he [God] also gave, by the intervention of Moses, various religious and civil laws, which were peculiar to the Jews, and were never intended to be observed after the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1364). In fact, it's infinitely worse than that; not only are these laws of release in no way relevant to the church, the Israel of God, but the mere mention of bondage in the language of these laws constitutes an absolute and unbounded permission for slavery, forever! It is impossible to wrap one's mind around such tap-dancing sophistry: these laws don't apply to us, and not only that but they give the Southern slave-owner unquestioned permission to hold non-foreigners in perpetual bondage! He states very plausibly, "Doubtless, the standard which they had in view, in commanding masters to 'render to their servants those things which are just and equal,' was the Mosaic law." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1864). Doubtless, indeed; but he has no intention of advising anyone to observe the Mosaic law, with its time limit for servitude of six years; he immediately explains that the slave-owner has "a right to the slave's labor for life," (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1864), which is quite simply not what Moses said. This is not an honest effort to understand the Bible.

If we allow Moses' law code to remain relevant, even if only as exemplary, 'model' legislation, then slavery is out, for any term greater than six years. Because the Sabbatical and Jubilee cycle is fixed, not relative, the maximum term allowable in servitude is six years; someone who falls into that condition one year before the year of release, spends only one year in that condition. Of course the only way an innocent Hebrew can have fallen into this condition is if other things Moses commanded,— redeeming captives, assisting the indigent,— did not happen, whether as a result of hard times or recalcitrance. Moses' law requires that these people be liberated, not that they ever have been enslaved; Moses was a great liberator, like Solon of Athens or Abraham Lincoln. (It takes a special attitude to conclude from Moses' command to liberate slaves that, "The relation then, must be innocent in itself" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1405); as if divorce, also permitted, must be "innocent in itself"!) So why were there any Africans remaining in bondage past the year 1806, if the 'Anglo-Celtic' inhabitants of the South were, as they say, Christians, who look to God's word for instruction in how they are to live?

Learning from Wilson that the South labored under "ungodly" laws, the reader must be left wondering how the democratically governed (though the slaves were disenfranchised) South came to be bound under ungodly laws, when our author keeps trying to pretend that those worldly cavaliers were actually evangelical Christians, which they were not but their descendants might become. In historical fact, their way out of their Biblical dilemma was to propose that 'Hebrew'='Anglo-Saxon,' whereas 'African' was to equate to, not 'Hebrew,' nor even to resident alien, but to 'Canaanite.' Both of these American population sub-groups, the 'Anglo-Celtics' as they now style themselves and the 'African-Americans,' had arrived in the country at about the same time, and both groups consisted overwhelmingly of baptized Christians. Because further importation of slaves had early on been banned, African-Americans, as of the time of the Civil War, were more likely to be native-born than were European-Americans; by virtue of what are they to be classed as 'foreigners'? The reader who hopes to understand our author's antipathy to the fourteenth amendment may begin by realizing that that amendment says all persons born in the United States are citizens, versus the infamous Dred Scott decision which declared no African, not even a free man, was ever a citizen: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." (Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Section 1.). These 'Canaanites' were not found in the land, under God's judgment of expulsion and death; rather ships traversed the sea to a distant land, to import these people, precisely so that they could be mistreated. And how did they come to be identified as 'Canaanites' in the first place?

The 'Bible arguments' which have been advanced on this score over the years, like 'black skin = mark of Cain,' range from the unconvincing to the preposterous. Our author knows this, and will not venture to repeat the frighteningly racist arguments which are the only known route by which to arrive at the sought-after destination, no doubt because these arguments are also absurd; and yet he will pretend that the Southern racists won the debate against the Northern abolitionists, even if he does not dare to repeat, in detail, their 'winning' arguments. One might expect those champions who conducted the 'winning' side of the argument to run a victory lap around the track, or do a little victory dance in the end-zone, with their victorious arguments held high above their heads. But these are 'winning' arguments which dare not speak their name. He will not repeat them, nor will the atheists, if they even know what they are.


Out of one side of his mouth, our author says perfectly acceptable things about slavery: that God judged the South for this sin, etc. Out of the other side of his mouth, he says deplorable things: that the slaves were happy and content (so what was all that fuss about 'fugitive slaves,' if they would gladly have chosen to stay?) He pops up, shouts something provocative, then crouches back down where, level with the terrain, he cannot be targeted, and pretends to deplore all the things other people deplore. This vaudeville act rapidly grows old.

It may be objected: but this tome, 'Black and Tan,' is 'shovel-ware,' how consistent do you expect it to be? These are essays written at different times from different perspectives, not a unified composition. True, but he should not have shovelled this mess into the public's face. This man's robust self-esteem leaves him astonished that the authorities ever issued his critics a driver's license: "As I have read editorials, letters to the editor, and heard outrageous statements made by people who actually have drivers' licenses. . ." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 981). This Great Oz runs his own little kingdom up in Idaho, and he can't be bothered to edit his material, which astonishes him by its brilliance, for consistency, for uniformity of voice or of viewpoint.


Neighborhood of Boston

They used to say that the Unitarians believed in the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the neighborhood of Boston. This is a good laugh line, because Unitarianism was to a considerable extent a regional phenomenon; just as Mormons are more prevalent in the author's Idaho than they are here in Maine, Unitarians are more prevalent in the Northeast than elsewhere. And this is the center-piece of his efforts to demonize the North:

  • “In the early nineteenth century, the intellectual leadership of the North apostatized from their previous cultural commitment to the Christian faith. In my view, the watershed event in this regard was the capture of Harvard by the Unitarians in 1805. . .By the time of the war, the intellectual leadership of the South was conservative, orthodox, and Christian. In contrast, the leadership of the North was radical and Unitarian.”

  • (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle Location 598).

Now this is it for this author, this is the content of the garbage bags he is scattering around in the Union cemeteries, hoping the stench will drive away those who have come to leave flower garlands: they were Unitarians. Were they, really? How prevalent was this departure from the Christian faith in the North at the time of the Civil War?

"In 1835 there were slightly over fifteen million Americans. . .The next biggest Protestant group was the Presbyterians, with about two million adherents (three hundred thousand members). At that time there were about eight hundred thousand American Catholics and fewer than two hundred thousand Unitarians." (Richard W. Fox, Jesus in America, Kindle location 2698). To judge by the prevalence of these faiths in 1965, the date of my 'Handbook of Denominations in the United States,' by Frank S. Mead, the Unitarians are still not in the same league with the heavy hitters: "There are 164,474 members in 1,094 churches." (This was after the Unitarians, hoping to stave off further membership declines, had already merged with the Universalists). The Congregational churches, in some ways the mother denomination of an unwelcome Unitarian brood, and a big factor in New England, tallies up as follows: "As of 1959, there were 1,419,171 members and 5,500 churches in the Congregational Christian Churches. . ." (pp. 221-222). How about the American Baptist Convention (these are the non-slave-owning Baptists): "There are 6,276 churches and 1,559,103 members. . ." (p. 36). These two denominations, both big in New England, have already outnumbered the Unitarians by eighteen to one, and we haven't even begun to count the Methodists, to say nothing of the Episcopalians and the Roman Catholics!

The Unitarians are a small group, admittedly more prevalent in New England than elsewhere, but there was never a time when they were in a position to dominate the Union army. While this world has never seen a military battalion, on the ground, staffed by angels, nor was the Union army so populated, there has never yet been an armed force on the march in pursuit of a nobler or more magnificent goal than the Union host in the Civil War. Initially, the North's war aims were simply the restoration of the status quo ante: a slave-owning South re-attached to a free North, a paltry and meager war-aim if ever there was one. But as the shades of the cut and blasted Union dead crowded together in the hundreds of thousands, there was no answer to give them but emancipation, and thereupon the Northern forces became a liberating army such as the world had never hitherto seen. No thinking, feeling Christian need apologize for what these gallant Christian gentlemen did; it was our nation's finest hour.

If you go into a Unitarian Universalist church in the present day, you are more likely to encounter a self-professed atheist than anyone who will admit to being, or even aspiring to be, a Christian. However, when they started out, they were claiming the high road; they asserted it was they themselves who were the Bible-believers, not the others. On matters of practical morality like slavery, Unitarian or Quaker Bible research is not necessarily bad, careless, or to be rejected out of hand; however, say it is so, leave the discussion to those abolitionists who are undoubted trinitarians. Fine: "It can be demonstrated absolutely, that slavery is unlawful, and ought to be repented of, and given up, like any other sin." (Charles G. Finney, Lectures to Professing Christians, Lecture 3, p. 44, Heritage Library).

What! shall men be suffered to commit one of the most God-dishonoring and most heaven-daring sins on earth, and not be reproved? It is a sin against which all men should bear testimony, and lift up their voice like a trumpet, till this giant iniquity is banished from the land and from the world." (Charles G. Finney, Lectures to Professing Christians, Lecture 4, p. 56, Heritage Library)

“At the south, they have got themselves into a great rage because we at the north are trying to convince them of the wickedness of slavery. And they say it is none of our business, that slavery is a matter peculiarly their own, and they will not suffer anybody else to interfere with them, and they require us to let them alone, and will not even allow us to talk about the subject. And they want our northern legislatures to pass laws forbidding us to rebuke our southern neighbors for their sin in holding men in slavery. God forbid that we should be silent. Jehovah himself has commanded us to rebuke our neighbor in any wise, let the consequences be as they may. And we will rebuke them, though all hell should rise up against it.

“Are we to hold our peace and be partakers in the sin of slavery, by connivance, as we have been? God forbid. We will speak of it, and bear our testimony against it, and pray over it, and complain of it to God and man. Heaven shall know, and the world shall know, and hell shall know, that ye protest against the sin, and will continue to rebuke it, till it is broken up. God Almighty says, 'Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor,' and we must do it.” (Charles G. Finney, Lectures to Professing Christians, Lecture 4, pp. 58-59, Heritage Library)

What, after all, is the point of pretending it is only Unitarians who oppose slavery? That is counter-factual, and he knows it is counter-factual. His whole strategy may be compared to the measures taken in protecting military aircraft against missiles; they throw out chaff, little bits of reflective stuff, to confuse the targeting mechanism. The Bible says, "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him." (Proverbs 26:27). Our author has sought to smear the North's war effort by pointing out that, although the vast majority of Northern Christians were not Unitarians, the Unitarians were a less tiny minority in the North than in the South, and indeed even aggregated in some places, making some academic establishments into little forts for their viewpoint. The funny thing is, our author, according to his own account, claims a heritage from the Southern agrarians. The main man for these folks is Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States. Moreover, Thomas Jefferson is prominently quoted on the 'League of the South' web-site. And Thomas Jefferson was of what religious affiliation? You guessed it!— Unitarian! This man mocked the Trinity as a three-headed idol. This man is, naturally enough, one of Wilson's idols, whose whole effort to smear the North is premised upon his identification of the North with Unitarianism, a small sect which did have a foot-hold in that region. It turns out that Jefferson is one of his main guys: "I am a paleo-conservative. In my views on politics, government, social order, I have been affected in a thoroughly jumbled way by. . .T. S. Eliot. . .Thomas Jefferson. . .and Robert E. Lee." ('Black and Tan,' Kindle location 1378). Follow that logic: the North is evil because some small number of Northerners were Unitarians, and for that matter, while we're on the subject, lets march in lock-step behind the Unitarians, our natural leaders. He himself champions one of that small sect's shining stars. I don't know if there has ever been a more incoherent thinker who has attracted a following as a Christian apologist.

Our author has discovered that the Civil War was a religious war: "So I do believe that in the broad sense the War Between the States  could be described as a religious war." (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 1303),— merely because some in the North were theologically 'liberal.' After the 'League of the South' progresses from talk to overt action, will we be forced to conclude that whatever police action Janet Napolitano felt the need to take was a 'religious war' against Unitarianism? After all these characters do like to quote Thomas Jefferson. Evidently there are good Unitarians, and then there are bad Unitarians:

There is good reason for believing that Thomas Jefferson held to the view that the various races of man were not of common descent, contrary to the Bible's testimony. Jefferson was fairly contemptuous of the Bible, although he esteemed the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth:

"According to [William] Linn, Jefferson held '. . .the opinion. . .that they [Indians] are a different race of man originally created and placed in America; contrary to the sacred history that all mankind have descended from a single pair.'" (William Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about our Third President, page 92).

The French Revolution

In recent years, the South has polled as a the more religious part of our country, in part because of the presence there in large numbers of those people whose testimony against slavery Douglas Wilson refuses to accept, the African-Americans. The Northeast, by contrast, shows up as the less religious part of the country: when asked how often they pray, how often they read the Bible, and how important their religion is in their daily lives, their testimony is wan and lackluster. Upon closer examination, much of the reason for this is the presence in the Northeast of a disproportionately large number of Roman Catholics, whose lack of enthusiasm for their faith tradition anomalously does not trigger desire for departure. People in the Northeast are not globally or generally 'secular.'

It would be ahistorical and anachronistic to project back into the past this current pattern. Certainly when we go back to the beginning, and compare the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth Rock with the commercial Jamestown colony, the North was not the more secular part of the country at that time. The Jamestown colonists were not trying to found a city on the hill, and it's not like the moral tone of the continent was not already low enough, without importing a cannibal into the country to lower it still further! Our author wants to 'back-date' the South's current relative religiosity back into the nineteenth century. He helpfully explains that the North's crusade against slavery in the Civil War was not only very much like the atheistic French Revolution, but was actually the very same thing:

  • “We have experienced our equivalent of the French Revolution, and it was a revolution that ended at Appomattox: 'Nor can we rely upon any evidence from the United states of America. The real revolution in that country was not what is called the Revolution in the history books, but is a consequence of the Civil War.'”

  • (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle Location 273).

Wilson is following his guiding light, Robert Lewis Dabney, in his expectation that there must have been a guillotine set up on every village green in New England. Dabney traces the abolitionists' conviction that all men are "mechanically equal in rights" to the Jacobins:

"Your true abolitionist is then, of course, a Red-Republican, a Jacobin. Is not this strikingly illustrated by the fact, that the first wholesale abolition in the world was that enacted for the French colonies by the frantic democrats of the 'Reign of Terror?'" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3140).

Why, no, as it happens, this tangible historical claim is no more accurate than usual. The first wholesale abolition in the world took place when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, and an entire people who had been held in bondage were set free by God, a celebrated Abolitionist. Subsequent abolitions were scheduled every seven and forty-nine years, though they did not always take place as scheduled. Another took place in the Middle Ages when Christian communities decided slavery was not really very Christian. Setting slaves free is not altogether a Judaeo-Christian thing; several pagans, including Solon and the Emperor Nero in his dealings with the Greeks, also set free sizeable numbers of persons, though without striking or intending to strike at the root of this widespread institution. According to the (not very reliable) 'Letter of Aristeas,' King Ptolemy II Philadelphus had the honor of being a pagan emancipator of the large population of Jewish slaves then resident in Egypt, who had been carried there captive by his father,

"'Wherefore since it is acknowledged that we are accustomed to render justice to all men and especially to those who are unfairly in a condition of servitude, and since we strive to deal fairly with all men according to the demands of justice and piety, we have decreed, in reference to the persons of the Jews who are in any condition of bondage in any part of our dominion, that those who possess them shall receive the stipulated sum of money and set them at liberty and that no man shall show any tardiness in discharging his obligations.'" (Copy of Ptolemy's emancipation decree, Letter of Aristeas, 24).

Long years later the American states of the North, whose colonial legislatures had been unable to act on slavery while under the veto power of King George III, liberated their slaves, out of Christian impulses not felt by their Southern brethren.

The time-line in this effort at establishing a historical causal link is not exactly laser sharp, because as white supremacist Abraham Lincoln noted in his 'Gettysburg Address,' it was "four score and seven years ago" that the American experiment began, "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal;" do the math, that's before the Jacobins. Neither was the spirit animating the American Revolution at all on a wavelength with the bloody and vindictive French Revolution. By their fruits you shall know them:

Certainly one can imagine, in a parallel universe, that there might have been a Civil War like that; after all, it's true that Haiti's slave rebellion was inspired by the French Revolution. When I was a child, though I grew up in an irreligious environment and did not become a Christian until I was in my twenties, as I recall they were always making us sing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic,' separation of church and state be damned. Certainly no child can understand the country he or she is living in without singing that song. Personally it never made me think about the French Revolution, though what it makes him think of, I can't say. I imagine he must hate it. Whether those patriotic Americans who reside in his community cannot help themselves from humming it as he goes by, I can't say; Lord knows I would. As a child I found the lyrics frankly perplexing, though it is a rousing song and it certainly makes you want to march out there and free the slaves:

Again, as with this author's atheist friends, there is a certain synergy here between different groups who want to make similar claims, mostly on a wish fulfillment basis. Those modern academics who strongly identify with the European enlightenment but can't make heads nor tails out of 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' might be tempted to rewrite history so that the abolitionists were inspired by the Enlightenment rather than by the Bible. Our author will eagerly agree with them, because he hates the abolitionists, and only cares about what the Bible says long enough to skirt around it. The actual history, which is by no means shameful nor discreditable to the Bible, gets left in the dust by both parties of fellow travellers.


Spoiling the Egyptians

When God heard the cries of the children of Israel and led them out of bitter bondage in Egypt, He instructed them to spoil their Egyptian slave-masters:

“And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:21-22).

“Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:35-36).

Now one might almost complain that the children of Israel have not mastered the hierarchical and patriarchal concept that Douglas Wilson finds at the heart of Bible slavery, because here they are just blatantly taking Massa's stuff. But God says this is justice:

“Then He said to Abram: 'Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'” (Genesis 15:13-14).

Nothing bothers some angry white men more than the concept of reparations, but don't tell that to God. God is committed to justice, including compensation, and made it happen:

"So they, being now driven out of the land and pursued, coming at last to a proper notion of their own nobility and worth, ventured upon a deed of daring such as became the free to dare, as men who were not forgetful of the iniquitous plots that had been laid against them; for they carried off abundant booty, which they themselves collected, by means of the hatred in which they were held, and some of it they carried themselves, submitting to heavy burdens, and some they placed upon their beasts of burden, not in order to gratify any love of money, or, as any usurer might say, because they coveted their neighbors' goods. (How should they do so?) But, first of all, because they were thus receiving the necessary wages from those whom they had served for so long a time; and, secondly, because they had a right to afflict those at whose hands they had suffered wrong with afflictions slighter than, and by no means equal to, what they had endured.
"For how can the deprivation of money and treasures be equivalent to the loss of liberty? on behalf of which those who are in possession of their senses dare not only to cast away all their property, but even to venture their lives? So they now prospered in both particulars: whether in that they received wages as if in price, which they now exacted from unwilling paymasters, who for a long period had not paid them at all; and, also, as if they were at war, they looked upon it as fitting to carry off the treasures of the enemy, according to the laws of conquerors; for it was the Egyptians who had set the example of acts of injustice, having, as I said before, enslaved foreigners and suppliants, as if they had been prisoners taken in war. And so they now, when an opportunity offered, avenged themselves without any preparation of arms, justice itself holding a shield over them, and stretching forth its hand to help them." (Philo Judaeus, A Treatise on the Life of Moses, Book I, Chapter XXV).

The challenge facing the pro-slavery Bible expositor is to find some way of identifying a part of the American public with Israel,— the people they used to call 'Anglo-Saxons;' to judge from contemporary neo-Confederate and White Supremacist web-sites, the preferred term nowadays is 'Anglo-Celtic,'— and a part, those of African heritage, most of them by the time of the Civil War native-born, with Canaan and other enemies of Israel. In place of the Pledge's 'one nation under God, indivisible,' the racist expositor must sunder the united people into at least two sub-populations, one favored and one disfavored; indeed, in reality, these people had in view an elaborate apartheid layer-cake, with 'Anglo-Celtics' on top the pile, persons of non-Anglo European heritage beneath them, all the way down to persons of African heritage at rock-bottom. Now there is no mention of any 'Anglo-Celtic' people in the Bible, much less any special signs of favor; the Ethiopians are mentioned, without any note of animosity. How are you going to do it? Don't ask Douglas Wilson, he remains mum; though he surely knows what all the old answers are, and he assures us the Old South won the slavery debate by using the old answers, he also fancies himself a 'scholar,' if you please, and is not going to repeat them in public. 'British Israelitism' is one popular model; this identifies the British people as the lost tribes of Israel, because 'Brit-Ish' means 'man of the covenant,' get it? Never mind it's the wrong language and the wrong part of speech. He's not going to say this in public, because he will just be laughed at; but what is he going to say, to make those old pro-slavery arguments take wing and fly anew?:


Slippery Slope

This author is fond of consequentialist arguments of the 'slippery slope' variety. Consequentialism, also known as utilitarianism, was exhaustively defined by cradle atheist John Stuart Mill, although it has ancient antecedents. This ethical theory says, to know what is good and what is bad, we must look at the consequences of various actions and ideas; those which have bad consequences are bad, those which have good consequences are virtuous. This ethical theory appeals to modern atheists like Sam Harris, who see in it a magic box which can produce ethical maxims without any command of God. However it has its limitations. Is it actually possible for a good thing to have bad consequences? Let's see.

Our author explains that the Northern victory in the Civil War was evil because it led to the adoption of the fourteenth amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the laws, which had the effect of binding the states under the Bill of Rights. The framers of this amendment did not intend to legalize abortion, but intended rather to secure the liberty of the newly-freed slaves against any state efforts to downgrade their citizenship status. Many years after the Civil War, the Supreme Court took it upon themselves in Roe v. Wade to de-criminalize abortion, finding a constitutional right to abortion not readily discernible by most readers of that document. It is certainly true that without the fourteenth amendment, this Supreme Court decision could not have struck down abortion laws in all fifty states. Does it therefore follow that the Union victory in the Civil War was an unmitigated evil?

To offer an analogy: the reader of Celsus' On Medicine is struck by the boldness of the ancient surgeons, who were willing to give just about anything a try; one must imagine they lost a lot of patients. In some cases their audacity extended even to surgical abortion, though Celsus does not mention the procedure. However abortion in antiquity was not without its risks; as an antiseptic, honey is not in a league with carbolic acid. Joseph Lister, a Christian, developed aseptic methods of surgery in the nineteenth century, including hand-washing, sterilizing surgical instruments, scrubbing down the surgical theater, etc. These inventive techniques reduced post-surgery mortality greatly; one did not hear so often, 'the operation was a success, but the patient died.' One consequence of Lister's reforms is that surgical abortion, which existed in antiquity but was not widely practiced, became feasible as a commercial product offered to the masses. Unless your doctor is Kermit Gosnell, you will not likely suffer harm from obtaining an abortion; the baby, of course, will die. Do we therefore conclude, aseptic surgery is an evil? Of course not, aseptic surgery is a good, though it did, in time, by meandering and circuitous routes, lead to an evil result.

Among other problems, this way of determining good and evil suffers from the defect of an arbitrary start point. The Civil War led to an increase in federal power (true); but secession led to the Civil War; no secession, no Civil War. Therefore secession was evil. Moreover, slavery led to secession. Therefore slavery is evil! This is where we came in.

The right balance between the power of the federal government and that of the states is a subject of legitimate controversy. When Richard Nixon proposed a federal war on crime, many liberals objected that crime was, for the most part, strictly a local matter,— when you call the cops and complain that your purse was stolen, the person who responds is likely an employee of the municipality. These liberals mistrusted Nixon's motives, and so they did not want to see the power to determine goals, standards, and guidelines turned over to the federal government rather than retained by the states, counties and municipalities. When George W. Bush imposed national standards on education, some people protested that control over the educational system had always been vested in local elected school boards, not in Washington. Certainly a responsible citizen can argue that the balance has shifted too far; but to follow this meandering trail of cause and effect back to the source and say it was evil for the Union army to free the slaves because this would lead many years later to the possibility of a bad Supreme Court decision, though the slaves' emancipation by no means required any such decision to be rendered, is really too hypothetical and indirect. This is not how we determine good and ill. The correct way: the Bible condemns slavery, therefore it is bad; therefore, get rid of it.


League of the South

Douglas Wilson's collaborator in 'Southern Slavery as It Was,' and fellow Presbyterian minister, Steven Wilkins, is reportedly one the founders of the 'League of the South.' Douglas Wilson is not and was not a member, however, according to his own testimony, the reason for this is not owing to any fundamental disagreement with the objectives of this organization, but rather because they are too optimistic. What is the League all about? They want to protect the "Anglo-Celtic" population of the South against any and all threats, whether real, perceived or imaginary:

"Q: Why does the L[eague of the] S[outh] seek to protect the Anglo-Celtic core population and culture of the historic South?
"A: The Anglo-Celtic peoples settled the South and gave it its dominate [sic] culture and civilisation. We believe that the advancement of Anglo-Celtic culture and civilisation is vital in order to preserve our region as we know it. Should this core be destroyed or displaced the South would be made over in an alien image — unfamiliar and inhospitable to our children and grandchildren. We, as Anglo-Celtic Southerners, have a duty to protect that which our ancestors bequeathed to us. If we do not promote our interests then no one will do it for us." (from Dixienet, the website of the League of the South).

I'm not sure when or why these groups dropped 'Anglo-Saxon,' which you used to hear from the old Ku Klux Klan, and went over to 'Anglo-Celtic;' did they finally decide Irish-Americans are okay, which they didn't used to think? These people envisioned American society as a hierarchical layer-cake with a sub-portion of the population, those of Anglo-Saxon heritage, perched atop the heap, those of Irish and Italian heritage down lower, the Polish side of my own family down lower still, then you slide on down to Americans of Oriental or Hispanic origin, and down at rock-bottom are the African-Americans. Those of us, white or black, who do not want to end up as second-class citizens in our own country might want to beware of this organization, which is not in favor of secession immediately (for legal reasons?), though that is their ultimate goal.

The actual Southern slave-owners whose moral vindication is Mr. Wilson's pole star were racists. They never sought any race-neutral defense of slavery, because their view-point was not race neutral. When Mr. Wilson leaps to their defense by providing a moral rationale for slavery based not on racism but on cultural inferiority, then we have already hopped the tracks from actual history into the science fiction 'history' of alternative universes. Yet their moral innocence must at all costs be upheld, even if it means subtracting all the views they actually held, and substituting altogether different ones. Who, then, is being defended, other than hypothetical people who never actually existed?


Birds of a Feather

The late Senator Joe McCarthy used to say, 'Birds of a feather flock together.' The Commies he was hunting indignantly objected that the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of association, as indeed it does. The government cannot ever conduct a drag-net operation, rounding up all the members of the Communist party, nor can anyone seeking the overthrow of the U.S. Government ever be sent up the river on no better evidence than guilt by association, to the tremendous relief no doubt of this crew.

However, Tail-gunner Joe had a point, in a way: if you are not a Commie, why are all your friends Commies? If you are actually a Rotarian, how come you don't hang with a Rotarian crowd? If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, can it be anything but a duck? Our author responds indignantly, with outraged innocence, in all apparent sincerity, when anyone accuses him of racism. Then he flings in the reader's face a venomous snake named Robert Lewis Dabney as the very model of a Christian pastor. For this man, race hatred is what oxygen is to other people. We learn from him that blacks are an "alien and savage race" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 687), that ". . .the civilized master uses his authority against and over that of the semi-civilized, or savage parent, to train the slave child to habits of decency, industry, intelligence, and virtue, which his degraded natural guardians are unable or unwilling to inculcate. . ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2772) (that's why it's okay for slave-masters to separate slave families), etc., ad nauseam. It is distinctly difficult to find evidence of the "mutual affection" our authors claim to find in Southern slavery, because all you hear from him is odious and hateful trash-talking:

"Once more: If the society contains a class of adult members, so deficient in virtue and intelligence that they would only abuse the fuller privileges of other citizens to their own and others' detriment, it is just to withhold so many of these privileges, and to impose so much restraint, as may be necessary for the highest equity to the whole body, inclusive of this subject class. And how much restraint is just, must be determined by facts and experience." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3069).

Who do you suppose, dear reader, it is who is "deficient in virtue and intelligence"? 'Anglo-Celtics,' perhaps? Why, no, it is who it always is with this author, African-Americans, whom he hates with a perfect hatred.

But this obnoxious trash-talking is not gratuitous or incidental; without it there is no 'argument' for slavery. Throughout physical categories like heredity are mixed with moral ones; did you know one can be a pagan by 'descent,' a blot which evidently conversion cannot wipe away?: "If it appear that the Africans in these States were by recent descent pagans and barbarians, men in bodily strength and appetite, with the reason and morals of children, constitutionally prone to improvidence. . ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3080). This kind of thing goes on for pages: in Africa, the people were "living but one remove above the apes around them" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3351); the people displayed the "savage's common vices" of "lying, theft, drunkenness, laziness, waste" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3351); therefore, "Now cannot common sense see the moral advantage to such a people, of subjection to the will of a race elevated above them, in morals and intelligence, to an almost measureless degree?" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3351).

That's it, that's the great 'Bible argument' that reduces abolitionists to tongue-tied confusion, it's nothing but hateful animadversion against African-Americans, combined with boastful self-promotion on behalf of white slave-owners. From time to time we are reminded that all men are sinners, but evidently somehow this taint 'sticks' to the "morally inferior" African-Americans more so than to the "nobler race," the 'Anglo-Celtics' (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3362); though it does seem in the end that the Yankees, with "their hypocritical puritanism," (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3408), belong down there at bottom with the African-Americans, if not lower. So this man thinks his kind of folks are the best there are, others, not so good. What an amazing, and counter-intuitive, discovery, what a find is he, a man strong and true, willing and able to demonize the outsider and flatter the home-folks!

Dabney and Wilson share a predilection for that form of moral reasoning called finger-pointing: 'Johnny! Why did you flush the goldfish down the toilet?' 'That's nothing! Jimmy did something even worse!' Who does not know the answer?: 'We're not talking about Jimmy, we're talking about you.' They concede that kidnapping into slavery is wrong, and indeed realize that Moses condemned it: "The title by which the original slave catchers held them may have been iniquitous." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3490). And so they condemn those Northern ship captains who transported captured Africans to these shores. . .without seeming to realize that, absent the Southern demand for slaves to purchase, there would have been no supply. Dabney paints a touching but unconvincing picture, which Wilson follows, of Virginia slave-owners purchasing the evil Yankee slavers' wares for no other reason but compassion! They were moved by the slaves' piteous cries, you see.

"The slaves themselves hailed the conclusion of a sale with joy, and begged the planters to become their masters, as a means of rescue from their floating prison." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3495).

And why did these compassionate souls happen to have the ready cash on them, no small investment, to purchase a slave, if they hadn't gone down to the harbor for that express purpose? Surely a slave-ship captain just passing through could not have accepted a promissory note. Most of us, before making a large investment, must shift the money from one account to another; but these generous souls carried a fortune on them at all times, just in case a pitiful slave needed rescuing! The kidnapped slaves knew no English, there being no need to acquire that language in Africa; yet their pantomimic skills were evidently so well developed they could communicate, 'Purchase me and hold me in life-long subjugation,' as the slave ships glided by. How does he know they did not seek rather to communicate, 'Throw me a crust of bread, I'm starving,' or 'Call the police! I've been kidnapped!' If there is no demand, there is no supply, no shivering merchandise dumped on the slave market half a world away from the villages from which these blameless people were abducted.

This man is bitter and defeated; everything connected with the North lashes him to blind, spitting fury. So we find the moral dividing line placed by him, and by Wilson following him, at this irrational point: slave-trading is bad, because Yankees do it, but slave-owning is good, because Southerners do it. Dabney's economic analysis is strangely Marxist: the North is an imperialist power exploiting its colony, the South, which is perceived as an El Dorado of plundered treasure, not an economically backward part of the country. For those readers who feel they have any need to know, here is a typical sample of this individual's schtick:

  • “But, we emphatically repeat, the source of the evils apparent in an industrial system was the presence among us of four millions of heterogeneous pagan, uncivilized, indolent, and immoral people; and for that gigantic evil, slavery was, in part at least, the lawful, the potent, the beneficent remedy. Without this, who cannot see that such an incubus must have oppressed and blighted every interest of the country?. . .It would have been a curse sufficient to paralyze the industry, to corrupt the morals, and to crush the development of any people on earth, to have such a race spread abroad among them like the frogs of Egypt.”

  • (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3545).

Who is he talking about? Not 'Anglo-Celtics,' that's for sure. Polish people maybe. The much-advertised 'Bible argument,' by the way, is that sinfulness is hereditary, and therefore "Ham's posterity, like their father, would be peculiarly degraded in morals" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1209) (Noah having become a cut-out for God, and Canaan sliding back a generation to Ham). It is to be expected that ". . .depraved parents will naturally rear depraved children, unless God interfere by a grace to which they have no claim; so that not only punishment, but the sinfulness, becomes hereditary." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1211). Owing to "the peculiar moral degradation" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1221) of black folk, slavery is supposedly God's best and highest for them, because the kindly slave-master can correct their tendency toward degraded morals, no doubt by whipping as is deemed appropriate. We learn these facts, not from the Bible, which neglects to mention them, but from "actual history." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1209). And this is the much ballyhooed compelling 'argument' the abolitionists could not answer!

The reader will have noticed that this new feint runs counter to the 'sentimental' defense of slavery before noted, which loved to dwell on scenes of reunion between slaves and slave-owners: "Massa and Missis have long gone before me, Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore, There we'll be happy and free from all sorrow, There's where we'll meet and we'll never part no more." (Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, James Bland). Now we learn the slaves are hell-hounds who are not bound for glory, and indeed it is this reoriented destination which justifies their enslavement. If the sentimentalists are right, Dabney is slandering God's people; if Dabney is right, the sentimentalists are raving. To the extent the slavers believed his obsequious flattery, they added the sin of pride to that of oppression, "He, whom his white oppressor refused to worship with, eat with, sail with, or dwell with on earth, shall dwell, and worship, and reign where his master may never be; and when— as may often happen— the white skin is shut out, and the black man, now and forever free, passes in at the celestial gate, it shall furnish but another illustration of the truth, that salvation is 'not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.'" (Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, Kindle location 2178).

To reproduce the kind of sophistry on display in Dabney's 'Defense of Virginia,' consider: is there anything wrong with the relationship between employer and employee, in itself? Why, no. Thank you. Therefore, there can be nothing wrong with an employer paying an employee ten cents an hour, any more than paying him ten dollars an hour; nor can there be anything wrong with stationing the employee within a sweat-shop in a building likely to fall down, as opposed to providing a safe, comfortable work-place. This is how Dabney wishes away the Mosaic law's limitation of servitude to a term of six years: if service were wrong it itself, it would be abolished, not limited; but the limitation to six years is an administrative detail; therefore, life-long slavery is enthusiastically endorsed by Moses. . .in spite of the slight technicality, that it is illegal. This is not sound reasoning; among other things, it equivocates on the word 'slavery,' because the points of demarcation between slavery and other forms of labor organization are precisely issues of 'how long' and 'under what circumstances.'

The reader is similarly reminded of the conundrum, called sorites, wherein the donkey nibbles at the hay bale; he eats one straw, the bale is not diminished; he eats another, there is still no visible change; but keep it up, and at some point, there is not a single strand of hay left on the barn floor. Whence departed the 'hay bale'? What is a working life, but a finite sequence of years? How these years are distributed is precisely wherein labor justice is found. Dabney's much-ballyhooed logic is no more than a card trick, prestidigitation, by which he causes to disappear Moses' 'six years then freedom:' now you see it, now you don't. Moses, by term-limiting servitude to six years, cannot simultaneously be endorsing life-long slavery. What, after all, is the difference between 'employment' and 'slavery,' other than terms and conditions, including length of the contract? Let's see how to take a minimum-wage law, mandating an employer pay an employee $7.00 an hour, and employ Dabney's 'logic' to show it really means you can pay the employee 70 cents an hour:

Q. The law says, an employer must pay an employee $7.00 an hour. That means the employer-employee relation cannot be evil in itself; if it were it would be curtailed immediately, like the relation between kidnapper and his victim, not regulated.
A. Maybe. Did you know your slaves were, in the main, originally kidnap victims?
Q. Thus, having established the relation between employer and employee is good in itself, it is equally good if he pays him 70 cents an hour.
A. Whether good or only permitted, the law says seven dollars, not 70 cents!
Q. You are not listening. The law only proves the employer/employee relationship is good in itself. In spite of the little technicality that it also says to pay him $7.00, my brilliant logic proves it is equally good to pay him only 70 cents. Just as, if Moses exclaims that six years of slavery is good, why then twelve years is even better,— twice as good, to be exact!
A. Tell it to the judge; he will ask what happened to the missing $6.30. Just like Moses will ask what happened to the six-year limitation which went poof.

Dabney makes preposterous claims, like that "in their native country there was no marriage, and no marriage law" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2716), in defense of the South's failure to respect marriages between slaves. Dabney incessantly argues in a circle: when Moses commands asylum for the fugitive slave, he cannot really mean what he says, because Moses, as we have determined, is pro-slavery. Yet Wilson commends this tinny special pleading as if it were razor-sharp argumentation. In his mind, the important thing is adjectives: if you pile up the correct set of adjectives in structuring society, whether obedient to the law or not, you have done well. His adjectives are the opposite of Mary's adjectives in her magnificat: God loves especially the big, the powerful, the strong. Who else might a mighty God love and cherish? In their world, God champions hierarchy: "But the Christian faith teaches that God has established the world in hierarchal strata. In contrast, the democratic faith teaches that we are all equal and that any child can become president." (Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 73). But the living God overturns hierarchy: "He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree." (Luke 1:52).


Cultural Inferiority

For most of his book, 'Black and Tan,' Douglas Wilson seems as though he is 'channeling' Robert Lewis Dabney; he departs from him in almost no particular. The one significant difference, however, touches upon the foundation of the argument, no small matter; if the foundation fails, the structure collapses. Robert Lewis Dabney's defense of slavery is ultimately based upon racism; the reason why slavery is a good thing and not a bad thing is, to Dabney, because they are born bad: blacks inherit a peculiar moral depravity. Douglas Wilson knows you cannot get away with saying things like that nowadays. And so he substitutes an altogether different foundation upon which to establish slavery: namely, cultural inferiority:

"All men exhibit the image of God equally, but all cultures are not equal. As we look at all the tribes of men, we see some that have landed a man on the moon, and some that have not yet worked out the concept of the wheel." (Douglas Wilson, 'Black and Tan,' Kindle location 444).

So for Robert Lewis Dabney's theme of racial inferiority, we are substituting cultural inferiority. Dabney's conclusion remains intact: namely, that some people are entitled to enslave other people, and indeed it is the very same people as before (white Anglo-Saxon Southerners, and African-Americans). Now, those readers instructed in logic must surely know, it is a delicate operation indeed to excise the premises upon which a conclusion rests, leaving the conclusion poised delicately in mid-air, while you substitute a different set up premises. Indeed some of you may have been taught not to do that; if you deposit the premises in the dumpster, and even Wilson admits we must do this with racism, then you must deposit the conclusion into the same dumpster along with them; the two go together. In any case one must ask, is the new and improved set of premises: that God prefers the mighty and strong over the weak, that He chooses the glittering civilizations of Egypt and Babylon over a rough, low-tech tribe of wandering Aramaeans, even compatible with the Bible? The answer is a resounding no:

Weight David
Israel Mary's Magnificat
Friedrich Nietzsche Lowest Place
God-Likeness Imaginary Friends
Douglas Wilson He Humbled Himself

God is with the slave, not the slave-owner:

"Another evil which drives away the divine Spirit is pride. The way to be very great is to be very little. To be very noteworthy in your own esteem is to be unnoticed of God. If you must needs dwell upon the high places of the earth, you shall find the mountain summits cold and barren: the Lord dells with the lowly, but He knows the proud afar off." (Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, p. 201).

Douglas Wilson's category of 'cultural inferiority' mixes together the most disparate things, which do not necessarily track together. Japan is an example of a technologically advanced civilization which is a spiritual desert. Japan, according to what you read in the newspapers, gets little bang for the buck out of its R & D expenditures. Some speculate the reason is an educational system that stresses rote learning and social conformity over creativity. Be that as it may, suppose for the sake of argument that the Japanese get a handle on their problems, and their research efforts take off by leaps and bounds, and in no time at all they have surpassed our best technology. The Japanese, flitting around with those jet-pack back-packs they were such a feature of the 'future' years and years ago, they succeed in enslaving many of the technologically backwards Americans, and transport them to Japan where they are put to service as beasts of burden. Would anyone say, this is right and proper, because America, in this hypothetical example, is less technologically advanced than Japan? Of course not, because this is us, and that's them. No pro-slavery author in the history of the world has wanted to see 'us' enslaved by 'them.'

Douglas Wilson admires the racist atheist newspaper writer, H. L. Mencken, the insult-meister who perfected a style of one-liner put-downs. Is he really going to defend Dabney's idea that one ethnic group suffers from a peculiar hereditary wickedness over against another ethnic group, that blacks deserve slavery because of their inherited moral depravity? I doubt it, but that doesn't mean he'll shut up; to him, an insult is an answer. There is an element of self-fulfilling prophecy to Dabney's pro-slavery argument, because ancient authors noticed slavery's demoralizing effect on those subjected to that institution. Dabney, no believer in the power of the gospel to change lives, explained that the slaves were lazy and shiftless, and that thus they were obliged to remain under the tutelage of masters. Rather, the indolent 'Anglo-Celtic' parasites in the big house should have been grateful the slaves were not so lazy and shiftless as they! Who, in this brave new world, were to be the Africans' instructors in the virtue of hard work? The plantation-owner's children, a class of persons notorious to all observers, both those sympathetic to slavery and those unsympathetic, of having no concept whatever of hard work, much less any inclination to engage in any such thing? These useless, lazy drones were fortunate to be surrounded by hard-working slaves, who would from time to time shove a tray of food in front of their faces, otherwise they would have starved to death. How can a virtue be taught by persons completely bereft of it themselves? This instructional plan: that persons who do no work ought to teach those who do all the work, about what? The work ethic!— does not pass the straight face test.

One would naturally suspect that slaves worked no harder than they had to, because this system of organizing labor does not distribute the burden so as to maximize effort. Visitors to the state collective farms in the old Soviet Union used to shake their heads at the neglected common fields, but then marvel at the lovingly tended garden plots. Were the Russian people who tended the state fields ethnically diverse from the Russian people who carefully watered and weeded their own little plots, the one group having an inherited tendency to moral depravity, the other to hard work and discipline? No, they were the very same individuals; in the one case they were given an incentive to toil out in the heat of the day, in the other they were not.

William Jennings Bryan Home

Douglas Wilson's instructor in all things slave-related, Robert Lewis Dabney, explains that slavery is a remedy for indolence. It is justified by its good offices in "correcting the ignorance, thriftlessness, indolence, and vice of laboring people. . ." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 2458). However, when did the Africans first show any signs of this characteristic vice which Dabney officiously diagnoses? While they lived in their own land, in tidy and busy little villages with well-tended fields, as John Wesley relates, condensing travellers' accounts, in his pamphlet 'Thoughts Upon Slavery'? There, a rational system of land tenure left the farmer content he was laboring to put food into the mouths of people he had reason to care about. Or did they first display signs of this malady when placed in a situation where they were no more stake-holders in the plantation, no more entitled to sign up for the profit-sharing plan, than were the beasts of burden in their stalls? In being torn from their homes, the slaves entered into a vicious cycle. The slave-driver whipped them to make them work, like a drunken or drug-addled boyfriend who beats a child to make him stop crying, which only makes the terrified child cry the more. Either he will kill the child, or the police will intervene. It will never happen that whipping unwilling and unpaid laborers who have no rational incentive to work will teach them the virtue of industry. Things are topsy-turvy when the only people doing any work on the plantation are accused of 'indolence,' by the very same people whose only observable connection to work is that of spectators.

Observers both ancient and modern have long noticed the spur that equality and opportunity give to achievement, both on the individual and on the communal level: "The Athenians accordingly increased in power; and it is evident, not by one instance only but in every way, that Equality is an excellent thing, since the Athenians while they were ruled by despots were not better in war than any of those who dwelt about them, whereas after they had got rid of despots they became far the first. This proves that when they were kept down they were willfully slack, because they were working for a master, whereas when they had been set free each one was eager to achieve something for himself." (Herodotus, The Histories, Book V, Chapter 78, p. 38). What Dabney does is to step on someone, then blame him because he is unable to stand up, offering his weakness as proof he needs a conservator. Stop stepping on him, and he will get up.

The reader can only stare in disbelief at Douglas Wilson's claim that Southern slavery represented an altruistic effort on the part of slave-owners to civilize African barbarians. What better way to make people fit for civic life than to teach them to read and write? But not only did the slave-owners not do that, they prevented the meddlesome Yankees who would have done it! The Egyptians and Babylonians nurtured glittering civilizations; to this day people stand in line to marvel at the wonderful things the Egyptians made, taken from King Tut's tomb. Yet God did not show Himself to those cultured and refined (and slave-owning) folks, but to herdsmen who went out into the wilderness, away from the city, to seek Him.

Roman slavery was brutal enough, but the Romans never lost sight of the fact that the slave was a human being. Every year they held a festival called the 'Saturnalia,' a drunken riot unfortunately, during which slaves and their masters traded places, in memory of a fabled Italian king, who had somehow got confused with the planetary body of the same name, whose reign was remembered as a time of justice and equity, when mankind's modest needs were met by a diet of acorns. After slavery was revived in Christendom, having gone dormant, some people marched into court and arrogantly announced that Africans were not even human:

". . .yet it has been alleged by the said Seller (even after the Negro had been a second time set at liberty by the authority of the right honorable the Lord Mayor) that he, the said Negro, is as much private property as a horse or a dog." (Granville Sharp, A Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery, Part I, p. 13)

In fact the dispute was not so much whether the slave was like a horse or a dog in being property, but whether he even was a human being at all, and wasn't rather properly classed with beasts of burden by nature. So the nauseating racism upon which Southern slavery was founded was a new wrinkle. The people who wanted to argue against slavery had first of all to prove that the slave was a human being; Dabney concedes, nominally, this much. Robert Lewis Dabney is all about racism, but Douglas Wilson somehow dreams of a Dabney cleansed of this fault. This would be a Dabney whose conclusions remain, founded upon a rock, though a new rock must somehow be inserted without being noticed, and the old one quietly withdrawn, because the old one, racism, has fallen out of favor. Still, Wilson believes only so much of Dabney as suits him; Dabney explains that Virginia fielded no African-American soldiers, "But we exposed no negro to the dangers of the battle." (R. L. Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1102). But Wilson prefers his undocumented, ahistorical fantasies on this point; because neo-Confederates indignantly deny they are racists like their forbears, therefore entire battalions of African-American Confederate troops must be wished up, from smoke.

The American debate over slavery was asynchronous; as R. L. Dabney explains, the flurry of abolitionist pamphlets with which the North buried the South was not met by any answering flurry of pro-slavery pamphlets. After the South's crushing defeat, Dabney realized that this prior disdain of meeting Bible arguments with any attempt at counter-argument was a huge mistake on the South's part; first they had lost the propaganda war, without firing a shot, then they lost the shooting war. So after the war, Dabney sets out to declaim what would have been the South's Bible defense, if it had given one, to an empty room. It's a horror; it is altogether racist. Douglas Wilson disclaims Dabney's racism, but since there's nothing else there, no 'argument' beyond the purported hereditary sinfulness of African-Americans, it is impossible to conceive a morally innocent Dabney acolyte.

While all men have inherited a sin nature from Adam, this isn't the heritage of one of the tribes of mankind versus another, but a shared characteristic of the human race. This communal template is the starting point for many of this author's errors; he does not believe in a God who deals with individuals, but only in bulk at the wholesale level, contra Peter who urged his hearers to free themselves from their group: “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.'” (Acts 2:40). You can't defend this racist bilge: "But here the reader should be reminded of what has been already shown; that if this industrial evil existed among us, that evil was not slavery, but the presence among us of four millions of recent pagans characterized by all the listlessness, laziness, and unthrift of savages." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 3842), and he won't even try. (No great believers in the power of the gospel to change lives, are these 'Reformed' folks? 'Recent pagans' indeed! If they were 'recent[ly]' pagans, then they are not so now; will he never stop slandering Christian folk? Evidently it takes a couple of generations, or maybe even centuries, for a Christian conversion to 'take,' the reductio ad absurdum of 'Federal Vision.') He should be ashamed to repeat that African-Americans are laboring under the burden of any hereditary moral depravity, and yet he and his atheist friends want it understood the South won the debate on slavery!

Douglas Wilson makes all the right noises about Dabney's racism; he deplores it, he rejects it, he condemns it, etc. However he accepts Dabney's pro-slavery argument, and encourages the reader to join him. But to filter out the racism from Dabney's pro-slavery argument is to rip out its guts. Dabney believes African-Americans suffer from an inherited moral depravity which is best ameliorated (it can't be removed, evidently, certainly not by the gospel) by placing them under the tutelage of a stern but kindly white slave-master, who enjoys a more wholesome racial heritage. (Dabney realizes not all slave-masters are paternalistic; his response to the sadists in the guild is to shrug his shoulders. Woe to the slave purchased by John Wayne Gacy, he has no meaningful legal protection.) Therefore, slavery is not oppressive, but benign. This paradigm of hereditary sinfulness is presented as empirical observation. If Wilson does not believe in it, what will he substitute for it? To remove it is to eviscerate Dabney's argument. We are left with Dabney's pro-slavery argument, disemboweled, but still towering victoriously over the losing abolition side, which has suffered no loss by the subtraction of racism. This whole things sounds like a dog whistle to me; perhaps only the one-toothed crowd can sound, or hear, the nearly-inaudible note.



The correct designation for Douglas Wilson is 'pro-slavery;' he is a 'pro-slavery' author. This does not mean that he is willing to see any and all persons enslaved at any and all times to any and all other persons; what pro-slavery writer in the history of the world ever has? From the start of the world to this present point, pro-slavery writers have always wanted to see the same thing: namely, that people like them should feel free to enslave people who are not like them. Even Robert Lewis Dabney, a pro-slavery author if ever there was one, does not believe in universal slavery; he believed that one group of people, white Southerners, were entitled to enslave another group of people, black African-Americans. Had he heard of a case, on some foreign shore, where black pirates had captured and enslaved white sailors, he would have been every bit as indignant as the most fervent abolitionist; indeed, he himself was an abolitionist, in almost all cases except white-on-black slavery. Our author follows Dabney slavishly, even in his irrational twists and turns; Dabney draws the dividing line on slavery between the slave trade, which he correctly diagnoses as evil, and slave-owning, which he considers benign. How can this be? As a simple matter of supply and demand, did not slave-owning call slave-trading into existence? But it was the hated Yankees who conducted the slave trade, Virginia had very little of a merchant marine at the time; and so, doing ethics by zip code, slave trading has to be bad, and slave owning good. Wilson follows Dabney at every irrational step.

There is one case where Douglas Wilson can sound almost like a normal, moral, human being, and that is the case of Christian-on-Christian slavery. So he stresses this case, hoping his readers will develop tunnel vision and fail to notice this pairing is only one of several possible. What about Christian-on-pagan slavery, for instance? He expects Christian-on-Christian slavery to fade away, as indeed it is prone to do, because Christians are abolitionists. But with regard to the initial starting point of Southern black slavery, that is, Christians enslaving pagans, he is solidly pro-slavery. There is no reason not to describe this author as pro-slavery; it is a perfectly accurate designation. Pro-slavery authors always privilege their own group above others, and the fact that he sees nothing wrong with white Southerners enslaving Africans puts him into the same category with his mentor R. L. Dabney, not into a different one.

The pagan philosopher Aristotle thought that some men were natural-born slaves. Who were they: people like him? Why, no, but the 'barbarians,' the wild men from Thessaly for example, not the cultured Greeks, who were natural-born masters. Has there ever been a pro-slavery author who argued that, a.) slavery is a good thing, and b.) people like himself ought to be the slaves, and some other group the masters? So when Douglas Wilson comes along, proposing that people who are uncivilized, lacking technology skills and transportation mechanisms like the Apollo moon rocket, who are moreover pagans, ought to have been enslaved by people like him, nominal Christians with enough purchasing power to obtain technological goodies, then this is simply par for the course; it is no departure, pro-slavery people always restrict this great gift of slavery. . .to other folk. Inasmuch as the world population of pagans living in less-developed countries numbers today in the billions, one cannot be sure that, with him, slavery is a closed book.

Because race is an indelible character and 'cultural inferiority,' however defined, is presumably a remediable one, Wilson is able to tack a 'Hollywood ending' onto Dabney's bleak vision of a lost, cursed race. He laments that emancipation ended Southern black slavery prematurely, before this institution's imagined civilizing mission could be accomplished, because he claims that this premature ending left our nation's African-American population in a semi-civilized condition, mired in what his son calls "residual paganism." ('Black and Tan,' Kindle location 41). He blames urban crime and other social ills on this circumstance. One might think becoming a Christian is a quick transition, taking no longer than the time needed to walk up the aisle in response to an altar call, but in their eyes, evidently it takes generations, perhaps even centuries, for pagans to become Christianized, and slavery is the ideal way to do it. Admittedly, their way, there is at least some end in sight for Southern slavery, as there was not with Dabney, who saw emancipation as a Yankee crime. In spite of this marginal improvement over Dabney, for whom he otherwise serves as a ventriloquist's dummy, this is a horrible book and certainly no contribution to our nation's dialogue on race.