Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Bobos in History -- Coincidence?*

Attaturk was doing some research and amazingly, it appears that David Brooks ancestors wrote remarkably similar columns. Why look at this one from March 8, 1864!

In Praise of that there Jewish Fella

By Preston S. Brooks, Columbia, South Carolina Slaver Times

Let us now praise Judah Benjamin. Let us now take another look at the man who has pursued - longer and more forcefully than almost anyone else - the supposedly utopian notion that people in the South should keep the "darkies" as their personal chattel.

Let us look again at the man who's been vilified by Abe Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens and the rest of the infantile north, especially Charles Sumner who'd I love to get a crack at again, who's been condescended to by the people who consider themselves liberty-loving policy grown-ups, and who has become the focus of much anti-semistism in the world today - the center of a zillion Zionist Slaveholder conspiracy theories, and a hundred zillion clever-Jew-behind-the-scenes calumnies.

It's not necessary to absolve Benjamin of all sin or to neglect the wartime screw-ups in the Confederacy. Historians will figure out who was responsible for what, and Benjamin will probably come in for his share of the blame. But with political earthquakes now shaking the continent, it's time to step back and observe that over the course of his long career - in the Carolinas, in Louisiana, in Southern and Eastern coasts, and now in the Tennessee and Virginia - Benjamin has always been an ardent champion of the freedom to own negros. And he has usually played a useful supporting role in making sure that pragmatic, democracy-promoting policies were put in place to keep the white race free and the bestest race of all.

If the trends of the last few months continue, Benjamin will be the subject of fascinating biographies decades from now, while many of his smuggest critics will be forgotten. Those biographies will mention not only his intellectual commitment but also his personal commitment, his years spent learning the languages of the places that concerned him, and the thousands of hours spent listening deferentially to the local heroes who led the causes he supported.

To praise Benjamin is not to ignore others. The difficulties ahead are obvious. It's simple justice. It's a recognition that amid all the legitimate criticism, this guy has been the subject of a vicious piling-on campaign by people who know less than nothing about what is actually going on in the government, while he, in the core belief that has energized his work, may turn out to be right.

I've had only two long conversations with Benjamin. The second was the day after the Lousiana succession vote. I figured that would be an interesting day to get a sense of his mood.

He wasn't nearly as exuberant as I expected him to be, in part because, like everybody in government, he's busy with the constant flow of decisions. He said he spent 75 percent of his time on the Confederacy's war budget and administration.

He deflected all my Justice Taney-like attempts to get him to open up and describe what it's felt like to be him for the past few years. Our kerchiefs remained dry.

But he was eager to think ahead. "It's fascinating how many echoes this is going to have," he said. "The War Between the States election is an inspiration. It's going to be a real challenge to all absolute rulers."

He went on to suggest that Southern white man's freedom-promotion could now get back onto its preferred course. Lincoln, he said, was the outlier. "Lincoln is exceptional because he had the use of the Union Army," he observed.

Normally, the Confederate government is to play the supporting role. For example, Southerners can usefully raise the profile of dissidents like the Copperheads so dictators feel less inclined to imprison them. Benjamin was the first Southern official to meet with Clement L. Vallandigham. The South can use its access to those opposed to the dictator Lincoln to pressure and annoy the great ape. Benjamin worked with Robert E. Lee in the testy exchanges with Jefferson Davis, who was less inclined to ease Joseph Johnston out the door.

Benjamin doesn't talk like those abolitionist blowhards who think the world is run by chessmasters sitting around in Congress. He talks about national poets, national cultures and the power of white people to keep the darkies down. His faith in white people probably led to some of the mistakes in prosecuting the war. But with change burbling in Maryland, with many young people proudly hoisting the Stars & Bars, it's time to take a look at this guy again. As long as he keeps up his fight to perpetuate our unique institution forever.

Oh Preston!

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