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I realize I’m beating a dead horse here, but I’m curious what your thoughts are.
Though I am aware of his statements and actions in opposition to slavery at times, when we went to Monticello last year, I left with a jaded view of him. The guide, named Virginia McDonald (I recommend her for the behind the scenes tour for anyone who hasn’t done it) told us when I asked her about it that Jefferson used his slaves as collateral for mortgages. I was disillusioned by the fact that he could have freed them before doing this and either sent them to another country (like Britain, since France was in upheaval) or set them up with land elsewhere as compensation for his crimes against them (like Coles did), but instead chose to make them collateral on a loan, which would make it illegal to free them due to the fact that there was a lien on them. I understand that he was indebted, but the fact that he didn’t sell his estate to pay those debts and instead chose to forfeit his right to free them in order to keep living in that opulent mansion while he kept his slaves out of sight on that mulberry row seems disgusting to me, regardless of his wonderful views on most other things.
Also shocking was seeing his childrens’ names on lists of inventory, and the fact that he allowed his children to live as slaves until they were in their late 20’s. I couldn’t help but think that that behavior was incompatible with someone being a good man.
In your interview with Tom on the NR article about Hamilton, you point out that he tried to end slavery as a young member of the House of Burgesses, condemned slavery in the first draft of the Declaration, and assured Edward Coles that he was antislavery and thought that Coles should keep trying to achieve success in bringing an end to slavery in Virginia.
But later in that letter to Edward Coles, he advises Coles NOT to move away to a different state where he can more easily free his slaves because it would lead to “amalgamation” (bi-racialism) which “produces a degradation to which no lover of his country, no lover of excellence in the human character can innocently consent”. To me, that letter seems like he is talking out of both sides of his mouth because on the one hand he says it is a Christian thing to do to fight to end slavery, but on the other he says to not actually free the slaves Coles owned because it would have a negative effect on society due to blacks’ inferiority.
Because of these facts and his participation in it, I am not convinced that he was genuine in his desire to see slavery end. It almost seems to me like he had idealism in his youth but then succumbed to the perverse self-serving interest of being a slave owner later in his life when faced with the idea of actually tending to his own sustenance rather than sitting in his study etc. I don’t get the impression that he was simply hemmed into being a slave owner by virtue of the laws in his state or by his inheritance, as people who rightly admire him in other respects often suggest. His participation in the American Colonization Society seems admirable, but if he was truly dedicated to the idea that people ought not be owned, why didn’t he take steps in his own life to get rid of it?
Do you think he was really sincere about slavery? If so, how can we reconcile the fact that he participated in it and didn’t actually act on his words while he had contemporaries who did?April 17, 2020 at 12:26 pm in reply to: Revolution to Constitution: Radical or Conservative #21369
Thank you for your responses as always.
So you say that Wood’s account is generally accepted by historians, but what do you personally think?
Do you agree with Wood when he says that the Constitution was radical because it represented a shift from the Ciceronian/Whig view of the executive and judicial branches representing the upper classes while the legislature represented the people to a more democratic one based on dispersed popular sovereignty, or do you personally agree with Jensen and Sheldon Richman that the Constitution was a conservative reaction to the forces of democracy unleashed by the Revolution and embodied in the Articles?
To support the claim that the constitution represented a win for conservatives at that time, Jensen talks about how the original draft of the Articles was decidedly pro national in the power balance, but then it was revised to have the prototype of the Tenth Amendment in Article II under the AOC, and that the Federalists’ efforts in Philadelphia to have a congressional veto and to abolish the states prove their conservative and anti-democratic persuasions.
Was the Constitution radical or conservative, or is this a false dichotomy nitpicked by academia? I’m aware of the fear of democracy that would degenerate into a tyrannical rule of the majority which might deprive the minority of its property, but I have a hard time seeing people like Madison and Hamilton (who whatever his views were on broad construction, risked his life in war for freedom) as being motivated by a desire to rein in democracy.
Here’s an excerpt of an article from Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, a Mises fellow who also went to U of Texas Austin, who seems to accept the Jensen/Beard theory:
“The American Revolution, like all great social upheavals, was brought off by a disparate coalition of competing viewpoints and conflicting interests. At one end of the Revolutionary coalition stood the American radicals—men such as Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Richard Henry Lee, and Thomas Jefferson.
Although by no means in unanimous agreement, the radicals objected to excessive state power in general and not simply to British rule in particular. Spearheading the Revolution’s opening stages, they were responsible for the truly revolutionary alterations in the internal status quo: the abolition of slavery in the northern states, the separation of church and state in the southern states, the rooting out of remaining feudal privileges everywhere, and the adoption of new, republican state constitutions containing written bills of rights that severely hemmed in government power.
At the other end of the Revolutionary coalition were the American nationalists- an array of mercantile, creditor, and landed interests. The nationalists went along with independence but opposed the Revolution’s libertarian thrust. They sought a strong American state with the hierarchical features of the 18th-century British state, only without the British.”
Do you have any opinions about the truth of that statement?
Likewise, Jensen summed it in a few quotes in his book about the Articles:
“When it came to the formation of a common government for all the states, the radicals [who wrote the Articles of Confederation] were guided by experience and by certain political ideas. Experience had taught them to dislike the colonial governing classes and to fear the concentration of wealth and political power. Their political philosophy taught that governments exercising power over wide areas were inherently undemocratic in action.”
“[The Federalists] engineered a conservative counter-revolution and erected a nationalistic government whose purpose, in part, was to thwart the will of ‘the people’ in whose name they acted. They too could use one name while pursuing a goal that was the opposite in fact. Thus, although the purpose of the conservatives was ‘nationalistic’, they adopted the name ‘Federalist’, for it served to disguise the extent of the changes they desired.”
Do you have any thoughts on those statements as to whether they are true or not?
Also, I’m reading Bradley Thompsons’ Adams book-is that the one you are reviewing?
Thank you for explaining these things to me.
As a follow up question, are you aware of any studies which have tracked the change in the typical household’s expenditures on necessaries like housing, food, utilities, etc? It would seem to me like that would also be a factor in assessing living standard changes, not just consumer good price changes.
Does raising the minimum wage impact overall price inflation? If so, could it be said that doing so only increases unemployment until prices rise to the level that they were before in terms of purchasing power?
Thank you so much for all of your answers! They are so informative. My subscription is almost up, but I’m going to save up and renew when I can afford it.
Due mostly to you, its been worth far more than the price! I’ve always wanted to go to Mises U and get a chance to talk to people and learn from them, but have never been able to afford it, so this was a real treat.
I know that in terms of this discussion, I’m actually dragging it down, rather than contributing, but I want to learn more about this because it seems to have huge implications potentially.
I’m wondering if Professor Murphy can provide a dumbed-down introduction for a beginner in economics to Say’s Law and its implications for me. I have been trying to understand it, but it seems like everyone has a different conception of what it is. I’d like to know the following:
1 What was it that Say actually was trying to say?
2. What is it that people thought he said?
3. What is the Keynesian rebuttal of what he said? I think I understand it to be basically that if there was no demand for things, it wouldn’t matter whether they were produced because nobody would buy them, and that we have to stimulate demand by having the fed inflate to give people more money in order to increase spending in the economy , but I’d like it to be put in the concise and precise terms that you are so good at using, so I can be sure to understand it better.
4. What is the Austrian critique of Keynesian attacks on Say’s Law?
5. My micro course is using Krugman’s textbook(*perhaps there be a contra-krugman textbook haha). In the section on demand, it says that one of the things which has an impact on demand is income. What is wrong with saying that a decrease in income can cause a decrease in demand, and that therefore, when there are economy wide layoffs which decrease demand, that could lead to a recession?
6. I get the sense that the “no such thing as a general glut” premise and the Rothbardian “cluster of errors” concept might have some relation in terms of proving that there’s no such thing as a shortage of economy wide demand which causes crises, but can’t quite put finger on it. Are they connected, and if so, how? Does ATBC have any implications on the debate over Say’s Law?
7. Does Say’s Law have any relation to whether supply or demand is more influential in setting prices?
I’m wondering if you can explain the fundamentals of how increased productivity leads to higher wages.
Also, I’m wanting to learn more about the political systems of the New England colonies in order to better understand the life of one of my ancestors, John Webster. What’s a good book to read about colonial governments? For example,I want to learn what the following were:
1. Court of Magistrates
2. General Court of the Colony of Connecticut
3. New England Congress
4. United Colonies of New England
I was thinking primarily of Jefferson’s statements that ““You seem to consider the judges the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.” and the idea that each branch can judge the constitutionality of something.
That and Mr. McLanahan’s statements that, according to my perhaps mistaken interpretation, the court was supposed to judge simply procedural issues, not interpret the Constitution.
It also seems to me that Judge Napolitano is arguing that Marbury was a usurpation in Constitution in Exile.
Is it true that the losses as a percentage of GDP were greater in most cases after the we got the Fed than they were before in the prior panics/recessions?
Did we ever see instances where bank runs happened for no reason and it caused severe recessions?
Are there any places in the world currently or in world history where we can observe a country without a central bank which doesn’t have business cycles caused by credit expansion?
Are there instances when we can observe credit expansions that were in fact based on market functions in which we didn’t see a boom followed by a bust?
Thanks you as always for your efforts!
I’m very grateful for all of the time and effort you put into writing such substantive answers. I’ve learned a lot from this conversation.
One thing that I’m still wondering, however, is this: If the Fed always determines rates, how are we to ever know 1. What the actual market rate is; 2. Whether rates are rising slower than they should?
This seems interesting to me, especially in light of the fact that we shouldn’t be using the Taylor Rule.
Thank you as always
Thank you again!
Also, is it fair to say that “normal” interest rates and investment levels haven’t been present since before the dot-com boom?
Just saw that you had replied to me already. Thank you as always.
Is it too early to tell if Trump’s policies are working? Also, how can the Fed be causing an inflationary boom if rates have been going up? Isn’t the cause of the boom the low rates?
I’m posting more data as a continuation of my last question.
Is this economy due to Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks?
If so why did we see a recovering labor market under Obama as well?
Are we just witnessing another inflationary boom? If so, how can that happen with the rate increases we’ve seen coming from the Fed?
Thank you as always