Abolition wasn’t an Anachronism.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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66 Responses

  1. Avatar zic says:

    Thank you.

    Are you familiar with the Reverend J. H. Thornwell, and his sermon, The Rights and Duties of Masters?

    It lays out the Christian justification for slavery. Perhaps this is why they fall back on ‘state’s rights,’ for by the lights of the sermon, the slaves were, with emancipation, fit for God.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to zic says:

      It’s interesting how much of the early justifications for abolition also hinged on Christianity. By the 1860s it was all about the sovereignty of a political entity and nothing to do with Christianity for slavery. It’s like the line from Dappa in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle: “If we convert people first, we won’t have to sell them into slavery!” (which of course gets the poor guy sold into slavery).Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Seems to me it’s the logic of King Arthur legends; might makes right supplanted by God and Justice, until that doesn’t get you what you want, and then Might makes Right again.

        But I did spend a few weeks searching out all these sermons I could find on the web; and Mission from God was the key to all things.

        Reminds of of many things; what the GOP preaches about fiscal conservatism while we have a Democratic president vs. what they do while we have a Republican president being a modern example.Report

  2. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    Nob, why do you hate America?Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “There’s a tendency to excuse America’s founders for the sins of slavery and oppression of native people. ”

    America without the institution of slavery is an eminently plausible historical counterfactual, and one that would have made things a lot better a lot earlier for a lot more people. (or even having it fade away like some people thought was going to happen before the cotton gin changed everything)

    There’s no way, though, America could have avoided to any large extent what happened to the native peoples of the continent. Even if the United States would have stayed east of the Appalachian (which is an extreme counterfactual with respect to the one of the root causes of the split from British control), some other European power would have eventually stepped in.

    In general, that it was Right and Proper for White People to Rule Everything they could was the fashionable thought well up to the 20th century.

    More specifically, the North American peoples were too rural, too scattered, and overall too small in population emerge victorious in the post-Columbian clash of civilizations. Even the more densely populated and more highly structured societies of Meso and South America got trampled. (though their decedents still are an ongoing concern to a much greater extent than their North American counterparts)Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

      The question of North American native populations is one I’m have substantial more trouble figuring out a counterfactual to. I think you’re right, and I’m also inclined to say that by the time European settlement had started at all the trend was already irreversible. (Granted I’m aware that there’s substantial push back against this concept here in comments)

      While substantial dislocations wouldn’t have been helped, I do wonder if there were other outcomes that weren’t as horrific as the one we had in reality. Things like the Trail of Tears to me seem to have been the result of specific personalities as much as it was the inexorable forces of history.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        I think there were other ways to handle relations with Native Americans, but in the end, the indigenous people were going to get screwed, as they did in Australia and New Zealand, and as they did to a somewhat lesser extent on the continent to our south.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

          That’s the thing, per capita, the Central & South American indigenous populations possibly got screwed more, a fact that still heavily influences Latin American politics. (it’s why Evo Morales is such a BFD)Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

            There were a fair amount of them left compared to North American indigenous populations…though it does seem the Spaniards and Portuguese were quite thorough in eradicating certain native populations.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Estimates vary widely, but a general consensus was that 2/3 of everyone living in the Western Hemisphere at the time of Columbus lived in either the Aztec or Inca empires – which is to say there were a lot more of them to begin with.

              Also, a whole bunch of the North American areas of comparatively dense settlement (i.e. ‘the mound builders’) had already declined by the time Columbus arrived (some attribute it to the Little Ice Age, others just the random meanderings of chaos theory), and there is a strong suspicion that European diseases killed almost all the rest off in the 16th and 17th centuries, causing their settlements to be completely abandoned by the time Europeans started arriving in any appreciable numbers in the early 18th century.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

                Leaving behind the rather bizarre natural features of North America. Was eradication of Indian nations really a big thing until the mid-19th century and Manifest Destiny, though?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                No, but before then we didn’t have settlements on the west side of NA with gold and the others powers hadn’t fully receded. By the mid 19th we had pushed Mexico out of Texas, the brits were more comfortable just having Canada, we were stronger, more of a trading power and independent. It took all those things for us to really put the dreams of having it all to ourselves.Report

              • Avatar Barry in reply to greginak says:

                Also the steamboat and railroads; at point the continent could be economically integrated.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Well, the horse was a game changer in the power relationships amongst the Native Americans themselves in the 18th century. But yeah, the population pressures didn’t become overwhelming until 40’s and nascent industrialization (though the seeds had long since been planted by the Revolution and then the Louisiana Purchase).

                The real curious thing, if for some reason the United States expansion had been halted early (I dunno, maybe if Louis XVI had managed things better and France was in a stronger position by the turn of the 18th century to make holding onto Louisiana worthwhile), would Asian immigration to the Americas have created a separate nation out west?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

                I think it’s possible that there could have been an interesting situation in the Pacific.

                I think it’s more likely the Spaniards would have simply retained their holdings in the west. A Pacific-less America would have some strange second order effects in East Asia, too. Without a Perry would Sakoku have ended when it did? Would an extra 10-20 years of isolation have proved fatal to Japan’s ability to modernize?

                Interesting thought process.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Not to get all Thor Heyerdahl on you, but it does seem like there was some Polynesian influence in the S. American populations. So that’s totally all Thor Heyerdahl. Kon Tiki is a pretty awesome book despite it’s shaky science.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

                What if instead of selling Louisiana, Napoleon had kept it…and then fled there when things turned against him in France….Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Haiti was already gone: New Orleans and the Big River were strategically indefensible. Napoleon only sold the Louisiana Purchase because he had conquered Spain. Had he left for New Orleans, he would have been in big trouble, as close to Mexico as he was.

                Napoleon would have found no refuge here in North America. The British would have surely pursued him. We had our own pitiful innings against the British Crown in 1812 and were in no shape to oppose a sustained invasion from the South. Sure, we won at New Orleans but the war was already over by then, technically.

                Now, if Napoleon had gone to New Orleans instead of Egypt…. we’d all be speaking French.Report

            • Avatar zic in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              I think there’s a major difference.

              For the North American populations, the major cause of population decline was disease. The place I grew up (the very fields, literally, intervale land along the river) sits in the history books for a French priest who moved in and cared for the sick, dying of small pox, in the late 1600’s. The few remaining converted, his Catholic God was powerful, while their gods had abandoned them. As a reward, his church in France sent a silver cross and other holy relics to the tribe. These were the relics stolen by Rogers Raiders, lost somewhere in the neighborhood of Isreal Stream on the north slopes of Mt. Washington. There are repeated tales of natives bonding/capturing/joining Europeans which seem to be driven by their depleted population. The battles and treaty breaking were later; a sort of herding the natives west (and north). I’m not sure we’d have gotten the foothold we did in the north were it not for germs.

              Central and South American people seem more victim to war; and while brutal, it didn’t wipe out whole populations as happened in the north. They were also thicker on the ground to begin with; had already been through several over-population depletion cycles; seems much of the root of the idea of ‘sacrifice’ in their belief systems.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

            The interesting difference down there, though, is that the Spanish didn’t come in and try to just move them off the land, but instead acted like a true colonial power, much like the Brits did in the rest of the world. So most of Latin America has at least some native heritage, whereas here, we just pushed them west, and then into smaller and smaller pockets. There, those with European heritage became something like the Brahmin caste of Latin American. Here, those with European heritage became the inhabitants of North America.Report

          • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Kolohe says:

            Nice to see another Morales fan.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

              I wouldn’t say I’m a fan, quite the opposite in fact, but I understand where he and his political support are coming from. (and frankly, I don’t have a better answer to address the needs of his core constituencies in the short term)Report

              • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Kolohe says:

                I’m impressed that he managed to balance the budget by doing the exact opposite of what the Washington Consensus and most of the big international financial organizations said to do (taxing the heck out of the natural gas companies, who decided to stick around because they were still making money anyway) and put the money towards actually doing some good for the population. It’s long overdue in the region.Report

        • Avatar Simon Kinahan in reply to Chris says:

          The Australian aborigines got screwed worse than almost anyone else. The Maori on the other hand, did okay. On a par with the Canadian First Nations, at least. They had a rather better negotiating position, being agricultural people who’d figured out how to make their own firearms and ships by the time the British actually started trying to settle their country. The treaty of Waitangi, while vague and of debatable legitimacy, has provided some kind of basis for the Maori to enforce their property claims, after a bit of a lapse in the mid-20th century.Report

          • The Maori are probably the “best case scenario” for what could have happened to north american natives, but even their end result was a bit depressing.Report

          • Avatar James K in reply to Simon Kinahan says:

            I can’t help but feel that the aggressiveness of the Maori, plus their undeniable talent for war was responsible for them being relatively well-treated. When you fear violence, you pretty much have to play nice.

            In retrospect, it was probably good that the Maori were colonised when they were, if the British had developed the Maxim gun by the time colonisation got started, I fear things would have turned out much worse for the Maori.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James K says:

              I’m not so sure, really. The maxim gun was useful in Britain’s African conquests because they had a lot of pitched battles to fight. The New Zealand Wars were mostly about trying to keep the Maori engaged long enough to deplete their supplies and run down their economy. (Partly due to the fact that even the maxim gun wouldn’t have made much difference against Maori fortifications)Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to James K says:

              The Apaches were greatly feared by settlers and the Army. That didn’t really help them much at all. Greater fear can just lead the more powerful to be more harsh and crack down harder.Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        What if Vinland had remained a going concern and a Norse-Native combination had been present from Nova Scotia to Virginia? Might that have proved too strong a confederation to remove?

        Also, what if the Five nations had become a colony the way that some Americans (Franklin among them, I believe) wished? That certainly would have changed the way Manifest Destiny played out.Report

        • Avatar Mopey Duns in reply to Jeff No-Last-Name says:

          In my understanding, disease decimated all the native populations to the point where I don’t believe the Five nations were ever populous enough to counterbalance the European population.

          The Iroquois had something in the neighbourhood of 5000 souls in their tribe in the 1730s, and by the Seven Years War soon after, there were already over a million English settlers in North America. They were too few by at least a factor of 10 to be able to demand any kind of real equality.

          The idea of a Norse-Native combination is a really interesting one, but I don’t think that there was ever a real chance of the kind of widespread alliance your envisioning.

          If it had, though, that confederacy probably would have spent a lot of its time subjugating and raiding up and down the coast and further inland along the St. Lawrence.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        The counterfactual that would’ve changed the outcome dramatically is if early European explorers had somehow switched almost all native American’s over to agriculture (with pigs, chickens, cows, horses, wheat, rice, plows, fences, etc to go along with corn and potatoes), but didn’t follow on with mass immigration until a couple of centuries later. With a slightly higher population growth rate and the ability to maintain those growth rates because of more modern agriculture’s much higher carrying capacities, then most of the Americas would’ve had a population density more like Asia’s, a place where Europeans couldn’t make much of a demographic dent.

        The snag is that although a couple of centuries might’ve been enough time for the population increase, it might not have been nearly enough time for the natural, widespread adoption of the new farming techniques and technologies without waves of immigrants showing how. Perhaps the best US model for how it might have worked, though, is the Spanish missions in California. Given more time after the adoption of Spanish farming practices, California’s native communities would’ve become quite massive.Report

  4. Avatar Alex Knapp says:

    Interestingly enough, if you read the Viking accounts, the Native Americans basically drove them off. Think about that for a minute – the Native Americans SCARED OFF THE VIKINGS.

    There are other 16th Century accounts that show similar events – the Europeans being driven off by the native North Americans.

    What happened in between the 16th ans 17th centuries? Smallpox.

    Smallpox wiped out possibly as much as 90% of the North American population before most European settlers got there. The only reason the Pilgrims were allowed to land at Plymouth is because the natives there were ravaged by smallpox and the Pilgrims basically settled in an already conveniently built village, complete with roads and farms.

    The Pilgrims attributed this to ‘Providence.’ They literally praised God for sending a plague to wipe out the natives and provide them with convenient settlements.

    And now I remember why I find history so depressing.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Alex Knapp says:

      the Pilgrims basically settled in an already conveniently built village, complete with roads and farms

      If that’s true, and by Pilgrims you mean literally or at least some of the groups among the first white settlers, that’s amazing. I never imagined that, though it only makes sense.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It is true. They landed on Dec. 25, not the brightest of times to plan launching a new settlement in the Northeast. Of course, they were heading for Virginia, and missed by a couple two or three hundred miles as the crow flies. Instead, the found PTown. At this point, they were dying fast and furious, too; lack of food being one of the problems.

        The scouted the area, and settled on modern-day Plymouth as a better spot then the sandy dunes of the cape; there was an abandoned village there. Everyone had died of small pox.

        They survived on caches of corn and other provender they found, buried in the ground as was the traditional method to store foodstuff for the winter; the few remaining natives in the area showed them where it was and how to fix it. Foods the ate that winter likely included fish, corn, venison, pine nuts from the local scrub pine. They made maple syrup in the traditional method — heated rocks dropped into buckets of sap. Though it’s not recorded, I’d guess they were also taught to drink a tea of steeped pine needles, the best way to fight of scurvy.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to zic says:

          Wasn’t that what happened with Squanto? Poor guy was kidnapped for conversion by the Spanish, and then when he got back to New England everyone was dead of plague, so he was hanging around where his village used to be when a bunch of white folks showed up with no supplies.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            Yes; but I think he’d been taken to England, he spoke English. A parlor entertainer.

            If you’ve opportunity, read Wm. Bradford’s journal, On Plimoth Plantation; it’s pretty fascinating. I had to read it for a job I had working at the museum, Plimoth Plantation, several other works, and I had to learn a 17th cent. dialect of Kent, where my ‘character,’ Mary Chilton Winslow, came from. Goodwife Winslow had a myth built up around her — the first woman to ‘step on to plimoth rock.’ One day, I had this old geezer and his chicken-necked daughter come looking for me, he was my descendent, wanted to here his great-great-great whatever grandma tell about stepping out on a boat onto the rock; the piece of pride that placed in in the pecking order of Americana granfalloons.

            Me, I responded, “Now why would you be risking a perfectly good boat on a rock?” Ohh, he wouldn’t accept it; and his chicken-necked daughter kept egging him on, I thought they were going to physically attack me for withholding the story about plimoth rock.

            Our historical myths and fictions, they can be dangerous.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Alex Knapp says:

      Smallpox, plague, etc. all took a pretty huge chunk out of the European population, too. As did eventually syphilis.

      One does wonder though what would have happened if the Chinese had made landfall in the west first. Virulation was in practice by the 11th century, and while not as safe as Jenner’s cowpox vaccination, it could’ve blunted the huge mortality rate from smallpox on the native population.Report

      • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        The difference between the Native experience and even the Black Plague was the severity. The Plague wiped out 1/3 of the European population. Smallpox wiped out 90% in a population where virulent infections were virtually unknown.

        The immune systems of American natives are better suited to fighting parasitic infections, as those were the most common in the Americas before the Europeans came. This resulted in smallpox having much, much higher fatality rates than it did for Europeans.

        But this also caused a cultural problem – since disease was transmitted primarily through bad food or water, rather than from person to person, the native cultures had no concept of virulence. No concept of quarantines. When someone was sick, the family made sure to stay close and comfort them, while Europeans learned through hard experience to isolate the sick.

        As a consequence, not only did their immune systems betray them, so did their culture – because by not isolating patients, smallpox spread even faster. It was absolutely devastating.

        You make an interesting point about inoculation, but smallpox spread so quickly through the native population that I wonder how much of a dent it would have made.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Alex Knapp says:

          Although the Imperial Chinese were often utter bastards, they were substantially better than their modern counterparts in dealing with infectious diseases and if they had a substantial presence in North America, they probably would have done a better job with dealing with smallpox outbreaks among their “charges” than their decendents did with SARS six centuries later….just saying.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Alex Knapp says:

          There are passages in the Jesuits’ narratives from New France describing how the Huron and Iroquois people formerly built enormous shelters for themselves and fought large pitched battles with several thousands of warriors on either side. Things they no longer did anymore by the early 18th century.

          As I recall, the Jesuits stopped just short of inferring the massive demographic collapse that had just taken place. Knowing what we know today, it makes for some decidedly eerie reading.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Alex Knapp says:

          The trouble with the smallpox theory is that smallpox isn’t a highly fatal disease in any population. The scars it leaves are a bitch, and the Cherokee really complained about that (vanity is a human condition), but it’s not going to wipe everyone out. Native Americans also have less susceptibility to it than Europeans, except for some tribes like the Blackfoot who have a predominance of type A blood (type A increases the likelihood of contracting it). The vast majority of native Americans are type O, and in Central and South American almost all native Americans are type O.

          Smallpox is also rather hard to catch. Unimmunized people can work washing bedsheets for a smallpox ward for years and not catch it. It takes prolonged close contact with airborne droplet exchange, so almost all victims are the primary care giver of someone who already has it.

          Native Americans also had a host of indigenous diseases to fight, some so vicious that they had their own gods, such as the Mayan gods Stab Master and Trash Master.Report

          • Avatar Mopey Duns in reply to George Turner says:

            I have never heard this before.

            I would be very interested in your sources, if you happen to have them on hand.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Mopey Duns says:

              Sure, that’s how it behaves among Native Americans now — after it killed all of the most susceptible, so that their genes didn’t get passed on.

              It’s also true that diseases change their characteristics over historical time.

              The first few decades that syphilis was in Europe, it killed its victims within a few months from massive hemorrhaging. It doesn’t do that anymore, usually taking several years or even decades if left untreated. Malaria used to be endemic through much of Europe, but it’s not anymore. Diseases can and do change over time.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Barring an extremely promiscuous populatin, an STD that kills quickly is an evolutionary dead end. The host has to survive the disease long enough to have a chance to spread it around. The HIV model is the way to go.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Contra George, it’s worth pointing out that the Mandan were almost completely wiped out by successive epidemics of smallpox, beginning in the 1600s and culminating in the 1837-8 epidemic which reduced their numbers from around 1600 to 150 or less.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                It’s also worth pointing out that the Mandan smallpox epidemic, one of the most severe actually recorded, resulted in the firing of Ward Churchill for fraud. Other stories about the epidemic include the words “lies, damn lies, fraud,” and “truthiness,” mostly relating to Churchill and related recent claims. The leading professor to come to Churchill’s defense, an “expert” on the Mandan epidemic, was an English (not a history) professor who testified that she hadn’t ever actually read primary or secondary historical sources about the epidemic. Even PBS Frontline said the academic fraud and misconduct was egregious.

                Note: The 1837 epidemic wasn’t spread by smallpox blankets, the trading post wasn’t an army base, no US soldiers were involved, the trading post didn’t have a US military surgeon or any doctor, so the non-existent doctor didn’t do things to try to spread the epidemic. The epidemic didn’t kill half a million Indians, and whites were just as affected and happened to be married to the Indians.

                The Mandans had prior and frequent smallpox outbreaks, with a notable one in 1781, so they were not “virgin-soil.” Even the primary sources on the Mandan village vary by a factor of six in their survivor counts (which requires discounting claims that not a single Mandan survived), and none of those reports assume even a single person fled, the common (and wise) human response to plague, even in Europe, and one used by the entirety of the Mandan during a previous smallpox outbreak in 1781. Indians often viewed such diseases as a sign of bad spirits, moving singly or by entire villages, and moving in response to smallpox was quite common.

                Another problem is that the 1781 Mandan smallpox epidemic (thought to have been caught from Comanches) is said in some accounts to have cut their population in half (with the same numerical problem that many may have just fled, and the era’s innumeracy when it came to counting people). Mandans were also reportedly hard hit by smallpox between the years of 1781 and 1837, and some claim they’d had frequent smallpox outbreaks since the 16th century (which begs us to ask how anyone would know that). Yet a person can only catch smallpox once, so very many Mandin should definitely have been immune to smallpox.

                Going back to the primary source on the outbreak, Chardon (the trader) who kept the diary that records the details, says Indians were committing suicide, and husbands and wives were killing themselves and their children. Yet even his estimate only went to 800 hundred, and that was a rough estimate made in his despair. That’s also about five hundred times fewer deaths than were attributed to the epidemic by Ward Churchill, who at one point claimed the death toll was 400,000).

                The strain of smallpox afflicting the Indians couldn’t have been any different than the strain afflicting whites because it was passing freely back and forth between them. Smallpox shouldn’t have been as infectious among Indians because the chief contributer to infection is crowding. Smallpox mortality among Aztecs (who had Spanish doctors recording actual details) put their mortality rate only 5% higher than among Europeans. Estimates of mortality among Cherokee and some other tribes are about 30% higher than European mortality.

                But there are other factors, too. One Indian response to smallpox was suicide, since the scars were though to follow into the afterlife. The Cherokee had such a response, and it may explain why their mortality rate was higher than the Aztecs. Among survivors, a post-epidemic response was to raid neighboring villages to replenish losses. That would take a pretty heavy death toll, too. And then the survivors tended to be rejected as mates because they were scarred, lowering reproduction rates.

                Some tribes tried treatments that should’ve increased the mortality rate, but many tribes used treatments that should’ve decreased it, along with decreasing transmission. Over time the better responses became more common, such as moving, exiling active cases to just beyond the village borders, or burning the clothing and dwellings of sufferers. The idea that the Indians couldn’t figure out how to fight the spread but Euroepans did is nonsense. Up until the development of the cowpox vaccine, there was little difference between them in effectiveness or medical sense (both groups usually blamed bad air, bad spirits, sin (against God or animals), God’s will, etc).

                Modern medicine understands quite a lot about smallpox epidemics and mortality (though not as much as we should because the early introduction of a vaccine occured before we recorded sufficiently accurate data), and none of it would support the fantastically high death tolls be claimed (at least if you discount suicide). The subject was revisited after 9/11 and the following Anthrax attacks as the CDC tried to flesh out what we could expect in a completely unimmunized virgin-soil population potentionally subject to a smallpox attack by Al Qaeda.

                What they concluded was that most of the assumptions about smallpox were exaggerations based on an anomalous German lab outbreak in the 1960’s which was given too much weight because unlike most outbreaks from the 1700 or 1800’s, it occured in a place that could record the details with modern precision. As it turned out, the person at the center of the outbreak was a super-transmitter, which was not unknown but also not at all a common occurance when smallpox was a major problem.

                The CDC even had to compile a Smallpox fact and fiction page to combat the erroneous claims about the disease. So far as I can tell, even from the CDC, no one in the medical community has ever found an ethnic variation in the fatality rate. Nor is their any variation in the fatality rate because “your people” had once been exposed. Anyone who is infected faces about a 30% mortality rate unless they do things they shouldn’t, such as trying to cure it with dehydration (some Indians did that), starvation, or jumping into ice cold water. Anyone who survives it can’t be seriously reinfected. These are just medical facts, and making outrageous claims about the disease are as bad as blaming it on bad air or evil spirits.Report

    • Avatar Les Cargill in reply to Alex Knapp says:

      Any Vikings in North America would have been pretty isolated and outnumbered. Yes, there was smallpox, there was plague, there was waterborne disease. There is a price for having large trade networks. But one of the few things we know of economics is that trade is *the* mechanism by which wealth is gained.

      Where there are only apocryphal notes in journals of British officers only thinking about smallpox infected blankets, a Mongol actually used plague dead as bio weapons during the appropriate period for that to be relevant ( 1346 in the seige of Caffa ).Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Alex Knapp says:

      Think about that for a minute – the Native Americans SCARED OFF THE VIKINGS.

      That’s not quite so impressive as it sounds. The viking expeditions to North America just weren’t that big. I believe that the largest was on the order of 200.Report

  5. Avatar Damon says:

    History of the world: Might makes RightReport

  6. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    An excellent post. Two things stand out for me:

    “Hume argued that conquests led to the moral decay of the conquerors.” To which I’d add: They still do.

    “By the standards of his own time, [Thomas Jefferson] was a hypocritical tyrant. The failings within the founding generation to make more of an effort toward humanity should be indictment of their morality.”

    On the first sentence, certainly yes. But can we not find the argument of a hypocrite convincing, even while we find his actions reprehensible? This is the flip side of the argument we’d lately had about Pete Domenici’s secret child.

    To put it most baldly: Must we reject the idea that all men are created equal, and have equal rights and dignities, because Jefferson’s practical morality was appalling? But where exactly would that get us?Report

    • I don’t think we should reject the ideas, so much as question the moral validity of using their standards as an ideal or harkening to their morals as an appeal to the rightness of an idea. I’m more opposed to the notion of the Framers as Demi-Gods than that of accepting their arguments on natural rights.

      If anything it behooves us to perfect those ideals into something that stands up to scrutiny.

      As Barbara Jordan put it:

      We, the people.” It is a very eloquent beginning. But when the document was completed on the seventeenth of September 1787 I was not included in that “We, the people.” I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in “We, the people.”

      Barbara Jordan’s “We, the people” was a more faithful use of the phrase than when Jefferson used it. And so we should hope to improve upon Jordan, rather than harken back to Jefferson, Madison, &c.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Perfecting is a lovely word for this process.

        To my mind, it’s the beating heart of democracy.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        I don’t think we should reject the ideas, so much as question the moral validity of using their standards as an ideal or harkening to their morals as an appeal to the rightness of an idea.

        That’s a bit of a strawman. Not that there aren’t some people making that argument, but attacking one of the weaker arguments for an opposing position is not a particularly strong argument for your own position.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Nob isn’t arguing that, and Sam wasn’t arguing that. And neither need do for their point to have force. In each case, the point is that these people are despicable, and separately, hypocrites. The point of making that point is not to disprove any contentions either of them have, but to eliminate any furtherance those contentions have received by force of the figures’ personal authority, to clear away the politics around legitimate argumentation of the contentions on the merits, whether those contentions be equality, property rights, or the superiority of particular conceptions of the family or of marriage over others. (In the case of Domenici, IMO at this point tearing down that authority is overkill, but I think Sam can reasonably have a different opinion about that from us.)Report

  7. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    “As was typical in Anglo-Sphere history, it was religious dissidents who agitated for progress. ”

    She did a bit of a piss-poor job of it (providing NO context), but see Sinead O’ Connor. I had no idea why she tore up the picture of the Pope, but now know that he was condoning and profiting from slavery. Something that the RCs still have not apologized for, much less even attempted restitutuion.Report