Reply to Mencius Moldbug on abolitionism

Moldbug writes:
I'm sure your readers would appreciate a discussion of the Jews behind
John Brown:
The email goes on in a similar vein, finishing with a link to a history of abolitionism, which "doesn't mention the Jews." I'll attempt to extract Moldbug's argument. See if you can find any holes in this logic:

(1) There were a handful of radical abolitionists in mid-19th-century America.
(2) They weren't Jewish.
(3) Therefore New England Puritans are responsible for 20th-century leftism, Jews bearing no responsibility whatsoever.


I think your readers would benefit from a discussion of The Culture of Critique. I don't mean a comical, virtually argument-free post like this one. First read CofC. Then explain in detail how your theory better fits the evidence. For example, you assert:
Basically, the Jews (like my ancestors) who came to the US were people who wanted to get ahead - as individuals. They were done with the ghetto and the shtetl. They wanted money and power. Doesn't everyone?

It was only natural, therefore, that they would be drawn to the social patterns of the most prestigious class in their new country - the mainline "super-Protestants." Like most converts, they adopted the most fashionable views of the Brahmin elite, which was already well down the road toward secularization and Unitarianism in the modern sense of the word.
You could start by explaining how New England Puritans were able to radicalize Jews such as Moses Hess and Karl Marx -- while said Jews were still in Germany. This is kind of important, since most analysts see Marxism weighing rather more heavily in the pedigree of modern leftism than radical abolitionism.

I'm not going to waste any more time responding to straw men. But I'll gladly take the bait as concerns the role of New England Puritans in abolitionism. As the book you recommend agrees (did you bother to read it?), most New Englanders and most of the New England religious establishment opposed radical abolitionism:
The good people of Boston were now thoroughly aroused. They had from the first frowned on the Abolition movement. Garrison was complaining that in all the city his society could not "hire a hall or a meeting-house." The Abolition idea had been for a time thought chimerical and therefore negligible. Later, civic, business, social, and religious organizations had all of them in their several spheres been earnest and active in their opposition; now it seemed to be time for concerted action.

In Garrison's "Garrison" (vol. I, p. 495), we read that "the social, political, religious and intellectual elite of Boston filled Faneuil Hall on the afternoon of Friday, August 3, 1835, to frame an indictment against their fellow-citizens." [. . .]

In speaking to these resolutions, Harrison Gray Otis, a great conservative leader, denounced the Abolition agitators, accusing them of "wishing to 'scatter among our Southern brethren firebrands, arrows, and death,' and of attempting to force Abolition by appeals to the terror of the masters and the passions of the slaves," and decrying their "measures, the natural and direct tendency of which is to excite the slaves of the South to revolt," etc.

Another of the speakers, ex-Senator Peleg Sprague, said (p. 496, Garrison's "Garrison") that "if their sentiments prevailed it would be all over with the Union, which would give place to two hostile confederacies, with forts and standing armies." [. . .]

That Boston meeting pronounced the deliberate judgment of the most intelligent men of Boston on the situation, as they knew it to be that day; it was in their midst that The Liberator was being published; there the new sect had its head-quarters, and there it was doing its work. [. . .]

That great Faneuil Hall meeting of August 31, 1835, was followed some weeks later by a lamentable anti-Garrison mob, which did not stand alone. In the years 1835, 1836, and 1837 a great wave of anti-Abolition excitement swept over the North. In New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Alton (Illinois), and many other places, there were anti-Abolition riots, sometimes resulting in arson and bloodshed.

[Hilary Abner Herbert. The abolition crusade and its consequences: four periods of American history.]
The anti-Garrison speakers mentioned were of New England stock. William Lloyd Garrison himself -- who Herbert points to as the founder of "New Abolitionism" -- however, was the child of immigrants from New Brunswick. Only one of Garrison's grandparents was of New England ancestry, the others having been born in England and Ireland. Garrison's immediate predecessor and inspiration was Benjamin Lundy, a Quaker who was born in New Jersey and who operated an abolitionist newspaper out of Baltimore, Maryland. Garrison was a Baptist. The pattern of transmission I'm seeing is Quaker -> Baptist -> Unitarian, not Unitarian -> everyone else:
One of the major participants in the antislavery struggle, Bostonian editor William Lloyd Garrison was so greatly influenced by his involvement in the crusade against slavery that his religious beliefs changed significantly over the decades. The indifference and hostility with which a majority of the nation's "orthodox" churchmen met his pleas for immediate and unconditional emancipation caused Garrison to become estranged from the clergy and convinced him that he should turn to more liberal religionists for aid and religious instruction. Separated from his eminently orthodox Baptist roots, he found it increasingly easy to reject those elements of his evangelical heritage which seemed to do little for man and nothing for the suffering slave. [. . .]

Expecting to find a key supporter for his project in Lyman Beecher, Garrison paid a visit to the evangelical pastor of Hanover Street Church during the fall of 1830. Instead of the desired aid and encouragement, however, he found the minister to be indifferent to his appeal. Beecher was alarmed by the young reformer's demand for immediate and unconditional emancipation. "Your zeal," he said, "is commendable, but you are misguided." Garrison was disappointed and saddened by the minister's attitude. He could not understand how Beecher or any other Christian minister could advocate gradualism as the solution to the problem of slavery - it was as if he favored telling a drunkard, a thief, or a wife beater to refrain from such crimes gradually and aim at some indefinite, far-off reformation of character.

After experiencing this rebuff to his immediatism, Garrison sought the cooperation of Jeremiah Evarts, Secretary of the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, but received the same response. Later in the year an old acquaintance, Deacon Moses Grant, even refused to grant him sufficient credit to obtain the ream or two of paper which he needed to produce a specimen number of his journal. Grant did not take this course of action out of any fear that Garrison would fail to make good his debts, but he did so because he was opposed to the issuance of an antislavery paper of the type proposed.4

Garrison's pleas for aid and encouragement were finally answered, not by the members of Boston's orthodox religious establishment, but by Abner Kneeland and his First Society of Free Enquirers. After an unfruitful search for a suitable place to hold a series of antislavery lectures, Garrison had been forced to place an advertisement in the Boston Courier seeking "a Hall or Meetinghouse in which to vindicate the rights of TWO MILLIONS of American citizens who are now groaning in servile chains in this boasted land of liberty." In response to his plea, Kneeland, a former Universalist minister turned rationalist and pantheist, offered him the use of the Society's rooms in Julien Hall. Reluctantly, the young Baptist reformer accepted this kind offer from a man whose "infidelic" views he had been taught to abhor.5

Among those in attendance at Garrison's lecture on October 15 were Samuel Joseph May, a Unitarian minister from Brooklyn, Connecticut; his cousin, Samuel E. Sewall, a fellow Unitarian and a Boston lawyer; and Sewall's brother- in-law, A. Bronson Alcott. At the conclusion of the address, the three men introduced themselves to Garrison, May saying, "Mr. Garrison, I am not sure that I can endorse all you have said this evening. Much of it requires careful consideration. But I am prepared to embrace you, I am sure you are called to a great work, and I mean to help you." After Sewall seconded this pledge, Alcott invited the group to his home where they discussed immediatism far into the night. Before morning Garrison had three new converts. While Alcott eventually lost sight of abolition among his other enthusiasms, May and Sewall became two of Garrison's strongest Boston supporters.

[William L. van Deburg. William Lloyd Garrison and the "Pro-Slavery Priesthood": The Changing Beliefs of An Evangelical Reformer, 1830-1840. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Jun., 1975), pp. 224-237.]
Incidentally, Massachusetts jailed Kneeland for blasphemy in 1838.

That's enough for now. I'll close with some excerpts from the Wikipedia page of one of the "Secret Six":
Theodore Parker (August 24, 1810 – May 10, 1860) was an American Transcendentalist and reforming minister of the Unitarian church. [. . .] Parker specialized in a study of German theology. He was drawn to the ideas of Coleridge, Carlyle and Emerson. [. . .] His belief in God's mercy made him reject Calvinist theology as cruel and unreasonable. [. . .] While he started with a strong faith, with time Parker began to ask questions. He learned of the new field of historical higher criticism of the Bible, then growing in Germany, and he came to deny traditional views. [. . .] Boston's Unitarian leadership opposed Parker to the end


Mencius Moldbug said...

A handful of radical abolitionists? How on earth did a handful of people manage to start a war?

The Secret Six were by no means alone in their convictions - they were just alone in funding a terrorist. Otherwise, how exactly did we have this thing called the Civil War? It certainly wasn't due to just six people. Who are representative - not unique.

Your quotes are all from the 1830s and 40s. In the 1830s, abolitionist Yankees were a vanguard minority - prudently despised for the world of trouble they were stirring up. By the '50s, all of New England was aflame in the familiar Great Awakening style. The "doughface" or pro-slavery New England Democrat was a nearly extinct species.

Read this memoir of the abolition struggle. To me, it reads like a product of the Tides Foundation. It was published in 1905, by a veteran of the abolition struggle. The author - John F. Hume (Humenstein). You might also enjoy the opposite point of view - a principled 1854 memoir by a Boston clergyman who visited the South for health reasons and was converted to a fan of slavery. By 1854, no doubt this was almost as shocking to his congregation as it would be today.

Perhaps you've heard of Occam's Razor, n/a. Entities should not be multiplied. Radical democracy, of which racial egalitarianism is a natural consequence, has emerged autochthonously from Puritanism with minimal external influence multiple times in Anglo-American history - in the 1640s, the 1760s, and the 1850s, to mention just three cases.

In none of these cases were Jews required, for they simply weren't present. And in the third case, we see blatant racial egalitarianism, front and center. Check out the ideology of Thaddeus Stevens (Stefanjewski). Stefanjewski even had a mulatto housekeeper who was probably his mistress. And he was an uncompromising believer in the most left-wing of American race theologies - amalgamation. Everyone today is an amalgamationist, of course.

Surely, you've got to admit that if you are wrong about your Jew theory, all your work is just playing into the hands of the Sulzberger family. I'm not any more of a fan of the Sulzbergers than you are, n/a...

Anonymous said...

Are not Jewish communities historically based around some decentralised kind of collective of elders in the community who gain their position through the affirmation and choice of the community?

Rob S. said...

Whatever, Mr. Gefilte-Fishowicz. I like your blog a lot, but your logic is not even close to world class. (Your style is.) Here you are all tu quoque and genetic fallacy, enough said.

Mistakes were made by the sons of Albion c. 1840-65. Ja, und? Nobody's perfect. Anyway, the results did not destroy this country (or the West), and it should have been clear beforehand that they would not. The 20th C border-busting racial bolshevism is a matter of a whole nother order, on an infinitely more destructive scale. It is the main event. And it's there that I predict you will carry on with your tu quoque and genetic fallacy lest you have to actually engage KMac-ism's actual content.

Things were going OK here in 1920, Thomas Wentworth Higginson or no. Yes, universal wealth, the father of decadent vulgarity, was waxing. Yes, the American negro was on the loose. But non-coercive eugenics a la Lee Kuan Yew could have addressed both - that is, it could have improved both the white and black races. Instead of that, we have what.

n/a said...


"How on earth did a handful of people manage to start a war?"

They didn't.

Yes, abolitionism grew in popularity, but radical abolitionists were always in the minority even in the North. The memoir you cite opens with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

Owing to a variety of causes, the Abolitionists have received an immense amount of hysterical praise which they do not deserve, and have been credited with deeds done by other men whom, in reality, they hampered and opposed rather than aided. After 1840, the professed Abolitionists formed a small and comparatively unimportant portion of the forces that were working towards the restriction and ultimate destruction of slavery; and much of what they did was positively harmful to the cause for which they were fighting.

Apparently, the author takes offense at this quote and was motivated to write the book as a response, but I'm inclined to agree with TR.

"Amalgamationists" were an insignificant minority even among radical abolitionists. Most anti-slavery sentiment stemmed from the perception that slavery was bad for whites. Even among abolitionists, the focus tended to be on the corrupting effects of slavery on whites, and the pursuit of personal salvation, rather than belief in racial egalitarianism. Horror at the miscegenation taking place on southern plantations was vastly more common than advocacy of "amalgamation".

The English Civil War hardly represented an outbreak of radical democracy, and New England in the 1850s was anything but insulated from outside influences. From one of your favorite sources:

Transcendentalism was rooted in the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant (and of German Idealism more generally), which the New England intellectuals of the early 19th century embraced as an alternative to the Lockean "sensualism" of their fathers and of the Unitarian church. They found the alternative in Vedic thought, German idealism, and English Romanticism.

"Perhaps you've heard of Occam's Razor, n/a. Entities should not be multiplied."

"Beyond necessity". When two competing hypotheses explain a phenomenon equally well, we should prefer the simpler one. I don't find that convoluted theories of mutated "ultracalvinism" explain the world as well as basic theories of human nature -- nor are the former necessary if we start with the latter. I reject the notion that 17th-century New England Puritans bear any especial responsibilty for modern leftism. That said, I've never argued liberalism (and even racial liberalism) would not exist without Jews.

The potential for misdirected altruism and destructive varieties of status competition among whites, however, does not absolve Jews of responsibility for their own behavior or mean we can downplay the Jewish role. In America, prior to the mass immigration of Jews, the forces of racial liberalism were more than balanced by competing tendencies among whites. The introduction of large numbers of hostile minority intellectuals / journalists / business owners / etc. threw off that balance.

Tanstaafl said...

The potential for misdirected altruism and destructive varieties of status competition among whites, however, does not absolve Jews of responsibility for their own behavior or mean we can downplay the Jewish role. In America, prior to the mass immigration of Jews, the forces of racial liberalism were more than balanced by competing tendencies among whites. The introduction of large numbers of hostile minority intellectuals / journalists / business owners / etc. threw off that balance.

Well said.

The "debate" between yourself and Moldbug captures the essence of the assault jews have long waged against all their hosts. It's all the host's fault - starting with being stupid enough to host them.

Anonymous said...

Since Moldbug, in his never ending quest to absolve Jews of malfeasance and culpability, loves to point the finger at radical Protestantism, he should do some more reading to find out just who and what was involved in influencing radical Protestantism.

Unbeknownst to him, by blaming radical Protestantism he's ultimately implicating Jewish influence.

"Jewish influence on Christian reform movements" by Louis Israel Newman would be a good start. Adam Sutcliffe's "Judaism and Enlightenment" and Jonathan I. Israel's "Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750" would be good as well. There are many more.

The 17th century, which preceded the rise of radical Protestantism, saw the regicide, the spreading of Kabbalistic ideas to Holland (Isaac Luria & tikkun olam), the radical Enlightenment, Spinoza & the Enlightenment as a reaction to the Jewish presence in the West (see Adam Sutcliffe), the development in the Enlightenment of ideals of universalism (even pantheism) and individualism that are precisely the opposite of what is adaptive in competition with Jewry, millenarianism on the part of Jews and gentiles, bogus claims of the discovery of Lost Tribes of Israel in the New World used to influence Cromwell, gentile uprising against the Jews in Poland in 1648, Jewish refugees from Poland, Menasseh ben Israel’s self-appointed mission to gain readmission of the Jews to England, etc.

Radical Protestantism didn't just emanate from the aether but arose out of the influence of a heavily Jewish intellectual milieu. Out of this environment came an intellectual movement of radicalism and atomization as the ultimate individualist strategy, the absolute worst strategy we could adopt if we were to face subsequent competition with the Jewish or any other competing group.

Three possibilities come to mind. The first is that the Enlightenment ideals that were the antithesis of Judaism (i.e. least competitive, most vulnerable) were conceptualized by the Jewish community and sold to the gullible goyim. The second is that these ideals were a spontaneous (though ultimately maladaptive) creation of the European intellect reacting to the Jewish presence. The third, which seems most likely, is some combination of the two. Each of these possibilities, however, is dependent on the presence of Jews and/or Jewish memes, the putative germs.

TGGP said...

The thing that strikes me about the civil war is that around the same time Italy & Germany were in the process of unification (Garibaldi offered to fight for the Union and many German 48'rs actually did). The nationalism fever had already run through France, and even anti-French continentals imbibed it. Slavery may have been a motivation for the south, but for the north it not slavery but nationalism (hence riots in response to the Emancipation Proclamation).

It was too boring to finish, but I read the beginning of "Authoritarian Socialism in America", where it is noted that Edward Bellamy was packaging many European ideas for American consumption. Oddly enough, they reminded me a lot of Mencius' "formalism". That's why I don't think communism is "American as apple pie", but rather an import from Europe.

I think the doctrine of Christianity is radical in its origins (cults can be that way), though adapted to a form compatible with the status quo of the Roman empire. There are periodically radicals who will hark back to the radical side of Christianity, and I believed something similar happened with Zoroastrianism. Ultimately ideas don't matter much but serve as signifiers of group-membership and factions will grapple for the mantle of popular ones as justifications.

Silver said...

The second is that these ideals were a spontaneous (though ultimately maladaptive) creation of the European intellect reacting to the Jewish presence.

Sure. Why would anyone ever come up with an idea unless as a reaction to the presence of Jews? Particularly an ultimately maladaptive idea. Everyone knows that but for a Jewish presence the ideas generated (and any other actions undertaken) by members of human groups only ever serve to expand those groups' genetic interests.

Rob S. said...

Everyone knows that but for a Jewish presence the ideas generated (and any other actions undertaken) by members of human groups only ever serve to expand those groups' genetic interests.

I'm not sure how much I like your ideas or not, but you certainly seem sophisticated. You should easily recognize that you're whaling on a straw man there.

Anonymous said...

As noted, there were few Jews in the U.S. during the early 19th century.

Has anyone here any information how the Sephardic Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island, took sides on the abolition issue during the antebellum era - or if they did?

Certainly members of the other significant Jewish community in the U.S. at that period, the Sephardim of Charleston, S.C., as well as the few Jews scattered throughout the South, were pro-slavery. Many of them were slaveholders. Bernard Baruch's father, a German Jew who married a Sephardic woman from Charleston, was an officer on the staff of Robert E. Lee during the unpleasantness of 1861-65. Then of course there is the example of Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana, who held three cabinet posts in the Confederate government, long before the first Jew was appointed to such a position in the government of the United States.

Anonymous said...

Jews dominated the slave trade throughout the Americas. Jews have been heavily involved in the slave trade for thousands of years. They dominated much of the slave trade in the Roman Empire.

"The Shocking Jewish Role in Slavery Part I: What Jewish Historians Say"

"The Shocking Jewish Role in Slavery Part II: The Media Coverup"

"Rabbi Marc Lee Raphael on Jews in the Slave Trade"

As usual, the Jewish role is unknown and unrecognized by most people, while Whites get all the blame.

Unknown said...

All this bull about jews being involved in liberalism is silly:
So people of all stripes were abolitionists