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Chapters 6-9 
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Post Chapters 6-9
"The Intimately Oppressed" is a good title choice for the chapter on the rights and status of women up until about 1850. Zinn doesn't explicitly claim that there is myth about U. S. women in this era of history that we've been taught to accept. He doesn't claim that in the U.S., women were subjugated more than European women. It might even appear by the record of meetings of and demonstrations by women's rights organizations that women here were more able to make themselves heard and to gain momentum for their cause. It's hard to compare women's movements in different countries, but in the U.S. women received full voting rights a little before women in Britain did and long before French women did.

"As Long as the Grass Grows or Water Runs" and "We take Nothing by Conquest, by God" (chapters 7-8) are ironic titles both relating to the European assault on the Indian populations. Here it's not apparent that Zinn does anything but recount the history already known of the deceitfulness and aggression of the Americans. Toward the middle of the 19th Century this all became justified by the racist doctrine of Manifest Destiny. What a lot of destructive nonsense has come out of the so-called scientific notion of the hierarchy of the races.

The Mexican War is detailed in Chap. 8 as well. I sometimes think of this imperialist war when the immigration issue comes up. The territory into which the illegal immigrants cross was stolen from their ancestors 170 years ago.

Zinn does a good job with later slavery and Reconstruction (Chap. 9). It's hard to argue with his contention that the moral cause of anti-slavery never had much sway over the business and finance interests of the North. The North--and President Lincoln--were more invested in the military advantage of ending slavery, and after the South was defeated it became clear that upholding the rights the former slaves had gained wasn't a priority. Making profits was. One of the interesting what-ifs concerns Lincoln's actions had he not been assassinated. Would we now remember him as a champion of black people (as he was to them in 1865), or would he have not resisted the powerful forces that wanted to let the South revert to a racial caste system for the sake of better business relations? As Zinn points out: "The North...did not have to undergo a revolution in its thinking to accept the subordination of the Negro. When the Civil War ended, nineteen of the twenty-four northern states did not allow blacks to vote. By 1900, all the southern states, in new constitutions and new statutes, had written into law the disfranchisement and segregation of Negroes, and a New York Times editorial said: 'Northern men . . . no longer denounce the suppression of the Negro vote. . . . The necessity of it under the supreme law of self-preservation is candidly recognized.'
While not written into law in the North, the counterpart in racist thought and practice was there."



Last edited by DWill on Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Harry Marks
Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:03 pm
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Post Re: Chapters 6-9
DWill wrote:
It might even appear by the record of meetings of and demonstrations by women's rights organizations that women here were more able to make themselves heard and to gain momentum for their cause.

In general the economic lot of ordinary white workers in America was much better than that of European peasants. The difference in height between first generation and second generation immigrants has long portrayed in graphic terms the better diet of Americans. I have seen estimates that before the French Revolution American wages were twice those in Europe, and I don't think that ratio changed much until after WWI.

As a corollary, I suspect, women had it better on average. The textile mills of Massachusetts and New Hampshire mainly employed farm girls from New England until the Irish Potato Famine brought large numbers of cheaper (male) workers from Europe. One of the complaints at the time was that it was too easy to oppress these immigrants, and the relatively humane conditions of the New England women, who could usually go home to the farm if things got too bad, were replaced by more oppressive conditions. Longer hours (seems crazy given the hours Zinn reports), lower wages, less chance of advancement.

DWill wrote:
"As Long as the Grass Grows or Water Runs" and "We take Nothing by Conquest, by God" (chapters 7-8) are ironic titles both relating to the European assault on the Indian populations. Here it's not apparent that Zinn does anything but recount the history already known of the deceitfulness and aggression of the Americans.
Not just any Americans. Particular groups were able to manipulate the system: contractors ("entrepreneurs"), land speculators and politicians seemed to drive a lot of the process.

What I found most striking was the repeated subterfuge of the use of law. From the time of Roger Williams, early in colonial history, the Americans seemed to have no scruples about making agreements and then breaking them. Some of that parallels the behavior of the Europeans: a treaty was an arrangement for the cessation of hostilities, and a region might easily change hands back and forth 10 times over a century, depending on the way new treaties shook out the military realities. In that context, Americans seemed to seize the advantage given by their greater knowledge of the world. They recognized that the strength on their side was just going to keep growing, so they would benefit by pretending to grant perpetual rights, which they could then take away when their strength had grown some more.

I was pleased to see that there were some objections at the time, though they seemed to come mainly from the Northerners who had fenced in their aboriginal groups long before. The story of the missionaries in Georgia who were imprisoned for objecting to the violation of the treaties gave me some encouragement.

And how about Andrew Jackson refusing to enforce the ruling of the Supreme Court? No wonder Trump admires him.

DWill wrote:
Toward the middle of the 19th Century this all became justified by the racist doctrine of Manifest Destiny. What a lot of destructive nonsense has come out of the so-called scientific notion of the hierarchy of the races.
I'm not sure hierarchy of races had much to do with it. Europeans were used to the rules being made by the ones with the armies. Cleverness meant figuring out who were rising powers and who were declining and lining up with the correct side. In North America that was a fairly easy call.

DWill wrote:
The North--and President Lincoln--were more invested in the military advantage of ending slavery, and after the South was defeated it became clear that upholding the rights the former slaves had gained wasn't a priority. Making profits was.
This kind of overlooks the role of the Radical Republicans in trying to re-make the South, reminding us of US behavior later in the Philippines, Europe after WWI, and Japan and Germany after WWII. The rare bird of idealism shows up with much greater frequency after American wars than European. Granted that opposing the force of commercial interest was generally hopeless, it is still unwise to completely dismiss the force of ideals.
DWill wrote:
As Zinn points out: "The North...did not have to undergo a revolution in its thinking to accept the subordination of the Negro. When the Civil War ended, nineteen of the twenty-four northern states did not allow blacks to vote.

It's true and important that the North was never particularly sympathetic to African-Americans. Lincoln tended to make the argument in terms of economic development (he was a Whig, dedicated to the principle of advancement for common people, by investment and education, and slaves would not get educated). His appeal in the face of Secession was to save the Union (a great struggle to determine "if that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, could long endure upon the earth.")
DWill wrote:
One of the interesting what-ifs concerns Lincoln's actions had he not been assassinated. Would we now remember him as a champion of black people (as he was to them in 1865), or would he have not resisted the powerful forces that wanted to let the South revert to a racial caste system for the sake of better business relations?

I think he probably would have moderated the program of the Radical Republicans, allowing some caste system to be formalized, but maybe not: they had the temporary advantage of no Southern Secessionists in the House or Senate, and it is typical of a party even with such a tenuous hold to use it to pass their program.



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DWill
Fri Aug 18, 2017 2:36 pm
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