Lysander Spooner - Abolitionist/Philosopher
I was brought to think about a late, great man, Ed Keating (former Captain of Ladder 19) by another excellent firefighter I worked with who said he sees the Confederate battle flag as “a symbol of hatred to my people.” Ironically enough, my disagreement with the latter guy is the same as my disagreement with scores of what I’ve called “professional Irishmen,” and one of my favorite ALL TIME people was one - Ed Keating.
Ed was a professional Irishman all the way. That’s probably harder for me to grasp since I’m not merely half Irish and half Italian, some of my Northern Italian ancestors had roots further East, having come into that region with the rise of the Hapsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire. Some of those Northern Italians were Jews. There were also Corsicans among them...so I have no such singular connection. Some may well say, that that’s my loss...and it well may be.
I admired Ed’s reverence for his “own people.” He was fond of yelling, “2,000 years, NEVER AGAIN” when entering the firehouse. I didn’t get that and had only heard “Never again,” in reference to the Nazi Holocaust, so one day I asked him about it.
Ed looked at me crestfallen, stared at the name tag on my shirt and said, “Son, you don’t even know your own heritage.”
I was about to respond, “That’s not my heritage,” which would’ve been a lie, ALL of the various heritages that make up this polyglot me are “my heritages,” I just was raised to see myself as “American”...ONLY and SOLELY American.
At any rate, Captain Keating went into a lengthy exposition on the Irish slave trade and how until 1700 there were more Irish slaves in the Americas than Africans. About the bulk of the slave revolts and the bloodiest of them were those of these Irish slaves...and how the British embarked on a plan to mate the Irish slaves with the more docile Africans to create a “docile, hard-working hybrid.”
That didn’t work either.
He went into Cromwell’s nearly successful extermination of that group, first by scattering the Irish males to various parts of the world as soldiers and seamen, then with the Irish slave trade and how he was so successful that he dropped Ireland’s population from over 1.6 million to under 500,000 at the end of his reign. Ed also went into how later generations tried to “finish the job” with the engineered “Potato famine,” which ironically enough generated the greatest source of new troops for the Union’s war against the South as over 80% of Boston & New York’s Civil War regiments were comprised of Irish immigrants.
I was extremely skeptical of all that until I looked it up for myself and found that the truth...was even worse. Hard to even read.
Later I’d meet one of the only non-white people who knew about the Irish slave trade, in Mychal Massie, a black Conservative who ran a group called Project 21.
So, I’m now aware of that particular bit of history...a small chapter in the voluminous tome of man’s inhumanity to man. After reading so much of that history, I began to consider...HOW can I hold any righteous resentment against a person of English descent? They’re not guilty for the actions of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Besides, given the times and the harshness of ALL life, given those SAME criteria, any group today might engage in that SAME sort of inhumanity.
My father was a Civil War history buff, because his ancestors came over just prior to that war and served in it, thanks to the potato famine in Ireland.
When I think about the Civil War, I think about it differently now. I see it as the END of our original Constitution by cowards afraid to annunciate that. I see it as the conquest of the USA by foreign bankers whom this country owed untold BILLIONS in debt to after that war.
I believe that Lysander Spooner assessed the tragedy of the Civil War best in the introduction to his great work “No Treason” in 1867.
“The question of treason is distinct from that of slavery; and is the same that it would have been, if free States, instead of slave States, had seceded.
“On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate slaves, but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was still willing to do so, if the slaveholders could be thereby induced to stay in the Union
“The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.
“No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle – but only in degree – between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man’s ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for their uses, and at their pleasure
“Previous to the war, there were some grounds for saying that – in theory, at least, if not in practice – our government was a free one; that it rested on consent. But nothing of that kind can be said now, if the principle on which the war was carried on by the North, is irrevocably established.
“If that principle be not the principle of the Constitution, the fact should be known. If it be the principle of the Constitution, the Constitution itself should be at once overthrown.”
Sadly, truer words were never spoken and sure enough, after that war, the freedoms enumerated in that Constitution were slowly eroded by legislative fiat. Centralized governmental powers were expanded, even though for decades the federal government would pay lip service to “Constitutional principles” they KNEW were no longer upheld by anything in Washington, D.C.