Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Confederate Economy

King cotton. Speculation in real estate and slaves. The failure of technology.



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Confederate Finance and Economics

Confederate banks and banking. Confederate money. Taxation. Inflation. Forging. Blockade runners. Partisan Ranger Act.



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Treasure Hunting: The Lost Confederate Treasury

The fall of Richmond. What happened to the Confederate treasury? Where is it now?





Treasure Legends of the Civil War


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White by Law: Book Review

In White By Law, Haney Lopez argues that race is a socially mediated idea which has never been primarily based on physical characteristics. In America, the concept of race developed as an intellectual construct used to distinguish social values and beliefs distinct from those of the dominant Anglo-Saxon majority (and subsequently the “white” European majority) (Haney Lopez, 56). For example, a federal district court in 1921 barred Asian naturalization under the rationale that, “The yellow or bronze racial color is the hallmark of Oriental despotism”. Thus Asians were not fit for republican self-government and were to be denied citizenship.

Haney Lopez uses fifty one court decisions rendered on immigration cases during the period 1878-1952 (the “pre-requisite decisions”) to demonstrate that the concept of “whiteness” was created through a process of legal exclusion. The application of law, both in terms of its coercive and ideological arms, constructed the racial superstructure of America. For example, the very act of excluding Asians from America influenced reproductive choices for those who were included in the American polity.

During the period 1878-1952, the courts determined “whiteness”, sometimes inconsistently, on the basis of four rationales: (1) common knowledge, (2) scientific evidence, (3) Congressional intent, and (4) legal precedence. The decisions coming out of the “pre-requisite cases” appear to the contemporary reader to be both illogical and, in many cases, unjust. The record does however support the view of Oliver Wendell Holmes that “the life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed and unconscious, even the prejudices which the judges share with their fellow-men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed ” (Haney Lopez, 95). Thus, in Haney Lopez’s analysis the law emerges as a conservative coercive and ideological institution adjudicating in favor of a white racist status quo.

The law by its very nature is a conservative force acting to protect the long term interests of the status quo. The question then becomes: Who rules? Haney Lopez suggests that the primary concern of the status quo is to preserve racial hierarchy. Racial domination is the motive for legal decisions. An economic interpretation of the same set of facts reveals a different emphasis. In a Marxist interpretation, class (or the economic) is more real, more fundamental and more important than race. Racism is a low hanging branch of a tree that is rooted in class relations (Wages of Whiteness by David Roediger 7-8). Haney Lopez cannot see beyond racism when Chester Rowell expresses the businessman’s viewpoint of 1909 that “…we find the Chinese fitting much better than the Japanese into the status which the white American prefers them both to occupy – that of biped domestic animals in the white man’s service. The Chinese coolie is the ideal industrial machine, the perfect human ox.” ( Haney Lopez, 62). An economic interpretation of this statement would suggest that it is in the nature of capitalism to objectify people, to turn the worker wherever possible into “the perfect human ox”, and that in the absence of countervailing force will do just that. Immigrants were politically weak and could thus be exploited, let in, restricted, and kicked out as required by the economic elite. It is only shifting power relationships that change laws.




A brief look at the background of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the relation of race and class in the American labor movement.


Guarding the Golden Door by Roger Daniels: Review

In Guarding the Golden Door Daniels presents an overview of the development immigration policy in the United States from the founding of the Republic through 2003. America has had a love/hate relationship with its immigrant population, on the one hand reveling in the nation’s immigrant past while, on the other, rejecting the immigrant present (Daniels, 6).

Opposition to immigration has successively centered on exclusion because of religion (e.g. the Irish and German and Catholic menace which gave rise to Protestant nativism in the 1840’s), race (e.g. Chinese exclusion act of 1882) and ethnicity (e.g. Immigration Act of 1924 setting quotas on the basis of national origin). (Daniels, 11).

Underlying these differences are more subtle arguments: (1)Because of religion, race or ethnicity these groups are too “other”, and therefore cannot be assimilated into American culture. The un-assimilated presence of these groups, so the argument runs, will corrupt American values; (2) Immigrant groups, because of innate inferiority or prior cultural disposition, are not capable of self-government and are therefore a danger to our political institutions;(3) An influx of immigrants will result in loss of jobs for native Americans, and will bring about a lower standard of living.

American immigration policy has manifested both liberal and pragmatic impulses, but has predominantly been driven by pragmatic considerations. The founding fathers recognized the need for immigration to provide cheap labor in the building of the new nation. (The introduction of slavery into the South was largely the result of inadequate immigration during colonial times. The lack of sufficient indentured white servants to work plantations resulted in the forced “immigration” of Africans beginning in the late 1600’s). Chinese immigration was encouraged during the period of the building of the trans-continental railroad, when cheap labor was needed, but anti-Chinese agitation increased after the driving of the “golden Spike” in 1869 (Daniel’s, 12). Interestingly, it was Senator Charles Sumner, the great abolitionist, who was the champion of a liberal immigration policy towards the Chinese, calling for a color-blind naturalization statute (Daniels, 119). Sumner recognized that the same liberal impulses that animated abolitionists before the Civil War should be applied to immigration policy. The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 represents the triumph of the economic interests which did not want to create unintended social consequences (i.e. the growth of a large unassimilated racial minority) once its economic goals had been realized.

Other examples of the primacy of the economic motive are seen in Immigration Act of 1924, wherein quotas were not extended to most Western Hemisphere nations because many Southwestern and Western legislators insisted their regions needed Mexican laborers (Daniels, 52), in the exemption of Filipinos from immigration restrictions into Hawaii if the Secretary of the Interior thought the importation of more Filipino laborers was advisable (Daniels, 72), and in the push to bring temporary Mexican workers into the U.S. during World War II because, as Herbert Hoover wrote at the time, “…we need every bit of this labor we can get and need it badly.”

U.S. immigration policy underwent a change after World War II. Prior to World War II, America had a tradition of isolationism. After World War II America became a world power. Ideas of Nordic superiority were rejected (Daniels, 116). After having defeated the Nazi ideology of racial superiority the United States could hardly embrace such an ideology as it entered into a global contest for “hearts and minds” with the Soviet Union. Henceforth, foreign policy would take primacy in matters of immigration and America would increasingly embrace multi-culturalism as a national ideal. Economic pragmatism with regard to immigration policy gave way to geo-political pragmatism with regard to immigration policy.




A brief look at the background of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the relation of race and class in the American labor movement.


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