Category Archives: History

“Happy White Peoples Independence Day”

Jack Marshall is peeved at Chris Rock over this tweet:

Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks

Jack thinks that’s “Ignorant, racist, divisive, unfair, disrespectful, bitter, dumb, and not funny.” I’ll give him bitter and not terribly funny, but Jack’s seriously overreacting to the rest of it.

Ignorant…because it misrepresents the roots of the Declaration, its motives, its power and its results.

Yes, yes, the ideas in the Declaration of Independence did inform the abolition movement and did eventually lead to the end of slavery. It’s a common pattern of history: The elites of a society force their rulers to recognize their right to govern themselves, and eventually those rights trickle down to everyone else. But on July 4, 1776 the slaves were still slaves, and most of them were dead before emancipation came.

Racist…because it judges the Founders by the color of their skin rather than by the humanistic and race-neutral government they were fighting to achieve.

Some of the founding fathers were fighting for a humanistic and race-neutral government. But many of them were clearly opposed to such a thing. We know this because the government of the early United States was far from race-neutral.

Also, when white people are being assholes to black people, it’s not anti-white racism to point out that white people are being assholes to black people.

Divisive, because it attempts to alienate black Americans from a celebration that is equally the expression of gratitude and the obligation of all Americans regardless of color.

Somehow, I don’t think black Americans needed Chris Rock to make them feel alienated.

Unfair, because it mischaracterizes a brave and transformative act as less than it is, a momentous achievement for human kind that a petty pygmy like Chris Rock could not even aspire to.

I think it characterizes the signing of the Declaration as exactly what it was, a momentous achievement that nevertheless fell short of our ideals. That the abolitionist founding fathers were forced to compromise on slavery in return for unity does not necessarily reflect badly on them. They had to make the best of a bad situation. But that doesn’t change the fact that July 4, 1776 wasn’t exactly a banner day for blacks in North America.

Disrespectful, because the Founders, even the slave-holders among them, deserve respect and gratitude for having the courage to give birth to the country that allows an ass like Rock to make a living ridiculing people better than he is.

I love Thomas Jefferson’s writing about liberty, and for that he has my great respect. But if his slaves had risen up and killed him while trying to escape, I would not condemn them for it.

Dumb, because it is facile and made in defiance of the facts.

Well, it is a tweet, so facile is a given. But what part of “the slaves weren’t free” is in defiance of the facts? All in all, the American Revolution didn’t do a lot to improve the quality of life for slaves in the south.

The Museum on the Moon

Rounding out the day’s triple header of space related topics, I’d like to point you to the post MOON ARTS, PART ONE by Claire L. Evans. I’ve heard many, many little known anecdotes about the American space program, yet both of the stories there had managed to evade my notice until now.

(I suppose that link MAY be considered Not Safe for Work by some puritanical standards.)

September 11

On September 11, 1944 the first US soldiers crossed into Germany. The 80th Infantry Division under Major General Horace L. McBride — part of the Third Army, commanded by George Patton — secured the bridgehead at Dieulouard. Within a few days, the 4th Armored, under John Wood, would cross at the bridgehead.

in History

Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor

Other people are doing this, and I think it’s a good idea. Read at least a little of it:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

In the Bookbag: A Splendid Exchange

I just received a copy of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein. He’s got a website, and he’s apparently a fan of Windypundit because he comped me a copy of the book. (I guess this blogging thing is finally starting to pay off.)

A Splendid Exchange looks like it’s going to be a history of long-distance trading, from a time when only luxuries and valuable tools were traded, to our present day, when bums sleeping on park benches are kept warm by clothing made on other continents.

I read a little of the book tonight, and it looks like it’s going to be fascinating read, but not a quick one. It’s so packed with details and stories that blasting through it would be overwhelming. I’ll probably keep it in my backpack and read a few pages whenever I have a chance.

in History

I’m Old Too

Alex at Stillettos and Sneakers has a list of things that have changed during her lifetime. For this post I’m stealing her list of items and writing my own comments:

The Remote Control

All that fancy technology just to avoid getting up and walking across the room? It seemed extravagent. Nice to have, but not worth the expense when I could just get up and press the buttons on the front panel. That worked until remotes got so cheap that television makers provided them with every television. Then they started saving space and money by leaving most of the buttons off the front panel. My Tivo box doesn’t even have a front panel, and I have two remotes so I don’t lose control if one of them fails.

The Death Of Disco

I ignored it all at the time, but now some of the music has that nostalgic feeling to it.

The Answering Machine

I used to hate to get them, because I didn’t have all my thoughts gathered in to a single paragraph for the message. Now, they seem completely normal. When someone calls me, I always let the machine get it if I don’t recognize the number.

Cell Phones

Remember when if you were in your car and you wanted to make a call you had to find a pay phone and pull over? Wasn’t that weird?

The Home Computer

As a computer programmer, it seems like I should have bought one right away. I didn’t need to though, because I lived only two blocks from my office, and I had lots of powerful computers there which I could use whenever I wanted to. I didn’t need to buy one until I moved further away and wanted to play more video games.


I can remember when I first started hearing about this sexually transmitted disease that gay people were getting. It was 100% fatal, it wasn’t going to stay confined to a few well-defined groups, and it had a long incubation period which meant an infected person could spread it for years before they knew they were infected. This was very, very bad. Still, at a time when only a few thousand people had it, the World Health Organization’s predictions that millions would die seemed unreal.

The CD (The Death Of The Album)

Great idea. Loved it from day one and never looked back.

Cable Television

I first saw this when one of the girls in high school got it at her house. A bunch of us hung out in her living room one evening watching the new channels. It seemed like a good idea. As it happens, I am literally 10 feet from that living room. I’ve been married to that girl for 15 years. We have a lot more cable channels now.

The Death Of Lucille Ball

Just wasn’t a fan.

The Debit Card

Remember when you used to have to visit the bank to do your banking? Then they put these machines outside so you could get money after the bank closed. That was cool. Then a lot of banks got them and you could get your money from the machines at other banks, and later from the service counters at grocery stores. When ATM owners started charging for using ATMs, a lot of people were upset with what they saw as greediness. I knew enough economics, however, to be thrilled: If you could make money by installing an ATM, people would put them everywhere!


I’ve written a lot about this already.

The Death Of The Variety Show

Didn’t really notice they were gone until now.

Johnny Carson Retiring

It was kind of amazing that he was leaving, but really I hadn’t seen his show in years.


Yet another way to store digital music. I don’t need it to play music, I just need the storage. I’ll probably get one when I can plug it into my car radio and control it through the dashboard.

in History

Death in Chicago

Slate‘s Eric Klinenberg writes about the worst U.S. natural disaster of the 1990’s, at least in terms of the loss of life. It wasn’t the Northridge quake or Hurricane Andrew. It was the heatwave that hit Chicago in July of 1995, killing 739 people.

If this doesn’t ring a bell, welcome to flyover country. Klinenberg’s article discusses other reasons for the general lack of attention paid to heatwave deaths.

The heatwave’s death toll wasn’t immediately obvious. Heat death is slow, and its victims usually live alone, because otherwise someone would have saved them. When the Medical Examiner’s office announced the disaster, City Hall politicians tried to play it down, claiming that Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Edmund R. Donaghue was mistaken or trying to get publicity. A more thorough investigation showed that the doctors were right. In fact, the ME‘s estimate had been conservative.

The politicians should have known better: Many years earlier, Dr. Donaghue’s office had been the first to detect the Tylenol poisonings.