Sunday 9 August 2015

The Guardian backed the South in the American Civil War

The Guardian used to me a much better newspaper years ago, when it was liberal in the true sense of the word liberal, before it became social democrat. Reading it yesterday I found that it backed the secession by the South in 1861 and said slavery would 'gradually expire'. As it would have done, of course. 

The great Liberal statesman Mr. Gladstone said the South was 
a nation rightly struggling to be free. 
If only the British had won the war of 1776 with the help of a slave revolt. Washington et al would have been hanged, slavery in the 13 colonies abolished and America would now be part of Canada. 

i am still with huge enjoyment reading War and Peace, where serfs are viewed without sentimentality but serfdom is not condemned either. I should very much like to read Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom by Peter Kolchin. 

Here is a very interesting comparison, by a pseudonymous blogger, between Russian serfdom and  US slavery (and slavery under Stalin), based on Peter Kolchin's work. It includes these insights:

Kolchin makes very clear that Russian serfdom was much more like chattel slavery than its medieval precursor. Medieval serfs existed in much more complex social arrangements and generally had relatively static obligations. Russian serfs were literally owned and far more subject to the whims of their owners. 
Kolchin characterises both American slavery and Russian serfdom as responses by elites on the periphery of the capitalist world to labour shortage coming from demand for products of labour coupled with low population density. In both cases, the cost of coercion ‘paid off’ economically, particularly as there was deemed to be no moral cost. Kolchin has an excellent sense of how differently embedded in their different societies American slavery and Russian serfdom were (for example, the slaves lived in a slaveholder’s world, the serf’s in a peasant’s world; American slaveholders were much more effective and empowered as a social group than Russian serfowners; American slavery was vibrant and expanding, Russian serfdom was a system in decay).

It's interesting to see that US slaves were much better fed than European workers and marginally better fed than workers in the American North.


  1. Until the time of Peter the Great, serfs had the opportunity to choose new masters once a year. Peter's concern, I recall, was to put the nobility in an economic position to serve him, so that Russia wouldn't be at the mercy of its neighbors.

  2. Plantation owners had hangnails, so they were oppressed.

    1. No one doubts slavery was very wrong and something of which Americans can be ashamed. The civil war also seems very wrong and could have been avoided had Lincoln chosen.