The Shame of the Jesuits

Exclusive: A spotlight has fallen on a shameful chapter in the history of Georgetown University’s Jesuits, the 1838 sale of 272 African-Americans into Deep South slavery, but moral lapses didn’t end there, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Anti-war prophet Rev. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., was onto something with his “hunch” – in his 1987 autobiography, To Dwell in Peace – that “the fall of a great enterprise,” the Jesuit university, would end up “among those structures whose moral decline and political servitude signalize a larger falling away of the culture itself.”

Berrigan, a Jesuit himself, lamented “highly placed” churchmen and their approval of war, “uttered … with sublime confidence, from on high, from highly placed friendships, and White House connections. Thus compromised, the Christian tradition of nonviolence, as well as the secular boast of disinterested pursuit of truth — these are reduced to bombast, hauled out for formal occasions, believed by no one, practiced by no one.”

A photograph showing the whipping scars on the back of an African-American slave.

A photograph showing the whipping scars on the back of an African-American slave.

But that “moral decline” among Jesuit institutions of higher learning may have had deeper roots than even Berrigan understood. One of those deep roots is drawing national attention, an 1838 decision by the Jesuit leaders of the Jesuits’ Maryland Province and Georgetown College to improve the school’s financial health by selling 272 African-American men, women and children as slaves into the Deep South.

As New York Times writer Rachel L. Swarns described the scene in Sunday’s editions, “The human cargo was loaded on ships at a bustling wharf in the nation’s capital, destined for the plantations of the Deep South. Some slaves pleaded for rosaries as they were rounded up, praying for deliverance. But on this day, in the fall of 1838, no one was spared: not the 2-month-old baby and her mother, not the field hands, not the shoemaker and not Cornelius Hawkins, who was about 13 years old when he was forced onboard.”

Rev. Thomas Mulledy, S.J., the Provincial (head) of the Maryland Jesuits, sold the 272 enslaved African-Americans to Henry Johnson, the former governor of Louisiana, and Louisiana landowner Jesse Batey for $115,000, the equivalent of $3.3 million in today’s dollars, according to the Times account.

Documents show that $90,000 went to support the “formation” of Jesuits (the preparation of candidates spiritually, academically and practically for the ministries that they will be called on to offer the Church and the world); $17,000 to Georgetown College; and $8,000 to a pension fund for the archbishop of Baltimore.

There is now a campaign among Georgetown professors, students, alumni and genealogists to discover what happened to those 272 human beings and whether Georgetown can do anything to compensate their descendants.

An Earlier Alert

But there is also a sad back story to this telling slice of Jesuit history, in which I became personally involved after I first learned of this scandal two decades ago from Edward F. Beckett, a young Jesuit who had the courage to speak out and summon his superiors to conscience. Beckett published his research in “Listening to Our History: Inculturation and Jesuit Slaveholding” in the journal Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits (28/5, November 1996).

Beckett and I became friends while working at the Fr. Horace McKenna Center where I volunteered at the overnight shelter for homeless men in the basement of St. Aloysius Church in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. The Jesuits were quick to exult Rev. Horace McKenna, S.J., as “Apostle of the Poor” after he died, but – while alive – not so much. Fr. McKenna was known for being something of a pain; he once even wrote a letter to the Vatican complaining – using a sports analogy – that his superiors were “not throwing enough forward passes to the poor.”

During the Great Depression, Fr. McKenna set up a food distribution system and other assistance to struggling farmers, and advocated vigorously for racial integration in churches and schools. He expressed “passionate impatience” toward go-slow approaches which were favored by some of his fellow Jesuits and priests.

After I got to know Beckett as we worked nights with the men in the St. Aloysius Church shelter, he gave me a copy of his booklet relating the history of how – in the 1800s – the Maryland Jesuits rebuffed ethical calls from other religious leaders who were pushing for the abolition of slavery. Instead, the Jesuits were more interested in how much money they could get for selling slaves.

It was, you see, an economic issue since the Jesuits no longer needed the proceeds from slave labor on their plantations in southern Maryland because they had received permission from Rome to reverse their longstanding tradition of free education and start charging tuition to the wealthy sons of plantation owners to attend Georgetown.

So, no longer needing the slaves to work the fields, the Jesuits decided to sell them into the Deep South to turn a tidy profit and invest the money in the “moral education” of young Jesuits while also providing a pension to the Baltimore archbishop.

A Chance to Repent

After learning of this history two decades ago, I joined with a small group of activists to ask Maryland Provincial Rev. James R. Stormes, S.J., in effect, to seize a unique opportunity to confess and repent.

We thought our initiative was particularly well timed since President Bill Clinton had announced the appointment of a seven-member advisory board for his initiative on race to promote “a national dialogue on controversial issues surrounding race; to increase our understanding of the history of race relations and the common future people of all races share; to recruit leadership at all levels to help bridge racial divides, and to propose actions to address critical areas such as education, economic opportunity, housing, health care, crime and the administration of justice.”

Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

John Hope Franklin, an eminent historian and educator, whose writings included the 1946 landmark study From Slavery to Freedom, was appointed chair, and Judith A. Winston was named Executive Director of this “One America Initiative,” with a senior staff of national civil rights leaders as senior staff.

As the initiative was getting off the ground, our small, diverse group met with Ms. Winston, herself a graduate of Georgetown University Law School, who was clearly delighted with what we proposed. We told her that we were not about blaming, but rather about acknowledging, apologizing, and reconciling, and said we were approaching then-Georgetown President Rev. Leo O’Donovan, S.J. and Maryland Provincial Stormes as follows:

“We have a vision of Georgetown’s most prominent alumnus standing up before the cameras at Georgetown University this spring (1998) and being able to say, in all sincerity, that he has never been prouder of his alma mater and the Jesuits who run it. He might tell a bit of the story of Georgetown’s origins and then, jointly with Fr. Stormes and Fr. O’Donovan, announce the establishment of a foundation to promote the education of the descendants of the Jesuits’ slaves.  President Clinton could then cite this as precisely the kind of action he had hoped would spring forth from his Initiative on Race, and could call upon others to follow the courageous example of the Maryland Jesuits. We think this could be a welcome boost for the President’s Initiative.”

But our optimism was misplaced. Even though many of us had learned at Jesuit hands about acting in a just way and doing recompense for injustice, we were told that we had no “standing,” as what the Jesuits call “externs” or outsiders who have no right to hold them accountable. We still cannot figure out exactly why the Jesuit leaders were so offended by our initiative and they wouldn’t tell us. We were denied an audience with Stormes – and without Stormes’s nihil obstat, there was no hope for support from O’Donovan.

The final nail in the coffin for our own initiative (as well as Bill Clinton’s) came in early 1998 as his trysts with Monica Lewinsky and his lies about them deprived him of any pretense to moral leadership. The whole Initiative died an inconsequential death.

By chance I found myself sitting next to Judith Winston on a plane a few years ago. She saw my name, recognized me, and recalled our ill-fated common effort. Neither of us could do much more than simply shake our heads.

Jesuit Universities

Perhaps even more sadly, the behavior of those Jesuit leaders in 1838 was not entirely an aberration. As Fr. Berrigan noted in this autobiography, Jesuit institutions have often traded ethics for clout, preferring to hobnob with the great and powerful rather than act as moral critics of social wrongs, such as slavery, war and — in recent times — even assassinations and torture.

Among its graduates, Georgetown University churned out CIA Director George Tenet, who offered “slam dunk” deceptions to justify the invasion of Iraq, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s torture-excusing lawyer David Addington, who graduated summa cum laude.

CIA Director John Brennan addresses officials at the Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Photo credit: CIA)

CIA Director John Brennan addresses officials at the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Photo credit: CIA)

Nor is Georgetown alone as a Jesuit institution in this dubious position of training people to engage in jesuitical arguments to justify the unjustifiable. My alma mater, Fordham, which has forever been trying to be “just like Georgetown,” produced CIA Director John Brennan, an ardent, public supporter of the kidnapping/”rendering” of suspected terrorists to “friendly” Arab intelligence services for interrogation.

Brennan also defended the use of U.S. secret prisons abroad, as well as “enhanced interrogation techniques” (also known as torture).

But Brennan was a big shot in the White House and Fordham’s Trustees were susceptible to the “celebrity virus.” So, Fordham President, Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., invited Brennan to give the university commencement address on May 19, 2012, and to be awarded — of all things — a Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Several graduating seniors, who were aware of and cared about what Brennan represents, did their best, in vain, to get him dis-invited. They saw scandal in the reality that the violent policies Brennan advocated remain in stark contrast to the principles that Fordham University was supposed to stand for as a Catholic Jesuit University.

Controversy on campus grew, catalyzed by two protest petitions created by Fordham students and multiple articles in the school newspaper, The Ram. Eventually, Fordham senior and organizer, Scott McDonald, requested a meeting with university president McShane to discuss why Fordham’s trustees could not be trusted to invite someone more representative of Fordham’s core values.

McDonald met with McShane, Vice President Jeffrey Gray and university secretary Margaret Ball, but McShane dismissed Scott’s qualms about torture: “We don’t live in a black and white world; we live in a gray world.”

Then McShane announced that what was said at the meeting was “off the record…not to leave this room.” But McDonald had not agreed to that. He left the meeting wondering if the moral theologians at Fordham would agree that torture had now become a “gray area.”

We who attended Jesuit institutions decades ago were taught that there was a moral category called “intrinsic evil” – actions that were always wrong, such as torture, rape and slavery. At Fordham, at least, torture seems to have slipped out of that category.

Now that the issue of the 272 slaves has again surfaced, Georgetown University needs to acknowledge its institutional guilt, apologize and find some way to make restitution to the descendants of those African-Americans.

Though clearly whatever is done will fall into the category of way-too-little and way-too-late, confession of this earlier sin might finally put the brakes on the steady moral decline of what once was an important social as well as religious institution – the Jesuit university.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He graduated from Fordham Prep (just 41 years after Horace McKenna did), earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Fordham University, and finds it difficult to un-learn what he learned there.

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22 comments for “The Shame of the Jesuits

  1. Bill Bodden
    April 17, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Unfortunately, it is not only Georgetown that has the sins of slavery in its history. What is more tragic is that so many of this nation’s alleged elite institutions of higher learning may be more immoral today than in the past. Take the bankers who are graduates of many of these so-called elite universities and who through unconscionable avarice helped to bring about the financial crisis of 2008. The same applies to upper management and boards of corporations with management philosophies rooted in those of plantation operators in the antebellum South. The upper echelons of government are similarly filled with “highly-educated” people bereft of moral compasses. Then there is UC Berkley that hired pro-torture legal counsel John Yoo as a law professor.

    • Rob
      April 17, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      And what about all the universities that receive funding to work on projects for the War Machine itself–either the DoD or private weapons manufacturers?

  2. welffens ludo
    April 17, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    details I did not know; I spent 6 years in a jesuit “college” (high school) in Antwerp, and (still) assume – with a degree of certainty – that the years of latin and greek helped build an ado; after one year in the States thanks to AFS, I returned to another four years of jesuit “ecole superieure” in Antwerp – now University – of/for/with Hegel and applied economics… (smile);
    I always liked the jesuit training; I liked the dialectics between freedom and structure; between growing and learning; I was given the chance to work with the children of workers in the poor neighbourhoods; at age 23 I got a Ford Foundation Fellowship for the U. of Chicago – and fell in love with a Gynecologist from Ivory Coast; I am certain the base-line from the jesuits has been my post second WWar liberation…

    • J'hon Doe II
      April 17, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      I got a Ford Foundation Fellowship for (from?) the U. of Chicago –
      ::

      What you know is of huge historical significance to us, Mr. welffens ludo

      Can you share memories?

  3. Jill
    April 17, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Slavery didn’t end in the U.S. until the 1860’s. Although the Jesuits were immoral, this was nothing unusual for their time.

    We have enough to do, to address today’s immorality, fraud etc. without going back 100 years to look at the typical immoralities of the time.

    • J'hon Doe II
      April 17, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Jill — “We have enough to do, to address today’s immorality, fraud etc.
      without going back 100 years to look at the typical immoralities of the time.”

      Have the ”immoralities of the time”
      grown into these immoralities of today?

      is failure to think the-same as

      doing the same thing over again
      expecting a different result?

      ” time keeps on ticking into the future ” as a continuum

      • art guerrilla
        April 17, 2016 at 9:02 pm

        *and* a steve miller lyric to boot !
        g’won, get outta here wit your bad self…

  4. J'hon Doe II
    April 17, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you for writing this, Mr. McGovern.

    I’ve heard you many times on Pacifica Radio for the past 12 or 13 years and have always appreciated your point of view.
    Thank you also for efforts in the DC inner city.

    Religious (political) Catholic promulgation of slavery started many centuries earlier then1883.
    (Man’s religion is a beast.)

    http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/gaa_slavery.htm#portuguese

  5. J'hon Doe II
    April 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Spanish Slavery

    The Spanish Inquisition were keen slavers. A single inquisitor, Torquemada, had 97,371 people condemned to slavery. The practice was not restricted to mainland Spain. Spain also ruled an empire. Pope Nicholas V, in his bull Romanus pontifex of 1455, had given his blessing to the enslavement of conquered native people, by Catholics, whether Portuguese or Spanish.

    In 1493 (the year after Columbus discovered the America) Pope Alexander VI made explicit the rights of Catholics in the Americas. He authorised the King of Spain to enslave non-Christians of the Americas at war with Catholic powers – in other words anyone who resisted the invasion and seizure of their land.

    Like other bishops, the popes themselves owned slaves — Pope Innocent VIII accepted the gift of numerous slaves from Malaga, given by the exceptionally devout Queen Isabella of Castile in 1487.

    To clear up any doubt about who was entitled to own slaves, Pope Paul III confirmed in 1548 that all Christian men and all members of the clergy had the right to own slaves.

    The British Slave Trade

    Originally the Jesus of Lubeck, usually known after King Henry VIII bought it as the Jesus, and now commonly referred to as The Good Ship Jesus. The record of the Anglican Church was no better than that of the Roman Church. It was the universal opinion of churchmen that God had ordained slavery, and clergymen had no qualms about owning slaves themselves. Anglican slave traders were often extremely devout, and widely respected by their fellow Christians. It never occurred to them, or to their priests or ministers, that slave trading might be immoral. The most famous English slave trader, Sir John Hawkins, named his slave ships Angel, Jesus and Grace of God.

    Hawkin’s crest on his acheivement of arms is a bound slaveHawkins, a cousin of Sir Francis Drake, had been granted permission from Queen Elizabeth for his first voyage in 1562. He was allowed to carry Africans to the Americas “with their own free consent”. He agreed to this condition, and set sail in the Jesus, a ship lent by the Queen, which her father had bought as Jesus of Lubeck from the Hanseatic League.

    Hawkins had a reputation for being a religious man who required his crew to “serve God daily”.
    Sir Francis Drake, who accompanied Hawkins, was also devoutly religious.
    Services were held on board twice a day.
    Hawkins sold most of the slaves in what is now the Dominican Republic.
    He came home with ships laden with ivory, hides, and sugar.

    Queen Elizabeth, livid that slaves had been acquired without their free consent, assailed Hawkins for his detestable behaviour, but soon changed her opinion.
    When she learned of the profits, the devout Elizabeth joined in partnership with Hawkins to organise fresh expeditions.
    So began the British slave trade.
    Hawkins was granted a coat of arms with a crest consisting of a slave (“a bound negro issuant proper.”)

    http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/gaa_slavery.htm#portuguese

  6. Dosamuno
    April 17, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Fun Facts about Jesuits:

    1. As the soldiers of the counter reformation, Jesuits often acted as the eyes and ears of The Church by infiltrating and spying on those sympathetic to Erasmus and Luther.
    2. Ignatius de Loyola was a Spanish soldier whose profession was murdering heretics before he saw the advantages of starting a cult.
    3. An important requirement for membership in the Jesuit Order is obedience to the (lifetime) head of the Jesuit order and to The Pope.
    4. The Jesuit Order has no female branch.
    5. The Jesuit motto, “Give Me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” is attributed to Francis Xavier. It suggests that the best opportunity to indoctrinate a person to a lifetime of fanatical devotion to a deranged religious cult is when he’s very young and has not yet developed the defense mechanism of critical reasoning.
    6. For this reason, education has been one of the principal concerns of the Jesuit Order: To control schools and fabricate more Catholics.
    7. The second major concern of the order is proselytization through “missionary work” especially in Asia and Africa, thus infesting these countries with the Christ virus. Jesuit missionaries backed by the French military infested Viet Nam in the seventeenth century, leading to the oppressive system of government through supplétifs—a chief cause for the resistance that spawned the Indochina Wars of the twentieth century. It created, as well, other systems of colonization and conflict in Asia and Africa.

  7. Realist
    April 17, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    So, even the RC Church practiced Calvinism in early 19th century America. How else to justify the enslavement of fellow humans, other than it was preordained by God, AND their own fault? After all, money, and all it could buy–including other humans, was considered the best evidence of grace from God. If you had nothing, you were the damned. To feel sorry for them was to blame God for their predestination, and ipso facto a blasphemy. Try wrapping your brain around that. Moreover, the Church never errs. Ask Frank and the long line of “infallibles” about that. Therefore, it would be a contradiction to hold his antecedents accountable. OBTW, the current American “exceptionals” never err either–about anything. Theology 101 TBC…

  8. historicus
    April 17, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    One of the problems about slavery from the modern perspective is that it was fully sanctioned by law, custom – and the Bible. The antislavery movement began in earnest in the 1830s, peaked in the 1840s, but suffered political defeats in the conservative reaction of the 1850s. Contrary to legend, Lincoln won his party’s nomination because he was the sole nationally recognizable candidate who was not a vehement antislavery man, which would have been suicide at the polls.

    The movement was widely diverse in its attitude toward the “peculiar institution.” 137 of the first 150 antislavery societies were begun below the Mason-Dixon Line, motivated by the fear of murderous “servile insurrection” as had taken place in Haiti in 1791. The colonization and emancipation societies worried that the African presence in America was degrading to whites, while the radical Abolitionists were considered the lunatic fringe for the hugely unpopular notion that whites and blacks ought to live together in political and social equality.

    This was the age of unquestioned white supremacy. Those who challenged the idea literally put their lives at risk, even in liberal Boston, where William Lloyd Garrison narrowly escaped lynching, and an integrated 1860 election eve prayer vigil was dispersed by thugs at the Tremont Temple.

    The southern oligarchy was beginning to lose its absolute control over an increasingly restive white population in this same era. Like all tyrannies, it hit upon inventing a foreign enemy to suppress growing domestic dissent. Yankee Abolitionists perfectly fit the bill as an infernal alien adversary, whose power and influence the slaveholders vastly exaggerated. The war they would undertake against the national government was a last-ditch act of desperation.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    April 17, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    A good movie to watch is ‘Amazing Grace’. It’s the story of William Wilburforce,who fought against the establishment to repeal slave trading.

  10. J'hon Doe II
    April 17, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    historicus —(according to)

    “One of the problems about slavery
    from the modern perspective
    is that it was fully sanctioned
    by law, custom – and the Bible.”
    ::
    and
    textual histories, laws and customs were
    found in novel, and ancient Histories
    recorded in memories & passed down by
    word of mouth and documents
    into Fabian Policy — The Fabian Society
    became The Labor Party which organized
    honest workers / earners of fair wages

    not forced into subterranean exile and
    recognized only as Surreptitious
    Takers
    droopy eyed escapists from
    the responsibility of life/living

    Nothing’s different Now !!!
    same old shareholders
    Takers
    steal from the poor by Policy,
    & cannot Remember the Time

    textual histories, laws and customs are
    found in novel, film and ancient Histories
    recorded in memories & passes down by
    word of mouth into “Remember the Time”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeiFF0gvqcc

  11. Zachary Smith
    April 17, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    Though I don’t know much about the situation with the Georgetown Jesuits, I reflexively feel they’re getting a bum rap here. In my own view what they did was awful, but nothing out of the ordinary for the Catholic Church of the day. According to “Slavery and the Catholic Church: The history of Catholic teaching concerning the moral legitimacy of the institution of slavery” the Vatican didn’t get around to flatly condemning slavery until 1965.

    http://anthonyflood.com/maxwellslaverycatholicchurch.pdf

    By the way, the hardcopy of this little book costs $347 on Amazon and there is only one copy for sale.

    • Regina Schulte
      April 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      …”what they did was awful, but nothing out or the ordinary for the Catholic Church of the day.”

      Shouldn’t the Jesuits, as vowed religious, have risen above the “ordinary?” Surely, they were familiar with the words and actions of Jesus in the Gospels–how could they not be? Furthermore, it seems that there were some prophetic members among them who rose above the ordinary and tried to lift the others.

      Zachary, “that dog won’t hunt.”

    • J'hon Doe II
      April 26, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Zachary Smith,
      Thanks for the link,

      I’d wager you were raised in a catholic home… .

  12. Everett Wohlers
    April 18, 2016 at 5:53 am

    Excellent essay, as are Ray McGovern’s writings generally. One unmentioned indicator of Georgetown’s lack of concern for morality in policy is the presence on its faculty of Douglas Feith, one of the really bad characters from the dark days of the George W. Bush regime.

  13. Jacob
    April 18, 2016 at 11:01 am

    To see what the Bible says about slavery, just search online for “What does the Bible say about slavery?”
    In fact, the Bible promotes and condones slavery and even tells slave owners that it’s okay to punish a slave severely if he/she displeases the master. The Bible specifies that we must not obtain our slaves from within our own tribe but from some other tribe.
    When the Spanish Christians first came to the New World, they enslaved the natives to work in the silver and gold mines and on the plantations. However, eventually, a priest named Bartolomeo de las Casas told Queen Isabella that the Indians have souls, and this meant that they could not be enslaved. Queen Isabella, a devout Christian, agreed. According to Christian doctrine, only humans have souls; no other living things have souls and they are thus provided by God to serve humans. Church authorities had already decreed that Africans don’t have souls and therefore, they could be enslaved. It was this changeover, based on interpretation of Christian doctrine, that led to the freeing of the Indians from slavery, the commencement of the Atlantic slave trade and the enslavement of Africans in the New World. So Christianity is directly complicit in slavery, and slavery is forever enshrined in the Christian holy book. And I’m uncertain as to whether the church has ever decreed that blacks have souls.

  14. David G
    April 18, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I never used to understand why the U.S. Constitution included the language (Art. I, § 9) that prohibited Congress from banning the importation of slaves from abroad until 1808, which is when such a ban was in fact enacted.

    Was this some sort of glimmer of anti-slavery conscience in a document that famously failed to abolish slavery?

    No, as I understand it now, it was a compromise between the upper South and the deep South. Basically the “plantations” (i.e., slave camps) of the deep South worked their people to death so steadily that they constantly needed to renew the population from outside. This could be done either from overseas or from places like Virginia and Maryland, where the conditions in which the slaves lived were at least adequate to allow the population to survive and reproduce.

    Banning the “Importation of such Persons” (as the Constitution phrases it), would essentially be a protectionist measure, supporting the market for slaveowners in places like Virginia to sell their slaves to the true nightmare of the deep South. So the importing states got a twenty window before that could happen.

    With this Georgetown story, we see an example of that post-1808, pre-1865 slave economy in action.

    • Realist
      April 19, 2016 at 12:21 am

      Yes, and the origin of the expression to be “sold down the river” relates to the practice you described. The auctioned slaves would then be shipped south to the plantations via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

  15. Jim149
    April 19, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Slavery, at its most basic level, is a capitalist’s wet dream: not only do you get to steal your employees’ wages, but you get to act out your sadistic or psychosexual personality disorders with impunity on a pool of helpless victims. And you get to hear your Minister tell you every Sunday how you are doing your Christian duty improving the lives of barely human savages.

    The only coherent point the slaveholders ever made was that so many of their northern critics were upper-class New Englanders who owned the “dark Satanic mills” in which whites toiled 68 hour work weeks for pennies in horrifically unsafe working conditions, virtual slaves in their company towns.

    Lest we smugly take the high ground here and imagine ourselves morally superior to those brutes, consider the abuses we take for granted in our time: that the “free market” encourages us to charge the maximum possible profit to provide housing and to provide food. A century from now people will look on us with the same revulsion we feel for the slaveholders, that we were so barbaric to consider these not fundamental human rights but vehicles for speculative profiteering. And that we tolerated a government that waged relentless war against all other governments that did understand their social responsibilities, using every weapon in its arsenal from media propaganda to saturation bombing to stifle human progress.

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