Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday

"... he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another"

This paragraph from Jefferson's original rough draught accusing the King of his involvement in the continuation of slave trade was removed by the Continental Congress from the final version, because not all delegates, most of whom, including Jefferson, were slaveholders themselves, could agree on the contention that slavery and slave trade did indeed violate the most sacred rights of life and liberty. Also remarkable is the sense of apprehension about the threats of slave revolts.

In a recent article, Hitchens who wrote a short biography of Jefferson a couple of years ago, however, focuses on the pairing of the phrases "infidel powers" and "Christian King", and the allusion therein to Barbary practice. Later in the article, he somewhat undermines historian Frank Lambert's assertion that it was free trade which drove America more than ideology -- a quarrel with Islam, tyranny, or terrorism -- when Hitchens goes on to claim that the motivation behind the Barbary wars was at least partially based on principle: an innate incompatibility between freedom and tyranny, and even though the nature of freedom is definitely not essentially Christian, the tyranny is predictably, though not necessarily incorrectly, linked to Islam as he quotes Abd Al-Rahman, Tripoli's ambassador, referring to Koran.

If this framing reminds you of his unrelenting support of Bush administration's Iraq policy, you are not alone. Jacob Weisberg, Slate's editor, on the other hand, reconsidered his position more than three years ago for two very simple reasons: deception and cost-benefit analysis.

1 comment:

bongopondit said...

OT: Immense laziness caused the delay, but now you are officially tagged ! Pliss to do the needful !