February 14, 2009

Dixe Looks Abroad Part 2 - the Confederacy and beyond

I am now going to take several of Fry's positions where I disagree with him or at least his emphasis. I would like to point out firstly that his obviously unlike me a major expert ,so my disagreements are of course meant to be respectful, secondly that I should add I agree with virtually all his analytical conclusions- including the emphasis he gives to race and his emphasis on the variability of the South. However if we agreed life would be boring so I am going to mark up some points of disagreement. I should add that virtually all our areas of disagreement are ones where Fry follows a pre-existing consensus rather than breaking from it.
Firstly he see's the failure of the Confederacy in the Civil War as sparking from problems in Diplomacy. One certainly should not ignore the copious examples of Confederate diplomatic failure he gives including a diplomat to France who was open in his contempt to the French and the fundamental strategic failure of believing that dependence on slave grown southern cotton would compel Anglo intervention of itself- and that an "informal" embargo was the best way of achieving this! However it strikes me that as with most explanations given for the defeat of the Confederacy confederate incompetence or division as opposed to weakness is given far too much emphasis. As his own account makes clear in fact the South did not receive recognition because Britain and France only wanted to extend recognition when they were certain that independence would stick. Secondly useless as they may have been the confederacy made no diplomatic faux pas on the level of Seward (the Secretary of State of the time for the US) who nearly s started a war with Britain over kidnapping Confederate diplomats from a British Ship- and at a time when key supplies for the Union war's efforts guns were being prepared in a British port! (Fry convincingly shows this was union incompetence not shrewd confederate manipulation). Thirdly it strikes me he gives far too much emphasis to recognition-unless backed by military aid (an unlikely occurrence) or union stupidity in launching a war Anglo-Franco recognition would only have marginally have aided the Confederacy. This incidentally strikes me as similar to Israel's declaration of independence and subsequent war-where far too much attention is given to US recognition and not enough attention to Soviet/Czech military assistance.
Secondly he see's the South late 19th century opposition and problems with overseas intervention as being caused (in the late 19th and early 20th) century in part by a hostility to government intervention and a supposed commitment to "state's rights”. In this he reflects a weak domestic historgraphy.In fact statism at home where it was seen as being in favour of the South-or even against Northern interests (e.g. an income tax or regulation of railroads) was more popular the White South than the rest of the United States in this period. What strikes me as much more important is their opposition to the tariff (which disproportionally hurt the South as it had virtually no industrial goods to be "protected") which was the primary form of federal tax in the absence of an income tax. Furthermore hostility to the military and military expenditure is easily explained when it was overwhelmingly non southern white and was key to holding down the South (this Fry does state firmly). Finally I think he dismisses too readily the meaningfulness of Southern Anti-Imperialism. The parallels between Southern Whites defence of their "autonomy" over African Americans and resistance to imperial intervention are rather closer than much modern discussion would indicate. But in any case the key point is not the validity of such comparison but the sincerity-and Fry does not really provide any evidence of the lack of sincerity of such. In fact rather than being contradicted by the new southern loathing of multi racialism (now slavery the former system of social control ) there is every reason to believe the too were complementary- the greatest ideological racists of the South like Colin Blasé of South Carolina were also often the most fervent anti-imperialism. Imperialism in the 19th century meant a mullet-racial state after all. It strikes me as much more significant than it does for Professor Fry than when the South embraced international intervention in the First World War under Woodrow Wilson it was done under a non even anti-imperialist aegis of liberating people-rather than the neo-imperialist rhetoric of a Theodore Roosevelt- as a liberation of people from external oppression (oppression White Southern saw themselves as suffering after the civil war however wrongly they may have been) rather than the imposition of external uplift.
There are some other disagreements I may write more on -but I would just like to thank Professor Fry again for such an engaging, broad and interesting work

February 13, 2009

Dixie Looks Abroad 1

The South is perhaps the most distinctive region in the United States two centuries' or so of history and has played a massive role in US foreign policy. This of course was most notably true when it helped start a war in sense made domestic policy foreign policy by seceding (or most of it ) as a unit in 1860 precipitating the civil war. However it has been a consistent force in US foreign policy. and generally been at least somewhat distinctive in its stance compared to the rest of the country (for example now) .

Dixie Looks Abroad (published in 2001) by Joseph A Fry is a full history of Southern Foreign Policy from the beginnings of the Republic to 1973. Fry elected to stop there-wisely given he had a monumental enough job as it was. Though chronological he shows many major themes and evolutions along the way.

Even just as a chronological account drawing the opinion ofs southern statesmen (and presumably to some degree voters) it would be enormously valuable to the interested and professional historian alike. He shows that southerners were more Anglophobic in the early republic and strongly supported the 1812 war with Britain (even as New England toyed with secession in protest) and in the 1830’s, 40’s and early 50’s tended to be stronger supporters of expansion southwards, (i.e. the taking of often quite sparsely populated land from Indians and Mexicans land which includes the areas that our now Texas and California). At the same time it was being closely divided for most of the period between pro expansion Democrats and anti-expansion Whigs who provided a powerful dissident voice. IN the late 1850’s after the collapse of the Whigs the south became more and more united on expansion to the South.

In 1860 came the United State’s Civil War (by far the worst war in terms of the human cost for Americans). The South tried it’s supposedly all powerful export of cotton to win the Civil War only to gain minimal substantive recognition and support outside the Vatican. After the South became a full part of the Untied States and (overwhelmingly Democratic) Whites had gained control of nearly all southern congressional representation in the mid 1870’s in the face of (even more Republican ) blacks it again adopted a distinctive foreign policy stance. It became a centre piece of opposition to territorial expansion, military build ups and “imperialism” more nebulously - even as its greatest Foreign policy statesman Senator John Tyler Morgan of Alabama was an enthusiastic supporter at least with respect to the American debates. At the same time it supported aid for Cuba in the Spanish-American war only to dramatically resist even temporary annexation of the Philippines.

This changed (in Fry’s telling) dramatically during World War 1. Woodrow Wilson (not just the Second Democratic president since 1860 but a southern born one) gained solid even monolithic southern support for his intervention in Mexican internal affairs, World War 1 and a proposed League of Nations . In the interwar years though there was hostility to republican intervention in Latin America. And foreign aid packages. The South shared in inter-war “isolationism” but left it faster than virtually any part of the United States. When Franklin D Rooselvet provided increasingly (and increasingly provocative) aid to Britain and Russia the South enthusiastically followed.- if “internationalists” were those who supported as much aid as possible to Britain the south not New England still less the Rockies was it’s stronghold. .

In the post war era the south embraced the cold war consensus and the cold war with greater enthusiasm than the US as a whole- whilst being increasingly relatively dubious about foreign aid and actively hostile to treaties that might bind US force or even more US policy internally. Even when after the late 1960’s many particularly in the Democratic Party turned against the Cold War tradition in the light of the Vietnam War the South remained at least relatively firm (the odd exception like Fulbright) in supporting Vietnam War, military expenditure and the Cold War generally supporting both Johnson and Nixon against dovish critics.

Thus Fry shows the south has often been exceptional in its views on Foreign policy-but this exceptionalism has not necessarily been from the same direction- the same area of American, endorsed annexation in the early 19th century and then opposed it in the late, the same area was “internationalist” in the 20th century. These stands are not necessarily inconsistent- but they certainly don’t fit some simple narrative. It’s from the complications in the South’s distinctive profile that a true understanding of both its stands on foreign policy issues and their import can be found. Nor does this reviewer necessarily agree with all Professor Fry’s conclusions powerful though his arguments are.

However this will have to wait till a future post. I hope I have shown something of why the subject is interesting, the book is excellent and how southern distinctiveness has taken many different forms on foreign policy- the south has agreed more with the Democratic party and less, been more pro military spending and (occasionally) less, massively support annexation and opposed it, massively supported foreign aid and opposed it- and all not just in absolute terms but compared to America as a whole.

February 12, 2009

The Isreali election some analysis

Here is a link to a fascinating description of the Israeli election by Vilno. I'd say Vilno does a very good job of discussing it in strictly non-normative terms and Sulla will seek to copy him in this. Vilno's discussion in turn is based on this Haaretz article setting out the result. Bear in mind the results are provisional so they may change slightly.

I'd mostly agree with Vilno's analysis. Clearly at least in terms of parties the result of the last three years has been a shift to the more rightwing", hawkish parties among the Israeli electorate - with the parties more hawkish than the previous central Kadima party now holding the "centre" on security issues.

The big change is that Likud went up from 12 to 27 seats. Kadima - despite presumably losing many of its own voters - only seems to have gone down one or maybe not even at all . The " left" of Labor (19-13) , the Pensioners Party (7-o) and the more leftist Meretz (5-3) all have collapsed. The parties generally perceived as more hawkish than Likud stayed the same (22). So in other words, the big stories were the rise of the (in Israeli terms) center right and the collapse of the Zionist left. Presumably a lot of former Kadima voters defected to Likud and Labor etc voters in turn to Kadima - though I imagine post election surveys will find it more complicated than that.

Unsurprisingly perhaps this swing towards Israel's hawkish parties was not shared among Israel's substantial Arab minority. In fact, the "Arabic" parties support actually rose to 12 (Hadash as Vilno rightly indicates is technically not an arabic party being an ex-communist party but gains it's support overwhelmingly among more secular and non-Muslim Israeli Arabs).

I would point out to Vilno that Shas is still doing better than it was doing in the 1980s by some way. It's support rose in the 1999 election in large party because of the conviction of it's then leader Deri on corruption charges Rabbi Yosef (who essentially completely controls Shas) somewhat hysterical attack on support for Lieberman as equivalent to supporting "Satan" also may mean that they lost some support to Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu (not as unlikely as one might think Shas supporters tend to be more hawkish than their leadership which was actually quite ambiguous on the Oslo peace process). Similarly given the right-wing majority, if kadima insist on the premiership, I think they're unlikely to get it - at times of perceived security crisis, their common hawkish electoral base will overcome Lieberman's and the religious parties' differences on Synagogue-state issues.

I would also like to flag up three points of my own. Firstly, Lieberman and Yisrael Beitenu have gained most of the press attention for their 15 seats. This was arguably rightly (Labor once the eternal party of government were after all beaten by Lieberman) as it represents a new departure for the Israeli "right of Likud". On the one hand, he supports in principle a "two state solution" (until fairly recently anathema even for Likud). On the other hand, he is talking about making all Israelis (including the Arab minority) take a loyalty oath to Israel (including among other things its nature as a Jewish state) and to be willing (if male) to serve in the military or equivalent or be denied citizenship ( the large majority of Isreali Arabs don't serve in the military). In other words he and his party are both territorially more wiling to give up Israeli held land and more hostile towards Israeli Arab particularism than previous sizeable parties "to the right of Likud". Whatever one thinks of such changes I submit they are significant.

Secondly Kadina is one of many center parties that have flashed across the Isreali system only to die a swify and painfull death. However, it was the first such party to come first in any election- and now it may have done this a second time - in a way an even more remarkable achievement. However since this has occurred in the context of a general "swing to the right", psephologically there is a case for arguing that Kadima may be replacing Labor and challenging its sway over the Kibbutznik and middle class left-wing votes. Vilno rightly identifies as labor's core of the last few decades, rather than becoming a permanent "center" party.

Thirdly, Israel has at least three major types of political issues that influence voting. Security (how conciliatory Israel should be to it's neighbours and both Palestinian and Israeli Arab discontent), economic (how big the state should be in both intervening in the market and in providing a welfare state) and religious/court (how much recognition of Jewish law there should be by the state and to a large degree also how much power the courts which are much more secular than the Knesset should have). Obviously, voters' and even parties' views do not necessarily correlate with any simple notion of the "right", so for example Lieberman and Yisreal Beitenu are more free market than United Torah Judaism and much more secular (unsurprisingly given the latter's name!). Likud on the other hand is both less secular and more free market than Kadima. The complications are shown well in this test. Though non Israelis may lack clear (or informed) enough views to be able to see meaningfully where they would stand if they were Israelis the three different "compasses" (and the very different relations between parties that exist depending on the issue) that emerge at the end of the survey show why Vilno is most correct of all when he shows that Israeli coalition building is a very messy business indeed.

February 10, 2009


Hello everyone. I'm going to be posting on the blog over the next few days mainly on history. Sulla was another Roman Republican figure of rather different views from Gracchi J. I've been really excited by Gracchi's blog which is one of the best on the internet for history and is really
impressive in its reach (including of course on non historical subjects).

I'm very flattered I've been asked to post on it. As the name Sulla implies I am not speaking for Gracchi (or indeed vice-versa) and all comments posted under "Sulla" are my own-not his. I'd like to emphasise this! Also my nom de guerre should not be taken as an endorsement of all Sulla's policies any more than Gracchi's is necessarily that of the Gracchi brothers!


I am away for the next one and a half weeks- a friend of mine who studies history will be blogging here whilst I am away about historical subjects- I shall be back!

February 09, 2009

The Forerunner: Love, Evelyn Waugh and Plato

Three times in Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder's relationship with his student friend Lord Sebastien Flyte is described as being the forerunner, the shadow of his relationships to come. Once Flyte's father, Lord Marchmain, tells Charles this in Rome, twice Charles tells Sebastien's sister Julia that his love for her brother was an expression, a forerunner of his love for her- the grand passion of his life. Charles's sincerity is unquestionable- but it is also interesting for it demonstrates an echo within the novel- an echo of Plato deep into the 20th Century.

Plato of course in the Symposium established a hierarchy of loves- from heterosexual love to homosexual love to philosophical love. Christian philosophy with its stress that God is love found Platonic ideas about love attractive. The influence on Waugh's work is obvious- Charles's love for Sebastien is a precursor to his deeper and more mature love for Julia- and Julia who sees more clearly than her beau, sees that her love for him sets up a good against God: in order to love properly she understands that she has to progress to loving God. A progression that Charles himself makes at the end of the novel by becoming a Catholic.

There is much more going on in the novel than this- but what is interesting about this is the deep psychological structure that Waugh, using Platonic progression of loves, builds into the framework of his story. His characters advance or regress in terms of that that they love and its closeness to the divine- furthermore it is that love that grants them grace. Sebastien who becomes an alcoholic for example is led eventually to God through a love of Kurt, a down and out German he encounters, and through his desire for alcohol. Sin is eventually forgiven as eccentricity- as Cordelia the most astute of the Flyte children tells Charles.

There are lots of ways of thinking about this presence in the novel- it unquestionably is there. Perhaps though it is the mark of an atheist to find Brideshead revisited to be a book with a disappointing ending- as its characters move from the love of humans to the love of the divine- I certainly felt and found that. And yet it is as Waugh said a statement about theology, to understand the novel we must respect it as such- and as such it encompasses a sophisticated doctrine which relates the earthly loves to the spiritual ones. In that sense, we have in Waugh's work a clear statement- amongst other things- of modern Catholic philosophy- which unsurprisingly is tied to an ancient metaphor about the human psyche.

February 08, 2009

William Crompton, William Crunkton

On 9th April 1766, William Crompton was condemned to die at the Old Bailey. The record of his trial is here. Crompton did not die for the kind of crime which one normally expects a death penalty to be given, but rather for an attempt at fraud. The ship 'Liverpool' had been involved in the reduction of Ponchiderry in 1761, when the British had captured the city from the French as part of the seven years' war in India. After the war, in 1766, a reward was granted to those who had been on board the 'Liverpool'- William Crompton came forward, according to the trial statement, to claim his part in the award. He initially claimed to have been on board the ship, when the agent present pointed out that no William Crompton was there, Crompton claimed to be the Quartermaster William Crunkton. After failing to produce adequate proof he was arrested. Various people came forward at the trial to state that Crunkton had died in 1762 in Plymouth and that Crompton bore no ressemblance to Crunkton. Crompton denied that he had even attempted the fraud- and said he had been there on behalf of a friend, a sailor called Brown, but the court found his story unconvincing given the testimony against him, and he was hung.

Crompton's story appears a shabby effort from an opportunistic fraudster to make some easy money- who knows what his motivation was or who Brown, the sailor, was- but if we accept the account at the trial, we still have something which tells us a lot about the eighteenth century. Crompton's forgery is a failed attempt to join a group of people who had done well out of the colonial and military successes that 18th Century Britain involved. Crompton was attempting to get his hands on some of that colonial wealth. Going to the sea in the 18th Century was a way for someone to do that: going to the colonies- especially to India- was an even better way for an aspiring young man to make his way in the world. The 18th Century was filled with such fortunes. That Crompton attempted to make a fortune without doing so attests to his ingeniousness- the agent did not immediatly suspect him and the problems we have seen afflict identifying someone in the Middle Ages still were issues in the 18th Century. Crompton was eventually identified by the court through using people who had known Crunkton- he was unlucky as well to have impersonated someone who had died on shore, where a quick inspection of parish records could provide automatic evidence of the fact that Crompton was not Crunkton.

The ultimate issue here though is that it reminds us of the spoils of war. When invading and occupying a rich area like India, great fortunes were made in London. The same is true of most other wars too and in other ways. For example the English poet John Milton only discovered his vocation during the English Civil War- before that he tutored his family's children, after it he rose to become Secretary to the Council of State, a famous pamphleteer and no less famous poet. Crompton's attempt to fraudulently obtain the profits of war is a signal of how directly important war could be- I have no doubt that you could find cases of people attempting to defraud the US Government and the GI Bill in the 1940s in a similar way- taking advantage of the generosity of the state to those that had served it. But it reminds us of the sociological change that war and empire brings even to the victor after it has happened, it destroys a great deal of manpower in tragic ways through death and illness (both mental and physical), but it also importantly pushes some up through the social scale and gives meaning and purpose to the lives of others like Milton or Oliver Cromwell. William Crompton was attempting to benefit from that movement of soldiers upwards through society- he was attempting to ride on the coat tails of the Nabobs- that he failed is less important than the fact that the attempt was made. The society that emerged from eighteenth Century Britain was in many ways a society fashioned by war, amongst other factors, and the fortunes that war made possible.