Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trouble in Boston: Civic Disorder in New England Before The American Revolution

I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we discuss  the intense opposition in New England to the Stamp Act and other laws passed by the British Parliament in the 1760s, which included violent acts such as hangings in effigy and the destruction of British government officials' homes.


In Massachusetts, a democratic culture had already evolved by the 1760s, reflected by the institution of the town meeting where citizens of all walks of life gathered together to decide political issues. Town meetings in Boston included the wealthy, the middling, and even some of the “working artificers, seafaring men, and low sorts of people” (as an irate governor of the colony once observed).  An organized faction called The Caucus, led by a group of master craftsmen and lesser merchants who called themselves the Loyal Nine, claimed to represent the workingmen and controlled the town meeting with their votes.  At the same time, some colonists remained deeply loyal to imperial authority.  

The leading example of this was Thomas Hutchinson, a successful merchant and a descendant of the same Anne Hutchinson who had challenged the original Puritan leadership of Massachusetts in the 1600s.  Never widely popular but always politically ambitious, Hutchinson cultivated connections with successive royally appointed governors of Massachusetts, and he secured many of the colony’s other high offices for himself and his relatives.  During the early 1760s, Hutchinson repeatedly urged Governor Francis Bernard to abolish Boston’s town meeting and establish a local council that he, his relatives, and their friends could control.

Among the local leaders who resisted Hutchinson’s efforts was James Otis, an unpredictable but brilliant lawyer and scholar who helped to unify the rest of the opposition.  Otis was driven by a private feud with Hutchinson, but he could channel personal grievance into principled arguments.  Rising to defend the interests of Boston’s merchants, he boldly denounced policies such as the use of broad search warrants to seek evidence of smuggling, and the Sugar Act itself.  Like Patrick Henry denouncing the Stamp Act, Otis put narrow legal arguments aside and characterized the imperial customs laws as unconstitutional, tyrannical violations of the colonists’ fundamental rights.

At the same time, he reached out to the Loyal Nine and their followers, attacking Hutchinson as an aristocratic pretender and an enemy of the common folk.  Increasingly, the leadership of the town meeting became an alliance of merchants, artisans, and laborers who viewed their elite adversaries as tools of the Parliament who would usurp the self-governing powers of all colonists.  By 1765, opposing Parliament, in the mind of many in Massachusetts, equaled supporting the rights of the people.

Boston’s response to the Stamp Act was slow in coming but explosive.  Newspapers in Massachusetts reprinted the Virginia Resolves.  Hutchinson claimed to oppose the law but refused to deny Parliament’s authority to pass it.  His brother-in-law, Andrew Oliver, was appointed as stamp distributor for Massachusetts.  On the morning of August 14, 1765, an ominous sight appeared, under one of Boston’s largest elm trees:  a figure representing Oliver, hanging by his neck from a branch.  Suspended alongside Oliver’s effigy was a boot (a symbolic reference to the Earl of Bute, once an adviser to King George III) with its sole painted green (and with a helpful sign bearing the word “Green-ville”).  

Hutchinson, as lieutenant governor of the colony, ordered the local sheriff to cut down the effigy, but a crowd of workingmen, led by a poor shoemaker named Ebenezer McIntosh, surrounded the tree.  That night they took down the figures themselves, carried them through the city streets to the stamp distributor’s office, tore down the office building, built a bonfire from its timbers, “stamped” on Oliver’s effigy with their own boots, and beheaded it by the light of the flames.  Then they stormed through Oliver’s own house, leaving its interior partially gutted.  Oliver pledged the next day to resign the stamp distributorship.   Twelve nights later, McIntosh and the crowd reassembled at the houses of several other officials, including Hutchinson’s own grand mansion, intent on destroying everything.  Hutchinson and his family fled for their lives. A mob broke into, vandalized and burned his mansion.  He lost a fortune in worldly possessions (for which he compiled a detailed inventory, and eventually was compensated) but maintained his dignified composure, as well as his network of political connections.

More than the material losses, the collapse of law and order left Hutchinson, the royal governor, and other respectable men most shaken.  Members of local militias given the duty of maintaining crowd control had participated in the violence.   Such mobs, however, had long been a local tradition.  Crowds, sometimes including well-off men dressed as poor folk, assembled to force the closing down of houses of prostitution, and to drive contagious smallpox sufferers out of town.  Ritual mobs gave humble men roles in the maintenance of local traditions.

For decades, in Boston, on November 5 (“Pope’s Day”), crowds took over the streets, lit bonfires, and paraded with effigies of the Pope, the Devil, to express hatred of the Catholic Church and its minions.  (Pope’s Day, also known as “Guy Fawkes Day,” commemorates an incident in which Catholic conspirators failed to set off a bomb intended to blow up King James I and the Parliament at the start of the 1605 legislative session).  A violent routine even developed in which rival mobs from opposite sites of town battled in the streets, seeking to capture each other’s effigies.  (Ebenezer McIntosh was the elected leader of the South End’s Pope’s Day company.)   Additionally, at times of grain shortage, crowds in Boston and elsewhere gathered to force merchants to keep the price of bread within financial reach.   By the time of the Stamp Act riot, for the struggling mass of people in Boston, the authority of the royally connected, socially condescending, tax-collecting leaders of the colony was no longer legitimate.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:


White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Paying For Empire: British Taxes In America Before The Revolution


I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we discuss the clumsy British attempts to raise revenue to pay down their exploding national debt following a century of imperial wars.

Except for the mass population of indentured servants and slaves, others living in the colonies—such as urban merchants and master craftsmen, plantation gentry and the much larger ranks of middling landowners and small farmers—benefited from North America’s economic growth in the mid-1700s.  By the standards of the eighteenth-century world, British North America by the late colonial period enjoyed extraordinary prosperity, although the wealth was distributed unevenly among regions and between economic classes.  From the mid-seventeenth century to the eve of the Revolution, colonial per capita GDP (gross domestic product) grew at twice the rate of Great Britain.

 Faster economic growth reflected population growth, spread of territorial settlements, and development of new lands as well as increasing trade with the rest of the world.  Each of the colonial regions—even New England, with its stony soil, limited arable land, and lack of incoming migrants—grew economically over time, although by far the greatest gains were realized by the masters of Southern plantations.  As a result of the long-term trend, by the 1770s, per capita wealth in the colonies overall was higher than in Great Britain, and the gap widens when measuring slaves as part of the wealth of their owners.  White Southerners were (according to this average measurement) more than twice as wealthy as their counterparts in Great Britain, the middle colonies, and New England.

Yet economic growth was not steady or constant, and even its leading beneficiaries were never very secure.  Dependence on exports kept the colonies exposed to the rise and fall of commodity prices.  In the late 1750s, the British war against the French and their Native American allies on the western frontier, in French Canada, and in the Caribbean had generated huge orders for new ships, munitions, and other goods and supplies—and lucrative opportunities as well for colonial merchants to undertake “privateering” raids on enemy flag vessels.  Meanwhile, Virginia tobacco, South Carolina rice, and New York refined sugar all brought high prices from consumers and their mercantile agents.  But after 1760, the boom went bust, and hard times prevailed for most of the decade.
 
 STEPS TOWARD THE REVOLUTION:
 THE SUGAR AND CURRENCY ACTS

After the French and Indian War, the British government was nearly flat broke.  Years of waging war, and the famous victories in Canada and the West Indies, had added millions of pounds to the national debt.  The British sent 10,000 troops to North America to defend their new conquests in Canada and the Ohio Country from the still ambitious French and Native Americans eager to regain what had been their land.  Those soldiers had to be fed, clothed and armed, which added further to the British govnerment’s financial burdens.  The cut in purchases by the British government of military equipment and supplies for the war, meanwhile, increased unemployment.  A post-war recession caused tax revenues to drop even as government expenses continued to climb.   The poor and working class in England rioted in some cases over taxes, high prices and growing unemployment.   Meanwhile, the rich landowners who dominated the Parliament selfishly voted themselves a 25 percent tax cut, worsening the deficit.

The British Prime Minister, Sir George Grenville (in office from 1763-1765) looked for taxes to raise and expenses to cut, deciding to focus on taxing overseas commerce and the barely taxed American colonists.   In 1764, he steered through Parliament a series of revenue bills, including the Sugar Act.  Previously existing high taxes on foreign molasses within the empire had originally been intended to protect British sugar producers from foreign competition.  The Sugar Act actually lowered these rates, but it tightened procedures for enforcement of the duties by customs officers.  By ending smuggling, the British would realize an increase in revenues even though the tax rates had been cut.   The act also allowed customs officers to prosecute smugglers in vice admiralty courts, before royally appointed judges, rather than in local courts under colonial judicial systems.  Grenville feared that local judges and local juries would sympathize with the smugglers and find them not guilty, regardless of the evidence.  For the smugglers, the days of benign neglect by imperial authorities were at an end.
Making matters even worse, Parliament at the same time passed a new Currency Act, which prohibited the colonies from issuing paper money as legal tender (as happened during the Seven Years War).  British merchants and lenders had often sought to keep colonial debts from being repaid in depreciated colonial currency, and the new legislation responded to their petitions.  It also guarded against inflation.  But forcing all colonists to rely on limited supplies of specie (gold and silver coins) to pay their bills deepened the predicaments of the many debtors in the colonies.  For the next decade, the British government would be determined to make the American colonists pay their fair share for their defense. The Sugar Act would be but a hint of things to come. 
 
TAXES, TAXES, TAXES:
THE STAMP ACT

The confrontation that followed would shake the British Empire and leave its rule over the North American colonies fatally undermined.  A strange paradox now characterized the relations between the king and his subjects in North America.   In some ways—economically, socially, and culturally—they were growing ever more closely connected.  With the rapid growth of the colonies came higher volumes of transatlantic trade.  Rising numbers of ships brought not only goods, capital, and immigrants, but also news, political commentary, fashion trends, and even religious movements—such as the evangelical Great Awakening itself, which began in England and thrived on both sides of the ocean.  Wealthy colonial planters and merchants sought to imitate English standards of refined living and sent their sons to London to become socially polished and professionally trained.  But were the colonists truly Englishmen?  Were they even (as one New Hampshire newspaper editor put it) “British brothers”?

One of Ben Franklin’s letter-writing friends made this observation about the tortured relationship between Britain and the American colonies:  neither actually knew what the other was about.   Great Britain was also a dynamic, changing society.  For a recently united kingdom, now realizing unprecedented commercial wealth from its command of a global empire, the evolving meaning of “Britishness” was inseparable from the experience of imperial conquest and subjugation of others.  By the 1760s newspapers in England frequently referred to colonists as Americans—a name not yet so widely used by colonists themselves.

Familiarity gave way to mutual estrangement.  First-time colonial visitors to the mother country confronted an array of disorienting spectacles.  As much as Philadelphia had grown, by the late colonial period, London was some twenty times larger.  England outdid its colonies in terms of the ostentatious wealth, mass poverty, magnificence, and squalor on display in the imperial capital.  Social networks with elaborate rituals and pecking orders tended to exclude even eminent visiting young colonials.  (In 1761, after two years of legal studies at the Inns of Court, Charles Carroll, who would later sign the Declaration of Independence, wrote to his father in Maryland, “I am intimate with nobody.”)   Colonials in Great Britain often felt they were strangers in a strange land.

The political system was perhaps most alien of all.  In theory, the Houses of Parliament embodied the will of the British people—both lords and commoners—and while Parliament swore allegiance to the king, its political supremacy supposedly protected the historic liberties of Englishmen from any potential tyrant.  But, in fact, Parliament was anything but a straightforward, well-ordered system of representation. Elections to the House of Commons were held in constituencies that varied drastically in size, population, and qualifications for voting.  “Rotten boroughs”—former towns or onetime settlements that still retained ancient charters entitling them to elect members—were controlled by local nobles, or others with cash to spend and a desire for influence in the Commons. Parliamentary faction leaders wheeled and dealt.  Bribery was commonplace, just the normal means of doing business.  Far fewer people enjoyed the right to vote in England than in the colonies.  The colonies and Great Britain both required that a male citizen hold a certain amount of property to vote or run for office, but the requirements were much higher in the mother country.  Property requirements disenfranchised about two-thirds of the male adult population in Great Britain but only an average of one-fourth in the American colonies.

In early 1765 Grenville moved forward his proposal for “Stamp Duties” on the colonies.  All legal documents, newspapers, magazines, playing cards, and other printed materials were to be made with paper stamped in London and distributed in the colonies by tax collectors.  As with the Sugar Act, admiralty courts were empowered to handle cases of violation, at the discretion of the tax collectors.  Meeting with a group of colonial agents that included Benjamin Franklin, Grenville gently insisted that the colonies must help pay the costs of their own defense.  But he refused to hear arguments challenging the authority of Parliament to impose any kind of tax on the colonies, and the House of Commons refused to receive petitions of protest from the colonial assemblies.  On March 22, the Stamp Act was passed into law.  It was to take effect in November.


Others living in the colonies—such as urban merchants and master craftsmen, plantation gentry and the much larger ranks of middling landowners and small farmers—benefited from North America’s economic growth.  By the standards of the eighteenth-century world, British North America by the late colonial period enjoyed extraordinary prosperity, although the wealth was distributed unevenly among regions and between economic classes.  From the mid-seventeenth century to the eve of the Revolution, colonial per capita GDP (gross domestic product) grew at twice the rate of Great Britain.  Faster economic growth reflected population growth, spread of territorial settlements, and development of new lands as well as increasing trade with the rest of the world.  Each of the colonial regions—even New England, with its stony soil, limited arable land, and lack of incoming migrants—grew economically over time, although by far the greatest gains were realized by the masters of Southern plantations.  As a result of the long-term trend, by the 1770s, per capita wealth in the colonies overall was higher than in Great Britain, and the gap widens when measuring slaves as part of the wealth of their owners.  White Southerners were (according to this average measurement) more than twice as wealthy as their counterparts in Great Britain, the middle colonies, and New England.

Yet economic growth was not steady or constant, and even its leading beneficiaries were never very secure.  Dependence on exports kept the colonies exposed to the rise and fall of commodity prices.  In the late 1750s, the British war against the French and their Native American allies on the western frontier, in French Canada, and in the Caribbean had generated huge orders for new ships, munitions, and other goods and supplies—and lucrative opportunities as well for colonial merchants to undertake “privateering” raids on enemy flag vessels.  Meanwhile, Virginia tobacco, South Carolina rice, and New York refined sugar all brought high prices from consumers and their mercantile agents.  But after 1760, the boom went bust, and hard times prevailed for most of the decade.
 
 STEPS TOWARD THE REVOLUTION:
 THE SUGAR AND CURRENCY ACTS

After the French and Indian War, the British government was nearly flat broke.  Years of waging war, and the famous victories in Canada and the West Indies, had added millions of pounds to the national debt.  The British sent 10,000 troops to North America to defend their new conquests in Canada and the Ohio Country from the still ambitious French and Native Americans eager to regain what had been their land.  Those soldiers had to be fed, clothed and armed, which added further to the British govnerment’s financial burdens.  The cut in purchases by the British government of military equipment and supplies for the war, meanwhile, increased unemployment.  A post-war recession caused tax revenues to drop even as government expenses continued to climb.   The poor and working class in England rioted in some cases over taxes, high prices and growing unemployment.   Meanwhile, the rich landowners who dominated the Parliament selfishly voted themselves a 25 percent tax cut, worsening the deficit.

The British Prime Minister, Sir George Grenville (in office from 1763-1765) looked for taxes to raise and expenses to cut, deciding to focus on taxing overseas commerce and the barely taxed American colonists.   In 1764, he steered through Parliament a series of revenue bills, including the Sugar Act.  Previously existing high taxes on foreign molasses within the empire had originally been intended to protect British sugar producers from foreign competition.  The Sugar Act actually lowered these rates, but it tightened procedures for enforcement of the duties by customs officers.  By ending smuggling, the British would realize an increase in revenues even though the tax rates had been cut.   The act also allowed customs officers to prosecute smugglers in vice admiralty courts, before royally appointed judges, rather than in local courts under colonial judicial systems.  Grenville feared that local judges and local juries would sympathize with the smugglers and find them not guilty, regardless of the evidence.  For the smugglers, the days of benign neglect by imperial authorities were at an end.

Making matters even worse, Parliament at the same time passed a new Currency Act, which prohibited the colonies from issuing paper money as legal tender (as happened during the Seven Years War).  British merchants and lenders had often sought to keep colonial debts from being repaid in depreciated colonial currency, and the new legislation responded to their petitions.  It also guarded against inflation.  But forcing all colonists to rely on limited supplies of specie (gold and silver coins) to pay their bills deepened the predicaments of the many debtors in the colonies.  For the next decade, the British government would be determined to make the American colonists pay their fair share for their defense. The Sugar Act would be but a hint of things to come. 

 TAXES, TAXES, TAXES:
THE STAMP ACT

The confrontation that followed would shake the British Empire and leave its rule over the North American colonies fatally undermined.  A strange paradox now characterized the relations between the king and his subjects in North America.   In some ways—economically, socially, and culturally—they were growing ever more closely connected.  With the rapid growth of the colonies came higher volumes of transatlantic trade.  Rising numbers of ships brought not only goods, capital, and immigrants, but also news, political commentary, fashion trends, and even religious movements—such as the evangelical Great Awakening itself, which began in England and thrived on both sides of the ocean.  Wealthy colonial planters and merchants sought to imitate English standards of refined living and sent their sons to London to become socially polished and professionally trained.  But were the colonists truly Englishmen?  Were they even (as one New Hampshire newspaper editor put it) “British brothers”?

One of Ben Franklin’s letter-writing friends made this observation about the tortured relationship between Britain and the American colonies:  neither actually knew what the other was about.   Great Britain was also a dynamic, changing society.  For a recently united kingdom, now realizing unprecedented commercial wealth from its command of a global empire, the evolving meaning of “Britishness” was inseparable from the experience of imperial conquest and subjugation of others.  By the 1760s newspapers in England frequently referred to colonists as Americans—a name not yet so widely used by colonists themselves.

Familiarity gave way to mutual estrangement.  First-time colonial visitors to the mother country confronted an array of disorienting spectacles.  As much as Philadelphia had grown, by the late colonial period, London was some twenty times larger.  England outdid its colonies in terms of the ostentatious wealth, mass poverty, magnificence, and squalor on display in the imperial capital.  Social networks with elaborate rituals and pecking orders tended to exclude even eminent visiting young colonials.  (In 1761, after two years of legal studies at the Inns of Court, Charles Carroll, who would later sign the Declaration of Independence, wrote to his father in Maryland, “I am intimate with nobody.”)   Colonials in Great Britain often felt they were strangers in a strange land.

The political system was perhaps most alien of all.  In theory, the Houses of Parliament embodied the will of the British people—both lords and commoners—and while Parliament swore allegiance to the king, its political supremacy supposedly protected the historic liberties of Englishmen from any potential tyrant.  But, in fact, Parliament was anything but a straightforward, well-ordered system of representation. Elections to the House of Commons were held in constituencies that varied drastically in size, population, and qualifications for voting.  “Rotten boroughs”—former towns or onetime settlements that still retained ancient charters entitling them to elect members—were controlled by local nobles, or others with cash to spend and a desire for influence in the Commons. Parliamentary faction leaders wheeled and dealt.  Bribery was commonplace, just the normal means of doing business.  Far fewer people enjoyed the right to vote in England than in the colonies.  The colonies and Great Britain both required that a male citizen hold a certain amount of property to vote or run for office, but the requirements were much higher in the mother country.  Property requirements disenfranchised about two-thirds of the male adult population in Great Britain but only an average of one-fourth in the American colonies.

In early 1765 Grenville moved forward his proposal for “Stamp Duties” on the colonies.  All legal documents, newspapers, magazines, playing cards, and other printed materials were to be made with paper stamped in London and distributed in the colonies by tax collectors.  As with the Sugar Act, admiralty courts were empowered to handle cases of violation, at the discretion of the tax collectors.  Meeting with a group of colonial agents that included Benjamin Franklin, Grenville gently insisted that the colonies must help pay the costs of their own defense.  But he refused to hear arguments challenging the authority of Parliament to jWithin the colonies, the response would not be a quiet one.  In Williamsburg, Virginia, news of the Stamp Act’s passage arrived toward the end of the spring session of the House of Burgesses, the elected Virginia assembly.  

Patrick Henry was a young, new member, but already a successful trial attorney known for his courtroom eloquence.  The tobacco planters who dominated the Virginia legislature generally opposed the imposition of taxes by Parliament and had protested the Sugar Act, but Henry’s brand of opposition went further.  On May 29, he and his allies proposed a set of seven resolutions, and a fiery debate consumed the chamber for three days.  Together the “Virginia Resolves” denounced the Stamp Act, not as merely as an unfair policy but as unconstitutional, illegitimate, tyrannical, and void.

The colonists were not represented in the Parliament and, therefore, had no direct voice in legislation directly affecting their pocketbooks.  Taxation of the people by their own elected officials was “the distinguishing characteristic of British Freedom, without which the ancient Constitution cannot exist,” according to Henry. Defenders of the tax, however, would argue that the colonies were “virtually represented” because members of Parliament supposedly represented not only their particular districts but all the citizens of the British Empire.  Men like Henry found these arguments unconvincing and “No taxation without representation” became a rallying cry for the growing American resistance.  The seventh and last of the “resolves” even deemed any supporter of the Stamp Act to be “an enemy to this His Majesty’s colony.”  Only four of the Resolves were actually approved by the burgesses (and a fifth was passed but rescinded after Henry had left for home), but all seven were printed in the newspapers.  

This represented the boldest challenge yet by the colonists to the authority of Parliament.  As the shock waves spread, Henry gained fame for his own speech during the Resolves debate.  According to one observer, Henry called out names of tyrannical kings and the rebel leaders who overthrew them, noting for instance that “Caesar had his Brutus,” and then said he “did not Doubt that some american would stand up, in favour of his Country.”  Cut off by cries of “Treason,” Henry affirmed his loyalty to the King.  But Henry maintained that if he had gone too far, it was because of “the Interest of his Countrys Dying liberty which he had at heart.”  Henry had mastered the hellfire-and-brimstone sermonizing style of evangelical Baptist and New Side Presbyterian preachers that had fired the Great Awakening, and his eloquence won a large audience for the cause of resistance to Parliament.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:


White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Once Said David Duke Raised "Legitimate Issues"


This is cross-posted at the "Internet Republican Racism Database" at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/

Just in case you thought Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s ruthless union busting, purge of voting rolls of likely Democrats, slashing of the social safety net, and willingness to serve as the lap dog of the environment- and job-destroying billionaire Koch Brothers wasn’t evil enough, there’s a tape of a televised debate he had with David Duke you should listen to, courtesy of the Daily Kos website.

As the website reports, back in 1992 former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (who was wrapping up his single term as a Republican in the Louisiana State Legislature) was fighting to get on the GOP presidential primary ballot   The Wisconsin Republican Party tapped Walker as their spokesmen for a debate with Duke on the Milwaukee Public TV program Smith and Company.


In a 1992 debate on Milwaukee Public Television, future Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker said that David Duke raised "legitimate issues."  (Photo from http://occupyforaccountability.org/sites/default/files/u6/Scott_Walker_Gov_Wis_022211.jpg).  

During the chat, Walker went at great lengths to emphasize that while the Wisconsin GOP condemned Duke’s past role as Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from 1974 to 1980 (after which Duke founded the National Association for the Advancement of White People or NAAWP) it did not condemning the “issues” was bringing up.  “The distinction we're making is not one of saying his issues are extreme, they certainly are not,” Walker said. 

Duke had spent his career making clear that he believed that African Americans were intellectually inferior and crime prone, that he didn’t believe the Holocaust happened, and that Jews were undermining America through their control of the media.  The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League has compiled Duke’s public comments, such as in a1985 interview for a doctoral student’s dissertation when he said, “What we really want to do is to be left alone. We don't want Negroes around. We don't need Negroes around. We're not asking ­­ you know, we don't want to have them, you know, for our culture. We simply want our own country and our own society. That's in no way exploitive at all. We want our own society, our own nation...."  That same year, Duke wrote in an editorial called “The Black Plague” that appeared the NAAWP News, [A] black...gets a job with a white-owned company. He is the only black at the firm. He works hard, but he's fighting a losing battle against his genes."

Duke was even more blunt in his racial language in an April 23, 1975 interview with the Wichita, Kansas Sun.  White people don't need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals,” he said to the newspaper.  He also had nasty things to say about Jews. “"It's really the Jew Marxists who see the nigger as their instrument, as their bullets, by which to destroy our society."


Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke, who once said that "niggers are basically primitive animals."  Scott Walker couldn't come up with a good reason why he wasn't a legitimate candidate for president in a 1992 televised debate and failed to mention that Duke was a Holocaust denier. (Photo from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/50/David_duke_belgium_2008.jpg/220px-David_duke_belgium_2008.jpg).  
Regarding the Holocaust, Duke had already said by 1985 in an Evelyn Rich interview that, “Did you ever notice how many survivors they have? Did you ever notice that? Everybody – every time you turn around, 15,000 survivors meet here, 400 survivors convention there. I mean, did you ever notice? Nazis sure were inefficient, weren't they? Boy, boy, boy! ...You almost have no survivors that ever say they saw a gas chamber or saw the workings of a gas chamber...they'll say these preposterous stories that anybody can check out to be a lie, an absolute lie."
Duke also had made clear in the same interview his belief that Jews had a genocidal intent towards white people.  “"They're trying to exterminate our race. I think, probably in a moral sense, the Jewish people have been a blight. I mean as a whole, not every Jew. And they probably deserve to go into the ashbin of history. But saying that and actually shooting or killing people in masses, are two different things. I'm not advocating extermination. I think the best thing is to resettle them in someplace where they can't exploit others. And I don't think they can live among themselves, I really don't."


David Duke as a Neo-Nazi while attending Louisiana State University and "protecting" the U.S. border against Mexican undocumented workers while  Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. (Photos from http://www.adl.org/learn/ext_us/david_duke/background.asp?LEARN_Cat=Extremism&LEARN_SubCat=Extremism_in_America&xpicked=2&item=david_duke and http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/profiles/david-duke). 
All these comments were made before Scott Walker’s debate with Duke.  By the time Duke was trying to enter the Wisconsin GOP presidential primary, his career in the Klan was well-known and the campaign of President George H.W. Bush was battling mightily to avoid the embarrassment of having his name on the ballot.  Political professionals, the Bush apparatchiks would have done opposition research, which they would have shared with Walker.  Yet on Smith and Company, Walker insisted that the political issues Duke was raising were “legitimate.”  Walker briefly mentioned that Duke sold copies of Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf in his state legislative office, but never talked about his anti-black, anti-Semitic views.  Referring to Duke’s ideology, Walker instead said:
“We feel you’re hiding behind some legitimate interests for middle class Americans, welfare reform as far as job protection, job security, issues that are important . . . The key is that you’re hiding behind issues that are legitimate issues but do not necessarily make you a legitimate candidate anymore than in the city of Milwaukee if Jeffrey Dahmer were to stand up . . .”

During his legislative race in Louisiana, his unsuccessful race for governor in 1991, and in his presidential race in 1992, Duke claimed he had converted to Christianity and had put his bigoted days as a Klansman and neo-Nazi behind him. However, like mainstream Republicans today, he ran on racially coded issues, more subtly campaigning on school busing and the supposedly poor state of integrated schools, the crime rate and affirmative action.


Scott Walker during his TV appearance with David Duke.  According to Walker, Duke brought up "some legitimate interests for middle class Americans, welfare reform as far as job protection, job security, issues that are important . . ." Walker didn't mention that Duke also argued that blacks are genetically inferior and worse swastika armbands as an LSU student..  (Photo from http://videos.videopress.com/F5CID5Cg/scott-walker-says-david-duke-rep-a-media-creation_std.original.jpg). 

During the debate with Walker, Duke, brought up one hot button GOP issue of today after another, including even including the so-called war on Christmas and his opposition to the “open border with Mexico.” A viewer who called the show and described himself as a “life-long Republican” told the host he would be “proud” to have David Duke as a Republican candidate on the Wisconsin ballot. Another said, “I think David Duke is right on  I think the only reason they don’t want him to run is . . . he may damn well win.” David Duke mopped the floor with Walker during the show. Only two callers out of about a dozen said they opposed Duke’s views.  It’s clear that if Duke had never put on a white sheet, but held exactly the same beliefs, he might have been won the Louisiana governor’s race (where he got 39 percent of the total vote and 55 percent of the white vote) and perhaps might even have been a serious contender in the Wisconsin presidential primary.  As this blog has pointed out many times, the ideological and rhetorical distance between the Walkers and the Dukes in this country in the past two decades has shrunk to the vanishing point.  (To see the Duke-Walker debate, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wp3a4vEsJY.  See also http://www.adl.org/special_reports/duke_own_words/print.asp and http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/10/954858/-Breaking-Old-Tape-of-Scott-Walker-Talking-About-David-Duke-Shows-He-Has-Always-Been-a-Fruitcake).


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Immigration And Unfree Labor In Pre-Revolution America


I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we discuss the impact of German immigration, slavery and unfree labor on the 13 colonies in British North America before the War for Independence. 

By the 1760s, rapid growth—in population, wealth, economic activity, and settled territory—transformed the British North American colonies.  The population reached 2.5 million by 1775.   The colonists no longer saw themselves as remote, isolated frontiersmen dependent upon the mother country’s protection.  Increasingly, they no longer saw themselves just as New Yorkers  or Virginians, but as part of something larger.  In a fiery pamphlet titled Common Sense, Thomas Paine exhorted readers to view themselves not as colonists but as Americans.  “There is something absurd in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island,” Paine insisted.  “In no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its primary planet.”  The island kingdom and its colonies, he claimed, “belong to different systems: England to Europe—and America to itself.”

New waves of immigration across the Atlantic further increased the population.  Between 1760 and 1775, an estimated 220,000 immigrants poured through colonial ports of entry and spread out across the hinterlands.  After the Seven Years War ended in Europe, some 12,000 German-speaking members of various Protestant sects came to Pennsylvania. Not everyone welcomed these newcomers.  Benjamin Franklin, soon to be a leader of the revolutionary movement in the 13 colonies, feared the impact of German immigration and saw these immigrants as backwards, racial outsiders with an inferior culture.  He called for an end to German immigration in a 1751 essay.

[W]hy should the Palatine Boors [Germans] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.
. . . [T]he Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased . . . [W]hy increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red?


 THE RANKS OF THE UNFREE

Over 55,000 other migrants to America in the mid and late 1700s were Protestants arriving from Ireland—some of them Catholic native Irish, many other settlers Protestants whose families who originally came from Scotland. Most of them were fleeing from heavy taxes and extortionate land rents.  From Great Britain itself, one group of migrants consisted of young artisans and laboring men, many of them securing passage by signing themselves into indentured servitude, embarking from London and arriving at labor markets in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.  The indentured servants sold up to seven years of their life to a master in return for the cost of transportation to North America, and their travel here was often miserable.  A German musician, Gottlieb Mittleberger, traveled with indentured servants on a ship bound for North America in 1750 and recalled little but horrors:

During the journey the ship is full off pitiful signs of distress — smells, fumes, horrors, vomiting, various kinds of sea sickness, fever, dysentery, headaches, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth rot and similar afflictions all of them caused by the age and the highly salted state of the food, especially of the meat, as well as by the very bad and filthy water . . . Add to all that shortage of food, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, fear, misery  . . . as well as other troubles . . . On board our ship, on a day on which we had a great storm, a woman about to give birth and unable to deliver under the circumstances, was pushed through one of the portholes into the sea.

Many indentured servants would not live to see the end of the seventh contracted year of service.  Those who did reach the emancipation date traditionally were paid a small amount of money by their former masters, so-called freedom dues.  But although they were no longer subjected to beatings by their one-time masters, and the women were no longer sexually exploited by them, life remained incredibly hard for most former servants.  Only about 20 percent of former indentured servants ever achieved anything better than miserable poverty.  On the other hand, their masters raked in a handsome profit of about $5,000 a servant.

Another stream of immigration, about 70,000 newcomers , brought farming families from rural northern England and Scotland to the frontiers of settlement in western North Carolina and northern New York.  But the largest single category of new migrants was brought to the colonies in chains, as survivors of the horrors of the “Middle Passage.”  Slave importations reached peak levels in the early 1760s, as British military successes and the European peace settlement reopened trading routes with West Africa.

Approximately 84,000 Africans disembarked at North American ports during the 1760-1775 period.  A large majority of these—over 57,000—were brought to the Lower South colonies of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, where rice and indigo planters relied on imported Africans to sustain slave labor forces and compensate for high rates of disease and death.  In the Chesapeake, by contrast, slave populations had begun to reproduce themselves and grow more rapidly through sexual reproduction.  Virginia and Maryland masters reduced their purchases of Africans, encouraged (or claimed to encourage) the formation of strong families among slaves, and in some cases even advocated for an end to the transatlantic slave trade itself.  The southern colonies in British North America, and the American states they became, represented the only slave societies in human history in which the population increased naturally.  In the sugar colonies of Cuba and Brazil, for instance, there was need of constant importation of new slaves because the masters, enjoying huge profits from their cash crop, found it cheaper to work their slaves to death and purchase replacements.  Even after the British Navy began suppressing the transatlantic slave trade after the Parliament banned it in 1807, the smuggling of newly captured slaves to Cuba and Brazil continued until slavery became illegal in those countries in 1886 and 1888, respectively.  Tobacco and cotton growers enjoyed slimmer profit margins and the skill level in tending these crops required training, so out of self-interest masters in the Southern colonies often provided more food and somewhat better treatment to their slaves. 

This doesn’t mitigate the cruelty of American slavery.  As slaves would say in Texas, they worked from “can see to can’t see” – from sunrise to sunset and sometimes beyond.  Most masters provided two sets of clothing, one set for the winter that usually provided scant protection against the cold, and another set during the warmer months.  Slaves received uncomfortable, one-size-fits-all shoes that the servants usually abandoned when the weather got warm enough. Masters generally provided slaves monotonous and sometime unappetizing corn and pork diets.  Lucky slaves could supplement their diets by tending small gardens near their slave cabins, or by hunting or fishing.  Malnutrition, nevertheless, became commonplace as indicated by the high number of slaves reported suffering from pica, the compulsion to eat dirt as the body craves needed minerals.  Slaves who escaped or disobeyed their masters often received cruel punishments ranging from whipping to hobbling, in which a hammer was swung to hit knee joints from the side in order to displace the joint and impair future escape attempts.

A small but significant number of Africans—roughly 6,500—were imported to the Northern colonies, where slave labor was well established in larger cities and particular rural areas, such as the Hudson River Valley.  In 1770, the slave population in New York was actually larger than in Georgia.  Until the Revolution itself, a large majority of transatlantic immigrants—including slaves, indentured servants, and convicts sent into exile—came to the colonies as unfree workers.



Michael Phillips has authored the following:


White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A New Series: The Origins of The American Revolution, Part I


I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we discuss the culture of class, racial and gender deference that marked American society in the period before the American Revolution. 

THE BREAKING POINT:
ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION


In 1776, Thomas Jefferson would write the most famous words of America’s revolutionary era.  “All men are created equal,” he stated in the Declaration of Independence.  All men, and women, however, were certainly not treated as equals in America in either the years leading up to the Revolution or just after its end in the early 1780s.  Taught by their ministers that to “spare the rod” was to “spoil the child,” parents punished wayward children with physical violence.  Husbands were given license to physically discipline wives they considered disrespectful.  As of the 1780s, almost one-third of the American population toiled as slaves or indentured servants and they too suffered physical beatings, the women among them often raped. 

Until the eve of the American Revolution, which started in 1775, American schools, the Anglican church and the legal system taught the average person in the colonies that the division of humanity into the nobility and the commoners and the rule of kings was part of the divine order, as historian Gordon S. Wood notes in his book The Radicalism of the American Revolution.  “[Future leader of the American Revolution] John Adams recalled that in the early 1760s the Massachusetts authorities had . . .introduced new ‘scenary’ in the Supreme Court – ‘of scarlet and sable robes . . .  and enormous tie wigs’  -- in order to create a more ‘theatrical’ and ‘ecclesiastical setting for the doing of justice.’  Full-length, gold-framed portraits of [English kings] Charles II and James II, said Adams, were ‘hung up on the most conspicuous sides’ of the courtroom ‘for the admiration and imitation of all men.’   ‘The colors of the royal ermines and long flowing robes were the most glowing, the figures the most noble and graceful, the features the most distinct and characteristic – these portraits of these particular Stuart kings were designed to overawe.”  

In war and peace, the law treated the rich and the common man differently.  “Common soldiers captured in war were imprisoned [where they often died from disease caused by wretched conditions]; captured officers, however, could be released ‘on parole,’ after giving their word to their fellow gentlemen officers that they would not flee the area or return to their troops,” Wood said.  “Although English law was presumably equal for all, the criminal punishments were not; gentlemen, unlike commoners, did not have their ears cropped or their bodies flogged.”

In the decade before the American Revolution, ministers of the Church of England “tended to bolster monarchical authority . . . for example, by preaching from Romans 13 that all were subject unto the higher powers . . . for conscience sake’  . . . Even moderate Anglican preachers continually stressed the sacredness of authority and the need for subjects to honor and revere those set over them . . .” Men who would later lead a battle supposedly about liberty from a British tyrant held the lower classes in contempt. As Wood wrote, revolutionary leaders typically compared the average American to cattle, with George Washington calling the country’s masses “the grazing multitude.”  Likewise, John Adams referred to the “common herd of mankind” and dismissed the “vulgar, rustic Imaginations” of the working poor, who had “no Idea of Learning, Eloquence and Genius.” Elites even assumed that the poor were biologically closer to animals.  “Ordinary people were thought to be different physically, and because of varying diets and living conditions, no doubt in many cases they were different,” said Wood.  “People often assumed that a handsome child, though apparently a commoner, had to be some gentleman’s bastard offspring.”

The poor and the working class were expected to show constant deference to their social “betters.”  The average person had obedience, in some cases, literally beaten into him.  Awe and fear often defined the relationship between rich and poor A Maryland doctor named Alexander Hamilton (not the one who served as the United States’ first secretary of the Treasury) observed that people of the lower class glanced downward “like sheep” when addressing the powerful and wealthy.  One man, George Hewes of Massachusetts, remembered decades later how he trembled and was “sacred to death” when he made a visit as a cobbler’s apprentice to the stately home of future leader of the Revolution John Hancock.  As Wood observes, “Indeed, we will never appreciate the radicalism of the eighteenth century revolutionary idea that all men are created equal unless we see it within this age-old tradition of difference.”

The idea of equality percolated slowly in English society back in the homeland and in the American colonies.  In much of Europe the Catholic Church taught its faithful that kings ruled by divine right.  “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered,” according to the Gospel of Luke, so it was inconceivable to the Church that God would allow anyone to serve as monarch over a Christian kingdom without divine approval.  The king, therefore, ruled as God’s representative politically, as the Pope ruled over the church.  The English king, however, never enjoyed the absolute rule held by monarchs in France and Spain.   However, since Henry VIII established the Church of England, the king ruled not only over an Earthly kingdom, but he also became the nation’s religious leader as well.  The Church of England portrayed the Pope as the anti-Christ, an earthly embodiment of satanic evil.  This made the English king the defender of the faith.  Even the most powerful of the nobility, such as those serving in Parliament, were not citizens but subjects, occupying a lower place on a God-created hierarchy of power.

The idea that God appointed Christian kings and placed them on top of a chain of being in which nobles ruled over commoners, and men over women, began to slowly unravel when the Stuart dynasty assumed the English throne in the 1600s. The Stuarts sought to achieve absolute authority like their European counterparts and to reign without the consultation with Parliament and, through marriage, the Stuart family had many family connections to the Catholic French royal family.  Furthermore, James II (who reigned from 1685-1688) proposed that the British government legally tolerate Catholics, which raised the suspicions of the fiercely anti-Catholic Puritan faction in the Parliament.  These differences led to violence between the Stuart King Charles I and the Parliament in 1642-1651 (which led to the beheading of the king in 1649) and in the so-called Glorious Revolution in 1688 that led to the overthrow of James II.  These anti-royal rebellions posed a major challenge to the idea of the divine right of kings.  If God placed the Stuarts on the English throne, then the successful Parliamentary rebels had twice made themselves enemies of God.  As historian Edmund S. Morgan notes in his book Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America, English philosophers like John Locke turned the concept of Divine Right on its head, arguing that

The British people, in some distant, primeval past, had expressed God’s will by creating the monarchy.  This was a subtle but important change that provided an important rationale for the American Revolution.  God had acted through the “people,” not the king.  The king was obligated to rule in the interest of the people. A king who did not serve the greater interests, whose rule failed to guarantee the life, liberty and property of the people, was no longer legitimate and the people as a whole were morally justified in ending that king’s rule.  The question now was how to define “the people.”  When privileged Virginia slaveowner and plantation master Thomas Jefferson wrote, “All men are created equal,” he certainly wasn’t referring to women, the poor, commoners, or African Americans.  The common people, Jefferson wrote at one point, “must never be considered when we calculate the national character.”  Jefferson’s words, however, acted as a solvent on the Old World hierarchy.  In the coming decades, slavery opponents would insist that the “peculiar institution” made a mockery of Jefferson’s words.  When women met in Seneca Falls to demand suffrage rights in 1848, they would draft “The Declaration of Sentiments” in conscious imitation  of the Declaration of Independence, and paraphrase Jefferson in proclaiming “that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . .”  Much of American political history from the 1770s on would be a struggle over how inclusive the United States would be when the nation defined “the people.”



Michael Phillips has authored the following:


White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.