Carl, in one of this thoughtful threadifications below, cautions me to be clear that, in thinking through what Alexander Stephens might have meant, not to confuse anyone on my views of slavery and scientific racism.

Be assured I’m not pro-choice on slavery. Not only that, of course, I agree with Tocqueville etc. on the spiritualized despotism that made racially based slavery worse than anything in the ancient world. Although the slave in the South might have been better off physically than some Helot of the Spartans, he was in every decisive (or soul-based) sense worse off.

I’m actually somewhat tough on Jefferson for not being anti-slavery enough for all practical purposes, due to his Epicurean serenity. And I don’t think the moral devotion to equality—the equal significance or unique irreplaceability of every human being—is strongly enough supported on Lockean grounds. That’s why I think we owe something real to the idealism of the Puritans, although I’m obviously no Puritan.

Nobody is too good to work, and everyone should be given the time to read and reflect in the service of knowing the truth about one’s own soul—one’s own personal identity and destiny. Such thoughts are our irreducible and indispensable Puritan/Chrstian inheritance.

Anyone who’s read Faulkner or Percy or even read or seen TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD can’t help but find something highly admirable and even true in the Stoicism of the southern aristocracy—despite the injustice. Insofar as we’re more than Lockeans (as we should be), we owe something to the Puritans and something to the South.

Articles by Peter Lawler


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