American Money, Part IV: The Cross of Gold – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 398

The 4th part of our miniseries on money itself during the 2nd Industrial Revolution in the US. Bill and Rachel look at the political battles over silver coinage and the gold standard and why neither position makes sense in hindsight.

Links and noted for Ep. 398 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/American-Money-Part-IV_-The-Cross-of-Gold-Arsenal-For-Democracy-Ep-398.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

American Money, Part III: Store Credit, Installments, and Shadow Lending – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 397

The 3rd part of our miniseries on money itself during the 2nd Industrial Revolution in the US. Bill, Rachel, and Kelley look at the initial emergence of proto-consumer credit as well as sketchy and predatory small loans in industrial cities.

Links and notes for Ep. 397 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/American-Money-Part-III_-Store-Credit-Installments-and-Shadow-Lending-Arsenal-For-Democracy-Ep-397.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

American Money, Parts I and II: Antebellum Through Reconstruction – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 396

The first episode of our miniseries on money itself during the Second Industrial Revolution in the United States. Bill and Rachel pose philosophical questions on the nature of money and look at changes in US monetary policy from the Antebellum period through 1876.

Links and notes for Ep. 396 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/American-Money-Parts-I-and-II_-Antebellum-Through-Reconstruction-Arsenal-For-Democracy-Ep-396.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

[Preview] Apr 6, 2021 – General Averell’s Asphalt Empire – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 363

Full episode on Patreon: Bill and Rachel learn what asphalt is and how failed Civil War General William Woods Averell became an asphalt paving magnate by the end of the 19th century.

150 years later: A major victory or a minor peace?

150 years ago today, after four years of civil war, the United States achieved a momentary peace – with Robert E. Lee’s surrender along with 27,000 Confederate troops, after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, which triggered a general surrender – and thus appeared to end the war over the fate and direction of the United States.

But as the insurrection collapsed, in our haste to celebrate that illusory peace, we failed to finish the bigger job of conquering and re-making the South. The peace was won, but not kept and consolidated. Instead, in a demonstration of the perils of clemency for the rebellious recalcitrance of evil, almost everything was kept the same, and the South hardened into an even more unified, retrograde, aristocracy than before. Slavery was renamed and White Supremacy death squads were formed. The peace ended, but the country just looked the other way, to avoid going back to war and supporting necessary reforms by force.

The Southern bloc, once re-admitted and then re-taken by the Union’s opponents, re-committed itself to blocking every U.S. policy effort that didn’t involve going to war with other countries. Despite the lack of commitment from President Andrew Johnson and other compromisers, the failure to Reconstruct the South wasn’t entirely for lack of trying

american-apartheid-flag

Abolition of Russian serfdom vs Abolition of US Slavery

It seems like the emancipation of 23 million serfs in Russia in 1861 was a lot better organized and planned out than the emancipation/abolition of U.S. slaves during the American Civil War happening at the same time. In part, this difference would likely have stemmed from the fact that the Imperial Russian government could act by fiat and receive compliance. Moreover, the serf-holding landowners in Russia were way more indebted/obligated toward their government (than the already literally rebelling Southern American slaveholders) and thus couldn’t resist such a decision from the central government.

But, more importantly, the committee that planned the Russian emancipation also did a lot of theorizing on how to handle emancipated serfs in a manner that didn’t trap them on old lands and gave them some economic opportunities. Freed serfs didn’t exactly get 40 acres and a mule either — and it was still a pretty bumpy outcome — but it was a lot closer to a comprehensive and effective dismantling of the system in a responsible manner. The U.S. approach seems to have ended up at “you’re free now, problem solved. ok, next thing on the agenda,” which immediately led to slavery-by-another-name practices like abusive sharecropping contracts.

President Lincoln was elected by a pro-abolition party (even though that wasn’t personally his primary or even secondary campaign plank). Many of his generals repeatedly tried to brainstorm and implement measures — such as the aforementioned, abortive 40 acres land grants proposal — to deal with the slaves encountered in the South while suppressing the rebellion (and he objected to all of them). So obviously, in spite of (and because of) the Civil War going on at the time, a lot of people in the United States were thinking about this issue on some level.

I would have hoped somebody in the Republican Party or government or military would have at least had a working group on implementation of abolition. After all, this wasn’t a foreign concept because the northern states already had plenty of experience with dismantling their slave-inclusive economies with relatively minimal disruption. Yes, they consistently had fewer slaves, but they still figured out something that worked. So the information and ideas needed to plan for this eventuality — foreshadowed as early as the Constitutional Convention of 1787 — should absolutely have been there by 1861.

But instead, U.S. abolition was implemented chaotically and indecisively over the 1860s, with little plan for what to do with/for all the freed people, and with little enforcement (especially after the removal of Federal troops at the end of Reconstruction) to prevent abuses.

Republicans splinter on $50 bill

A couple weeks ago, I looked at a proposal by a southern Republican representative to replace Grant with Reagan on the $50. Students of (northern) history will recall that Grant is reviled in the South for a) winning the civil war, b) enforcing strong Reconstruction policies with martial law and c) wiping out the original KKK. Reagan, on the other hand, used dogwhistle campaign tactics to win the South in his presidential campaigns, emphasizing pro-segregation code words like “states’ rights.”

While Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) insists that this is a pro-Reagan move, not an anti-Grant one, and notes that he chose one Republican to replace another, I think it’s pretty obvious why most his 17 co-sponsors hail from the South.

Now Republicans outside the South are splitting over the proposal, despite their love of Ronald Reagan. Ohio Republicans are particularly annoyed because Grant was a native son:

State Representative Danny R. Bubp, a Republican from the [Ohio] district that includes Mr. Grant’s birthplace in Point Pleasant and childhood home in Brown County, is preparing a resolution that would oppose the currency change.

“The Union may not have won the Civil War had President Lincoln not had the wisdom to put Grant in charge,” Mr. Bubp said. “He was just the kind of guy who needed to be there at that time, and we should not diminish his place in history.”

 
Oh snap.

This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.