As the debate over slave reparations continues, an exhibit on Senator Judah P. Benjamin at the Louisiana State Archives sheds light on a controversial statesman who helped build America's slave economy. But while Benjamin helped build a nation today's southern politicians seem more eager to help jobs move overseas. With Teabaggers and the Branson crowd tired of waiting in the welfare line its probably time that comedian Jeff Foxworthy changes his routine to "you just might be a globalist."
Judah P. Benjamin helped found what would become the nation's first land grant railroad, the Illinois Central. Looking to expand trade with the Far East he planned a railroad across Mexico's Tehuantepec isthmus long before Uncle Sam dug through Panama. And according to biographer James Douthat Meade, his fluency in Spanish while doing legal work for Washington out in California was critical in solidifying the California Republic as a Union state. His world view was so advanced he would be right at home at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
But cotton started the Industrial Revolution and drove the 19th century global economy much as oil does today. And cotton required slaves. As the populist firestorm for succession grew Benjamin followed his political ally John Slidell and supported the Confederacy. He was the only member of the Confederate cabinet not to hold slaves, having sold those he did own in 1850.
Benjamin served as attorney general, secretary of war and finally as secretary of state of the Confederacy. He had been the highest paid lawyer in America and through his travels developed extensive contacts in Cuba and Latin America. He exploited his social network in England, which included bankers, shipbuilders and cotton men in an ill-fated effort to win recognition from Lord Palmerston's government for a Confederacy powered by slave labor.
Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. discussed the globalist nature of the slave economy in a recent New York Times article, noting that Caucasians, Africans and Arabs all share the blame for capturing people in Africa and moving them as human chattel to world markets. US president Obama, while acknowledging the moral dimension of reparations, is on the record as finding the concept politically untenable.
Beyond the thorny issue of slave reparations, however, the Civil War was class warfare between southern aristocrats who wanted to maintain the right to own slaves in an agrarian society and profit from them by trading cotton, sugar and other commodities in global markets and the rich Yankee political class that wanted a strong consumer-based industrial economy with all men created equal. Judah P. Benjamin, like Jefferson Davis, was an aristocrat from the land of King Cotton.
Confederate propaganda didn't promote the globalist dimension of the agrarian slave economic model, it promoted a vague, oft romanticized notion of "the cause." It incubated populist hatred among undereducated poor southern whites, directing it toward affluent Yankee abolitionists. Protestant and Baptist Johnny Reb demonized Irish-Catholic Yankees and German-speaking Lutherans, not the plantation slaves who provided the human capital. Yankees took revenge on the Rebels at prison camps like Elmira and Camp Morton. Considering that the economic model rode on the backs of slaves one might say the famous Rebel Yell was an unwitting cry for 19th century globalism.
When the cause was lost the leader of the Alabama Masonic Lodge, James Hutchinson, led 154 families to Brazil to reestablish their way of life. The city they founded, Americana, boasts a population of 200,000 and there are enough folks with ties to the original Confederados in the area to fill Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. And they even have their own page on Facebook. Brazil finally ended slavery in 1888.
Hollywood's "Gone With The Wind" highlights Scarlett O'Hara lamenting Grant's scorched earth policy. But it was the Confederate aristocracy, under Davis, that started the burning, torching over 2.5 million pounds of cotton (most of the pyrotechnics done by soldiers and slaves) in an effort to drive up global markets and cause Great Britain to recognize the South.
Cotton was selling at 10 cents a pound on the eve of Fort Sumter and by the time Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address shortages due to the big burn and the and increased use of Deep South land for food plantings drove it up $1.89 a pound (in 1863 dollars) on world markets, an impact far greater than the price shocks of globalist "peak oil."
While Lincoln is credited with emancipating slaves in order to bring an end to the war he was a politician, not an aristocrat. His policy on the cotton trade was fraught with loopholes that enabled Union and Confederate traders and military men to reap profits moving southern cotton into northern ports, selling it to the highest bidder.
Without Twitter or fiber optic communications the power of culture and capital working in league during the mid 19th century was already so great that the US Civil War was a dispute wedged between two larger globalist interventions on the time line that went off in Imperial China, both featuring US involvement and both of which leave a strong imprint on relations between Washington and Beijing today.
Lord Palmerston, an early godfather of globalism, relished the spoils of victory in the Second Opium War, which hastened the downfall of Imperial China, legalized the opium trade, provided for freedom of religion and the right of Christians to evangelize and to own property, and granted British vessels the right to carry indentured laborers who were semi-slaves to the United States and Latin America.
The Taiping Rebellion that powered up in its wake featured the evangelical Christian sect called the Heavenly Kingdom and with backing from US interests attempted to replace Chinese traditional religions with a form of protestant Christianity.
Selling hardware and know-how to both sides as he did in the Civil War, Lord Palmerston helped globalize the Taiping into a Holy War resulting in the death of more than 18 million Chinese, twice the number killed in the Holocaust. Western scholars and media don't like to discuss this war because it is provides such a poignant example of the connection between Christianity, capitalism and armed conflict.
Karl Marx, the European correspondent for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, spent as much time writing about Palmerston globalist machinations as he did communism and crafted his famous "religion is the opiate of the people" theory during this period. Shortly after the Taiping Rebellion ended Chinese Christians, both Yale Dekes (disclaimer, this writer is a Deke), were serving as prime minister and director of the Central Bank of Imperial China and the lucrative business of brokering indentured semi-slaves continued. In the California that Judah P. Benjamin helped bring into the Union canals that made the Sacramento Valley a global agricultural power were dug by semi-slave indentured Chinese kuli labor. Should the Chinese get reparations? The American-Japanese finally got them after FDR deprived them of their liberty during World War 2.
Judah P. Benjamin had made a clandestine escape to England worthy of a miniseries. There, he became one of England's highest paid barristers, Queen's Council and author of a book on commerce that many in the legal profession consult today. Benjamin also conducted a lucrative law practice in Paris where he is buried as Phillipe Benjamin at Pere Lachaise cemetery. The grave went largely unnoticed until 1938, when a Confederate organization placed a small plaque alongside it.
A recent article at the online version of the New Orleans Times-Picayune calls Benjamin "the Confederate Kissinger." Considering the globalist views shared by both men it might be more apt to tag Kissinger as "the American Benjamin." Meanwhile World Bank boss Robert Zoellick might want to think about a permanent reparations fund because there's plenty of slavery still going on today.