Louis Hartz Save Louis Hartz April 8, — January 20, was an American political scientist and influential liberal proponent of the idea of American exceptionalism.
The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia is inarguable. For such a lean volume it casts a long shadow upon our understandings of colonial Virginia, the development of slavery in the American South, the relationship between racism and equality, and a variety of other interpretative problems large and small.
Few interpretations of any historical question can claim such sustained influence. What gives this book its continuing appeal to the historical profession?
The most straightforward answer is that, broadly speaking, Morgan is right. The link between the expansion of freedom for Americans of European descent to the exploitation of those of African descent is a key theme in American history, with its origins in the entrenchment of racial slavery in seventeenth and eighteenth century Virginia.
Correctness has never prevented a historical interpretation from falling out of favor. What, then, explains the continuing appeal of this particular book and its interpretations? I would argue it has a lot to do with the sort of historian Edmund Morgan was and his place in the profession.
What Morgan has to say in American Slavery, American Freedom is his own peculiar version of a conflict history, however, and one which can please even your most dedicated neo-progressive.
Seventeenth-century Virginia was conflict-riven with rich against poor, freeman against servant and slave, white against black and red. Groping through all this chaos produced a solution to these problems—broad-based white freedom linked tightly with total bondage for blacks.
In a society where this looming threat was perpetually excluded from the body public, the republic could be preserved in perpetuity. Race closed the circle by creating a clear visual mark between citizen and slave.
The English had come to view their poor almost as an alien race, with inbred traits of character that justified plans for their enslavement or incarceration in workhouses.
Almost but not quite.
It required continual denunciations from a battery of philosophers and reformers; it even required special badges, to proclaim the differentness of the poor to the undiscerning, who might otherwise mistake them for ordinary men.
In Virginia neither badges nor philosophers were needed. It was not necessary to pretend or to prove that the enslaved were a different race, because they were. Anyone could tell black from white, even if black was actually brown or red.
And as the number of poor white Virginians diminished, the viscous traits of character attributed by Englishmen to their poor could in Virginia increasingly appear to be exclusive heritage of blacks.
One may, perhaps, consciously embrace republicanism but certainly not racism and slavery—at worst, white Virginians were embracing the cold amoral logic of the labor market.
Building such an interlocking economic, legal, and cultural institution takes a determined, conscious effort. The Old Dominion was a society born out of ashes—of the Native world that preceded it, of the bodies of the white servants that midwifed it, and of the African slaves that built its prosperity.
The great planters of Virginia stoked the fires that burnt these ashes until they were forced to put down their torch at Appomattox.
Morgan, in American Slavery, American Freedom, crafted a history for all seasons—able to please the intellectual historian right along with social and economic historians. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: University of North Carolina Press, Reconsidering the Old Dominion, ed.
Douglas Bradburn and John C. University of Virginia Press,—; William A. The generation of consensus historians included luminaries such as Morgan, Daniel Boorstin, Louis Hartz, and perhaps Richard Hofstadter. Cambridge University Press, There are some extremely amusing quotations from an early review of The Birth of the Republic on p.
Other examples of his respect for the gentry class abound throughout the text.
The idea of a conflict and inequality being a central theme of American history is not obvious in his earliest works. But the forces which dictated that Virginians see Negroes, mulattoes, and Indians as one also dictated that they see large and small planters as one.
Racism became essential, if unacknowledged, ingredient of the republican ideology that enabled Virginians to lead the nation. I have combined two separate paragraphs in the above quotation.Hofstadter touched on political parties in making his broader consensus argument: "It is in the nature of politics that conflict stands in the foreground," he wrote.
This presupposition permeates the narratives of consensus historians Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Daniel Boorstin; and while they used it in part as a whipping boy, such historians as Richard Hofstadter, Perry Miller, Louis Hartz, and Sacvan Bercovitch (the darker side of the consensus one might say) shared this basic picture of American history.
-- Richard Hofstadter Richard Hofstadter (6 August — 24 October ) was an American public intellectual of the s, an historian and DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University. Louis Hartz (April 8, – January 20, ) was an American political scientist and influential liberal proponent of the idea of American exceptionalism.
Hartz was born in Youngstown, Ohio, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, but grew up . Jan 28, · Louis Hartz (April 8, – January 20, ) was an American political scientist and influential liberal proponent of the idea of American exceptionalism.
Hartz was born in Youngstown, Ohio, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.
After graduating from Technical High School in Omaha, he . This article uses the comparativist framework of Louis Hartz to reexamine the anti-German hysteria of the s in the United States.
By revisiting the notions of the American character prevalent at the time, an overlap between anti-German and antisocial democratic sentiment emerges.