Carl Schurz brandtal mot slaveriet

Carl Schurz var en framträdande liberal politiker och journalist under lång tid i USA. Han föddes i Tyskland och deltog som 19-åring i 1848 års revolution, varefter han flydde till USA. Han kom att engagera sig i det Republikanska partiet och deltog i inbördeskriget där han befordrades till brigadgeneral i unionsarmén. Senare blev han senator, var 1872 med i bildandet av det kortvariga utbrytarpartiet Liberala Republikanska partiet, för att sedan bli inrikesminister i president Hayes regering. 1884 tillhörde han den grupp av liberala Republikaner, ”Mugwumps”, som i protest mot den korrumperade presidentkandidaten James Blaine istället slöt upp bakom den Demokratiske kandidaten Grover Cleveland, en klassisk liberal och bekämpare av korruption.

I slutet av 1800-talet växte sig mer statsinterventionistiska rörelser som progressivismen och populismen allt starkare inom båda partierna. Förutom korruptionen som funnits sedan tidigare samt rasismen i Södern, hade klassiska liberaler nu även att tackla kraven på en alltmer ingripande stat inom båda partierna och imperialismen inom det Republikanska partiet. Schurz engagerade sig i The Anti-Imperialist League och stödde 1896 John Palmers presidentkandidatur för ”Gulddemokraterna” (National Democratic Party), som hade flera klassiskt liberala anhängare, bland dem Cleveland, som ogillade den populistiske Demokratiske kandidaten William Jennings Bryan och dennes vilja att artificiellt uppvärdera silvret som valuta.

1900 hade Schurz tillsammans med andra planer på att starta ett nytt liberalt parti för fred, frihandel, individuell frihet och en begränsad stat. Moorfield Storey, en annan av The Mugwumps, och som senare blev den förste ordföranden för NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), var tilltänkt som dess presidentkandidat. Schurz skrev: ”There is a very widespread feeling that the people have permitted themselves long enough(…)to be forced by two rotten old party carcases to choose between evils.” Dessvärre blev det inget med det. Schurz höll för näsan och röstade på Bryan det året för dennes antiimperialistiska politik.

Han förklarade att Republikanerna nu ”treated the principles of the Declaration of Independence with supercilious contempt.(…)Its idea is now [to be] a great ‘world-power’ governing foreign lands and alien populations by arbitrary rule, and asserting its position among the other powers of the world by the number of its battle-ships.” Istället borde USA visa upp sig som ”the most encouraging example of a great people governing themselves in liberty, justice, and peace.”

1904 lyckades förespråkarna för guldmyntfot nominera Alton Parker som Demokraternas presidentkandidat, och Schurz gjorde sin sista insats i en politisk kampanj för denne, två år före sin död. Parker förde dock en ineffektiv kampanj och framstod som tråkig i kontrast mot den vitale och karismatiske Republikanen Theodore Roosevelt, och dessutom som en representant för en föråldrad liberalism gentemot tidens nya idéer om en större roll för staten.

Schurz frihetliga insatser var väsentliga på flera områden, men här är ett exempel på hans slaverimotstånd. Den 1 augusti 1860 höll Schurz i S:t Louis ett brandtal mot slaveriet, The Doom of Slavery. Det är långt, men jag återger här några av de mest lysande delarna.

Det fanns andra slaverimotståndare som Charles Sumner och Frederick Douglass som också höll lysande tal. Det intressanta här är hur Schurz kontrasterar slaveriet mot den fria tanken och dess civilisatoriska och teknologifrämjande konsekvenser.

”It is true that slavery is an inflammable element. A stray spark of thought or hope may cause a terrible conflagration. The torch of free speech and free press, which gives light to the house of liberty, is very apt to set on fire the house of slavery. What is more natural than that the torch should be extinguished, where there is such an abundance of explosive material?”[…]

”Cast your eyes over that great beehive called the free States. See by the railroad and the telegraphic wire every village, almost every backwoods cottage, drawn within the immediate reach of progressive civilization. Look over our grain fields, but lately a lonesome wilderness, where machinery is almost superseding the labor of the human hand; over our workshops, whose aspect is almost daily changed by the magic touch of inventive genius; over our fleets of merchant vessels, numerous enough to make the whole world tributary to our prosperity; look upon our society, where by popular education and the continual change of condition the dividing lines between ranks and classes are almost obliterated; look upon our system of public instruction, which places even the lowliest child of the people upon the high road of progressive advancement; upon our rapid growth and expansive prosperity, which is indeed subject to reverses and checks, but contains such a wonderful fertility of resources, that every check is a mere incentive to new enterprise, every reverse but a mere opportunity for the development of new powers.

To what do we owe all this? First and foremost, to that perfect freedom of inquiry, which acknowledges no rules but those of logic, no limits but those that bound the faculties of the human mind. Its magic consists in its universality. To it we owe the harmony of our progressive movement in all its endless ramifications. No single science, no single practical pursuit exists in our day independently of all other sciences, all other practical pursuits. This is the age of the solidarity of progress. Set a limit to the freedom of inquiry in one direction and you destroy the harmony of its propelling action. Give us the Roman inquisition, which forbids Galileo Galilei to think that the earth moves around the sun, and he has to interrupt and give up the splendid train of his discoveries and their influence upon all other branches of science is lost; he has to give it up, or he must fight the inquisition. Let the slave power or any other political or economic interest tell us that we must think and say and invent and discover nothing which is against its demands, and we must interrupt and give up the harmony of our progressive development, or fight the tyrannical pretension, whatever shape it may assume.”[…]

”Slaveholders, look at this picture and at this. Can the difference escape your observation? You may say, as many have said, that there is, indeed, a difference of principle, but not necessarily an antagonism of interests. Look again. Your social system is founded upon forced labor, ours upon free labor. Slave labor cannot exist together with freedom of inquiry, and so you demand the restriction of that freedom; free labor cannot exist without it, and so we maintain its inviolability. Slave labor demands the setting aside of the safeguards of individual liberty, for the purpose of upholding subordination and protecting slave property; free labor demands their preservation as essential and indispensable to its existence and progressive development.”[…]

”Slaveholders of America, I appeal to you. Are you really in earnest when you speak of perpetuating slavery? Shall it never cease? Never? Stop and consider where you are and in what day you live.

This is the nineteenth century. Never since mankind has a recollection of times gone by, has the human mind disclosed such wonderful powers. The hidden forces of nature we have torn from their mysterious concealment and yoked them into the harness of usefulness; they carry our thoughts over slender wires to distant nations; they draw our wagons over the highways of trade; they pull the gigantic oars of our ships; they set in motion the iron fingers of our machinery; they will soon plow our fields and gather our crops. The labor of the brain has exalted to a mere bridling and controlling of natural forces the labor of the hand; and you think you can perpetuate a system which reduces man, however degraded, yet capable of development, to the level of a soulless machine?

This is the world of the nineteenth century. The last remnants of feudalism in the old world are fast disappearing. The Czar of Russia, in the fulness of imperial power, is forced to yield to the irresistible march of human progress, and abolishes serfdom. Even the Sultan of Turkey can no longer maintain the barbarous customs of the Moslem against the pressure of the century, and slavery disappears. And you, citizens of a Republic, you think you can arrest the wheel of progress with your Dred Scott decisions and Democratic platforms?

Look around you and see how lonesome you are in this wide world of ours. As far as modern civilization throws its rays, what people, what class of society is there like you? Cry out into the world your ”wild and guilty fantasy” of property in man, and every echo responds with a cry of horror or contempt; every breeze, from whatever point of the compass it may come, brings you a verdict of condemnation. There is no human heart that sympathizes with your cause, unless it sympathizes with the cause of despotism in every form. There is no human voice to cheer you on in your struggle; there is no human eye that has a tear for your reverses; no link of sympathy between the common cause of the great human brotherhood and you. You hear of emancipation in Russia and wish it to fail. You hear of Italy rising, and fear the spirit of liberty may become contagious. Where all mankind rejoices, you tremble. Where all mankind loves, you hate. Where all mankind curses, you sympathize.

And in this appalling solitude you stand alone against a hopeful world, alone against a great century, fighting your hopeless fight — hopeless, hopeless as the struggle of the Indians against the onward march of civilization. Exhaust all the devices which the inventive genius of despotism may suggest, and yet how can you resist? In every little village schoolhouse, the little children who learn to read and write are plotting against you; in every laboratory of science, in every machine shop, the human mind is working the destruction of your idol. You cannot make an attempt to keep pace with the general progress of mankind, without plotting against yourselves. Every steam whistle, every puffing locomotive, is sounding the shriek of liberty into your ears.”

Läs även min bloggpost 150 år sedan den andra amerikanska revolutionen

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