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Andrew Delbanco

Forfatter af Melville: His World and Work

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Om forfatteren

Andrew Delbanco is the Mendelson Family Chair of American Studies and the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. His books include Melville: His World and Work (Vintage), which won the Lionel Trilling Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in vis mere biography. He received the 2011 National Humanities Medal for his writing, which spans from the literature of Melville and Emerson to contemporary issues in higher education. vis mindre
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Værker af Andrew Delbanco

Associated Works

Moby-Dick eller Hvalen (1851) — Introduktion, nogle udgaver35,551 eksemplarer
Søster Carrie (1900) — Introduktion, nogle udgaver4,041 eksemplarer
Representative Men (1850) — Redaktør, nogle udgaver292 eksemplarer
Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World (2008) — Bidragyder — 116 eksemplarer

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When 13 dinky colonies in Great Britain’s empire decided to throw off the chains unreasonable taxation and lack of representation in Parliament, many revolutionaries identified themselves with creating an enduring democracy dedicated to equality and the pursuit of liberty.

But those men who were tasked with the job of bringing the colonies together knew that it was a temporary accommodation to last at least until the war with Britain was won. Not all were equal to those signatories of the Declaration of Independence, nor did it become more equal when The Constitution enshrined the property rights of slave-owners.

The revolutionaries from the southern colonies had every intention of maintaining the institution of slavery, while the northern revolutionaries had no intention at all of admitting slavery into their colonies, now “states.”

So from the beginning, the so-called “United” States of America were never “united” on a fundamental tenant of the union, that of all men being equal before the eyes of God.

We assume that the northerners didn’t want slavery because it was an affront to God, but many northerners didn’t want the slaves (read: blacks) among their society. And largely Irish immigrants in New York and Boston didn’t want the competition for jobs. Northerners in fact were great beneficiaries of the system of slavery. Northern mills processed slave-picked cotton. Northern banks loaned money to slave enterprises. And Northern ladies drank coffee with slavemade sugar.

Early in the new United States there were relatively few vocal opponents of slavery on purely religious grounds, but even these people had a hard time convincing themselves that black slaves were the equal of whites.

One bone of contention was whether the blacks were humans or property. If they were human they deserved due process under the new laws of the federation. If they were property, then blacks who escaped slavery were subject to the laws of property.

Generally speaking, property doesn’t run away. But this property did run away. And frequently. Most slaves didn’t get very far. A few did.

This book, “The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War’” by Andrew Delbanco, follows the progress of laws enacted to return slaves to their owners, and laws created by northern states to thwart the intent of fugitive slave laws.

It is a mirror on the times.

There is much debate over what eventually brought about the American Civil War. Professor Delbanco makes a pretty strong case that it was the Mexican-American War that lit the fuse that blew the accommodation apart. America inherited so much land in winning that war. Whether liberated Texas and California should be slave states. And there was the earlier Louisiana Purchase. Whether Kansas should a slave state. Whether Missouri or Nebraska should be free-soil.

The flow of capital and immigrants into the liberated territories fueled discontent. Land speculators in Texas sold cotton-growing land. White prospectors flooded into California. Trying to separate the demands of capital vs. the humanitarian grounds for abolishing slavery becomes complex and maybe ultimately inseparable.

Southern states initially planned on the Federal Government guaranteeing their property rights with runaways. Northerners didn’t want the federal government interfering in what they saw as state matters. (Sounds eerily familiar, no?)

Moreover, the revolutionary government created the Senate as a balance to the popular sovereignty of northerners. As long as there were equal representation between slave and non-slave states in the union, southerners had no fear of losing their birthright. Thus the pressure to create an equal number of slave states in the new territories. If the north, with their vastly growing populations were given more free states, then they would create more legislation favourable to their ends, and keep the Supreme Court packed with nominees to uphold decisions friendly to their objectives. (This also sounds eerily familiar.)

Anybody familiar with Isabel Wilkerson’s outstanding “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” knows that when large numbers of the ex-slaves and their progeny finally made their way to the northeast, to the northern Midwest and to California, white communities reacted by building societal walls to their integration: separate schools, separate housing, and whites-only unions. That is where the more modern version of equal before the law and the eyes of God eventually led America.

Much of this story is told from the side of the northern sensibility, as in: it was obvious that slavery was morally wanting and that northern expansion was pressuring the south to acquiesce. What shouldn’t be lost on the reader is that the North agreed and benefitted by the confederation with the south. In a very clear way the North owed its freedom to the south. Without demanding the end to slavery.

America's curious libertarian streak ends these days when the talk turns toward reproductive rights. The very same people who champion "states rights" and hands-off government demand the state outlaw abortion. In the antebellum south, landowners wanted to preserve their independence AND gov't intervention to preserve their rights.

Much is made today of the political divide between urban and rural voters, perhaps the coastal elites vs. the heartland if you believe in it. It is directly analogous with North vs. South in antebellum America. But that would obscure the similarities in their attitudes toward the real disenfranchised.

The Civil War ended the precincts of slavery, but America still wrestles with the aftermath.
… (mere)
MylesKesten | 3 andre anmeldelser | Jan 23, 2024 |
What an impressive feat of foresight and zeal. Delbanco is well aware of the pleasures of language. He reminds us that literature, far from being a simple siesmograph of ideology, is a restless confrontation with issues of life and death through language, as well as a perpetual exploration of language's limits. He made me think, stimulated me, and piqued my curiosity in what I was reading.
jwhenderson | Feb 19, 2022 |
Delbanco explains how writers from the previous three centuries have described evil and attempted to defy and conquer it in a spiritual biography of America. He demonstrates how writers like Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, Emerson and Melville, Thoreau and Whitman, Niebuhr and Trilling, Rachel Carson, and Susan Sontag recognized and combated evil. One way of discussing evil is to demonize and satanize it, viewing evil as a distant entity. However, Satan can be a representation of our own lack of love, as well as our tendency for jealously and hostility toward creation. We've always been torn between these two approaches to comprehending evil.… (mere)
jwhenderson | 2 andre anmeldelser | Feb 5, 2022 |
A depressing book, believe it or not.
Chica3000 | Dec 11, 2020 |


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