Jeffrey Rogers Hummel


Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, associate professor of economics at San Jose State University, discusses the major points of contention on U.S. Civil War history, the inextricable link between the Union and liberty in Northern doctrine, why moral rights should supersede constitutional limitations, how the North could have ended slavery in the South without contesting secession, the inability of chattel slavery-based economies to cope with runaways, the numerous bad precedents set while central governmental power grew during the Civil War and why the Articles of Confederation are better than the Constitution.

MP3 here. (52:02)

Jeff Hummel is the author of Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War (Chicago: Open Court, 1996). He teaches both economics and history, and before joining the SJSU economics faculty in the fall of 2002, lectured as an adjunct at Golden Gate University and Santa Clara University. He served in the U.S. Army as a tank platoon leader during the early seventies, was Publications Director for the Independent Institute in Oakland, CA, in the late eighties, and was a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, for the 2001-2002 academic year.

15 thoughts on “Jeffrey Rogers Hummel”

  1. I suppose I will have to listen to the whole audio, but if we were under the articles of confederation, Scott could project it to today by moving only a short distance – across the Mexican border.

    Some ideal but wholly theoretical projection into the future is always better than grim reality. The states under the articles would have never warred with each other, would fix their paper/specie/inflation problem themselves, and the skipping on contract thing. States would not have ever gone back to the British empire – attaching to Canada. They would not form cliques between themselves, annex territories, or merge. Nor go to actual small scale wars to settle differences which would normally be settled by a federal court.

    All a nice dream. I don’t know whether this is part of his idea, but unless he is as intellectually dishonest as anyone else on Fox or CNN, he should take the likely if not the worst cases for the problems and resolutions or lack thereof.

    I have the devil I know. But I can imagine the devil I don’t from projecting the articles instead of the constitution forward. And I refuse to dignify with a label other than stupid or ignorant anyone who assumes Angels would appear to run things with perfect wisdom and justice just because the coin-flip went the other way.

    Liberty is a hard and constant battle. It is absurd to think the ignorant or corrupt Americans that passed the constitution would have had a much better result than under the articles. A different result, but not a better result.

    1. You're right to assume that things may not have been better but as it is we have people who constantly bring up the corpse of the Constitution as though it is immortal, that we must "return" to it like some faithless lover, and that we are somehow bound to it until death. That in itself is the ultimate and fatal conceit.

  2. Hey Scott, good to hear a show on a different topic! You're doing a fine job just have found memories of the variety of shows you use to do back when you got started.

    On a side note…. never thought you would leave Texas (oh my!) How are you liking it in California?

  3. I think the important thing is to de-legitimize the current government, or rather, to develop the subjective awareness of its illigitimacy. It is rotten to the core, and interviews like this expose the core–its origins.

  4. Great to hear a progressive discussion of this period of US history, since generally the Left – always wanting to be on the right side of the slavery debacle – avoid looking at the many other issues and implications of this conflict. One thing not mentioned was the extent to which Confederate society underwent a religious revival during the war; god-fearing Confederate military commanders actively encouraged this, much in the same way we see selected commanders today use the bible as a tool in manipulating their occupation fodder. In my reading of the Civil War, this religious communion, if you will, was one reason the South fought on as long as it did: Fail the Confederacy and you fail God. Quite a heavy burden to bear.

    Re the railroads, this was probably the biggest government giveaway of land in the country's history. Southern Pacific, et al still own huge swaths of land crisscrossing the US on which they are able to use their own law [sic] enforcement in a sort of nationally deputized fashion. Hardly the mark of good democracy, but as Hummel points out, many outcomes of the Union victory lie at the root of today's power and economic inequalities.

  5. If the US had remained part of the British Empire, slavery would have been abolished 1830s.

    If Texas had stayed part of Mexico, slavery would not have been introduced 1820-30s.

  6. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am from Iowa, and I decades ago got tired of listening to Southerners feel sorry for themselves because they lost a civil war. Every country has civil wars, one side always loses, always suffers, often worse than Confederates did. Consider: the biggest mass execution in US history was the leaders of a revolt; but not the Confederate leaders, rather the leaders of the 1862 Sioux Revolt. (Most of you have never heard of it.) 36 men at once on a single gallows, in Mankato, MN. Personally, I think Jeff Davis deserved to hang at least as much as Rain-in-the-face!

    1. You are painting with a particularly broad brush when you talk about "Southerners feel sorry for themselves because they lost a civil war". The war was over 144 years ago…nobody who fought in it is alive, so your statement is a non sequitur. The demographics of the southern states at the time of the "Civil War" were such that a very small percentage of the populace owned slaves, even in South Carolina. Hummels points out that slavery was actually quasi-legalized by the U.S. constitution, but the real reason for the war was to preserve the union. Lincoln, specifically, had no problem at all with the institution of slavery. Slavery, for him, was what the WMD issue was for Bush 2–a means of garnering support among the folks footing the war bill. Observe, if you will, that the emancipation proclamation did not appear until over a year after the commencement of the war. The government of the confederate states was an evil institution, granted, but then so was, and is, the U.S. government. As to whether the leaders of the confederacy deserved hanging more than those of the union, I'd wonder what your opinion would be of Sherman and Grant, both of whom were heavily involved in atrocities during the war…and during the massacres of native Americans later on. As an aside, many Southerners have derived from the immigration waves of the late 19th and early 20th century. As one such, I don't have a dog in the confederacy hunt, but I do have a problem with the runaway nature of government power at all levels. As far as large mass executions, have you heard about the events in Mt. Carmel, TX?

  7. I have heard that there were black slaveholders and many black overseers. Supposedly some of them owned a large amount of slaves. There were also blacks in Confederate army and some of them bore arms as well. Mosby promised freedom for the his black slaves who fought for him. There are claims as well that the white indentured servants were treated very roughly in their last year of bondage so as to literally work them to death. The reason for this was that it was customery to give clothes and tools to servant upon release. Where did I learn this? From participants at a Civil War re-enactment.

  8. Just a comment. Much of what JCrowe says is true , but the comments about Abraham Lincoln are not correct. Lincoln was known at the time as very strong for abolition, which is why the southern states started to secede almost immediately. The last 30 or 40 years its been taken as a given that Lincoln was swiss on slavery and that is simply not so. True, he wasn't as PC as we suppose we are today, but for his time he was very much concerned about equal rights. In the Lincon-Douglas debates, Douglas constantly derided him for his love the negro and his belief they were the equal of the white man. Most of this disinformation comes from a quote that's in every history book these days taken totally out of context. The one where he says if I can save the Union by freeing no slaves etc . . . but nobody quotes the full statement or the fact he was writing to Greeley who was very ambiguous about the war and who's paper was read by recently immigrated Irish and Germans who didn't care about North or South and for sure did not want to be dying to free black men. But after that quote he says — that is my opinion as president of the Union. My personal feelings have always been well known, that I believe in equality of all races, and if slavery is not evil there is no evil. There are many other quotes of his and quotes about him by others that attest that he was known throughoutu the country as being a radical on slavery, just as he was one of the few who got up in 'Congress during his one term there — voted out for what he said on this issue — who was adamently against the Mexican-American War and called it for what it was– a naked grab for more land from a country that couldn't stop us. Something we've been very good at it throughout our history. It's true he was troubled by social equality — first his feelings about it, he could find no reason he was against it other than personal prejudice which didn't sit well with him and caused him to change his feeling only slightly on that matter. The reason it took so long for him to issue an emancipation was not because he had no problems with slavery but because the North kept losing in the field and and he believed he needed to issue something like that from a position of strength. . After Antietam he had his victory and issued the first part of it. The Proclamation itself has many false "facts' about it. Because it freed only those slaves in Confederate states, many still believe it freed no one untll later. However, there were areas of the South under Union control and as many as 20 to 40,000 slaves were freed the day it was announced. It also gave many slaves a legal reason to leave and head for the closest detachment of the Union army they could find. It also convinced Britain and other countries who the South was trying to woo to support them so they could sell their cotton again, to decide against that. It made a shift in the war as it was seen by both Americans and Europeans and no European country was going to enter a war to help preserve slavery. Lincoln also signed it even though it was very unpopular among northern Democrats and even some Republicans. He lost 28 seats in Congress in the midterm elections and many thought because of it he might lose the '64 election and indeed he would have except for the Union army who voted for Lincoln at a 9 to 1 ratio despite the fact the Democrat running against Lincoln was their first general (McClellan,) Or maybe because of that fact.

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