Monday, September 5, 2016

the "deep state" of the Slave Power

Analysts of Turkey's political system have pointed to a "deep state," subterranean networks especially among military and civilian officials that worked to suppress threats to the secular order. In recent years, President Erdogan argues that Gulenists, once his ally, are now threatening his rule.

These notions of a state within a state or secret organizations of revolutionaries is a recurring theme even in America, notably in the late 1940s fears of communists in government. Now, without using that term, a young scholar is arguing that southerners in the decades before the Civil War dominated the U.S. government and promoted foreign and military policies to defend slavery.

Matthew Karp notes that southerners frequently held positions as secretaries of state, war, and navy and a large majority of envoys sent overseas. He then details various episodes in which these officials promoted policies clearly intended to protect or promote slavery. Adherence to the Monroe Doctrine not only protected U.S. economic relations with the nations of the western hemisphere but also prevented foreigners from interfering with slavery where it existed and persisted.  There was a special alliance of interests, Karp argues, with Brazil and Spanish-ruled Cuba, neither of which abolished slavery until the mid-1880s.

I don't know how other historians will view Karp's analysis, but I find it exciting and provocative to use a foreign policy lens to examine the Slave Power's efforts to defend their peculiar institution.

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