Season 1, Surely, You Must Be Joking Dr. Fleming?, Episode 1: Slavery

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February 24, 2017

In the first episode of this new series Dr. Fleming takes on the issue of slavery. Is it a “moral issue?” How do we look at slavery both historically and within the context of “slavery” that most Americans think about, which is to say what existed prior to 1860? Is there a value to paternalism, to hierarchy, to obedience? What did St. Paul say? What about modern day wage slavery? Dr. Fleming discusses all this and more to help you possibly have a more productive conversation with friends should you dare to broach this topic sometime.


Original Air Date: February 24, 2017
Show Run Time: 40 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): Stephen Heiner

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Surely, You Must Be Joking Dr. Fleming?℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2017. All Rights are Reserved.

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4 Responses

  1. Dot says:

    Dr. Fleming: Thank you for this very instructive podcast on slavery.

    In the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, (Dover Publication), he wrote that the slave owners governed both parties even though they were in the minority (pg. 82). Therefore, the majority, black and white, were slaves of the minority.

    He did not blame the Southern people for slavery because it was not profitable. Some States wanted to abolish it but once it became profitable, talks of abolition ceased.
    He went on and wrote, “the invention of the cotton-gin probably had much to do with the justification of slavery.” I don’t understand how it “had much to do with the justification of slavery”. I assume that the cotton plantation owners needed the slaves to separate the seeds from the fiber but at the same time it reduced the number of workers needed. In that sense, the South helped the North by making cotton production profitable for the South and by supplying more efficiently the raw materials for the production of textiles in the North.

    I never thought of the North as having slaves but you are absolutely right. I clearly recall when fiberglass curtains were the rage. I worked in a textile mill for summer work after I graduated from high school and before I went on to post high school education. The fibers were irritating to my skin never mind what it would do to my lungs. I recall that those who sewed the curtains had a somewhat raspy voice, just an indication of the negative effects of this fiber.
    It was this place where I resolved to continue my education after high school.

    I look forward to other episodes on this topic.

  2. Robert Peters says:

    If one’s moral compass is oriented toward the metaphysics of the Enlightenment with all of its rationalized abstractions, then one is compelled to view slavery as a moral evil; for what can be more evil than to thwart whims, compulsions and desires of the autonomous individual outfitted with an assortment of inalienable rights by asserting that one owns for a lifetime his labor as a subordinate member of a household along with the obligation to clothe, house, feed and retire said person during that lifetime.

    If one’s moral compass is informed by Christian metaphysics, one understands that one’s duty is to take up one’s cross daily and follow Christ within the created order and within the fallenness which plagues that order. One might be a king or a pauper; a master or a slave; a general or a soldier; a craftsman or a novice; a husband or a wife; a parent or a child. There is a hierarchy (holy order). St. Paul understands this in his letter to Philemon.

    It is good that our Lord was not informed by Enlightenment metaphysics. Had He been, He would not have said of the Centurion, “no greater faith than this have I found in all of Israel!” He would have, instead, said, “You hypocrite, free that slave you claim, for I heal only free men; and release all of the soldiers under your command; for under your command they die at your will. After all, they are autonomous individuals!”

  3. Dot says:

    I saw a play last night. I saw it twice in fact, the first time with one daughter and last night with my youngest daughter. It was a gripping and suspenseful ghost story.

    The play is an adaptation of a novel written in the mid 1980s by Stephen Mallatratt and Susan Hill called Woman in Black. I’m glad I went the second time because this play is more than a gripping and suspenseful ghost story. It has a moral lesson that I caught at the end of the play. I think it relates not only to the cultural consequence of choices we can make in life that affect more than one person but to the beliefs we can abandon as we get on in the world. It was played at a Catholic College and Monastery.

  4. Alexander Coleman says:

    I just saw that same play a few short weeks ago, Dot. Thoroughly relished the experience.

    Which I may also say of listening to this podcast. I knew I would be in for a treat here as Dr. Fleming’s arguments are devastatingly relayed here. The road paved by way of the subatomic concept of the unfettered, autonomous individualist leading to the gulag and The Wall Street Journal provoked some terrifying images.

    Years ago it was with a skeptical viewpoint I began reading the writings of George Fitzhugh, in part because Dr. Fleming had occasionally brought him up as a highly interesting and valuable source on this topic. Today I find myself in full agreement with Fitzhugh’s general findings and perspective.

    Leftists have as of late, through Hollywood movies like The Free State of Jones and the documentary 13th, attempted to excoriate the American project because the abolition of slavery, in name, through the Confederacy’s defeat in the War Between the States, proved fleeting and untenable as a matter of actual fact. That they are in constant rebellion against human nature never seems to enter the proverbial picture.