I just completed my reading of an advance copy of Judge Napolitano’s upcoming book,
Dred Scott’s Revenge, A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America. As an individual who very much loves the study of history and considers natural law the gold standard in personal and political ideals, I found myself appreciative that the judge took a bit of time to explain the concepts of natural and positivism in law. As a libertarian, I found Dred Scott’s Revenge, a heartbreaking affirmation of what I already knew to be true: government involvement in the area of race relations- as in most areas- has been a colossal failure.
Chapter after chapter break down the obvious contradictions in our beloved constitution, Lincoln’s opportunism in politics, the Civil War and Reconstruction and the court cases and legislation that embedded racism into the fabric of the American mind. For experienced readers of history, the beginning chapters read like an interesting first year, American History college textbook. For readers inexperienced with the sometimes ugly truth of American unrevised history, Chapter 6, Abraham Lincoln and Human Freedom is bound to make them a little uncomfortable. Here though, Napolitano takes on the myth of Lincoln by allowing him to be heard in his own words. From a debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, for example, Napolitano quoted Lincoln:
I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races- that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, not to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. [emphasis added in manuscript]
Napolitano skewers government intervention as a leading perpetuator of racism and provides example upon example of legislative and judicial actions which cleaved the minds of American whites and blacks for so long. Again, much of this will not be new material for readers of classically liberal (or for the sake of argument, mid-twentieth century conservative) thought, but a new generation of readers- a generation that knows going to school, church or playing sports with friends of all ethnicities- will gain an clear understanding of the very real heroes, white and black, who made real progress in race relations. Indeed, for this new generation, one that has grown up learning that the government “fixed” discriminatory practices, this book will serve as an eye opener for the judge plainly discusses the politicization of race in the halls of government.
All in all, Andrew Napolitano’s fourth book fails to disappoint and at 281 pages (manuscript format including extensive bibliography), is an easy introduction to the legal history of race and discrimination in our country. Oh, and did I mention that there’s also some baseball in there? Many thanks to Jennifer Womble at Thomas Nelson for trusting this blogger enough to put it in my hands.
Also by Judge Andrew Napolitano: Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Violates Its Own Laws, The Constitution in Exile: How the Federal Government Has Seized Power by Rewriting the Supreme Law of the Land, and A Nation of Sheep.