Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where are the Neo-Confederates When You Need Them?

This evening I want to read Jefferson Davis' July 1852 address to the Phi Sigma and Hermean Societies of the University of Mississippi. But you know what? I can't find it on the internet. It's moments like these that I conclude the neo-confederates really are insignificant. If you can't scan in all the works of your leader and stick them up on the net somewhere, the question just has to be asked: what are you doing? And the answer has to be not much.

Mountaintop experience with Rheingold

On Monday afternoon we visited Howard Rheingold at his Marin County home, a cottage nestled into a lush California garden. On good days, which I suppose most are (Sunday was), his "office" is a wooden chair under a plum tree. His sunflowers are 10-12 feet tall. That would have been special enough, but there's more.

He drove us up to Mt. Tamalpais State Park where we hiked among redwoods, sometimes straight up it seemed, to a gorgeous peak with spectacular view of the Bay.

A few more pics are posted on Paul's flickr page. (Clearly I need a flickr account myself!)

From there we headed to Half Moon Bay, where Paul is among the Brainstorm Techies here at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton. He's twittering up a storm. At this moment he's going crazy over Neil Young.

We'll be heading home tomorrow. Only regret on this great trip is not having packed enough sweaters. But if you're one of GreeneSpace's Chapel Hill readers, I realize you might find it hard to sympathize.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Colorful San Francisco

David Silver, his wife Sarah Washburn, and their friends James Jacobs and ShinJohng Yeo spent the day yesterday showing us their San Francisco: the Mission, Castro, Richmond, etc.

Here's a portion of the fabulous murals on the Women's Building.

One of many murals lining both sides of Clarion Alley.

Schubert's Bakery, on Clement St. Viennese opera cakes and other European delights served up by friendly Asians. We shared a slice of Swedish Princess cake. For more photos of this and our later Vietnamese dinner at La Vie, see David's flickr.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bay Area bits & bytes

View from Grizzly Peak, Berkeley, near the home of our hosts, Lee Douglas and Betsy Strode.

Alma Kunanbaeva of the Silk Road House Cultural & Educational Center, Berkeley. Alma and her husband, Izaly Zemtsovsky, are friends of our friends David and Mary Alice Lowenthal, but we found out that we have another friend in common: Kazakhstan scholar Paula Michaels.

A stopped dog tells no time: amusement on the way to breakfast on Sutter St., San Francisco.

Plastic dinosaur (made in China), part of "Half-Life of a Dream," exhibit of contemporary Chinese art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Keith Haring sculpture, near SF MOMA. Earlier, we saw his tryptich at the AIDS Chapel in Grace Cathedral.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Internet Archive visit

Safe inside the Presidio, around the corner from the barracks of the legendary U.S. 30th Infantry Regiment (now being transformed into the Walt Disney Family Museum), is the headquarters of the Internet Archive, where we were greeted warmly by Brewster Kahle. We arrived just in time yesterday for the Friday lunch, a weekly event where everybody gathers around delicious food and talks about what they've been doing for the past week. A half-dozen of the folks were interns from Creative Commons. Paul was in his element; me, happy to be there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

San Bruno to Berkeley

YouTube's headquarters is in San Bruno in a beautiful green building designed originally for Gap, Inc. by William McDonough. We got there just in time for lunch with Obie Greenberg, a YouTuber whom Paul had met recently on the UNC campus. A healthy buffet lunch is free for employees (and their guests). There's obvious payback to YouTube from this model, keeping workers working while munching their Mediterranean salads and their watermelon sorbet. (I understand this is the Google model as well.) But it looks like it does the trick! Seems like a fun place to work.

Up in Berkeley, it was a great day to walk around the University of California Botanical Garden. Just our luck to be there the day of a rare blooming of the Corpse Flower (Titan Arum; amorphophallus titanum). Said to have a terrible smell at times, we couldn't smell it (at least I couldn't), but we could admire it's awesome beauty. (The Italian arum in our yard is a puny relative.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Out west

On vacation. What a lark, what a plunge! Arrived in San Francisco yesterday, spent some time in OCLC's Research Libraries Group office in San Mateo, where I got to hear my lovely and talented spouse talk informally for about an hour and a half about ibiblio and how it started and what makes it work.

Had a delightful dinner with Dan Gillmor and Noriko Takiguchi at Roti, a great Indian restaurant in the upscale town of Burlingame.

Then for the night at the Inn at Oyster Point. Today, on to Berkeley.

The view from Oyster Point toward Gertrude Stein's Oakland.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Book I Love + Antebellum Math Problem

Ok--so I'm sitting here reading John McCardell's fantastic Idea of a Southern Nation. He references an algebra book published in the 1840s by a Davidson prof, D.H. Hill, (also later a Confederate general) that makes fun of yankees.

So I surf over to a fabulous research tool this is. And though a librarian was just yesterday criticizing me for my research method (and for also not spending enough time in the archives), I have to say: it sure is convenient to be able to pull up the text on my desktop. So check out this problem from Professor Hill's book:

A Yankee mixes a certain number of wooden nutmegs, which cost him 1/4 cent apiece, with a quantity of real nutmegs, worth 4 cents apiece, and sells the whole assortment for $44; and gains $3.75 by the fraud. How many wooden nutmegs were there?
Fun in math class, eh? (Am I right in thinking that 4x-1/4x=375?)

In honor of Sally's terrific work on State v. Mann, how about this problem involving the hiring of a slave:
A planter hired a negro-man at the rate of $100 per annum, and his clothing. At the end of 8 months the master of the slave took him home, and received $75 in cash, and no clothing. What was the clothing valued at?

Also, on the issue of emancipation and the generosity of North and South, this:

A gentleman in Richmond expressed a willingness to liberate his slave, valued at $1000, upon the receipt of that sum from charitable persons. He received contributions from 24 persons; and of these there were 14/19ths fewer from the North than from the South, and the average donation of the former was 4/5ths smaller than that of the latter. What was the entire amount given by the latter?

Mighty interesting stuff to see what's on the minds of antebellum textbook authors, eh?

(By the way, just so this is clear--the book I love is McCardell's Idea of a Southern Nation.)

Barbeque Church

I've lived in North Carolina long enough to know that barbeque is religion, but I didn't know till lately that there's actually a Barbeque Church.

Related: Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbeque, by John Shelton and Dale Reed, comes out from UNC Press this fall.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Two things I love

Well, it's a Friday afternoon in July and so it's time for a little break from University, Court, and Slave. Time to talk about two things I love.

First, University Microform's Digital Dissertations. I'm able to sit here in my office in Chapel Hill and read Colin Bradley Burke's fantastic quantitative study of colleges in the antebellum period. Second, quantitative studies of history. Reading Burke's study I'm reminded that it wasn't so long ago that scholars wrote their own programs to do data analysis. (He talks about a FORTRAN program he wrote to compute coefficients.) Heck, even I did my own programming for my first quantitative study back in the mid-1980s. (That's because I didn't have an account on my school's IBM 370, so I used a desktop.) Ah, the good old days....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wingfield, Chowan County

While Al has been keeping GreeneSpace alive, for which I'm very grateful, I've been back at work on my essay on Thomas Ruffin and State v. Mann as a follow-up to last fall's symposium. Lately that project has taken me back to the archives. As anyone who has done this sort of thing knows, it's easy to get lost in the archives, to go down trails you never intended just because they are interesting.

One of the jurors who heard John Mann's case in Chowan County in the fall of 1829 was Thomas I. Brownrigg. He was from a wealthy Irish Protestant family that established the first commercial fishing operation in provincial North Carolina, on the Chowan River just above Edenton. By his day, the estate that his grandfather Richard Brownrigg had established consisted of some 1,400 acres. Thomas' half-sister Priscilla Brownrigg was married to the solicitor (the prosecutor) bringing the case against Mann, John L. Bailey. (So much for conflict of interest.)

In double-checking some of these facts, I found this paragraph written in 1873 by Thomas Brownrigg Bailey to his mother Priscilla Brownrigg Bailey:

I rode over to Wingfield . . . The dear old place, my ancestors' home, around which cluster all the fond and proud associations of my family, is as much altered from the paradise it once was as a skeleton is different from the full and rounded form of youth and health and beauty. I rode down to the rear of the garden and took a long and wistful view of the most beautiful river I have ever seen; its glittering waters looked just as they did forty years ago. And the cypress trees with their broad bases stood out in the water, isolated, only awaiting their time to fall prostrate like others on the strand . . . the waves beating their solemn cadence on the lonely shore and the sighing of the wind through the cedars made symphony with my troubled heart. I felt humbled as in the presence of the dead; I tried to conjure up the long ago, when gay and festive and merrie throng gathered on the lawn, or made the house echo with song and dance and music's voluptuous swell. I tried to imagine where Father poured into your willing ear the words of love and plighted faith, but it would not do. In spite of me I was depressed beyond measure, and there the scarred and ruined house stared me in the face like an ugly demon. I bade silent farewell to the place and rode away.

Accompanying this paragraph was a note saying the house had been occupied in 1863 by the Buffaloes, "a band of traitorous Southerners."

What happened? It appears that during the Civil War there were two Union infantry regiments organized in eastern North Carolina out of white North Carolinians. According to Professor Donald E. Collins, they had their reasons:

Why did 1,300 men from the counties of Eastern North Carolina go against their native state and join the Union army? The answer is complex and is not simply loyalty to the United States and/or opposition to slavery. The nucleus of the First and Second North Carolina regiments, those who entered in the first enthusiastic burst of recruiting, were anti-slavery men who opposed secession. That, however, is even too simple an explanation. As pointed out by historian Wayne K. Durrill in his book A War of Another Kind, in describing the war in Washington County [See: Tidbits], it was a form of class warfare of haves versus have-nots -- the poor whites and small yeoman farmers who opposed and acted against their wealthy slave holding planter neighbors. Such men rushed to join a Union army that would help them punish the secessionist planter class.


The earliest North Carolina Union soldiers were "carried away with the idea that when they became soldiers they would be licensed to shoot down indiscriminately every disloyal citizen to the government they could find, and appropriate all of the property belonging to such persons to their own comfort, or to the benefit of the Government. " These Unionists were less anti-slavery than pro-white labor. They wished to end slavery as the first step toward deporting Blacks from the country -- to the benefit of the white working man.

These soldiers were called Home Guards. Their role was not to involve leaving the state. Rather, they were to cooperate with northern soldiers, perhaps serving as scouts or doing reconnaissance. "Perhaps the most hazardous duty involved recruiting forays into the no-man's land of the Albemarle Sound and Roanoke/Chowan rivers region where they were regularly harassed by small bands of Confederate guerilas."

But the company that took over Wingfield was no credit to the Union. According to William Mallison in The Civil War on the Outer Banks, after being turned into a post of the Union army, Wingfield went from bad to worse.

It became a center of “fugitive negroes, lawless white men, traitors and deserters from the Confederate army. Their leader, Captain Jack Fairless, a deserter, and his men “pillaged, plundered, burned, and decoyed off slaves in their forays into Chowan . . . Bertie, Perquimans, Hertford, and Gates Counties.”

Capt. Fairless was fatally shot by one of his own drunken men. A fierce battle then took place between the remaining Union men and some Confederates, the Union side "armed with an antique cannon stolen from Edenton." The Confederates eventually prevailed, but Wingfield was destroyed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Books I Love that I Haven't Read in a While

Recently, as I was re-reading Robert Bonner's fantastic essay on Michael O'Brien's Conjectures of Order, I was reminded that his first book was a history of the southern identity between the two world wars, The Idea of the American South, 1920-41--and about UNC's contribution through the university's sociologists. In previous readings of The Idea of the South I've focused on the conservative thought (much of is about the agrarians), but Bonner's gentle reminder sent me over to my book shelf to pull down The Idea of the American South, to learn about my new home.

One thing about O'Brien's work--I always have the sense that he's smarter than everyone he's writing about (and he's sure smarter than I am). It's strange to read a book where the author sees connections that I don't think the subjects under study saw--or to deal with ideas that the subjects under study didn't understand as well as the author. But then maybe that's maybe one of the central goals of intellectual history--to see people's ideas in context and perhaps put them in a stream of thought, which they themselves perhaps only dimly perceived.

One of these days I want to talk about legal thought in his Conjectures of Order.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Urbanism: A Participant Observation Study

I returned from Philadelphia with a copy of the new urbanist bible, Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities in tow. I'm going to be talking a little bit about my experience living in a new urbanist community for a while--but perhaps I should begin with my experience with Jane Jacobs first. I read it in an urban history class that I took way back in the spring of 1985 (in some ways its hard for me to say way back, because my college years still seem so fresh--but, ah, a lot of water's gone under the bridge since then). And now I realize that my choice of a place for law school (New York) may have been heavily influenced by that book and its obvious love for New York.

Anyway, I filed it away in the memory banks, thought about it now and then. I graduated from law school and headed south, to Richmond, where I clerked for a judge on the fourth circuit (the beloved John Butzner, a most humane and kind man). And I chose an unusual apartment--in a renovated tobacco warehouse--again, perhaps, influenced by Jacobs. Judge Butzner joked a little bit about me as his scrappy, resourceful New York clerk and, in fact, his love for things and people of New York may have been why he hired me. Over the course of the year I learned that his brother-in-law was an architect in New York and that his sister was the author of a legal history book--Constitutional Chafe (about discarded constitutional provisions). That book was published by Jane Butnzer.

It wasn't until near the end of my clerkship that I was interviewing with a New York firm and one of the partners said, "oh, I know Judge Butzner's sister--you may know her too." All of which must have caused me to have a puzzled look on my face. And then he said, "Jane Jacobs." To which I responded something like, "oh, Death and Life of Great American Cities?! She's Judge Butzner's sister?" What a supremely modest man who didn't bother to mention who his sister was. ...

I think there's a great article to be written about Butzner's jurisprudence. If you're interested in what Jacobs' method looks like in the legal system, Butzer is the person to study--it's a jurisprudence that looks to the common law method. He took a very direct approach to precedent and followed it rigorously, though he also saw the considerations of humanity at stake in his decisions. And there was, every now and then, a small appearance of the moral indignation that so characterizes Jacobs' work when she identifies the bureaucracy's treading on the rights and humanity of people in a city.

But, to return to the subject of my post. I'm most interested by this new urbanist community I now live in. And so I've been taking notes as I wander around southern village and as I sit in the Weaver Street Market munching my lunches. Got a lot to say about this place, mostly about what works with it. A small preview: this is a really gendered space.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Independence Day in Hillsborough

What could be better for someone who studies history and cemeteries than an Independence Day visit to the grave of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence?! Not much, I imagine. Hence, I set off on Friday morning to visit Hillsborough. Hillsborough, of course, is where Thomas Ruffin lived and where several of the "Regulators" were hanged after their rebellion was put down in 1771.
In the church yard of the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church, Thomas Hooper--a signer of the Declaration--was buried in 1790. Was buried is the operative term--he was exhumed and reburied in Greensboro in 1894 (as part of the creation of a park to commemorate a Revolutionary War battle fought there). I'm not a huge fan of reburials to create a new park--seems like the attempt to "manufacture" gravitas--and it's done at the expense of a dead person, who obviously can't object. But then if the relevant family members are ok with it, that's all that's required by law.
Anyway, the church yard is lovely and I saw the place where Hooper had been buried. (He's a pretty interesting guy, btw--born in Boston and educated at Boston Latin School and Harvard, then trained in law with James Otis and relocated to North Carolina in the 1760s. Hooper was initially closely tied to the colonial government, then slowly came over the Revolutionary cause, and after the war was a Federalist.)
(This is cross-posted from propertyprof.)