18 – Steamboats and slavery

By now, you are probably wondering the same thing I was wondering: What is going on here, and where is all this going? I was fascinated by Joseph’s story, and it was interesting to get a different slant on things than I had ever heard, and his opinions were not necessarily opinions that I had ever formulated consciously, which gave me a little more confidence that perhaps I was not making this all up. But what was going on? Why had it showed up just now?

Remember, my conscious intent was not to produce material from talking with Joseph, but to write a book about the use of visualization in healing. For several weeks I regarded my work with Joseph as a form of goofing off. It was pleasurable, interesting, but I thought perhaps mere self-indulgence. It took awhile for me to begin to suspect that more was going on here than I was consciously aware of. Not that that’s any change.

[Monday, December 26, 2005] [7:30 p.m.] All right, Joseph, let’s do it again.

You want to know what’s the hurry, what’s up my sleeve, as you say. We’d have said, where

where are you coming from??!!

Would you prefer “what’s your agenda”? We smile.

Very funny. Not Joseph, then. [What I meant by this is that I could “feel” a difference in the energy coming through. I was accustomed to dealing with what I call the guys upstairs, who seemed to be several individuals, never very clearly defined, that I took to be guidance of some sort. Before Joseph began coming in, I mostly dealt either with David, the journalist and psychic investigator, or “the guys” in general.]

Just slow down. You are too far “up” in your energy. Calm down, slow down, that’s it, less intent, much less pressing to get the next thing. More like it. Now –

It is a skill and I’m still only at the beginning, aren’t I?

“Ain’t I,” we would have said, speaking of correcting each other’s speech. Well, I wouldn’t say you are at the beginning, but there’s a way to go yet. And if you keep careful track you can teach.

[Interruption. Long phone call.]

[9:30] Joseph, more?

Let us talk about steamboats. You know the commerce of the river ran one way until steamboats. They’d build big rafts, float them down to the city [New Orleans, of course], break up the rafts after they sold whatever they were hauling, and then make their way upriver in small boats as passengers.

Steam changed all that. Now they were going up river and down, carrying passengers and freight just as regular as trains, and before they had many trains, especially out there.

Now how many steamboat companies do you suppose they had that were put together by southern gentlemen, and how many by northern corporations? And railroads, the same way. And factories, and every thing that had to organize people and money and materials and all the thousand details that have to be put together. The slavers couldn’t do it because they didn’t have the brains, didn’t have the training, didn’t have the liquid capital and – mainly – they couldn’t admit to themselves that it was a thing worthy of “gentlemen” doing. The long and the short of it is, the slavers ran the south. They couldn’t turn themselves into capitalists or corporations and they couldn’t let others in to do it for them. If they had, they’d have put themselves out of business.

I know it ain’t entirely true; you can’t say a thing that’s going to be entirely true, but it’s true in the main. For every Atlanta, how many Charlestons did you have? For every railroad line, how many thousand square miles of dirt roads and no rivers? For every Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, how many places did you have that could even make cartridges let alone rifles?

It was all because of slavery, and just as General Grant said in his book it was the best thing we ever did for them, making them get rid of it.

We missed a big chance at the end of the war though. I wonder if Mr. Lincoln would have missed it. What we had ought to do was confiscate the property of the slave owners and divide it among the slaves. That would have solved a lot of problems, and kept ‘em solved. It would have caused other problems, but everything causes problems; we could have dealt with them somehow.

We didn’t spend any time thinking about what to do with the slaves, like I said. So we freed ‘em, and – there they were. Put into terms you will understand better, it’s like they were all unemployed and they didn’t have any savings or income or education, and they were supposed to make their way.

We could have given them all the land they’d been working. Given them help learning the business end of farming it. Maybe set the craftsmen among them to working building the things they was all going to need. But nobody gave it much thought, and look at all the evils that followed – the carpetbaggers, the Ku Klux Klan, the rebs re-elected to their old seats in Congress, and then reconstruction again with all the chances that gave people to make fortunes (like I said, the carpetbaggers). We needed long-headed Abraham Lincoln to help us find a way, and they’d put him in the grave with so many other of our soldiers.

Now, you’re happy enough to be receiving all this but I can hear you clear enough asking what it’s all about. You’re not fixing to write a history of Joseph Smallwood, so what is going on?

What is going on is an education. But maybe that’s all we can do for the moment. It is 10 p.m. and you are tired.

Does that mean I’ll lose the ability to focus and so won’t get it?

It means your life is more than scribbling.

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