Washington and Lee; John Dowd’s Email Full of Racism, False Analogies and Syllogistic Fallacies

“Trump Lawyer Forwards Email Echoing Secessionist Rhetoric” NYT August 16, 2017 https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/us/politics/trump-lawyer-email-race-charlottesville.html



John Dowd Esq, member of New York and Florida State Bars, evidently a big fan of Washington and Jefferson.  Or at least of their alleged slaveholding.  

We will eventually show that the memo suffers from the most elementary syllogistic fallacy imaginable, but first, the facts;

The Facts

I.  Did Washington & Lee Both Own Slaves?

Well, yes, kind of.  Washington was a landed rich gentry fellow, but he was often away at war, 8 years during the French & Indian War, 8 years during the Revolutionary War and then away 8 more years in Philadelphia during the Presidency.  

Betts, William W. (2013). The Nine Lives of George Washington. 



George Washington, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.

It’s true Washington maintained a large estate at Mount Vernon.  It’s also true he kept and maintained slaves there, and also kept 4-6 slaves at the Presidential Residence in Philadelphia, a fact now attracting substantial scholarly attention since slavery was illegal in Pennsylvania. 

cf Never Caught; The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (Simon & Schuster, NY 2017). http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Never-Caught/Erica-Armstrong-Dunbar/9781501126390#

On the other hand, Washington was the first Founding Father to manumit, or free, his slaves, upon his death, so specifying it in his will, indicating he must have had moral ambivalence about “the peculiar institution”.  

cf. Brookhiser, Richard (1996). Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. New York: Free Press



Mt Vernon above two photos; and another portrait of President Washington. 

Lee

Lee didnt own slaves, or at most owned 1-2 slaves.  Lee was poor growing up, and he never had any property or land like Washington.  Lee married a Custis, a descendant of Washington, but other than military pay, his income was meager and she suffered.  Also, Lee was a womanizer who carried on an affair for years in plain view of everyone, shaming his proud wife, Washington’s cousin.  This was what Lee thought of Washington–he shamed his Cousin.  

cf Korda, Michael (2013). Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee. HarperCollins Publishers.

However, and this is a big point of difference between Washington and Lee, in 1857 Lee came into inheritance of his father in laws estate, which was large with many slaves.  Some escaped in 1859 and were caught, and many contemporary and historical sources state that Lee, an adulterer, whipped and beat the runaway slaves in a brutal and abusive manner.  Cf Korda, id. 

Lee beat the slaves so badly that abolitionists in the North found the incident and Lee personally to be grist for their propaganda war about the evils of slavery and the evils of the fugitive slave law.  in short, Lee was a poster boy for horrendous slave ownership.  Cf. Korda, id. 


Robert E Lee, Adulterer, Confederate Traitor, Slave Beater and Abuser, Dreadful Bastard to his Wife and Family, Brilliant General in the Mexican American & Civil Wars–A Decidedly Mixed Legacy.  

II. Did Both Rebel?

No.  And in this case, results matter. Washington was on the winning side while Lee was on the losing side.  Thus Washington is the Father of our country, and Mount Rushmore, while Lee was a traitor whose inherited estate of 1857 at Arlington, VA was confiscated and used as the burial ground of the Union Soldiers.  It is now Arlington Memorial Cemetary.  cf Korda, id.


Arlington National Cemetary; Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; Arlington House & Plantation, former home of Robert E Lee.  

Lee was lucky he wasnt hanged.  He caught a break in that he and Grant had both served in the Mexican American War together, and Andrew Johnson issued a general pardon to the Confederate Principals.  By himself, Lee killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans.  Lee prolonged the Civil War well beyond the point where winning was not achievable by the South.  In short, just as he cheated on his wife and beat his slaves, Lee in the Civil War became a brutal murderer who waded in pools of Northern blood.

Lee was NOTHING like George Washington.  


Lee and US Grant at Appomattox.  Lee is signing his unconditional surrender to the North.  Lee and the South were utterly defeated by the far, far superior US Grant.  Only the Victors get to write history. 

III. Are Both Mens Battle Tactics Still Taught at West Point?

Probably, but this is a fallacious argument, false syllogism using a false implied enthymeme or false middle. 

It would be comparable to saying because I went to Harvard, and Bill Gates went to Harvard, that therefore there is no difference between us.

1) Lee is taught at West Point.

2) Washington is taught at West Point.

3) Therefore, Lee is the same as Washington in every respect.

Obviously this is a false and fallacious syllogism. 

or,

1) The Sophist is a Harvard Man.

2) Bill Gates is a Harvard Man.

3) Ergo, The Sophist is the same as Bill Gates is every respect.

By now, you see the problem.  Bad logic.  The fact that Lee and Washington are both taught at West Point does not make them equivalent.

IV.  Faulty Syllogism and False Analogies Destroy the Entire Memo

A.  Faulty Syllogisms

By now you must recognize that this attempt to prove Lee=Washington is a failed syllogism; it fails due to a fallacy of the undistributed middle.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_undistributed_middle

A proper syllogism is as follows;

1) all A is B;

2) all B is C;

3) therefore, all A is C.

The Lee/Washington syllogisms in the memo above go like this:

Both owned slaves.

1) Lee owned slaves.

2) Washington owned slaves.

3) therefore, Lee is Washington.

This is like;

1) All A is B.

2) All C is B.

3) Therefore, all A is C.

This is the fallacy of the undistributed middle. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_undistributed_middle

on fallacies in syllogisms generally, see 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogistic_fallacy

Any elementary intro to aristotelian logic will show this.

If you run thru the remaining statememts, they also fail to prove the point.  

cf David Hackett Fischer Historians’ Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (Harper and Row, NY, 1970).  

B. Fallacies of Ambiguity; Composition and Division 

In addition to all the foregoing, the memo fails to prove its points because it commits fallacies of Ambiguity, notably thr fallacies of composition and division, which are class identity fallacies;

Composition

The fallacy of composition involves an inference from the attribution of some feature to every individual member of a class (or part of a greater whole) to the possession of the same feature by the entire class (or whole).
Every course I took in college was well-organized.
Therefore, my college education was well-organized.

Even if the premise is true of each and every component of my curriculum, the whole could have been a chaotic mess, so this reasoning is defective.

Notice that this is distinct from the fallacy of converse accident, which improperly generalizes from an unusual specific case (as in “My philosophy course was well-organized; therefore, college courses are well-organized.”). For the fallacy of composition, the crucial fact is that even when something can be truly said of each and every individual part, it does not follow that the same can be truly said of the whole class.

Division
Similarly, the fallacy of division involves an inference from the attribution of some feature to an entire class (or whole) to the possession of the same feature by each of its individual members (or parts).
Ocelots are now dying out.
Sparky is an ocelot.

Therefore, Sparky is now dying out.

Although the premise is true of the species as a whole, this unfortunate fact does not reflect poorly upon the health of any of its individual members.

Again, be sure to distinguish this from the fallacy of accident, which mistakenly applies a general rule to an atypical specific case (as in “Ocelots have many health problems, and Sparky is an ocelot; therefore, Sparky is in poor health”). The essential point in the fallacy of division is that even when something can be truly said of a whole class, it does not follow that the same can be truly said of each of its individual parts.

“Fallacies of Ambiguity” by Garth Kemmerling (2011, 1997) The Philosophy Pages http://www.philosophypages.com/lg/e06c.htm

C.  The Appeal to Emotion

“The appeal to emotion, ad populum, is the device of every propagandist and every demagogue.  It is fallacious because it replaces the laborious task of presenting evidence and rational argument with expressive language and other devices calculated to excite enthusiasm, excitement, anger or hate.  The speeches of Adolph Hitler, which brought his German listeners to a state of patriotic frenzy, may be taken as a classic example.”

Irving Copi et al. “Introduction to

Logic” (Macmillan, 8th ed. NY, 1st ed. 1953). 

While this memo is not precisely a Nazi or Racist document, it is pushing the proposition that Robert E Lee, a Confederate General and leader of the Southern Secession, should be held in the same high esteem as George Washington, the Father of our Country.

This Memo suffers then in part from the argument ad populem – an appeal to emotion–rather than an appeal to facts or underlying logic.

As such, it must be rejected. 

D.  Conclusion

So, the memo fails on basic logical grounds to establish its most fundamental point.  The arguments fall on the most basic fallacies known in Aristotelian logic and introductory logic.  

V. The Rest of It.

A.  Both Saved America

No. Washington created America; Lee tried to destroy America; and the Mexican-American War did a good deal to bring about the Civil War.  

B. Both were great men, great americans and great commanders.

1) Washington was a terrific man.  Lee other than on the battlefield appears to have been pretty shabby. Lee was brilliant, a great student, but narcissistic, cruel, sadistic, unfeeling and kind of a jerk to his wife.  And, he even cheated on his country–he didnt just flirt with the Confederacy, he went all the way.  Man-slut.  

2) great Americans

Only Washington was a great American.  Lee was a great Confederate General but he lost amd lost badly.  

3) Great Commanders

Washington probably was by far the greater–he defeated the greatest army on earth, the British,  while Lee, the top grad at West Point. lost to US Grant, a guy whose tactics he knew.  Big edge to Washington.  Lee is way overrated as a general.

C  Neither Man is any different than…

and gives a laundry list of generals from history.   Setting aside that none of the generals in the list are remotely similar, the assertion that Lee & Washington are identical with each element of the set of generals is logically false.  It fails on logical fallacy grounds, and it fails the eyeball test.  

Napoleon was a despot, Ramses enslaved millions to build pyramids, etc.  These leaders/generals had obvious and noteworthy differences from both Lee and Washington.

D You cannot be Against Lee and for Washington, there is literally no difference beween the two men.

First, false criterion & false assumption; no one is against Lee or for Washington.  

Rather, the burden of proof lies upon the memo writer to prove Lee is thr same status or class as Washington,  and here it/he fails.  For while Lee and Washington share some class traits, they share many differences.  So they aren’t the same, just like my going to prep school, Harvard, liking poker math and cars makes me the same as Bill Gates. 

The use of the word “literally” is odd–because to prove the case, it must be made logically, mathematically, with facts.

But of course, this memo wasnt written for thinkers and logicians.

It was written for Nazis, white supremicists, bigots and other irrational haters for whom only appeals to emotion matter.

And that is the greatest logical fallacy of all,  to let chaos rule.

For when God came, chaos and darkness rules, and he made light (genesis); and when Zeus married, to defeat Chaos after overthrowing Chaos, he married first Metis, goddess of wisdom, and then Thetis, goddess of law and order.

This, light, wisdom, reason, logic, law and order, are fundamental to the Western tradition.  Hatred, racism, chaos, is antithetical to same.


Thetis gives armor to Achilles; various portraits of Lincoln “a house divided against itself cannot stand” 1858. 

Conclusion

There is one place that equates Washington and Lee–Washington and Lee University.  

Its a long story, but Washington gave a large donation, and got the name, and Lee was President of the School after the Civil War,  and his name was added.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_and_Lee_University

Its a very old and fine school,  and nothing here is intended to denigrate it.  

But these are the times that try mens’ souls. 

Amended Comments by John Bredehoft Esq. (reprinted from fb);

“Lee and Washington were fundamentally different. At the macro level, Washington was a patriot and Lee was a traitor. Washington at least manumitted his slaves at his death; Lee made no such provision in his will. Lee personally whipped at least two slaves, while I am unaware of a record showing Washington did the same. Lee put the parochial interests of his state over the national interest; Washington supported greater national power and economic development. Washington at least recognized the inherent evil of slavery and its contradiction with the promise of the Declaration of Independence, although his actions fell far short. Lee thought slavery natural and a positive good — Lee took up arms against the national government he swore to defend expressly in order to defend the right to extend slavery into the territories. Washington often saved the country during the revolution, by keeping the army together and in the field despite defeat. Washington also saved the country from the threat of monarchy, IMHO, by declining to run for a third term. Lee never saved the United States — he did his best to sunder it. Lee’s most praiseworthy act was to decline to encourage a guerrilla war after Appomattox (which was impractical anyway). Also IMHO, Washington did a better job with the military material he had at hand — which usually was a pathetic and wasting asset — than Lee did with the military material he had at hand. (And their tactics could not have been more different: Washington fought a Fabian, defensive war to preserve his force in being, while Lee was unduly wedded to the tactical offensive on too many occasions, literally grinding away his army.) Washington was able to maintain resistance to the British even with his capital, Philadelphia, in enemy hands for months; Lee’s resistance collapsed within days of the fall of Richmond. And to compare (actually) either of them to Alexander the Great (who routinely executed close followers on a whim), or Shaka or Napoleon or Ramses II (all of whom likely would have been prosecuted as war criminals in the 20th Century) is simply offensive.”

John Bredehoft Esq is the author with Michael King Esq. of several books, including 

Democracy’s Missing Arsenal: Vol I: 1862-1900 (2013) https://www.amazon.com/Democracys-Missing-Arsenal-Michael-King/dp/1484100948

Democracy’s Missing Arsenal: Bloodshed Universal-Slavery Triumphant: Volume 2: 1901-1919 (2016) https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1502996537/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503064730&sr=1-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=John+M.+Bredehoft&dpPl=1&dpID=51vt0Wtf0dL&ref=plSrch

Bredehoft is a nationally recognized attorney practicing in Virginia.  King is a nationally recognized attorney practicing in Washington State.  

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