October 25, 2019

When Jefferson Davis called the people of the northern states "the descendants of the human scum that Cromwell scraped from the bogs and marshes of England."

Yesterday, I was trying to understand the meaning and significance of Trump's use of the phrase "human scum" to describe the "Never Trumper Republicans." I used the NYT archive as my source.

In the comments, Bill Peschel shared the results of his search, using a Library of Congress website that lets you search all of American newspapers, going back to 1789. There, you can see that the oldest use of "human scum" is from the Western Reserve Chronicle, January 21, 1863 — "A Brace of Traitors — The Roundheads and The Cavaliers" — characterizing what Jefferson Davis said as he bucked up southerners to fight during the Civil War:



ADDED: Using that search tool, I am finding earlier newspapers with the more elegant phrase, "the scum of humanity."

AND: I made this chart:

69 comments:

Skylark said...

You know what politicians who work hard to offend no one become? Go-along, get-along feeders at the trough. Oh my! Should I not have compared politicians to pigs?

David Begley said...

Expecting a Trump spike in that chart.

Mark said...

Jefferson Davis probably felt he got lynched for his politics too.

Darrell said...

1 Corinthians 4:13 13 When we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world-right up to this moment.

Laslo Spatula said...

The President has been called Hitler. Repeatedly.

But "human scum" is somehow problematic.

Perhaps because we assume those who cast about 'Hitler' don't really mean it, that they are engaging in hyperbole.

Which means they are diminishing Hitler's evils.

Or they really DO mean it.

In which case they are diminishing Hitler's evils.

But 'human scum'... that's upsetting.

There is a pea under these mattresses somewhere.

I am Laslo.

peacelovewoodstock said...

Fascinating analyses. I just checked Google Trends, and recent usage is minimal compared to the years 2004 - 2005. What the heck was going on back then?


Fernandistein said...

Someone was wrong on the internet!

The loc.gov search is great, but you're actually finding occurrences of "human" and "scum", "within 5 words of each other" and most of ("your") results don't contain the string "human scum" - you need to use "advanced search" and "phrase", then there are 2 results, not 24.

Google ngram is far worse, it says the string occurred at a certain date but when you want to see the actual string it says it can't find it, making ngram quite useless for anything except single words; like blogger.com, it's kinda crappy software.

Skylark said...

We were human scum escaping from the Palatine wars in the 1620s. At least my family’s contribution to the G.A.R. was.

Ann Althouse said...

"Fascinating analyses. I just checked Google Trends, and recent usage is minimal compared to the years 2004 - 2005. What the heck was going on back then?"

Read my long post from yesterday (linked in this post): North Korea called John Bolton "human scum" in 2003.

Ann Althouse said...

"The loc.gov search is great, but you're actually finding occurrences of "human" and "scum", "within 5 words of each other" and most of ("your") results don't contain the string "human scum" - you need to use "advanced search" and "phrase", then there are 2 results, not 24."

I was just getting you to that page, and within it you have to find "human scum," which is what Bill Peschel did. No one asserted that there were 24 results. No one was confused.

rhhardin said...

It's sort of like global warming. The scientists show they're scientists by doing science stuff, measuring, graphing, computing, but don't have any theory to check the data against. Like astrology, measuring orbits, computing them, checking them out. You know it's science.

A graph does not show disgust. There's no theory of disgust.

It's the grab them by the pussy effect. Right or wrong, you always have your feeling.

Skylark said...

I think that this is far worse than accusing Kavanaugh, (whose name still doesn’t spellcheck, BTW, talk about bitter!) a casual and serial gang rapist, completely without evidence other than the “word of a woman.” Whose former boyfriend said she had a fetish for gang rape, which is why she was so familiar with the terminology.

Ann Althouse said...

The bigger problem with calling the Jefferson Davis quote the first appearance of "human scum" is that the more elegant form, "scum of humanity," may have been preferred.

traditionalguy said...

The dignity of man comes from men seeing themselves in God's eyes. That was the secret of Calvinism that instilled courage in the Scots and many English men who had learned to read it in the translated scriptures of Paul. And that was based on equal sinners enjoying equal redemption.

Slavery was a carefully crafted system of oppression of some men by superior men.To exist slavery required a common agreement that Tidewater planters were born good men and African workers were born bad men that had to be ruled. To enforce it a slavery code was developed in the prison islands that grew the great wealth crop of sugar in the Caribbean and in Brazil under the English , French and Spanish and Portuguese Monarchy rule that followed the Roman Catholic Church or the half Catholic Anglican Church settlement. That Code made educating Africans to read and write was a Crime committed by human scum.

New England men were Calvinists that saw themselves as Sinners chosen for redemption and freedom.And among them reading and writing was mandatory. The King James plagiarised version of William Tyndale's translation of scripture told them so.

But Sherman and Grant's Armies whipped the slavery code Tidewater Episcopalian's Armies. in fact, the War turned on the 1864 fall of Atlanta before November's election because the Scots Irish Sherman out generald the Episcopal Bishop John Bell Hood.

Therefore Scum means the horror of an Army of the supporters of the enslaved defeating the Masters. That scum Oliver Cromwell won too. Ask King Charles I.

rhhardin said...

The human scum of humanity.

rhhardin said...

WABC's Bernie and Sid right now are giving a list of people who are human scum.

rhhardin said...

Maxine waters said Trump and his administration are all scumbags, according to WABC.

Fernandistein said...

I was just getting you to that page, and within it you have to find "human scum,"

If you run the search engine properly (=advanced) *you* don't have to find the phrase, the search engine finds it.

which is what Bill Peschel did.

He didn't use the search engine properly? A lot of people have problems with these things.

No one asserted that there were 24 results. No one was confused.

On its results page the loc.gov search engine asserted that there were 24 results for "human scum", with quotes, but there were actually only two.

Anyone who believed the results was confused.

Me: Google ngram is far worse

It works OK if you include the full date range (1800 to 2000); if you restrict the years, so say, 1800 to 1880 it can't find the phrase anymore.

dbp said...

I did the same chart (a few weeks ago) with Blackface and Brownface: One guess as to which one has historically been orders of magnitude more popular? Bonus: Which one was overwhelmingly used for a certain Canadian PM?

Fernandistein said...

ADDED: Using that search tool, I am finding earlier newspapers with the more elegant phrase, "the scum of humanity."

That's the link which incorrectly says '24 results containing “"human scum"”', when there are actually only two.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Scraped from the bogs and marshes of England - that’s pond scum, no semen in it.

traditionalguy said...

Interestingly, all Muslims are commanded to see all Christians as beneath human scum that must submit to them as slaves or die. And that is not going away by electing Mohammed's Army to rule over us. Hussein Obama proved that.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

This research raises the question of who Trump was channeling when he used human scum:

(A) North Korea
(B) Jefferson Davis
(C) Both

RichardJohnson said...

When Jefferson Davis called the people of the northern states "the descendants of the human scum that Cromwell scraped from the bogs and marshes of England."

Some quibbling with Jeff Davis. First, New England was already well-populated with "human scum" who leaned towards the Roundhead side well before Cromwell and Parliament fought the civil war in the 1640s. That is, Cromwell didn't "scrape" the Puritans in New England from the bogs and marshes of England - they were already gone from England before the civil war commenced.

A further irony about Jeff Davis's view of history is that many losers in the civil war,the Cavaliers, fled to Virginia. That is, if one is going to identity precisely whom Cromwell "scraped" from England to America, it would be the Cavaliers- not the Roundheads. Cavaliers and Roundheads -- The American Legacy of the English Civil War.

There was, however, a small group of Roundheads that fled England after the monarchy was restored in 1660. The hanging judges, a.k.a. regicides, those who signed the warrant for the execution of Charles I, found themselves in a difficult situation after Charles II ascended the throne.List of regicides of Charles I. Charles II sought the execution of the regicides, a.k.a. hanging judges. Very few were executed. Some had died before the Restoration. In some cases, dead regicides were given posthumous execution.

Some if the hanging judges fled to America. Friends in my hometown were descended from one of the hanging judges/regicides who fled to America. They didn't make a big deal of it- the mother just noted that there was a street in a nearby city named for her family- which was named for one of the hanging judges. She didn't tell me that history. I found that out myself.

Francisco D said...

The bigger problem with calling the Jefferson Davis quote the first appearance of "human scum" is that the more elegant form, "scum of humanity," may have been preferred.

Isn't that what Wellington called his troops?

Amadeus 48 said...

The Jefferson Davis quote is hilariously lacking in self-awareness. What was the backbone of the Confederate Army? The descendants of Scots-Irish Presbyterians hailing from Ulster and the borders of England and Scotland. What were they if not "scraped from the bogs and marshes" of Ireland and the Scottish borders?

TRISTRAM said...

Found a lot references to a 'hive of scum and villainy' starting in 1977, oddly not related to Washington, D.C. or the Whitehouse.

Wince said...

"Oh, the scumanity!"

tcrosse said...

Eric Hoffer was of the opinion that the huddled masses of immigrants were the scum of the earth. He meant it in a good way, and included himself.

Walter said...

How about pond scum?

A certain professional baseball team is often described that way.

Carter Wood said...

"Scum" or "scum of the earth" appears to be a universal term of opprobrium. Abschaum is a German epithet of longstanding use, including by the Nazis, and Italian news translated Trump's words as the Never Trumpers "sono feccia umana!"

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

The Scots-Irish still can’t catch a break. You win the Revolution for the Establishment bastards and they spend the next couple of centuries slagging you. Fortunately, you have a transgressive sense of humor and a stubborn mean streak so they’re very careful about actually getting in your face.

rhhardin said...

"Proud to be human scum, neverTrump 2020" shirt

Scott Adams reports just now

taking it as a persuasion mistake

Ken B said...

“See? He's not unpresidential! Jefferson Davis!”

Almaron Dickinson said...

The state song of the State of Maryland is "Maryland, my Maryland." Note the phrase near the end of the final verse:

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland!
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb—
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

rcocean said...

Hello? This is not a Jefferson Davis "quote" this is a Jefferson Davis paraphrase by someone who obviously doesn't like him. "Scum of humanity" or "scum of the earth" seems like a counter-point to "Salt of the earth". "human scum" sounds too harsh and crude for the 19th century where calling someone a Son of a bitch in public could result in a duel.

rcocean said...

The round-heads vs. Cavaliers was a fond Southern myth back then. Notice that no one called themselves "Scot-Irish" It was a complete balls, but it made the South feel good. They were aristocrats on horseback and the Yankees were the humorless peasants with pitchforks.

Birkel said...

Are we supposed to ignore what Democrats said when they were fighting to enslave people?
Should we be worried that Democrats are currently trying to enslave people?

Had Lincoln called Jefferson Davis human scum he would have been correct, of course.
Lincoln was too nice to say that truth in public.
Trump is not so nice.

J Scott said...

Far be it to invoke "fake news" but here's Davis' speech at Jackson.

https://jeffersondavis.rice.edu/archives/documents/jefferson-davis-speech-jackson-miss-1

No "human scum" to be found therein. Maybe this.

"Our enemies are a traditionless and a homeless race; from the time of Cromwell to the present moment they have been disturbers of the peace of the world. Gathered together by Cromwell from the bogs and fens of the North of Ireland and of England, they commenced by disturbing the peace of their own country; they disturbed Holland, to which they fled, and they disturbed England on their return. They persecuted Catholics in England, and they hung Quakers and witches in America. "

mockturtle said...

Cromwell did extremely well with these 'scrapings', defeating the Royal troops of Charles I and forming a new government. Their offspring did equally well in the New World.

Narr said...

932AMCDT. Last comment Birkel@927AM.

Davis was one was as deluded a historian as he was a lawyer . . . and we need some SERIOUS historical pedantry in this thread.

First, Wellington called his redcoats, "scum of the earth, enlisted for drink." Second, Hood was no Episcopal divine, that was his subordinate Leonidas Polk.

Third, FWIW, Cromwell wanted, and got, an army of men "who make some conscience of what they do." If that doesn't describe the profoundly ideological approach that both WABAWS armies eventually had to depend on, I don't know what does.

Fourth, what Davis casts as almost a pure English-speakers feud was more often and widely framed in Confederate apologia as WASPs against the gutter scrapings of Europe-- the Irish and the Germans in particular. There's a whole streak of anti-Germanism in Confederate myth that remains largely unexplored.

After the Woah, the beaten Episcopalians did stuff like found The University of the South at Sewanee, and churches like "St. Lazarus" (he too was licked by dogs). Sore losers.

Narr
Now somebody search "armed mobs"

Bill Peschel said...

It pleases me that you found my comment useful. I do a lot of research there and other newspaper sites for my books.

I'm also not surprised that J Scott would find an alternative version of the speech without "human scum."

Birkel said...

Ken B just plain knows Trump is uncouth.
Darned if that won't mean Ken B is going to vote for Democratics.
Third vote for Hillary, Ken B?

What's your game plan?

Lurker21 said...

That phrase doesn't occur in the official version of the speech:

Our enemies are a traditionless and a homeless race; from the time of Cromwell to the present moment they have been disturbers of the peace of the world. Gathered together by Cromwell from the bogs and fens of the North of Ireland and of England, they commenced by disturbing the peace of their own country; they disturbed Holland, to which they fled, and they disturbed England on their return. They persecuted Catholics in England, and they hung Quakers and witches in America.

"Human scum" may have been the Northern newspaper's partisan spin on Davis's speech, or it may have been the way the substance of the speech passed across the battle lines. It is just possible that Davis may have departed from the official version of his remarks and cut loose, but that is unlikely.

Nonetheless, what Davis said in Jackson in 1862 is different from what he was saying in Boston at Fanueil Hall in 1858. In Boston, Davis praised the descendants of those very "disturbers of the peace" for what they did in the American Revolution and the years leading up to it. And indeed, we wouldn't have had an American Revolution (or Davis's imitation of it 80 years later) without those same Yankee malcontents.

One would think that Yankees and Rebels were throwing the phrase "scum" at each other all the time in the Civil War era, but according to Google engrams that doesn't appear to be the case. The high points for "scum" in American usage were during WWI, just before WWII, and (strangely) around 1820. I have no idea what must have been going during the "Era of Good Feeling" to get people so agitated.

"The refuse of humanity" or "the scum and refuse of humanity" were common 19th century phrases that have lost currency in recent decades. The latter was used by a New England preacher in reference to the South, but that was after Lincoln was assassinated, and emotionality was to be expected then.

It's strange that Davis associates the Ulstermen with the Puritans. Northern Irish Presbyterians were supposed to be the backbone of the Upcountry South - the Scotch-Irish - but it was wartime and Davis may not have been letting consistency get in the way of such passion as he could muster.

wildswan said...

Cromwell was actually on a boat heading for New England when King Charles II stopped free emigration to New England. Twenty thousand had gone in six years and the rate was increasing. So Charles kept Cromwell and others in England and continued his religious persecution of them. They then formed an army (Roundheads), defeated the King and cut off his head. Survivors of Charles army (Cavaliers) got on boats and went to Virginia. When Walter Scott wrote his very popular novels he romanticized Prince Charles and the Cavaliers and parts of the South identified with Scott's vision, as Jeff Davis is doing. Those in the mountains who were the Scotch Irish and Pennsylvania Germans and who mostly did not hold slaves also mostly opposed the Confederacy. The ones in West Virginia successfully seceded. The ones in Kentucky kept the state in the Union. The hill rebellions in Tennessee was crushed by the Confederacy. After the Civil War the former slave-holding areas in the flatlands, the Democrats, took care to see that their hill-country opponents were disadvantaged in terms of railroads and roads and also called them hillbillies, hicks, country, etc. American history is so often unAmericans vs. Americans. America is hard to find, it's been said. You can live there and never be there.

wildswan said...

I think members of the Vichy French leadership are an example of the kind of scum Trump is thinking of.

wildswan said...

The Quislings in Norway - scum.
The judges at Stalin's purge trials - scum.

Bay Area Guy said...

A little OT, but when Booth and his confederates (no pun intended) shot Lincoln and stabbed Seward, they really derailed any hope of a successful Reconstruction of the South. It setback the effort by decades.

I wonder if JD and the upper echelon Confederates either knew or financially supported Booth's efforts.

Conspiracy Friday.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

The Scots-Irish still can’t catch a break. You win the Revolution for the Establishment bastards and they spend the next couple of centuries slagging you. Fortunately, you have a transgressive sense of humor and a stubborn mean streak so they’re very careful about actually getting in your face.

A large part of the Scots-Irish character comes from their origins along Anglo-Scottish border which was in a constant state of war from the time of the Normans until James I/V took the English throne. They learned a long time ago to be in it for the long haul and not jump too quickly.

mockturtle said...

Wildswan: It was Charles I not II.

Rick67 said...

"Scum of the earth" also shows up in some English translations of 1 Corinthians 4:13 =

13 When we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

Which is cheating a bit since the New International Version is late 20th century.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Well, there's "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore," isn't there? Was Emma Lazarus comparing the residents of other nations ("sh*thole countries," even) to ... garbage? Why, yes. Yes, she was.

I see that just today Marine Le Pen lost a defamation lawsuit against Charlie Hebdo, allegedly for comparing her to "a heap of excrement." This stuff is not actually all that uncommon, nor is it limited to Nasty Bad Racists and the NorKs.

rcocean said...

Fourth, what Davis casts as almost a pure English-speakers feud was more often and widely framed in Confederate apologia as WASPs against the gutter scrapings of Europe-- the Irish and the Germans in particular. There's a whole streak of anti-Germanism in Confederate myth that remains largely unexplored.

Actually it was mostly against the Germans, since you had Irishmen fighting on both sides, and they spoke English - or tried to. The Germans, OTOH, were looked on as cowardly foreigners, anti-slavery, and beer swilling sots. The Northern soldiers, had their anti-German prejudices too. For example, using Drink to get up your courage for battle was called "Dutch Courage" aka "Deutsche Courage". And Sigel's XI Corps, full of Krauts, was blamed for the disasters at Chancellorsville and 1st day of Gettysburg.

Oddly, before 1870, Germans weren't thought of as Great soldiers - quite the opposite. Nobody in 1860's America remembered the Prussians at Waterloo, or Frederick the Great.

rcocean said...

Jeff Davis was simply putting out Wartime propaganda.

AZChas said...

I've read every one of your posts on this topic, and I kept seeing "human scrum," like a rugby scrum. Thought it was a weird, very old phrase that I'd just never heard before. Maybe my cataracts are getting worse.

JaimeRoberto said...

Reminds me of Stripes. "We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts!"

Ann Althouse said...

The post calls the text a characterization of what Davis said, so I did not say or think it was a verbatim quote.

Thanks for finding the actual text of the speech!

rcocean said...

Wellington's Notes:

A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class — no matter whether your son or my son — all must march; but our friends — I may say it in this room — are the very scum of the earth.

People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling — all stuff — no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children — some for minor offences — many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.

Michael McNeil said...

A large part of the Scots-Irish character comes from their origins along Anglo-Scottish border which was in a constant state of war from the time of the Normans until James I/V took the English throne. They learned a long time ago to be in it for the long haul and not jump too quickly.

The Scots-Irish did not “originate” along the Anglo-Scottish border. Those people were (English not Gaelic speaking) Scots, not Scots-Irish. The Scots-Irish per se did not come into being until numbers of Scots (perhaps from this area of Scotland, perhaps not) were transplanted to northern (the Ulster region of) Ireland, which they settled and occupied for many generations — a hundred or two hundred years — before some of their descendants moved on to America.

RichardJohnson said...

rocean
Actually it was mostly against the Germans, since you had Irishmen fighting on both sides, and they spoke English - or tried to. The Germans, OTOH, were looked on as cowardly foreigners, anti-slavery, and beer swilling sots.

Characterizing Germans as anti-slavery sorts was accurate. There is a monument to the Union in Kendall, Texas. Treue der Union Monument was once called the only monument to the Union in a former Confederate state, but that does not appear to be an accurate claim.

Patrick Cleburne, an immigrant from Ireland, became a Confederate general.In 1864 he proposed emancipating the slaves, a proposal that didn't go over very well.

Bill Befort said...

You get the same rhetoric throughout Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes's account of his cruises on the Sumter and the Alabama: the Yankees are being led by the bigoted, abolitionist, money-grubbing Puritans of New England against the gentlemen of the South. Semmes seldom has a positive word for Northerners—except, oddly enough, as seafarers and shipbuilders.

G.M. (Flashman) Fraser's history of the 16th century Scottish border, "The Steel Bonnets", is very much worth reading for its insight into the constant feuding and petty warfare that shaped the border Scots who later emigrated to Ulster, then to America.

Unknown said...

wow a range of 6 0's of a percent (8 decimal places) to 5 (7) so a range from 10-99 million to 100 to 999 million. in a country of 300 million. Granted there are not that many newspapers but articles are written by one person. I would say that is insignificant. I run in to this all the time. Engineers (yes I am in engineering) can measure to 16 digits! The guy building it has a tape measure that depending on his profession uses to the nearest 1/8" (carpenters) or 1" (earth movers) (.125 or .1) (roughly rounded from 1/12ths) add 2 0's for percentages

Milwaukie guy said...

I don't know where the Scots recruited for the Ulster Plantations came from. In the mid-1600s, the enclosures in the Highlands were a long way in the future and my lowland, borderer ancestors answered the call.

But Borderers, that's a big thing. Along the Scotland-England border cattle rustling was a major economic activity. The Scots stole from the lords, the English stole from the lairds. The British army raised many regiments of Borderers, from Wales, England and Scotland. They were considered "natural" light infantry.

Some linguists think the term "redneck" is derived from the border cattle rustling, though I can't remember why or who were the rednecks.

Ken B said...

“What's your game plan?”

Unchanged Birkel: to defend John Wayne and Mark Twain from your smears upon their character. Publius too.

Henry said...

Love the 'bogs'; Davis should have known better than to disparage Roundheads so Cavalierly. Book reference: David Hacket Fischer, "Albion's Seed"

Birkel said...

What a delightfully odd comment having no basis in reality.
I didn't realize those fellows were part of your religious sect.

Narr said...

1033PMCDT. Last comment KenB@903PM.

Scots, bless their hearts, were quite fecund, and they were used to settle northern Ireland from as early as the reign of James in the early 1600s, on lands confiscated from Gaelic Catholics.

They were the employed in much the same fashion in America--James Webb sees them as the shock troops, almost, of settlement--they went out to the frontier, not as the first pioneers but as the people to work, populate, and establish authority--not their own, but rich High Church elites' back in England or the East.

But the Scots Irish have the last laugh--that is the subculture on which most of white American culture rests--in music and religion anyway, Scots Irish / North British is as pervasive as it is unmentioned.

Narr
Maybe because it's so pervasive?

Narayanan said...

@traditionalguy ..
Monarchy rule that followed the Roman Catholic Church or the half Catholic Anglican Church settlement. That Code made educating Africans to read and write was a Crime committed by human scum.
________
Q: What were Thomas Jefferson view on education of enslaved?

He was so proud of creating University of Virginia!

Nichevo said...


Ken B said...
“What's your game plan?”

Unchanged Birkel: to defend John Wayne and Mark Twain from your smears upon their character. Publius too.

10/25/19, 9:03 PM



Now I see your problem. You can't tell one thing from another.