Monday, December 04, 2006

Straight 'A' student? Good luck making Partner

By Jonathan D. Glater

To be a partner at a major law firm is a virtual lock on wealth, prestige and influence. To achieve that lofty goal, young lawyers willingly pore over deadly dull documents, draft amply footnoted briefs of inordinate length, shmooze with clients no matter how boorish and work around the clock. But just what, exactly, it takes to make partner is elusive. A provocative new study of the reasons big law firms have so few minority partners claims there is a simple answer: grades.

Richard H. Sander, a law professor at the
University of California, Los Angeles, who prepared the study, wrote that there is a “credentials gap” between white and black law school graduates that may explain why black lawyers do not make partner. He also found smaller gaps affecting Asian-American and Hispanic law students. The study, which comes as attacks on affirmative action have gained strength in recent months, focuses on the low numbers of minority partners at law firms. Of the 60,394 partners at 1,523 law firms that provide data to the National Association of Law Placement, nearly 95 percent are white.

Partners at elite law firms acknowledge the numbers are low. But they said grades received years earlier in law school had little to do with promotion. “You don’t want to know about my grades,” said Reid H. Weingarten, a well-known litigator at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, who is white. Partners at top-tier firms said grades mattered in hiring first-year associates, who may receive $135,000 a year (not including the bonus). But when deciding whom to make a partner, they said grades were not a factor. In fact, promotion decisions can be very subjective, dependent on perception as well as output. Research shows that informal networks within firms may exclude young minority lawyers.

“We look for people who are good working in teams, people who show the potential to be a builder of a practice, through enhancing the reputation of the firm, enhancing and developing loyal client relationships,” said Keith C. Wetmore, chairman of Morrison & Foerster in New York. Grades might show willingness to work long hours, but not judgment or people skills, which are harder to evaluate objectively, many partners said. Eric A. S. Richards, a partner and member of the partner admission committee at O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, said that partners tried to predict whether rising associates could bring in business. “We look for the promise,” he said.

When Mr. Sander described a causal connection between low grades and success at law firms, he cited a separate survey of law graduates of the
University of Michigan. He said the study found that those who were still at firms 15 years after graduation — who were more likely to have made partner — had higher grades. That survey included about 10,000 lawyers, the vast majority of them white, the professor said.

But African-American, Latino and Asian lawyers are not the only ones who are underrepresented as partners. Women, who for years have been close to 50 percent of the law school students and make up 44 percent of the associate population, are just under 18 percent of all partners even though their law school grades are, overall, slightly higher than those of white men. Mr. Sander said that women in recent years had been making partner at higher rates, and noted that women may more often leave firms to create time for family or for other reasons.

Minority lawyers may also leave voluntarily, said David B. Wilkins, director of the program on the legal profession at Harvard, adding that they constantly receive offers from clients seeking to poach them. Mr. Sander has also written a study of law school admissions, arguing that because of racial preferences, law schools admit students who are less prepared and perform poorly — earning the lower grades. The system, as he sees it, is unfair to minority students because it sets them up for failure. “In both situations, we have preferences arguably undermining their intended effects,” he said, adding that the solution was to reduce preferences and improve training and support for minority lawyers.

But several senior lawyers said that because law firms are not such strictly objective meritocracies, hiring only minority lawyers with higher grades would not necessarily mean more minority partners. Many intangible factors, including luck, play a role. In a lean year, a firm will be reluctant to increase the number of partners splitting profits. A firm might promote a mediocre partner who speaks a specific language or has some other skill.
Then there are the all-important relationships formed between young lawyers and senior partners, said Theodore V. Wells Jr., a partner at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, who is black. “What happens very often is some associates are embraced more than others and it’s easier to fit in,” Mr. Wells said. “If you’re a minority person in a majority firm there are inherent difficulties.”

Diara M. Holmes, a Washington lawyer who last week made partner at Caplin & Drysdale, in Washington, attributed much of her success to mentors. “A mentor advocates on your behalf, obviously in the final decision but along the way as well,” said Ms. Holmes, who is the firm’s first African-American partner. “A mentor is also a person who can ensure that when you make mistakes, which is inevitable in an associate’s career, they do not cause you to fall off the track. I can’t imagine that my ‘A’ in property got me here.”

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Modern American Nigger

By John Ridley

Let me tell you something about niggers, the oppressed minority within our minority. Always down. Always out. Always complaining that they can’t catch a break. Notoriously poor about doing for themselves. Constantly in need of a leader but unable to follow in any direction that’s navigated by hard work, self-reliance. And though they spliff and drink and procreate their way onto welfare doles and WIC lines, niggers will tell you their state of being is no fault of their own. They are not responsible for their nearly 5% incarceration rate and their 9.2% unemployment rate. Not responsible for the 11.8% rate at which they drop out of high school. For the 69.3% of births they create out of wedlock.

Now, let me tell you something about my generation of black Americans. We are the inheritors of the “the Deal” forced upon the entrenched white social, political, and legal establishment when my parents’ generation won the struggle for civil rights. The Deal: We (blacks) take what is rightfully ours and you (the afore-described establishment) get citizens who will invest the same energy and dedication into raising families and working hard and being all around good people as was invested in snapping the neck of Jim Crow.

In the forty years since the Deal was brokered, since the Voting Rights Act was signed, there have been successes for blacks. But there are still too many blacks in prison, too many kids aggrandizing the thug life, and way too many African-Americans doing far too little with the opportunities others earned for them.

We came up from slavery to freedom without regard for the Constitution, which gave us nothing, and the plantation masters, who gave us the whip. We came up from oppression to civil rights without regard for hurled bricks and sicced police dogs. Water hoses. The word nigger.

This, then, is my directive: Let us achieve with equal disregard for the limitations of racism and the weight of those of us who threaten to drag all of us down with the clinging nature of their eternal victimization. Our preservation is too essential to be stunted by those unwilling to advance. And in my heart I don’t believe all blacks cannot achieve in the absence of aid any more than I believe the best way to teach a child to run is by forcing him to spend a lifetime of his knees.

Friday, November 10, 2006

November 7, 2006

There's a lively debate among historians over the question of whether the record of the forty-third President, George W. Bush, compiled with the indispensable help of a complaisant Congress, is the worst in American history or merely the worst of the sixteen who managed to make it into (if not out of) a second full term. That the record is appalling is by now beyond serious dispute. It includes an unending deficit—this year, it's $260 billion—that has already added $1.5 trillion to the national debt; the subcontracting of environmental, energy, labor, and health-care policymaking to corporate interests; repeated efforts to suppress scientific truth; a set of economic and fiscal policies that have slowed growth, spurred inequality, replenished the ranks of the poor and uninsured, and exacerbated the insecurities of the middle class; and, on Capitol Hill, a festival of bribery, some prosecutable (such as the felonies that have put one prominent Republican member of Congress in prison, while another awaits sentencing), some not (such as the reported two-million-dollar salary conferred upon a Republican congressman who became the pharmaceutical industry's top lobbyist immediately after shepherding into law a bill forbidding the government to negotiate prices for prescription drugs).

In 2002 and 2004, the ruling party avoided retribution for offenses like these by exploiting the fear of terrorism. What is different this time is that the overwhelming failure of the Administration's Iraq gamble is now apparent to all. This war of choice has pointlessly drained American military strength, undermined what had originally appeared to be success in Afghanistan, handed the Iranian mullahs a strategic victory, immunized the North Korean regime from a forceful response to its nuclear defiance, and compromised American leadership of the democratic world. You can read all about it, not only in the government's own recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate, which reports that the Iraq war has intensified the danger of Islamist terrorism, but also in a shelf of books—a score or more of them, beginning two and a half years ago with Richard A. Clarke's "Against All Enemies" and continuing through Bob Woodward's "State of Denial"—that document the mendacity, incompetence, lawlessness, and ideological arrogance surrounding the origins and conduct of the war.

Monday, November 06, 2006

9/11 Paranoid

note by Nicholas Lehmann

The shock of September 11th, along with the enormity of the evident failure of the American invasion of Iraq, is simply incommensurate with what we are conditioned to expect as we watch the unspooling of American history. It feels as if a new factor has to be added – as if some additional, unofficial force must have been at work. Otherwise, no explanation of what happened could possibly make sense. And the facts presented in these films (“Outfoxed”, “Loose Change”, “Uncovered”, “Hijacking Catastrophe”), and the mountain of related material on the same subject, aren’t invented.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

5 Moments That Define a Man

by Mike Zimmerman

Choosing to Marry
This moment comes long before you pop the question. Ask yourself not whether you’ll still want to sleep with her in 20 years (you will), but how you’ll react when you discover what foul brand of sugar and spice she’s truly made of. A promising answer: “We’re still a pretty good team.”

Becoming a Father
There are tons of fatherhood variables, but we do know one simple truth: The only times you’ll suck at being a dad are the moments you refuse to put your kids’ needs first. If you’re ready to prioritize them consistently, you’ll cruise.

Receiving Your First Real Defeat
We don’t mean losing to Springfield during your sophomore year. The adult defeats – job losses, divorces, family estrangements – are the ones that cut deep into the ego, because they spotlight failure of temper, character, and adaptability. Are you able to limp to your feet, spit the turf out of your mouth, and smile with your two front teeth missing? You’d better be. People rally around that guy.

Becoming an Orphan
The day both your mom and dad are officially planted is a defining one. No more training. No more advice. No more free meals on Thanksgiving Day. It’s your turn to be the example at the head of the table. You don’t have to wear a cardigan when you carve the turkey, but you do have to take up the knife. Don’t cut yourself.

Realizing You Don’t Know Everything
The younger you are when you experience this moment of clarity, the better. It means you’ll be humbler in the face of knowledge – that’s a good thing. It also means you’ll have more years to quest, to learn, to figure out everything from options trading to tying a tighter fly. You ain’t stupid, sir. But you ain’t God, either.

Al Gore's Guidelines

1. When a direction feels right, go that way to find out why. Fulfillment usualy follows.
2. Solve one problem. You may find you're inspired to solve more.
3. There are a lot of us on the planet, and we do a lot damage.
We can also fix a lot of things, if we choose.
4. Everyone needs a purpose in life. Even puppies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Goodbye, Columbus

When America won its independence,
what became of the slaves who fled for theirs?
by Jill Lepore

What with the noise, the heat, and the danger of being forced back into slavery, sometimes it's good to get out of the city. Such, at least, was the assessment of Harry Washington, who, in July of 1783, made his way to the salty, sunbaked docks along New York's East River and boarded the British ship L'Abondance, bound for Nova Scotia. A clerk dutifully noted his departure in the "Book of Negroes," a handwritten ledger listing the three thousand runaway slaves and free blacks who evacuated New York with the British that summer: "Harry Washington, 43, fine fellow. Formerly the property of General Washington; left him 7 years ago."

Born on the Gambia River around 1740, not far from where he would one day die, Harry Washington was sold into slavery sometime before 1763. Twelve years later, in November, 1775, he was grooming his masters horses in the stables at Mount Vernon when the royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, offered freedom to any slaves who would join His Majesty's troops in suppressing the American rebellion. That December, George Washington, commanding the Continental Army in Cambridge, received a report that Dunmore’s proclamation had stirred the passions of his own slaves. "There is not a man of them but would leave us if they believed they could make their escape," a cousin of Washington's wrote from Mount Vernon, adding bitterly, "Liberty is sweet." In August of 1776, just a month after delegates to the Continental Congress determined that in the course of human events it sometimes becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the bands that have connected them with another, Harry Washington, declared his own independence by running away to fight with Dunmore's all-black British regiment, wearing a uniform embroidered with the motto "Liberty to Slaves." Liberty may not have been as sweet as he'd hoped. For most of the war, he belonged to an unarmed company known as the Black Pioneers, who were more or less garbagemen, ordered to "Assist in Cleaning the Streets & Removing all Nuisances being thrown into the Streets." The Black Pioneers followed British troops under the command of Henry Clinton as they moved from New York to Philadelphia to Charleston, and, after the fall of Charleston, back to New York again, which is how Harry Washington came to be in the city in 1783, and keen to leave before General Washington repossessed it, and him.

No one knows how many former slaves had fled the United States by the end of the American Revolution. Not as many as wanted to, anyway. During the war, between eighty thousand and a hundred thousand (nearly one in five) left their homes, running from slavery to the freedom promised by the British, and betting on a British victory. They lost that bet. They died in battle, they died of disease, they ended up someplace else, they ended up back where they started, and worse off. (A fifteen-year-old girl captured while heading for Dunmore's regiment was greeted by her master with a whipping of eighty lashes, after which he poured hot embers into her wounds.) When the British evacuated, fifteen thousand blacks went with them, though not necessarily to someplace better.

From the moment that Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, in 1781, American allies reported seeing "herds of Negroes" fleeing through Virginia's swamps of pine and cypress. A few made it to a warship that Washington, under the terms of the British surrender, had allowed to sail to New York. Some ran to the French, on the not unreasonable supposition that earning wages polishing shoes in Paris had to be better than planting tobacco in Virginia for nothing but floggings. "We gained a veritable harvest of domestics," one surprised French officer wrote. Hundreds of Cornwallis's soldiers and their families were captured by their former owners, including five of Thomas Jefferson's slaves and two women owned by George Washington. Those who escaped raced to make it behind British lines before the slave catchers caught up with them. Pregnant women had to hurry, too, but not so fast as to bring on labor, lest their newborns miss their chance for a coveted "BB" certificate: "Born Free Behind British Lines."

As runaways flocked to New York, or Charleston, or Savannah, cities from which the British disembarked, their owners followed them. Boston King, an escaped slave from South Carolina, saw American slave owners "seizing upon their slaves in the streets of New York, or even dragging them out of their beds." A Hessian officer reported, "Almost five thousand persons have come into this city to take possession again of their former property." (It was at Washington's insistence that the names of those who boarded British ships were recorded in the "Book of Negroes," so that owners might later file claims for compensation.) In Charleston, after the ships were full, British soldiery patrolled the wharves to keep back the black men, women, and children who were frantic to leave the country. A small number managed to duck under the redcoats' raised bayonets, jump off the wharves, and swim out to the last longboats ferrying passengers to the British fleet, whose crowded ships included the aptly named Free Briton. Clinging to the sides of the longboats, they were not allowed on board, but neither would they let go; in the end, their fingers were chopped off.

But those who did leave America also left American history. Or, rather, they have been left out of it. Theirs is not an undocumented story (the "Book of Negroes" runs to three volumes); it's just one that has rarely been told, for a raft of interesting, if opposing, reasons. A major one is that nineteenth-century African-American abolitionists decided that they would do better by telling the story of the many blacks who fought on the patriot side during the Revolution, and had therefore earned for their race the right to freedom and full citizenship and an end to Jim Crow. "Not a few of our fathers suffered and bled" in the cause of American independence, Peter Williams, Jr., declared in a Fourth of July oration in New York in 1830. (Williams's own father, who had joined American troops in defiance of his Loyalist master, later managed to purchase his freedom and went on to help found the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.) When the Boston abolitionist William Cooper Nell published "The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution," in 1855, Harriet Beecher Stowe supplied an introduction:

The colored race have been generally
considered by their enemies, and sometimes
even by their friends, as deficient in energy
and courage. Their virtues have been supposed
to be principally negative ones. This
little collection of interesting incidents, made
by a colored man, will redeem the character
of the race from this misconception.

Best not to mention those who fled to the British. Having abandoned the United States, they not only were of no use in redeeming "the character of the race"; they had failed to earn the "passport" to citizenship that Nell believed patriot service conferred.

They were also too shockingly un-free to be included in grand nineteenth-century narratives of the Revolution as a triumph for liberty. As the historian Gary Nash observes in "The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution" (Harvard; $19.95), slavery is so entirely missing from those histories that "it would appear that the British and the Americans fought for seven years as if half a million African Americans had been magically whisked off the continent." In 1891, the Harvard scholar John Fiske took notice of Dunmore's proclamation in his two-volume "American Revolution," only to dismiss it. "The relations between master and slave in Virginia were so pleasant," Fiske wrote, that Britain's "offer of freedom fell upon dull uninterested ears."

It wasn't until Benjamin Quarles's landmark "The Negro in the American Revolution," in 1961, that what Harry Washington might have had to say about that became clear: Liberty is sweet. Many fine scholars have followed in Quarles's wake, but it would be fair to say that their work has yet to challenge what most Americans think about the times that tried men's souls.

With no place in any national historical narrative, black refugees of the American Revolution have been set adrift. Perhaps, then, it is hardly surprising that they have been taken up recently not by American historians but by historians of the places they went to.

Two new histories of their travels, the most ambitious yet, have just been published, one written by an Englishman, the other by an Australian. The British historian Simon Schamas "Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution" (Ecco; $29.95) follows the exiles to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone but keeps London, and English antislavery activists, at its center. Cassandra Pybus's "Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty" (Beacon; $26.95) follows them everywhere, including to the Australian penal colony of Botany Bay. She teaches at the University of Sydney.

Schama writes like no one so much as Dickens. Here is how he introduces the founder of England's antislavery movement, leaving his brother's house on Mincing Lane, "neither the worst nor the best address in the City of London," in 1765:

The door opened and out stepped an
angular man looking older than his thirty years.
His tall but meagre frame, hollow cheeks,
lantern jaw and short curled wig gave him
the air of either an underpaid clerk or an
unworldly cleric; the truth is that Granville
Sharp was something of both.

Schamas book is divided into two parts. The first part chronicles Sharp's career. With close colleagues, including the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson and the former slave Olaudah Equiano, Sharp led Britain's extraordinary campaign to put an end to what he called the "Accursed Thing": human bondage. It took years, but they succeeded. England took a dramatic step toward abolishing slavery on its soil in 1772, in a landmark case in which a man named James Somerset won his freedom. In 1807, the British Parliament outlawed the slave trade. The following year, the U.S. Congress did the same. In other words, England banned domestic slavery decades before making it illegal for British merchants and ships' captains to buy and sell slaves. The United States did the reverse, outlawing the overseas slave trade in 1808 but not declaring an end to slavery until Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, in 1863.

Schama points out that news of the Somerset case, as much as Dunmore's proclamation, is what led so many American slaves to flee to British lines during the American Revolution. They wrongly believed that the Somerset judgment's nuanced and limited ruling meant that "as soon as any slave sets his foot on English ground he becomes free." For one American refugee, the link between England and liberty was so close that he renamed himself British Freedom. Or consider "Yankee Doodle, or, The Negroes Farewell to America," a minstrel song popular in London in the seventeen-eighties:

Now farewell my Massa my Missey adieu
More blows or more stripes will me e'er
take from you...
Den Hey! for old Englan' where Liberty
Where Negroe no beaten or loaded with

But, more often than not, the price of British freedom was poverty. "I am Thirty Nine Years of Age & am ready & willing to serve His Britinack Majesty," Peter Anderson told a relief commission in London. "But I am realy starvin about the Streets." At the beginning of the war, Anderson had left behind his wife and three children in Virginia to join Dunmore's regiment. He was wounded, captured, and sentenced to be hanged. After six months as a prisoner, he escaped and foraged in the woods until he found his way back to the British Army. All this he endured only to land in London, reduced to begging. The commissioners were not sympathetic. "Instead of being sufferers of the wars," they concluded, black veterans had benefitted from it. Penniless they might be, but they had "gained their liberty and therefore come with a very ill-grace to ask for the bounty of government."

Not everyone who evacuated with the British sailed to England. Like thousands of white Loyalists, black Loyalists were relocated to Britain's northern colonies: mostly to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Ontario. Some fifteen hundred settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia, making it the largest free black community in North America. It was also a disaster. By the time Harry Washington arrived there, in August of 1783, there was nothing to eat, it was too late to plant, and the topsoil was too thin for anything much to grow. In 1789, the settlers were still starving. Boston King reported, "Many of the poor people were compelled to sell their best gowns for five pounds of flour, in order to support life. When they had parted with all their clothes, even to their blankets, several of them fell down dead in the streets, thro' hunger. Some killed and ate their dogs and cats."

Meanwhile, in London, Granville Sharp and his colleagues on the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor began making plans to send England's beleaguered blacks to Africa. This seems now, as it did to many people then, a preposterous plan, as if the slave trade could somehow be undone by this reverse voyage, settling freed slaves just a stone's throw from British slave-trading forts. While the emigrants waited on board ships in Portsmouth Harbor, the African-bornwriter and former slave Quobna Ottobah Cugoano warned that they "had better swim to shore, if they can, to preserve their lives and liberties in Britain, than to hazard themselves at sea... and the peril of settling at Sierra Leone." But sail they did. In May of 1787, nearly four hundred reached Sierra Leone, where they settled at a place they named Granville Town, and elected as their governor a runaway slave and Revolutionary War veteran from Philadelphia named Richard Weaver. Within five months, plagued by disease and famine, a hundred and twenty-two of the settlers were dead. And, just as Cugoano had predicted, some were kidnapped and sold into slavery all over again. In 1790, a local ruler burned Granville Town to the ground.

That was not to be the end of it. In the second part of "Rough Crossings," Schama turns to the journey of John Clarkson ("the 'other' Clarkson—second born, perfectly affable, sweet-tempered Johnny"), chosen by Sharp and the elder Clarkson to head a second attempt to settle Sierra Leone, this time with the "poor blacks" who had settled in Nova Scotia. In January, 1792, nearly twelve hundred black men, women, and children found berths on fifteen ships in Halifax Harbor. Among them were British Freedom and Harry Washington. Before the convoy left the harbor, Clarkson rowed from ship to ship, handing to each family a certificate "indicating the plot of land 'free of expence' they were to be given upon arrival in Africa.'"

The colony's new capital, on the Sierra Leone peninsula, was called the Province of Freedom; it did not live up to its name. There was death: along with dozens of others, Boston King's wife, Violet, died of "putrid fever" within weeks of arrival. There was intrigue: in 1792, Clarkson took what he thought would be a brief trip to England, but the colony's directors, dissatisfied with his failure to turn a profit from plantation crops, never sent him back. And there was avarice: despite the promise of free land, Clarkson's successors demanded exorbitant rents. "We wance did call it Free Town," some weary settlers wrote to Clarkson in 1795, "but since your absence we have a reason to call it a town of slavery."

By 1799, Sierra Leone's settlers had grown so discontented, so revolutionary in their rejection of the colony's tyrannical government, that they were, in the words of one London abolitionist, "as thorough Jacobins as if they had been trained and educated in Paris." The next year, a group of rebels declared independence. They were crushed. Tried by a military tribunal, they were banished from Freetown to the other side of the Sierra Leone River. In their exile, they elected Harry Washington as their leader, just months after George Washington died at Mount Vernon, having freed his slaves in his will.

Cassandra Pybus wants to rescue Harry Washington from the "callous indifference of history," to call attention to what he shared with the first President of the United States: "a commitment to the transforming ideals of liberty and self-determination." Schama is more interested in one of Harry Washington's fellow-rebels. "Rough Crossings" begins by imagining British Freedom "scratching a living from the stingy soil" of Nova Scotia and ends with his exile outside the Province of Freedom:

We can picture him surviving... on a few acres, or more likely finding a way to do business with the local chiefs. And if he did indeed cling to that name, he could only do so by not crossing the river to Freetown. For he must have understood that he had had his day. Over there, no one had much use for British freedom any more. Over there was something different. Over there was the British Empire.

But picturing British Freedom is about all that we can do; apart from his name, we know almost nothing about him. (Because Freedom renamed himself, he can't be traced in records like the "Book of Negroes.") "British Freedom's name said something important: that he was no longer negotiable property," Schama writes. Names count — they mattered to the parents who named their BB-certified daughter Patience Freeman — but sometimes names aren't enough. Among Schama's many enviable talents as a historian and as a stylist is his ability to turn a name into a meditation on liberty and empire. But the asymmetry, borne of the asymmetry of the evidence, is not without consequences: the black expatriates in "Rough Crossings" have names and ages and imagined motives, while the lantern-jawed architect of their freedom, Granville Sharp, is rendered in all his Dickensian detail. Sharp is focused; the settlers are a bit of a blur.

Pybus uses a different lens. She pays scant attention to the likes of Granville Sharp. Instead, she trails the fugitives relentlessly, including the unlucky few who, convicted of petty crimes in London, were shipped thirteen thousand miles away, to Botany Bay, a place whose staggering deprivations made it worse than London, worse than Birchtown, worse than Granville Town, worse than the Province of Freedom. Here's a hint: in 1790, the punishment for stealing food was increased from a thousand to two thousand lashes.

What Pybus offers is a collective biography, made possible through her pains-taking—breathtaking-examination of tax lists, muster rolls, property deeds, court dockets, parish records, and unwieldy uncatalogued manuscripts like the papers of General Henry Clinton. It allows her to rattle off details like this: in Botany Bay in 1788, "John Randall, the black ex-soldier from Connecticut convicted of stealing a watch chain in Manchester, was married to Esther Howard, a white London oyster seller, convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing a watch." In case it escaped your notice, that's months of eye-straining archival research on three continents in just thirty-four words. (She later, and still more casually, throws out that Randall eventually found work as a kangaroo-hunter, that by 1792 he had received a land grant of sixty acres; and that, widowed twice, he married three times and had nine children before his death, in 1822.) Men like Randall, Pybus argues, "carried to the far comers of the globe the animating principles of the revolution that had so emphatically excluded them."

Maybe. But, at journey s end, it's hard to know what to make of the travails of British Freedom or Harry Washington or John Randall To follow them is, still, to leave American history behind. The story of the British abolition movement has been elegantly told by Adam Hochschild, in "Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves" (Houghton Mifflin; $26.95). It is also at the heart of an excellent new biography by Vincent Carretta, "Equiano the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man" (University of Georgia Press; $29.95). These, like Schama's and Pybus's, are rich and wonderful books. All the same, with their praise of prophets and rebels and self-made men on a global quest for liberty, some readers might conclude that English abolitionists and American runaways ought to serve as honorary Founding Fathers, as though the likes of Washington and Jefferson will no longer do. (Damn those slave-owning sons of liberty!)

In the midst of this, it's easy to forget that many eighteenth-century Americans considered the British hypocritical about slavery. After the Somerset decision, Benjamin Franklin complained:

Pharisaical Britain! to pride thyself in
setting free a single Slave that happens to land
on thy coasts, while thy Merchants in all thy
ports are encouraged by thy laws to continue
a commerce whereby so many hundreds of
thousands are dragged into a slavery that can
scarce be said to end with their lives, since it.
is entailed on their posterity!

Moreover, it was far easier for Britain, where there were few slaves to begin with, to free its slaves than it was for the American colonies, where there was considerable support for ending the slave trade, something many patriots had come to see as having been imposed on them by a tyrannical king, to Britain's profit and not their own. In Thomas Jefferson's mind, promising freedom to the very people whom British slave traders had enslaved constituted George III's last, and most unforgivable, act of treachery. In a breathless paragraph at the end of his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson blamed the King for the slave trade ("He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery); for his vetoes of the colonists' efforts to abolish it ("Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce"); and for Dunmore's proclamation ("He is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them").

It was the Declaration's last, longest, and angriest grievance. The other delegates could not abide it: they struck it out almost entirely. To some, it went too far; to others, it didn't go far enough. And, as everyone knew, it was they, and not the British, who were by now most vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. (As Samuel Johnson had wryly inquired in 1775, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?") Best, then, to leave slavery out altogether.

Historians have hardly known what to make of Jefferson's rant. Nash deems it "patendy false." Schama calls it a "tour de force of disingenuousness." But at least part of what Jefferson meant was that it was the Revolution itself that derailed the American antislavery movement. In the seventeen-sixties and early seventeen-seventies, the colonists were arguably more ardent opponents of slavery than the British were. In 1764, the patriot James Otis, Jr., declared that nothing could be said "in favor of a trade that is the most shocking violation of the law of nature, has a direct tendency to diminish the idea of the inestimable value of liberty, and makes every dealer in it a tyrant." Not long after the Boston Massacre, in 1770, John Hancock's uncle preached a sermon urging the provincial legislature of Massachusetts to support the abolition of slavery, warning, "When God ariseth, and when he visiteth, what shall we answer!" In April, 1775, just five days before a shot was heard round the world, Philadelphians founded the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.

By no means did everyone in the colonies oppose the slave trade, and even fewer could imagine emancipation. Still, if the patriots hadn't needed to forge a union to protect their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they might have come to some agreement on ending slavery. But uniting the colonies in their opposition to the King and Parliament meant, by 1776, putting slavery to one side. It meant editing the Declaration of Independence. It also meant that Harry Washington, and John Randall, and British Freedom, and thousands more, decided to leave. They did not fare well.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Advice to All You Graduates

by Damon Darlin

This is the season for giving advice to graduates as they enter the workplace. Instead of listening to yet another recitation of the usual admonishments to "change the world," "carpe diem," or "wear sunscreen," those graduates — unless they are already trapped on the nonpaying internship hamster wheel — need to hear how to manage their paychecks.

College graduates may thank mom and dad, top left, for helping with tuition, but they still need advice on how to handle a paycheck. Small steps — packing your own lunch, for example — can make a big difference over the first 10 years of a working life.

Parents may have tried this. And many will undoubtedly send this article to their children. But, dear graduate, before you wad this up and toss it next to the keg still sitting there from last week's party, consider this: If you think it is tough living on very little now, imagine what it will be like when you are old and sick. Surveys say most of you already suspect Social Security will not be around after mom and dad deplete it sometime during your peak earning years. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old favored a system of privatized retirement savings accounts.

Let's start with the easy stuff first.

Make your own coffee You probably know you spend a lot at
Starbucks, a company that collected $6.4 billion from coffee drinkers last year. You probably don't have any idea how much of that total came from you. A calculator at let's you figure that out and also forecast how much you will spend over a decade of coffee breaks. (This Web site contains a treasure trove of financial planning calculators.) Say you spend just $3.50 every workday for your latte. If you drank the free office brew instead, you'd have more than $11,500 to play with after 10 years.

Does coffee shop coffee taste better than the free stuff? Probably, but ask yourself, do you want to live in a roach-infested studio apartment with two roommates your entire life? By the same logic, if you smoke, now is a good time to quit. Doing so will save you on average $25,600 over 10 years. Learn to cook Unless you have learned the art of sneaking into conferences at hotels to snag a breakfast croissant or cocktail-hour shrimp, you need to reduce your dining budget. A twice-a-week kung pao chicken takeout habit can easily drain you of about $10,000 over 10 years.

At the very least, learn how to pack a lunch. Taking your lunch to work may seem like the equivalent of sitting with the nerds in the school cafeteria, and going out to lunch with colleagues can sometimes be a smart career move. But bringing your lunch lets you be more choosy about who you are eating with and saves money. How much? Back to the online calculators ( and you'll discover that the savings could be as much as $23,000 in 10 years. The tally so far: $34,500 (for the nonsmokers), or enough to make a down payment on a $172,500 house. That won't get you much in most big cities, so you really need to exert yourself.

Pay yourself first If you do everything suggested so far, you haven't had to sacrifice much except perhaps a regular lunch with the office jokers. Now, prepare to sacrifice. Set aside 10 percent of your paycheck in a savings or brokerage account separate from where the rest of your money goes. You'll be less tempted to spend it if it is hidden away there, unattached to a checkbook or an A.T.M. card. If your employer has direct deposit of paychecks, your paycheck can probably be directed to different places.

Here comes the tough part. You are going to squirrel away this money in addition to the pretax money that you take out of your paycheck to save in the company 401(k). Only 31 percent of workers 18 to 25 participate in a tax-deferred 401(k) retirement plan, according to a recent survey by Hewitt Associates, an employee benefits consulting firm. The others undoubtedly assume that they'll get to it later. About two-thirds of workers 42 to 59 have money set aside in a 401(k).
There is an important reason you want to start early, even though it hurts. Say you withhold $375 a month for your 401(k). In 40 years, you'll have $750,000. But those who waited a decade to get started would have only $377,000.

And guess who delayed? Mom and dad. The average amount in a 401(k) is less than $60,000, according to the Investment Company Institute, a trade association of retirement fund companies. Generation X isn't in any better shape. A study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that 49 percent of those born from 1965 to 1972 won't have enough money at retirement to maintain their standard of living.

Another bit of advice: Stick the money in the broadest stock index fund offered by your plan, not bonds and not a money market fund. Sure, the markets may stumble at some point during the next 45 years, but history has shown that they will rise over a period that long. You take risks when you are young.

Ignore your raises Every time you get a raise, and you'll get them because you are working hard instead of spending money you don't have, pretend you didn't get one. Bank the entire amount.
Over time, you'll start spending the money. It's human nature. But you'll start spending it more slowly. You'll keep the car another few years. You won't immediately move to a new apartment. All that helps money to accumulate.

By this point, you may be screaming: "I can't afford to do this. There will be nothing left for me to live on. Have you seen my student loans?"

A few words about those loans. The government will make its annual adjustment of interest rates on existing student loans on July 1 to reflect recent increases in all interest rates. Consolidating your loans at a fixed rate to lock in a lower interest rate is one possibility, but you need to calculate if the longer time frame of such loans — and the greater overall interest payments — offset the savings from the lower interest rate. (You can't consolidate consumer loans or credit card debt with the student loans.) You can always pay a loan off early once your salary increases.

Now, back to the hectoring. Having less to spend can help you spend less on frivolous things and save for worthwhile causes. Having less will also make you work harder to get more. If you are comfortable, you get complacent.

Don't borrow to buy depreciating assets Almost every consumer product from an iPod to a sofa is worth less the moment you buy it. You are just paying extra for it with a loan. Borrowing, by the way, means taking out a loan, buying it on installment or using your credit card when you don't have the money to pay off the balance. If you can't afford it, don't buy it.

An exception is a car, which may be a necessity that would be out of reach otherwise. One option to consider is a used car coming off a dealer's lease. They tend to be driven carefully and there are a lot of them thanks to recent incentives from manufacturers. Keep the term of the loan short to minimize cost. The latest edition of the Consumer Reports "Buying Guide" lists the most reliable used models, including the best ones for less than $6,000 like the 2002 Saturn SL sedan and the 2000 Toyota Echo. The guide also includes the less reliable models like the 2002 and 2003 Mini Cooper and the Volkswagen Beetle from 1998 through 2004.

Protect your credit Eventually you will have to borrow money for a car or a home. If you want to pay as little as possible in interest, you want pristine credit. So make yourself a credit card company's worst customer: pay your bills on time and never carry a balance. No exceptions. To help avoid temptation, use no more than two credit cards. Try to find one that gives you rewards — airline ticket rewards or cash — for using it, but still won't charge a fee for that privilege.

Another technique to cut down on incidental expenses is to train yourself to use the A.T.M. only once a month. Take out enough cash to get you through the month, and when you run out of cash near the end of the month, stop spending. Don't grab for the credit card.

Now go out and seize the day. And wear sunscreen