Sep 7, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Athenian Democracy

Athenian Democracy

Plato has described for us how democracy, after a time, degenerates into tyranny, and that the group most numerous and powerful is “the mass of the people . . . and possess very little. They come to the assembly to get their share of the loot: “their leaders deprive the rich of their property, give some to the masses, keeping most of it for themselves.”

James Madison held views typical of the American founders, writing that “democracies have even been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Athenian Democracy

“The place to start a description of Athenian democracy is with a definition of the term. Developments in the modern world, however, make that a difficult task, for the word has become debased and almost meaningless.

Few modern states will admit to being anything but democratic. States as different as the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, China, Switzerland, Cuba, South Africa and Nigeria all assert they are democracies. That is confusing enough, but there are further complications.

Many people today would insist that to qualify as a democracy a state must offer full constitutional and political protections and opportunities to all who have legal permanent residence within its borders and desire citizenship.

But the Athenians limited the right to vote, hold office, and serve on juries to adult males who were citizens. Slaves, resident aliens, women, and male citizens under the age of twenty were denied these privileges. It is useful to remember that what has been called Jacksonian democracy in America co-existed with slavery, that women everywhere were denied the right to vote until this century, and that we continue to limit political participation to those of a specified age.

[No] contemporary Greek doubted that Athens was a democracy . . . The Athenians, on the other hand, would have been astonished at the claims of modern states to that title, even such states as the United States and Great Britain, for to them an essential feature of democracy was the direct and full sovereignty of the majority of citizens.

Government by elected representatives, checks and balances, separation of powers, appointment to important offices, unelected bureaucracies, terms for elective office of more than one year – all these would have seemed clear and deadly enemies of what reasonable people might understand as democracy.”

(Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy: The Triumph of Vision in Leadership, Donald Kagan, Touchstone Books, 1991, excerpts pp. 48-49)

Aug 16, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Whipping Up the People’s Righteous Wrath

Whipping Up the People’s Righteous Wrath

After promising that no American boys would die on Europe’s battlefields, Woodrow Wilson’s War inspired insufficient men to fight for the cause of England and France. After Lincoln manufactured the clash at Fort Sumter, Northern men did join his army for the better part of a year, and until the casualty numbers and Northern military setbacks brought enlistments to a near halt. Both Lincoln and Wilson had to resort to conscription to fill the ranks; both controlled the press in order to demonize the enemy.

Whipping Up the People’s Righteous Wrath

“Even when war had been declared, the American people showed a marked reluctance to take up arms. Enlistments were so poor – in the first six weeks only 73,000 men volunteered – that it became necessary for the government to raise a conscript army.

To inspire the nation to fight, a new, home-grown propaganda campaign was needed in order to whip up what President Wilson’s private secretary, Joseph Tumulty, called “the people’s righteous wrath.”

To this end, President Wilson set up, on April 14, a Committee on Public Information, under the chairmanship of a journalist, George Creel, which was financed to the extent of $5 million from a $100 million fund granted to the President for the general defense of the country.

Hatred of Germans was now whipped to a fever pitch. All the propaganda stories that had worked best in Europe were revived: Germany’s sole responsibility [for the war], the rape of Belgium, the outraging of nuns, the unmentionable atrocities, the criminal Kaiser.

New stories were created; one, a book called Christine, by Alice Cholmondeley, a collection of letters purporting to have been written by a music student in Germany to her mother in Britain until her death in Stuttgart on August 8, 1914, mingled a damning catalogue of German character faults with emotional gush about music and filial feeling. The book had a wide circulation, and the Germans rated it as perhaps the best individual piece of propaganda during the war.

The Creel committee sponsored 75,000 speakers, who . . . in 5,000 American cities and towns, aroused the “righteous wrath” of the people against the Hun and the Boche.

The influence of the barrage of propaganda on the American public cannot be overemphasized. The war historian J.F.C. Fuller writes of a “propaganda-demented people” and says flatly that there can be little doubt that President Wilson would have remained neutral “had it not been for the octopus of propaganda, whose tentacles gripped him like a [vise].”

Raymond B. Fosdick, in an article titled “America at War,” summarized the ecstasy of hate that gripped the American people. “We hated with a common hate that was exhilarating. The writer of this review remembers attending a great meeting in New England [church] . . . A speaker demanded that the Kaiser, when captured, be boiled in oil, and the entire audience stood on chairs to scream its hysterical approval. This was the mood we were in. This is the kind of madness that had seized us.”

(The First Casualty. From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker, Phillip Knightly, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1975, excerpts pp. 322-323)

Aug 15, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Embattled Democracies

Embattled Democracies

The Western Allies in the First World War framed the conflict in ideological terms, as Lincoln did in the mid-1860s. The content of the latter’s short Gettysburg speech, probably not delivered as later written by his secretaries and published, was that of the triumph of good over evil – and portrayed as an embattled democracy fighting for its existence.

The leaders of the Western democracies in 1917 were determined to crush an assumed German militarism which they viewed as an evil, while Russians were involved in a political crisis of their own and could care less about the trenches, death and destruction of the World War. Their leadership was practical and local, while the West was messianic globalism.

Embattled Democracies

“How different this was in the Western countries! Here, war fervor had by 1917 attained a terrific intensity. The Western democracies had by this time convinced themselves, as embattled democracies have a tendency to do, that the entire future of civilization depended on the outcome of the military struggle.

There is, let me assure you, nothing in nature more egocentrical than the embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own war propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision on everything else.

Its enemy becomes the embodiment of all evil. Its own side, on the other hand, is the center of all virtue. The contest comes to be viewed as having a final, apocalyptic quality. If we lose, all is lost; life will no longer be worth living; there will be nothing to be salvaged. If we win, then everything will be possible; all problems will become soluble; the one great source of evil – our enemy – will have been crushed; the forces of good will then sweep forward unimpeded; all worthy aspirations will be satisfied.

It will readily be seen that people who have got themselves into this frame of mind have little understanding for the issues of any contest other than the one in which they are involved. The idea of people wasting time and substance on any other issue seems to them preposterous. This explains why Allied statesmen were simply unable to comprehend how people in Russia could be interested in an internal Russian political crisis when there was a war on in the West.

There was, to be sure, an effort on the Allied side . . . to portray the contest as one of political ideology: as a struggle between democracy and autocracy. To this, I think, we Americans were particularly prone.

Wilhelminian Germany at its worst was much closer to Western parliamentarianism and to Western concepts of justice than was the Tsarist Russia whose collaboration the Western Allies so gladly accepted in the early stages of the war.

The truth is that the war was being waged against Germany, not because of the ideology of her government but because of her national aspirations. The ideological issue was an afterthought.”

(Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin, George F. Kennan, Little, Brown and Company, 1960, excerpts pp. 5-7)

Jul 21, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Defining Insurrection and Enemies

Defining Insurrection and Enemies

Congress was not in session when Lincoln launched his war against the South and raised his own army with the help of Republican governors. When Congress was called into session in July of 1861, Lincoln had already suspended habeas corpus and arrested those he considered disloyal citizens, which included elected legislators.

Lincoln’s familiar opponent Chief Justice Roger B. Taney stated “that the president had the power to handle the insurrection, but he could not himself declare a civil war, establish a blockade, or confiscate ships of foreign neutrals.

Power was exercised by the chief executive under the municipal laws of the country “and not under the law of nations.” Only Congress could declare war, a US president is not a monarch whose word is law, and treason as defined in the Constitution “shall consist only in waging war against them,” the States.

Defining Insurrection and Enemies

“The Union hunted down more than privateers on the ocean; its navy also captured merchant ships – blockade runners or neutral carriers of contraband for the Confederacy. From the start of the war, the handling of these cases in district courts piqued public interest for what the rulings said about the enemy and confiscation of property.

By 1863 [the Supreme Court Prize Cases] rulings . . . revealed a shift in thinking taking place throughout the Union toward treating everyone as enemies in an area considered in insurrection, regardless of individually professed loyalties.

Lincoln acted with somewhat debatable constitutional authority . . . Capturing vessels and declaring blockades typically involve a war between nations. Only the Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war. But the legislative branch was not in session when war commenced and was not scheduled to gather until December 1861, so there was no congressional action on these issues until the president convened a special session in July.

Congress on July 13 passed what became recognized by the judiciary as the nearest thing to a declaration of war that could be found. The legislation allowed the president to collect duties on imports in the States mounting insurrection, to interdict all trade, and to seize vessels judged to be in violation of the statute. The language was incredibly turgid and legalistic: it was hardly an act designed to inspire a public, but it did concede to the president the ability to define an insurrection and decide on the measures to take against the Confederacy.

[Pennsylvanian and Democrat Supreme Court Justice Robert C.] Grier provided the administration with a victory. Writing the majority opinion . . . he reasoned that the president had the authority to act without legislative authority. It was his duty to defend the country against insurrection or invasion. “The President was bound to meet it in the shape it presented itself without waiting for Congress to baptize it with a name; and no name given to it by him or them could change the fact.”

[Grier further declared that] As long as people lived within regions considered by the president in rebellion against the government, they were enemies, although not foreigners. Grier reserved for the government the ability to prosecute traitors after the war.

Especially after Lincoln appointed Republican justices, the Supreme Court stood ready to support the president on issues concerning secession and war powers . . . and as far as the courts were concerned, no Unionists live in the Confederate States. Grier had made that clear, indicating that treason had become identified with individual persons than with territory.”

(With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era, William A. Blair, UNC Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 77-78)

Jul 20, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Virginian’s Against New England’s Accursed Practice

Virginian’s Against New England’s Accursed Practice

New England’s nefarious trade in West Indies molasses and slaves brought on the Navigation Acts from the British Crown, as well as the Revolution itself. After Rhode Island had become the center of the transatlantic trade in Africans by 1750, the traffic should be known simply as “New England’s Slave Trade.”

To demonstrate the anti-slavery resolve of Virginia’s representatives at the first Continental Congress meeting, they stated:

“The abolition of slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies, where it was unhappily introduced, in their infant state. But, previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all future importations of slaves.”

Virginians Against New England’s Accursed Practice

“Though Brazil, by statute, prohibited the African slave trade in 1831, yet the traffic continued and in this trade citizens of the United States as ship owners, or crew, were engaged despite Federal statutes against such a practice. Henry A. Wise of Virginia, Consul at Rio [de] Janeiro, made frequent and earnest reports to the State Department calling the attention of the authorities to these violations. Under the date of February 18, 1845, he writes to the Secretary of State at Washington:

“I beseech, I implore the President of the United States to take a decided stand on this subject. You have no conception of the bold effrontery and the flagrant outrages of the African slave trade, and of the shameless manner in which its worst crimes are licensed here, and every patriot in our land would blush for our country did he know and see, as I do, how our citizens sail and sell our flag to the uses and abuses of that accursed practice.”

In his message to Congress, under date of December 4th, 1849, President [Zachary] Taylor writes:

“Your attention is earnestly invited to an amendment of our existing laws relating to the African slave trade with a view to the eventual suppression of that barbarous traffic. It is not to be denied that this trade is still in part carried on by means of vessels built in the United States and owned or navigated by some of our citizens.”

The foregoing recitals will serve to illustrate the uncompromising attitude of hostility on the part of leading Virginians toward the African slave trade. They sought by Federal statutes and concerted action with foreign nations to drive t pernicious traffic from the seas. They denounced the trade as inhuman, because it stimulated men to reduce free men to slavery and then entailed upon slaves the horrors and dangers of the “middle passage.”

They resolutely opposed any addition to the slave population of America because [they were] profoundly convinced that every such importation was fraught with menace to the social, economic and moral well-being of the nation and rendered more difficult the emancipation of those who had already been brought to her shores.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly Munford, L.H. Jenkins Publishing, 1909, excerpts pp. 38-40)

Jul 20, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Lincoln’s Great Task

Lincoln’s Great Task

The Republican party of Lincoln was not “anti-slavery,” but rather firmly against the expansion of African laborers into the new territories of the West and confining them to the South.  Immigrants were unfamiliar with Africans, did not want to compete with them for work, and formed an important nucleus of Republican political power. 

Lincoln’s true motivation with early property confiscation efforts was to deem Africans within the lines of his armies free, and then colonizing them “at some place or places in a climate congenial to them.”

He added that “it might be well to consider too whether the free colored people already in the United States could not, so far as individuals may desire, be included in such colonization.”

Lincoln’s Great Task

“The biographers of Abraham Lincoln, Nicolay and Hay, declare: “The political creed of Abraham Lincoln embraced among other tenets, a belief in the value and promise of colonization as one means of solving the great race problem involved in the existence of slavery in the United States . . . Without being an enthusiast, Lincoln was a firm believer in colonization.”

Speaking at Springfield, Illinois, June 26, 1857, Mr. Lincoln said: “I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect prevention of amalgamation . . . I can say a very large proportion of [Republican party] members are for it and that the chief plank in their platform – opposition to the spread of slavery – is most favorable to that separation. Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by colonization . . . Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and at the same time favorable to, or at least, not against our interests, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task will be.”

Upon his assumption of the office of President Mr. Lincoln sought to carry into effect his colonization views. [Congress, at its] session of 1862, placed at the disposal of the President the sum of $600,000 to be expended at his discretion in colonizing with their consent free persons of African descent in some country adapted to their condition and necessities.

Mr. Lincoln, with a view of carrying out this act of Congress, invited a number of prominent colored men to meet him at the White House on the 11th of August 1862, and then urged upon them the wisdom of availing themselves of the opportunity thus offered to make for themselves a home beyond the borders of this country.

[As the] action of Congress in placing at his disposal a sum of money for the purpose of aiding the colonization of the people of African descent made it his duty, as it had for a long time been his inclination, to favor that cause.

Continuing, he said:

“And why should the people of your race be colonized, and where? Why should you leave this country? This is perhaps the first question for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both I think. Your race suffer very greatly . . . while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side.

The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is upon you. I do not propose to discuss this, but to present it as a fact with which we have to deal. I cannot alter it if I would.

I ask you then to consider seriously not pertaining to yourselves merely, nor for your race or ours for the present time but as one of the things successfully managed, for the good of mankind – not confined to the present generation.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly Munford, L.H. Jenkins 1909, excerpts pp. 77-81)

Jul 19, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Fears of Beguiled Posterity

Fears of Beguiled Posterity

The writer below, knowingly suspicious of the muse of written history, reminds the reader that “The best schools of history are around the hearth-stone. The best lessons of patriotism, of veneration for the past, of true and laudable appreciation of noble deeds, are received at the lips of a mother. Her unerring instincts teach her to select with wonderful skill the best exemplars to kindle the aspirations of youth. They keep alive the traditions of a land and suffer nothing of enduring value to perish.”

The following is excerpted from Rev. H. Melville Jackson’s address to the Richmond Howitzers banquet at Richmond, December 13, 1882.

Fears of Beguiled Posterity

“It has been said of General Robert E. Lee that he often expressed the fear lest posterity should not know the odds against which he fought.

No solicitude respecting his future fame disturbed the serenity of a mind lifted above the petty ambitions of personal reputation; but, the daily witness of incredible heroism, daily spectator of the dauntless courage with which a decimated army faced undismayed an overwhelming foe, [Lee] . . . feared lest the examples of knightly valor and splendid fortitude, which you have exhibited to the ages, might, through the incapacity or incredulity, or venal mendacity of the historian, be finally lost to the human race.

Soldiers, you cannot bear to think that your children’s children shall have forgotten the fields on which you have shed your blood. You cannot think with equanimity that a day will come when Virginia shall have suffered the fame of her heroes to be lost in obscurity, and the valorous achievements of her sons to fade from memory.

And if you thought, to-night, that the muse of history would turn traitor to your cause, misrepresent the principles for which you fought, and to deny to you those attributes of valor, fortitude and heroic devotion you have grandly won, your souls would rise up within you in immediate and bitter and protesting indignation.

The North, it is said, is making the literature of these times, has secured the ear of the age and will not fail to make the impression, unfavorable to you, which time will deepen rather than obliterate.

Diligent fingers are carving the statues of the heroes of the Northern armies, writing partisan and distorted versions of their achievements, altering, even in this generation, the perspective of history, until, at no distant day, they shall have succeeded in crowding out every other aspirant of fame and beguiled posterity into believing that the laurels of honor should rest, alone and undisturbed, upon the brows of your adversaries.”

(Our Cause in History, Rev. H. Melville Jackson, Southern Historical Society Papers, Rev. J. William Jones, editor, Volume XI, 1883excerpts pp. 27-28)

Jul 19, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Great Interrogation Marks to the Soul of the Beholder

Great Interrogation Marks to the Soul of the Beholder

The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) came into being in 1889 at New Orleans as delegates from nine separate veterans organizations formed into one. General Stephen D. Lee, born in Charleston, South Carolina and a West Point graduate, was an energetic organizer who wanted “to keep alive the sacred memories of the War.

The patriotic devotion to our beloved country . . . , the ardor with which we rallied around her flag, the indomitable heroism with which we followed it through danger and disaster: when we meet together all those memories come with a rush. We feel a thrill of pride that nothing can alter.”

Great Interrogation Marks to the Soul of the Beholder

“As a top leader in the UCV, Lee was a tireless and faithful worker. He cited three significant tasks to which he thought the veterans should apply themselves in the remaining to them. One was in the continued erection of monuments . . . The second was to ensure that each veteran lived the remainder of his life proudly, never bringing shame or regret to others who had been Confederate soldiers. The last was to help take care of the veterans who were hard-pressed financially.

He gave speeches wherever interested persons listened.

Always he added a word urging that more monuments be erected, “first, for the sake of the dead, but most for the sake of the living, for in this busy industrial age these tablets and stones to our soldiers may stand like great interrogation marks to the soul of the beholder.”

[In his inaugural address as president of the UCV in 1904, Lee said] the greatest loss of the South was not in burned houses and wasted fields, and ravaged cities, but in the men the South lost. “Yet,” “my comrades,” what “a comfort to know that the South had such men to lose . . . What a magnificent race of men! What a splendid type of humanity! What courage! What grandeur of spirit! What patriotism! What self-sacrifice! It was sublime.”

“A people who do not cherish their past,” he said in 1904, “will never have a future worth recording.”

(General Stephen D. Lee, Herman Hattaway, University Press of Mississippi, 1976, excerpts pp. 199-200; 206)

Jul 15, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on John Yeamans Did Not Foresee

John Yeamans Did Not Foresee

British colonial administrator John Yeamans (1611-1674) served as governor of the Province of Carolina and founded the first permanent settlement in April 1670. He imported 200 African slaves from the Barbados to work his plantation, thus inaugurating the slavery in North America which former Confederate Attorney-General George Davis lamented 200 years later.

Davis was an eminent mid-nineteenth-century Wilmington attorney and acclaimed orator. Edward Everett of Massachusetts considered Davis to have “no peer in eloquence and logic.”

John Yeamans Did Not Foresee

“[But] we recall the fact that it was not until after the slave traders of the North had received full value of their human merchandise from their Southern brethren that our neighbors [to the North] began to realize the enormity of the institution.

And yet our people who were impoverished by its downfall would not, if they could, deprive the Negro of his freedom.

With reference to the introduction of slavery into Carolina by the Colonial Governor, Yeamans, from Barbados in 1671, the late, lamented George Davis said:

“This seems to be an announcement of a very commonplace fact: but it was the little cloud no bigger than a man’s hand. It was the most portentous event of all our early history. For he carried with him from Barbados his Negro slaves; and that was the first introduction of African slavery into Carolina.

If, as he sat by the camp-fire in that lonely Southern wilderness, he could have gazed with prophetic vision down the vista a two hundred years, and seen the stormy and tragic end of that of which he was then so quietly inaugurating the beginning, must he not have exclaimed with Ophelia, as she beheld the wreck of her heart’s young love: “ ‘O, woe is me! To have seen what I have seen, see what I see’ “!

(Tales and Traditions of the Lower Cape Fear, James Sprunt, LeGwin Brothers Printers, 1896)

Jul 14, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Great Consolidation of Government

A Great Consolidation of Government

The Constitution’s ratification is said to be the result of a series of illegal acts, with some revolutionary in character. And it is difficult to imagine exactly who would have pressed charges against the framers for subverting the Articles of Confederation while circumventing their own State legislatures in the process.

The Federalists, who favored increased centralization of power, were well-aware of their inability to defend the abandonment of the Confederation legally – though James Madison weakly observed in Federalist 40 that “in all great changes in established governments, forms ought to give way to substance.”

A Great Consolidation of Government

“After June 25, 1788, three States remained outside the new Union: New York, whose convention came to order in Poughkeepsie on June 17; North Carolina, whose delegates would meet in late July; and Rhode Island, to whose fate most Federalists were indifferent.

[New York anti-Federalists searched] for a formula for conditional ratification that would keep the State in the Union while preserving the right to withdraw subsequently should its amendments not be adopted. So opposed were Federalists to any form of conditional ratification that [Alexander] Hamilton even wondered whether they should agree that New York could reserve a right to “recede” from the Union should its desired amendments not be adopted . . .

Anti-Federalists insisted that North Carolina was not rejecting the Constitution outright, and they further intimated that the State would somehow remain in the Union – if not its new government – because the compact of the [Articles of] Confederation could be dissolved only with the consent of ALL its parties. Remarkably, Anti-Federalists even challenged the right of the convention to abandon the Confederation, or to substitute “We the people” as the source of federal legitimacy for “we the States.”

[James Madison’s Federalist 39 described the Constitution]: “In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of government are drawn, it is party federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.”

Such distinctions hardly assured the anti-Federalists who knew that the Constitution would form the States into a new Leviathan. “We may be amused if we please, by a treatise of political anatomy,” Patrick Henry warned the Virginia ratifiers, rebutting a speech in which Madison restated this argument. “In the brain it is national: the stamina are federal – some limbs are federal – others are national.”

“But what signifies it to me, that you have the most curious anatomical description of it in its creation?” Henry asked. “To all the common purposes of Legislation it is a great consolidation of Government.”

(Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, Jack N. Rakove, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, excerpts pp. 125-126; 161-162)