Browsing "Antebellum Economics"

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

The Southern was said to the “the apotheosis of the lowbrow in manners. His speech is wrecked on a false ideal of freedom and ease; his traditions are huddled up under aggression and haste; his manners are sacrificed to a false democracy.” It was also said that it takes three generations to make a gentleman, and that he is trained in the heart as a scholar is trained in the mind. Ellen Glasgow wrote in her “Virginia” in 1913 regarding the vanishing Southern lady that “the less a Southern girl knew about life, the better prepared she was to deal with it.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

“As the shifting social scene swims before my eyes, I realize that two of the most picturesque figures of the past have almost disappeared, the Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man. There are a few survivals of the Southern Lady, but their voices are growing fainter.

The old-time Southern Lady with purring and ceremonious manners was the queen of what has been called the moonshine and magnolia era. The memory of her is like the faint perfume of old roses, a little sweet, a little melancholy, a little suggestive of decay. Her mind ran in deep groves and her manners were brocaded. The worst of it was that she had many spurious imitators who lacked her charm.

The Grand Old Man type has disappeared from village life in the South. He was an institution. He had form, background, and color. He was often a lawyer and politician, in frock coat and high hat. He was sometimes an old-line Whig of the Henry Clay school. An old-line Whig has been described by somebody as a man who wore a ruffled shirt and drank a lot of whiskey. The Grand Old Man’s more remote ancestors fought the Indians and the British; he and his more immediate relatives fought the Yankees.

He will tell over and over the story of his grandfather who was stood up by a group of Tories after King’s Mountain and threatened with death unless he gave certain information; of how his grandfather looked down the gun barrels and told them to “shoot and be damned.”

The Grand Old Man most likely had an old uniform and a sword somewhere in the house, the uniform to be buried in and the sword to hang over the fireplace. If his grandchildren today were asked about the sword, they would probably display indifference and ignorance. To them Gettysburg is little more than a name – a name they have heard too often.

But the history of that sword, lying dormant for years in their brains, will perhaps come to life in their later years and whisper in their ears its story of courage and sacrifice.

The Grand Old Man was undoubtedly a social force in his day. He was ceremonious, courteous, deliberate, positive, and a trifle pompous. If he ever posed, he was not conscious of it. He always knew to a certainty what the government should have done and what it should do. His opinions always hardened his convictions. But this stalwart and picturesque figure has faded out. If there be any of his kind left, they are today little more than museum pieces.

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, excerpt, pp. 271-272)

Southern Plan of Gradual Emancipation

Many influential persons in the antebellum South promoted an end to the colonial labor system inherited from the British, and truly sincere New England abolitionists could easily have assisted in devising a compensated emancipation solution as Britain had done in the 1840s. Also, had New England cotton mills and Manhattan banks not accepted slave-produced cotton or ceased planter-expansion loans, slavery might have ended peacefully.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Plan of Gradual Emancipation

“Pioneers in the struggle for public schools in Virginia were Henry Ruffner, president of Washington College, and his son William Henry Ruffner, who in 1870 became the first superintendent of public instruction in Virginia.

[The elder] Ruffner was a man of much native ability. Through private study he became distinguished for his scholarship, literary talent and eloquence. He was appointed professor in Washington College in 1819 and was made president in 1836, in which position he served until 1848.

Ruffner was an early advocate of the gradual emancipation of the slaves and published a pamphlet in 1847, entitled “An Address to the People of West Virginia; shewing that slavery is injurious to the public welfare, and that it may be gradually abolished, without detriment to the rights and interests of slaveholders.” This address was delivered before the Franklin Society in Lexington, Virginia, at the request of John Letcher (afterwards “War Governor”) and others.

Ruffner made an analysis of slavery from the standpoint of a slaveholder, showing the evils of the system, not only to the slaves, but to their masters as well, pointing out the wastefulness of the system, the advances that had been made by the free States in population, wealth, and education as compared with the slave States since the Revolution, and the isolation that slavery had brought to the South.

It was a powerful argument against slavery and proposed a method for its abolition. Free from religious, fanatical or sentimental cant, it was a dispassionate, economic analysis of a system to which he himself belonged.”

(Universal Education in the South, Charles W. Dabney, Volume I, UNC Press, 1936, excerpt, pp. 81-82)

New England Contemplates Secession in 1786

The Constitution which replaced the Articles of Confederation was a New England-inspired initiative intended to have a centralized government better protect its commercial and maritime interests. Had the South not compromised on that Constitution, it is likely New England would have seceded from the Confederation to form their own commercial union with its neighboring States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Contemplates Secession in 1786

“In view of the sectional troubles which arose during the War of Independence and continued into the period of the [Articles of] Confederation, it is not surprising that the proposed admission of new States also caused sectional dissention. Southern opposition helped prevent the admission of Vermont; and Northerners became concerned as it became ever more likely that Kentucky would seek to be recognized as a State.

If, in the years 1785-1786, when economic depression afflicted the entire Confederation, Southerners were unhappy because Northerners were lukewarm or hostile to Southern expansion, Northerners were discontented because Southerners were neutral toward or opposed to measures which would have benefited the maritime trade of the North.

Merchants of New England and the Middle States wanted protection for their shipping against British competition, especially after Parliament decided to treat the Americans as foreigners and applied the British navigation laws to them. Accordingly, New England sought to amend the Articles of Confederation so as to give Congress powers to regulate interstate and foreign commerce and to levy import and export duties toward that end.

Even though the proceeds of these taxes were to go to the States in which they were collected and power to cut off commerce was expressly reserved to them, Southerners in Congress, especially Virginians, objected strenuously. Members of the Virginia legislature also evidently protested.

They feared that Congress would use these powers to prevent British ships from coming to Southern shores and so to confer upon Northern shipowners a monopoly of the Southern overseas traffic. Certainly the Yankees wished to get as much of that business as they could; and American shipping was concentrated in the Northern ports, being relatively scarce in the Southern ones.

Indeed, by 1786, it had become seemingly impossible to make changes in the Articles of Confederation, these requiring both action by Congress and the sanction of all thirteen State legislatures. In August of that year when James Monroe reported that New Englanders were considering the formation of a separate union, he was not entirely in error. Wrote Yankee Theodore Sedgwick on the 6th of that month:

“It well becomes the [north]eastern and middle States, who are in interest one, seriously to consider what advantages result to them from their connection with the Southern States. They can give us nothing, as an equivalent for the protection which they desire from us but a participation in their commerce. Even the appearance of a union cannot in the way we now are long to be preserved. It becomes us seriously to contemplate a substitute.”

(The First South, John Richard Alden, LSU Press, 1961, excerpt, pp. 69-72)

The Southern Yankee

Beyond the New England slave trade which populated the American South with millions of enslaved Africans, there were many Yankees who moved South before 1861 to engage in agriculture and the holding of slaves.  And they had a Southern counterpart who learned the Yankee’s  close-fisted ways.  During the War and after Northern bayonets had conquered Southern regions, many industrious and profit-minded Yankees came South to try their hand at revolutionizing Southern agriculture and labor with experiments at Hilton Head and Louisiana.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

The Southern Yankee

“The name “Yankee” was originally bestowed upon New-Englanders alone, but for what reason it would be difficult perhaps to determine at this time. At present, however, with all foreigners it is used to designate the natives of any of the Anglo-Saxon States of our republic. In our Southern States all Northerners are regarded as Yankees, while the Southerner will not consent to have the name applied to themselves.

But even in the North there are those who still disclaim the appropriateness of the cognomen, when applied to any persons other than the natives of New England . . . “Yankee” with all these is looked upon usually as a term of reproach – signifying a shrewd, sharp, chaffering, oily-tongued, soft-sawdering, inquisitive, money-making, money-saving, and money-worshipping individual, who hails from Down East, and who is presumed to have no where else on the Globe a permanent local habitation.

In a sense of the word, however, we are disposed to opine that, while New-England may possibly produce more Yankees than other portions of the Republic . . . still, any numbers of the close-fisted race are to be met with all the way from the banks of the Hudson to the deltas of the Mississippi – all to the manor born too, and through whose veins courses not a drop of New-England blood.

Of these the Southern Yankee is, without dispute or cavil, the meanest. He has nothing whatever to plead in excuse or even extenuation of his selfishness; for all around him is boundless hospitality, and even the very air he breathes excites to warm-heartedness, relaxing the closed fist of more Northern latitudes into the proverbially open palm of the generous hearted South. Time was indeed, when the Southern Yankee had neither a local habitation nor a name.

During the grand old Colonial days, as well as the happy period which immediately followed the Revolution, Southerners did not dream of devoting their whole lives – all their time and talents – to the base pursuit of riches – the mere acquisition of dollars and dimes, regardless of family ties, or the duties owned to society, and the much higher duties one also owes to his God.

At the present time, the Southern Yankee is quite an institution in the South. The Southern Yankee comes of no particular lineage, but springs from all manner of his forefathers, though in most cases from persons of the middle class. Like his Northern brother, the Southern Yankee is deterred by no obstacle whatever from his tireless pursuit of riches.

In the tobacco-fields of Virginia, in the rice fields of Carolina, in the cotton-fields of Alabama, or among the sugar-canes of Louisiana, when a farmer or planter, he is in all things similar and equally bent on the accumulation of the sordid pelf: and the crack of his whip is heard early, and the crack of his whip is heard late, and the weary backs of his bondsmen and his bondswomen are bowed to the ground with over-tasking and over-toil, and yet his heart still unsatisfied; for he grasps after more and more, and cries to the fainted slave: “Another pound of money, dog, or I take my pound of flesh!”

Will it pay to press the poor African beyond what he can endure, and thereby shorten his life . . . this is the great and the only question with every Southern Yankee: “Conscience? Basta! He knows no such thing as conscience: he cares only to get gain, and get it he will, and let conscience go to the dogs. Religion? Go talk to the women and the parsons about religion.”

[The] Southern Yankee is fully as restless as the Yankees of the North – always on the move, or ready to sell out at any time if settled. Home to be loved must be made attractive, but he who is so wedded to filthy lucre as to despise all ornament that costs money, is not capable of entertaining in his selfish and narrow bosom so refining a passion as the love of home, or the love of anything else, indeed, that is pure and beautiful.

However, though often a farmer or planter, the Southern Yankee is much more frequently a trader or speculator. The slow but sure gains of agricultural pursuits are not swift enough to satisfy his inordinate craving for money; hence he speculates either in merchandise, or stocks, or tobacco, or cotton, or sugar, or rice, or grain, or lands, or horses, or men. In all which he is but the type of the Wall Street prototype. He will lie or cheat if need be, and scruples at no dirty trick provided it enables him to make a “good thing of it” – such is the chaste vernacular of these dim-witted fellows.”

(Social Relations in Our Southern States, D.R. Hundley, Henry B. Price, 1860, excerpt, pp. 130-136)

Binding Men to the Footstools of Depots

South Carolinian Robert Y. Hayne (1791-1839) followed Jefferson’s admonition that the national debt was not something to be passed on to future generations, and most presidents of his era and until the War endeavored to pay the debts incurred by their administrations before leaving office. In encouraging a perpetual public debt, Daniel Webster promoted the American System of Hamilton and Henry Clay which provided the government a perpetual supply of money with which to buy influence and power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Binding Men to the Footstools of Despots

“The gentleman from Massachusetts [Webster], in alluding to a remark of mine that before any disposition could be made of the public lands, the national debt (for which they stand pledged) must be first paid, took occasion to intimate [that Southerners desire to pay the national debt] “arises from a disposition to weaken the ties which bind the people to the Union.”

But, adds the gentleman, “so far as the debt may have an effect in binding the debtors to the country, and thereby serving as a link to hold the States together, he would be glad that it should exist forever.”

Surely then, sir, on the gentleman’s own principles, he must be opposed to the payment of the debt. Sir, let me tell that gentleman that the South repudiates the idea that a pecuniary dependence on the Federal Government is one of the legitimate means of holding the States together.

A monied interest in the Government is essentially a base interest . . . it is opposed to all the principles of free government and at war with virtue and patriotism. In a free government, this principle of abject dependence if extended through all the ramifications of society must be fatal to liberty. Already we have made alarming strides in that direction.

The entire class of manufacturers, the holders of stocks with their hundreds of millions in capital, are held to the Government by the strong link of pecuniary interests; millions of people, entire sections of the country, interested, or believing themselves to be so, in the public lands and the public treasure, are bound to the Government by the expectation of pecuniary favors.

If this system is carried on much further, no man can fail to see that every generous motive of attachment to the country will be destroyed, and in its place will spring up those low, groveling, base and selfish feelings which bind men to the footstool of despots by bonds as strong and as enduring as those which attach them to free institutions.”

(Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830; The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, pp. 42-43.)

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)

British Philanthropic Hypocrisy

Replying to Hinton Helper’s “Impending Crisis,” Elias Peissner chastised the British for the hypocrisy of emancipating African slaves while still oppressing its Hindu subjects in India. John C. Calhoun in 1844 saw British emancipation as combining philanthropy, profit and power, and a belief that free labor would reduce overhead and increase profit. In British Jamaica, freedmen bankrupted plantations by not being industrious, and England then promoted wholesale emancipation to cripple or destroy her more successful trade rivals, the French and Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

British Philanthropic Hypocrisy

“We are not yet through with the Testimony of England, who is always loudest in condemning our Slavery. We will give her a fair hearing. How closely she watches those poor Hindoos! How effectually she keeps them down, whenever they express any dissatisfaction with the happiness she forces upon them!

She has instituted among those “half-naked barbarians” an awful solidarite’, by which the province is responsible for the labor of all its men and women. But still, England is philanthropic! She has carried rails and Bibles, free-schools and steamboats, telegraphs and libraries to India, all for the benefit of those half-naked barbarians!

And should telegraphs and Bibles not have the requisite effect of happyfying, opium will be administered to them, and to “all the world, and to the rest of mankind.” She will no longer permit those savage Hindoos to roast as witches wrinkled old women, for she knows too well from her own experience, the unfairness of such proceedings; nor does she, in these days, allow anywhere the Hand of Justice to cut the ears of those who speak against State or Church. Now, this is decided progress!

England is the civilizer and Christianizer of the world! To be sure, there is still robbing and flogging, murdering and starving enough in the “dominions of the Gracious Queen, where the sun never setteth;” but England, nevertheless, dislikes Slavery in general, and Negro Slavery in the United States in particular, and her lords and ladies are ever ready to eat and drink with the poor commoners of the West, eager of philanthropic royalty!

But England emancipated her slaves in the West India Islands! She expended 20,000,000 [pounds], we suppose, from sheer philanthropy, and may we ask: Whom did her philanthropic measure benefit? Jamaica, that brilliant island, saw her land and people degenerate, says H.C. Carey; the planter sold cheaply and left, the slave did not work.

Such must be the effect of all revolutionary or sudden abolition; and, though the emancipated lands may gradually recover from the ill-advised blow, they can only do so with much loss of property and at the cost of much human misery.”

(The American Question, in its National Aspect, Elias Peissner, Negro Universities Press, 1970, pp. 64-65, originally published in 1861)

Those Yankees!

Thomas Jefferson, a Southerner, proposed the prohibition of slavery in the Northwest Territory (belonging to Virginia) though Congress failed to approve the plan by one vote. “Thus,” Jefferson wrote, “we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and heaven was silent in that awful moment.” Seven years later, a Massachusetts man invented the cotton gin that inspired New England mill owners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Yankees!

“If it hadnt been for cotton and Yankee inventiveness, chattel slavery would have died a natural death in the South, as it did in the North, long before the [War Between the States]. In the years following the Revolution, the accent throughout the Colonies was on freedom. More and more leaders in the South were speaking out against slavery and being listened to with respect.

In 1791 William and Mary College conferred the degree of LL.D on Granville Sharp, a noted Abolitionist from England. As late as 1832, a bill to provide for the emancipation of slaves was passed by one House of the Virginia Legislature and defeated in the other by only one vote. Manumission societies were springing up everywhere.

The movement wasn’t exactly a matter of ethics. It was mostly economic. Tobacco and indigo and rice just couldn’t support a wasteful slave economy. There was cotton and the South could grow a lot of it . . . but getting out the pesky seed killed off the profit.

A program of gradual emancipation under which the children of slave parents were to be freed at the age of 25 was gaining momentum when a Yankee school-teacher down in Georgia by the name of Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. The year was 1791. Everyone went cotton crazy and slavery, instead of dying out, was tremendously expanded. Many Southern States passed laws forbidding manumission. Those Yankees!

Virginia was our first slave State . . . and the biggest. During the War, forty-eight counties in western Virginia split off from Virginia and remained loyal to the Union with a slave population of 18,371.

All the Negroes were not slaves. There were 260,000 free Negroes in the South owning property valued at more than $25,000,000. About one in every one-hundred of these owned Negro slaves. Most of them owned just two or three but there were some big Negro slave-owners too.  Cypian Ricard, of Macon [Georgia], had a big plantation and 91 slaves. Charles Roges had 47 and Marie Metoyer had 58. The richest man and the biggest slave-owner in Jefferson County. Virginia, was a Negro.

Negroes were in business in the South too, other than farming. Solomon Humphries of Macon, was the town’s leading grocer. Jehu Jones was proprietor of one of Charleston’s best hotels. Thomy Lafon down in New Orleans, was worth half a million dollars. He contributed so much to the city the State legislature ordered a bust to be carved and set up in a public building in his honor.”

(My Old Kentucky Home, Chapter XVI, W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, pp. 38-39)

 

War Clouds in Late 1832

President Andrew Jackson, in early November 1832, sent a spy to South Carolina to monitor the nullification forces in South Carolina, and “transferred several military companies to Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney” in preparation for war against the State. Though using these measures to elevate his prestige, Jackson also urged Congress to lower the existing tariff and “attacked the protective system for the first time.” He had come to the view that like the national bank he opposed for making “the rich richer and the potent more powerful,” the Northern protective tariffs accomplished the same.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War Clouds in Late 1832

“[Governor Robert Y.] Hayne’s [inaugural] speech was nothing short of a full-blown statement of State supremacy . . .”Fellow citizens, This is Our Own – Our Native Land,” declared Hayne.

“It is the soil of CAROLINA which has been enriched by the precious blood of our ancestors, shed in defense of those rights and liberties, which we are bound, by every tie divine and human, to transmit unimpaired to our posterity. It is here that we have been cherished in youth and sustained in manhood . . . here repose the honored bones of our Fathers . . . here, when our earthly pilgrimage is over, we hope to sink to rest, on the bosom of our common mother. Bound to our country by such sacred, and endearing ties – let others desert her, if they can, let them revile her, if they will – let them give aid and countenance to her enemies, if they may – but for us, we will STAND OR FALL WITH CAROLINA.”

The [South Carolina] legislature gave Governor Hayne authority to accept military volunteers, to draft any Carolinian between eighteen and forty-five (including unionists), and to call out the State militia. The legislators approved a $200,000 appropriation for purchasing arms and authorized Hayne to draw and additional $200,000 from a contingent fund.

On December 26 Hayne issued his proclamation asking for volunteers; by the beginning of 1833 the governor and his district commanders were raising, equipping and training an army. Soldiers constantly drilled in the streets, and for a season Carolina uniforms and blue cockades were standard fare in churches and at tea parties. Over 25,000 men – more than had voted for nullification in the first place – volunteered to defend South Carolina against Jackson’s armies.

[Former Governor James Hamilton’s military preparations] had a chance to win an immediate victory over the two badly exposed federal forts. Fort Moultrie had been built on Sullivan’s Island, and since South Carolina owned part of the island, Hamilton’s volunteers could lay siege to the fort. Castle Pinckney, erected on an island only a mile out from Gadsden Wharf, could be battered down by the nullifiers’ heavy cannon.

The necessity for a strategy of defense, however, weakened the possibility of quick victory. The governor, commanding his army with commendable restraint and caution, also knew that a concentration of troops might precipitate a needless war. Hayne insisted that volunteers train at home . . . [but with] the entire army in the uplands, Charleston would be vulnerable to a concentrated federal attack.

Hayne attempted to solve the dilemma with his mounted-minutemen plan. The governor asked each district to appoint a small cavalry unit which could race to Charleston on a moment’s notice. “If in each district only one hundred such men could be secured,” wrote Hayne, “we would have the means of throwing 2,500 of the elite of the whole State upon a given point in three or four days.”

(Prelude to Civil War, The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, William W. Freehling, Oxford University Press, 1965, pp. 264-266; 275-277)

A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

The Founders referred to their creation as a republic and built in safeguards against the rise of democracy, which they saw as mob rule. Professor Donald Livingston instructs us that the United States is not a republic, but a federation of republics — and the federation itself, cannot be referred to as a “republic.”

Jefferson’s revolution of 1800 election temporarily ended the Federalist Party’s quest to mold the United States into an aristocratic and centralized nation, though encroachments of federal power upon the States continued through the Supreme Court (“sappers and miners”), centralized banking, special interest protectionism — and finally the creation of the States, the federal agent — waging war upon States that rightly opposed the encroachments. The new Republican Party of Lincoln was an incarnation of Adam’s Federalist Party, and empowered by the protectionist and banking interests of New England.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

“Any system of government, from a democracy to an aristocracy to a monarchy, is capable of drowning its people in tyranny. “I see no infallible criterion for defining the nature of government, except its acts,” wrote John Taylor of Caroline in “Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated,” (1820). “If the acts of a monarchy, aristocracy and democracy are the same, these forms of government are to a nation essentially the same also. To contend for forms only, is to fight for shadows.”

How then, should we define the nature of a republic? The word itself was batted around by all the Founding Fathers, but its use varied. John Adams, who favored aristocracy and “balanced power,” wrote that the only “rational” definition of republic is “aa government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws.”

Taylor assailed this sort of “republic,” which puts its faith in the “rule of law.” Answering Adams in 1814 (An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States), he asked how this was any different from the government from which they had declared independence. What guarantees that the law to which everyone is “equally subject” is just – or good?

Adam’ imagined government would counter [inherent financial injustice] with a “balance of power,” by which each class, emerging “naturally” according to a divine distribution of talent, would find equal representation. But do such classes arise “by nature,” according to “God’s design?” Taylor argues that Adams’ classes are artificial – special interests created by laws and sustained by government. (Government’s creation of a standing army, for example, creates a “soldier class,” a military interest. Central banking, creates a banking interest. Etc.)

And man’s lust for power being what it is, these artificial classes would (did) seek to advance their standing among the others, if not dominate them altogether even; even taking the moral high ground for doing just so. “One tyrant may thank God that he is not another tyrant.”

During the infant days of the United States, the means by which the federal government was creating this phony aristocracy was, according to Taylor, its control of the economy, through central banking and taxation – unjust transfers of wealth from one interest to another.

“Wealth, established by law, violates the principle, which induced the American states to wage war with Britain. It separates the imposer from the payer of taxes. No nation would tax itself to enrich an order or separate interest. When therefore a nation is so taxed, it must proceed from the power of the order itself, which is invariably the imposer and receiver of the tax; whilst the rest of the nation is the payer.”

For Taylor, a true, sustainable republic is not characterized by a “balance of power” among artificial interest groups, but by self-government. “The distinguishing superiorities of our policy, are, the sovereignty of the people; a republican government, or a government producing publick or national good; and a thorough system of responsible representation.”

Who, then, were these sovereign “people,” and what is this “good.” The people are farmers. At the time of the War of Independence, 95 percent of Americans were engaged in farming. The prospect of owning a farm was what made the colonies attractive in the first place.

But this life had been threatened by a distant [British] central government that was cash-strapped and weary from financing its own imperial adventures. The small colonial farmer found it difficult to hold onto his land when the crown began to manipulate the money supply. Slapping taxes on his and stifling free trade only made things worse.

The Federalists’ “consolidated republic” threatened to do just the same. Federalist fiscal policy created new interests, a new Court Party of paper wealth. These sundry interests could not live without the farmers, yet they must live off them.

According to Jeffersonian tradition, of which Taylor was the greatest exemplar, the farmer is capable of self-government. His is the only vocation that is “natural” – that is not a creation of government. He depends upon God to sustain him . . . [and] he takes up his arms to defend hearth and home in the local militia, and the mantle of statesman when called upon – all the while eager, as Taylor was, to get back to his land, to the plow.

This is the true republican ideal [and] . . . its people are defined not by party affiliation or political law but by the mores majorum, the “customs of the fathers.”

(A Share in the Patria, Aaron D. Wolf, Chronicles, May 2009, excerpts, pp. 21-22)

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