Browsing "Conservatism and Liberalism"

Lincoln’s European Revolutionaires

Lincoln’s election owed much to the Italian, Hungarian, German, French, Spanish, Polish and Irish exiles who fled Europe after their failed socialist revolutions. In appreciation for swinging the foreign vote to him, Lincoln offered military command to Italy’s Garibaldi early in the war, and made Carl Schurz and Franz Sigel generals. Austrian Charge d’affairs to Washington, Chevalier J.G. Huelsemann, viewed Lincoln as a rude politician “who emerged from a log cabin to become the symbol of republican democracy and the very antithesis of” his emperor. The Chevalier found Jefferson Davis “definitely superior” to Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s European Revolutionaries

“The sympathy of the United States in general, and Lincoln’s Republicans in particular, for the revolutionaries of Europe was a long-established fact. Chevalier Huelsemann had frequently expressed indignation at the cordiality displayed in America toward exiles of the anti-Habsburg revolutions.

He never forgot his bitter feud with Daniel Webster over favors shown to Hungary’s Kossuth, and he also remembered that Abraham Lincoln, back in the Springfield days, had offered a resolution at a public meeting which called for recognition “in governor Kossuth of Hungary the most worthy and distinguished representative of the cause of civil and religious liberty on the continent of Europe.”

This, however, had taken place about ten years before when Mr. Lincoln was just a local politician and could be ignored by an envoy of the Emperor. But the righteous ire of the Chevalier rose to the boiling when President Lincoln, in the first month of his administration, announced the “provocative appointment” of Anson Burlingame, a “violent radical,” to the post of Minister Extraordinary at the Court of His Apostolic Majesty Francis Joseph I.

Former Senator Burlingame was guilty of giving moral support to the revolutionary leaders of Europe and, above all, of having sponsored legislation in favor of recognizing the new, anti-Austrian Italy of the Risorgimento. Plainly, such a man could not be allowed to enter the exalted presence of the Emperor. The Secretary of State [William Seward] rejected all protests of Huelsemann and instructed Burlingame to proceed to Vienna.

Burlingame, on his arrival in Paris, was informed by Austrian Ambassador Prince Metternich that his American Excellency would not be received by the Emperor.

At this point Lincoln intervened . . . [with orders that Burlingame] “has been commissioned United States Minister to China.”

(Lincoln and the Emperors, A.R. Tyrner-Tyrnauer, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, excerpts pp. 32-34)

 

A Colossal Waste of Life

As evidenced by sergeants and lieutenants commanding Southern regiments in early 1865, the Northern war killed off the promising political and social leadership of the South. These men would have risen to positions of authority, achievement and genius had it not been for a war against their homes, State and country, which they died defending.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Colossal Waste of Life

“As we prepare for another slam-dunk cakewalk preemptive war, this time with Iran, it may be well to recall that the GOP had its origins in big government, which leads to, and thrives on, war. Only weeks after the first Republican president took office, the United States were at war against their estranged sister States,

It proved to be the bloodiest war in American history, consuming 600,000 young Americans [and not including another 400,000 American civilians, black and white]. Setting moral and political questions aside, we can really never know what was lost. How many of these young men, had they lived, would have blossomed into Edisons, Fords, Gershwins and other geniuses whose fruits we would still enjoy and profit from?

All we know is that the country was perpetually impoverished by this colossal waste of life. You never hum the tunes that never got written.

Nevertheless, we still celebrate – no, deify – the man brought on this horror by refusing to countenance the peaceful withdrawal of seven States. Of course Lincoln is chiefly honored for ending slavery. It’s a nice story, but it isn’t exactly true.

When the Confederacy was formed, so many Southern Democrats left both houses of the U.S. Congress that both the House and Senate were left with were left with Republican majorities. With this near-monopoly of power, the GOP – in those days, the GYP, I suppose – passed two “confiscation “ acts in 1861 and 1862, authorizing the seizure of any private property used to assist the “rebellion.”

These powers were so vaguely defined that they permitted limitless repression, such as the closing of newspapers critical of Lincoln’s war. In combination with Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, anyone could be arrested for anything in the Land of the Free.

The 1862 act expressly declared slaves in the seceding State “forever free.” This was the real Emancipation Proclamation, but Lincoln was actually reluctant to act on it, doubting its constitutionality. For months the radical Republicans attacked him and egged him on, and finally he gave it effect in the most famous executive order of all time. He argued that in wartime he might take a punitive step that would be illegal during a time of peace.

Lincoln had other plans for ending slavery. He’d always thought it should be done gradually, with “compensation” to the slaveowners and the freed blacks to be encouraged to leave the United States. It was his conviction, repeatedly and openly stated, that though all men are created equal, abstractly speaking, the Negro – “the African,” he called him – could never enjoy political and social equality with the white man in this country; the black man would find his equality somewhere else, “without [i.e., outside] the United States.”

So Lincoln waged war to prevent the political separation of North and South, but in the hope of achieving racial separation between black and white. Both goals entailed vast expansions of federal and executive power. Limited government, anyone?

With its current Jacobin-Wilson zeal for spreading “democracy” around the globe, the Republican Party today is more or less back where it started. And once again, a Republican president is claiming wartime powers, under the Constitution, to act outside the Constitution.

Still, the myth persists that Lincoln lived his whole for the purpose of abolishing slavery, and was finally able to do this with a single inspired sovereign act. Like most historical myths, this one ignores all the interesting details. As Lincoln himself said, “I have not controlled events, but plainly confess that events have controlled me.”

(The Reluctant Emancipator, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s, Volume 13, Number 8, August 2006, excerpts pg. 12)

Segregation Plans in 1936

With the NAACP led by a man who preached socialism and later communism, it was not surprising that Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic Party would later attract black voters to his fold. In 1936, the Republican Party then was denouncing the New Deal’s “communist propensities”; FDR’s labor consultant Sidney Hillman created the first political action committee – CIO-PAC – with which to funnel labor union monies into the president’s campaign chest. Despite a black man, James W. Ford, being the vice-presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA in 1936, the left-leaning Democratic Party appealed to millions of black voters.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Segregation Plans in 1936

“The year 1936 raised the issue of the Negro and national life in well-defined terms for the race’s spokesmen. First, it was the year of a presidential election . . . Negroes had traditionally decided in favor of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln and emancipation. Second, this particular election may be described fairly as a referendum for the administration of a Democratic president who had repeatedly espoused the cause of the “forgotten man.”

Third, this particular election year contained several racial issues which were extremely important to Negro leaders. [The] international situation was a burning issue for Negroes in 1936 because a non-colonial African nation was being attacked by a white European nation. Negroes wanted their white national decision makers to take some firm stand toward the Italian aggression against Ethiopia.

The election year was also significant because of the first National Negro Congress which convened in Chicago on February 14, 1936. Arising from the careful scrutiny of New Deal operations by an elite Negro group calling itself the Joint Committee on National Recovery, this congress brought together the whole spectrum of Negro leadership. In 1936 the leaders were taking a new deep breath in preparation for their next attempt “to shake off the bonds which have made possible economic slavery, political disenfranchisement and social inequalities.”

Among recognized Negro leaders in 1936 none adopted a position making segregation both the means and the goal of the race’s communal existence in America. Rather, a segregationist position was closer to the moderate stance of the great compromiser, Booker T. Washington. Negro segregation would be welcomed as a vehicle of achieving racial solidarity, which in turn would aid accumulation of wealth and a rise in social and cultural status, with a final goal of acceptance of Negroes as equals among the American citizenry.

The Republican editor of the Chicago Defender, Robert S. Abbott, stated the position of the Negro business community and its segregationist policies, though the major thrust of his editorial policy was one of protest rather than acquiescence toward white community. The editorial concluded that Negroes must accept, not attempt to change, the criteria of success employed by white Americans.

[W.E.B. Du Bois], the socialist and later in his life communist, was the most notable Negro conservative of 1936. [A] self-critical glance had convinced him that educated Negroes were only parasites on white philanthropy. [Du Bois] called for a concerted Negro effort to develop segregated education, religion and culture, segregated medicine and crime prevention, and, most important, segregated consumer power. The Negro could and should develop a socialism of professional services within its own racial community.

The task was not to build a segregated Negro capitalistic society parallel to white capitalism; rather, it was to create a segregated Negro economy in a form which would be functional in producing security and power to meet the circumstances of 1936, from which power base an attack on white structures for racial discrimination could be later launched.”

(Negro Leadership in the Election Year 1936, James A. Harrell; Journal of Southern History, Volume 34, No. 4, Nov. 1968, excerpts, pp. 546-554)

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

The aristocratic cotton manufacturers who supported Henry Clay’s “American System” organized the Massachusetts Whig party out of the chaos of Andrew Jackson’s reelection in 1832. They and their allies saw high tariffs as job insurance, and resented Jackson’s appeal to immigrant labor, farmers and urban workers. These Massachusetts Whigs had grown wealthy from Eli Whitney’s invention and slave-produced cotton from the South, and considered abolitionists as enemies of the Constitution and peace. Both Whitney and the mill owners were responsible for perpetuating slavery in the South as they made cotton production highly profitable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

“The leaders of the Whig party, for a number of reasons, were particularly responsive to the abolitionist threat. Several members of their class, including Sewall, Edmund Quincy, Ellis Gray Loring, Francis Jackson, James Russell Lowell, William Ellery Channing, and Wendell Phillips, had entered abolitionist ranks and so threatened the newly-restored [upper Boston] class unity.

Although the aristocrats were engaged in a great many reforms, abolitionism never became fashionable or even acceptable to the social elite as a whole, and aristocrats who associated with the abolitionists were quickly ostracized. Consequently, many of the leading abolitionists came from less socially-distinguished families and were most successful in their appeals to the middle class.

The Whig leaders, who regarded abolitionism as a disruptive influence in American society and deplored the abolitionists’ opposition to harmony with the South and the maintenance of the Union, seldom distinguished the moderate abolitionists from the Garrisonian extremists.

Worst of all, from the Whig point of view, the abolitionists, in their demand for immediate, uncompensated emancipation, had attacked property right which the conservative Whigs regarded as fundamental to every other right.

The Whig leaders opposed all denunciations of slavery and slaveholders, many of whom were personal friends, business associates, and political allies. They considered slavery a redundant issue in Massachusetts politics and anti-slavery propaganda worse than meaningless in the North. Although most of them, to be sure, considered slavery an evil, they emphasized that it was an institution wholly controlled by the States, and as such was protected by the Constitution, which was no to be tampered with.

Anti-slavery agitation in the North would only bring about sectional disharmony and, in addition, worsen the condition of the slave in the South. Abbott Lawrence summed up the conservative Whig position when he wrote:

“I am in favor of maintaining the compact as established by our fathers. I am for the Union as it is. I have no sympathy with the abolition party of the North and East. I believe they have done mischief to the cause of freedom in several States of the Union. The abolition of slavery in the States is exclusively a State question and one with which I do not feel that I should meddle or interfere in any shape or form.”

(Cotton Versus Conscience: Massachusetts Whig Politics and Southwestern Expansion, 1843-1848, Kinley J. Brauer, University of Kentucky Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 22-24)

Contemptible Familiarities

Contemptible Familiarities

“Would you guys like something to drink?”

I could not help smiling at the lad and two men sitting across the table from me in this California restaurant injected into the middle of North Carolina. We had just been deploring the use of this unisex slang expression to mean “ladies and gentlemen” and debating the possibility of asking waitresses to avoid it.

The waitress cocked her head and asked if something was wrong. After a few minutes of embarrassing hesitation, I told her, “This is a lady sitting next to me, not a guy, and the rest of us are men or even gentlemen, not guys or kids or fellows.”

“Then what am I supposed to say?”

When one Southern literary gent at the table suggested “You all,” she protested, “But then I’d sound like a cracker.” We assured her that the best people said “Y’all” and added that if she wanted to talk Yankee, she should talk old Philadelphia and not suburban Des Moines.

“Guy,” whether it is derived from the effigies of Guy Fawkes burnt on the fifth of November or, as Mencken believed, from the guy-rope of a circus tent, has nothing to recommend itself as a term of address. Chesterton objected to being called a “regular guy” when he visited America – perhaps he thought he was being accused of being a Catholic terrorist.

The real point in using “guy” is that it is a weapon in the war to eliminate distinctions and to level sexes, ranks and ages into one neutral category that probably includes domestic animals.

Like “citizen” or “comrade,” guys is a political term that does nothing to elevate the waitress but only denies the social reality constructed by men and women, young and old. If pressed, the sweet young thing from Concord might had said she was doing this 50-something old man a favor by treating him as “one of the guys,” but some us old bucks are proud to have got to where we are and can barely tolerate the society of the under-35 guys, chicks, dudes, and hey-mans whose philosophy of life is “I deserve a break today.” Did somebody say “stupid”?

Humpty Dumpty

(Contemptible Familiarities, Chronicles, February 2000, pg. 12)

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

The war waged against the American South was more about destroying it’s political and economic power in the Union, so that Northern political and economic interests could prevail nationally. The resulting carnival of political vice and scandal is best summarized with: “The festering corruptions of the post-war period sprang up in every part of America and in almost every department of national life. Other loose and scandalous times . . . had been repellent enough; but the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

“The Civil War had severed the Southern checks on the exploitation of natural resources, had supplanted an old, experienced ruling class for a new, inexperienced one, had released the dynamic energies of the nation, and had ushered in the Era of Manipulation.

Under President Grant, pliant and politically naïve, the government had fallen into the hands of dishonest and incapable men . . . politics under the cloak of Radicalism more and more had become identified with manipulation for economic favor. Hordes of lobbyists had swarmed over the land, seeking railroad subsidies, mining concessions, and thousands of other government handouts.

The West was being plundered by railroad and mining corporations, the South by Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. The cities and the State legislatures, in North and South alike, were infested with rings, lobbyists, bribe-givers, and bribe-takers. Even the national Congress had become a tool of predatory business interests. Machine politics, firmly founded on patronage, economic privilege, the bloody shirt, and the soldier vote, prevailed everywhere.

The new ruling classes, flushed with prosperity, had lost their sense of responsibility, and corruption had kept pace with the upward swing of the business cycle. Political morality had sunk to its lowest level in American history.

In the closing days of the last Congress, [Grant’s self-styled House floor leader] Ben Butler and a few others had slipped through a measure increasing the salaries of the President, members of Congress, and other high officials. Tacked onto the unpopular measure was a retroactive feature which in effect gave each member a $500 bonus for his service the last two years.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley; Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1855, excerpts pp. 250-252)

Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

In President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address he pointed out that “sovereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is an abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government remained.” He added simply, “The agent through which they communicated changed.” Thus there was no “destruction of the Union” as was charged by the North, but merely a reduction in the number of constituent States forming the union of 1787.

Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.org

 

Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

“On February 15, 1861, before the arrival of Mr. Davis at Montgomery to take the oath of office, the Congress passed a resolution providing “that a commission of three persons be appointed by the President-elect as early as may be convenient after his inauguration and sent to the government of the United States, for the purpose of negotiating friendly relations between that government and the Confederate States of America, and for the settlement of all questions of disagreement between the two governments, upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith.”

Truly, as Mr. [Alexander] Stephens, of Georgia, one of the delegates to this Montgomery Congress, says . . . “[the Confederate Congress] were no such men as revolutions or civil commotions usually bring to the surface . . . Their object was not to tear down, so much as it was to build up with the greater security and permanency.” And we may add that they meant to build up, if so permitted, peaceably.

In this spirit of amity and justice, the first act of the Louisiana State convention, after passing the ordinance of secession [from union with the United States], was to adopt, unanimously, a resolution recognizing the right to free navigation of the Mississippi River (which flows down from Northern States of the great inland basin and empties into the sea within the confines of Louisiana), and further recognizing the right of egress at that river’s mouth and looking to the guaranteeing of these rights.

President Davis’ inaugural address, delivered February 18, 1861, breathe the same spirit of friendship toward our brothers of the North. He said in part:

“Our present political situation . . . illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 24-25)

 

A Minority Party Blunders into War

William H. Seward lost the Republican presidential nomination to a political novice from Illinois, and was quietly licking his wounds while that novice was ignoring the secession crisis in Springfield. As Seward was the creation and protégé of New York newspaperman Thurlow Weed, he might have exerted party leadership to bring on a constitutional convention of the States to properly settle the issues. Weed was no friend of secession, but saw signs that the conservative South was open to negotiation – as the Crittenden Compromise offered. Seward deferred to Lincoln, and Lincoln stumbled into war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Minority Party Blunders into War

“Aside from misconceiving the importance of the secession movement, the Republicans were also placed at a great disadvantage by their lack of experience as a majority party and their lack of a leader to chart their course for them. The crisis overtook them before they could remedy these defects.

It demanded that they produce a formula to save the Union, and made this demand at a time when they had never even borne the responsibility of appointing a postmaster. They were yet a minority party, not destined to assume office for three months to come.

They had never been anything other than a minority party, skilled in opposition tactics, steeped in opposition psychology, unused to responsibility, unaccustomed to the formulation of policy. Unprepared as they were to cope with a crisis, they clung to their nominal position as a minority group and shrank from taking affirmative action. The future belonged to them; they alone could pledge it; and consequently they alone could wield the initiative.

This handicap might have been overcome by clear-cut and decisive leadership. But in the moment when an unexpected crisis and unfamiliar responsibility fell simultaneously upon Republican congressmen, they found themselves with no unquestioned leader. Abraham Lincoln was, of course, the elected chief, but he had been silent for more than half a year.

Mr. Lincoln was, in the eyes of many simply an ex-congressman from Illinois, now President-elect . . . Certainly they gave no sincere allegiance to the unknown quantity from Springfield, and if anyone held the position of leadership it was Lincoln’s rival, William H. Seward. Seward had been the leader of the Republican party, and especially of the Republicans in Congress, for nearly six years . . . and probably the most intelligent member on the Republican side of the Senate.

The moral grandeur of “lost causes” held little appeal for him. Consequently, he became a superb politician, a master of artifice, equivocation, and silence. With Lincoln silent in Springfield, the public gaze turned upon Seward, the leader in Congress, and, as rumor had it, the next Secretary of State.

Had Seward been prepared to act vigorously at this juncture, he might have exerted an enormous influence. But he was, himself, inhibited at this critical moment by his reticence in assuming leadership so soon after his defeat for the [presidential] nomination, by his underestimate of the crisis, and by his anxiety not to take any step that would impair his prospective influence with the new administration.

Amid this welter of confusion [in Republican ranks], Congress at last convened [in] joint session [to hear President James Buchanan] set forth his belief that the States cannot legally secede, but that the Federal government could not legally restrain them; in it he recommended that Congress call a constitutional convention . . .”

(Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis, David M. Potter, Yale University Press, 1942, excerpts pp. 80-82)

 

Republicans Frustrate Compromise Efforts

Well-aware of his meager claim to electoral victory with only 39% of the popular vote, Lincoln told Republican Congressman James Hale of Pennsylvania that supporting the compromise plan of Kentucky’s John J. Crittenden would mean the end of the Republican Party and of his new government. During several compromise efforts between December 1860 and March, 1861, Lincoln wrote important Republican leaders in Congress to oppose any settlement with the South, which of course ensured secession and his war upon the South. Again, it is clear that the cause of secession and war was the Republican Party, and Lincoln placing party survival over saving the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Republicans Frustrate Compromise Efforts

“[Crittenden desperately] was trying to halt what he called the “madness” possessing the South and begged northerners in Congress to make the “cheap sacrifice” and “little concessions of opinions” that his pan required in order to save the country.

Crittenden directed his plea primarily to Republicans. They held the balance of power in Congress, and their reaction would decide the fate of the Crittenden program. Northern Democrats who had been traditionally more conciliatory toward the South . . . could be expected to give the program substantial support.

Some Republicans agreed with Crittenden that a few concessions to the South to preserve the union might be worthwhile, if the price was not too high. From the beginning, [Republican] antagonism doomed Crittenden’s high hopes [though] Unionists in both houses of Congress, however, fought for legislation that encompassed Crittenden’s plan.

In the lower house, on December 5 [1860], Alexander Boteler of Virginia successfully moved that a committee of one member from each State (the Committee of Thirty Three) be established to work out a plan to save the Union. Republicans cast every negative vote on the resolution, giving an early indication that they were opposed to compromise. Republicans blocked every other compromise measure suggested in the Committee of Thirteen.

Crittenden’s followers still refused to admit defeat. The Virginia legislature invited all the States to send representatives to a “Peace Conference” in Washington in February. Although none of the States that had already seceded sent delegates, twenty-one States did join the conference. Once again Republican leaders opposed compromise plans, claiming they did not want to cripple Lincoln’s freedom to deal with secession by committing him to a program before his inauguration.

An Indiana Republican delegate wrote to his governor from the conference: “We have thus done all in our power to procrastinate, and shall continue to do so, in order to remain in session until after [Lincoln’s inauguration on] the 4th of March.” The Senate voted on the original Crittenden plan and defeated it by a 20 to 19 vote. Not one Republican supported the plan.

The Republican decision to frustrate compromise efforts was one of the most significant political decisions in American history. Although it would be unreasonable to assert that had Republicans supported compromise they would definitely have ended the secession movement and prevented the Civil War, such a result was quite possible given the wide support that Crittenden’s plan attracted.

All the pro-Southern aspects of the compromise disturbed the Republicans; but their ire was raised in particular by the territorial provisions. The Republican party’s strength was contained in its antislavery wing, which was held together by opposition to any expansion of slavery [into the territories].

Had Republicans abandoned their opposition to slave expansion in 1860, they would have committed political suicide. Such a concession to the South would have constituted a repudiation of their own platform, “an admission that Southern complaints were valid,” and a confession that Lincoln’s election as president warranted secession.

Republican voters by the thousands cautioned their congressmen and leaders not to compromise with the South and agitated at home against conciliation, as when Pittsburgh Republicans broke up a unionist meeting by turning off the gas, smashing seats, and yelling “God d —-n John J. Crittenden and his compromise.”

(The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire: 1854-1861, Robert E. May, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 210-212; 214-217)

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

Both Jefferson and Hamilton recognized that sectionalism had been a part of American politics since colonial days, and the emerging West was adding a third section to the political landscape. The political problem facing Federalists and Republicans was “how to win the allegiance of the absconding swindlers, murderers, fugitive slaves, bankrupts, brigands and failures” who settled the wild areas of the West. And certainly those Westerners would give their political allegiance to whomsoever got them what they wanted. Therein lay the seeds of future war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

“[Jefferson] saw that factions were forming in the United States, and the political parties were emerging. This was something the Founding Fathers had not envisioned when they wrote and agreed upon the Constitution. But it was clear enough to Jefferson that, on one side, there was a Federalist Party, led by Hamilton.

This party, he felt, had made a virtual prisoner of Washington . . . and was hiding behind his prestige to effect its nefarious scheme of converting the United States into a monarchy for the specific benefit of Northern financiers. Hamilton, Jefferson somewhat wildly wrote, “was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

Jefferson saw the Federalists as aristocrats who were the enemies of natural law and the rights of man. They interpreted the Constitution to mean the Federal government could seize any rights not specifically denied it, in order to destroy liberty. They were hand in hand with the financiers of Great Britain, and their opposition to slavery was not humanitarian, but just a hypocritical way of seeking to undermine the economy, and hence the power, of the agricultural Southern States.

On the other side, in Jefferson’s view, there ought to be the “anti-Federalist” party, which would stand for strict construction and the rights of States in order to safeguard the rights of man. As he saw them, the anti-Federalists were those who feared the creation of a national bank as another Federalist plot to destroy these rights; they were the true revolutionaries, whereas the Federalists represented the forces of reaction.

As revolutionaries, the republicans were therefore the enemies of monarchical Great Britain and the friends of revolutionary France. If they believed in slavery, it was because – well, of course nobody could really believe in slavery; the South was at heart republican and of course someday slavery would be abolished, but not right now. It was not the time to raise that question: the times now demanded opposition to the anti-revolutionary Federalists.

The anti-Federalists should form a party.”

There was meanwhile a nation to govern – one whose destiny lay clearly in the West. Here, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, were two-hundred thousand American settlers whose political opinions could be decisive. Both saw opportunities to speculate in western lands [but] both feared that the balance of political power might shift from the East Coast to these broad western lands with the swift growth of population there. It was a possibility that occurred to western politicians as well.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 242-244; 247-248)

 

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