Browsing "Conservatism and Liberalism"

No Indissoluble Union

Before the war, Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was insulted by a Boston newspaper which wrote: “We ask whether the Jews, having no country of their own, desire to put other nations in the same unhappy condition.”  He shrugged off anti-Semitic comments of other Northern critics as he did a reference to him as one of the “Israelites with Egyptian principles.”

Senator G.G. Vest of Kentucky quoted Benjamin’s response to a Senate opponent: “It is true that I am a Jew and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of the Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightning of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is opposed to me were herding swine in the forest of Scandinavia.”

No Indissoluble Union

“Benjamin’s reasoning, with that of most of the other conservatives who saw no alternative but secession, was that upon the North American continent were two peoples, one building an industrial empire and the other content to remain a race of planters and staple producers.

Each could best work out its own destiny . . . And as long as the two were bound into one country, there would be strife. Since they had so little in common, the sensible solution to the impasse they had reached would be the severance of political ties. Certainly he felt he was not without precedent in holding the federal compact to be terminable at the will of its member States. He saw scarcely any evidence that it was intended by those who wrote it to be anything more.

The simple truth is that he aligned himself against the North at least partly because he felt he could not subscribe to the principle of an indissoluble Union. The North embraced the principle of nationality – the South sought, in Benjamin’s words, divorcement “from a compact all the obligations of which she is expected scrupulously to fulfill, from the benefits of which she is ignominiously excluded.” It was as simple as that to him.”

(Judah Benjamin: Mystery Man of the Confederacy, S.I. Neiman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963, excerpt pp. 92-93)

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

From its formation from the ashes of the Whig party in 1856, the Republican party in less than 5 years drove the Southern States to secession and engulfed the country in a devastating war which destroyed the American republic of 1789.  This party was formed in violation of Washington’s solemn warning against the formation of geographical political parties which he knew would endanger the very existence of the Union.

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

“The Republican leaders sought to convince the Northern voter that there would be no just cause for secession in the event of the election of the sectional president: that the Southern leaders were only bluffing and were trying to intimidate the Northern voter into voting against the dictates of his conscience.

[William] Seward, the author of the “Irrepressible Conflict” oration, explained that “the South would never in a moment of resentment expose themselves to war with the North while they have such a great domestic population ready to embrace any opportunity to assert their freedom and inflict revenge.”

He further explained that the election of Lincoln would terminate the conflict he had prophesied – not begin it. “Vote for us,” he cried, “and you will have peace and harmony and happiness in your future years.” And again he said, “When the Republicans are in office, what may we expect then? . . . I answer, “No dangers, no disasters, no calamities . . . all parties will rejoice in the settlement of the controversy which has agitated the country and disturbed its peace for so long.”

However, the New York Herald openly accused Seward of “pussyfooting.” Seward, it asserted, was a “moderate anti-slavery man at Detroit, a radical abolitionist at Lansing, a filibusterer at St. Paul, and the Brother Seward of John Brown did not hesitate to claim to be a good conservative, Union-loving patriot in New York.”

The election of Lincoln, according to Salmon P. Chase, another of the Republican leaders, would mean a restoration of the good old days of concord and goodwill between the North and the South, Tranquility, liberty and Union under the Constitution.” [Horace] Greeley, the Republican editor whose paper had the largest circulation of any paper in the United States, solemnly assured his readers that the election of Lincoln would be like “oil on troubled waters and would promptly remove all sectional excitement.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University, 1921, excerpt pp. 45-46)

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

Of the wartime and postwar Congress, shorn of Southern statesmen, author Richard Hofstadter wrote: “Before business learned to buy statesmen at wholesale, it had to buy privileges at retail.” Railroad promoters actively lobbied for land grants and other subsidies at every level of government, while choruses of Northern manufacturers demanded tariff protection from foreign competitors. The American Third Republic ended with war in 1861, waged against a new Southern agrarian republic seeking peace and prosperity for its people. With its war of independence lost, the South became a poor economic colony within a foreign political arrangement dominated by corporate interests allied with an all-powerful central government.

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

“After the Civil War several transcontinental railroads, all but the Great Northern the beneficiaries of federal land grants, were completed. Chastened by scandals connected with the government’s subsidization of these enterprises, Congress made no new land grants after 1871, but in the nostrils of many people the odor of something rotten – corruption and special, unwarranted privilege at the expense of the general public – lingered about the land-grant railroads for decades.

After the 1870s, growing numbers of huge manufacturing corporations, including such still-familiar firms as Standard Oil, Bethlehem, American Tobacco, and Armour, achieved prominence. People accustomed to dealing with small locally-owned firms had difficulty in reconciling themselves to an economy in which such corporate behemoths did much of the nation’s business.

The great corporations, known to contemporaries as “trusts” though only a few were every trusts in the strict legal sense, raised the specter of monopoly power in the market. American public opinion and legal tradition had long been hostile toward monopolies. Conspiracies in restraint of trade were unquestionably illegal under the common law.

Unsuccessful competitors complained bitterly that the “monopolists” were driving them to the wall. Customers frequently objected to real or imagined price discrimination. More than anything else, rate discrimination provoked the outrage of Midwestern shippers against the railroads. Often the criticism of a big corporation’s alleged monopoly power could be deflected by showing that the firm produced better products or services in growing volumes at ever lower prices.

But this defense, even if appropriate, did nothing to allay the charge that the great corporations subverted the democratic political process. “Corruption,” charged the Populists in the preamble to their platform of 1892, “dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.”  Henry B. Brown, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, told the Yale law students in 1895 that “[b]ribery and corruption are as universal as to threaten the very structure of society.”

(Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs, Oxford University Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 80-81)

 

History versus Social Studies

Richard M. Weaver wrote: “Where education is under the control of collectivist fanatics, not only is the individual’s loyalty to truth despised, but the objective findings of science may be thus perverted to serve the ends of a political ideology.” And, he adds: “There are those in America today who apparently get academic freedom mixed up with students’ rights in general” – “and it goes without saying that academic freedom is not a tool for the “democratizing” of universities by turning them over to students.”

History versus Social Studies

“History has always been a sobering discipline because it presents the story not only of man’s achievements but also of his failures. History contains many vivid lessons of what can happen to man if he lets go his grip upon reality and becomes self-indulgent; it is a record of the race, which can be laid aside alongside the dreams of visionaries, with many profitable lessons.

Yet the modern tendency is to drop the old-fashioned history course and to substitute something called “social science” or “social studies,” which one student has aptly dubbed “social stew.” What this often turns out to be is a large amount of speculation based on a small amount of history, and the speculation is more or less subtly slanted to show that we should move in the direction of socialism or some other collectivism.

Often this kind of study is frivolous; the student is invited to give his thought to the “dating patterns” of teenagers instead of to those facts which explain the rise and fall of nations. There is more to be learned about the nature of man as an individual and as a member of society from a firm grounding in ancient and modern history than from all the “social studies” ever put together by dreamy “progressive” educators.”

(In Defense of Tradition: Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M. Weaver, 1929-1963, Ted J. Smith, III, editor, Liberty Fund 2000, excerpt pp. 191; 201-202)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

A Progressive Empire, Left and Right

It can be argued that the end of American republican government ended in 1861 with the industrialized state warring upon the Constitution and the agricultural South. The triumphant North launched its Gilded Age combine of government, corporations, millionaires and financial manipulation, as well as foreign imperialism, which brought the country to European military intervention. Then came the Depression. The first European military intervention set the stage for another even more costly; an American president then warned of a military-industrial complex that had emerged.

Progressive Empire, Left and Right

“If the American Republic is defunct, and if most Americans no longer subscribe to the classical republicanism that defined the Republic as its public orthodoxy, what is the principal issue of American politics?

Ever since the Progressive Era, the issue that has divided Americans into the two political and ideological camps of “Right” and “Left” has been whether or not to preserve the Republic.

The Progressives (at least their dominant wing) argued that the small-scale government, entrepreneurial business economy, and localized and private social and cultural fabric that made a republic possible was obsolete at best and at worst repressive and exploitive.

They and their descendants in New Deal/Great Society liberalism pushed for an enlarged state fused with corporations and unions into the economy with massive, bureaucratized cultural and educational organizations. In contrast, the “Right” pulled in the opposite direction, defending the Republic and the social and economic structure that enabled republicanism to flourish, but with less success and with ever-diminishing understanding of what they were doing.

Today the conflict over that issue is finished. The Progressive Empire has replaced the old American Republic, and even on the self-proclaimed “Right” today, virtually no one other than the beleaguered “paleo-conservatives” defends republicanism in anything like its pristine form.

The collapse of the conflict over republicanism is the main reason why the labels “Left” and “Right” no longer make much sense and also why – much more than the end of the Reagan administration and the Cold War – the “conservative coalition” of the Reagan era is falling apart.

Mr. Reagan’s main legacy was to show his followers, who for decades griped against “Big Government,” that they too could climb aboard the Big Government hayride and nibble crumbs at its picnic. With such “conservatism” now centered mainly in Washington and its exponents happily dependent on the federal mega-state, the historic raison d’etre of the American “Right” has ceased to exist.

Such conservatives no longer even pretend to want to preserve or restore the old Republic, and it now turns out that even when the said they did, it was all pretty much a charade anyway.”

(Revolution from the Middle, Samuel T. Francis, Middle American Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 90-91)

Modernist Architecture’s Immense Damage

What is called “Modernism” in architecture was simply a response, primarily Marxist in its call to eradicate Western symbolism and meaning, to the rise of industrial manufacturing as man’s chief economic activity. The factory workers were deracinated country folk and their descendants bound to a new kind of slavery; their homes an industrial slum. But Marxist ideology would lift this new industrial man, who would attain control of “the means of production” with all class distinction abolished as life is reorganized by the Politburo.

Modernist Architecture’s Immense Damage

“When speaking of the faults of our surroundings we are naturally inclined to blame “bad architecture,” because buildings are easy to see in the landscape. Architects, just as naturally, inclined to dismiss this point of view as boobery. It is true that the mess we’ve made of places where we live and work is not solely the result of bad buildings, though there are plenty of them.

But that hardly lets architects off the hook. Rather, with the hubris of religious zealots, they set out on a great purifying mission that damaged the whole physical setting for civilization in our time.  The dogmas that guided them went by the name of Modernism. Heretics and skeptics were anathematized as systematically as the opponents of the fifteenth-century Vatican.

Modernism did its immense damage in these ways: by divorcing the practice of building from the history and traditional meanings of building; by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed the age-old social arrangements and, with them, urban life as a general proposition; and by creating a physical setting for man that failed to respect the limits of scale, growth, and the consumption of natural resources, or to respect the lives of other living things.

The result of Modernism, especially in America, is a crisis of the human habitat: cities ruined by corporate gigantism and abstract renewal schemes. Public buildings and public spaces unworthy of human affection, vast sprawling suburbs that lack any sense of community, housing that the un-rich cannot afford to live in, a slavish obeisance to the needs of automobiles and their dependent industries at the expense of human needs, and the gathering ecological calamity that we have only begun to measure.

(The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, James Howard Kunstler, Simon & Schuster, 1993, excerpts pp. 59-60)

A New Nation of Men of Lesser Minds

The brief Gettysburg address of Lincoln was described by listeners as “a wet blanket” after Edward Everett’s stirring oration, but it did announce the end of the original confederation of States. While Northern governors expected words of appreciation for the sacrifices of the various States supporting his war, “Lincoln rose at Gettysburg to talk of the nation.” He did not “mention that four score and seven years before, the Father had brought forth thirteen independent States.”  As Lincoln spoke of government of the people and by the people, few were aware that a hundred miles away General Robert Schenck’s blue-clad soldiers were patrolling the election polls in Delaware.

A New Nation of Men of Lesser Minds

“Only three times did groups of [Northern] governors assemble to formulate policy. The Cleveland meeting of Western governors and [Pennsylvania’s Governor] Curtin in May 1861 came at the height of initial enthusiasm for the war, and the governors merely demanded that more attention be given to the West.  Lincoln accepted their pledge of cooperation and gave the governors so much work in raising troops that they had no time for further consultation over campaign strategy.

The Providence meeting of New England governors sent a committee to Lincoln to demand cabinet changes, but the President skillfully . . . turned them away. [Massachusetts Governor] Andrew led his neighbors from Providence to Altoona, but was unable to get agreement from other governors for schemes to use Negro troops [to avoid drafting white men] and replace McClellan with Fremont.

On the eve of the conference Lincoln issued the preliminary emancipation proclamation and cut the ground out from under Andrew’s radical plot.  Thereafter the governors attempted no meeting, and Lincoln dealt with them separately.

Lincoln had an enormously swollen patronage to dispense . . . but no part of the patronage was at the disposal of the governors. Moreover, the military patronage was at the President’s disposal. Governors might appoint company and regimental officers, but promotions from grade to grade and the selection of general officers depended on the President. The army and the civil patronage – as the experiences in the Border States, in Ohio in 1863, and in the campaign of 1864 proved – put the Republican Party exclusively in Lincoln’s hands.

But in the long run Lincoln’s victory over the governors was the triumph of a superior intellect. Of the sixty-three chief executives of the States only [New York’s] Horatio Seymour could approach the President in quality of mind. Seymour’s partial success in blocking conscription was a tribute to his intellectual power [and he] might have prevented the destruction of States’ rights [in the North].  But Seymour stood alone [and most] of the others were mediocrities who owed their positions to “availability” rather than to ability.

And this, above all, made Lincoln the architect of the new nation. The victory of nationalism over localism, of centralization over States’ rights, was, in the last analysis, a victory of a keener intellect over men of lesser minds. The new nation that emerged from the Civil War was not solely the result of the military defeat of the armies of Robert E. Lee. It was equally the result of the political victory that Abraham Lincoln’s mind and personality won over the governors of the Northern States.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Albert A. Knopf, 1955, pp. 391-392)

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

President James Buchanan’s last annual message of December 3, 1860, placed the blame for the country’s sectional divide squarely upon the Republican party and its adherents. Below, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Patriot and Union cited and commented upon the message in its December 6, 1860 issue.

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

“At no previous period of our national history has the message of the President of the United States been looked for with more solicitude than was the last annual message of Mr. Buchanan; for it was felt that upon his recommendation might depend the future of the country, and that the issues of peace or civil war were, to a great extent, in his hands.

If any man in the country has the right to speak with authority to the South it is JAMES BUCHANAN, as President of the United States and head of the Democratic party; for in his official capacity he has ever been faithful to all his constitutional obligations, and as a party leader has endeavored to bring about those just concessions which, had they been granted, would have saved the country from the perils that now environ it.

The President traces our present difficulties to their true source when he attributes them to the persistent agitation of years against the system of Negro slavery as it exists in the Southern States, and to the alarming sense of insecurity growing out of that agitation . . . growing and extending, until it culminated in the formation of a sectional Northern party, thoroughly imbued and entirely controlled by hostility to the institutions of the Southern States.

It is true that the platforms and creeds of the Republican party profess loyalty to the spirit of the Constitution, and disclaim any intention of interfering with the domestic institutions of the Southern States. But professions weigh nothing when contrasted with facts.

Since the organization of the Republican party the Abolitionists have ceased to exist in this latitude as a separate party, because they merged themselves in the Republicans, deeming that the best means of promoting their ultimate objects.

Every form and degree of Abolitionism has flourished and developed under the fostering care of this Republican party, which, when confronted with the fruits of its own teaching, meekly points to its platform, and says, “we mean no harm to the Southern States.”—Turning from fair words to foul deeds, the Southern people find that the consequences of Republicanism are—the encouragement of Abolitionism, which does not hesitate to avow hostility to slavery wherever it exists; the enactment of unconstitutional laws by Republican Legislatures to nullify the fugitive slave law; the circulation of incendiary publications throughout the South, calculated, if not designed, to encourage servile insurrections, and endanger the lives of the Southern people; the promotion of John Brown raids, and the subjection of the Southern States and people to a position of inferiority.

These are unmistakably indicated as the consequences of the existence of the Republican party, which, however moderate its professions, cannot escape direct responsibility for what it promotes or encourages, and is naturally judged by the Southern people from its fruits, and not from its platforms.

The President shows conclusively that secession is not a remedy conferred upon any State by the Constitution against the encroachments of the General Government, but that it would be a revolutionary step, only justifiable “as the last desperate remedy of a despairing people, after every other constitutional means of conciliation has been exhausted.”

Notwithstanding that the message takes grounds against the constitutional right of any State to secede from the Union, the position is maintained that the Constitution has delegated to Congress no power to coerce a State into submission; and this doctrine is fortified with powerful arguments. We do not see how they can be controverted.

The proceedings of the Convention that framed the Constitution—the very highest authority—show that “Mr. Edmund Randolph’s plan, which was the ground work of the Constitution, contained a clause to authorize the coercion of any delinquent State. But this clause was struck out at the suggestion of Madison, who showed that a State could be coerced only by military force; that the use of military force against a State as such would be in the nature of a declaration of war; and that a state of war might be regarded as operating the abrogation or dissolution of all pre-existing ties between the belligerent parties, and it would be of itself the dissolution of the Union.” Thus it appears that the idea of coercing disobedient States was proposed in the Constitutional Convention and rejected.

But the President advances one step further in the argument. Suppose a State can be coerced, how are we to govern it afterwards? Shall we invite the people to elect Senators and Representatives after they are subdued and conquered? Or shall we hold them as subjects, and not as equals? How can we subdue the unconquerable will? And how can we practically annul the maxim that all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed? Such a process would undermine the foundations of the government and destroy the principles upon which it is reared more certainly than to admit the want of coercive power in the general government.

The President concludes that portion of the message relating to our domestic troubles by suggesting that they may be settled by amending the Constitution, in the way provided by that instrument, so as to secure to the South the rights for which she contends.

Let the South pause before striking the last fatal blow at the Union, and await the time when a returning sense of justice shall induce the North to concede all her just demands . . . Let the North cease its unmanly aggressions—repeal its unconstitutional statutes—stop its reckless agitation against an institution for which it is not responsible and over which it has no control—overthrow any man or party that seeks to perpetuate strife—and the Union may yet be preserved, and even made stronger and more enduring by reason of the shock it has endured.

But without this spirit of concession and mutual forbearance, there is nothing to hope for in the immediate future but contention and disunion.”

(The President’s Message: Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Daily Patriot and Union, December 6, 1860)

 

Two Views of Freedom

The following excerpt is from Senator Hubert Humphrey’s account of his interview with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev in 1959. Though claiming to be staunchly anti-communist, Humphrey in 1944 endorsed and promoted the fusion of the Farmer-Labor party with Democrats, as well accepting the support of “Stalinists and other assorted radicals who dominated the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] in Minneapolis at this time.” Humphrey was also admired by Roosevelt’s pro-Soviet vice president, Henry Wallace.

Two Views of Freedom

“I told [Krushchev] that a lot of young and vigorous Democrats . . . were coming up and that things would be very different after the 1960 elections. “Mr. Premier,” I said, “you and your system have been living on borrowed time. You have just had it easy with the Republicans. Just wait until the Democrats come in. You want economic competition? We’ll run you right out of Gorki Park.”

[Then] Krushchev made the most interesting statement of the whole interview. “They are old-fashioned, they are reactionary,” he said of the communes. “We tried that right after the revolution. It just doesn’t work. That system is not nearly so good as the state farms and the collective farms. You know Senator, what those communes are based on? They are based on that principle, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” You know that won’t work. You can’t get production without incentive.”

[We] got into a debate about over the nature of capitalism and “socialism” (meaning Soviet Communism). I told him that he was sadly misinformed about as to how American capitalism really works and he told me Americans “just plain don’t understand us.” His remarks included a remarkable statement of the Communist idea of freedom:

“In the USSR there is freedom.” Krushchev said, “In the capitalist world there is freedom of enterprise, freedom just to take care of yourself. In the USSR freedom means every member taking care of all the others. The citizen of the USSR regards the country’s welfare as his own welfare.  This needs to be understood. As a religious man believes in God, so does a citizen of a socialist country depend on the welfare of the country as a whole. You believe in God and you believe that your welfare is in the hands of God. We believe the individual’s welfare is the welfare of the state and is in the hands of the state.”

(My Marathon Talk with Russia’s Boss, Hubert Humphrey, LIFE, January 12, 1959, pg. 86)

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