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“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

The American Founders foresaw the problem of abuse of power and the rise of a president who would cut the shackles of the Constitution, though they more feared sectionalism and an evil combination of the branches of government.

The abuse of power arose with a president who fomented war upon a State, which is treason under the Constitution, raised an army without the consent of Congress, and threatened to arrest and imprison all who defied him. With the formerly federal government afterward under absolute executive and congressional control, the schools educating young citizens on their fealty to national power.

James Louis Petrigu (1789-1863) was a South Carolina Unionist and served as that State’s attorney-general. His stated faith in education as the bulwark of a republic was unfortunately upset by government control of the schools.

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

“As Petigru understood it, the United States Constitution confirmed what the Revolution had aimed to achieve. Reversing the Confederation’s dispersal of power was but a minor part of its accomplishment, for it had by its division of legitimate governmental power between the individual States and the federal union ensured the Revolution’s goals of restricting centralized public authority in the interests of individual liberty.

But individual freedom, as Petigru said in his 1844 Fourth of July oration, required positive government as well as restraints on legitimate power. This too the Constitution had accomplished with its system of checks and balances. Without both the powers allotted and the restraints imposed, “there would be no barrier between a dominant majority and the object they mean to effect.”

Thus, by creating a constitutional union that divided sovereignty between State and nation and checked the evil of concentrated power in any one branch of government, the American people had fulfilled the promise of their revolution.

But the problem of abuse of power was not obviated by the broadly democratic underpinning of the American experiment. Nowhere did Petigru more clearly address that dilemma than in the question he asked that Independence Day audience: “For who shall control where all are equal, or how shall the people restrain the will of the people?”

The best means to control the popular passions implied in his question was education. If a republic was to survive, he thought, its government must provide the schools necessary to cultivate in all its citizens the intellectual independence that was “the bright side of Democracy.”

Without access to knowledge, citizens would lack the ability to challenge their government, and individuals the means to protect their freedom . . . [and] withstand the force of majority opinion. And given Petigru’s opinion that “the Majority are wicked is a truth that passed long ago into a proverb,” republican government could not long survive unless it sponsored that learning, for “what hope is there for the human race when there is no minority?”

(James Louis Petigru: Southern Conservative, Southern Dissenter, William & Jane Pease, University of Georgia Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 149-150)

No Negotiation, No Compromise

Lincoln supported the Corwin Resolution of 1860 which stated that “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

His Republican party was “antislavery” only in regard to restricting black persons to the borders of the Southern States where they reside, and maintaining the territories of the West to the immigrants who supported his party.

After the secession of Southern States and his war against them begun, he offered protection for African slavery if they would return to his Union before January 1, 1863. When those States continued to fight for their independence, his total war pressed onward and the South’s economic wealth and political liberty was destroyed.

No Negotiation, No Compromise

“In the tumultuous six months between his election in November 1860 and the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Abraham Lincoln rejected all diplomatic efforts to resolve the deepening crisis peacefully.

In the political dispute with the newly-constituted, but militarily weak, Confederate States of America, there would be no meaningful negotiations. No compromise would be offered or accepted. Instead, tensions between the two governments would be heightened, and the passions of the American public inflamed, by Lincoln’s provocative and deceptive rhetoric.

Lincoln’s words were a reflection of his unflagging desire to wage total war upon the South. It was to be a war that would last until the enemy agreed to unconditional surrender and US public officials and private contractors had made a financial killing. In 1878, Henry S. Wolcott, special investigator for the US War and Navy Departments, estimated “at least twenty, if not twenty-five percent of the entire expenditures of the government during the Rebellion, were tainted with fraud.”

Lincoln’s ideological view of politics equated progress and patriotism with support for a high protective tariff, internal improvements, and a national bank. Capturing just 39 percent of the popular vote, Lincoln considered his election a democratic mandate to pursue his agenda. A rejection of his economic program by the political leadership of the South, therefore, would be a rejection of democracy.

Lincoln’s program depended on the tariff, and the tariff depended on the South remaining in the Union, as did the survival of the Republican party. For that reason, Lincoln initially pledged his support for the Corwin Resolution, which had been adopted in the waning days of the Buchanan administration. This was the original Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

It had been passed by the House and the Senate, and signed by President Buchanan, but it was never ratified, because, by then, many Southern States had decided to secede. The fact that the South withdrew from the Union despite the passage of this amendment indicated other issues besides slavery motivated their secession. Foremost was the South’s embrace of free trade, the antithesis of Lincoln’s economic agenda.”

(Lincoln, Diplomacy and War, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, April 2008, excerpts pg. 43)

Worship of the Dynamo

Clement Eaton wrote that the plantation society of the Old South emphasized the family far more than in the North, and family graveyards were a familiar sight south of Mason and Dixon’s line. The family altar was a part of its religious mores, devotion to kin and tradition was essential, and “people were evaluated not so much as individuals but as belonging to a family, a clan.”

Additionally, the old Southern culture was different from our own age in its greater devotion to the classics; Hugh Swinton Legare of Charleston believed that their study “would form in [students] a pure taste, kindle their imaginations “with the most beautiful and glowing passages of Greek and Roman poetry and eloquence” [and] store their minds with “the saying of sages,” and indelibly impress upon their hearts the achievements of the Greek and Roman heroes.

The quest for the Northern conception of progress, unrestrained social change and an embrace of industrial capitalism changed all this.

Worship of the Dynamo

“The United States . . . does not possess many of the conservative advantages enjoyed by most premodern cultures . . . [and is] made up of dozens of peoples and cultures. Some are compatible with the culture of the original, predominantly British settlers; others are not.

We have long since lost our reverence for tradition. If the United States has a national tradition, it is the habit of change and the worship of the dynamo. Our most poignant folk hero is John Henry, the defeated enemy of progress.

The ordinary restraints imposed by community and religion survive most powerfully in the distorted forms of intolerance and superstition – much like the bizarre remnants of ancient paganism that endured for several centuries beyond the official Christianization of the Roman Empire. All that seems to bind us together as a nation is a vague ideology of liberty, equality and progress.

Apart from a certain natural inertia, there are few restraints on social innovation. Far from being unique, the United States has been, much like Athens, the education of the modern world.

Herein lies the special quality and crisis of our civilization. Our original and creative minds seethe with new ideas. A few of them are productive, but in the nature of things, most are not. There is nothing wrong with originality, but what is missing from the modern scene are all the powerful restraints, the governors that control the speed of social change, the filters of experience and tradition that sort out the practical from the merely clever.

What we lack are the divine oracles that thunder against any trespass upon ancient rights and any invasion of the nature of things. We have our prophets, it is true, but most of them insist on being creative men of original genius.

The family and the church have not disappeared . . . But they survive in isolated and individualized forms, which cannot impose much restraint upon the community or the state. In the 1980s . . . American families cannot even be sure of their right to rear their children without government interference.

The churches have seen their actual power reduced even more than the family. Today . . . the tax-exempt status of churches is regarded as a privilege granted by an indulgent government. Church schools are regularly taken to court in efforts to make them conform to the model of public education.

What is unsettling is the idea that community bodies – like local churches – have no part to play in exercising social control, that power is exclusively a function of the government and perhaps, the mass media.”

(The Politics of Human Nature, Thomas Fleming, Transaction Publishers, 1988, excerpts pp. 8-9)

America’s Poor Country Cousin

Many saw Franklin Roosevelt as “one of the most eloquent exponents of States’ rights” while governor of New York and considered a safe alternative to nationalist Republicans who precipitated the Depression. But it was ironic that so many conservative Southern legislators dedicated to preserving their region’s way of life helped Roosevelt enact the greatest reform legislation in the country’s history. This would occur despite the sniping of Huey Long and the dependable opposition from conservatives Carter Glass and Harry Byrd of Virginia, and Josiah Bailey of North Carolina.

America’s Poor Country Cousin

“[Many] traditional Southerners who accepted the New Deal, [did so] possibly because of party loyalties and partly because of economic benefits going to their areas, and some modern young Southerners, like Maury Maverick and Lyndon B. Johnson, both of Texas, who were ready with fire and enthusiasm to espouse the New Deal causes.

Roosevelt knew precisely how to ingratiate himself with these leaders; he did it by providing patronage to their areas and bestowing honors upon them as frequently as possible. Even an old recalcitrant like Glass, full of venom against the New Deal, was mollified considerably by Roosevelt’s assiduous courtship in the form of jollying notes and flattering attention in public.

During those first years, most Southerners – like all Americans – were deeply concerned with how the New Deal was affecting them, and it was this that shaped their attitudes toward Roosevelt. From the outset most of the economic leaders of the South were not pleased.

In many ways they had capitalized upon the separate and unequal role of the South in the national economy. Most of the old disorders against which Southern leaders had so long complained were still plaguing the South: it was discriminated against in freight rates; it lacked a fair share of capital and industry; and it was predominantly agrarian.

Northern corporations drained profits out of the South, and in times of economic distress they sometimes closed their Southern factories first. The Southern economy in both its private and public sectors was the poor country cousin.

Unfortunately, the “country cousin” had tried to support himself by working for lower wages. Both agriculture and industry in the South maintained their existence only through providing the most meager return to farmers and workers. Southern States lured Northern industry to their areas not only by the promise of low wages but also by tax concessions which precipitated an undue share of the cost of government onto people who were already underpaid.

[As a result of  FDR’s National Recovery Act which raised wages,] new machinery was installed [in mills] which required twenty fewer employees to operate . . . employers fired workers of marginal usefulness, required the same work output in a shorter number of hours, and engaged in subterfuges (such as kickbacks from salary checks) in order to keep their labor costs from soaring.”

(The Conservative South, Frank Freidel; The South and the Sectional Image: The Sectional Theme Since Reconstruction, Dewey W. Grantham, Jr., editor, Harper & Row, 1967, excerpts pp. 104-110)

The Emergence of the Radical

John C. Calhoun witnessed the rise of Northern radicalism and his keen political insight saw a problematic future for the American South. He did not live to see the secession crisis fully develop, but his countrymen later anticipated “that Lincoln’s election was only the first step” toward the eventual destruction of their political liberty and the Union of their fathers.

Calhoun accurately predicted that the North would monopolize the new federal territories and acquire a three-fourths majority in Congress to force a restructuring of the Union. Once the South’s freedmen were admitted to the franchise by the North’s radical Congress, Republican political hegemony was virtually uninterrupted until 1913.

The Emergence of the Radical

“In the 1830’s . . . the North had become a prolific seedbed of radical thought. The rural South, on the other hand, showed little tolerance for radicals. The hostility to the proponents of revolutionary ideas seems at first inconsistent with the individualism which Southerners generally displayed. The Southern brand of individualism, however, was of manners and character rather than of the mind.

The Southerner vigorously resisted the pressure of outside government, he was cavalier in the observance of the laws; the planter on his semi-feudal estate was a law unto himself. The yeomen, too, living largely on land that they owned and regarding themselves as “the sovereign people,” were among the freest and most independent of Americans.

[In the 1840s and 1850s], editors, preachers, and politicians launched a vigorous propaganda campaign against Southern youth attending Northern schools and colleges. In the minds of conservative Southerners public education now became associated with the “isms” of the North – abolitionism, feminism, pacifism, Fourierism, Grahamism. Thus Southerners tended to regard the great majority of Northern people as sympathetic to the wilds visions and schemes of reform advocated by the northern extremists.

For many years Yankee professors and teachers had staffed Southern colleges and schools to a large extent, but in the last two decades of the antebellum period a pronounced hostility arose against the employment of educators from the North.

When [University of North Carolina] President David L. Swain defended the appointment [of a Northern teacher, he cited] earlier examples [of] employing foreign professors, the highly influential [Fayetteville News & Observer] editor, E.J. Hale replied: “In [two Southern] institutions, filled with foreigners and Northern men, there have been most deplorable outbreaks & riots and rows. Both have been noted for the prevalence and propagation of infidel notions to religion.”

(The Mind of the Old South, Clement Eaton, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 110; 305-306)

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

Patrick Henry of Virginia was one of the most vocal opponents of the constitution which eventually would supersede the Articles of Confederation. He predicted that members of Congress would become a new aristocracy and vote themselves large salaries; that national control over State militia was dangerous to freedom; that Northern commercial interests would menace the South. James Madison could only reply that the “Constitution was not perfect, but as good as might have been made.”

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

“The Virginia delegates returning from Philadelphia had hardly reached their firesides when a long campaign began against the Constitution. In letters, pamphlets and speeches there poured forth almost every conceivable argument against it. It contained no bill of rights, and its adoption would lead to the destruction of personal liberties; it would bring back monarchy; it would create a ruling aristocracy; and it protected the abominable slave trade.

But above all, the Constitution was a dagger aimed at the South, and its point must be blunted or avoided. It must be amended to protect against all these evils. Were it not possible to secure changes, Virginia must think of creating a Southern federation in which the rights of person, republicanism, and Southern interests would be effectively defended.

One of the more moderate enemies of the Constitution was Richard Henry Lee . . . [writing that] “the Constitution threatened Southern interests; and he emphatically declared that Congressional authority to regulate commerce was a menace to the South. Said he:

“In this congressional legislature a bare majority can enact commercial laws, so that the representatives of seven Northern States, as they will have a majority, can, by law, create the most oppressive monopolies upon the five Southern States, whose circumstances and productions are essentially different from theirs, although not a single man of their voters are the representatives of, or amenable to, the people of the Southern States . . . it is supposed that the policy of the Southern States will prevent such abuses! But how feeble, sir, is policy when opposed to interest among trading people.”

Far more forthcoming in denunciation was Benjamin Harrison, who wrote to Washington: “If the constitution is carried into effect, the States south of the [Potomac], will be little more than appendages to those northward of it. . . . In the nature of things they must sooner or later, establish a tyranny, not inferior to the triumvirate or centum viri of Rome.”

Equally vigorous language was used by George Mason [who] wanted amendments protecting both personal and States’ rights. He feared the Constitution would bring either oligarchy or monarchy and Northern dominion.

[Patrick] Henry . . . aroused the fears of men indebted to British merchants: those grasping enemy creditors who would make use of the Federal courts-to-be . . . [and that] the Northerners would control that government, and they would discriminate grievously against the Southern people whenever they could secure gain for themselves.”

(The First South, John Richard Allen, LSU Press, 1961, excerpts pp. 111-114)

Northern Ideology Victorious

In the early postwar and before the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were enacted, “many political, financial and religious leaders in the North had accepted the theory of rugged individualism as applied to the Negro” – Lincoln’s doctrine of “root hog or die.”

The freed slave was now a Northern-styled hired worker who could be worked long hours for meager pay and no medical or retirement benefits — plus had to survive on his own overnight before returning to work.

The value of the black man to the North was this: he who wandered into Northern lines after his plantation and crops were burned was put to hard labor on fortifications or used in forlorn assaults on impregnable Southern positions to save the lives of Northern soldiers; in the postwar he was taught to hate his white Southern neighbor for the purpose electing Republican candidates, no matter how corrupt, to maintain party hegemony both State and national.

It is noted below that the South had “ratified” the Fourteenth Amendment – the Southern States were under duress and the amendment unconstitutionally enacted without the requisite number of States ratifying.

Northern Ideology Victorious

“The American Civil War, as in the case of most wars, had been a conflict of ideologies as well as a trial at arms. The ideological conflict had revolved chiefly around the function of government, the nature of the union, the innate capacities of mankind, the structure of society, and the economic laws which control it. The triumph of the federal government automatically established the de facto status of that cluster of ideologies which shall be referred to as representing the point of view of the North and the de facto destruction of those ideologies typical of the South.

The history of Reconstruction amply bears out the fact that neither the North nor the South was consolidated in a united front on any of the great questions which had been the subject of controversy. The passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, for example, made it necessary for a number of Northern States to hastily change their laws in order to permit an equality of civil rights to Negroes, and it wasn’t until the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment that Negroes won the ballot throughout the North.

The act of writing into the Constitution the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments was in itself an ideological revolution.

The South, with a ballot purged of the old slaveholding regime, had ratified the [Amendments], but it was not until 1876 that the South made its peace with Congress . . . After eleven years of attempting to bring the South into conformity . . . the federal government had retired from active participation in the experiment of the social revolution, leaving behind a Negro political machine protected by a legal equality and rewarded with federal patronage.

In the North the reaction had set in soon after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. The strong equalitarian sentiment of the Negrophiles and the general feeling that the Southern [freedmen] had become the wards of the nation had given rise to a profound sympathy for the Negro in the abstract, but the actual status of the northern Negro was little changed for the better.

As the rumor of misgovernment and fraud under Negro domination circulated in the North, the doctrine of the immediate fitness of the Negro for all the rights of citizenship came more and more to be questioned, and the way was rapidly being prepared for laissez faire in the South.

It came to be said in the North that the equality of man could be achieved only through the slow process of time and that the Negro offered a flat denial to the American assumption that all who came to this country’s shores would first be assimilated and then absorbed.”

(The Ideology of White Supremacy, Guion Griffis Johnson; The South and the Sectional Image, Dewey W. Grantham, editor, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967, excerpts pp. 56-58)

Apr 18, 2019 - Conservatism and Liberalism, Patriotism    Comments Off on Patriots and Nationalists

Patriots and Nationalists

“A patriot loves his land, his people, [and] his society because they are his. A nationalist glories in the power of his government over others. Nationalism is a defect of the spirit. It characterizes people who have no other identity than their identification with the power in the government of the nation-state.”

Clyde. N. Wilson

Revolutionary Jacobins: French and American

“In 1793, the Jacobins, surfing the wave of Parisian mob violence, intimidated their less resolute colleagues into eliminating both the principle of monarchy and the existence of its politically superfluous incarnation, Louis XVI. Not content with killing a living king, and pronouncing a death sentence in absentia on all princes of the blood who had escaped with their lives, the revolutionaries were determined to rewrite the past by abolishing the enduring symbols of the French nation. Walter Scott, in his Life of Napoleon Bonaparte observes:

“The name of king being pronounced detestable, all the remembrances of royalty were to be destroyed . . . the royal sepulchers . . . were not only defaced on the outside, but utterly broken down, the bodies exposed, the bones dispersed . . .”

Notre Dame’s “gallery of Judean kings” [was] destroyed (the mob supposedly mistook the 28 statues for portraits of French kings).

The revolutionaries wanted to make the past, even more than the future, a tabula rasa on which they can scrawl their puerile obscenities. Even the calendar had to be reinvented. The Jacobins . . . took only a few months before adopting a system that was as “rational” (i.e., inhuman) as it was stupid . . . All over Paris and throughout France, the churches’ precious art treasures were vandalized, and gold and silver communion vessels were stolen and used in mock ceremonies that travestied the Mass.

We must always remind ourselves that the entirely sordid activities of the French Republicans were the fulfillment of the Enlightenment project, whose objects were freedom of thought (that is, the freedom to be a servile follower of the Encyclopedists), social and political equality (the destruction of all authority), and a society based solely upon reason (the destruction of Christian civilization).

And what of Americans, so eager to escape the shackles of their history that they, too, have rewritten both calendar and curriculum?

America, where Martin Luther King, Jr. and his civil-rights “revolution” takes precedent in the calendar over Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and even Lincoln; where Christian symbols are removed from schools and public squares and “Happy Holidays” has replaced “Merry Christmas”. . . where some State legislatures have removed the fine old flag under which brave Americans from the South fought in what they and many non-Southern Americans regarded as the noble cause of constitutional liberty . . .”

What can be said of this America, if not that, over the course of 150 years, we have gradually achieved the revolution which Rousseau imagined and for which Jacobins and Marxists fought and slaughtered?

The way back – if there is to be a way back – will not begin with a counter-revolution that will commemorate its own set of uprisings, heroes, and martyrs but with a quiet determination to restore the Christian calendar in our own lives; to display Christian symbols in our homes, shops and offices; and to teach our children and friends the stories and traditions that the Jacobins have done their best to destroy.”

(Living the Jacobin Dream, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, March 2003, excerpts pp. 10-11 – www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Morality and Community

The 1861-1865 war was essentially one of the defense of traditional, decentralized American communities, as established after the Revolution, against a centralizing liberalism which sought to establish hegemony in Washington. The latter was victorious.

Morality and Community

“Morality, as traditionally conceived, supposes, first of all, a metaphysical vision of the nature of man and the sort of life that is good for man. Virtues are cultivated dispositions of character that enable the soul to live out the life that is good for man. A virtuous soul, with much training over a long period of time, may come to love those things that are truly good as opposed to those that merely appear as such.

Second, morality presupposes community. A man cannot know what good is independent of a concrete way of life, lived in community with others, in which the good is exemplified. A man becomes good through emulation and by apprenticing himself to a master craftsman in the art of human excellence.

The marks of a genuine community are the temple, the graveyard, and the wedding celebration. The favorable connotations that attach to this essential structure of human life are inappropriately applied to associations that are not communities at all – for instance, the “business community,” the “entertainment community,” “gated communities,” or the “homosexual community.” IBM does not have a burial ground; homosexuals do not marry and beget children; and “gated communities” are often places where affluent strangers move to escape the aftermath of social disintegration. These associations have value, but they are not communities.

This is how Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Christians and Muslims traditionally understood morality. These traditions had different understandings of what the human good is, what the virtues are, and how they should be ranked, but they never questioned the metaphysical postulate that there is such a thing as the human good and that morality is the adventure of critically exploring it on a concrete form of life.

Liberalism rejects this fundamental assumption, arguing that a metaphysical vision of the human good is not something human beings can agree on. Since compromise over questions of the ultimate good is not possible, liberals argue that constant and implacable conflict is inevitable.

Liberalism gradually began to shape American public policy after the Civil War and kicked into high gear after World War II. The Bill of Rights, designed to protect the States – distinct political societies capable of pursuing radically different forms of social life – from the central government, was turned upside down to protect the autonomy of the individual from the States.

The regulation of morals, law enforcement, and religion, which gave legal protection to distinct ways of life, was transferred by judicial social engineers to the central government. The education of children, which had been the province of local schools financed by real estate taxes, was now regulated by the federal courts.

By the 1980s, the earlier philosophical rejection of the Western conception of morality was cashed out in the colleges of many of the institutions necessary to sustain it. The United States was becoming a spiritual desert, and the signs of moral decay were ubiquitous: a spectacular increase in crime, divorce, falling educational standards, promiscuous abortion, illegitimacy, anomie, and a society with little desire to reproduce itself. If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

(Communitarians, Liberals, and Other Enemies of Community and Liberty: Scaling Back the Enlightenment, Donald W. Livingston, Chronicles, July 2002, excerpts pp. 23-25)