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Opinions on State Rights

It is written that what the French took from American Revolution was their theory of revolution, not their theory of government. When French officers were leaving for home, they were cautioned by Samuel Cooper of Boston to “not let your hopes be inflamed by our triumph on this virgin soil. You will carry our sentiments with you, but if you try to plant them in a country that has been corrupt for centuries, you will encounter obstacles more formidable than ours. Our liberty has been won with blood; you will have to shed it in torrents before liberty can take root in the old world.”

Opinions on State Rights

“The true natural check on absolute democracy is the federal system, which limits the central government by the powers reserved [to the States], and the State governments by the powers they have ceded. It is the one immortal tribute of America to political science, for State rights are at the same time the consummation and the guard of democracy.

So much so an American officer wrote, a few months before [First Manassas]:

“The people in the South are evidently unanimous in the opinion that slavery in endangered by the current of events, and it is useless to attempt to alter that opinion. As our government is founded on the will of the people, when that will is fixed our government is powerless.”

Those are the words of Sherman, the man who, by his march through Georgia, cut the Confederacy in two. Lincoln himself wrote, at the same time:

“I declare that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of States, and the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend.”

Such was the force with which State rights held the minds of abolitionists on the eve of the war that bore them down.”

(Lectures on the French Revolution, John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Liberty Fund, 2000, excerpts pp. 31-32)

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)

Mar 27, 2019 - Articles of Confederation, Conservatism and Liberalism, Democracy, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on The Problem of 1787

The Problem of 1787

The intention of the 1787 Constitution was a strictly limited, representative government with two branches of Congress to represent both the democratic and conservative principles, and an electoral college to elect the President.

Though the Constitution became a dead letter in 1861 with a president assuming dictatorial powers, in 1913 the conservative principle that the Founders had put in place to control the democratic principle, was destroyed by the Seventeenth Amendment.

The Problem of 1787

“When in May, 1787, the delegates of the Federal Convention assembled themselves in Philadelphia, their instructions were to prepare amendments to the Articles of Confederation under which the thirteen States were very loosely held together. That was understood to be their sole and express business – to amend the Articles.

Anyone who will read the debates may see for himself that the delegates . . . were possessed of two fears . . . One was the fear of monarchy; the other was the fear of democracy.

Specifically, in one case it was fear of the executive, who should be called President, lest he turn into a monarch; and, in the other case, it was fear of the people, lest they give themselves up to temptations of democracy. In both cases, it was fear – of what? Of tyranny. The problem was how to limit them.

The one least considered at first and never returned to was that the President should be elected by popular vote, for it was agreed that this would increase the danger of an elective monarchy [and] if one branch of [Congress] was going to be elected by popular vote . . . there was the danger that he would collaborate with the demagogues in the popular branch . . . to encroach upon the Constitution and overthrow it.

At last it was decided that the people should elect electors and the electors elect the President, a very awkward arrangement, and yet the best they could think of to avoid the evil of submitting the choice to direct popular vote. Then was the question of how the two branches of Congress should be elected. It was easily agreed, and yet not unanimously, that . . . the House of Representatives should be elected by popular vote.

[The] other branch of Congress, to be called the Senate, must not be elected by popular vote. What was needed was an austere, resolute Senate, unresponsive to popular clamor, with long tenure of office, perhaps for life. For this was to be the conservative principle. It was to restrain “the fury of democracy.”

Or, as Randolph said: “The object of this second branch is to control the democratic branch of the national legislature. If it not be a firm body, the other branch, being more numerous and coming directly from the people, will overwhelm it. The democratic licentiousness of the State legislatures proves the necessity of a firm Senate.”

In this matter there was scarcely any contrary opinion. The idea that the Senate should represent the conservative principle as a check upon the democratic principle was practically unanimous. What came of these deliberations was our Constitution. And how should such a Government, the first of its kind in the world, be defined? [Only] three words were necessary – constitutional, representative, limited.”

(A Washington Errand, Garet Garrett, Saturday Evening Post, January 29, 1938, excerpts pp. 31-32)

Immigration and the Demise of America

The waves of European immigration into the United States, 1830-1860, added a different strain to the original English, Scot and Irish population, especially in the North and emerging West. The South maintained its ethnic heritage from Revolutionary times and its deep understanding of the Founders America. The North quickly became a far different country by 1850, with a new electorate easily misled by Northern demagogues. To attain national power and dominance, the demagogues destroyed the South’s political power in the country through a destructive war, instilled hatred between Southerners and their former laborers, and finally molded the new black electorate into dependable Republicans.

Immigration and the Demise of America

“The founding fathers were rare men and wise, men who had “come to themselves,” men who measured their words. They knew history; they knew law and government; they knew the ancient classics; they knew the ancient failures; they knew the Bible. But theirs was a wisdom which, as always, can be misunderstood by lesser mortals.

It can be misinterpreted; it can be misapplied through ignorance; it can be misused and perverted through ambition, interest, even plain human cussedness. Liberty was never to be license.

But as growth occurred, the influx of millions of immigrants from the Old World, from different backgrounds, settled north and west in established communities and crowded the cities. They knew little of a constitution, and cared less. This was the land of liberty; men were “free and equal”; the majority ruled – the “American” way, their Carl Schurz-like leaders told them while ordering their votes, urging war upon the South, and anathematizing slavery. They knew nothing of the South’s acute problems.

This was the beginning of a false premise, wholly without foundation in the Constitution, of “an aggregate people,” of unrestricted democracy, of the absolute right of a popular majority – even a “simple” majority – whenever it exists and however ascertained, to rule without check or restraint, independent of constitutional limitations or of State interposition.

This absurd proposition that the will of a mere majority for the time being becomes vox Dei was held by numerous leaders of the North and the West, not the least among them Abraham Lincoln. The Southerners opposed, opposed strenuously, and fought it to the end.

[John C.] Calhoun attempted ameliorations by such proposals as vetoes, nullifications, interposition, and “concurrent” majorities, all of which at one time or another were rejected, leaving the South, as he said in 1850, helpless to retain equality in the Union and relegated to a position hardly different from that which the Revolutionary fathers rejected in 1776.

In answer to these efforts to obtain justice, Northern leaders undertook an attack on the domestic institutions of the South. “At first harmless and scattered movements” of small, so-called humanitarian groups in the North were seized upon by those who saw political possibilities in them, and the agitations spread from isolated spots to the halls of Congress.

Abolitionists began to attack the South at every opportunity and demanded an end to the labor arrangements of the region and the emancipation of the African Negro “slaves” who worked mostly upon the great plantations.

Abolitionist fathers and grandfathers had brought those poor black creatures – often savages, sometimes cannibals – from the Guinea coasts of West Africa and had sold them to the planters, much of whose capital was invested in them. We still teach . . . falsehoods to children by slanted history textbooks that parrot the clichés, though it is surely time to make some changes and tell the truth.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 55-56)

Believing the Cheerful Myth

“Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.”

“As for the Electoral College, it is indeed an anachronism that serves no real purpose. It certainly doesn’t do what is was supposed to do: elect presidents who are, in Alexander Hamilton’s words, “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” So wrote Hamilton, as “Publius,” in Federalist No. 68.

For what it’s worth, the Framers of the Constitution didn’t want the president elected by direct popular vote. Simple majority rule was alien and abhorrent to them, as the present two-party duopoly and the popular election of senators would have been; as Hamilton put it, direct election of presidents would produce “tumult and disorder.”

They prescribed that the people of each State should elect a body of presumably incorrupt and disinterested electors, men who possessed the requisite “information and discernment” to choose among candidates for the presidency. Those electors, in Hamilton’s words, should be “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of the presidency]. They should not be officeholders, who might have “too great [a] devotion” to the incumbent president; their number would be a safeguard against corruption.” But if no winner emerged, the election would fall to the House of Representatives, where each State delegation would cast a single vote.

Subsequent generations, missing its inner spirit, have ruined it, like a vain fool daubing new streaks on an old masterpiece in the conviction he is improving it when it’s no longer even recognizable. Modern democracy has destroyed the essence of the thing; yet it flatters itself that it has preserved the Constitution, only because it has preserved its words while ignoring, or willfully forgetting, their import.

[The] original Senate no longer exists. The Seventeenth Amendment virtually abolished it by requiring the popular election of senators; before that, senators were chosen by State legislatures, because the Senate was supposed to represent the interests of State governments and to prevent usurpation of their powers. The House was to speak for the people, the Senate for the States.

When the Senate was converted to a popular body too, it lost its rationale and became as superfluous as the Electoral College now is, imperfectly duplicating functions better performed by the House: instead of representing the States equally, it represents the people unequally. The States, meanwhile, have been reduced to mere administrative subdivisions of a monolithic nation-state. They have lost the defining mark of a true State, which is sovereignty, and such powers that they retain are held not by right, but by the sufferance of the federal government.

But not one American in a hundred (and perhaps not one senator in a hundred) understands all this. Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.

But everything has changed. No American should read the Constitution without a sense of loss. We would all be much freer if the US government played by its own rules. But there is no way to force it to do so as long as Americans remain ignorant of their own political heritage.”

(A Weird Election, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3, excerpts pp. 3-4)

Lincoln Versus “20 Millions of Secesh”

Republican opposition to compromise efforts brought forth by Democrats thwarted attempts to truly “save the Union.” Ohio Democrats Samuel S. Cox and John A. Crittenden formed a committee in late December 1860 to craft compromises more palatable to Lincoln and his Republican cohorts. By February 4, 1861, Republican party intransigence triumphed over peace as the Crittenden Compromise emitted a dying gasp. It was then clear which party was “disloyal” to the Union and Constitution, and who was to blame for bringing on a war destined to kill a million Americans.

Lincoln Versus “20 Millions of Secesh”

“If what the abolition disunionists say be true [that] no power on earth can prevent its success, and let us see why. They declare that all who vote the Democratic ticket are disloyal to our Government – “sympathizers” with the rebellion, etc. If this be true, let us see how strong the rebels are. The vote of 1860 developed about seven inhabitants to every voter in the land.

Now, there are in the loyal States the following numbers that vote the Democratic ticket, which will not probably vary 5,000 either way – near enough to meet the argument: 1,685,000.

Here, then, right in the loyal States, are one million, six hundred and eighty-five thousand votes that “sympathize with the rebellion,” according to Abolition say-so. Multiply this by seven, and you have 11,795,000 persons here at the North who are in “open sympathy with the rebels.”

Add this vast number to the 10,000,000 in the rebel States, and its gives 21,795,000 “traitors,” which, subtracted from the 30,000,000 of the entire white population of the whole Union, and it leaves only 8,205,000 “loyal” people to contend against over twenty millions of “secesh.”

This argument is not ours. It is only the presentation of the Abolition “argument,” and the bare statement shows the malicious absurdity of the Abolition asservation. Let the Administration once throw out the “copperhead” element, and it will find itself in a woefully decimated dilemma.”

(Miscellaneous Facts and Figures, The Logic of History, Five Hundred Political Texts, Chapter XXXVII, Stephen D. Carpenter, 1864, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, excerpts pp. 305-306)

An Understanding of Eighteenth Century Government

The author below writes that the Founders, to include men such as John Adams and James Madison, saw the purpose of a separation of powers in the new government as necessary to give both “property” and “the people” – the aristocracy and the workers – a voice in government with a check upon one another. He adds that those who think of government as a science and formal political structures have difficulty understanding the men of long ago who looked upon government as an instrument for resolving tensions among social classes, or “interests,” which was the term commonly used in the eighteenth century. The social interests remain today, as well as the social tensions.

Eighteenth Century Understanding of Government

“Those who bent their efforts, and a considerable amount of history along with them, to prove the constitutionality of the New Deal denied the fact of “State sovereignty” under the Article of Confederation. They asserted the old doctrine that the union came before the States and was therefore all-powerful: State sovereignty never existed. From this doctrine they deduced that New Deal measures could not be invalidated by the Supreme Court, which turned to “States’ rights” notions and a strict interpretation of the Constitution of 1787.

In doing so it was obvious the majority of the Court were motivated by political and economic predilections rather than concern for the true nature of the Constitution. The opponents of the Court, likewise, in their fervor to attain necessary ends, cited many analogies, the falsity of which they did not recognize. To them the argument of States’ rights used to defeat national regulation of business enterprise was specious and unfounded in history.

What they did not see was that the eighteenth-century counterparts of nineteenth-century vested interests likewise rejected the doctrine of State sovereignty. For them the only escape from a democracy which found expression in unchecked State governments was the creation of a national government which would limit if not destroy the sovereignty of the States. Despite the theorizing of later days, the fact remains that State sovereignty was a grim reality for those who objected to majority rule.

[Those] . . . who say or imply that democracy was not an issue in the Revolutionary era . . . do not face the fact that some of the Revolutionary leaders who became the folk heroes of later generations were actually opposed to what they believed to be, and what they called, “democracy.” Therefore they are unwilling to accept the idea that the Articles of Confederation were an expression of the democratic philosophy of the eighteenth century and that the Constitution of 1787 was the culmination of an anti-democratic crusade.

(The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1963, excerpts pp. viii-ix)

Broadening the Base of Democracy

Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the democratic revolution in America was an irresistible one, and that to attempt to stop it “would be to resist the will of God.” The elevation of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1829 pushed the democratic revolution forward – in the North the friction became one between the commercial-financial aristocracy and the working men, and in the South the planters and the yeoman farmers. Against simple majority rule and “the tyranny of king numbers” stood John C. Calhoun and Abel P. Upshur in the South, as well as James Kent, Joseph Story and Orestes Brownson of the North.

Broadening the Base of Democracy

“To what extent was aristocracy weakened and democracy strengthened by the work of the [State constitutional] conventions of the 1830s? In the first place, property qualifications for voting were abolished . . . except Virginia, North Carolina, [New Jersey and Rhode Island], and with Louisiana [Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio] still requiring the payment of taxes. The last of the religious restrictions were also abolished.

In still another way these changes broadened the base of democracy. For the first time the people had been consulted as to the revision and amendment of their constitutions. The conventions were called directly or indirectly by action of the people. The revised constitutions were in turn submitted back to them for ratification or rejection.

In one matter there was a definite reactionary movement. This was the issue of Negro suffrage. Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania took the ballot from the Negro. And New York in 1821 limited Negro suffrage by requiring that he possess a freehold valued at two-hundred fifty dollars over and above all indebtedness. Hence only five of the Northern States granted equal suffrage to Negroes.

Whether or not Jefferson, Mason, and other Revolutionary proponents of natural rights philosophy intended to include Negroes in the statement that “all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights” is a debatable question; but in actual practice the American people had decided by their constitutional provisions that Negroes were not included in the political people.”

(Democracy in the Old South, Fletcher M. Green; The Journal of Southern History, Volume XII, Number 1, February 1946, excerpts pp. 15-16)

Dec 29, 2018 - Antiquity, Democracy, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Greek Democracy

Greek Democracy

The idea of democracy under the ancient Greeks was far different than what is practiced today under the name of democracy. The Greek aristocracy despised democracy and planned its overthrow; the American Founders understood the problems inherent in democracy and avoided it. The Greeks held slaves: those caught in raids upon Mediterranean barbarians, prisoners of war who could not ransom themselves, unwanted children, and debtors.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Greek Democracy

“If the right of every citizen, whatever his rank or means, to participate in political decisions and in the direction of the state, and the obligation of every citizen to serve the state with money and in person according to his wealth and ability constitute a democracy, then Athens was democratic.

The charge is often made, however, that the Athenian citizen body constituted a small, privileged group ruling over a large number of foreigners and slaves resident in Athens who could not acquire citizenship, and that Athens was therefore not a true democracy.

From the modern point of view the contention is valid, but it is one which the ancient Greek would hardly have understood. Citizenship was a natural right acquired by inheritance and protected by ancestral divinities. Residence in a city, therefore, no more made one a citizen than the renting of a room today makes one a member of the family of the house.

The foreigners were citizens of their own communities who were residing in Athens by their own choice, and under no constraint to remain there. Since they could not worship the ancestral gods of the Athenians, they could not hope to participate in the activities which were under the protection of the gods unless the state, in return for services rendered, granted them those rights by an act equivalent to adoption.

Slavery was a recognized institution. In the Greek view, slaves were inferior subjects, and any thought of allowing them participation in politics was absurd. Athens, governed by its body of citizens, the demos, as the Athenians called it, was, by the standards of the ancient Greeks, democracy.”

(The Ancient World, Volume I, Wallace Everett Caldwell, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1937, excerpts pp. 221-227)

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)

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