Browsing "Democracy"

Obsessed with World Power and Democracy

With the Philippine islands in American hands after the Spanish War, the natives imagined their islands free of foreign rule as a gift from America. The liberator determined that the natives “were ill-suited to the concept of representative democratic government” and decided to stay until such was the norm, no matter how many Filipinos lives it cost and years it took.  It will be recalled that the war against Spain began with bellicose headlines from the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Obsessed with World Power and Democracy

“On July 4, 1901, William Howard Taft took the oath of office as the first Governor-General of the Philippines, and control of the islands passed from the military arm of the government. Not all the problems [of converting the islands] had been solved. Philippine society remained ill-suited to the concept of representative democratic government, primarily because it is not one culture, but several.

An election in Zamboanga was decided by which Filipino shot the other candidates first.

The Filipinos in the northern islands were Tagalog Christians, those in the south were Moro’s (meaning “Mohammedan”) who had long resisted Tagalog encroachment. A tribal people, they were fiercely jealous of their semi-savage freedom. Wisely, the Spaniards had left them to their own devices; but the Americans wanted to clean up and educate everybody.

So the [American] army established a garrison at Balangiga, on Samar, in the south where Magellan had sighted the Philippines and where he was to die at the hands of natives.

On September 1, 1901, the natives from the surrounding hills of Balangiga fell on the American garrison, and in a devastating surprise littered the street with the heads, brains and intestines of the soldiery. This was the beginning of a religious war with the Moros, one that took longer to settle than the war against Aguinaldo’s insurrectos.

The fight became a struggle to win the minds and hearts of the villagers, who supplied the guerrilla bands and offered them bases and sanctuaries. What was called for [to control the Moros], [General John J.] Pershing decided, was to disarm the entire Moro Province, to confiscate or buy every rifle, pistol, campilan, bolo and krise on the islands.

It was not an original idea. General Leonard Wood, who left the Philippines in 1910 to become Chief of Staff advised Pershing: “You cannot disarm the people. It means they will bury their best arms and turn in a few poor ones, especially some who want to make a show of obedience.” Moros who surrendered their arms were victimized by those who had not . . . it is as hard to disarm a people as it is to make them give up a religious belief.

In a letter to Avery D. Andrews, Pershing put succinctly the apostolic creed to which he himself subscribed:

“It has been urged by some people at home that the Filipinos should be given their independence. Such a thing would result in anarchy. To whom should we over the government? Tagalog, Viscayan, Igorrote, Macabebe or Moro?No one can answer that any of these tribes represents the people in any sense, any more than the Sioux represents all the Indians in America. There is no national spirit, and except for the few agitators, these people do not want to try independence.  They will have to be educated up to it and to self-government as we understand it, and their education will take some time and patience. It is a grand work cut out for us from which there should be no shirking.”

The Americans stayed on, Pershing said, because “the American people being obsessed with the idea of maintaining their new position as a world power, insisted on keeping the flag flying over a territory once it was in our possession.

In the long run, the only advantage the United States or the Philippines realized from the occupation was the military mission. The archipelago was never destined to become a great way station to exploit trade with the Orient. America and the world economy were finding uses for Philippine products, especially hemp, sugar, timber and minerals.

But as the world was discovering these products, the Filipinos were discovering corruption. By 1920, Wall Street learned that the directors of the [Wall Street-capitalized Philippine National] bank had dealt out so many unsecured loans that $24 million had simply evaporated. The bank’s reserves, which should have been retained in New York, had also vanished in alarming fashion. Similarly, American rail industries had capitalized the Manila Railroad Company, which piled up astronomical losses in only eight years. By 1921, the islands were insolvent.

Democracy and equal opportunity have always been problematic for the people of this archipelago. William Howard Taft warned the American electorate in 1912 that only 3 percent of the Filipinos voted and only 5 percent read the public press; to confer democracy on such a society was to subject the great mass to the dominance of an oligarchical and exploiting minority.

“The idea that public office is a public trust,” Taft said, “has not been planted in the Filipino mind by experience . . .”

(Pipe Clay and Drill; John J. Pershing: The Classical American Soldier”, Readers Digest Press, 1977, excerpts, pp 100-153)

 

A Fearful Danger and Political Menace

The electoral college system erected by the Founders worked best when limited to two candidates, but became what was described as a “fearful danger” when multiple candidates emerged in 1860. New Yorker Samuel Tilden’s dark prophesy of a purely sectional candidate becoming president was realized in 1860; when the Gulf States began to go out of the Union he stated that “The situation was unprecedented, and it is worse than idle, it is presumptuous, to rail at [President James] Buchanan for his failure to act.” The latter is scapegoated for failure, though the Founder’s failed to foresee such a calamity.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Fearful Danger and Political Menace in 1860

“The election of Abraham Lincoln has been studied from every angle. It is well to disregard the providential aspect of the outcome. Seventeen years ago, Mary Scrugham made a careful examination of the returns. Her “Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861” shows how ridiculously the machinery of the electoral college misrepresented American opinion in this critical campaign.

To question the constitutionality of Lincoln’s election is absurd, but to criticize the system by which one of four candidates could carry the electoral college decisively with a large third of the popular vote is pertinent.

At the first two meetings of the electoral college, Washington was chosen without contest. Thereafter, as everyone knows, the growth of parties put an end to the deliberative character of the body, for each political organization put up its own list of electors in every State – where the legislatures did not choose them. Reporting the popular result became automatic.

Polling not a vote in almost one-third of the States, obtaining not a single elector from the South, and receiving a noticeable minority of the popular suffrage, a sectional candidate was chosen President of the United States – and all this according to the Constitution. What may happen in the future can only be imagined – should this dangerous system survive.

Miss Scrugham’s analysis of the election of 1860 should open our eyes. Lincoln had no votes in ten States of the Union; while [Vice President John] Breckinridge received more that 6,000 in Maine, 2,000 in Vermont, and 14,000 in Connecticut.   According to the “acid test of geographical membership,” the Republican was the only “out and out sectional party.”

Some accused the Southern Democrats of splitting their party for the sake of forcing the election of Lincoln and thus finding a compelling excuse for secession.

If the entire opposition to Lincoln, however, had been united on one candidate, the electoral college would still have given him the presidency “regardless of the fact that popular vote against him was a million more than that for him.”

In 1860, then, according to the returns, it would have been impossible for a majority of the American people to choose a president even if they had been united on a single hypothetical candidate.

In the face of the vote which both [Stephen] Douglas and [John] Bell received in the Southern States, “it is folly to assert,” continues Miss Scrugham, that the South was “aggressively pro-slavery and bent on maintaining slavery” even at the cost of the Union.”

[New York Governor Samuel] Tilden saw the fearful danger of the victory of Lincoln before it had occurred. Laying his finger on the political menace of any man’s being made President without one electoral vote from the South, he urged his fellow citizens to defeat [Lincoln] by any means possible.”

(Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell, Harvard University Press, 1938, excerpts, pp. 219-220)

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

Newspaper editor William Watts Ball of South Carolina could painted a vivid picture of life in the postwar South, and railed at the “foreign poison of democracy” injected into his State by Northern radicals. The Founders’ erected barriers to democracy in their Constitution; historian Charles Beard tells us that “When the Constitution was framed, no respectable person called himself or herself a democrat.” John C. Calhoun’s greatest fear was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system with taxpayers perpetually looted by the tax consuming class. Alexis de Tocqueville also noted the evil powers of this “strange new democratic monster with its tyranny of public opinion and numerical majority dwelling in perpetual self-applause.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

“The State That Forgot” is a historical sketch of South Carolina from colonial days to the turn of the twentieth century, generously adorned with “local color” and autobiographical anecdotes. But the heart is [W.W.] Ball’s political philosophy; everything else is embellishment. South Carolina had surrendered to democracy, he said, and as surrender implies defeat, so had she induced her own decline when rule by the aristocracy gave way to rule by the masses. Ball traced the democratic curse back to Reconstruction:

“My political thesis is that the Federal Government, by means of armed forces, placed South Carolina on the operating table in 1867, that in 1868 the Carpetbaggers made an incision in its body, and, by the constitution they adopted, injected into it the deadly and foreign poison of democracy, which, after causing the loathsome ulcers of Reconstruction, subtly spread through the bloodstream of the white people and killed for ever in it the inherited corpuscles of political and social health.”

“The new constitution,” said Ball, was a long step but not a plunge in democracy.” The State had not spurned the colonial constitution fashioned along semi-feudal lines by John Locke. “A more “numerous democracy” had been made but a “too numerous democracy” had been avoided.

South Carolina, however, was forced to scrap that constitution and devise another which would better satisfy the [Northern Republican] Radicals who had taken control of the federal Reconstruction program. Accordingly, a convention composed almost entirely of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Negroes fashioned the constitution of 1868. Ball appraised the new constitution with these words:

“The finished product of the convention was a document copied from constitutions of Northern States . . . [T]hus at last the rash of democracy was spread by law, backed by bayonets, over the body of South Carolina . . .”

(Damned Upcountryman: William Watts Ball, John D. Stark, Duke University Press, 1968, pp. 144-146)

“{Words of Mass Destruction”

“Words of Mass Destruction”

“How many changes have been rung on this one phrase: Weapons of Mass Destruction. We are told we must eliminate the threat of, degrade his capacity to employ, send a clear signal that we w2ill not tolerate the existence of Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Secretaries Cohen and Albright both inserted the key phrase into every possible sentence, sometimes more than once, and as journalists picked up the rhythmic chant, most of the American people goose-stepped their way to the same beat.

The technique of indoctrination is not new. There are two essential ingredients: first, the selection of a vacuous phrase, which — because it is meaningless – cannot be challenged; then the repetition of the mantra in every conceivable context until the words acquire a hypnotic force to quell both rational argument and moral scruples.

What do journalists have in mind when they obediently repeat “Weapons of Mass Destruction (WOMD).” Our immediate thought is of nuclear weapons, even though Saddam’s nuclear capacity was eliminated first by the Israelis and then by the US Air Force. Well, if not nuclear, then biological and chemical weapons. But in all three categories of WOMD, the United States is the unchallenged leader, followed by Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa.

“But,” honk the gaggle of goslings trailing after Madeleine Mother of All Battles, “Saddam is the only leader who has actually used his WOMD.” Oh? And we are to believe that the US did not use chemical weapons in Vietnam?

“But what if some madman like Saddam got his hands on nuclear weapons, and what if he were to use them?” It is not an Iraqi, though, but an American secretary of state who says that the high civilian death rate in Iraq – higher than at Hiroshima – is an acceptable price to pay for the United States undefined political and military objectives in Iraq.

Weaponsofmassdestructionweaponsofmassdestruction. Keep on saying it long enough, and you will hear between the spaces, similar phrases like “running dogs of Yankee imperialism,” “un-American activities,” and “Arbeit Macht Frei.” The revolution changes its name and picks up new gangsters to run the operation under rewritten mission statements, but the project never changes, and the method never changes.

But why take Humpty’s word for it, when you can read the words of the master: “Die breite Masse eines Voles einer grossen Luge leichter zum Opfer fallt al seiner kleinen.” Big weapons, big lies. If we cannot reclaim our language from the demagogues, we are not fit to be a free people. Humpty Dumpty”

(Words of Mass Destruction; Chronicles, March 1999, pg. 12)

 

Southern Democrats Defend the Constitution

Only four years after Senator Josiah Bailey’s spoke on the floor of the United States Senate below, Southern Democrats were forming their own Democratic Party dedicated to lost Jeffersonian principles. FDR had already corrupted many Democrats who supported his socialist New Deal policies and a proposed “Federal” ballot which would overthrow a State’s authority of holding elections.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Democrats Defend the Constitution

“On the second anniversary of Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1943 – Senator Josiah Bailey of [Warrenton] North Carolina, exasperated at frequent contemptuous references to “Southern” Democrats by national party leaders and disturbed over a decided anti-Southern trend in the Democratic Party, stood on the floor of the United States Senate and, in a blistering speech, warned the aforesaid Democratic leaders that there was a limit to what the South would stand from them.

At the same time, he outlined a course by which Southern Democrats could break off relations with the national party and bring about a situation in which the South would hold the balance of power in American politics.

Another presidential election was approaching and already there was a definite movement to “draft” President Roosevelt for a fourth term. For many days the Senate had debated a measure that proposed to empower the federal government to hold Presidential and Congressional elections among the men and women of the armed forces, using a federal ballot.

This measure was introduced by a Democrat and was being supported by Democrats and the Roosevelt administration, in spite of the obvious fact that it denied the fundamental Democratic Party doctrine that elections may be held only by authority of State governments and that under the Constitution the federal government has absolutely no authority to hold elections. But the most vigorous opposition also came from Democrats, principally Southern Democrats. It resulted in a notable debate on constitutional principles such as seldom been heard in Congress.

The Senate rejected this federal ballot proposal . . . But this did not prevent Senator Joseph Guffey of Pennsylvania from charging, in a newspaper statement, that the federal ballot had been defeated by an “unholy alliance” of Southern Democrats and Northern Republicans. Guffey designated Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia as the Democratic leader of “the most unpatriotic and unholy alliance that has occurred in the United States Senate since the League of Nations for peace of the world was defeated in 1919.”

Senator Byrd took care of Guffey on the morning of that December 7th by giving the Pennsylvania Senator a thorough verbal skinning. It was about as neat a dressing down as could be administered within the rules of the Senate. But Guffey’s references to “Southern” Democrats had angered Senator Bailey.

What’s wrong, Senator Bailey demanded, with being a “Southern” Senator or a “Southern” Democrat? “I would remind these gentlemen who speak of us as “Southern” Democrats,” he said, “these Democrats, these high lights of the party, these beneficiaries of our victories during the last ten years – I would remind them that Southern Democrats maintained the Democratic Party and kept it alive in all the long years of its exile, when it had no place in the house which our fathers had built, when it was not permitted to serve around the altars which our forefathers had made holy.”

(The South’s Political Plight, Peter Molyneaux, Calhoun Clubs of the South, 1948, excerpts, pp. 1-4)

The Old Lady of Broad Street Versus FDR

By 1936, Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrat Party had become a virtual duplicate of the Communist Party USA with a near-identical platform, and supported by communist labor and black voting blocs. The old Southern Democratic traditions were thrust aside and the seeds of the “Dixiecrat” party were sown as FDR used his power to unseat opponents. Charleston editor William Watts Ball rose to the occasion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Old Lady of Broad Street Versus FDR

“[South Carolinian James] Byrnes found further cause for disagreement with [President] Roosevelt during the Congressional elections of 1938; he did not approve of Roosevelt’s attempt to unseat conservative Southern Democrats who had not supported New Deal legislation in the Senate. Some of the President’s closest advisors thought it unwise for him to dare intervene in Southern politics.

But Roosevelt would not be deterred; he undertook a “purge” trip through the South . . . [and] visited South Carolina. Since Olin Johnston had been invited to ride on the presidential train, it was obvious that Roosevelt favored Johnston for the [Senate] seat held by “Cotton Ed” Smith, presently running for reelection. Roosevelt had picked

Johnston and [News and Courier editor] Ball observed, “If the president can elect Mr. Johnston US Senator from South Carolina he can elect anybody . . . Northern Negro leaders were the masters of the national Democratic party. A vote against Smith was a victory for Walter White and the NAACP.”

Ball observed [that there] was a need for an independent Jeffersonian Democratic party in national affairs . . . to that end, on August 1 [1940] more than two hundred delegates convened at the South Carolina Society Hall in Charleston to organize the State Jeffersonian Democratic party. Almost simultaneously, “Time” magazine printed a picture of the “New Deal-hating” Ball and reported his support of [Republican Wendell] Wilkie as indicative of anti-Roosevelt rumblings in the normally Democratic Southern press.

[Ball wrote to his sister that] Election returns are coming in . . . the election of Wilkie would give me a surprise. I have no faith in “democracy” (little “d”) and the government of the United States has placed the balance of power in the hands of mendicants. I suppose the inmates of any county alms house would vote to retain in office a superintendent who fed them well and gave them beer. As for South Carolina, the South, it is decadent, spiritless; it is not even a beggar of the first class.

And in good health and bad, Ball maintained his unfaltering crusade against the New Deal. “Never was deeper disgrace for a country, in its management, than the disgrace of waste and corruption the last eight and a half years. I would not say there has been stealing, not great stealing, but the buying of the whole people with gifts and offices has been the colossal form of corruption . . . the American symbols are the night clubs of New York, the playboys and playgirls of Hollywood and the White House family with its divorces and capitalization of the presidential office to stuff money into its pockets.”

[Ball’s] News and Courier adhered steadfastly to its traditional policies: States rights; tariff for revenue only; strict construction of the Constitution; a federal government whose duties were confined to defending the republic against attack and to preserving peace and free commerce among the States. Fazed neither by depression nor by war, the “Old Lady of Broad Street” persisted in her jealousy and suspicion of all governments that set up welfare, do-good and handout agencies.

Ball claimed not to dislike [Roosevelt aide Harry] Hopkins, but [regarded] him as the embodiment of the fantastic in government: a man who “on his own initiative never produced a dollar,” a welfare worker who now was the greatest spender of the taxpayers’ money.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke University Press, 1968, excerpts, pp. 151-201)

 

Reconstructing People in the American Image

In the same way victorious Northern armies were followed by political adventurers and reformers backed by Union bayonets in the American South, the multitude of Washington-directed foreign interventions to date have been justified with the intention of spreading what is said to be American democracy, though the founders never intended this nor does the word “democracy” appear in the United States Constitution. In 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams stated that “[America] does not go in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom of freedom and independence to all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” A wise policy that was discarded after 1865. The French intervention in Vietnam mentioned below was financed with American tax dollars.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstructing People in the American Image

“The policies we see today in Washington, DC reflect [a strategy of] the Federal Government [molding and reconstructing] societies at will with no regard for the population’s history, culture or values. Our ongoing meddling in Bosnia, where our advertised intention of forging a multiethnic society out of feuding Croatians, Serbs, and Moslems has only fenced people into a gladiators arena despite their clear preference to go about peaceably building their own communities in their own way.

Only continues military occupation by the United States working through the United Nations keeps this artificial political creation together, taking up the role formerly played by the Ottoman Turks, the Austrians, and [Marshal] Tito.

The United States have a long history of using force to erect and try to hold together artificial regimes. The most costly instance of such interference – so far – was he United States support for South Vietnam. As with every intervention since the War for Southern Independence, the advertised justification was to spread the American idea of freedom throughout the world.

Americans saw no need to ask the Vietnamese if they agreed to having their nation reconstructed in the American image, but the American government believed that their ideas applied to everybody. The Vietnamese, tightly organized and highly motivated to defend their way of life, managed to defeat a superior French force backed by American B-26 bombers.

Once the French decided they had had enough, American forces took up the fight. The assumption that the Vietnamese, like everyone else in the world, secretly wanted to adopt an American identity, led by Washington, DC into a self-manufactured disaster.

Assuming that all differences in world cultures are accidental mistakes and that force is necessary to impose a beneficial order upon uncomprehending and ungrateful recipients, advocates for armed intervention lull themselves to sleep at night with the assurance they have murdered no one but uneducable obstructionists.

By 1967, the US Air Force had dropped more than 1.5 million tons of bombs on the Vietnamese, more than the total dropped on the whole of Europe in World War II. The stimulus did not work, leaving the experts in the Pentagon groping for an answer.

“We anticipated that they would respond like reasonable people,” said one Defense Department official. Instead of responding reasonably, the Vietnamese responded like people, and won.”

(Confederates in the Boardroom: How Principles of Confederation are Rejuvenating Business and Challenging Bureaucracy; Michael C. Tuggle, Traveller Press, 2004, excerpt, pp. 52-55)

Liberal Visions and Missionary Rhetoric

 

With Lincoln’s revolutionary actions in April 1861 — assuming the power to raise armies, suspect habeas corpus at will and arrest Supreme Court justices who defied him — the presidency changed from one of conciliation and compromise to near dictatorship. He and his liberal Northern power base concentrated all power in Washington, and thus ended the formerly decentralized federation of republics. The office of president became an end in itself with powers remaining impaired today, and never-ending crusades.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberal Visions and Missionary Rhetoric

“Since the beginning of this century, American liberalism has made little measurable progress toward two of its most important goals: a more equitable distribution of income and an improved level of public services. Confronted by the realities of corporate power and the conservatism of Congress, the reforming zeal of the liberal state has been easily frustrated.

This is mirrored in the stymied hopes of the New Freedom by 1916, the stalemate of the New Deal by 1938, and the dissolution of the Great Society by 1966. What is left by these aborted crusades is not the hard substance of reform but rather the major instrument of change – the powerful central state.

The demands of a strong central government and an aggressive foreign policy were ideologically reinforcing. The liberal search for national unity and an expanding domestic economy could not be separated from the vision of an internationalist order which was “safe from war and revolution and open to the commercial and moral expansion of American liberalism. This was a vision shared by Woodrow Wilson and Cordell Hull.

To Hull and Wilson, and later Dean Rusk, peace required the structuring of diplomacy through an elaborate network of collective security arrangements; prosperity demanded the removal of national trade barriers.

Such a vision . . . could not contain within it the forces of either revolution or reaction and led almost inevitably to a foreign policy marked by conflict and crisis. Each new foreign policy crisis in turn strengthened the state apparatus and made the “National Idea” seem even more appropriate – a development which liberals, especially of the New Deal vintage, could only see as benign.

Peace and prosperity, political themes of the Eisenhower years, were considered indulgences by Kennedy liberals . . . Eisenhower’s cautious leadership was considered without national purpose. To those liberals the American mission could be no less than “the survival and success of liberty.”

The “National Idea,” glorified by such transcendent goals, became a Universal Mission, viz., Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s assessment, “The United States has an active and vital interest in the destiny of every nation on the planet.” President’s felt mandated not to complete a mere domestic program but rather, to quote the Kennedy inaugural, “to create a new world of freedom.”

Nevertheless, such missionary rhetoric was eminently compatible with the liberal vision of governmental problem solving and reform emanating from the top. For those who gloried in the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the president was the incarnation of the “National Idea,” or in Richard Neustadt’s phrase, “the sole crown-like symbol of the Union.”

After a generation of such fawning rhetoric, it is little wonder that the modern president’s conception of himself bears closer resemblance to the fascist notion of the state leader than even to a Burkean concept of democratic leadership. As President Nixon described his role, “He (the president) must articulate the nation’s values, define it goals and marshal its will.

Republican presidents replaced Democratic presidents without affecting the slightest diminution of executive power. At the propitious moment of international crisis the Congress is circumvented, the public, then most vulnerable to demagoguery and deception, is confronted with a fireside chat, a special address, or a televised press conference.

The result, as conservative James Burnham has pointed out, is Caesarism – the culmination of the executive state: “The mass of people and the individual Caesar, with the insulation of the intermediary institutions removed, become like two electric poles . . . the vote is reduced to a primitive Yes-No . . . and the assemblies become a sounding board for amplifying Caesar’s voice.”

(The Ideology of the Executive State, Robert J. Bressler; Watershed of Empire, Essays on New Deal Foreign Policy, L. Liggio and J. Martin, editors, excerpts, pp. 2-7)

The Spirit of Republican Government

The American Union was conceived as a republic and the Founders did their best to protect it from the pitfalls of democracy. The French visitor and political observer Alexis de Tocqueville, like the Founders, saw this Union as a federation of independent republics, all of which could survive without belonging to it. Below, de Tocqueville foresees the extinction of republican principles in America should the original Anglo-Saxon citizenry be replaced with immigrants unfamiliar with those political traditions. It required only twenty-five years for the North to populate itself and the West with people unfamiliar with republican political traditions, and raise a two-million man war machine to subdue the republican South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Spirit of Republican Government

“The dismemberment of the [American] Union, by the introduction of war into the heart of those States which are now confederate, with standing armies, a dictatorship, and a heavy taxation, might, eventually, compromise the fate of the republican institutions. But we ought not to confound the future prospects of the republic with those of the Union.

The Union is an accident, which will only last as long as circumstances are favorable to its existence; but a republican form of Government seems to me to be the natural state of the Americans; which nothing but the continued action of hostile causes, always acting in the same direction, could change into a monarchy.

The Union exists principally in the law which formed it; one revolution, one change in public opinion, might destroy it forever; but the republic has a much deeper foundation to rest upon.

What is understood by a republican form of government in the United States is the slow and quiet action of society upon itself. It is a regular state of things really founded upon the enlightened will of the people. It is a conciliatory government under which resolutions are allowed time to ripen; and in which they are deliberately discussed, and executed with mature judgement.

The republicans in the United States set a high value upon morality, respect religious belief, and acknowledge the existence of rights. They profess to think that a people ought to be moral, religious and temperate, in proportion as it is free. What is called the republic in the United States, is the tranquil rule of the majority, which, after having had time to examine itself, and to give proof of its existence, is the common source of all the powers of the State.

But the power of the majority is not of itself unlimited. In the moral world humanity, justice and reason enjoy an undisputed supremacy; in the political world vested rights are treated with no less deference. The majority recognizes these tow barriers; and if it now and then overstep them, it is because, like individuals, it has passions, and, like them, it is prone to do what is wrong, whilst it discerns what is right . . .

It was impossible at the foundation of the States, and it would still be difficult, to establish a central administration in America. The inhabitants are too dispersed over too great a space, and separated by too many natural obstacles, for one man to undertake to direct the details of their existence. America is therefore preeminently the country of provincial and municipal government. The English settlers in the United States, therefore, early perceived that they were divided into a great number of small and distinct communities which belonged to no common center . . .

In the United States, the sovereignty of the people is not an isolated doctrine . . . That Providence has given to every human being the degree of reason necessary to direct himself in the affairs which interest him exclusively; such is the grand maxim upon which civil and political society rests in the United States. The father of the family applies it to his children; the master to his servants; the township to its officers; the province to its townships; the State to the provinces; the Union to the States; and when extended to the nation, it becomes the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.

If republican principles are to perish in America, they can only yield after a laborious social process, often interrupted, and as often resumed; they will have many apparent revivals, and will not become totally extinct until an entirely new people shall have succeeded to that which now exists.

It may, however, be foreseen even now, that when the Americans lose their republican institutions they will speedily arrive at a despotic Government, without a long interval of limited Monarchy. Montesquieu remarked, that nothing is more absolute than the authority of a prince who immediately succeeds a republic, since the powers which had fearlessly been entrusted to an elected magistrate are then transferred to a hereditary sovereign.

This is true in general, but it is more peculiarly applicable to a democratic republic. In the United States, the magistrates are not elected by a particular class of citizens, but by the majority of the nation; they are the immediate representatives of the passions of the multitude . . . and they are left in possession of a vast deal of arbitrary power. [It] is impossible to say what bounds could then be set to tyranny.

Some of our European politicians expect to see an aristocracy arise in America, and they already predict the exact period at which it will assume the reins of government. Nevertheless, I do not assert that the Americans will not, at some future time, restrict the political rights in their country, or confiscate those rights to the advantage of a single individual . . . [or] that they will ever found an aristocracy.

But a people, having taken its rise in civilization and democracy, which should gradually establish an inequality of conditions, until it arrived at inviolable privileges and exclusive castes, would be a novelty in the world; and nothing intimates that America is likely to furnish so singular an example.”

(Spirit of Republican Government, 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville; American History Told by Contemporaries, Volume III, National Expansion, 1783-1845, Albert Bushnell Hart, editor, The Macmillan Company, 1938, excerpts, pp. 553-557)

Effecting a Change of Masters

The examples of Jamaica and Haiti were clear to most in the antebellum period, though the abolitionists seemed unconcerned with the predictable result of emancipation in America. With the result of Lincoln’s revolution, the African slave had only changed masters as he became the chattel and ward of the now all-powerful federal government at Washington. The Republican party now needed the freedmen’s vote to ensure their victory at the polls, and worked ruthlessly through its Union League to keep Republican ballots in black hands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Effecting a Change of Masters

“It is scarcely in the power of human language to describe the enthusiastic delight with which the abolitionists, both in England and in America, were inspired by the spectacle of West India Emancipation. We might easily adduce a hundred illustrations of the almost frantic joy with which it intoxicated their brains [but we might also illustrate] how indignant [the abolitionist] became that others were not equally disposed to part with their sober senses.

In one day, probably seven hundred thousand of human beings were rescued from bondage to full, unqualified freedom. The crowning glory of this day was the fact that the work of emancipation was wholly due to the principles of Christianity. The West Indies were freed, not boy force, or human policy, but by the reverence of a great people for justice and humanity.

[The good people of the free States] did not go into raptures over so fearful an experiment before they had some little time to see how it would work. They did, no doubt, most truly and profoundly love liberty. But then they had some reason to suspect, perhaps, that liberty may be one thing, and abolitionism quite another. Liberty, they knew, was a thing of light and love; but as for abolitionism, it was, for all they knew, a demon of destruction.

We shall begin with Jamaica. The very first year after the complete emancipation of the slaves of this island, its prosperity began to manifest symptoms of decay. The abolitionist not only closed his eyes on every appearance of decline in the prosperity of the West Indies, he also seized with avidity every indication of the successful operation of his [emancipation] scheme, and magnified it to both himself and to the world.

[But] “Shipping has deserted her ports; her magnificent plantations of sugar and coffee are running to weeds; her private dwellings are falling to decay . . .”It is impossible [to not arrive] at the conclusion that the freedom granted to the negro has had little effect except that of enabling him to live at the expense of the planter so long as anything remained. Sixteen years of freedom did not appear to its author to have “advanced the dignity of labor or of the laboring classes one particle,” while it had ruined the land, and this great damage had been done to the one class without benefit of any kind to the other.”

In relation to Jamaica, another witness says: “The marks of decay abound . . . People who have nothing, and can no longer keep up their domestic establishments, take refuge in the abodes of others, where some means of subsistence are still left;. . . the lives of crowded thousands appear to be preserved from day to day by a species of miracle.

We might fill volumes with extracts to the same effect. We might in like manner point to other regions, especially to Guatemala, to the British colony on the southern coast of Africa, and to the island of Hayti, in all of which emancipation was followed by precisely similar events. By the act of emancipation, Great Britain paralyzed the right arm of her colonial industry. The laborer would not work except occasionally, and the planter was ruined. The morals of the Negro disappeared with his industry, and he speedily retraced his steps toward his original barbarism. All this had been clearly foretold.

Precisely the same thing had been foretold by the Calhoun’s and Clays of this country. The calmest, the profoundest, the wisest statesman of Great Britain likewise forewarned the agitators of the desolation and the woes they were about to bring upon the West Indies. But the madness of the day would confide in no wisdom except its own, and listen to no testimony except the clamor of fanatics. Hence the frightful experiment was made . . .

But what is meant by freedom of the emancipated slaves, on which so many exalted eulogies have been pronounced? Its first element, it is plain, is a freedom from labor – freedom from the very first law of nature. In one word, its sum and substance is a power on the part of the freed black to act pretty much as he pleases.”

The magnificent colony of St. Domingo did not quite perish . . . the entire white population soon melted, like successive snowflakes of snow, in a furnace of that freedom that Robespierre had kindled. The atrocities of this awful massacre have had, as the historian has said, no parallel in the annals of human crime. “The Negroes,” says Alison, “marched with spiked infants on their spears instead of colors; they sawed asunder the [white] male prisoners, and violated the females on the dead bodies of their husbands.”

The work of death, thus completed with such outbursts of unutterable brutality, constituted and closed the first act in the grand drama of Haytian freedom. In this frightful chaos, the ambitious mulattoes, whose insatiable desire for equality had first disturbed the peace of the island, perished miserably beneath the vengeance of the very slaves whom they had themselves roused from subjection and elevated into irresistible power. Thus ended the second act of the horrible drama.

[In the new independent Negro state, the lands] were divided out among the officers of the army, while the privates were compelled to cultivate the soil under their former military commanders . . . No better could have been expected except by fools or fanatics. The blacks might preach equality, it is true, but yet, like the more enlightened ruffians of Paris, they would of course take good care not to practice what they had preached.

Hence, by all the horrors of their bloody revolution, they had only effected a change of masters. The white man had disappeared, and the black man, one of their own race and color, had assumed his place and his authority.”

(Liberty and Slavery, Albert Taylor Bledsoe, J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1856, pp. 229-278; reprinted 2000 by www.confederatereprint.com)

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