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Jefferson Reflects Upon Massachusetts

New England, and Massachusetts in particular, was supplying the French as General James Wolfe was enroute to the Plains of Abraham in 1759. In 1814 and the United States at war with the British, New England’s Federalist Party refused troops to repel the enemy, contemplated a separate peace with England, and came near secession from the Union in the December, 1814 Hartford Convention.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Reflects Upon Massachusetts

“Oh Massachusetts! How I have lamented the degradation of your apostasy!

Massachusetts, with whom I went with pride in 1776, whose vote was my vote on every public question, and whose principles were then the standard of whatever was free or fearless. But she was then under the counsels of the two Adams’; while Strong, her present leader, was promoting petitions for submission to British power and British usurpation.

But should the State, once more, buckle on her republican harness, we shall receive her again as a sister, and recollect her wanderings among the crimes only of the parricide [Federal] party, which would have basely sold what their fathers so bravely won from the same enemy. Let us look forward, then, to the act of repentance, which, by dismissing her venal traitors, shall be the signal of return to the bosom, and to the principles of her brethren; and, if her late humiliation can just give her modesty enough to suppose that her Southern brethren are somewhat on par with her in wisdom, in patriotism, in bravery, and even in honesty, although not in psalm-singing, she will more justly estimate her own relative momentum in the Union.

With her ancient principles, she would really be great, if she did not think herself the whole.”

(Letter to General Henry Dearborn, March 1815; The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnall’s Company, 1900, pg. 5)

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

To Jefferson, the Revolution meant “not merely independence from British rule but also escape from the British system of government into republicanism.” He also abhorred political parties, or what he called sects,” and saw that all Americans as “federalists” – i.e., supporters of the Constitution and virtually all republicans, i.e., “believers in a republic rather than a monarchy.” And the States were the line of defense against government tendencies to consolidate power around itself.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

“On the eclipse of federalism, although not its extinction, [New England] leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing geographical division of parties, which might ensure them the next President.

The people of the north went blindfolded into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up.

To that has now succeeded a distinction, which, like that of republican and federal, or Whig and Tory, being equally intermixed through every State, threatens none of those geographical schisms, which immediately go to a separation.

The line of division now is the preservation of State rights as reserved in the Constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into consolidated government. The Tories are for strengthening the Executive and General Government; the Whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy.

Although this division excites, it is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.”

(Thomas Jefferson, to Marquis Lafayette, November 1823, Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P. Foley, editor, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900, excerpt, pp. 760)

Josiah Quincy, State’s Rights Yankee

Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts spoke the following in 1811 and was keenly aware of the States being sovereign and federated in a voluntary political Union that did not authorize adding territory to it. His State opposed the War of 1812 and refused troops while trading with the enemy – the latter it had done in 1759 when British Gen. James Wolfe confronted the French on the Plains of Abraham. Like other Americans of the antebellum era, Quincy found his own native State to be his home and country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Josiah Quincy, States-Rights Yankee

“Mr. Speaker, The bill, which is now proposed to be passed [to form Louisiana into a State], has this assumed principle for its basis: that the three branches of this national government, without recurring to conventions of the people, in the States, or to the legislatures of the States, are authorized to admit new partners to a share of the political power, in countries out of the original limits of the United States.

Now, this assumed principle, I maintain to be altogether without any sanction in the constitution. I declare it to be a manifest and atrocious usurpation of power; of a nature, dissolving, according to undeniable principles of moral law, the obligations of our national compact; and leading to all the awful consequences, which flow from such a state of things . . .

Sir, what is this power, we propose now to usurp?

Nothing less than a power, changing all the proportions of the weight and influence, possessed by the potent sovereignties composing this Union. A stranger is to be introduced to an equal share, without their consent. Upon a principle, pretended to be deduced from the constitution, this government, after this bill passes, may and will multiply foreign partners in power, at its own mere motion; at its irresponsible pleasure; in other words, as local interests, party passions, or ambitious views may suggest . . . This is not so much a question, concerning the exercise of sovereignty, as it is who shall be sovereign.

[Is] there a moral principle of public law better settled, or more conformable to the plainest suggestions of reason, than that the violation of a contract by one of the parties may be considered as exempting the others from its obligations?

Do you suppose the people of the Northern and Atlantic States will, or ought to look on with patience and see representatives and senators from the Red River and Missouri, pouring themselves upon this and the other floor, managing the concerns of a seaboard fifteen hundred miles, at least, from their residence?

It is the part of a wise man to foresee danger and to hide himself. This great usurpation, which creeps into this House, under the plausible appearance to giving content to that important point, New Orleans; starts up a gigantic power to control the nation.

With respect to this love of our union . . . It grows out of the affections; and has not, and cannot be made to have, anything universal in its nature. Sir, I confess it, the first public love of my heart is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors. The love of this union grows out of this attachment to my native soil, and is rooted in it.

I cherish it, because it affords the best external hope of her peace, her prosperity, her independence. The bill, if it passes, is the death blow to the Constitution. It may, afterwards, linger; but lingering, its fate will, at no distant period, be consummated.”

(Speech on the Passage of the Bill to Enable the People of the Territory of Orleans to Form a Constitution and State Government, Josiah Quincy, January 14, 1811; American History Told by Contemporaries, Volume III, Albert Bushnell Hart, editor, Macmillan Company, 1901, pp. 410-414)

 

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

Author M.E. Bradford wrote that in America, “race (at last as far as the Negro is concerned) has proved to be an almost indestructible identity,” and has led to us stepping away from cherished liberties. He goes on that despite its ill-effect upon our original principles, it was predictable “that liberty, as our tradition understands the term, should begin to reassert its original hegemony, that the oldest of liberties honored among us – rights grounded in the fundament of English inheritance” shall return to favor, “though in new disguises.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

“Jefferson’s fire bell sounded in the legislative darkness, tolling the “knell” of the Union he had so much helped to shape. After Missouri, States achieved full membership in the federal compact only after meeting federally determined prescriptions concerning the status of blacks within their boundaries – conditions not imposed upon the original thirteen and without real precedent in the Northwest Ordinance.

Predictably, Jefferson’s Union did die – in 1861. And in the latter stages of its ruin, the connection between blacks and American millennialism intensified. With Equality (capital E) the new Republic played some verbal and opportunistic games. I leave aside for the moment the merits and demerits of this “second founding.”

For, once completed . . . the Trojan horse of our homegrown Jacobinism was rolled away to some back stall within the stable of received American doctrines. Emancipation appeared to have changed nothing substantial in the basic confederal framework. Neither did it attempt any multiracial miracles.

Most certainly, New England has had its high expectations of a City on a Hill; likewise, even the South owed, from its earliest days, some inertia to a hope of Eden over the sea. Moreover, in company with the frontier States, both regions drew comfort from the idea of a “manifest destiny.” Yet the total nation has, characteristically, despised and rejected who or whatever aspired to dragoon its way to such beatitudes through the instruments of Federal policy.

The only full exception to this rule, I insist, is the “civil rights revolution” of the past thirty years. In connection with the difficult question of the Negro’s place within our social compact, an imperative was discovered, stronger than any ever pressed upon us before: there discovered because the Negro’s lot within that compact was so difficult (and so slow) to improve.

With it we have made fair to force the issue, even if liberty (and its correlatives: law, localism and personalism) loses much of its authority as a term of honor: is diminished especially insofar as it applies to that nondescript but substantial many who captain, man and propel the ship of state.

Of course, as Lenin wrote, the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally. And Lenin’s advice does not function inside our curious native dialect. The only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before a law with limited scope.

In 1820 . . . we took an initial step away from liberty; in 1861-1877, a few more. And from these examples, from our uneasiness at the – to the millennialist sensibility — greatest of built-in American “scandals,” in the post-World War II era we arrived at converting at least one feature of millennialism into a positive goal. To use the late William Faulkner’s idiom we set out to “abolish” the Negro we knew, both as a presences and a problem. The results begin to speak for themselves, the fresh set of insoluble dilemmas which, with each dawning day, cry out for more potent magic than the cures for yesterday’s injustice which spawned them into existence in the first place.”

(Remembering Who We Are; Observations of a Southern Conservative, M.E. Bradford, UGA Press, 1985, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

Dec 4, 2016 - Antebellum Realities, Jeffersonian America, Lost Cultures, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

One of the South’s greatest historians, Clement Eaton, viewed Code Duello as evidence of Southerners military-mindedness, cult of virility, and disinclination to use courts to deal with matters of personal honor. Often cited was Andrew Jackson’s mother’s advice to her son: “Never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anyone for slander or assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself!”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

“Another hero of the old Southwest was James Bowie, born in Tennessee in 1795, killed in action at the Alamo if 1836. His father, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, operated a small plantation near Elliot Springs, growing cotton, corn, sugar cane, and tobacco. When James was seven years old, the Bowies moved further into the Southwest, seeking more productive soil, bringing their half-dozen slaves along with them. They finally settled outside Opelousas, in Louisiana, and here they prospered.

James and his brothers John and Rezin, Jr., became known as “those wild Bowies,” because of the way they hunted wild cattle with lasso and knife, instead of using the conventional long spear and pistol. Rezin invented the famous Bowie knife, with its ten-inch long, single edged, slightly curved blade, and its guard at the handle. Jesse Cliffe, his blacksmith friend, first made it. But Brother James brought it fame.

The Bowie boys teamed up in 1818 with Jean Lafitte, the pirate leader who had distinguished himself at the Battle of New Orleans. Lafitte, during this period, was operating out of Galveston, in Spanish Mexico; his business was the smuggling of slaves into the United States.

But the most repeated stories concerning James Bowie dealt with his famous knife, which ornamented numerous encounters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For example, there was the fracas of September 18, 1827, which started at Natchez-under-the-Hill, rendezvous of brawlers, gamblers and worse. Eleven Louisianans, bent on arranging a duel between two of their group, met at Natchez to complete plans.

After picking up two doctors they recrossed the river to Louisiana near the village of Vidalia. The duelists were Colonel Samuel Welles and Dr. Thomas Maddox, bitter political opponents in a recent campaign. James Bowie was acting as a second. Pistols were decided upon for weapons.

The duel proper turned into a fiasco when two shots, fired on each side, went wild. The politicians were about to shake hands and forget it all but the spectators had been stirred by the proceedings to remember certain grievances they had against one another.

Suddenly, a Colonel Crain fired at Jim Bowie without warning and wounded him in the thigh; another of Bowie’s enemies, Major Wright, attacked him with a sword cane. Calmly, Jim drew the famous knife and sliced the cowardly Major to the backbone. “Damn you Bowie, you have killed me,” remarked the Major and expired.”

(Romanticism and Nationalism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweis, LSU Press, 1949, pp. 196-197)

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

The words “disunion” and “civil war” were heard in the halls of Congress in early 1819 as Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced his amendment to restrict slavery in the proposed State of Missouri. Though Tallmadge thought the action would help end slavery within a generation, Howell Cobb of Georgia said he had kindled a fire “which only seas of blood could extinguish.” The Missouri Compromise of 1820 did not include the amendment, but did prohibit slavery above the 36-30 parallel of the Louisiana Purchase, the southern boundary of Missouri.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

“In 1812 the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, but meantime the District of Louisiana had been repeatedly reorganized [and by 1819] . . . the population of Missouri closely approximated sixty thousand which, according to precedents set in the Old Northwest, made a territory eligible for Statehood.

Successive Missouri legislatures petitioned Congress on the subject, and in 1819 the House Committee on Territories reported favorably a bill enabling Missouri . . . to draw up a constitution and make ready for Statehood.

It was at this juncture that Representative James Tallmadge of New York raised the question of setting limits to the expansion of slavery in the Louisiana Purchase. He proposed to amend the bill reported from committee by providing that the further introduction of slavery into Missouri should be forbidden, and that all children born of slave parents after the admission of the State should be free upon reaching the age of twenty-five years.

Until the introduction of the Tallmadge amendment, the slavery question had played little part in national politics. The problem of how slaves should be counted when apportioning representatives in Congress or assessing direct taxes on the States had been satisfactorily settled in the federal convention by the three-fifths compromise. Also, an earlier Congress had exercised its constitutional authority to pass a fugitive slave act, and the administration of this measure had so far provoked little criticism.

Moreover, slavery had long been regarded as a dying institution. The founders of the American nation had almost unanimously so considered it, Southerners no less than Northerners. Many of them were eager to speed the day when slavery should cease to exist throughout the whole country.

Washington emancipated his slaves by his will; Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin were prominent in the work of emancipation societies; Thomas Jefferson’s anti-slavery views were written into the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Almost by common consent the slave trade was forbidden in 1808, the earliest possible date under the Constitution.

Hostility to slavery during these early days of the republic was firmly grounded on the fact that the institution had ceased to be economically profitable. For this reason, even before the American Revolution, many of the colonies would have taken some anti slavery action had not the British government been so insistent on protecting the profits of British merchants engaged in the slave trade.

As soon as independence became a fact, one State after another took action against slavery . . . [but] the chief obstacle to abolition in the South, where slaves were far more numerous than in the North, was the perplexity felt about what to do with the freed slaves, but Southern emancipation societies were deeply concerned about this problem and were hopeful of finding a solution.

The discovery that cotton could be grown profitably by means of slave labor [with the cotton gin of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney, and] served to revive the institution of slavery just at the time when it had seemed destined to disappear.

(The Federal Union, History of the United States to 1865, John D. Hicks, Houghton Mifflin, 1948, excerpts, pp. 354-356)

Return to Original Principles

Below, Jefferson anticpates the constitutional crisis of the late 1850s and the need for the States to “arrest the march of government” which had been threatening its creators with military action since the days of Andrew Jackson. As he instructs, the solution to the crisis was a convening of the States to modify their agreement, not the agent warring upon a free people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Return to Original Principles

“The [Supreme Court] judges are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would on an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control; but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance.

However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions . . . may induce [two or three large States] to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the express consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents.

They imagine they can lead us into a consolidated government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. (Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825; The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900, page 191)

Nov 19, 2016 - Antebellum Realities, Emancipation, From Africa to America, Jeffersonian America, Southern Conservatives, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on Jefferson Seeks a Solution to Slavery

Jefferson Seeks a Solution to Slavery

Jefferson wrote that slavery was a cancer that must be gotten rid of, and believed that philosophy was gaining ground on selfishness. “If this [slavery] can be rooted out and our land filled with freemen, union preserved and the spirit of liberty maintained and cherished I think in 25 or 20 years we shall have nothing to fear from the rest of the world [condemning slavery in America].” Jefferson knew, as did all the Framers, that the British colonial labor system had burdened America with this deplorable cancer to be dealt with.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Seeks a Solution to Slavery

“From what fund are these expenses [for repatriating the Negro to Africa] to be furnished? Why not from that of the lands which have been ceded by the very States now needing this relief? And ceded on no consideration, for the most part, but that of the general good of the whole.

These cessions already constitute one-fourth of the States of the Union. It may be said that these lands have been sold; are now the property of the citizens composing those States; and the money long ago received and expended.

But an equivalent of lands in the territories since acquired may be appropriated to that object, or so much, at least, as may be sufficient; and the object, although more important to the slave States, is highly so to the others also, if they were serious in their arguments on the Missouri question.

The slave States, too, if more interested, would also contribute more by their gratuitous liberation, thus taking on themselves alone the first and heaviest item of expense.”

(Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 1824; The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900. pp. 154-155)

 

An Educational Failure

Jefferson wrote in his Notes on Virginia that “every country degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people only,” and to prevent this required education which improved the minds and watchfulness of those governed. He added that though the common perception was that corruption is restrained by restricting the vote to only the wealthy, but would be more effectively combatted by an extension to educated citizens who “would bid defiance to the means of corruption.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

An Educational Failure

“The National Education Association, theoretically representing the teachers of the country, had for years been passing resolutions favoring whatever was before the public of un-American import, especially for getting the imperial Government at Washington, through “Federal aid,” to take over the shaping in school of American ideas.

Under the cloak of “academic freedom” men in the universities belittled those who wrote the Constitution and pronounced their work faulty and outmoded. The schools, while neglecting to give thorough courses in our history, and especially in constitutional history or the history of liberty, admitted objectionable textbooks and periodicals.

The principles of our government are not outmoded, as some say. They are as immutable as those of mathematics. The first of them, so well put by Jefferson, is that the man to whom power is given must be chained. The profound historians at Philadelphia who wrote the Constitution looked back over the centuries and drew that principle from the recurring tyrannies and unfailing breakdowns of governments.

As the constitutional system of the United States was the first that man through all the centuries was able to formulate for the one purpose of controlling those in power . . . It is “the last hope of the world,” as Daniel Webster warned us.

Communism and other alienisms can be met and overcome, not by dollars or arms, but only by superior doctrines, as the teaching of the kindness of Christianity overcame the ideas, the brutalities and the power of the Roman Empire.

By neglecting to indoctrinate each new generation with a knowledge of the superior philosophy of the American system of government, we thereby left the people weakened to attack. Hence, so many of them are taken with the false promises of communism. And so many others want the government at Washington to do things beyond its power and outside of its jurisdiction.”

(Undermining the Constitution, A History of Lawless Government, Thomas J. Norton, Devin-Adair Company, excerpts, pp. xi – xiv, 1950)

 

North and South Before the Alien Tide

The colonies North and South before the Revolution had little in common other than being transplanted Britons; Southern troops were there to help the North in the war it initiated over trade and taxes. The model of American statesmanship was the Southern planter-aristocrat until the arrival of Andrew Jackson – seen as the product of the ragged edges of British civilization. Such a product, also, was Abraham Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

North and South Before the Alien Tide

“New Englanders at all stages in the history of the country have busied themselves so actively with advertising in print their part in the making of America; the compact circle of New England authors before the war managed so effectively to enhance each other’s reputations by piling criticism on authorship and authorship on criticism again; that most foreigners and many busty Americans have absorbed the notion that American character is a New England product, and “culture” a plant nourished solely in that region.

This idea has been reinforced by the assiduity of New Englanders since the war, in working over their material, in composing voluminous biographies, appreciations, memoirs, poems, critiques, histories, about every New Englander whoever wrote a book, or, indeed, did anything out of the ordinary.

As a matter of fact, what is called the Puritan influence, what is fathered on the New England conscience, is not essentially Puritan at all; it is British seriousness, aggravated by a hand-to-hand conflict with a new country, and th4e responsibility for it is shared about equally by Massachusetts and Virginia.

The truth is, that so long as America was distinctly a nation of transplanted Britons, the New England conscience, so-called, was a common heritage of all. It is only since the flood of alien blood has swamped the country and diluted the original strain that this conscience has ceased to be the common standard, however modified as to particular judgments by differences in the conditions to be faced.

In New England proper at one time, for instance, it approved capital punishment for witches, promoted piracy and drew sustenance from the [transatlantic] slave traffic.

In the South, at another period, it sanctioned the duel and the holding of the involuntary black man in bondage. At the present time, because the white population of the South is still is of predominantly British descent, because the alien has not swarmed over the land and diluted the original stock, the last stronghold of New England conscience is actually below Mason and Dixon’s line, with its citadel in Richmond, Va.

The thing survives, in spots, in New England also, but only in little pools and back waters not yet reached by the tide. Even the presence of the Negro, with his stone-age morals, has not sufficed to destroy it in the South – though it has, of course, modified it – for the Negro stands outside the stream.

In the first place, then, the Briton in the South, even if he were not descended from the landed gentry, a special breed of masters of other men in the old country, presently developed for himself a special breed of masters of men by reason of his training on the plantation where he ruled over many. At the same time he gained a boldness, and initiative, an adaptability quite foreign to the stay-at-home Briton. For he had to rule over an alien and barbaric people in a new and unformed country strange to him and to them.”

(Contributions of the South to the Character and Culture of the North, H.I. Brock; History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States, Volume VII, Samuel Chiles Mitchell, editor, Southern Publication Society, 1909, pp. 269-271)

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