Browsing "Jeffersonian America"

Vigilant Corps of Government Dependents

Senator John C. Calhoun classified communities into taxpayers and tax-consumers – the former favoring lower taxes, the latter favoring increased taxes, and a wider scope of government power. He wrote of “spoils” in its narrow sense as consisting of bounties and appropriations flowing directly from the public treasury. In the wider sense, he viewed spoils as advantages derived, directly or indirectly, from government action.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Vigilant Corps of Government Dependents

“When [government] offices, instead of being considered as public trusts, to be conferred upon the deserving, were regarded as the spoils of victory, to be bestowed as rewards for partisan services, without respect to merit; when it came to be understood that all who hold office hold [it] by the tenure of partisan zeal and party service, it is easy to see that the certain, direct and inevitable tendency of such a state of things is to convert the entire body of those in office into corrupt and supple instruments of power, and to raise up a host of hungry, greedy, and subservient partisans, ready for every service, however base and corrupt.

Were a premium offered for the best means of extending to the utmost the power of patronage, to destroy the love of country, and to substitute a spirit of subserviency and man-worship: to encourage vice and discourage virtue, and, in a word, to prepare for the subversion of liberty and the establishment of despotism, no scheme more perfect could be devised; and such must be the tendency of the practice, with whatever intention adopted, or to whatever extent pursued.

[Add to this] the greater capacity, in proportion, on the part of government, in large communities, to seize on and corrupt all the organs of public opinion, and thus to delude and impose on the people; the greater tendency in such communities to the formation of parties on local and separate interests, resting on opposing and conflicting principles . . . Among them, the first and most powerful is that active, vigilant and well-trained corps which lives on the government, or expects to live on it, which prospers most when the revenue is greatest.

The next in order – when the government is connected with the banks, when it receives their notes in its dues, and pays them away as cash, and uses them as its depositories and fiscal agents – are the banking and other associated interests, stock-jobbers, brokers, and speculators; and which, like the other profit the more in consequence of the connection – the higher the revenue, the greater its surplus and the expenditures of the government.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Bibliolife (original 1903), excerpts, pp. 106-110)

Andrew Jackson's Pernicious Doctrine

Andrew Jackson may have been another “fire-bell in the night” warning to Americans of presidential power in the hands of someone with independent views of their authority. The grave of Jefferson was barely cold before the Founders’ barriers to democracy had eroded and presidential power predictably increased under vain men; another twenty-eight years beyond Jackson’s Force Bill found a new American republic forming at Montgomery, Alabama.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Andrew Jackson’s Pernicious Doctrine

“But when it came right down to the legality of nullifying the Tariff Acts of 1828 and 1832 [Senator John] Tyler was far less sure of himself. What he attempted to do was discover and occupy a middle ground on an issue which had no detectable middle. On one extreme of the question Calhoun maintained the legality of both nullification and secession and the unconstitutionality of Jackson’s Force Bill.

[Daniel] Webster, on the other hand, consistently upheld the illegality of secession and nullification and argued the propriety of using force in the circumstance. Tyler upheld the right of secession while denying the right of nullification. But he also denied the right of the federal government to employ force against nullification when it occurred.

Even firm States’ rights Virginians like St. George Tucker could not accept this peculiar dichotomy in Tyler’s thinking. It was a question of either submitting or seceding, and since South Carolina had not seceded, the federal government had no alternative but to compel the State to comply with federal legislation.

. . . Tyler informed Virginia’s Governor John Floyd on January 16, the day Jackson asked for a congressional authorization of force, that:

“If S. Carolina be put down, then may each of the States yield all pretensions to sovereignty. We have a consolidated govt. and a master will soon arise. This is inevitable. How idle to talk of me serving a republic for any length of time, with an uncontrolled power over the military, exercised at pleasure by the President . . . What interest is safe if the unbridled will of the majority is to have sway?”

By February 2 Tyler had warmed further to the theme that General Jackson was seeking to establish a military dictatorship in American. The old 1819 vision of the Man on Horseback returned. “Were men ever so deceived as we have been . . . in Jackson?” He asked Littleton Tazewell. “His proclamation has swept away all the barriers of the Constitution, and given us, in place of the Federal government, under which we fondly believed we were living, a consolidated military despotism . . . I tremble for South Carolina. The war-cry is up, rely upon it . . . The boast is that the President, by stamping like another Pompey on the earth, can raise a hundred thousand men.”

A few days later, on February 6, 1833, Tyler delivered his Senate speech against the Force Bill.

“Everything, Mr. President, is running into nationality. The government was created by the States, and may be destroyed by the States; yet we are told this is not a government of the States . . . The very terms employed in the Constitution indicate the true character of the government. The pernicious doctrine that this is a national and not a Federal Government, has received countenance from the late proclamation and message of the President.

The people are regarded as one mass, and the States as constituting one nation. I desire to know when this chemical process occurred . . . such doctrines would convert the States into mere petty corporations, provinces of one consolidated government. These principles give to this government authority to veto all State laws, not merely by Act of Congress, but by the sword and bayonet.

They would pace the President at the head of the regular army in array against the States, and the sword and cannon would come to be the common arbiter . . . to arm him with military power is to give him the authority to crush South Carolina, should she adopt secession.”

(And Tyler Too. A Biography of John and Julia Gardiner Tyler, Robert Seager, II, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963, pp. 92-93)

 

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

In the small plantation communities where African slaves lived and labored it was Southern men like Presbyterian Rev. Charles Colcock Jones who brought them from heathenism to Christianity.  The elder Roswell King mentioned below was a Connecticut native who came South to manage the large antebellum estates of Pierce Butler in Glynn County, Georgia. The son, also named Roswell King, later moved to northern Georgia to establish cotton and woolen mills and the town of Roswell, Georgia still bears his name.  It was Northerner Eli Whitney who made large scale cotton production profitable — which supplied slave-produced material to hungry New England mills.  Manhattan bankers provided easy credit to enable land acquisition for more cotton production.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

“My experience with these people [African slaves] was very large, having been for long years the contract physician on the river plantations where religious opportunities were very limited. In many cases, the Negro preacher or watchman (as they were called) was the only teacher and leader they had. Though on a few of the larger estates, salaried chaplains were employed.

I recollect many years ago being engaged in correspondence on the subject. The Reverend Jones spent many years of his useful life, and liberally of his private resources, in endeavoring to do good to these ignorant and dependent people by religious teaching and preaching.

To reassure him in the self-sacrifice of time and means, he addressed a letter of inquiry to Mr. Roswell King of Butler’s Island, where there were nearly a thousand slaves, [asking] whether those professing religion were more orderly and faithful than the others.

I commended the pious work in which he was engaged, but it being often at night and involving a long ride, and his health not being strong, I begged him to assign his labors to some lesser light in the church who was more physically able.

There were wider and more congenial fields waiting for him where his education, talents, eminent piety, and zeal in his Master’s service made him an honored and distinguished name to his life’s end.”

(Dr. Bullie’s Notes, Reminiscences of Early Georgia, James Holmes, Cherokee Publishing Company, 1976, pp. 161-163)

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

The Union of 1787 was simply the second experiment in self-government embarked upon by the founding generation, men who who feared the pitfalls of democracy and believed votes should only be cast by property-holders. The Articles of Confederation ably restrained the federal agent from mischief; the Union of 1787 authorized more federal authority though strictly enumerated. The third experiment in self-government and a more perfect union was the Confederate Constitution of 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

“If the plan now proposed should be adopted, nothing less than ruin to some Colonies will be the consequence of it. The idea of destroying all Provincial Distinctions and making everything of the most minute kind bend to what they call the good of the whole, is in other terms to say that these Colonies must be subject to the Government of the Eastern Provinces . . . I am resolved to vest the Congress with no more Power than that is absolutely necessary, and, to use a familiar expression to keep the Staff in our own Hands; for I am confident if surrendered into the Hands of others a most pernicious use will be made of it.”     Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, letter to John Jay, June 29, 1776

Here then at the very outset is sounded the key-note of what for a hundred and sixty years — has been the immutable political philosophy of the South. It is not of course to be assumed that Southern Statesmen alone in those early days of our national upbringing took their stand firmly against any and every encroachment of the central power upon the God-given rights of the States.

What had stirred these grave fears in the breast of Edward Rutledge was an exceptional rather than prevailing sentiment. Now and then, it is true, some speaker, chiefly in the North, less frequently of the South, would permit himself to be torn loose from his customary anchorage and let fall sentiments that seemed to point toward a shriveling of State and a fattening of central power; but Northern as well as Southern statesmen, then and long afterward were wont to cling to the doctrine of State sovereignty and independence as tenaciously as grim death in the fable clung to the deceased African.

As we listen to the chatter, the bickering, the declamation behind the Congressional curtain . . . one note rises above the din: every State, whether North or South, would beware the pitfalls and the snares that might light lurk in the path of a centralized government. They would approach such a government with extreme caution. The good of the whole was a noble sentiment — and there were no lips from which it did not fall — but would that whole be merely the sum of all its parts — or something more? It were well to make sure.

[In the Winter and Spring of 1777, Thomas Burke of North Carolina] sought to draw Congress back to solid ground [on the proposed Confederation] and to first principles. Burke made several speeches in the course of these discussions . . . and much of what he said and wrote is good gospel for the cause of State’s rights even to this day.

In a letter to Governor Caswell . . . Burke wrote: “The more experience I acquire, the stronger is my Conviction, that unlimited Power can not be safely Trusted to any man or set of men on Earth”; and he went on to speak at some length of “the Delusive Intoxication which Power naturally imposes on the human Mind . . . [and noted that] the same persons who on one day endeavor to carry through some Resolutions, whose Tendency is to increase the Power of Congress, are often on another day very strenuous advocates to restrain it.”

In conclusion he declares, “Power will sometime or another be abused unless men are well watched, and checked by something which they cannot remove when they please.”

“[In Burke’s summary of the Confederation debate in April 1777 we] have agreed to three articles,” he wrote, “one containing the name; the second a declaration of the sovereignty of the States, and an express provision that they be considered as retaining every power not expressly delegated; and the third an agreement mutually to assist each other against every enemy.”

(Southern Statesmen and the Confederation, Edmund Cody Burnett, NC Historical Review, October 1937, excerpts, pp. 349-354)

 

Idle Talk of Preserving a Republic

John Tyler joined his father, Governor John Tyler of Virginia, in entertaining Thomas Jefferson at the executive mansion in October 1809. His connection with the Founding generation gave him a clear and deep understanding of the strictly delegated constitutional limitations on the federal agent in Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Idle Talk of Preserving a Republic

“Shortly after the election of 1832 [John] Tyler broke with the [Jackson] Administration. The occasion of the breach was the nullification crisis. But up to this time he was regarded as a Democrat in good if not regular standing. Jackson’s policy toward South Carolina was so objectionable to him that he aligned himself with the anti-Administration forces, and finally left the Democratic party. To support or even acquiesce in the President’s measures would be, as he considered, to sacrifice his State’ rights principles — a sacrifice which at no time during his entire career was he willing to make.

In writing to Governor John Floyd, of Virginia [January 16, 1833], he declared that “if South Carolina be put down, then may each of the States yield all pretensions to sovereignty. We have a consolidated government, and a master will soon arise. This is inevitable. How idle to talk of preserving a republic for any length of time with an uncontrolled power over the military, exercised at pleasure by the President.”

(John Tyler, Champion of the Old South, American Political Biography Press, 2006 (original 1939), pp. 112-113)

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

Author Margaret L. Coit has written that “The Old South was a school for statesmanship” and that Southern men “rode high in the saddle of the USA” from the 1776 Revolution to the 1861 Revolution. It is no exaggeration that the “Virginia Dynasty” was virtually synonymous with the founding of the American experiment, and with the exception of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, nearly every outstanding American political figure was a Southern man.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

“The difference between the Southern civilization and the Northern,” says Thomas Nelson Page, “was the result of the difference between their origins and subsequent surroundings.” Then he tells the familiar story of how the Northern colonies “were the asylums of religious zealots” who came in search of freedom and became themselves “proscriptors of the most tyrannical type.”

To the Southern colonies, on the other hand, came “soldiers of fortune and gentlemen in misfortune . . . In the first ship-load of [Virginia] colonists there were “four carpenters, twelve laborers and fifty-four gentlemen.” The Southern settlers “came with the consent of the crown, the blessings of the Church, and under the auspices and favor of men of high-standing in the kingdom.”

With the best blood of England in their veins and the best of the Old World traditions in their cultural equipment, they produced a civilization “as distinctive as that of Greece, Carthage, Rome or Venice”; one that “made men noble, gentle and brave, and women tender, pure and true . . . It was, I believe, the purest, sweetest life ever lived.”

Page acknowledges, as many other traditionalists do, that the Southern planters were not wholly of Cavalier blood. They represented, he says, “the strongest strains of many stocks – Saxon, Celts, and Teuton; Cavalier and Puritan.”

(The South Looks at its Past, Benjamin Burks Kendrick and Arnett Alex Mathews, UNC Press, 1935, pp. 17-18)

 

The South the Genesis of American Independence

In 1887 North Carolina’s Lieutenant-General Daniel H. Hill spoke of the American Republic and the men who founded, led and sustained it until a revolutionary movement ended its life after some eighty years. Shorn of the conservative South after 1861, the Northern government descended into political corruption, the Gilded Age, incessant warfare and moral depravity.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South the Genesis of American Independence

“With rare magnanimity, Southern congressmen had voted for protective tariffs, fishing bounties, and coast-trade regulations, which did so much to build up the big cities and great commerce of the North and to fill its coffers to overflowing. Even Mr. Calhoun had voted to protect “infant industries,” believing that the infants would in the course of time learn to crawl and walk, and do without pap. But that time has not yet come.

Thomas Prentice Kettell, a Northern man, estimates that in these three ways the Old South contributed from 1789 to 1861, $2,770,000,000 of her wealth to Northern profits. Our statesmen knew, surely, that their own section would never get one dollar in return from this enormous expenditure. But they were patriotic enough to be willing to make the nation rich and prosperous, even at the expense, for a season, of their own beloved South.

My countrymen! That Old South was a generous Old South. The world scoffs at generosity and says, “it don’t pay.”  The Old South believed with a wise man that “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and loving favor rather than gold and silver.”

Mr. Bancroft [in his History of the United States] says: “American Independence, like the great rivers of the country, had many sources, but the head spring which colored all the stream was the [British] Navigation Act.”

The whole of New England was in a blaze of fury because of it. The effect of upon their commerce and shipping interest was disastrous, and they believed that ruin impended over them. The Old South denounced the Navigation Act, which did not hurt its interest at all, just as severely as it did the Stamp and Revenue Acts. All were blows at the inalienable rights of freemen, and all were alike opposed.

Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, in a speech delivered in Charleston in 1766, advocated the independence of the Colonies, and he was the first American to proclaim the thought. The first American Congress met in Philadelphia on the 7th of October, 21774. Peyton Randolph of Virginia, was elected President of that body.

On the 20th of May, 1775, the Scotch-Irish of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, absolved all allegiance with the Crown of Great Britain, and set up a government of its own. On the 12th of April, 1776, the Provincial Congress of North Carolina took the lead of all the States in passing resolutions of independence. On the 7th of June of that year, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia moved, “These united Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”

It was upon this motion that the separation from Great Britain took place. It was a Virginian who wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was a Virginian who led the rebel armies to victory and to freedom. It was a Southerner — Charles Pinckney of South Carolina — whose draft of the Constitution was mainly adopted.

Thus independence was declared on the motion of one Southerner; its principles were set forth in the Declaration by another Southerner. A third led the armies of the rebel colonies to victory, while a fourth framed the Constitution, which though denounced at one time by the South-haters as “a covenant with death and a league with hell,” has lived for one hundred years, and is likely to live for hundreds more.

You . . . need not be ashamed of your ancestors and blush that they lived in the Old Bourbon South. That Bourbon regime lasted for eighty years, the grandest and noblest of American history. Eleven of its seventeen Presidents were of Southern birth. Fifty-seven of the eighty years were spent under the administration of Southern-born Presidents. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, each served eight years, in all forty years — just one half the life of the nation.

Of the six Northern Presidents John Quincy Adams was elected by the House of Representatives and not by the people, and contrary to the wishes of the people. Nor was Mr. Fillmore elected to the Presidency, but on the death of General Taylor succeeded to the office . . . So during the existence of the Old South, John Adams, Van Buren, Pierce and Buchanan were the only Northern Presidents elected by the people. Another curious fact is, that every Northern President had associated with him as Vice President a man from the Old South.

[The Cape Fear Stamp Act resistance in 1765] was nearly ten years [before] the Boston tea party assembled, when a number of citizens, disguised as Indians, went on board a ship and threw overboard the tea imported in her. This was done in the night by men in disguise, and was directed against a defenseless ship. But the North Carolina movement, ten years earlier [in Wilmington], occurred in open day, and was made against the Governor [Tryon] himself, ensconced in his palace, and by men who scorned disguise” (Senator Clingman).

Every schoolboy knows of the Boston tea-party of 1773; how many of my intelligent audience know of the Wilmington party of 1765?  Yea, verily, the Old South has sorely needed historians of its own.”

(Address by Lt. General D.H. Hill on Memorial Day, June 6th, 1887 at Baltimore, before the Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States)

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

On February 19, 1847, Senator John C. Calhoun stated that “the day that the [political] equilibrium between the two sections of the country . . . is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster.” On the next day he said: “We know what we are about, we foresee what is coming, and move with no other purpose but to protect our portion of the Union from the greatest of calamities . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

“But while [territorial acquisition, immigration and political representation] measures were destroying the equilibrium between the two sections, the action of the government was leading to a radical change in its character, by concentrating all the power of the system in itself.

[It] would not be difficult to show that the process commenced at an early period of the government, and that it proceeded, almost without interruption, step by step, until it absorbed virtually its entire powers . . . That the government claims, and practically maintains, the right to decide in the last resort, as to the extent of its powers, will scarcely be denied by any one conversant with the political history of the country.

That it also claims the right to resort to force to maintain whatever power it claims, against all opposition, is equally certain. Indeed, it is apparent, from what we daily hear, that this has become the prevailing and fixed opinion of a great majority of the community. Now, I ask, what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a government claiming and exercising such rights?

And, if none can be, how can the separate governments of the States maintain and protect the powers reserved to them by the Constitution, or the people of the several States maintain those which are reserved to them, and, among others, the sovereign powers by which they ordained and established not only their separate State Constitutions and governments, but also the Constitution and government of the United States?

But, if they have no constitutional means of maintaining them against the right claimed by this government, it necessarily follows that they hold them at its pleasure and discretion, and that all the powers of the system are in reality concentrated in it. It also follows that the character of the government has been changed in consequence from a federal republic, as it originally came from the hands of the framers, into a great national consolidated democracy.

It has indeed, at present, all the characteristics of the latter, and not one of the former, although it still retains its outward form.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, pp. 178-179)

Jefferson's Debatable Equality

Jefferson’s idealistic preamble passage regarding “all men are created equal” has been problemmatic though most agree that creation is where the equality ends — subsequent political equality is established by men.  Regarding the status of blacks at the time of the Constitution being ratifed, Chief Justice Taney found in his Dred Scott decision that Africans were indeed persons but not included in “the political people” of the United States and without standing as citizens. New York’s 1821 suffrage requirement for blacks mentioned below is considered by many to be the origin of “Jim Crow Laws.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jefferson’s Debatable Equality

“In one matter [of antebellum views of democracy] there was a definite reactionary movement. This was the issue of free Negro suffrage. Virginia and North Carolina joined Maryland and Kentucky in taking from the free Negro the ballot he had theretofore possessed. In like manner, all new States of the period, North as well as South, denied suffrage to free Negroes.

The action of the old Southern States was paralleled by that of the Northern States. 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 and 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 “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. From the very day of the Declaration of Independence the race problem had caused the American people to make an exception to the doctrine that “all men are created equal.”

(Fletcher M. Green, Democracy in the Old South, paper written for the 1945 Southern Historical Association presidential address. The Pursuit of Southern History, George Brown Tindall, editor, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 186-187)

A More Perfect Union Formed in 1861

A More Perfect Union Formed in 1861

“The congress of delegates from the seceding States convened at Montgomery, Alabama, according to appointment, on February 4, 1861. Their first work was to prepare a provisional constitution for the new confederacy, to be formed of the States which had withdrawn from the Union, for which the style “Confederate States of America” was adopted.

The constitution was adopted on February 8, to continue if force for one year, unless superseded at an earlier date by a permanent organization. On the next day [February 9] an election was held for the chief executive offices, resulting, as I afterward learned, in my election to the Presidency, with the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia as Vice President.

President Jefferson Davis’s Inaugural Address [excerpt]:

“Our present political position has been achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations. It illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established. The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the United States, and which has been solemnly affirmed and reaffirmed in the Bill of Rights of the States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognizes in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government.

Thus the sovereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained; so that the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent through which they communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.

We have changed the constituent parts, but not the system of government. The Constitution framed by our fathers is that of these Confederate States. In their exposition of it, and in the judicial construction it has received, we have a light which reveals its true meaning. Reverently let us invoke the God of our Fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which by his blessing they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity.”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Jefferson Davis, DaCapo, 1990, pp. 197-203)

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