Browsing "Prescient Warnings"

Fairy Tale Coalition of Two Hostile Camps

Frank Chodorov railed against conservatives who and businesspeople who supported special government privileges for themselves, and referred to the US as a “nation of panhandlers.” He went on to state that “in America it is the so-called capitalist who is to blame for the fulfilment of Marx’s prophesies. Beguiled by the state’s siren song of special privilege, the capitalists have abandoned capitalism.” He saw the United Nations as no guarantor of world peace.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Fairy Tale Coalition of Two Hostile Camps

“Five years ago the organization of the United Nations was ushered into the world as the guarantor of peace. It has failed. Despite that obvious fact, there are many whose faith in some sort of superstate as an instrument of peace in unshaken, and who lay the failure of the UN to the limitations put upon it by the autonomy of the members. That is to say, they believe in peace through authoritarianism; the more authoritarian, the more peace.

History cannot give this faith the slightest support. The glory that was Rome did not prevent its parts from coming into conflict with one another, or from rising up against the central authority. Even our American coalition of commonwealths came near breaking up in war, and uprisings have all but disintegrated the British Empire.

Centralization of power has never been a guarantor of peace. On the contrary, every such centralization has been accomplished by war and its career has been one long preoccupation with war.

The best that can be said of any coalition of states is that it can keep smoldering fires from breaking out as long as none of its members can exercise control over the others. It can maintain an armed truce. The UN has not even done that, simply because no one state has shown sufficient strength to take control.

The two most powerful members [the US and Soviets] have been in contention since its beginning and are now poised for a test of arms to determine the issue. Nothing else is more certain than that the rivalry of these two powers will shortly reach the breaking point, that the UN shall collapse or shall be succeeded by another coalition in which one or the other will be on top.

The UN – it is moonshine to think otherwise – consists of two hostile camps, one held together by the American dollar, the other by fear of the Soviet army. Neither law, morality, nor ideology is a cementing influence. If the American dollar is withdrawn the West will break up, its members entering into new alignments dictated by expediency; if the Soviet power shows weakness, Titoism will splinter the Red empire.

In short, it is evident now – even as it was to anyone with some familiarity with the history of alliances – that the high moral purpose written into the charter of the UN is but a fairy tale. World peace is not achieved through this monstrosity.

Like the League of Nations which it succeeded, or the Holy Roman Empire, or any of the political coalitions in the history of the world, the UN is incapable of giving the world peace simply because it rests on the unsound assumption that peace is a function of politics. The fact is that peace and politics are antithetical.

Peace is the business of society. Society is a cooperative effort, springing spontaneously from man’s urge to improve on his circumstances. It is voluntary, completely free of force. It comes because man has learned that the task of life is easier of accomplishment through the exchange of goods, services and ideas. The greater the volume and fluidity of such exchanges, the richer and fuller the life of every member of society. That is the law of association; it is also the law of peace.

The only condition necessary for the growth of society into one worldism is the absence of force in the marketplace; which is another way of saying that politics is a hindrance, and not an aid, to peace. Any intervention in the sphere of voluntary exchanges stunts the growth of society and tends to its disorganization.

It is significant that in war, which is the ultimate of politics, every strategic move is aimed at the disorganization of the enemy’s means of production and exchange – the disruption of the marketplace.

Likewise, when the state intervenes in the business of society, which is production and exchange, a condition of war exists, even though open conflict is prevented by the superior physical force the state is able to employ. Politics in the marketplace is like a bull in the china shop.”

(One Worldism, Fugitive Essays, Selected Writings of Frank Chodorov, Charles H. Hamilton, editor, Liberty Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 120-123)

War with Mexico and a Million Dead Gringos

As it did before and during the war several times, the South promoted compromise to maintain peace between the sections – and had the new Republican Party been interested in true compromise and saving the Union, there might have been a Compromise of 1861. The author below traces the thread that led to war, though secession of the American South did not cause war – it did cause the North to choose war and conquest.

Bernhard Thuersam,


War with Mexico and a Million Dead Gringos

“Even before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had been ratified, the Texas legislature on March 14, 1848, created Santa Fe County, which included almost all of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande. Military and civil officials in New Mexico were anxious to prevent the region from coming under Texas jurisdiction.

[Newly-elected President Zachary Taylor] was forthright in his statements regarding the Texas claim . . . and issued orders to the army to prevent county organization of New Mexico by the Texans. Southerners became so incensed that they were threatening to join the Lone Star State in secession if New Mexico east of the Rio Grande was not given to Texas.

Governor Peter H. Bell of Texas convened the legislature there in special session in August 1850 . . . and told [them] that they must meet the federal impediment “boldly, and fearlessly and determined. Not by further supplications or discussion . . .; not by renewed appeals to their generosity and sympathy . . . but by action . . . at all hazards and to the last extremity.”

This attitude was seconded by other Southerners; Alexander Stephens of Georgia declared in a speech before the House of Representatives that the first federal gun fired on Texas officials would be a signal for “free men” from the Delaware [River] to the Rio Grande to rise up against the Union. Taylor remained adamant, however; to such talk he crisply replied, “Disunion is treason.”

Fortunately for the nation the “Old Giants” were still active in Congress: Clay, Calhoun and Webster. Clay called for a compromise in a speech on January 29, 1850. California would enter as a free State; New Mexico would be given separate territorial status; Texas would be paid $10,000,000 for ceding its claim to New Mexico, thereby allowing it to pay its debts; and Utah would be given territorial status. Clay’s proposal met bitter debate, perhaps the most bitter in the history of Congress.

By September 5 all the measures proposed by Clay had been passed. Lumped together, these measures were called the Compromise of 1850 [and without] a doubt they preserved the Union and postponed civil war for a decade. But they killed the Whig Party . . . made . . . war almost inevitable [and led to the doctrine of popular sovereignty just four years later when the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed.

Perhaps it is cold comfort to dismembered Mexico, but the “Mexican Cession” led in the next two decades to the death of a million gringos, as well as to sectional hatreds that persist to the present.”

(North America Divided, The Mexican War, 1846-1848, Seymour V. Conner & Odie B. Faulk, Oxford University Press, 1971, excerpts, pp. 173-176)

British Philanthropic Hypocrisy

Replying to Hinton Helper’s “Impending Crisis,” Elias Peissner chastised the British for the hypocrisy of emancipating African slaves while still oppressing its Hindu subjects in India. John C. Calhoun in 1844 saw British emancipation as combining philanthropy, profit and power, and a belief that free labor would reduce overhead and increase profit. In British Jamaica, freedmen bankrupted plantations by not being industrious, and England then promoted wholesale emancipation to cripple or destroy her more successful trade rivals, the French and Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam,


British Philanthropic Hypocrisy

“We are not yet through with the Testimony of England, who is always loudest in condemning our Slavery. We will give her a fair hearing. How closely she watches those poor Hindoos! How effectually she keeps them down, whenever they express any dissatisfaction with the happiness she forces upon them!

She has instituted among those “half-naked barbarians” an awful solidarite’, by which the province is responsible for the labor of all its men and women. But still, England is philanthropic! She has carried rails and Bibles, free-schools and steamboats, telegraphs and libraries to India, all for the benefit of those half-naked barbarians!

And should telegraphs and Bibles not have the requisite effect of happyfying, opium will be administered to them, and to “all the world, and to the rest of mankind.” She will no longer permit those savage Hindoos to roast as witches wrinkled old women, for she knows too well from her own experience, the unfairness of such proceedings; nor does she, in these days, allow anywhere the Hand of Justice to cut the ears of those who speak against State or Church. Now, this is decided progress!

England is the civilizer and Christianizer of the world! To be sure, there is still robbing and flogging, murdering and starving enough in the “dominions of the Gracious Queen, where the sun never setteth;” but England, nevertheless, dislikes Slavery in general, and Negro Slavery in the United States in particular, and her lords and ladies are ever ready to eat and drink with the poor commoners of the West, eager of philanthropic royalty!

But England emancipated her slaves in the West India Islands! She expended 20,000,000 [pounds], we suppose, from sheer philanthropy, and may we ask: Whom did her philanthropic measure benefit? Jamaica, that brilliant island, saw her land and people degenerate, says H.C. Carey; the planter sold cheaply and left, the slave did not work.

Such must be the effect of all revolutionary or sudden abolition; and, though the emancipated lands may gradually recover from the ill-advised blow, they can only do so with much loss of property and at the cost of much human misery.”

(The American Question, in its National Aspect, Elias Peissner, Negro Universities Press, 1970, pp. 64-65, originally published in 1861)

Jefferson on Free Speech and Delegated Powers

Jefferson’s great admiration for Washington allayed his fears that the presidency might become monarchical – a fear that John Adams made real. Though Jefferson wrote that the true barriers of our liberty are our State governments, and that all States could not be restrained by one man and any force he could possess – he didn’t foresee Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Jefferson on Free Speech and Delegated Powers

“With respect to the Sedition Act, which he detested more and condemned first, he took the ground that this sort of definition of crime fell within none of the delegated powers, and that this sort of action was specifically prohibited to Congress by the First Amendment. Though he did not say so here, he completely repudiated the doctrine that the federal courts already had common-law jurisdiction over seditious libel.

He regarded the doctrine . . . as an “audacious, barefaced and sweeping pretension.” Also, in view of the fact that freedom of speech and the press are guarded against congressional action in the same amendment with freedom of religion, he held that whoever violated one of them threw down the sanctuary covering the others. It should be noted . . . that he did not here deny to States the right to judge how far “the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their useful freedom.” This is certainly not to say that he set State rights above human rights . . . [but] he was not warning against possible misuse of State power, and to him it was federal power that represented the clear and present danger.

In the first of his resolutions [Kentucky] Jefferson categorically took the position that whenever the general government assumed powers not delegated to it by the compact, its acts were “unauthoritive, void and of no force.” Denying that there was a “common judge” (of federal usurpation), he concluded that each party to the compact had “an equal right to judge for itself, as well as infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

Some deletion (of Jefferson’s words in the written Kentucky Resolutions) was in order anyway, since the draft was prolix and repetitious…(and) after saying that in cases of the abuse of delegated, a change in the members of the general government by the people was the “constitutional remedy,” he made this assertion:

“where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy; that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact . . . to nullify on their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: without this right they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment over them . . .”

(Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty, Dumas Malone, Little, Brown and Company, 1962, pp. 403-405)


War Clouds in Late 1832

President Andrew Jackson, in early November 1832, sent a spy to South Carolina to monitor the nullification forces in South Carolina, and “transferred several military companies to Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney” in preparation for war against the State. Though using these measures to elevate his prestige, Jackson also urged Congress to lower the existing tariff and “attacked the protective system for the first time.” He had come to the view that like the national bank he opposed for making “the rich richer and the potent more powerful,” the Northern protective tariffs accomplished the same.

Bernhard Thuersam,


War Clouds in Late 1832

“[Governor Robert Y.] Hayne’s [inaugural] speech was nothing short of a full-blown statement of State supremacy . . .”Fellow citizens, This is Our Own – Our Native Land,” declared Hayne.

“It is the soil of CAROLINA which has been enriched by the precious blood of our ancestors, shed in defense of those rights and liberties, which we are bound, by every tie divine and human, to transmit unimpaired to our posterity. It is here that we have been cherished in youth and sustained in manhood . . . here repose the honored bones of our Fathers . . . here, when our earthly pilgrimage is over, we hope to sink to rest, on the bosom of our common mother. Bound to our country by such sacred, and endearing ties – let others desert her, if they can, let them revile her, if they will – let them give aid and countenance to her enemies, if they may – but for us, we will STAND OR FALL WITH CAROLINA.”

The [South Carolina] legislature gave Governor Hayne authority to accept military volunteers, to draft any Carolinian between eighteen and forty-five (including unionists), and to call out the State militia. The legislators approved a $200,000 appropriation for purchasing arms and authorized Hayne to draw and additional $200,000 from a contingent fund.

On December 26 Hayne issued his proclamation asking for volunteers; by the beginning of 1833 the governor and his district commanders were raising, equipping and training an army. Soldiers constantly drilled in the streets, and for a season Carolina uniforms and blue cockades were standard fare in churches and at tea parties. Over 25,000 men – more than had voted for nullification in the first place – volunteered to defend South Carolina against Jackson’s armies.

[Former Governor James Hamilton’s military preparations] had a chance to win an immediate victory over the two badly exposed federal forts. Fort Moultrie had been built on Sullivan’s Island, and since South Carolina owned part of the island, Hamilton’s volunteers could lay siege to the fort. Castle Pinckney, erected on an island only a mile out from Gadsden Wharf, could be battered down by the nullifiers’ heavy cannon.

The necessity for a strategy of defense, however, weakened the possibility of quick victory. The governor, commanding his army with commendable restraint and caution, also knew that a concentration of troops might precipitate a needless war. Hayne insisted that volunteers train at home . . . [but with] the entire army in the uplands, Charleston would be vulnerable to a concentrated federal attack.

Hayne attempted to solve the dilemma with his mounted-minutemen plan. The governor asked each district to appoint a small cavalry unit which could race to Charleston on a moment’s notice. “If in each district only one hundred such men could be secured,” wrote Hayne, “we would have the means of throwing 2,500 of the elite of the whole State upon a given point in three or four days.”

(Prelude to Civil War, The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, William W. Freehling, Oxford University Press, 1965, pp. 264-266; 275-277)

A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

The Founders referred to their creation as a republic and built in safeguards against the rise of democracy, which they saw as mob rule. Professor Donald Livingston instructs us that the United States is not a republic, but a federation of republics — and the federation itself, cannot be referred to as a “republic.”

Jefferson’s revolution of 1800 election temporarily ended the Federalist Party’s quest to mold the United States into an aristocratic and centralized nation, though encroachments of federal power upon the States continued through the Supreme Court (“sappers and miners”), centralized banking, special interest protectionism — and finally the creation of the States, the federal agent — waging war upon States that rightly opposed the encroachments. The new Republican Party of Lincoln was an incarnation of Adam’s Federalist Party, and empowered by the protectionist and banking interests of New England.

Bernhard Thuersam,


A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

“Any system of government, from a democracy to an aristocracy to a monarchy, is capable of drowning its people in tyranny. “I see no infallible criterion for defining the nature of government, except its acts,” wrote John Taylor of Caroline in “Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated,” (1820). “If the acts of a monarchy, aristocracy and democracy are the same, these forms of government are to a nation essentially the same also. To contend for forms only, is to fight for shadows.”

How then, should we define the nature of a republic? The word itself was batted around by all the Founding Fathers, but its use varied. John Adams, who favored aristocracy and “balanced power,” wrote that the only “rational” definition of republic is “aa government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws.”

Taylor assailed this sort of “republic,” which puts its faith in the “rule of law.” Answering Adams in 1814 (An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States), he asked how this was any different from the government from which they had declared independence. What guarantees that the law to which everyone is “equally subject” is just – or good?

Adam’ imagined government would counter [inherent financial injustice] with a “balance of power,” by which each class, emerging “naturally” according to a divine distribution of talent, would find equal representation. But do such classes arise “by nature,” according to “God’s design?” Taylor argues that Adams’ classes are artificial – special interests created by laws and sustained by government. (Government’s creation of a standing army, for example, creates a “soldier class,” a military interest. Central banking, creates a banking interest. Etc.)

And man’s lust for power being what it is, these artificial classes would (did) seek to advance their standing among the others, if not dominate them altogether even; even taking the moral high ground for doing just so. “One tyrant may thank God that he is not another tyrant.”

During the infant days of the United States, the means by which the federal government was creating this phony aristocracy was, according to Taylor, its control of the economy, through central banking and taxation – unjust transfers of wealth from one interest to another.

“Wealth, established by law, violates the principle, which induced the American states to wage war with Britain. It separates the imposer from the payer of taxes. No nation would tax itself to enrich an order or separate interest. When therefore a nation is so taxed, it must proceed from the power of the order itself, which is invariably the imposer and receiver of the tax; whilst the rest of the nation is the payer.”

For Taylor, a true, sustainable republic is not characterized by a “balance of power” among artificial interest groups, but by self-government. “The distinguishing superiorities of our policy, are, the sovereignty of the people; a republican government, or a government producing publick or national good; and a thorough system of responsible representation.”

Who, then, were these sovereign “people,” and what is this “good.” The people are farmers. At the time of the War of Independence, 95 percent of Americans were engaged in farming. The prospect of owning a farm was what made the colonies attractive in the first place.

But this life had been threatened by a distant [British] central government that was cash-strapped and weary from financing its own imperial adventures. The small colonial farmer found it difficult to hold onto his land when the crown began to manipulate the money supply. Slapping taxes on his and stifling free trade only made things worse.

The Federalists’ “consolidated republic” threatened to do just the same. Federalist fiscal policy created new interests, a new Court Party of paper wealth. These sundry interests could not live without the farmers, yet they must live off them.

According to Jeffersonian tradition, of which Taylor was the greatest exemplar, the farmer is capable of self-government. His is the only vocation that is “natural” – that is not a creation of government. He depends upon God to sustain him . . . [and] he takes up his arms to defend hearth and home in the local militia, and the mantle of statesman when called upon – all the while eager, as Taylor was, to get back to his land, to the plow.

This is the true republican ideal [and] . . . its people are defined not by party affiliation or political law but by the mores majorum, the “customs of the fathers.”

(A Share in the Patria, Aaron D. Wolf, Chronicles, May 2009, excerpts, pp. 21-22)

Achieving Southern Destiny

Washington warned that sectional animosity would endanger the new Union; by 1826 both Jefferson and Adams deplored the loss of republican direction provided by the revolutionary generation. The tariff controversy of the early 1830s ignited the fire that would not be quelled until 1865, though the Constitution and the Union were destroyed in the process.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Achieving Southern Destiny

“[Henry] Clay’s campaign for his “American System” drew fire mainly from the South Carolinians.

In 1827, Robert J. Turnbull, under the pseudonym of Brutus, published a series of thirty-three articles in the Charleston Mercury, and promptly issued them in a pamphlet entitled “The Crisis: Or Essays on the Usurpation of the Federal Government,” which he dedicated “to the people of the “Plantation States” as a testimony of respect, for their rights of sovereignty.”

Turnbull vehemently urged the people of the South to face the facts, to realize that the North was beginning to use its control of Congress for Southern oppression by protective tariffs and otherwise; and he proposed as a remedy that South Carolina should promptly interpose her sovereignty, and safeguard Southern interests, by vetoing such congressional acts as she should decide to be based upon Federal usurpations and intended for Northern advantage at the cost of Southern oppression.

“. . . William H. Trescott’s “The Position and Course of the South” [was] an embodiment of the soundest realization of the sectional conditions of the Southern section in the closing decade of the ante-bellum period. The author, a leading, experienced, conservative citizen of South Carolina, states in his preface, dated Oct. 12, 1850, that his purpose is to unify the widely separated parts of the South.

He says his views are not new, but they are characteristically Southern: “We are beginning to think for ourselves, the first act toward acting for ourselves.” The essay begins with an analysis of industrial contrasts.

The political majority of the North represents labor; that of the South, capital; the contrast is violent. Free labor hates slave labor, and it will overturn the system if it can. The two sections with many contrasting and conflicting characteristics are combined under the United States Constitution, but they are essentially irreconcilable. Even in foreign relations the North is jealous of foreign powers for commercial and industrial reasons, while Southern industry is not competitive with, but complementary to European industry and commerce, and the South, if a nation by itself, would be upon most cordial terms with foreign powers.

“The United States government under the control of Northern majorities must reflect Northern sentiment, sustain Northern interests, impersonate Northern power. Even if it be conceded that the South has no present grievance to complain of, it is the part of wisdom to consider the strength and relations of the sections, and face the question, what is the position of the South? In case our rights should be attacked, where is our constitutional protection? The answer is obvious.

But one course is open to her honor, and that is secession and the formation of an independent confederacy. There are many men grown old in the Union who would feel an honest and pardonable regret at the thought of its dissolution. They have prided themselves on the success of the great American experiment in political self-government, and feel that the dissolution of the Union would proclaim a mortifying failure. Not so.

The vital principle of political liberty is representative government, and when Federal arrangements are discarded, that lives in original vigor. Who does not consider the greatest triumph of the British constitution the facility and vigor with which, under slight modifications, it developed into the great republican government under which we have accomplished our national progress. And so it will be with the United States Constitution.

We believe that Southern interests demand an independent government. We believe that the time has come when this can be established temperately, wisely, strongly. But in effecting this separation we would not disown our indebtedness, our gratitude to the past. The Union has spread Christianity, fertilized a wilderness, enriched the world’s commerce wonderfully, spread Anglo-Saxon civilization. “It has given to the world sublime names, which the world will not willingly let die — heroic actions which will light the eyes of a far-coming enthusiasm. It has achieved its destiny. Let us achieve ours.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), Ulrich B. Phillips, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 193-198)


Undermining the Constitution

Thomas J. Norton notes below in 1951 that Congress has no authority to “lend money or to give it away” – and cites James Madison’s warning of paper barriers being insufficient to stop evil persons in government. Jefferson Davis stated in 1881: “Of what value then are paper constitutions and oaths binding officers to their preservation, if there is not intelligence enough in the people to discern the violations, and virtue enough to resist the violators?”

Bernhard Thuersam,


Undermining the Constitution

“The Constitution gives power to Congress (1) “to coin money” and (2) “to borrow on the credit of the United States” — but not to lend money, or to give it away, either at home or abroad.

What is expressed in a Constitution is equivalent to a prohibition of what is not expressed. The powers over money mentioned are the only ones that the Constitutional Convention brought in from the world of inherent powers and fixed in the Fundamental Law.

Those specifications reject the theory of unlimited powers exercised by European monarchs in 1787. Not long before that, Louis XIV had kept Europe embroiled in wars by loans or grants of money to belligerent rulers. Did the Constitutional Convention, at least one member of which was born in his reign, intend to give that power to Congress? It did not say so. The power was therefore withheld by the people from their servants.

The United States is now, without authority — under a denial of authority — lending or granting money to Europe, and to the rest of the world. Postwar programs, twenty-two in number, for aiding foreign nations, in addition to the military aid program, have piled on top of the costs [330 billion] of [World] War II $30,757,000,000, according to Senator Byrd of Virginia, speaking in September 1949.

Thus, the limitations of the Constitution become what Madison gave warning of — “paper barriers.”

(Undermining the Constitution: A History of Lawless Government, Thomas James Norton, Devin-Adair Company, 1951, page 22)

Audacious Caesars and Test Oaths

On December 7, 1861, former Governor William A. Graham of North Carolina spoke in Convention in opposition to his State requiring a test oath for its citizens. In April 1865, after being overwhelmed by military force,  North Carolinians were forced to swear an oath to the government of the United States, and could not conduct business nor public affairs without taking this oath.

Bernhard Thuersam,


Audacious Caesars and Test Oaths

“Mr. President, if this Convention, like a French National Assembly, were to declare itself in permanent session, and abrogate all the powers of government, it would give no greater shock to public sentiment, and make no more dangerous stride towards despotism, than would be effected by this [test oath] ordinance.

What, then, will be their surprise, not to say indignation, if this ordinance shall pass, and they are told that no man can ever vote again – nay, that no man will be allowed to remain in the State, but everyone will be exiled who does not take an oath that the Convention has ordained?

Sir, every North Carolinian rejoices in the idea, that, like St. Paul, he was free-born. And, although his freedom was purchased at a great price, no less than the blood of his fathers shed in every battle-field of American independence, from the shores of the Hudson to the everglades of Florida, it came to him as an inheritance, the more valued, because of its association with his ancestral pride and glory.

His right to dwell in and breath the pure air of the land of his birth; his right to participate in the election of rulers, and, if it suit his inclination and the will of the majority, to be himself invested with a portion of the powers of the republic, he will suffer neither to be taken away nor trifled with.

He did not acquire them by an oath, and he will spurn any oath offered to him as a condition of their continued enjoyment. It is one of those blunders characterized by Talleyrand as worse than a crime, for statesmen by their measures will encroach upon and offend so sacred a feeling as the pride of nativity – the self-respect and manhood of a high-spirited and free-born American.

Sir, the people when presented with this oath, will turn upon this Convention, and inquire “upon what food have these our Caesars,” at Raleigh, “fed, that they have grown so great?” We thought they were our servants; how have they become our masters?

We had a free election according to the usages and Constitution of our fathers when we chose them as our representatives; by what legerdemain, by what audacity, do they declare that we shall never vote again . . . nor inhabit our present homes, but shall be driven out as fugitives and vagabonds, unless we take an oath that they have dictated?

We render to the government our loyalty and duty, as we cherish and support our wives and children, and perform other obligations as members of society; but we will take no oaths upon compulsion, to bind us to those duties, and least of all, an oath that is accompanied by the polite alternatives of exile or degradation.

Mr. President, the very mention of a test oath carries us back to the “bigot monarchs and the butcher priests” of the days of the Tudors and Stuarts, and beyond these, to the Inquisition itself. It is a device of power in Church and in State, to perpetuate itself by force, against free discussion and inquiry, and in defiance of what in more liberal times we call public sentiment.”

(The Papers of William A. Graham, Volume V, 1857-1863, J.G. Hamilton, Max Williams, editors, NCAH, 1973, excerpts, pp. 314-317)


That the Union Not be Abandoned to its Enemies

Many Southerners like Georgia’s Benjamin H. Hill wanted to hold out against secession after Lincoln’s election, and labeled the purely sectional Republican Party as disunionist and an enemy of the Constitution. He reasoned that if Andrew Jackson could coerce South Carolina for nullification thirty years prior, why not coerce the guilty Northern States who nullified the federal fugitive slave law?

Bernhard Thuersam,


That The Union Not Be Abandoned To Its Enemies

“On the fifteenth of November [1860], following [Howell] Cobb, [Robert] Toombs and [Alexander] Stephens, Hill appeared before the Assembly and made an eloquent argument against immediate secession or any precipitate action. The speech is primarily a closely reasoned appeal for moderation and a plea that passion and prejudices be discarded in the face of the imminent crisis.

“What are our grievances?” asks Hill; and then he proceeds to enumerate them, outlining the discriminatory policies and propaganda of the Republican party and laying special emphasis on the nugatory action of various free-State legislatures, affecting the fugitive slave laws. Hill represents the Republican Party as the real disunionist party, and quotes from various abolitionists who damn the Union and Constitution because they permit slavery. The grievances, then, are plain, and agreed of all Southern men.

Moreover, Hill believes the redress of grievances is not so hopeless a prospect in the immediate future. But suppose, for the sake of argument, redress of grievances within the Union is impossible, surely it is worth the effort; and all are agreed . . . that if such redress fails, then secession must come. But what are the remedies then, which are proposed within the Union.

First, the demand must be made by all the Southern States that the laws protecting slavery and requiring the rendering up of fugitive slaves must be enforced. The demand can be made as an ultimatum if need be. If necessary, let the federal government enact a force bill against any recalcitrant Northern State refusing obedience, as was done against South Carolina in 1833. Let the wrangling about slavery cease, and the entire machinery of government, if necessary, be put behind the enforcement of existing laws.

And Lincoln must come to this view. His only strength is in the law; he is bound by oath to carry out the law. A Southern president had once coerced a Southern State; now let a Northern president coerce a Northern State, if it comes to that. Hill insists that such a resolute attitude has never been taken by the Southern States, and he pleads that the Union not be abandoned to its enemies without making this effort to save it . . . He asks: “Is this Union good? If so, why should we surrender its blessings because Massachusetts violates the laws of that Union? Drive Massachusetts to the duties of the Constitution or from its benefits . . . Let us defend the Union against its enemies — not abandon it to them.

On December 6, Cobb, in an address to the people of Georgia announcing his resignation from [President James] Buchanan’s cabinet, averred that : “the Union formed by our fathers, which was one of equality, justice and fraternity would be supplanted on the 4th of March by a Union of sectionalism and hatred — the one worthy of the support and devotion of free men, the other only possible at the cost of Southern honor, safety and independence.”

This was followed up on December 23 by Toombs telegram to the Savannah Morning News, after the failure of the Crittenden Compromise: “I will tell you upon the faith of a true man that all further looking to the North for your constitutional rights in the Union ought to be abandoned. It is fraught with nothing but ruin to yourself and posterity.”

(Secession and Reconstruction, Haywood J. Pearce, Jr., University of Chicago Press, 1928, pp. 43-45)