Browsing "Race and the North"

Southern Christianity and Slavery

That Lincoln and his abolitionist colleagues did not propose a peaceful and practical to the African slavery they seemed to object to, is a national tragedy. Had they followed compensated emancipation as the British had done earlier (the British were primarily responsible for populating their American colonies with Africans), or helped advance a reasonable solution to the need for large numbers of workers to support their agricultural economy, a million lives would have been spared as well as the death, destruction and tortured legacy of the war Lincoln was responsible for.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Christianity and Slavery

“ . . . Southern [slavery] reformers cast much blame on the Northern Abolitionist movement. They constantly complained that it was difficult to persuade planters that they should be teaching their slaves to read when the Abolitionists were sparing no effort in smuggling into the Southern States inflammatory literature which urged the slaves to rise up and slit their masters’ throats, among other things.

The palpable hostility and antagonism displayed by the Abolitionists toward the white South, their calls for a bloody slave rebellion, and their unrealistic demands for immediate and unconditional emancipation made slavery reform more difficult by producing resentment, fear, and a siege mentality among the whites.

[Many] Northerners (including Sen. Daniel Webster, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, and Princeton theologian Charles Hodge) condemned the Abolitionists for actually worsening the plight of the slaves and for creating hostility and distrust between the Northern and Southern people.

[It] is at least possible that an independent South might have enacted the reforms urged by her Christian leaders and thus avoided falling into a state of economic backwardness and dependency.  After all, Southerners consistently valued such non-monetary goods as country living, personal independence and liberty, and an harmonious and rich social life at least as much as mere wealth and material accumulation; and independence [from the North] might have created a more favorable environment for Christian reform of their labor system.

Southerners might have introduced a smaller and more humanely scaled industrialization to provide some measure of industrial self-sufficiency, and black Southerners might eventually have achieved legal equality and propertied independence.  In other words, an independent South could well have found an alternate – and perhaps more Christian – path to modernity.  Thanks to Mr. Lincoln, we shall never know.”

(Christianity and Slavery in the Old South, excerpt, H. Arthur Scott Trask, Chronicles Magazine, July 1999, page 33)

 

 

 

The Old Lady of Broad Street Versus FDR

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Old Lady of Broad Street Versus FDR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Brave Deeds Worthy of Harp and Poet

Gen. Jubal Early was held in high esteem by Stonewall Jackson, in whose army the former commanded a division. General Robert E. Lee greatly valued Early as a subordinate commander and tolerated Early’s cursing in his presence. “Old Jube” had an opportunity to capture Washington late in the war, and rather than submit to subjugation at war’s end decided on temporary exile in Canada via Havana. The home he occupied at Niagara-on-the-Lake across from Fort Niagara still stands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Brave Deeds Worthy of the Harp and Poet

“It was my fortune to participate in most of the military operations in which the army in Virginia was engaged both before and after General Lee assumed the command. My operations and my campaign stand on their own merits.

I believe that the world has never produced a body of men superior, in courage, patriotism and endurance, to the private soldiers of the Confederate armies. I have repeatedly seen those soldiers submit, with cheerfulness, to privations and hardships which would appear to be almost incredible; and the wild cheers of our brave men, when their thin lines were sent back opposing hosts of Federal troops, staggering, reeling and flying, have often thrilled every fiber in my heart.

I have seen, with my own eyes, ragged, barefooted, and hungry, Confederate soldiers perform deeds which, if performed in days of yore by mailed warriors in glittering armor, would have inspired the harp of the minstrel and the pen of the poet.

Having been a witness of and participant in great events, I have given a statement of what I saw and did, for the use of the future historian. Having had some means of judging, I will say that, in my opinion, both Mr. [Jefferson] Davis and General Lee, in their respective spheres, did all for the success of our cause which it was possible for mortal men to do and it is a great privilege and comfort for me so to believe. In regard to my own services, I have the consciousness of having done my duty to my country, to the very best of my ability.

During the war, slavery was used as a catch-word to arouse the passions of a fanatical mob, and to some extent the prejudices of the civilized world were excited against us; but the war was not made on our part for slavery.

High dignitaries in both church and state in Old England, and puritans in New England, had participated in the profits of a trade by which the ignorant and barbarous natives of Africa were brought from that country and sold into slavery in the American Colonies.

The generation in the Southern States which defended their country in the late war, found amongst them, in a civilized and Christianized condition, 4,000,000 of the descendants of those degraded Africans. Nevertheless, the struggle made by the people of the South was not for the institution of slavery, but for the inestimable right of self-government, against the domination of a fanatical faction at the North; and slavery was the mere occasion of the development of the antagonism between the two sections. That right of self-government has been lost, and slavery violently abolished.

When the passions and infatuations of the day shall have been dissipated by time, and all the results of the late war shall have passed into irrevocable history, the future chronicler of that history will have a most important duty to perform, and posterity, while poring over its pages, will be lost in wonder at the follies and crimes committed in this generation.”

(Gen. Jubal A. Early: Narrative of the War Between the States, Jubal A. Early, Da Capo Press, 1989 (original 1912), excerpts, pp. viii-x)

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

Writer Timothy Flint travelled the Mississippi Valley in the early 1800’s and his recollections were published in 1826. After witnessing firsthand the conditions on plantations, Flint cautioned patience and gradualism to erase the stain of slavery in the United States as the fanatic abolitionists would be incautious and rash in their bloody resolution to the question. This underscores the unfortunate fact that abolitionists advanced no practical and peaceful solutions to the matter of slavery in the United States. Only war to the knife.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

“[Prior to Northern slavery agitation], The Southern people were beginning to esteem and regard the northern character. The term “yankee” began to be a term rather of respect than reproach.

It is easy to see how soon this will all be reversed, if we incautiously and rashly intermeddle in this matter. Let us hear for a moment, the Southern planter speak for himself, for I remark that if you introduce the subject with any delicacy, I have never yet heard one, who does not admit that slavery is an evil and an injustice, and who does not at least affect to deplore the evil.

[The Southern planter] says, that be the evil so great, and the thing ever so unjust, it has always existed among the Jews, in the families of the patriarchs, in the republics of Greece and Rome, and that the right of the master in his slave, is clearly recognized in St. Paul; that it has been transmitted down through successive ages, to the colonization of North America, and that it existed in Massachusetts as well as the other States.

“You,” they add, “had but a few. Your climate admitted the labour of the whites. You freed them because it is less expensive to till your lands with free hands, than with slaves. We have a scorching sun, and an enfeebling climate.  The African constitution can alone support labour under such circumstances.

We of course had many slaves. Our fathers felt the necessity, and yielding to the expediency of the case. They have entailed the enormous and growing evil upon us. Take them from us and you render the Southern country a desert. You destroy the great staples of the country, and what is worse, you find no way in which to dispose of the millions that you emancipate.”

If we [of the North] reply, that we cannot violate a principle, for the sake of expediency, they return upon us with the question, “What is to be done? The deplorable condition of the emancipated slaves in this country is sufficient proof, that we cannot emancipate them here.

Turn them all loose at once, and ignorant and reckless as they are of the use and value of freedom, they would devour and destroy the subsistence of years, in a day, and for want of other objects upon which to prey, would prey upon one another. It is a chronic moral evil, the growth of ages, and such diseases are always aggravated by violent and harsh remedies.  Leave us to ourselves, or point out the way in which we can gently heal this great malady, not at once, but in a regimen of years. The evil must come off as it came on, by slow and gradual method of cure.”

In this method of cure, substitutes would be gradually found for their labor. The best modes of instructing them in the value of freedom, and rendering them comfortable and happy in the enjoyment of it, would be gradually marled out. They should be taught to read, and imbued with the principles, and morals of the gospel.

Every affectionate appeal should be made to the humanity, and the better feelings of the masters. In the region where I live, the masters allow entire liberty to the slaves to attend public worship, and as far as my knowledge extends, it is generally the case in Louisiana. In some plantations they have a jury of Negroes to try offences under the eye of the master, as judge, and it generally happens that he is obliged to mitigate the severity of their sentence.”

(Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi, Timothy Flint; George Brooks, editor, Southern Illinois University Press, 1968, pp. 246-249)

The Southern Yankee

Beyond the New England slave trade which populated the American South with millions of enslaved Africans, there were many Yankees who moved South before 1861 to engage in agriculture and the holding of slaves.  And they had a Southern counterpart who learned the Yankee’s  close-fisted ways.  During the War and after Northern bayonets had conquered Southern regions, many industrious and profit-minded Yankees came South to try their hand at revolutionizing Southern agriculture and labor with experiments at Hilton Head and Louisiana.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

The Southern Yankee

“The name “Yankee” was originally bestowed upon New-Englanders alone, but for what reason it would be difficult perhaps to determine at this time. At present, however, with all foreigners it is used to designate the natives of any of the Anglo-Saxon States of our republic. In our Southern States all Northerners are regarded as Yankees, while the Southerner will not consent to have the name applied to themselves.

But even in the North there are those who still disclaim the appropriateness of the cognomen, when applied to any persons other than the natives of New England . . . “Yankee” with all these is looked upon usually as a term of reproach – signifying a shrewd, sharp, chaffering, oily-tongued, soft-sawdering, inquisitive, money-making, money-saving, and money-worshipping individual, who hails from Down East, and who is presumed to have no where else on the Globe a permanent local habitation.

In a sense of the word, however, we are disposed to opine that, while New-England may possibly produce more Yankees than other portions of the Republic . . . still, any numbers of the close-fisted race are to be met with all the way from the banks of the Hudson to the deltas of the Mississippi – all to the manor born too, and through whose veins courses not a drop of New-England blood.

Of these the Southern Yankee is, without dispute or cavil, the meanest. He has nothing whatever to plead in excuse or even extenuation of his selfishness; for all around him is boundless hospitality, and even the very air he breathes excites to warm-heartedness, relaxing the closed fist of more Northern latitudes into the proverbially open palm of the generous hearted South. Time was indeed, when the Southern Yankee had neither a local habitation nor a name.

During the grand old Colonial days, as well as the happy period which immediately followed the Revolution, Southerners did not dream of devoting their whole lives – all their time and talents – to the base pursuit of riches – the mere acquisition of dollars and dimes, regardless of family ties, or the duties owned to society, and the much higher duties one also owes to his God.

At the present time, the Southern Yankee is quite an institution in the South. The Southern Yankee comes of no particular lineage, but springs from all manner of his forefathers, though in most cases from persons of the middle class. Like his Northern brother, the Southern Yankee is deterred by no obstacle whatever from his tireless pursuit of riches.

In the tobacco-fields of Virginia, in the rice fields of Carolina, in the cotton-fields of Alabama, or among the sugar-canes of Louisiana, when a farmer or planter, he is in all things similar and equally bent on the accumulation of the sordid pelf: and the crack of his whip is heard early, and the crack of his whip is heard late, and the weary backs of his bondsmen and his bondswomen are bowed to the ground with over-tasking and over-toil, and yet his heart still unsatisfied; for he grasps after more and more, and cries to the fainted slave: “Another pound of money, dog, or I take my pound of flesh!”

Will it pay to press the poor African beyond what he can endure, and thereby shorten his life . . . this is the great and the only question with every Southern Yankee: “Conscience? Basta! He knows no such thing as conscience: he cares only to get gain, and get it he will, and let conscience go to the dogs. Religion? Go talk to the women and the parsons about religion.”

[The] Southern Yankee is fully as restless as the Yankees of the North – always on the move, or ready to sell out at any time if settled. Home to be loved must be made attractive, but he who is so wedded to filthy lucre as to despise all ornament that costs money, is not capable of entertaining in his selfish and narrow bosom so refining a passion as the love of home, or the love of anything else, indeed, that is pure and beautiful.

However, though often a farmer or planter, the Southern Yankee is much more frequently a trader or speculator. The slow but sure gains of agricultural pursuits are not swift enough to satisfy his inordinate craving for money; hence he speculates either in merchandise, or stocks, or tobacco, or cotton, or sugar, or rice, or grain, or lands, or horses, or men. In all which he is but the type of the Wall Street prototype. He will lie or cheat if need be, and scruples at no dirty trick provided it enables him to make a “good thing of it” – such is the chaste vernacular of these dim-witted fellows.”

(Social Relations in Our Southern States, D.R. Hundley, Henry B. Price, 1860, excerpt, pp. 130-136)

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

In the 1876 gubernatorial election in South Carolina, incumbent carpetbag Governor Daniel H. Chamberlain “bombarded the North with lurid accounts of the [Hamburg, SC riot] based on the excited claims of Negro participants” and that this act of “atrocity and barbarism” was designed to prevent Negroes from voting, though, as a matter of fact, the riot occurred five months before the election.” A Massachusetts native and carpetbagger of dubious reputation, Chamberlain left much evidence of a willingness for making his office pay.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

“In an Atlantic Monthly article published twenty-five years later, ex-Governor Chamberlain stated that] “If the [election] of 1876 had resulted in the success of the Republican party, that party could not, for want of material, even when aided by the Democratic minority, have given pure or competent administration. The vast preponderance of ignorance and incapacity in that [Republican] party, aside from downright dishonesty, made it impossible . . . the flood gates of misrule would have been reopened . . . The real truth is, hard as it may be to accept it, that the elements put in combination by the reconstruction scheme of [Radical Republicans Thaddeus] Stevens and [Oliver] Morton were irretrievably bad, and could never have resulted . . . in government fit to be endured.”

While federal troops were still holding the State House in Columbia, The Nation informed its readers, “Evidently there is nothing to be done but to let the sham give way to reality . . . to see without regret . . . the blacks deprived of a supremacy as corrupting to themselves as it was dangerous to society at large.”

As Congressman S.S. Cox of New York and Ohio remarked:

“Since the world began, no parallel can be found to the unblushing knavery which a complete history of carpet-bag government in these [Southern] States would exhibit. If the entire body of penitentiary convicts could be invested with supreme power in a State, they could not present a more revolting mockery of all that is honorable and respectful in the conduct of human affairs. The knaves and their sympathizers, North and South, complain that the taxpayers, the men of character and intelligence in South Carolina and other States, finally overthrew, by unfair and violent means, the reign of scoundrelism, enthroned by ignorance. If ever revolutionary methods were justifiable for the overthrow of tyranny and robbery, assuredly the carpet-bag domination in South Carolina called for it. Only scoundrels and hypocrites will pretend to deplore the results.”

(Wade Hampton and the Negro: The Road Not Taken; Hampton M. Jarrell, USC Press, 1949, excerpt, pp. 54-55)

Wade Hampton Teaches Racial Tolerance

Astutely recognizing the new political reality in postwar South Carolina, Wade Hampton hoped to build a harmonious political relationship between the two races based upon mutual trust and affection. With the Radical rejection of Andrew Johnson’s moderate Southern policy toward the conquered South, no chance of racial harmony in the South was possible. While the Radicals and carpetbaggers looted the South and incited race war, discrimination and Jim Crow laws continued in the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Wade Hampton Teaches Racial Tolerance

“Hampton told of an incident before the war when he and his family were in Philadelphia. At the train station he purchased tickets, including two for the black servants travelling with them.

The ticket agent informed Hampton that his servants would not be allowed in the same car, as, Pennsylvanians “did not like to ride with Negroes.” Hampton protested. He had been required to pay full price for their tickets, “and one of them is the nurse of my children.” The agent still refused.

The slave master from South Carolina was out of patience with Philadelphia prejudice. “I told him that I had paid their fare,” recounted Hampton, “that I thought them good enough to ride with me, and therefore quite good enough to ride with his fellow citizens, and that they should get into my car. So I brought them in and kept them there.”

(Wade Hampton, Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman, Walter Brian Cisco, Brassey’s, excerpt, pp. 185-186)

Rhode Island’s Record of Slaving

The British Royal African Company was primarily responsible for populating North America and the West Indies with African slaves, and despite being near bankrupt from exorbitant expenses was considered too big to fail. After the Revolution, British-imposed slavery was set on a potential track toward abolition, but the cotton gin of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney in the mid 1790’s, along with the rise of New England cotton mills, perpetuated African slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Rhode Island’s Record of Slaving

“The [British] slave trade was carried on by means of “factories,” or trading establishments, defended by forts on the west coast of Africa. In 1750, the Royal African Company had nine factories, the chief of which was Cape Coast Castle, with a strong fort built on a huge rock that projected into the sea. It was expensive to maintain these forts and trading posts. In fact, the company was prevented from going bankrupt by an annual grant of [10,000 pounds].

The competition of French slave traders, who paid more for their human merchandise than the English company, was especially formidable since the French African Company was heavily subsidized by its government.

During the first half of the eighteenth century Bristol and Liverpool were the great slave trading ports of the British Empire. In 1750, a total of 155 British and colonial ships were engaged in the slave trade, of which 20 came from the American colonies, principally from Rhode Island.

Toward the close of the colonial period, however, there were 150 Rhode Island ships employed in this traffic as compared with 192 English ships, a record to which Southerners pointed during the antislavery controversy.

These ships often were engaged in a triangular trade with England or the American colonies, the west coast of Africa, and the West Indies. To Africa the slave ships carried trading goods, bars of iron, rum –“well-watered” – forearms, lead, beads, and cloth, which they exchanged for slaves.

The later were transported to the sugar islands of the West Indies and exchanged for molasses, run and gold coins. In New England, the molasses was manufactured into rum to exchange for more slaves.”

(A History of the Old South, The Emergence of a Reluctant Nation, Clement Eaton, MacMillan Publishing, 1975, excerpt, page 31)

 

Resisting England’s (and New England’s) Slave Trade

It was “English merchants and factors” and New Englanders who traded their goods for Africans near the coast of West Africa; as few white men could survive entering the interior, Europeans depended upon African tribes to sell them their already-enslaved brethren.  At the feet of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French can also be laid the introduction and perpetuation of slavery here. Both the Virginia and North Carolina colonial legislatures pleaded in vain to the British Crown to cease the importation of Negroes to their shores.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Resisting England’s (and New England’s) Slave Trade

“On account of the dangers of navigation off the coast of North Carolina . . . ships engaged in the African slave trade seldom, if ever, brought their cargoes direct to the colony. Relative to these conditions, [Royal] Governor Burrington said:

“Great is the loss this country has in not being supplied by vessels from Guinea with Negroes. In any part of the province the people are able to pay for a shipload; but as none come directly from Africa, we are under necessity to buy the refuse, refractory, and distempered Negroes brought in from other governments.”

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that that on occasion the early planters sent cargoes of tar and pitch to New England to be sold and the proceeds to be invested in young Negroes. English merchants and factors from about 1770 to 1776 did not hesitate to sell Negroes to South Carolina planters on liberal terms, and during those years the colony prospered…”

On the eve of the Revolution an attempt was made to prohibit the slave trade. The Provincial Congress in session at New Bern [North Carolina], August 27, 1774, resolved, “We will not import any slave or slaves, nor purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into this province by others from any part of the world after the first day of November next. This resolution was passed in conformity with a resolve of the Continental Congress, and its enforcement was designed to strike a blow at British [slavetrading] commerce.

The first impressive protest from any considerable body of citizens in the colony against the African slave trade was registered by the freeholders of Rowan County [North Carolina] in 1774. They placed themselves on record . . . in the following resolution:

“Resolved that the African slave trade is injurious to this colony, obstructs the population of it, prevents manufacturers and other useful emigrants from Europe from settling among us, and occasions an annual increase of the balance of trade against the colonies.”

(Slaveholding in North Carolina, An Economic View, Rosser H. Taylor, UNC Press, 1926, excerpt, pp. 21-22)

Judicial Overthrow of State Governments

The framers of our second constitution in 1787, as they did in their previous Articles of Confederation, clearly intended to protect their States, and their citizens, from an oppressive central government like the one they had just freed themselves from. And in no way would they have wanted a federal agent intruding into State domains and forced compliance with regulations formulated by distant bureaucrats. With an all-powerful federal bureaucracy emerging victorious in 1865, no State – North or South – could dare challenge the federal interpretation of the Constitution or what passed for federal law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circ a1865.com

 

Judicial Overthrow of State Governments

“Two hundred and eight years ago, when the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, there was general agreement with its text: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Two hundred and eight years ago, Americans thought of themselves as citizens of their States first, and only secondarily as citizens of a national federation. Now it is unclear that most Americans are aware of the Tenth Amendment, let alone the principle that the federal government is supposed to be one of limited and enumerated powers.

How did we come to this pass? Is there any hope that the federal courts will once again read the Constitution and, at least to the extent implied by that document, resurrect something of the doctrine of States’ rights? [Even] Washington, Hamilton and Madison would have been astonished at present-day incursions of the central government and its courts.

Passed after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was originally designed to allow newly freed blacks to own property and to make contracts. But it became a tool, in the hands of mid-20th century federal courts, to impose a centralized, secularized and egalitarian social system on the entire nation.

Federal judges began to read the 14th Amendment provisions that no State should be permitted to deprive any person of the “equal protection of the laws” nor to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without “due process” as a license to turn the restrictions of the Bill of Rights against the States and to set up strict rules about which State policies were permissible and which were not.

With the scantiest evidence, and in the face of overwhelming data to the contrary, the Supreme Court declared that the 14th Amendment was designed to “incorporate” at least some, and perhaps all, of the protections of the Bill of Rights against State governments.

There is no doubt that the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, had been drafted in the late 18th century in order to reassure the proponents of strong State governments that the federal government would not infringe on the sovereignty of the States or their people. Without even acknowledging the usurpation, the federal courts turned the Bill of Rights into a tool to reduce radically the discretion of the State governments.

The First Amendment clearly provides, for example, that “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech . . . or regarding an establishment of religion,” but the congressional prohibition was soon read – blatantly contrary to the intention of the frames of the Bill of Rights, if not the framers of the 14th Amendment itself – to extend to State legislatures and officials as well.

It may be too late to save State sovereignty and the original intention of the Constitution. A slew of bold supreme Court appointments by a conservative Republican president might help, but so far only Justices Thomas and Scalia, and occasionally Justice Rehnquist, have acknowledged that the Court has been operating for one or two generations in clearly unconstitutional territory.”

(Sisyphus and States’ Rights, Stephen B. Presser; Chronicles, April 1999, excerpt, pg. 13-14)

 

Pages:«123456789...14»