Browsing "Southern Conservatives"

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)

 

Foreign Aid and Santa Claus

North Carolina’s Senator Sam Ervin was a conservative Democrat of the old stripe, and stern advocate of a balanced federal budget. He wisely counseled that Congress had two simple fiscal choices: either to levy taxes sufficient to cover its appropriations, or, reduce appropriations to match federal income.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Foreign Aid and Santa Claus

“The foreign aid program had a benign beginning in the Marshall Plan, which merits the highest praise because it rehabilitated Western Europe in large measure from the economic devastation of the Second World War. As the programs implementing this Plan were nearing final consummation, President [Harry] Truman appointed a Commission headed by Secretary of Commerce Charles P. Sawyer to study foreign aid and make recommendations concerning its future. [This Commission] made a thoughtful report pointing out infirmities inherent in indiscriminate programs of this nature, and suggested the wisdom of terminating foreign aid with the consummation of the Marshall Plan.

Unfortunately, the report was made about the time Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President, and has been ignored in subsequent times. The United States could have had intelligent and productive foreign aid programs with much less expenditures since that time if it had restricted its aid to truly needy nations, and to the financially insufficient nations . . .

Instead of doing this, the United States has converted itself in large measure into an international Santa Claus, who scatters untold billions of dollars of the patrimony of our people among multitudes of foreign nations, some needy and some otherwise, in the pious hope that American can thereby purchase friends and peace in the international world, and induce some foreign nations to reform their internal affairs in ways pleasing to the dispensers of our largess.

On one occasion, the Administrator of Foreign Aid confessed to a House subcommittee, which had oversight of the matter, that he was unable to inform it at the time the names and numbers of the foreign nations then receiving foreign aid from the United States.

I voted for foreign aid during my first year in the Senate on the theory that it was 51 percent wise and 49 percent foolish. Afterwards, I opposed all foreign aid bills . . . [and] I reminded Senators that every cent our country had expended in financing the foreign aid programs had been obtained by deficit financing. I added:

“If an individual were to borrow money to give it away, his family would institute a lunacy proceeding against him and have a guardian named to manage his affairs on the ground he lacked the mental capacity to perform the task himself. But if an American politician advocates that the United States borrow money by deficit financing and scatter it abroad among potential friends and foes alike, he is likely to be elected President or Senator or Representative, or to be appointed Secretary of State of Administrator of Foreign Aid.”

(Preserving the Constitution, The Autobiography of Sam Ervin, The Michie Company, 1984, pp. 80-81)

Inheriting Northern Problems

The South after 1865 not only became an economic colony for Northern interests, but also fell prey to the vices associated with the relentless and unbridled pursuit of profit inherent in the Northern culture.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Inheriting Northern Problems

“During the decade of the twenties, the South surpassed New England in textile manufacturing. A growing percentage of owners of Southern mills were absentee Yankees. In 1929 the region’s first serious labor revolts occurred, and Communist agitators were discovered among the rioters in Gastonia, North Carolina. There could no longer be any doubt that industrialization threatened to bring change. Some Southerners questioned the wisdom of continuing to heed the advocates of the “New South.”

If the South proceeded in remaking herself in the image of the North, would she not fall heir to those Northern problems from which she had fancied herself immune? Chief among the literary expressions of reaction was “I’ll Take My Stand,” published in 1930. A defense of agrarianism and individualism, it was the work of twelve Southern writers, most of them associated with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. During the 1920’s, four of their number (John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson) published “The Fugitive,” a significant magazine of poetry and criticism.

Later in the decade with the nation seemingly committed to materialism and the South in ferment, they began their quest for Southern identity. They found the good life in an agrarian society where ideals meant more than money — in the South before 1880 — and they recommended it to a nation which had lost its balance. Like the Fugitives, Ball found the cherished personal virtues — the code of the upcountryman — secure only in the land. But because his arena was political, he saw the happier life also dependent upon conservative government.

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, pp. 151-152)

 

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)

 

Betting on Dixie As Long as I Got a Dollar

Charles Henry Smith (1826-1903) was a Georgian, graduate of the State University and practiced law afterward. He mingled the occupations of the lawyer with the activities of the politician and of the farmer. Thus he had varied opportunities for careful and critical observation of Georgia life.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Betting on Dixie As Long As I’ve Got a Dollar

“Smith began his letters of mixed wisdom and humor, wit and sarcasm, scorn and defiance in 1861. The first publication of these in book form appeared in 1866 with the title, “Bill Arp, So-Called; A Side Show of the Southern Side of the War.” Its motto was “I’m a good Union man, so-called; but I’ll bet on Dixie as long as I’ve got a dollar.”

In the preface of his book, explaining his pen name “Bill Arp,” Smith said: “When I began writing under the signature of Bill Arp I was honestly idealizing the language and humor of an unlettered countryman who bears that name. His earnest, honest wit attracted my attention, and he declares to this day that I have faithfully expressed his sentiments.”

Smith’s first letter is addressed to Abraham Lincoln in April, 1861. In view of the latter’s proclamation calling for troops, “Bill Arp” thought “Abe Linkhorn” ought to be informed of how the Georgian regarded it. He intimated that things were getting too hot for him, and he would like “to slope out of it.”

Speaking of the boys about Rome, Georgia he says: “Most of them are so hot that they fairly siz when you pour water on them, and that’s the way they make up their military companies here now—when a man applies to join the volunteers they sprinkle him, and if he sizzes they take him, and if he dont they dont.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), George F. Mellen, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 85-86)

 

 

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 Against a Seceding North

Though South Carolina had been threatened with invasion over nullifying federal law in the early 1830s, no such threats were made to Northern States in the 1850s as they instituted personal liberty laws which nullified federal law and obstructed federal officers. Had Lincoln not won his plurality in 1860, the secession of the North might have been the case.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Against a Seceding North

“There was strong opposition to secession, not only in the Upper South, but also in some parts of the Lower South, the very heart land of the future Confederacy. In every convention except South Carolina’s there were votes against secession, and in Alabama and Georgia the opposition was considerable. In Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, Herschel V. Johnson, and Benjamin H. Hill gave up their fight for the Union only after their State had seceded and threatened to leave them behind.

In their campaign to save the nation, the [Southern] Unionists resorted both to argument and to delaying tactics. They played on national sentiments; the Revolution and its heroes . . . the Constitution, which largely Southerners had made and was sufficient for all needs if properly interpreted and enforced. Up to this time the South had generally dominated the government, either through Southern-born presidents or . . . Northern men with Southern principles. Most of the Supreme Court had been Southerners, and the court at this time was dominated by the South.

In fact, the whole idea of secession was illogical and wrong, it was argued. The process should be reversed. The North should do the seceding, for the South represented more truly the nation which the forefathers had set up in 1789. Therefore the South should not allow itself to be driven out of its own home.

Henry A. Wise of Virginia was especially vigorous in arguing this point of view. “Logically the Union belongs to those who have kept, not those who have broken, its covenants,” he declared. If he ever had to fight he hoped it would be against a seceding North, “with the star-spangled banner still in one hand and my musket in the other.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 3-5)

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee's Spirit

Major-General Robert F. Hoke of Lincolnton, North Carolina was said to be Lee’s personal choice for command of the Army of Northern Virginia should he be incapacitated. A brilliant division commander, Hoke was not a West Pointer and after the war declined any reminiscences of his participation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee’s Spirit

“I once saw General Hoke eating ham and eggs and buckwheat cakes in a hotel in Greensboro. A massive man with broad smooth brow and well-trimmed gray beard, he resembled the pictures of General Lee. Later in the day when I was introduced to him at a railway station, the talk fell on the war with Spain, which had just ended and he told me President McKinley had offered him by telegraph a brigadier’s commission in the army preparing to go to Cuba.

He thanked the President but declined. “I have seen enough of war in my time,” he said. He spoke as casually as if he had said,” “I had all the buckwheat cakes for breakfast I wanted.”

We were then only four miles from the spot where he as the commander of a division in [General Joseph E.] Johnston’s army had surrendered to Sherman. I tried to draw him out on the subject, but he was politely uninterested.

General Hoke engaged in mining and railroading after 1865. He resolutely refused to enter politics, unlike many of his brother officers who were only too ready to capitalize their war records. In this General Hoke revealed a kinship of the spirit of General Lee.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 36-37)

History Helps Those Only Who Help Themselves

The victor writes the history unless challenged by the defeated, and it remains for the vanquished to pass their histories on to their children. Colonel Waddell below was an accomplished North Carolina jurist, author, and essayist, and one who fought political corruption and violence during Radical reconstruction. See: http://cfhi.net/AlfredMooreWaddellEnlightenedWilmingtonian.php

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

History Helps Those Only Who Help Themselves

“In November, 1901 the annual convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was held in Wilmington, North Carolina and Mayor Alfred Moore Waddell, welcomed them to this historic city. In his address, he said that “As one who bore a humble part in the service of the Confederacy I reverently salute you the wives, sisters, and daughters of my comrades, the noblest army of heroines and patriots that ever trod the earth.”

He went on to say that:

“Your organization is unique in human annals, as was the struggle whose memories you seek to preserve. The dreamer and sentimentalist may fold his hands, and with a sigh exclaim that history will do justice between the parties to that struggle; but experience has shown that history, like Providence, helps those only who help themselves, and will honor only those who help her to record the truth.

You will readily admit that if the Southern people had remained silent, and had used no printer’s ink after the war, they would have been pilloried in history as Rebels and traitors who had, causelessly and without a shadow of excuse, drenched the land with the blood of unoffending patriots.

But the Southern people did not remain silent; they published in a thousand forms the truth, both as to the causes which impelled them to assert their rights and as to the battles in which they maintained them, and have thus made a partial, unjust and one-sided history impossible.

In this work the Memorial Association first, and after them the United Daughters of the Confederacy, have been the most heroic and devoted, and they may justly claim a large share of the credit for successfully vindicating before the world the causes which their Southern countrymen engaged, and in which thousands of them sacrificed their lives.”

(Confederate Veteran Magazine, November 1901, pp. 485-486)

 

The Graves of American Heroes

The first commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, General John B. Gordon of Georgia, tried repeatedly to retire from his high office “but his comrades would not consent.” Below, he spoke in 1890 of the necessity of maintaining unblemished the nobility, heroism, sacrifices, suffering and glorious memory of the American soldiers in grey.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Graves of American Heroes

“[The United Confederate Veterans] was created on high lines, and its first commander was the gallant soldier, General John B. Gordon, at the time governor of Georgia, and later was United States senator. General Gordon was continued as commander-in-chief until his death.

The note . . . struck in the constitution of the United Confederate Veterans were reechoed in the opening speech of the first commander-in-chief. General Gordon, addressing the Veterans and the public, said:

“Comrades, no argument is needed to secure for those objects your enthusiastic endorsement. They have burdened your thoughts for many years. You have cherished them in sorrow, poverty and humiliation. In the face of misconstruction, you have held them in your hearts with the strength of religious convictions. No misjudgments can defeat your peaceful purposes for the future. Your aspirations have been lifted by the mere force and urgency of surrounding conditions to a plane far above the paltry considerations of partisan triumphs.

The honor of the American Government, the just powers of the Federal Government, the equal rights of States, the integrity of the Constitutional Union, the sanctions of law, and the enforcement of order have no class of defenders more true and devoted than the ex-soldiers of the South and their worthy descendants. But you realize the great truth that a people without the memories of heroic suffering or sacrifice are a people without history.

To cherish such memories and recall such a past, whether crowned with success or consecrated in defeat, is to idealize principle and strengthen character, intensify love of country, and convert defeat and disaster into pillars of support for future manhood and noble womanhood.

Whether the Southern people, under their changed conditions, may ever hope to witness another civilization which shall equal that which began with their Washington and ended with their Lee, it is certainly true that devotion to their glorious past is not only the surest guarantee of future progress and the holiest bond of unity, but is also the strongest claim they can present to the confidence and respect of the other sections of the Union.

It is political in no sense, except so far as the word “political” is a synonym for the word “patriotic.” [It will] cherish the past glories of the dead Confederacy and transmute them into living inspirations for future service to the living Republic; of truth, because it will seek to gather and preserve, as witness to history, the unimpeachable facts which shall doom falsehood to die that truth may live; of justice, because it will cultivate . . . that broader and higher and nobler sentiment which would write on the grave of every soldier who fell on our side, “Here lies an American hero, a martyr to the right as his conscience conceived it.”

(The Photographic History of The Civil War, Vol. 5, Robert S. Lanier, editor, Blue & Grey Press, 1987, pp. 298-299)