Browsing "Sovereignty"

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

The American Founders foresaw the problem of abuse of power and the rise of a president who would cut the shackles of the Constitution, though they more feared sectionalism and an evil combination of the branches of government.

The abuse of power arose with a president who fomented war upon a State, which is treason under the Constitution, raised an army without the consent of Congress, and threatened to arrest and imprison all who defied him. With the formerly federal government afterward under absolute executive and congressional control, the schools educating young citizens on their fealty to national power.

James Louis Petrigu (1789-1863) was a South Carolina Unionist and served as that State’s attorney-general. His stated faith in education as the bulwark of a republic was unfortunately upset by government control of the schools.

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

“As Petigru understood it, the United States Constitution confirmed what the Revolution had aimed to achieve. Reversing the Confederation’s dispersal of power was but a minor part of its accomplishment, for it had by its division of legitimate governmental power between the individual States and the federal union ensured the Revolution’s goals of restricting centralized public authority in the interests of individual liberty.

But individual freedom, as Petigru said in his 1844 Fourth of July oration, required positive government as well as restraints on legitimate power. This too the Constitution had accomplished with its system of checks and balances. Without both the powers allotted and the restraints imposed, “there would be no barrier between a dominant majority and the object they mean to effect.”

Thus, by creating a constitutional union that divided sovereignty between State and nation and checked the evil of concentrated power in any one branch of government, the American people had fulfilled the promise of their revolution.

But the problem of abuse of power was not obviated by the broadly democratic underpinning of the American experiment. Nowhere did Petigru more clearly address that dilemma than in the question he asked that Independence Day audience: “For who shall control where all are equal, or how shall the people restrain the will of the people?”

The best means to control the popular passions implied in his question was education. If a republic was to survive, he thought, its government must provide the schools necessary to cultivate in all its citizens the intellectual independence that was “the bright side of Democracy.”

Without access to knowledge, citizens would lack the ability to challenge their government, and individuals the means to protect their freedom . . . [and] withstand the force of majority opinion. And given Petigru’s opinion that “the Majority are wicked is a truth that passed long ago into a proverb,” republican government could not long survive unless it sponsored that learning, for “what hope is there for the human race when there is no minority?”

(James Louis Petigru: Southern Conservative, Southern Dissenter, William & Jane Pease, University of Georgia Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 149-150)

The Emergence of the Radical

John C. Calhoun witnessed the rise of Northern radicalism and his keen political insight saw a problematic future for the American South. He did not live to see the secession crisis fully develop, but his countrymen later anticipated “that Lincoln’s election was only the first step” toward the eventual destruction of their political liberty and the Union of their fathers.

Calhoun accurately predicted that the North would monopolize the new federal territories and acquire a three-fourths majority in Congress to force a restructuring of the Union. Once the South’s freedmen were admitted to the franchise by the North’s radical Congress, Republican political hegemony was virtually uninterrupted until 1913.

The Emergence of the Radical

“In the 1830’s . . . the North had become a prolific seedbed of radical thought. The rural South, on the other hand, showed little tolerance for radicals. The hostility to the proponents of revolutionary ideas seems at first inconsistent with the individualism which Southerners generally displayed. The Southern brand of individualism, however, was of manners and character rather than of the mind.

The Southerner vigorously resisted the pressure of outside government, he was cavalier in the observance of the laws; the planter on his semi-feudal estate was a law unto himself. The yeomen, too, living largely on land that they owned and regarding themselves as “the sovereign people,” were among the freest and most independent of Americans.

[In the 1840s and 1850s], editors, preachers, and politicians launched a vigorous propaganda campaign against Southern youth attending Northern schools and colleges. In the minds of conservative Southerners public education now became associated with the “isms” of the North – abolitionism, feminism, pacifism, Fourierism, Grahamism. Thus Southerners tended to regard the great majority of Northern people as sympathetic to the wilds visions and schemes of reform advocated by the northern extremists.

For many years Yankee professors and teachers had staffed Southern colleges and schools to a large extent, but in the last two decades of the antebellum period a pronounced hostility arose against the employment of educators from the North.

When [University of North Carolina] President David L. Swain defended the appointment [of a Northern teacher, he cited] earlier examples [of] employing foreign professors, the highly influential [Fayetteville News & Observer] editor, E.J. Hale replied: “In [two Southern] institutions, filled with foreigners and Northern men, there have been most deplorable outbreaks & riots and rows. Both have been noted for the prevalence and propagation of infidel notions to religion.”

(The Mind of the Old South, Clement Eaton, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 110; 305-306)

North Carolina’s State Flag

The original North Carolina Republic flag of 1861 was altered in 1885 with only the red and blue colors rearranged, and the lower date announcing the date of secession changed to “May 20th, 1775,” the date of the Halifax Resolutions.

This mattered little as both dates, 1775 and 1861, “places the Old North State in the very front rank, both in point of time and in spirit, among those that demanded unconditional freedom and absolute independence from foreign power. This document stands out as one of the great landmarks in the annals of North Carolina history.”

Militarily invaded and conquered in 1865, North Carolinians were forced to forever renounce political independence, and thus written in a new State constitution imported from Ohio.

North Carolina’s State Flag

“The flag is an emblem of great antiquity and has commanded respect and reverence from practically all nations from earliest times. History traces it to divine origin, the early peoples of the earth attributing to it strange, mysterious, and supernatural powers.

Indeed, our first recorded references to the standard and the banner, of which our present flag is but a modified form, are from sacred rather than from secular sources. We are told that it was around the banner that the prophets of old rallied their armies and under which the hosts of Israel were led to war, believing, as they did, that it carried with it divine favor and protection.

Since that time all nations and all peoples have had their flags and emblems, though the ancient superstition regarding their divine merits and supernatural powers has disappeared from among civilized peoples. The flag now, the world over, possesses the same meaning and has a uniform significance to all nations wherever found.

It stands as a symbol of strength and unity, representing the national spirit and patriotism of the people over whom it floats. In both lord and subject, the ruler and the ruled, it commands respect, inspires patriotism, and instills loyalty both in peace and in war.

[In the United States], each of the different States in the Union has a “State flag” symbolic of its own individuality and domestic ideals. Every State in the American Union has a flag of some kind, each expressive of some particular trait, or commemorative of some historical event, of the people over which it floats.

The constitutional convention of 1861, which declared for [North Carolina’s] secession from the Union, adopted what it termed a State flag. On May 20, 1861, the Convention adopted the resolution of secession which declared the State out of the Union.

This State flag, adopted in 1861, is said to have been issued to the first ten regiments of State troops during the summer of that year and was borne by them throughout the war, being the only flag, except the National and Confederate colors, used by the North Carolina troops during the Civil War. The first date [on the red union and within a gilt scroll in semi-circular form], “May 20th, 1775” refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence . . . The second date appearing on the State flag is that of “May 20th 1861 . . .”

(The North Carolina State Flag, W.R. Edmonds, Edwards & Broughton Company, 1913, excerpts pp. 5-7)

Results of Confederate Independence

War against the South commenced in April 1861 was not the only option open to Lincoln. He could have followed his predecessor’s view that he had no constitutional authority to wage war against a State – which is treason. The proper option would have been for a president to facilitate peace and call a convention of States to iron out differences, and find compromises all considered best. This is how the federation of States was created by the Founders.

Neither was war the only solution to African slavery in the United States – recall that Lincoln offered Southern States no interference with slavery if they would return to the Union. The South was seeking independence, and wanted to solve the riddle of slavery within State boundaries as the Northern States had done – in their own time, and at their own pace.

Results of Confederate Independence

“It is legitimate to inquire, in view of all the facts discussed, what would have been the effect on our condition, our institutions, and our future relations if the Confederate States had established their independence. I can, of course, only give my opinion, founded on certain physical features of the country, on certain racial characteristics of the people North and South, and on the sentiments of other nations, as well as on the fundamental principles for which we contended.

Emancipation. – There would have been certainly the gradual emancipation of the slaves on the following grounds:

The sentiment of the civilized world was opposed to slavery; and though our system was misunderstood and misjudged, yet no nation can hold out against a universal moral sentiment.

There was a feeling throughout the South from the beginning of the republic favorable to emancipation as soon as it could be done without danger to all concerned. If the abolition propaganda had not aroused opposition by its unjust misrepresentations and denunciations of slaveholders, the Border States would have brought it about several years before the war. A

s it was, throughout the South there was a growing effort to correct to confessed evils of the system. The example of the Border States would have necessitated some form of emancipation, some modification of the system in the States farther south that would have preserved the white man’s control, while giving the Negro freedom. The conduct of the slaves during the war while left in charge of the master’s family was without parallel in history; and this not only deserved freedom, but it called forth the sentiment of the Southern people favoring it.

Gen. R.E. Lee freed his slaves in 1863.

I believe that emancipation would have come in such a way as to avoid the dangers of race conflict, of social equality, and of giving the Negro a political franchise to which he was not fitted. The South would have given him his liberty and every right necessary to the development of his manhood, and it would have secured him the hearty interest and help of the white man. No doubt political rights would have been granted gradually as the Negroes became prepared for their exercise.

A Restored Union – There would have been ultimately a restoration of the Union on terms that would leave no ground of misunderstanding as to the several spheres of Federal and State sovereignty. The rights of the States would have been thoroughly and clearly guarded. The rights of the central government would have been definitely marked and limited. This would have been the old Union as originally intended by the fathers. The Constitution could not have been set aside by the interpretation of a majority of a Supreme Court appointed by a partisan executive.

The Taxing Power Guarded. – The Constitution of the new Union would have so guarded the taxing powers of the central government that it would not have been possible for it by tariffs to build up one section of the country at the expense of the others, nor to build up great trusts to levy tribute on the whole country for the benefit of the few.

The Confederate Constitution was simply a revision of the old, or rather the clear statement of the real meaning of the old.”

(Results of Confederate Independence: The Failure of the Confederacy – Was it a Blessing? James H. M’Neilly, D.D., Confederate Veteran, April 1916, excerpts pp. 164-165)

Opinions on State Rights

It is written that what the French took from American Revolution was their theory of revolution, not their theory of government. When French officers were leaving for home, they were cautioned by Samuel Cooper of Boston to “not let your hopes be inflamed by our triumph on this virgin soil. You will carry our sentiments with you, but if you try to plant them in a country that has been corrupt for centuries, you will encounter obstacles more formidable than ours. Our liberty has been won with blood; you will have to shed it in torrents before liberty can take root in the old world.”

Opinions on State Rights

“The true natural check on absolute democracy is the federal system, which limits the central government by the powers reserved [to the States], and the State governments by the powers they have ceded. It is the one immortal tribute of America to political science, for State rights are at the same time the consummation and the guard of democracy.

So much so an American officer wrote, a few months before [First Manassas]:

“The people in the South are evidently unanimous in the opinion that slavery in endangered by the current of events, and it is useless to attempt to alter that opinion. As our government is founded on the will of the people, when that will is fixed our government is powerless.”

Those are the words of Sherman, the man who, by his march through Georgia, cut the Confederacy in two. Lincoln himself wrote, at the same time:

“I declare that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of States, and the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend.”

Such was the force with which State rights held the minds of abolitionists on the eve of the war that bore them down.”

(Lectures on the French Revolution, John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Liberty Fund, 2000, excerpts pp. 31-32)

Arch-Rebel George Washington

On August 23, 1775, George III proclaimed the American colonists of New England to be traitors and in rebellion. To suppress the American revolt, George III prepared for total war and sent an army of Scots Highlanders and Royal Guards; his effort to buy troops from Catherine of Russia had fallen through, though he acquired 7,000 German mercenaries from Brunswick and Hesse-Cassel.

One cannot fail to see the similarities with 1861 as a new American nation declared its independence and raised an army for defense. An American president then assembled an army which included paid German troops to suppress a “rebellion,” and the rebel leader is denounced as an “arch-rebel.”

George III offered amnesty and pardon if the colonists again recognized him as their Sovereign; Lincoln offered the South amnesty if it recognized him as their Sovereign. The “hideous dens of malnutrition and disease” described below were replicated in many Northern prisons and the cruel fate of the “Immortal 600” Southern officers held at Morris Island in 1864. One may also compare the tactics and methods of rebel-general Washington with rebel-general Stonewall Jackson in the Valley.

Arch-Rebel George Washington

“Washington’s plight [at New York in July 1776] was made more desperate by a piece of awesome news. America and the mother country had come to the parting of the ways. An express from Philadelphia brought the report that independence had been declared by [the Continental] Congress on 2 July.

Was he the first general of an emerging nation, or, as British propaganda had it, “the arch-rebel Washington,” outlaw leader of a guerilla band. [Howe’s] troops crossed the Hudson, scaled the Palisades, and took Fort Lee in twenty minutes, with yet another cache of arms and soldiers, the former to bombard the rebels, the latter to languish miserably in prison ships, floating sewers anchored off New York Harbor, hideous dens of malnutrition and disease.

[In early January 1777 near Princeton, British troops] opened a cannonade on the outnumbered Americans, trapped them in an orchard between a ravine and their cannon, leveled them with fresh blasts of artillery, and waded in with bayonets. Trapped and frightened, the [Americans] began to fall back to the rear . . . [and at] that moment Washington appeared.

Glancing once at the bloodied terrain, [Washington] plunged through the melee to within thirty yards of the advancing British and disappeared in a burst of fire and a gigantic cloud of smoke. It blew off a minute later, revealing George, possessed as ever, sitting calmly on his big white horse.

“Advance!” and the army plunged after him into the British center, driving them through the fields into the red brick buildings of the Princeton campus, where they holed up in schoolrooms, firing from class and chapel windows until blasted out by barrages of artillery or chased out at the point of bayonets. Perpetrators of the earlier orchard massacre received a dreadful vengeance; convinced the foe had used their bayonets with excessive severity, Americans closed in on the survivors and slaughtered nearly sixty on the spot.

[Cornwallis’s aide] Charles Stedman, objective even in catastrophe, traced the coup to Washington’s use of surprise and timing to unbalance a much larger army and his disposal of small forces for the maximum effect.”

(Washington: A Biography, Noemie Emery, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1976, excerpts pp. 192-193; 202; 210-211)

Believing the Cheerful Myth

“Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.”

“As for the Electoral College, it is indeed an anachronism that serves no real purpose. It certainly doesn’t do what is was supposed to do: elect presidents who are, in Alexander Hamilton’s words, “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” So wrote Hamilton, as “Publius,” in Federalist No. 68.

For what it’s worth, the Framers of the Constitution didn’t want the president elected by direct popular vote. Simple majority rule was alien and abhorrent to them, as the present two-party duopoly and the popular election of senators would have been; as Hamilton put it, direct election of presidents would produce “tumult and disorder.”

They prescribed that the people of each State should elect a body of presumably incorrupt and disinterested electors, men who possessed the requisite “information and discernment” to choose among candidates for the presidency. Those electors, in Hamilton’s words, should be “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of the presidency]. They should not be officeholders, who might have “too great [a] devotion” to the incumbent president; their number would be a safeguard against corruption.” But if no winner emerged, the election would fall to the House of Representatives, where each State delegation would cast a single vote.

Subsequent generations, missing its inner spirit, have ruined it, like a vain fool daubing new streaks on an old masterpiece in the conviction he is improving it when it’s no longer even recognizable. Modern democracy has destroyed the essence of the thing; yet it flatters itself that it has preserved the Constitution, only because it has preserved its words while ignoring, or willfully forgetting, their import.

[The] original Senate no longer exists. The Seventeenth Amendment virtually abolished it by requiring the popular election of senators; before that, senators were chosen by State legislatures, because the Senate was supposed to represent the interests of State governments and to prevent usurpation of their powers. The House was to speak for the people, the Senate for the States.

When the Senate was converted to a popular body too, it lost its rationale and became as superfluous as the Electoral College now is, imperfectly duplicating functions better performed by the House: instead of representing the States equally, it represents the people unequally. The States, meanwhile, have been reduced to mere administrative subdivisions of a monolithic nation-state. They have lost the defining mark of a true State, which is sovereignty, and such powers that they retain are held not by right, but by the sufferance of the federal government.

But not one American in a hundred (and perhaps not one senator in a hundred) understands all this. Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.

But everything has changed. No American should read the Constitution without a sense of loss. We would all be much freer if the US government played by its own rules. But there is no way to force it to do so as long as Americans remain ignorant of their own political heritage.”

(A Weird Election, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3, excerpts pp. 3-4)

Republican Rule in Indiana

Though Lincoln initially acted unilaterally to launch his war against Americans in the South, he did seek absolution when Congress convened in July 1861 – though the threat of arrest and imprisonment became common for those who opposed his will. In his treatment of what he or his minions believed to be “disloyal” practices, Lincoln carried his authority far beyond the normal restraints of civil justice, and in violation of fundamental concepts of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.

Republican Tyranny in Indiana

“Before Abraham Lincoln ordered a national draft, which would cause insurrections throughout the North, the President put into law the involuntary call-up of each State’s militia. Indiana inducted 3,090 men into the national army this way, but this caused a major backlash of violent resistance. More significantly, the Democrats won substantial victories in both houses of the Indiana Assembly in the fall of 1862.

With the loss of Republican power, [Governor] Oliver P. Morton became more emotionally unbalanced. He saw treason everywhere, and expected a revolution at any moment. At the beginning of 1863, Indiana’s Democrats voted for peace negotiations with the Confederacy. Simultaneously, many Republican army officers, appointed by Morton, resigned their commissions over Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the governor’s support of this radical document, which would destroy State sovereignty. Army recruitment stagnated and desertions increased.

[Morton] blamed “organized conspirators” — meaning Democrats. Under his orders, Indiana soldiers threatened Senator Thomas Hendricks and Daniel Voorhees, both leading Democrats. Then these troops destroyed Democratic newspapers in Rockport and Terre Haute.

On January 8, 1863, amidst military failures and malignant partisanship, the Indiana legislature began its bi-annual session. Morton telegraphed Secretary of War [Edwin] Stanton that the legislature intended to recognize the Confederacy, implying that the federal army’s interference was required to arrest the “traitors” in the Assembly, as had been done in Maryland [in April 1861].

The Republican members determined to withdraw from the House . . . thus the legislature came to an end . . . [and] Morton would administer the State all alone. His first problem was to secure the money to rule as a tyrant for the next two years [and] with the President’s approval collected $90,000 “for ammunition for the State arsenal.” The Republican Indiana State Journal triumphantly announced that this money would really be used to carry on the functions of government.

Governor Morton quickly exhausted these funds. Once again he met with . . . Lincoln . . . An appropriation of 2.3 million dollars had need made by Congress in July 1862, to be expended by the President “to loyal citizens in States threatened with rebellion,” and in organizing such citizens for their own protection against domestic insurrection.

When Stanton placed [Lincoln’s] order in Morton’s hands, both men appreciated the great risk they were incurring. “If the cause fails, we shall both be covered in prosecutions,” Morton said. Stanton replied, “if the cause fails, I do not wish to live.”

(Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 217-221)

The South Forced to Obey the New Union

The war of 1861-1865 created a new union of the North and a forced South, with the mercantile former dictating terms, policies and allegiance to the latter as an economic colony. The Republican party oligarchy then ushered in the Gilded Age of political bosses, bought politicians and a vote-rigging press. The Founders’ Union of equal and sovereign States was but a distant memory.

The South Forced to Obey the New Union

“Remember money breeds money, which in turn brings more,” said Benjamin Franklin. “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God,” wrote Thomas Jefferson.

If these two attitudes may be considered the respective mainstream philosophies of the North and the South, then it becomes obvious there can be no way to blend the two into a single national spirit ant more than Cain could live by Abel’s side. “We the people,” as famous a phrase as it may be, is a dupery.

Understanding it as such seems to me the key to the history of the United States both before and after 1865.

When the American colonists started debating their merging into a single political unit, the obviously central issue was that of States’ rights – i.e., what sovereignty would be left to the States once a federal power, endowed with a sovereignty of its own, had been established.

Since none of their representatives appears to have called for the States to forfeit their sovereignty entirely, it seems obvious that the new union, it tighter than the one obtaining under the Articles of Confederation, was nevertheless to be that of a federation in which the federal power was rigorously construed, strictly limited, and States’ rights sternly asserted. Such a view was never unanimous.

The Federalists, men of the North already, opposed it immediately, (hence the Tenth Amendment) and never relented until they overcame at the price of open war. In between they had constantly waged one by other means, kindling the fires of conflict with self-interested issues (internal improvements, tariffs, a central bank), the last of which was the rather contrived issue of slavery. (The South ended up fighting as one man while the only a fourth of Southern households actually owned slaves . . . As for the Yankees, once victorious they abandoned the freed slaves to a rather dubious fate.)

So the fateful war was fought, and union proclaimed to have been restored.

A scurrilous claim: It is symbolic that the South could be reinstated as a member of the Union only after a team of Northern generals had razed it. The new union, instead of resulting from the regulated intercourse of political bodies, was forced down the throats of half of them, and the unity prevailing between Americans became that which obtains between colonizers and colonized.

Lincoln showed himself to be a faithful disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s method for regenerating France: “to prevent the union from being an empty word, it must be disposed that whoever is rebellious to the people’s will must be forced to obey it, which only means forcing him to be free. From such deviousness was born a new type of nation, indeed.”

(1865: The True American Revolution, Claude Polin, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pg. 14; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

An Understanding of Eighteenth Century Government

The author below writes that the Founders, to include men such as John Adams and James Madison, saw the purpose of a separation of powers in the new government as necessary to give both “property” and “the people” – the aristocracy and the workers – a voice in government with a check upon one another. He adds that those who think of government as a science and formal political structures have difficulty understanding the men of long ago who looked upon government as an instrument for resolving tensions among social classes, or “interests,” which was the term commonly used in the eighteenth century. The social interests remain today, as well as the social tensions.

Eighteenth Century Understanding of Government

“Those who bent their efforts, and a considerable amount of history along with them, to prove the constitutionality of the New Deal denied the fact of “State sovereignty” under the Article of Confederation. They asserted the old doctrine that the union came before the States and was therefore all-powerful: State sovereignty never existed. From this doctrine they deduced that New Deal measures could not be invalidated by the Supreme Court, which turned to “States’ rights” notions and a strict interpretation of the Constitution of 1787.

In doing so it was obvious the majority of the Court were motivated by political and economic predilections rather than concern for the true nature of the Constitution. The opponents of the Court, likewise, in their fervor to attain necessary ends, cited many analogies, the falsity of which they did not recognize. To them the argument of States’ rights used to defeat national regulation of business enterprise was specious and unfounded in history.

What they did not see was that the eighteenth-century counterparts of nineteenth-century vested interests likewise rejected the doctrine of State sovereignty. For them the only escape from a democracy which found expression in unchecked State governments was the creation of a national government which would limit if not destroy the sovereignty of the States. Despite the theorizing of later days, the fact remains that State sovereignty was a grim reality for those who objected to majority rule.

[Those] . . . who say or imply that democracy was not an issue in the Revolutionary era . . . do not face the fact that some of the Revolutionary leaders who became the folk heroes of later generations were actually opposed to what they believed to be, and what they called, “democracy.” Therefore they are unwilling to accept the idea that the Articles of Confederation were an expression of the democratic philosophy of the eighteenth century and that the Constitution of 1787 was the culmination of an anti-democratic crusade.

(The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1963, excerpts pp. viii-ix)

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