Browsing "The United States Constitution"

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

Patrick Henry of Virginia was one of the most vocal opponents of the constitution which eventually would supersede the Articles of Confederation. He predicted that members of Congress would become a new aristocracy and vote themselves large salaries; that national control over State militia was dangerous to freedom; that Northern commercial interests would menace the South. James Madison could only reply that the “Constitution was not perfect, but as good as might have been made.”

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

“The Virginia delegates returning from Philadelphia had hardly reached their firesides when a long campaign began against the Constitution. In letters, pamphlets and speeches there poured forth almost every conceivable argument against it. It contained no bill of rights, and its adoption would lead to the destruction of personal liberties; it would bring back monarchy; it would create a ruling aristocracy; and it protected the abominable slave trade.

But above all, the Constitution was a dagger aimed at the South, and its point must be blunted or avoided. It must be amended to protect against all these evils. Were it not possible to secure changes, Virginia must think of creating a Southern federation in which the rights of person, republicanism, and Southern interests would be effectively defended.

One of the more moderate enemies of the Constitution was Richard Henry Lee . . . [writing that] “the Constitution threatened Southern interests; and he emphatically declared that Congressional authority to regulate commerce was a menace to the South. Said he:

“In this congressional legislature a bare majority can enact commercial laws, so that the representatives of seven Northern States, as they will have a majority, can, by law, create the most oppressive monopolies upon the five Southern States, whose circumstances and productions are essentially different from theirs, although not a single man of their voters are the representatives of, or amenable to, the people of the Southern States . . . it is supposed that the policy of the Southern States will prevent such abuses! But how feeble, sir, is policy when opposed to interest among trading people.”

Far more forthcoming in denunciation was Benjamin Harrison, who wrote to Washington: “If the constitution is carried into effect, the States south of the [Potomac], will be little more than appendages to those northward of it. . . . In the nature of things they must sooner or later, establish a tyranny, not inferior to the triumvirate or centum viri of Rome.”

Equally vigorous language was used by George Mason [who] wanted amendments protecting both personal and States’ rights. He feared the Constitution would bring either oligarchy or monarchy and Northern dominion.

[Patrick] Henry . . . aroused the fears of men indebted to British merchants: those grasping enemy creditors who would make use of the Federal courts-to-be . . . [and that] the Northerners would control that government, and they would discriminate grievously against the Southern people whenever they could secure gain for themselves.”

(The First South, John Richard Allen, LSU Press, 1961, excerpts pp. 111-114)

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)

Mar 27, 2019 - Articles of Confederation, Conservatism and Liberalism, Democracy, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on The Problem of 1787

The Problem of 1787

The intention of the 1787 Constitution was a strictly limited, representative government with two branches of Congress to represent both the democratic and conservative principles, and an electoral college to elect the President.

Though the Constitution became a dead letter in 1861 with a president assuming dictatorial powers, in 1913 the conservative principle that the Founders had put in place to control the democratic principle, was destroyed by the Seventeenth Amendment.

The Problem of 1787

“When in May, 1787, the delegates of the Federal Convention assembled themselves in Philadelphia, their instructions were to prepare amendments to the Articles of Confederation under which the thirteen States were very loosely held together. That was understood to be their sole and express business – to amend the Articles.

Anyone who will read the debates may see for himself that the delegates . . . were possessed of two fears . . . One was the fear of monarchy; the other was the fear of democracy.

Specifically, in one case it was fear of the executive, who should be called President, lest he turn into a monarch; and, in the other case, it was fear of the people, lest they give themselves up to temptations of democracy. In both cases, it was fear – of what? Of tyranny. The problem was how to limit them.

The one least considered at first and never returned to was that the President should be elected by popular vote, for it was agreed that this would increase the danger of an elective monarchy [and] if one branch of [Congress] was going to be elected by popular vote . . . there was the danger that he would collaborate with the demagogues in the popular branch . . . to encroach upon the Constitution and overthrow it.

At last it was decided that the people should elect electors and the electors elect the President, a very awkward arrangement, and yet the best they could think of to avoid the evil of submitting the choice to direct popular vote. Then was the question of how the two branches of Congress should be elected. It was easily agreed, and yet not unanimously, that . . . the House of Representatives should be elected by popular vote.

[The] other branch of Congress, to be called the Senate, must not be elected by popular vote. What was needed was an austere, resolute Senate, unresponsive to popular clamor, with long tenure of office, perhaps for life. For this was to be the conservative principle. It was to restrain “the fury of democracy.”

Or, as Randolph said: “The object of this second branch is to control the democratic branch of the national legislature. If it not be a firm body, the other branch, being more numerous and coming directly from the people, will overwhelm it. The democratic licentiousness of the State legislatures proves the necessity of a firm Senate.”

In this matter there was scarcely any contrary opinion. The idea that the Senate should represent the conservative principle as a check upon the democratic principle was practically unanimous. What came of these deliberations was our Constitution. And how should such a Government, the first of its kind in the world, be defined? [Only] three words were necessary – constitutional, representative, limited.”

(A Washington Errand, Garet Garrett, Saturday Evening Post, January 29, 1938, excerpts pp. 31-32)

The War to Resist Centralization

Lincoln, in his war of 1861-1865, was victorious where King George III had failed in his attempt to prevent the political independence of the thirteen American colonies. It was not just the South that was subjugated by 1865, but the North as well with most State governments securely under Radical Republican control. No longer was the consent of the governed in the national conscience – the threat of invasion, violence and conquest of recalcitrant States replaced it.

The War to Resist Centralization

“If centralism is ultimately to prevail, if our entire system of free institutions as established by our common ancestors is to be subverted, and an Empire to be established in their stead; if that is to be the last scene of the tragic drama now being enacted: then, be assured, that we of the South will be acquitted, not only in our own consciences, but in the judgment of mankind of all responsibility for so terrible a catastrophe, and from all guilt of so great a crime against humanity.” Alexander H. Stephens

If the Civil War had merely been a power struggle between the Northern and Southern States, with the winning of the war leaving the Northern States with political power over the Southern States, the likely long-term effects would have inflicted much less damage to all the States.

No, this was a war between the Southern States and the federal government in Washington. It was a war to resist the centralization of economic, cultural, political, and military power. It was a war to uphold the most revolutionary principle ever asserted by man. That principle, the “consent of the governed,” was the basis upon which the Thirteen Colonies seceded from England.

As expressed by Jefferson [in the Declaration of Independence] and unanimously adopted by the Founding Fathers, the sole purpose of government is to secure the right of its citizens – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. The concept of consent of the governed is the ultimate revolution, which throws off the shackles of tyranny from whichever direction it comes on the political spectrum.

The Lincoln scholars attribute the freeing of the slaves and the preserving of the Union to the federal government’s winning of the war, as if no other course of events could possibly have accomplished the same result. Their belief system about history is quite nearly predestination . . . [that] war was the only way slavery could have ended. Finally, since the war was inevitable [between North and South], the federal government is absolved from all violence, carnage and crimes against the States, the Constitution and civilians.

The idea that the Civil War was fought to “preserve” the Union is one of the most ridiculous ideas foisted on history. The only thing preserved was the federal government’s authority over the Southern [and Northern] States. Lincoln certainly fought to keep the Southern States under Union control as conquered provinces, not States.”

(Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America, John Avery Emison, Pelican Publishing Company, 2009, excerpts pp. 255-257; 259)

Immigration and the Demise of America

The waves of European immigration into the United States, 1830-1860, added a different strain to the original English, Scot and Irish population, especially in the North and emerging West. The South maintained its ethnic heritage from Revolutionary times and its deep understanding of the Founders America. The North quickly became a far different country by 1850, with a new electorate easily misled by Northern demagogues. To attain national power and dominance, the demagogues destroyed the South’s political power in the country through a destructive war, instilled hatred between Southerners and their former laborers, and finally molded the new black electorate into dependable Republicans.

Immigration and the Demise of America

“The founding fathers were rare men and wise, men who had “come to themselves,” men who measured their words. They knew history; they knew law and government; they knew the ancient classics; they knew the ancient failures; they knew the Bible. But theirs was a wisdom which, as always, can be misunderstood by lesser mortals.

It can be misinterpreted; it can be misapplied through ignorance; it can be misused and perverted through ambition, interest, even plain human cussedness. Liberty was never to be license.

But as growth occurred, the influx of millions of immigrants from the Old World, from different backgrounds, settled north and west in established communities and crowded the cities. They knew little of a constitution, and cared less. This was the land of liberty; men were “free and equal”; the majority ruled – the “American” way, their Carl Schurz-like leaders told them while ordering their votes, urging war upon the South, and anathematizing slavery. They knew nothing of the South’s acute problems.

This was the beginning of a false premise, wholly without foundation in the Constitution, of “an aggregate people,” of unrestricted democracy, of the absolute right of a popular majority – even a “simple” majority – whenever it exists and however ascertained, to rule without check or restraint, independent of constitutional limitations or of State interposition.

This absurd proposition that the will of a mere majority for the time being becomes vox Dei was held by numerous leaders of the North and the West, not the least among them Abraham Lincoln. The Southerners opposed, opposed strenuously, and fought it to the end.

[John C.] Calhoun attempted ameliorations by such proposals as vetoes, nullifications, interposition, and “concurrent” majorities, all of which at one time or another were rejected, leaving the South, as he said in 1850, helpless to retain equality in the Union and relegated to a position hardly different from that which the Revolutionary fathers rejected in 1776.

In answer to these efforts to obtain justice, Northern leaders undertook an attack on the domestic institutions of the South. “At first harmless and scattered movements” of small, so-called humanitarian groups in the North were seized upon by those who saw political possibilities in them, and the agitations spread from isolated spots to the halls of Congress.

Abolitionists began to attack the South at every opportunity and demanded an end to the labor arrangements of the region and the emancipation of the African Negro “slaves” who worked mostly upon the great plantations.

Abolitionist fathers and grandfathers had brought those poor black creatures – often savages, sometimes cannibals – from the Guinea coasts of West Africa and had sold them to the planters, much of whose capital was invested in them. We still teach . . . falsehoods to children by slanted history textbooks that parrot the clichés, though it is surely time to make some changes and tell the truth.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 55-56)

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)

Abolitionist Secessionists, Motives and Pretexts

In its State Convention in 1851, Massachusetts radicals resolved that “the constitution which provides for slave representation and a slave oligarchy in Congress, which legalize slave catching on every inch of American soil . . . that the one great issue before the country is the dissolution of the Union . . . therefore, we have given ourselves to the work of “annulling this covenant with death,” as essential to our own innocency, and the speedy and everlasting overthrow of the slave power.”

Apparently, there were those in Massachusetts at that time who had forgotten the locally-produced rum sailing for the coast of West Africa on Massachusetts-built, captained and provisioned ships. The African slaves would not be in the South without the help of New England, and its infamous transatlantic slave trade.

Abolition Secessionist Motives and Pretexts

“Gen. Jamison, one of the Abolition marplots of Kansas, made a speech to his soldiers on the 22nd of January, 1862, which appeared in the Leavenworth Conservative, in which he shows that the firing on Sumter was not the beginning of the war.

“For six long years we have fought as guerillas, what we are now fighting as a regiment. This war is a war which dates away back of Fort Sumter. On the cold hill side, in swamps and ferns, behind rocks and trees, ever since ’54 we have made the long campaign. Away off there we have led the ideas of this age, always battling at home, and sometimes sending forth from among us a stern old missionary like John Brown, to show Virginia that the world does move.”

Parson Brownlow, in his debate with Parson Pryne, in Philadelphia in 1858, said:

“A dissolution of the Union is what a large portion of the Northern Abolitionists are aiming at.” (see Brownlow and Pryne’s debates).

Thurlow Weed, for penning the following truth, was, as he avers, was driven from the editorial chair of the Albany [New York] Journal.

“The chief architects of the rebellion, before it broke out, avowed that they were aided in their infernal designs by the ultra-Abolitionists of the North. This was too true, for without said aid the South could never have been united against the Union. But for the incendiary recommendations, which rendered the otherwise useful [Hinton] Helper book, a fire brand, North Carolina could not have been forced out of the Union. And even now, the ultra-Abolition Press and speech makers are aggravating the horrors they helped to create, and thus by playing into the hands of the leaders of the rebellion, are keeping down the Union men of the South, and rendering reunion difficult, if not impossible.” But hatred of slavery was not the moving cause of these Abolitionists. They were secessionists, per se, and only used the slavery ghost to frighten unsuspecting and otherwise well-disposed person into their schemes.

And so it was in 1814, when the secessionists of [New England’s] Hartford Convention made opposition to slavery one of the cornerstones of their disunion edifice . . . disunion, as the motive, was in the background, and slavery, as the shibboleth or pretext, in the foreground.”

(Progress and Evidence of the Northern Conspiracy, The Logic of History, Five Hundred Political Texts, Chapter XI, Stephen D. Carpenter, 1864, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, excerpts pp. 54-55)

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)

A Radical Free Soil Party Formed in 1848

The Liberty party held its convention at Aurora, Illinois in January 1844, with spin-off tours sweeping the State afterward. At a rally in Lake County the following month, free colored man William Jones accompanied the speakers to tell of being robbed and kidnapped in Chicago. “It soon became the custom for the abolition orators to take around with them on their campaigns former slaves, or free Negroes whom slaveholders’ agents had attempted kidnap. The stories of these Negroes never failed to be received with telling effect.”

The antislavery Liberty and Free Soil parties had a brief life during the 1848 election cycle, but became a political cipher until being absorbed into the new Republican party of 1854. They made two more patches of the myriad quilt of that new party, of which the radical abolitionists became the more vocal, and the leaders of the rush to war with Americans in the South. As described below, the Free Soil party platform was at odds with the United States Constitution, which delegated no power whatsoever to the federal agent to control labor relations within an existing State, or to inhibit free access and enjoyment of all territories belonging to all citizens of all States.

Had the Free Soil advocates sought peaceful and practical solutions to the colonial labor system inherited from the British and perpetuated by slave-produced cotton hungry New England mills, peaceful relations with the South might have prevailed.

A Radical Free Soil Party Formed in 1848

“The result of the August convention at Buffalo is well known. It was a complete victory for the Free Soil advocates. Van Buren was nominated for President, and Charles Francis Adams for Vice-President. A new antislavery organization, called the Free Soil party, was organized . . . with the approval of all the delegates – Barn-Burners, Conscience Whigs, and Libertymen alike.

The main points in this platform were: the declaration that the Federal Government must exert itself to abolish slavery everywhere within the constitutional limits of its power; the demand that Congress should prohibit slavery in all territory then free . . . “No more slaves – no more slave territory.” [The] Liberty party placed the names Van Buren and Adams [on their banner] . . . They are for a total divorce of the government from slavery, and [a new] antislavery administration. A new principle had been established – “Union without compromise – Fraternization.”

In the [1848] State elections the Democrats were, as usual, victorious. The Democratic nominee, Governor French, was . . . elected without serious trouble. The period from 1849 to 1851 was a time of disintegration and depression in the Illinois antislavery forces. The Free Soil organizations . . . dissolved as soon as [the 1848 elections were] over.”

(Negro Servitude in Illinois, and of the Slavery Agitation in That State, 1719—1864, N. Dwight Harris, Haskell House Publishers, 1969 (original 1904), excerpts pp. 166-167; 174)

“Thou Wicked Servant”

Though opposed to Lincoln’s violations of the Constitution in his war against the American South, Northern Democrats saw the need to crush secession, which was a manifestation of the Tenth Amendment and inherent right of the people of a State to withdraw from a federal compact to which they conditionally assented. Those Northern Democrats did not see that due to the vast differences between the sections by 1861, peaceful separation was the only logical solution for the Southern people to pursue free, representative government. Connecticut Senator William C. Fowler (below) was born in 1793, during Washington’s presidency – living long enough to see the end of Washington’s Union.

“Thou Wicked Servant”

“Expressing opposition to secession, [Northerners Clement] Vallandigham, [Samuel S.] Cox, [Stephen D.] Carpenter, and Fowler maintained that they desired not an independent Confederacy but simply a restoration of the “Constitution as it is” and the “Union as it was.” They declared they were in favor of a constitutional war to crush secession, but they charged that Lincoln was waging a battle for the conquest and subjugation of the South and that he was conducting it in a despotic fashion, subverting the constitutional liberties of individuals and the rights of States.

Opposing military conscription, they also criticized the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and declared that freedom of speech had been abolished in the Union.

In particular, they attacked Lincoln’s policy of emancipation. Spurning the argument that emancipation was a legitimate measure adopted to aid the prosecution of the war, they pictured it as an unconstitutional act by which the President had changed the war aims of the North from the preservation of the Union to abolition of slavery.

“If,” said Fowler in the Connecticut State Senate in 1864, “the President should avow the fact that he has violated the Constitution, in order to save the Union, as the President did in a letter to Mr. Hodge, let us say to him “out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.”

The peace advocates placed special blame for war upon the abolitionists of the North, stating repeatedly that it was not the institution of slavery but the agitation of the slavery question by the abolitionists that had caused hostilities.

For the immediate outbreak of fighting, the three Midwesterners placed responsibility upon Lincoln and the Republicans because of their refusal to compromise with Southerners in the crisis of 1860-1861.”

(Americans Interpret Their Civil War, Thomas J. Pressly, 1954, Princeton University Press, excerpts pp. 131-133)

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