Browsing "The United States Constitution"

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

In his May 1, 1861 message to the North Carolina General Assembly, Governor John Ellis of referred to the “Northern Government” and that “they have drawn the sword against us and are now seeking our blood. They have promised to partition our property and the earnings of our people among the mercenary soldiers after our subjugation shall be effected. All fraternity of feeling is lost between us and them. We can no longer live with them. There must be a separation at once and forever.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“In Defense of Their Traditional Liberties”

“Although North Carolina had soon after the adoption of the Federal constitution taken steps to prevent the importation of Negroes, not only from abroad but from any other State, yet in the progress of time the system of slavery became strongly engrafted on her social structure, and the agitation of slavery question excited her people greatly.

Periodically this agitation stirred the people and animated them to maintain with steadfastness the right to manage their own domestic, local concerns in their own way.

At length when it was declared that an “irrepressible conflict” had arisen, and that the “Union could not exist half slave and half free,” it came to be regarded that the limitations of the Federal constitution were no longer to be observed, and that the abolition party would seek to abolish slavery. This led South Carolina and other commonwealths to the South to withdraw from the Union.

The question of holding a convention for the purpose of withdrawing was submitted to the people of North Carolina in the spring of 1861, but so conservative were they and so attached to the Union, that they separated themselves from their Southern brethren and refused to call the convention. The difference between the votes was, however, small — only about 250 in the poll of the entire State.

Such was the situation, when in April 1861, Fort Sumter was bombarded and President Lincoln called on North Carolina to furnish her quota of troops to coerce the seceding States. These events changed the aspect of affairs in North Carolina instantaneously. All differences ceased.

Union men, who, like George E. Badger, did not hold to the right of secession, united now in the declaration that North Carolinians must [now] share in the fortunes of their Southern kindred. Then amid the excitement of that period came the rapid preparations for the inevitable conflict — the marshaling of troops, the formation of armies, the strenuous endeavors to equip and maintain our citizen [soldiers] and make defense of our unprotected coast.

Never was there a finer display of patriotic ardor; never did peaceable ploughboys more quickly assume the character of veteran soldiers. It was if a common inspiration possessed the souls of all the people and animated them to die, if need be, in defense of their traditional liberties.

During the four years of strife that followed, the people of North Carolina bore themselves with an unparalleled heroism. With a voting population of 112,000, North Carolina sent to the army 125,000 soldiers.

Strenuous efforts were made to provide food for the soldiers and the poor, and while salt works were erected along the sea coast, vast quantities of cards were imported for the women to use at home, and other supplies were brought through the blockade.

[Life then] was accompanied, however, by straits and hardships, suffering and mourning, the separation from husbands and fathers from their families and the pall of death that fell upon every household. What awful experiences were crowded into four years of heroic and grand sacrifice — how trying the vicissitudes, how calamitous the dire result!”

(Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the 19th Century, Volume II, Brant & Fuller, 1892, pp. 35-36)

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

John Taylor of Caroline viewed the economic life of the country as being local in character and only under the jurisdiction of the individual States – that is, popular institutions. Therefore he concluded: “The entire nationalistic program of the Federal Government as to banking, funding, tariff, and internal improvements is unconstitutional.” If one sidesteps the victor’s claim that they fought to end slavery 1861-1865, one finds that the Hamiltonian drive for concentrated federal power was underlying reason for war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

“The States, located in the center of the political landscape, perform a stabilizing function with sufficient power to protect the whole [federal] structure from the onslaughts of inimical forces that attack from two directions. They are essentially buffer States.

They represent a compromise between two types of concentrated power – one in the Federal Government, the other in the people, the turbulence of whom may lead to the reintroduction of monarchy such as followed the French Revolution.

Mobs and tyrants generate each other. Only the States can prevent the clashes of these two eternal enemies. Thus, unless the States can obstruct the greed and avarice of concentrated power, the issue will be adjudicated by an insurrectionary mob.

The States represent government by rule and law as opposed to government by force and fraud, which characterizes consolidated power whether in a supreme federal government, in the people, in factions, or in strong individuals.

Republicanism is the compromise between the idea that the people are a complete safeguard against the frauds of governments and the idea that the people, from ignorance or depravity, are incapable of self-government.

The basic struggle in the United States is between mutual checks by political departments and an absolute control by the Federal Government, or between division and concentration of power. Hamilton and Madison presented an impressive case for a strong national government, supreme over the rights of States.

They are supported by all the former Tories who benefit from the frauds of the paper system. Those who take this view are referred to as variously as monarchists, consolidators, and supremacists. The basic fallacy of their way of thinking is that they simply refuse to recognize “the primitive, inherent, sovereignty of each State” upon which basis only a federal form of government can be erected.

They assume the existence of an American Nation embracing the whole geographical reach of the country, on which they posit their argument for a supreme national government. But this is merely a fiction . . . The Declaration, the [Articles of] Confederation, and the Constitution specifically recognize the existence of separate and sovereign States, not of any American Nation or consolidated nation or people of the United States or concentrated sovereignty in the Federal Government. The word “America” designates a region on the globe and does not refer to any political entity.”

(The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene Tenbroeck Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, pp. 65-66)

Principles Essential to the Perpetuation of the Union

Richmond’s bronze statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson was dedicated on October 26, 1875 before a crowd of 50,000; the oration was delivered by the Rev. Moses D. Hoge of Richmond’s Second Presbyterian Church.  Gen. Joseph E. Johnston served as Chief-Marshal; attending were Generals D.H. Hill, W.H.F. Lee, Fitzhugh Lee, and 500 members of the Old Stonewall Brigade.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Principles Essential to the Perpetuation of the Union

“For, when we ask what has become of the principles in defense of which Jackson imperiled and lost his life, then I answer: A form of government may change, a policy may perish, but a principle may never die. Circumstances may so change as to make the application of the principle no longer possible, bits it innate vitality is not affected thereby. The conditions of society may be so altered as to make it idle to contend for a principle which no longer has any practical force, but these changed conditions of society have not annihilated one original truth.

The application of these postulates to the present situation of our country is obvious. The people of the South maintained, as their fathers maintained before them, that certain principles were essential to the perpetuation of the Union according to its original Constitution.

Rather than surrender their convictions, they took up arms to defend them. The appeal was in vain. Defeat came, they accepted it, with its consequences, just as they would accepted victory with its fruits.

But it is idle to shut our eyes to the fact that this consolidated empire of States is not the Union established by our fathers. No intelligent European student of American institutions is deceived by any such assumption. We gain nothing by deceiving ourselves.

And if history teaches any lesson, it is this: that a nation cannot long survive when the fundamental principles which gave it life, originally, are subverted. [Remember] Jackson’s clear, ringing tone . . . :

“What is life without honor? Degradation is worse than death. We must think of the living and of those who are to come after us, and see that by God’s blessing we transmit to them the freedom we have enjoyed.”

(Oration of Rev. Moses D. Hoge, Unveiling of the Statue of Stonewall Jackson, Richmond, Virginia; Stonewall Jackson, A Military Biography, D. Appleton and Company, 1876, excerpt pp. 564)

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

To Jefferson, the Revolution meant “not merely independence from British rule but also escape from the British system of government into republicanism.” He also abhorred political parties, or what he called sects,” and saw that all Americans as “federalists” – i.e., supporters of the Constitution and virtually all republicans, i.e., “believers in a republic rather than a monarchy.” And the States were the line of defense against government tendencies to consolidate power around itself.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

“On the eclipse of federalism, although not its extinction, [New England] leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing geographical division of parties, which might ensure them the next President.

The people of the north went blindfolded into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up.

To that has now succeeded a distinction, which, like that of republican and federal, or Whig and Tory, being equally intermixed through every State, threatens none of those geographical schisms, which immediately go to a separation.

The line of division now is the preservation of State rights as reserved in the Constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into consolidated government. The Tories are for strengthening the Executive and General Government; the Whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy.

Although this division excites, it is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.”

(Thomas Jefferson, to Marquis Lafayette, November 1823, Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P. Foley, editor, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900, excerpt, pp. 760)

Guardians of the Constitution

John Taylor of Caroline said that “the great weakness of the Constitution is that its meaning is never unequivocal,” and that its misinterpretation was due to the loss of power by the agrarians.  Though the Constitution was designed to guarantee local self-government for the farmers, “a mode of construction is introduced to advance the interest of mercenary combinations.” The mercenary combinations helped form the Federalist, Whig and Republican parties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Guardians of the Constitution

“Certainly, the States never intended to give to the Federal Government the power of veto over their own laws. It is absurd to suppose that an agency brought into being by the several States can have exclusive power to construe the instrument which grants its power, for this is equivalent to the assertion that the States can make a constitution but are without power to prevent its infringement.

If the Federal Government has the last word even on the constitutionality of its own laws, then federalism is at an end. If the Supreme Court can dominate State matters, then all the heroic efforts of the Founding Fathers to set up a system of mutual checks and secure wise and responsible State government were futile.

In the event of a controversy between the two spheres [State and federal], the Supreme Court would be an interested party and consequently partial. Such a conflict cannot be settled by a court. The correct remedy, as stated in the Constitution, is amendment by the people. Further, the dispensation of justice is an inherent attribute of sovereignty. Hence, the people of the States, since they are sovereign, can be denied no judicial power over their own affairs.

Nonetheless, the Court is prone to ignore the idea of the sovereignty of the people of the States and to place it instead in the governments of the States or even the in the government of the Union on the hypothesis that the Union is the supreme government of an American Nation. And since the powers reserved to the States far exceed those delegated, this entitles the States to priority in all controversies over fundamental issues of government.

Liberty is lost if the States are deprived of a direct and final voice in the interpretation of the Constitution of their Union. Hence, the sweeping powers assumed by the Supreme Court are a direct violation of the basic liberties of the States and of the people. The idea of a court dictating to the States runs counter to the basic idea of federalism and makes the Constitution a rope of sand. If State powers are limited by any supreme federal department, the situation is like the one that [John] Locke described: “no man has a right to that which another has a right to that which another has a right to take from him.”

Hence, the States, not the justices of the Supreme Court, are the guardians and guarantors of the Constitution. A jury composed of the parties that originally contracted to form the Union is better qualified to perform the task of maintaining it than the federal justices whose power extends merely to cases in law and equity involving individual and private affairs, not to issues that affect any of the departments or spheres of the government of the United States.”

The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene T. Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, excerpts, pp. 133-135)

Eulogizing a Vice President with American Principles

Vice President William R. King (under Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce) was born a North Carolinian in April, 1786, his father William King being a Revolutionary War veteran and member of the convention in which North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution. A United States Representative for North Carolina, and later a Senator representing Alabama, King was a fine complement to the presidency of Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, the latter known as a “Northern man with Southern principles” – more correctly considered American principles.  He died on April 18, 1853.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Eulogizing a Vice President with American Principles

(Remarks of Milton S. Latham of California, 8 December 1853)

“Mr. Speaker:

William Rufus King was a noble specimen of an American statesman and gentleman. The intimate friend of John C. Calhoun, and the contemporary of Webster, Clay, Cass and Benton, he maintained a proud position in the Senate of the United States by his strong, practical good sense, his experience and wisdom as a legislator, the acknowledged rectitude of his intentions, and that uniform urbanity of manner which marked, not so much the man of conventional breeding, as the true gentleman at heart.

He never knew what it was to speak, act or legislate by indirection. He was frank and loyal to his colleagues, as he was devoted to his own State, and sincerely attached to the Union. He was from principle and conviction a States’ Rights man; but he did not love the Union less because he loved Alabama more. While he was serving his own State with fidelity and honor, he was not remiss in his duties to the whole American Confederacy.

Like his illustrious prototype, John C. Calhoun, he battled for the rights of his State, in order to secure that harmony between Federal and State power, which is the essence of the Union, and without which it is impossible to preserve our system of self-government.

In the memorable session of 1849-1850, Mr. King voted for nearly all the compromise measures as an act of devotion to the National Union, without surrendering a single cardinal point of the political faith which had guided him through life, and had secured to him the affection and attachment of the citizens of his own State.”

(Obituary Addresses for Hon. William R. King, Vice President of the US, 8-9 December 1853, Robert Armstrong Printer, 1854, excerpt)

Public Debt, Then and Now

Abraham Lincoln was a devotee of the Alexander Hamilton/Henry Clay “American System” of public debt, tariff protectionism, government subsidies and a national bank. To finance his war in 1861, Lincoln turned to an income tax, and then succumbed to printing money. Nowhere in the United States Constitution is the federal government authorized to make paper money legal tender. By 1865, the public debt was $2.6 billion, and the direct/indirect cost of Lincoln’s war would reach $8 billion by 1900.

www.Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Public Debt, Then and Now

“Contrary to official capitalist wisdom, debt does not create economic growth. This idea is a swindle. Interest to the very rich . . . does not produce anything. It does not multiply creatively into new enterprises and jobs; it merely diverts ever-greater proportions of earning that might be fruitfully invested.

The proof is all around us. How could the vast unpayable federal debt, which absorbs much of the government’s income just for the interest bondholders, foreign and domestic, possibly be an economic stimulus? How can the immense and near universal burden of personal mortgage and credit card debt possibly indicate a healthy economy and commonwealth?

The matter is simple, obvious to anybody except a politician, a captive economist, or a media flack, and it ought to be conveyed to the people at every opportunity. Debt is killing us. Every wise man in recorded history has affirmed that debt is not a good thing. Debt can destroy a family, a government, a society.

Alexander Hamilton, an upwardly mobile immigrant bastard with a Napoleon complex, declared that “a public debt is a public blessing.” Troubled, but not surprised, Jefferson noted a connection between debt cruel taxation that undermined the independence of the citizens, warning that “we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”

Weighed down by government debt, the people would have to labor ever harder to pay the debt-holders, leaving them “no time to think, no means of calling the managers to account.” Jefferson avowed as a core principle that “the earth belongs in usufruct to the living,” but the living had no right to consume the earnings of posterity.

Antebellum statesmen like John Taylor of Caroline and John C. Calhoun and economists like William Gouge and Condy Rageut made the same case. After the War Between the States, so did William Graham Sumner, Thomas E. Watson and countless other public men and thinkers.

Republicans (and their predecessors) have always been the party of bankers and bondholders, service to the rich being for them a natural and essential function of the federal government. Opposition to the federal debt was long a plank in the Democratic platform, but Democrats today are just as guilty as the Republicans in regard to the issue.

Lip service to the virtue of “low public debt” continued until Franklin Roosevelt discovered Keynes and declared that debt is no problem “because we owe it to ourselves” – “ourselves” being a conveniently vague and collective being.

The bipartisan bailout of misbehaving bankers and brokers that we saw a few years ago, and the failure of a multitude of presidential candidates to mention the matter, is not promising.”

(It’s the Debt, Stupid, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, February 2016, excerpt pg. 16)

Josiah Quincy, State’s Rights Yankee

Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts spoke the following in 1811 and was keenly aware of the States being sovereign and federated in a voluntary political Union that did not authorize adding territory to it. His State opposed the War of 1812 and refused troops while trading with the enemy – the latter it had done in 1759 when British Gen. James Wolfe confronted the French on the Plains of Abraham. Like other Americans of the antebellum era, Quincy found his own native State to be his home and country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Josiah Quincy, States-Rights Yankee

“Mr. Speaker, The bill, which is now proposed to be passed [to form Louisiana into a State], has this assumed principle for its basis: that the three branches of this national government, without recurring to conventions of the people, in the States, or to the legislatures of the States, are authorized to admit new partners to a share of the political power, in countries out of the original limits of the United States.

Now, this assumed principle, I maintain to be altogether without any sanction in the constitution. I declare it to be a manifest and atrocious usurpation of power; of a nature, dissolving, according to undeniable principles of moral law, the obligations of our national compact; and leading to all the awful consequences, which flow from such a state of things . . .

Sir, what is this power, we propose now to usurp?

Nothing less than a power, changing all the proportions of the weight and influence, possessed by the potent sovereignties composing this Union. A stranger is to be introduced to an equal share, without their consent. Upon a principle, pretended to be deduced from the constitution, this government, after this bill passes, may and will multiply foreign partners in power, at its own mere motion; at its irresponsible pleasure; in other words, as local interests, party passions, or ambitious views may suggest . . . This is not so much a question, concerning the exercise of sovereignty, as it is who shall be sovereign.

[Is] there a moral principle of public law better settled, or more conformable to the plainest suggestions of reason, than that the violation of a contract by one of the parties may be considered as exempting the others from its obligations?

Do you suppose the people of the Northern and Atlantic States will, or ought to look on with patience and see representatives and senators from the Red River and Missouri, pouring themselves upon this and the other floor, managing the concerns of a seaboard fifteen hundred miles, at least, from their residence?

It is the part of a wise man to foresee danger and to hide himself. This great usurpation, which creeps into this House, under the plausible appearance to giving content to that important point, New Orleans; starts up a gigantic power to control the nation.

With respect to this love of our union . . . It grows out of the affections; and has not, and cannot be made to have, anything universal in its nature. Sir, I confess it, the first public love of my heart is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors. The love of this union grows out of this attachment to my native soil, and is rooted in it.

I cherish it, because it affords the best external hope of her peace, her prosperity, her independence. The bill, if it passes, is the death blow to the Constitution. It may, afterwards, linger; but lingering, its fate will, at no distant period, be consummated.”

(Speech on the Passage of the Bill to Enable the People of the Territory of Orleans to Form a Constitution and State Government, Josiah Quincy, January 14, 1811; American History Told by Contemporaries, Volume III, Albert Bushnell Hart, editor, Macmillan Company, 1901, pp. 410-414)

 

Stephen Douglas on the Alternatives

Illinois politician Stephen A. Douglas thought the solution to the sectional divide in 1860 was finding compromise with Republicans through amendments to the Constitution. Douglas’s Senate speech in early 1861 listed three eventualities he saw ahead, and knew the last would end the union – as Alexander Hamilton presciently observed many years earlier. Formerly a man of compromise, after Fort Sumter, Douglas implored Lincoln to raise “thrice as many” volunteers, despite his witnessing the subjugation of Americans and the end of the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Stephen Douglas on the Alternatives

“In a speech in the Senate, March 15, 1861, Mr. Douglas had reduced the situation to the following three alternative points:

  1. The Restoration and Preservation of the Union by such Amendments to the Constitution as will insure domestic tranquility, safety and equality of all the States, and thus restore peace, unity and fraternity to the whole country.
  2. A Peaceful Dissolution of the Union by recognizing the Independence of such States as refuse to remain in the Union without such Constitutional Amendments, and the establishment of a liberal system of commercial and social intercourse with them by treaties of commerce and amity.
  3. War, with a view to the subjugation and military occupation of those States which have Seceded or may Secede from the Union.”

As a thorough Union man, he could never have agreed to “A Peaceful Dissolution of the Union.” On the other hand he was equally averse to War, because he held that “War is Disunion. War is final, eternal separation.” Hence all his energies and talents were given to carrying out his first-stated line of policy.”

(The Great Conspiracy, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886, excerpt, pg. 271)

Lincoln and the Supreme Court

Lincoln infamously ignored Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s order finding that the president held no constitutional authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus – and, reportedly had drafted an order to arrest the Chief Justice. Though Taney would remain Chief Justice during most of the war, his Court was on notice that arrest and imprisonment awaited Lincoln’s dissenters.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln and the Supreme Court

“The [Lincoln] administration would await no debacle, no breath-taking defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court. It could ill-afford such a calamity. It would move to make such a defeat less likely [and] it would be folly to permit Supreme Court decisions to add to the travail.

President Lincoln and the Republicans were now to decide, concerning the size of the Supreme Court, that the number “ten” was much more convenient than the number “nine.” Under the leadership of Representative James F. Wilson the committee on the judiciary reported to the house a bill to create a tenth circuit . . . [meaning] a tenth Justice. It was prudence that dictated a packed Court in order to strengthen the position of those Justices who would view with favor the acts that the administration deemed necessary.

Admittedly this was a moderate packing of the Court, but the tenth Justice in addition to the three other Lincoln appointees and other friendly Justices on the bench would provide an adequate margin of safety. So it was in the same days that the Prize Cases were being considered by the Court that Congress went about the task of creating . . . a tenth Justice. The Court could not fail to see the implications.

To pack it just at this time was a sharp warning that its size, its powers, and its role rested upon the will of the Congress and the President. There was no delay [in the appointment]. The Senate, deeming that swift action was necessary, passed the bill the same day that it took up consideration of it.

Keep[ing] the power of the Court “right.” That was the strongest motivation for adding a tenth justice . . . during the Civil War. Senator Garrett Davis of Kentucky stated on the floor of the Senate on January 14, 1868, that the Radicals forced the creation of the tenth justiceship.

The power of the government to defend itself would be questioned again before the Supreme Court, and a tenth Justice would at least make certain “that questions of the power of government to suppress rebellion would not come before a Court too hopelessly weighted on the side of the old-line Democratic view of public policy.” The Supreme Court had to be removed as a factor potentially dangerous to the Union. A Congress and a President that had experience the debacles of 1862 would not stand idly by to experience disaster at the hands of the Supreme Court.”

(Lincoln’s Supreme Court, David M. Silver, University of Illinois Press, 1998, pp. 84-88)

Pages:«1234567...12»