Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Civil War Stuff

My last Civil War piece started something of a food fight on NLT. Most of the comments had very little to do with the topic of Lincoln’s performance as military commander during the war.

I have another piece up now. It is here.

But given the comments about my last post, I thought it might be fun to post this old piece The Case Against Secession. Let the next food fight begin.

Discussions - 82 Comments

Owens says: "Madison, who presumably knew something about the constitutional theory of the American Founding, was horrified by the idea that the coordinate sovereignty retained by the States, as stated in the Tenth Amendment, implied the power of nullification, interposition, or secession."

Madison says: "That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them."

You be the judge.

Owens says: "Harry V. Jaffa has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the Revolutionary generation universally understood the separation of 13 colonies from Great Britain and the union among them to have been accomplished simultaneously."

At the risk of having Dr. Owens challenge me to a duel twice in one morning allow me to say two things about this quote: 1. If Jaffa indeed really says this he has painted himself into quite a corner. The "Revolutionary generation" had millions of people and would have found it difficult to hold a unanimous opinion on anything. 2. I've read this line before. Apparently Dr. Owen's like to plagarize his own stuff.

And now let's listen in as Luther Martin gives a speech at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787: "Mr. Martin says he considered that the separtion from Great Britain placed the thirteen states in a state of nature towards each other; that they would have remained in that state till this time but for the Confederation; that they met now to amend it on the same footing; and that he would never acceede to a plan that would introduce an inequality and lay ten states at the mercy of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania."

For reasons that somewhat escape me people who frequent this website are apt to get hot about the Civil War. And even using the term "Civil War," instead of "War between the States" or "the War for Southern Independence" is a catalyst for contentiousness.

Owens says: "While the people never relinquish their right to revolution, in practice, this natural right is replaced by free elections, the outcome of which are determined by majority rule."

In the Declaration Jefferson argues that the people possess the right to "alter or abolish" the government whenever it becomes destructive of their lives, liberties, or property. I don't see anything there about "revolution." Is altering the government revolution? Is abolishing the government revolution? It seems to me the only word that deserves the name "revolution" would be a situation in which an oppressed class overthrows their social betters. That didn't happen in 1776 or in 1861.

Owens says: "Given the affinity of libertarians for Lockean liberalism, their favorable disposition towards Southern secession, an act based on Calhoun's rejection of the principles of the American Founding, is hard to fathom."

In his farewell address to the Senate Jefferson Davis explicitly rejected Calhoun's doctrine: "I hope none who hear me will confound this expression of mine with the advocacy of the right of a State to remain in the Union, and to disregard its constitutional obligation by the nullification of the law. Such is not my theory. Nullification and secession, so often confounded, are, indeed, antagonistic principles. Nullification is a remedy which it is sought to apply within the Union, against the agent of the States. It is only to be justified when the agent has violated his constitutional obligations, and a State, assuming to judge for itself, denies the right of the agent thus to act, and appeals to the other states of the Union for a decision; but, when the States themselves and when the people of the States have so acted as to convince us that they will not regard our constitutional rights, then, and then for the first time, arises the doctrine of secession in its practical application."

"A great man who now reposes with his fathers, and who has often been arraigned for want of fealty to the Union, advocated the doctrine of nullification because it preserved the Union. It was because of his deep-seated attachment to the Union -- his determination to find some remedy for existing ills short of a severance of the ties which bound South Carolina to the other States -- that Mr. Calhoun advocated the doctrine of nullification, which he proclaimed to be peaceful, to be within the limits of State power, not to disturb the Union, but only to be a means of bringing the agent before the tribunal of the States for their judgement."

"Secession belongs to a different class of remedies. It is to be justified upon the basis that the states are sovereign. There was a time when none denied it. I hope the time may come again when a better comprehension of the theory of our Government, and the inalienable rights of the people of the States, will prevent any one from denying that each State is a sovereign, and thus may reclaim the grants which it has made to any agent whomsoever."

I will now sign off with a passage from Mr. Davis's inaugural. It demonstrates the true intent of those southerners [from whom Owens traces his own descent] who gave their lives, fortunes, and honor in a fight for independence. Davis was the true founding father of the Confederacy, and a far greater man than that little twit Alexander Hamilton Stephens who Owens so loves to quote.

"Our present condition, achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations, illustrates the American idea that governments rest upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established. The declared purpose of the compact of Union from which we have withdrawn was 'to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity;' and when, in the judgment of the sovereign States now composing this Confederacy, it had been perverted from the purposes for which it was ordained, and had ceased to answer the ends for which it was established, a peaceful appeal to the ballot-box declared that so far as they were concerned, the government created by that compact should cease to exist."

"In this they merely asserted a right which the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had defined to be inalienable; of the time and occasion for its exercise, they, as sovereigns, were the final judges, each for itself. The impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct, and He who knows the hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we labored to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit. The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the States, and which has been affirmed and reaffirmed in the bills of rights of States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognize in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government. Thus the sovereign States here represented proceeded to form this Confederacy, and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained, the rights of person and property have not been disturbed."

No real American would run down Lincoln. You must be an Arab. Go back to the Middle East, Abdul, and take your terrorism with you.

Little is gained by these endless debates about Lincoln and secession.
The unconvinced will remain unconvinced and unbudged. At the end of the day, if Lincoln's "essence of anarchy" point isn't enough for the Southern partisans, and it isn't, then we simply have a conflict of visions. Better to concentrate on what we have in common, which is a great deal. Lincoln and secession are fighting words, and we don't need to be fighting.

I disagree somewhat with David Frisk. I think these debates illustrate the mentality of the followers of Harry Jaffa, and that it is not a conservative one.

For example:While the people never relinquish their right to revolution, in practice, this natural right is replaced by free elections, the outcome of which are determined by majority rule."

Leaving aside the obvious contradiction within this sentence, Mr Owens clearly believes that natural rights, in this one instance, can be subordinated to the outcome of elections and majority rule.

If the people of Britain and the colonies had voted on the matter and decided that the colonies should not leave the Empire, then that would have been that.

Calhoun dismissed the fundamental idea of the American Founding — that "all men are created equal"

The idea that this was " the fundamental idea of the American Founding" would have been news to the Founders, who gave no indication of believing any such thing. It it not even a theory which can be borne out by appealing to the Declaration. This particular phrase is but one fragment of a much longer sentence, which in turn is part of an essay length discussion on why insurrection was right and neccessary. Nowhere in that discussion is the fundamental equality of all human beings even alluded to. That's an odd omission, if these words were the core of the document.

To the extent that "all men are created equal" has any bearing on what follows, it is that the Founders claim that King George is their equal and not their superior.


They close the Declaration with these words:


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

At this stage, at least, the notion of the states being merely part of a larger super-state which superceeded normal states rights was not in evidence.

The very word "state" is a giveaway. To the Founders (as to most people elsewhere in the English speaking world today) a state meant what we would call a country, NOT what the British call a county.

But Brutus supposing that the south did have the right to suceed didn't Lincoln still also have the duty to prevent that sucession?

And supposing that a slave has the right to suceed from his master, does not the master have a duty to prevent that sucession?

And if it is argued that if the south trully has the right to suceed then Lincoln could not have had by the same species of justification the contrary right to prevent it...but that Lincoln would only have had interest in preventing it. If this is true then how much more does it apply in the case of the slave. The Slave has absolute right to suceed from his master, and the master has only a crude appeal to his interests to justify preventing it.

Brutus, If one seriously reflects on your quotes of Jefferson Davis it seems to make it easier to take up Lincoln's side in all of this. "The impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct, and He who knows the hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we labored to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit."

Really???

Only a hard core abolitionist could agree that Jefferson Davis was laboring to preserve the government of our fathers in its spirit. And the hard core abolitionist therefore said that the constitution was a pact with the devil. But it is a rather dubious claim to errect states rights above natural rights or to conflate the two. In point of fact there is nothing to guarantee that "states rights" do not degenerate into a rather vicious form of majority rule.

John...good points...but...

"all men are created equal" refers to the capacity for Reason. "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions." This is an appeal to Reason.

States rights proceed from the reasoning of the free and equal beings that constitute them.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

In other words states rights are a derivative of natural rights and not the other way around.

The southern argument: state rights derive from natural rights and we have a natural right to sucession, because Lincoln, the northners, the abolitionists, are trying to read the negro into natural rights. If it is conceded that the negro participates in reason and that therefore the creator also endowed him with certain inalienable rights then this will change everything. Since we do not agree with this change we are suceeding.

John, the words you want to use are "secede" and "secession." I'm not interested in making some counterfactual argument that the world would be a better place if the Confederacy had won. I'm not even all that interested in saying that secession was justified or a good idea. What irks me is that these Claremont people consistently and ideologically misrepresent what Confederates said, thought and did. And when you call them on it they challenge you to a duel or call you an anti-semite.

Dr. Owens,



Mel Bradford brutalized the whole Jaffa "America was founded on equality" argument in an essay he wrote for Modern Age in reply to Jaffa. I'm sure you know which one I am talking about. That America was "founded on equality" is just pure, unadulterated poppy cock.



First of all, it is a liberal and neocon (sorry I repeat myself) conceit that America was "founded" in the first place. That formulation plays into the neocon notion that America was a radical break from the past. (How something that is supposedly a radical break with the past is now somehow supposed to be conservative is beyond me.) We broke away from (seceded from) the British Empire, but America was still fundamentally a British colonial society. Especially those in the South cherished their British/European/classical roots. (Those most inclined to view America as a radical departure were the Yankee Puritans, hence the Puritan/neocon connection I made in the other post. But before the victors rewrote US history, it was the Yankees who were viewed as the oddballs, and things south of the Hudson were normative.) I am guilty of using the term Founding Fathers because people generally know what that means, but it is a misnomer as well.



Second, as Bradford quotes an unnamed Congressman in that essay, that all men are created equal is "a self-evident lie." Sure they are equal in a certain spiritual and metaphysical sense, but the fact that that has to be clarified makes the whole formulation problematic to begin with.



Third, that America was "founded" on "equality" is just too rich for words. Tell that to the slaves. Tell it to the women who couldn't vote. Tell it to those without property who couldn't vote. Tell it to those who couldn't/wouldn't take religious oaths. Tell it to the Indians we were slaughtering or rounding up and herding off. The Declaration CAN NOT mean what y'all say it means. What I have never been able to figure out is if the Jaffaites actually believe that garbage or do they know they are telling a "noble lie" and just hope the people don't call them on it. Just like Japan never had "comfort women," wink, wink.



Like I said in the other post, I know. I know. We later perfected it. Esp. Saint Lincoln. Whatever. And Santa delivers all those toys in one night also.



Why are the only people willing to tell the truth paleos and radical leftists?

John Lewis, the whole "natural rights" argument is inherently liberal. Calhoun was arguing against the concept as classical conservative always have. That is one reason that neoconservatism is a species of Enlightenment liberalism.

Here is a link to the essay I referred to. All who are tempted by the "equality" lie, please read. It is called "The Heresy of Equality: Bradford Replies to Jaffa"



http://www.mmisi.org/ma/20_01/bradford.pdf

John Lewis

In other words states rights are a derivative of natural rights and not the other way around.

There are at least two seperate arguments/debates here - the philosophical one and the historical one.

Historically speaking, the Founders did not have what we would call the "natural rights" view of human nature. They really had no concept of natural rights as the term is understood by us. Even a casual familiarity with the law in the early years of this country will bear this out.

That is separate from the whole philosophical question of whether or not natural rights exist and if so what they are (and who decides what they are, more importantly), which I'm not going to get into here.


States rights proceed from the reasoning of the free and equal beings that constitute them.

That is true, so long as you recognise that the "free and equal beings" in 1776, or 1800, or 1865, were not the same set of people as today. In the eyes of the Founders that set was quite limited. I suspect you are reading an early 21st century perspective into some phrases from the late eighteenth century.

It is interesting to read what the people signing on to the Constitution thought they were signing on to. As it happens, they left us with "signing statements" which spell that out in some detail.

Here is one such example.

It's useful to keep in mind while reading this who the "People of Virginia" were. This did not, at the time, mean "all the people living in Virginia". The whole thing rewards careful reading. Look around the web site and there are similar statements from the other states.

Red Philips

the whole "natural rights" argument is inherently liberal.

I'm not sure that it is inherently liberal. The way in which it has been applied has tended to help liberals, because they have been the ones telling everyone else what their natural rights are, and are not.

It could be argued that they are violating peoples natural rights by doing so, and that what "natural rights" are is best determined by democratic action and not by the opinions of the self styled wise men. In other words, that there is a natural right to self-governance.

Well I am pretty sure there is a natural right to self governance. I am also rather sure that the founders had an understanding of these natural rights. I am not saying that this understanding is the same one we have today. It isn't. The Natural Rights of the Founders came from John Locke. There is a natural right to self-governance. In effect this is all that natural Rights are. The ability to order ones affairs as one sees fit, and the recognition that other people by virtue of being rational have the same liberty/responsibility. Natural Rights precede from a recognition that Man is a rational being. And I suppose Red is right. This is Enlightenment Liberalism, or as I would say Classical Liberalism. I consider myself to be a Classical Liberal along the lines of Hayek.

Actually Jefferson in the Declaration of Indepedence states that if the a government becomes destructive over the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", then it may be abolished and created anew.

That is a bit different than "lives, liberties, or property", as Brutus puts it.

The Declaration also states in the same paragraph that "governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes" and that "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

If one considers the freeing of men from slavery an abuse or a case of despotism, albeit in a slow fashion as Lincoln initially had in mind, then I suppose the government should have been dissolved, but I doubt any sane, rational man would truly say that this was the case.

And, consider the list of abuses in the Declaration. Do any of the abuses listed by any of Declaration of Secession truly rise to the level of those found in the Declaration of Independence?

I assert no! None do. The abuses that the South claim were none. They were mad about a lack of clout in Washington D.C. and, like a little spoiled boy, decided to play elsewhere.

If that is noble, then I want no part of it.

Oh, if we get into a pissing match about how originally it was life, liberty and property, then I piss back that Jefferson had a line or two condemning the slave trade and its ill effects upon mankind, including the colonies in America.

Yes, all men are created equal.

However, at the time, slaves were not considered fully men.

Then, after time, slaves were starting to be considered men.

It is at this time that the South left the Union.

To state that the Declaration of Independence could not apply to those that were slaves or those that are still slaves is ridiculous on its face.

The tide was turning regarding slavery and the definition of those who were slaves.

And, yet, we are suppose to believe that Declaration of Independence could never apply to those once in bondage.

Come on.

Jefferson argued that outside of the social compact all people are equal --even Africans. But life outside the social compact is not safe. So, in order to secure life, liberty, and property the founding fathers formed a government "to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...." You can insert a Sally Hemings joke there if you like, but it's pretty clear what they meant.

Now, there are two questions left. First, were slaves a party to this social compact? Second, did Northerners, circa 1861, respect the lives, liberty and property of Southerners?

I don't know what answer Dale will give to those questions, but I say "no" to both of them. I think the northern response to John Brown's terrorist attack on the South pretty much shows what they thought of their southern brethren. As does their conduct during the war that soon followed.

Again, you are not answering the question, that is ...

Did the feeble attempts at ending slavery justify secession?

Did taxing imports/exports, which is legal under the Constitution justify secession?

Did the fact that some Northern states not follow Article 4 regarding, in essence, fugitive slaves justify secession?

No, they did not, especially when you compare them tot he truly despotic measures listed in the Declaration of Independence.

And, if you look at the agitator state's Declaration of Secession (South Carolina), you will see it was purely about slavery. Matter of fact, all of the Declarations ... well ... only 4 since only 4 states put forth a declaration, explicitly link secession with the anti-slavery movement in the North.

The consensus in America was clearly turning against slavery.

The South had clear links with not only her culture, but her economics with slavery. The demise of slavery meant ruin for the South and that was recognized by those leaving the Union and was stated as such in their declarations of secession.

The fact that a slave was not fully considered a man under the Constitution at the time of Constitutional ratification or at the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence is irrelevant and truly smacks of sophistry.

The definition isn't fixed in time. To assert that a man under those two documents now and forever meant only what the times of the creation of those documents were is ridiculous.

Again, the South acted like a spoiled little boy who was not getting his way (slavery) and decided to take the ball home with him!

Brutus, or anyone else for the matter, what chain of abuse did the North inflict upon the South?

What despotic act did the North perform?

Yep, they ignored the Fugitive Slave Act. That is it. All other reasons were legit.

So, with this in mind, does this reason justify secession?

No, it does not.

Was the beginning of the end of slavery truly despotism against the South perpetrated by the North?

If, yes, the one admits that slavery was reason for secession and ultimately for the Civil War.

If, no, then one admits that the Southern states had no justifiable reason for leaving the Union.

As I'm sure John Lewis is aware, the concept of natural law did not originate with Locke, but with Aquinas. And Aquinas, along with many of the philosophical fathers of the America Revolution such as Francis Hutchinson, rested the idea of natural right in their religious faith.

Natural rights in the Thomistic sense are a world away from the modern interpetation, in which a perons "rights" are seen to be an integral part of each human being like some sort extra but invisable appendage.

Some (not all) of the Enlightenment thnkers simply kept and enhanced the Thomistic ideas, while dispensing with the Christian faith. If Christianity is, as some say "turtles all the way down", then Enlightenment thought is turtles half-way down with the bottom-most turtle suspended in midair.


Natural Rights precede from a recognition that Man is a rational being.

Do you mean proceed as opposed to precede? In any case there is no inherent "reason" that rational beings should possess a specfific list of rights. Rational beings may decide that each of them should treat the other in a particular fashion, but this is not reason in its scientific application.

And I suppose Red is right.

Careful. If Red is right then Classical liberalism is hostile to the very idea of self-governance. Of course there is a good argument to be made that this is in fact the case and that liberalism and democracy cannot peacefully coexist.

"But we must deny the fact that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatever as persons. The true state of the case is that they partake of both these qualities; being considered by our laws, in some respects as persons, and in other respects, as property.

...

In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others, even the master of his labor and his liberty; and in being punishable himself for all violence committed against others—the slave is no less evidently regarded by the law as a member of the society, not as a part of the irrational creation; as a moral person, not as a mere article of property. The federal Constitution, therefore, decides with great propriety on the case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character of persons and of property. This is in fact their true character. It is the character bestowed on them by the laws under which they live; and it will not be denied that these are the proper criterion; because it is only under the pretext that the laws have transformed the negroes into subjects of property that a place is disputed them in the computation of numbers; and it is admitted that if the laws were to restore the rights which have been taken away, the negroes could no longer be refused an equal share of representation with the other inhabitants ..."

James Madison, Federalist #54

"Lastly, it would facilitate and foster
the baneful practice of secessions; a practice which has shown itself even in States where a majority only is required; a practice subversive of all the principles of order and regular
government; a practice which leads more directly to public convulsions, and the ruin of popular governments, than any other which has yet been displayed among us."

James Madison, Federalist #58.

So, uhh, yeah, you be judge.

I get the impression that Dale thinks that Federalist #54 supports the Jaffa side in this discussion. If so that speaks poorly of Dale.

Madison: It is a fundamental principle of the proposed Constitution, that as the aggregate number of representatives allotted to the several States is to be determined by a federal rule, founded on the aggregate number of inhabitants, so the right of choosing this allotted number in each State is to be exercised by such part of the inhabitants as the State itself may designate.

So much for the primacy of the individual. I've never understood the insistence that Madison speaks before all others with regards to the meaning of the Constitution. But those who hold this belief must concede what is blindly obvious - that the Founders did not contemplate any sort of universal suffrage and that they never considered that "all men are created equal" would be applied as it has been. They were NOT individualistic-equalitarians of the modern sort, and would have been horrified by such a line of thinking.

They pointedly ommitted to include any such language in the Constitution, or in the laws of any of the individual states for that matter. They made only a passing reference to this idea in the DoI, in contrast to the space spent on the right of self-governance.

The fact that a slave was not fully considered a man under the Constitution at the time of Constitutional ratification or at the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence is irrelevant and truly smacks of sophistry.

Dale, if you can't offer anything smarter than this, maybe you should just pipe down. FYI, "sophisty" is what you just said. If it even rises to that level.

Slaves were indeed considered men/human beings during the Founding. Look for example at Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration where he criticizes the slave trade and refers to the "MEN" in bondage referring to male and female slaves. He did not say property. He called them men. They were entitled by nature and nature's God to natural rights, even if they were not enjoying them because another group of favored men were riding them, booted and spurred, as he later wrote to Roger Weightman (as one can read on this site - see the letters and speeches section of TJ).

Among the men riding them, booted and spurred, were James Madision and Thomas Jefferson. So the insistence that these men regarded slaves as their equals in the social compact is nonsense. Note that this is not incompatible with seeing slaves as "men", except to modern eyes.

Dale, if you and I had been at the Texas secession convention in 1861 we would have voted the same way. Both of us would have voted against secession as imprudent and unjustified.

But that is not the point. Whether you or I thought it justified matters not. The Texas convention voted to secede. Then the voters of Texas voted three to one in favor of that decision. Even today they could vote to alter or abolish their government on any pretext whatver. Look at the Texas Constitution, it says so explicitly:

"All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient."

In the letter mentioned by Tony, Jefferson was not referring to slaves in the US, but to the people living under monarchy and aristocracy in Europe. That is very plain from a full reading.

The argument that since slaves were not considered full men, citizens, when the Constitution was adopted, they can never become one is the deceptive argument.

The argument that slaves were property only is the false argument.

The argument that, after the ratification of the Constitution, the individual states were complete independent and free as if they were their own nation is utterly wrong and that argument was used by the Southern states for their right to leave the Union.

In the letter Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman, it is not clear he is just referring to those under artistrocacy or a monarchy. You can infer such a thing, but you cannot definately assert based on the words in that letter. In other words, you, John, are assuming that is what he meant. If you have proof that is truely what he meant, then give it, otherwise it just your opinion.

Lastly, John, I typed 'sophistry' not 'sophisty'. If you are going to attempt to belittle me, you might as well get my words correct, but, then again, may be you are too 'intelligent' for that to happen, huh?

Brutus, it does appear we would be on the same side, however I would argue that it was not only imprudent, but not a valid action.

Who said that the slaves were not men? Who said that the slaves were only property? No one. What was said was this: slaves were not part of the body politic. They played no role in the formation of the government.


Both Jefferson and Lincoln believed the slaves had a right to self-government, but they believed the slaves would have to have it somewhere else because the majority of people in the South, the West, and the Midwest would not consent to make the former slaves part of the body politic. Thus both Jefferson and Lincoln supported colonization.

Jefferson Davis explains this issue in his farewell address to the Senate:

"It has been a conviction of pressing necessity -- it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us -- which has brought Mississippi to her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races. That Declaration is to be construed by the circumstances and purposes for which it was made. The communities were declaring their independence; the people of those communities were asserting that no man was born -- to use the language of Mr. Jefferson -- booted and spurred, to ride over the rest of mankind; that men were created equal -- meaning the men of the political community; that there was no divine right to rule; that no man inherited the right to govern; that there were no classes by which power and place descended to families; but that all stations were equally within the grasp of each member of the body politic."

"These were the great principles they announced; these were the purposes for which they made their declaration; these were the ends to which their enunciation was directed. They have no reference to the slave; else, how happened it that among the items of arraignment against George III was that he endeavored to do just what the North has been endeavoring of late to do, to stir up insurrection among our slaves? Had the Declaration announced that the negroes were free and equal, how was the prince to be arraigned for raising up insurrection among them? And how was this to be enumerated among the high crimes which caused the colonies to sever their connection with the mother-country? When our Constitution was formed, the same idea was rendered more palpable; for there we find provision made for that very class of persons as property; they were not put upon the equality of footing with white men -- not even upon that of paupers and convicts; but, so far as representation was concerned, were discriminated against as a lower caste, only to be represented in the numerical proportion of three-fifths. So stands the compact which binds us together."

So Dale, are you saying that this part of the Texas Constitution is "not valid"?

"All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient."

I guess you are right, Dale. I cannot "definately" assert it, whatever "definately" is. If you are going to be a spelling Nazi it is a good idea not to make any mistakes yourself.


When Jefferson says that "The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born ,with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them", It seems clear that this message of hope is for "others" and that we, "ourselves", are not in need of further instruction on the matter.

Further, when he says that "May it be to the world what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self government", it is hard not to read this as his saying that Independence Day is to be a sign to the world, not to the people in the US. And the evil the world is supposed to throw off is "monkish ignorance and superstition".

But since it makes you feel better to think he is attacking slavery (at the same time as he was a slave owner) then you just carry on. I'd hate to damage your self esteem.

The argument that, after the ratification of the Constitution, the individual states were complete independent and free as if they were their own nation is utterly wrong and that argument was used by the Southern states for their right to leave the Union.

Dale, there are different sides to this argument. And you don't know any of them. Nobody ever said or is saying what you claim above.

John, South Carolina, in her Declaration of Secession stated the very same thing that you claim was never stated by anyone.

John, your supposed superior intellect is failing you in many ways and you are the one that should pipe down.

You want a personal battle, you got one. I guarantee you that your supposed superior intellect will not survive a street beatdown.

John, if your knowledge of history and the world is so vast, if your intellect is many levels above mine, how come it was you who made this a personal battle with?

A thug is a thug, no matter if they hide behind a degree or a gang sign.

Brutus, your Jefferson Davis quote is the very same false argument I stated above regarding the status of slaves.

I am questioning why you even used that in the first place. It in no way helps support your assertions. It actually gives credence to mine.

Jefferson Davis, in that quote, states that a slave is a slave and can never attain the level of a free man, with suffrage, because of his once status of a slave.

What John and Brutus have been arguing is that the United States was created with a caste system. And, moreover, that those in the lower castes (slaves), if allowed to rise above their station in life, should never attain the status of a full man, a citizen of the Unites States.

I do no think that Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, et al would characterize their actions as such, but that is exactly what you both would have us to believe they did and wanted. You both argue for something that was never there.

And, to the point, this debate is academic and meaningless to the realities of today.

You want to bring back segregation or slavery? No? Well, I assert your argument regarding this topic is fully supporting such things.

By the way, John, your quote marks indicated that I spelled the word exactly as you did. So, call me a Nazi, but when you quote someone, get it correct, especially if you are trying to demean him with that exact quote. If that is too much to ask, then do not do such things.

I'll stop for now with a quote from Mississippi's Declaration of Secession ...

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery ..."

You can hide this fact behind false arguments, flowery rhetoric, and just pompous attitudes, but the reality is that the South left the Union and fought the Civil War to keep the right to engage in slavery.

That is not something that should be supported ... at all.

The fact is that Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural promised to support a Constitutional amendment that would allow the South to keep slavery forever. That amendment made it out of both Houses of Congress and several states ratified it, including Ohio.

Why would the South fight a war to slave slavery if slavery was not in danger? They would not. They fought for independence just as their fathers had before.

Dale says that since they owned slaves they had no right to declare their independence. Well that means that the Founding Fathers had no right to declare their independence either. And I think he really believes that. In another thread he said the causes listed in the Declaration were "somewhat contrived."

Dale I don't know if you simply reject modern natural rights teaching or if you just don't understand them. Either way both you and Owens are Texas Scalawags. You identify with those who would tell your people what to do at the point of a gun. It's sad, but you really do.

And Dale, you will probably post all sorts of insults directed at me and get me to make another response. But really, debating you is not worth the time because you never ever ever answer questions plainly put. If you want to act like you own this issue you at least have the obligation to answer questions when they are put to you.

And in response to post number 30: In Federalist 58 Madison argues that legislative bodies should not be made overly large. He stated that once such a body got too big one person would lead over it or it would, through "secessions," split up into many unmanagable factions.

The word secession in that cherry-picked quote has nothing to do with a state leaving the Union. And in any event, by 1800 Madison clearly subscribed to the compact theory of the Union as can be seen in post no. 1. He also supported the right of a state to "interpose" against an unconstitutional action of the federal governemnt.

Dale is a textbook troll. As fast as you shoot down one allegation he makes, he throws up two more. While never responding to the claims he makes which were shown to be wrong.

I do no think that Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, et al would characterize their actions as such, but that is exactly what you both would have us to believe they did and wanted.

You have their own words right before your eyes, in which they say exactly the things which you claim they never said, and yet you refuse to accept what you see.

Here is Madison again. It is a fundamental principle of the proposed Constitution, that as the aggregate number of representatives allotted to the several States is to be determined by a federal rule, founded on the aggregate number of inhabitants, so the right of choosing this allotted number in each State is to be exercised by such part of the inhabitants as the State itself may designate.

I am still waiting for you to explain how this is compatible with the allegation that he believed that "all men are created equal" in the modern sense.


your quote marks indicated that I spelled the word exactly as you did.

You spelled "definately" exactly as I did? You have a bad habit of making stuff up.


Jefferson Davis, in that quote, states that a slave is a slave and can never attain the level of a free man, with suffrage, because of his once status of a slave.

What John and Brutus have been arguing is that the United States was created with a caste system. And, moreover, that those in the lower castes (slaves), if allowed to rise above their station in life, should never attain the status of a full man, a citizen of the Unites States.

There you go, making stuff up again. Neither Brutus or myself have said the words you attempt to place in our mouths. However, the words you accuse us of saying are exactly what Jefferson did say. Jefferson described the slaves as a lower caste who could not be a part of the social compact. You persist in accusing the people who point this out of wanting what Jefferson wanted, while absolving Jefferson of responsibility his own words. Very bizarre.

Given your self-imagined brilliance, I'm sure you will have no problem at all in quoting Brutus or myself arguing that slaves should never attain the staus of citizens of the United States.

You want a personal battle, you got one. I guarantee you that your supposed superior intellect will not survive a street beatdown.

Your delusions of masculinity are as pathetic as your delusions of intelligence.

Finally, I can't let this one slide: "You want to bring back segregation or slavery? No? Well, I assert your argument regarding this topic is fully supporting such things."

In studying the past you have two choices: you can either try to understand the founding fathers as they understood themselves, or you can try to use them to make yourself feel morally superior. It's clear which path you have chosen.

49 posts. Impressive. It would be nice if we could devote half this time and energy to the discussion of how to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

Interesting, and perhaps as civil as possible. I don't see how agreeing with Red that what I am in support of is an enlightenment/Lockean view of Natural Rights and not some sort of ancient Conservatism somehow...leads John to say: "If Red is right then Classical liberalism is hostile to the very idea of self-governance. Of course there is a good argument to be made that this is in fact the case and that liberalism and democracy cannot peacefully coexist."

Yikes...in my Lockean framework, if I can get you to play the same game...and thereby dispense with this AJ Ayer like exercise in calling the others cheaters for playing a different game...democracy requires Classical Liberalism to establish the rules that help distinguish democracy from a pure tyranny of the majority.

Under this guise one might say that viewing slaves as something less than full human beings/citizens with something less than full Natural Rights is simply an example of the dangers of tyranny that democracies or republics are prone to. Jefferson described Slavery as holding a wolf by the ears...and while Jefferson and Madison were both slaveholders both recognised that slavery was a moral evil, a stain and deviation from the Lockean Natural Rights that were supposed to be the definative rules structuring the American experiment in self-government. Jefferson and Madison were not pie in the sky idealists, they understood that slavery had powerful selfish motives that disuaded people from being impartial spectators in the David Hume/Adam Smith Moral Sense fashion...but they believed and hoped that reason left free would over time lead us to see a way out of the danger...aided and abeited by technological progress that might make slavery inefficient or otherwise less desireable. In other words they established a government that was as good as it could be, without allowing the platonic ideal to be the ennemy of the good, and they entrusted to posterity the task of moral refinement.

The only real argument that Classical Liberalism is hostile to the very idea of self-governance...Would have to take as a starting point some pure version of it and contrast it with the actual state of affairs within a nation. Thus my question in the last thread to Dan P., the Austrians, the disciples of Bastiat(in this case a classical liberal) on how one would answer Hegel in philosophy of Right.

But if we are to really to proceed in this way of thinking which is a different game entirely, then how do we go about answering Fukuyama? Because I get the feeling that when Red is lambasting liberalism and democracy he means it in the more modern sense of liberalism(as distinguished from Classical Liberalism). In this sense Fukuyama is saying that liberal democracy is really the culmination of history...that liberalism and democracy are far from being hostile to each other...in fact the culmination of Reason, resolving the dialectic between isothymia and Megalothymia at the core of human nature, resolving perhaps even Hobbes and Rousseau...

Now I have a problem with the End of History thesis...because of the way it paints very broadly...but I would back this view against those who would argue that democracy and liberalism cannot co-exist. In other words I would say simply: they do co-exist. And to argue that they don't would be to rehash the argument that a circle only exists conceptually. To which I would reply, that we are playing different games since we can't come to an agreement concerning the actual nature of what we are talking about, or what would count as a point scored in the match.

I guess my problem is that when I read and re-read these posts I see nothing but a bunch of statements, and I am not sure exactly how or if there is a causal means of linking them. When one side tries to attribute a view to the other, hostilities break out...I am trying to understand the points but this is impossible because everyone thinks that a different standard should determine what counts as a point. The Lockeian answer to this is Natural Rights, or what Reason provides given certain self-evident premises about man. Natural Rights are therefore the standard that rational people should agree to...the grounds upon which the founders appealed to reason. In rejecting Lockeian Natural rights one appeals to reason upon a different ground. My main point was to argue that when the confederacy appealed to reason...they had to do it on different grounds than the "self-evident" Lockeian grounds of the founders. I should hope that this much at least is non-controversial.

I don't own the issue and never meant to imply that I do.

However, I believe that secession, the Civil War, and the reasons for them are not as complex as some make it out to be.

You do not need a PhD to understand the words of those who left the Union. It boils down to one issue and one issue alone ... slavery. That is not my opinion, but the opinion of those that left the union (evidence the declarations of secession).

John, just because I disagree with you does not mean I am troll.

Again, you want this personal, so I am giving it in that fashion.

That not a troll make.

Brutus, there is only so much time in the day.

Just because I do not answer a question or two does not mean I am purposefully avoiding them, but you can believe what you want for I truly do not care if you are offended or not.

Also, there is a reason why Texas' state flag can fly on the same level as the United State's flag, but even with that fact, leaving the Union for the reason she stated was truly not a valid action.

In other words, just because someone can do something, which in this debate Texas has a lot more leg to stand on than the other states that left the Union, does not mean that action is valid.

One other thing, John, before I leave for the day, you, like many other Southern apologetics, are making the slave apportionment an either or choice.

What I mean is this ... if once a slave, then one can never ... ever ... be a citizen and counted as such. That is your essential argument that you believe I am ignoring. No? Well, then what the heck are you harping about? Seriously, the fact that slaves were counted in one sense as partial men and in another sense as property does not mean that the phrase 'all men are created equal' could never apply to them. Just because it once was does not mean it always has to be. That is ridiculous and a false argument.

Whether you care to recognize it or not, that is what you have been saying.

I have stayed out of this and it's already up to nearly sixty comments. Amazing!

I am reminded about a comment I made some years ago. I write a lot about Vietnam, and I once remarked that the furious and emotional debates about that war would end only when everyone involved on both sides of the story were dead. The Civil War proves that I was wrong.

I write about controversial topics all the time, but never hear a peep. But when I write about the Civil War, especially when I say something positive about Lincoln, I get pummeled, mostly by folks who call me a commie, pinko, Yankee (the last appellatoin being the worst).

Now Brutus, I must say that I was wrong on the earlier thread when I said that you lack a sense of humor. You're actually a very funny guy. And you've been civil, unlike too many of the other participants on this thread.

Re your comment 45, the reason Lincoln was willing to accept a consitutional amendment that would have prohibited the Federal gov't from interfering with the institution of slavery where it already existed, even by future amendment, was because he understood that it didn't matter. He believed that Congress could prohibit the expansion of slavery into the territories, which was why he wrote a flurry of letters to Republican memebers of Congress admonishing them to accept no compromise on this issue, but he knew that it was up to the STATES to abolish slavery.

Allan Guelzo has shown how Lincoln's long-term plan to end slavery called for convincing the slave state legislatures to abolish the instituion while convincing Congress to provide funds to compensate slave owners. But even the loyal slave states threw this back in Lincoln's face. This is why DiLorenzo's claim that Lincoln should have pursued gradual, compensated emancipation instead of war is so ridiculous. That's what he tried and his plan was rejected.

Thanks for the nice debate guys. One last thing for Dale though. You might want to look over the secession acts again. All of the states in the Confederacy produced them. And read Davis's inaugurals as well. There's not as much about slavery in those documents as you might think.

http://www.civilwar.org/historyclassroom/hc_secessionacts.htm

Much of the question of secession came down to a matter of honor. Southerners had grown tired of being told that they were immoral for owning slaves. They took those accusations as a personal affront and decided that they did not want to be in the Union with people who thought they were evil and wanted them dead. When Dale repeats those accusations against his ancestors it strikes me as a little odd. They saw themselves as good Christian gentlemen and at the end of the day I'm not sure that they were not.

This idea of validity does not make any sense: "In other words, just because someone can do something, which in this debate Texas has a lot more leg to stand on than the other states that left the Union, does not mean that action is valid."

Parties to a social compact have the right to leave the compact. The people are the constituent bodies of the states, and as Jefferson points out in his _Summary View_ the people retain their right to expatriation. Only tyrannical countries like Cuba deny that right.

Similarly, the states as the constituent bodies of the Union have (or at least had) the right to leave that Union. "I do not like it" does not equal "it is not valid." Now if you reject modern natural rights theory (and I'm beginning to think that you do) that's your business. But then it is you, not the Confederates, who reject the principles of the Founding.

Butus

BTW, from the previous thread, apology accepted. Mea culpa.

Thank you very much Dr. Owens. I appreciate it.

John Lewis, Dr. Owens, All,



The Lockean answer to this is Natural Rights, or what Reason provides given certain self-evident premises about man. Natural Rights are therefore the standard that rational people should agree to...the grounds upon which the founders appealed to reason. In rejecting Lockean Natural rights one appeals to reason upon a different ground. My main point was to argue that when the confederacy appealed to reason...they had to do it on different grounds than the "self-evident" Lockean grounds of the founders.



Speaking for myself, a paleo/traditionalist/classical conservative, and not necessarily the classical liberals who argue along side me. (Any American conservatism is going to have some elements of classical liberalism, it just can't be driving the bus.) I reject the premise. That is part of the problem. Too many self-identified "conservatives" start from fundamentally liberal premises.



Classical conservatives have always opposed the idea of "Natural Rights." They have also rejected that the good society can or must be based on/justified by an appeal to reason. The conservative looks to history, tradition, culture, Revelation, and reason, not reason alone. Locke was a muddle-headed liberal, and his contract theory is philosophical nonsense.



Natural rights, no matter how appealing, are always used to attack traditional societies and the traditional social order. If you accept the liberal premise of equality and rights, then you can not ultimately defend any sort of traditional discrimination or natural inequality (against gay marriage, against women in combat, against non-Western immigration, gender roles, etc.).



While the DoI certainly had a lot of Lockean idiom, I also don't accept that all the Founders were raging Lockeans. An interesting discussion is what is the relationship between "inalienable rights" and "natural rights." Natural rights have traditionally been thought of as based on pure reason. I don't think it is insignificant that the DoI grounds our inalienable rights in God.

Dale,



The point is not that something like the Declaration could not apply to whoever it was intended to apply. The point is who were the Signers intending to apply it to and what did they mean by it. The Jaffaites and the pro-Lincoln forces are attempting to apply it retrospectively in a manner that it was never intended. This is the DoI version of the liberal idea of a "living and breathing" Constitution. The Jaffaites essentially argue for a "living and breathing" DoI. Conservatives recognize that is an illegitimate way to interpret the Constitution. It is equally illegitimate to interpret the DoI that way.

John Lewis

I don't recall calling you a cheater.

democracy requires Classical Liberalism to establish the rules that help distinguish democracy from a pure tyranny of the majority.

You can say that if your like. But your hostility to democracy is so obvious in that description that I don't see why you feel the need to deny it. The Constitutional Convention was a "tyranny of the majority" after all.


one might say that viewing slaves as something less than full human beings/citizens with something less than full Natural Rights is simply an example of the dangers of tyranny that democracies or republics are prone to.

Indeed, one might say that. And one might say that the solution is to have democracy in name only and ensure that all real power is concentrated in the hands of a noble elite. If you would like to go ahead and say that we could proceed to an honest debate of that idea.

I guess my problem is that when I read and re-read these posts I see nothing but a bunch of statements, and I am not sure exactly how or if there is a causal means of linking them.

As I said right at the start, there are two different questions here. The first is what the Founders thought. I think it is clear that they did not have the modern individualistic-equalitarian conception of human nature. There is an abundance of direct cites from them on this thread to bear this out, as if their actual behavior was insufficient.

The other question is the philosophical one. Regardless of what the Founders thought, what is the right answer? Do Natural rights exist, and if so what are they? And most importantly, who decides what they are?

I gather that you are not interested in the first question, but in the second. So then, my question for you: If the question of what Natural Rights are is to be decided by a minority, and we are to be ruled by that understanding of Natural Rights, in what sense can any sort of self-governance be said to exist?

Further, what is there in Natural Rights theory which confers on a select minority the power to decide for all people what their rights are? How is this any different from various other sorts of oligarchy, other than the particular clothes it wears?

To say that Natural Rights are determined by "Reason" is not an answer. Whose Reason? Or as MacIntyre would say; Whose Justice? Which Rationality?

Mac Owens

I write about controversial topics all the time, but never hear a peep.

There is no more controversial issue than that of the Civil War, which involves the proper relationship between the central government, the States, and the people.

In that debate, Jaffa and his followers are advancing the notion of a centralized and all powerful state. This is liberalism in the vein of Rousseau rather than of Locke.

Brutus

I rarely ever will comment on religion but the exception is when someone doesn't understand the basics of Christianity. You said that the southerners were good Christian gentlemen (at the end of the day). I will not argue that some were not, but Jesus did not approve of slavery and definetly did not approve of violence. So, I find little of the discussion of slavery and war as good Christianity. It is one thing to defend the state's rights argument but don't defend slavery by way of the Christian Bible.


Mac,

Lincoln was a great President and man, don't act sheepish when you defend him. Say it loud and say proud!

Those of you who think Leviathan overweening but also see the Civil War as the monster's escape from the cradle had better consider whether your rhetoric is not in need of amendment when you almost ALWAYS end up being characterized as favoring slavery. Out in voter land you might as well be defending the luminiferous aether and phlogiston as arguing the way you do.

I understand the basics of Christianity perfectly well. Take a look at the Tenth Commandment. It explictly tells you not to covet your neighbor's slave. Jesus didn't say much of anything about slavery one way or the other than to state that masters should treat their slaves the way they would expect to be treated if the roles were reversed. The black clergy led the Civil Rights movement in this country. Where do you think their grandparents and great-grandparents learned to be Christians? In Africa?

And I agree with what Ed says in post 69. Good history is bad politics; bad history is good politics. It's probably always been that way. Clearly though, I'm not running for office here.

Ed, the problem is that the pro-Lincoln side is always the ones who bring slavery up. Even though Lincoln specifically said he was going to war to "save the Union." The slavery issue is all the pro-Lincoln side has, and they can't even be honest about that.

Ed

By "arguing the way you do", do you mean quoting the Founders? Why do you see this as being beyond the pale? If certain people are going to dishonestly claim that the Founders were modern liberals then it behooves those with any integrity to object.

As for being "characterized as favoring slavery", that says a lot more about the fans of Leviathan who do that characterization than it does about me. I have not defended slavery at all. I've merely pointed out that many of the Founders were defenders of slavery, to the point of owning slaves. And that "all men are created equal" had a different meaning for them than it does today. Why is any of this controversial?

John,



"Why is any of this controversial?"



Because it destroys the tidy little historical narrative the Jaffaites have fabricated … err … constructed. It is hard to tell a “noble lie” when peons and free thinkers keep disputing it.

Lincoln went to war to save the Union, the South left the Union over slavery, it is in their own words (yes, even in the link that Brutus supplied).

John

In reply to 65.

My thoughts on this are complicated, I recognize the validity of your questions. I do think that what the founders believed is important. But as you suggest I do think that the second set of questions is more important.

Let me insert a quote by Lincoln: "We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny."

I feel like cutting and pasting federalist 10...

We disagree...

I recently ordered a book on Amazon called: The Unvarnished Doctrine: Locke, Liberalism, and the American Revolution. by Steven M. Dworetz. I have not read it yet but I suppose I endorse it.

I am reduced to making statements. If I attempted to string together my statements into argument form I would have a book.

Nevertheless here is a half-assed attempt to answer you.

"your hostility to democracy is so obvious in that description that I don't see why you feel the need to deny it."

I don't, I agree with Aristotle, in this regard.(Is that far enough back to constitute Conservatism?)

"And one might say that the solution is to have democracy in name only and ensure that all real power is concentrated in the hands of a noble elite."

No, the solution is federalist 10. But if you want to be snarky about it what we have today is democracy in name only with real power concentrated in the super wealthy. In any case even the super wealthy are not that powerful...the dead John Rawls is as powerful as Bill Gates. Really in all honesty I am Machiavellian. I believe that law givers/philosophers are the truly powerful.

But I want to make clear that I am not saying that Philosophers should be the rullers, that is a different argument...I am saying that they are. John Locke, John Stuart Mill, David Hume, Jesus Christ, Nietzsche, Satre, Camus, Mohamed, Moses, Marx, Kant, Lebniz, Hobbes, Rousseau, Rawls, Jurgen Habbermas...all lawgivers.

From what I have said you should see my answer to this question: "Do Natural rights exist, and if so what are they? And most importantly, who decides what they are?" Essentially it depends on what law giver/philosopher you ask, or which one you come to agree with.

"If the question of what Natural Rights are is to be decided by a minority, and we are to be ruled by that understanding of Natural Rights, in what sense can any sort of self-governance be said to exist?" Good question, the hell if I know...basically I would say that we have free will or the capacity to reason...so we have a choice of law givers to choose from.

If I agree with you that what Natural Rights are is to be decided by a minority...by minority I mean only the relatively few number of Lawgivers/philosophers. And I am not making a normative point out of this, I am saying that this is the fundamental reality. Another fundamental reality is that the dominant point of view, the dominant ontology, the dominant law giver rules absolutely. All minorities are therefore fortunate that one of the dominant American law givers is Locke/Madison. This is to reject as false the view that a minority(in terms of numbers of people ascribing to a particular lawgiver/onotology) can come to tell the majority(in terms of numbers ascribing to a particular lawgiver/onotology) what is and is not a right. Unless...that majority recognizes what Rawls called "the burden of judgement", and does so out of a respect what you call "self-governance".

"Further, what is there in Natural Rights theory which confers on a select minority the power to decide for all people what their rights are?" Obviously Natural Rights theory thinks itself right by virtue of being reasonable.

"To say that Natural Rights are determined by "Reason" is not an answer. Whose Reason? Or as MacIntyre would say; Whose Justice? Which Rationality?" Very intelligent guy that MacIntyre...as should be clear by now I don't disagree with him...I would ask which lawgiver? Which habits? Which customs? What Ontological structure?

As Machiavelli might ask: by virtue of what does a thing deserve praise or blame? By virtue of what quality does a philosopher decide that he is capable of arranging reason so as to pronounce on ethics?

Machiavelli says that Lawgivers proclaim themselves prophets of God in order to get around this objection...God says X is good! Hegel says that the Universal Spirit guides him...Really???

Lincoln says: "If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."

Lincoln says: ""Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

Lincoln says: "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."

And finally and perhaps most importantly Lincoln says:"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day."

I have a question for Red Phillips: in all seriousness, do you want to live under a monarchy? From you posts you seem to hate the American Founding, and I'm curious to know what you would favor. As for myself, I call myself a conservative because I try to conserve the principles of the American Founding, as opposed, to say, English common-law (or what have you).

David Frisk, way back in #8, says it perfectly. There can be no common ground on this subject with those who believe an individual state has the right to secede any time the federal government passes a law they don't like and those who believe the "more perfect union" created by the Constitution is just that.

John Lewis

As you suggest, a major problem is that the word "liberty" is so poorly defined as to be meaningless. Especially in the modern crowded interconnected world, every person, in the exercise of their "liberty", has the potential of stepping on somebody elses liberty. The word is thrown around as if we all know what it means, when nobody knows what it means.

Federalist Number 10 can be summed up as "Divide and Conquer". It is a technique understood from the dawn of human history as a means for allowing a minority to rule. The Hapsburgs would have understood and approved of it.

You go on to say that you agree with Aristotle about democracy, which would seem to place you on the same side as the Founders. That is, you don't believe in universal suffrage. I suspect that this is not what you intended to say but its hard to take any other meaning from it.

if you want to be snarky about it what we have today is democracy in name only with real power concentrated in the super wealthy

This is pretty much what I do in fact believe. I'm not sure whether you are being snarky or whether you agree with me.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that "the people" have the democratic freedom to chose between the ideas of different philosophers, or "law givers". You further claim that America was founded on the "philosophical laws" of Locke and Madison.

I've never understod the reason for elevating Madision above all the other members of his generation. Hamilton, for instance, wrote the bulk of the Federalist papers. Perhaps this is just a shorthand for describing the views of the Founders.

In that case, we need to leave the realm of abstract philosophy and look at what Madison and the other Founders actually believed. In other words, return to the other topic of this thread. It is blindlingly obvious that Madison and the others were not individualistic-equalitarians of the modern sort. Reread Madison in Federalist 54 to see what he thought of slavery. Do you agree or disagree with him when he says the following?

It is a fundamental principle of the proposed Constitution, that as the aggregate number of representatives allotted to the several States is to be determined by a federal rule, founded on the aggregate number of inhabitants, so the right of choosing this allotted number in each State is to be exercised by such part of the inhabitants as the State itself may designate.

Aristotle would have agreed with him. Can I assume that you do also?


Lincoln says: ""Let us have faith that right makes might

What is so amusing about this is that in Lincolns case, might did indeed make right. The North had might on its side, not the South. It is ironic that so many people use the Civil War as an example of the need to curb democracy, when it is a sterling example of the majority imposing its will on a minority at gunpoint. In other words, it was precisely the sort of thing which Madison attempted to prevent.


If I agree with you that what Natural Rights are is to be decided by a minority...by minority I mean only the relatively few number of Lawgivers/philosophers.

I think you are confusing "deciding" with "discovering" or "announcing". Some Lawgivers/philosophers can say the law should be X. Others may say it should be Y. The question is, what mechanism should exist to decide between them?

The practice in America today is that the Supreme Court makes these determinations.


...I would ask which lawgiver? Which habits? Which customs? What Ontological structure?

I think you have already answered these questions. You have aligned yourself with Aristotle, Locke, and Madision, correct? Which suggests that you look kindly on Burke also. You are an unusual liberal, Mr. Lewis.

Andrew

The Founders believed what they believed. And that was that the Federal government could not pass laws which the states did not like. Reality is what it is. It does not care what anyone thinks.


The fact that people continue to insist that the Founders did not say what they so clearly did say indicates that the "Reason" cited by John Lewis is not so powerful and unassailable a force after all.

And that was that the Federal government could not pass laws which the states did not like. Reality is what it is. It does not care what anyone thinks.

If I understand you correctly, you are arguing that the execution of federal law is at the discretion of the state governments and that there are no truly delegated powers.

If I understand you correctly, you are arguing that the execution of federal law is at the discretion of the state governments and that there are no truly delegated powers.

You don't understand me correctly. The Federal power was limited to a few specific "ennumerated powers", and all else was understood by the Founders to be be reseved to the States, or to the people. See the 9th and 10th amendts as well as the discussions at the Constitutional convention.

The idea that the Federal government could coerce a State was considered fantastic by the Founders. Among other things, there was no standing Federal Army, and all military power was held by the individual States via their militias.

Of course, the execution of Federal laws is always limited in the last resort by the willingness of the states and people to comply with them, and by the willingness and ability of Washington to compel obedience. That is the nature of power and control anytime and anywhere.

From Andrew ...

"David Frisk, way back in #8, says it perfectly. There can be no common ground on this subject with those who believe an individual state has the right to secede any time the federal government passes a law they don't like and those who believe the "more perfect union" created by the Constitution is just that."

Frisk was boiling down the issue.

Ultimately, the South left the Union over Washington D.C., federal, policy issues.

And the messed up part about this is that we are supposed to believe that this was somehow noble, in the tradition of the founding of the United States of America, in support of liberty and all that jazz.

What a crock!

Great stuff!
Just a comment or two.
Mankind didn't start killing each other for non economic reasons until the great ideological wars of the past century. That is to say wars were not caused by social movements such as the abolitionist movement that really wasn't all that popular in the North, particularly the midwest,which was a hotbed of "anti-Negro" sentiment.
Also, there was no support for war from the northeastern bankers and manufactures early on, not until March or April of 1861 when the Confederate Congress published its tariff schedules.
These tariffs were significantlly lower than the current federal tariffs and threatened the northern money interests with the spectre of English and French products flooding into the South than up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Northern customers.
It is at this point that the proverbial "dogs of war" were cut loose.

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