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"TR the Socialist?"

With this head in the print edition of the WaPo, Michael Gerson's column scorns Glenn Beck's attack on Theodore Roosevelt for his Progressive policies.  The former Bush 43 speechwriter should have followed the lead of our Roger Beckett

In his "New Nationalism" speech at John Brown's home in Bloody Kansas, Roosevelt sees progress in history as arising from "this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess."  

Gerson objects that conservatives should no more go after TR than they should denounce Lincoln.  TR claims the legacy of Lincoln.  But Lincoln viewed human history as strangers becoming friends, not one of class conflict.  Moreover, TR pushed centralizartion of power far further than circumstances justified:  "The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good."  Even Gerson has to allow that TR's "progressivism could sound a bit like socialism." 

In claiming TR as a forefather of "reform conservatism" Gerson simply shows his allegiance to big-government conservatism and his lack of understanding of founding principles.  His speeches for "W" cited the Declaration of Independence often but without understanding the limited government principles within his founding document.

Glenn Beck's mentor on Progressivism, RJ Pestritto, has written these books so you can decide.

Categories > Conservatism

Discussions - 42 Comments

Actually, authentic conservatives should denounce TR AND Lincoln.

Why?

"But Lincoln viewed human history as strangers becoming friends, not one of class conflict."

Apparently, Lincoln was open to the government intervening in the terms and speed with which those strangers become friends. From "Fragments of a Tariff Discussion" (1847):

"In the early days of the world, the Almighty said to the first of our race 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread' [Gen. 3:19]; and since then, if we except the light and the air of heaven, no good thing has been, or can be enjoyed by us, without having first cost labour. And, in [as] much as most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government."

As when he commented to a reporter - as the shoemakers of Lynn went on strike - that he was "glad to see that a system of labor prevails in New England under which laborers can strike when they want to, where they are not obliged to labor whether you pay them or not. I like a system which lets a man quit when he wants to, and wish it might prevail everywhere."

The conservative right does have somewhat of a history in misusing Lincoln for their own supply-side ends; even Reagan (at the '92 GOP convention) trotted out four of Reverend Boetcker's very old, anti-labor "Industrial Decalogue" quotes - falsely citing Lincoln as their source:

http://www.snopes.com/quotes/lincoln/prosperity.asp

As when he commented to a reporter - as the shoemakers of Lynn went on strike - that he was "glad to see that a system of labor prevails in New England under which laborers can strike when they want to, where they are not obliged to labor whether you pay them or not. I like a system which lets a man quit when he wants to, and wish it might prevail everywhere."

Yeah, because conservatives don't think people should have the right to strike or quit, and that they should work without being paid. Nice straw man, Craig.

"Yeah, because conservatives don't think people should have the right to strike or quit, and that they should work without being paid. Nice straw man, Craig."

Straw man (or solid brick house)?

"The So-Called Right to Strike":
http://www.fff.org/freedom/0698e.asp

from their "About us" page:

"The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government."

NOT conservative?

or....
"Reagan On Firm Ground In Denying Right to Strike"
Stuart Taylor, Jr. - NYTimes News Service, Aug. 5, 1981:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2199&dat=19810805&id=aalAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=M-gFAAAAIBAJ&pg=6670,1273300

Had you only asserted that conservatives believe in an individual's right to QUIT (and then die hungry and homeless - haha), I'd have had no qualms.

I also can't recall a single critical word written here at NLT (or elsewhere in the right-wing blogosphere) about Wal-Mart (to use the most salient modern example), despite their numerous instances of not paying employees for their labor. Did I miss the conservative outrage in response to all those? True, I don't hear conservatives specifically declaring "People should work without being paid," but, curiously, when just such a thing does occur, conservatives - masters of outrage and indignation in so many matters - seem noticeably reserved (or completely silent) in response.

It's not TR's fault if his conservation morphed into Al Gore's Ponzi scheme and his trust-busting was twisted into today's unionized government monopolies, the worst of three worlds.

All presidents have their good and bad points. Conservatives have huge issues with FDR--but at least FDR wanted America to win her wars, unlike todays Democrats.

TR was for character and citizenship. He was against the Welfare State, Multi-Culturalism and Trans-Nationalism before they even had names.

He believed in American Exceptionalism, built the Panama Canal, built up America's navy and actually earned his Nobel Prize.

In his new book, James Bradley indicts him for coddling the Japanese, thereby laying the basis for the Pacific War. meh--the Japanese would have done it anyway. If TR's defense policies had prevailed in the 20s and 30s instead of the disarmament craze, perhaps that might have countered them.

One lesson for today is not to split the vote like the Bull Moose Party did, causing the election of a REAL progressive, Wilson.

I like Beck, but TR, faults and all, is not the enemy.

Sorry Craig, it's still as straw as ever. Who's ever heard of the Future of Freedom Foundation? And they advocate drug legalization, open immigration, and an end to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sounds like they could just as easily be called a liberal group.

But read the article--"Most strikes, however, occur in the absence of a contract. Let us say that the contract with the construction workers has expired and the workers choose to walk off the project then. (This could occur with or without the presence of a union; whether the workers are represented by a union or not makes no difference as far as their rights go.) They certainly have the right to do that. Any attempt to compel them to work in the absence of mutual agreement would be a violation of their rights." Sounds like this George Leef guy (whoever he is) still supports a right to strike, no matter what the title says.

Reagan only opposed the right of federal employees to strike in cases where a strike would disrupt the country's transportation system and economy. As the editorial says, Congress has since 1940 "affirmatively prohibited strikes against the federal government, subjecting striking employees both to dismissal and to criminal prosecution." In other words, for over forty years. Care to take a guess how many of those years liberals controlled Congress?

Okay, if you say so, YP. Conservatives believe that people have the right to strike. I will definitely keep that in mind. And I'll be quite surprised if proponents of said right chip it down to a meaningless state with an endless barrage of "excepts"!

[But your protest of "Who's ever heard of the Future of Freedom Foundation?" was pretty lame. We could also ask the same about AEI, CEI, ISI, IHS, Heritage and Ashbrook, for that matter - and the answer would be, "Not many." Being relatively obscure doesn't mean that a group isn't conservative. True, not all of these groups agree on pot, immigration, or elective wars (just as Ron Paul, the star of CPAC, has some views that upset SOME conservatives), but it's still quite fair to refer to them as conservative.]

The right to strike isn't the same as the right to win, much as the freedom of speech isn't the same as the right to spout off without criticism or even sanction (for the latest example, follow the current spectacle at the University of California at San Diego). We also need to be careful to distinguish between private employee unions and public employee unions, as Reagan did with the air traffic controllers.

Yersinia, I would caution you against being so dismissive of FFF. They're a libertarian outfit and they've been around for more than 20 years. Not entirely Ashbrook's (or Claremont's) cup of tea, but there are some good guys there, even when we disagree.

That is correct, sah! That thar tyrant Lincoln done stole mah great-great-great grandpappy's NEEE-grah property! The South is gon' raaaaaahs agin! YEEEE-HAW!

Sorry I came late to the party: The paleo-con attack on Lincoln is really an attack on George Washington. There isn't anything said about Lincoln from that corner that wouldn't apply equally to Washington.

"Reagan only opposed the right of federal employees to strike in cases where a strike would disrupt the country's transportation system and economy. As the editorial says, Congress has since 1940 "affirmatively prohibited strikes against the federal government, subjecting striking employees both to dismissal and to criminal prosecution." In other words, for over forty years. Care to take a guess how many of those years liberals controlled Congress?"

"for over forty years" - interesting math, there! [I came up with something around 70]

In any case, it's an interesting point you seem to be driving at. So, preventing strikes against the federal government was simultaneously a good thing (because Reagan did it) but also, really, due to liberals' dominance of Congress? But what about the idea that liberals are in the pocket/under the thumb of the almighty unions? Was Reagan just doing the bidding of the liberals by breaking up PATCO? (haha) Like many other rights, conservatives pay lip service to honoring them - just as long as nobody actually asserts and utilizes them.

But nice job avoiding the Wal-Mart unpaid labor issue. Where have the conservatives been on that one? (Give me just one conservative group that has clearly sided with the workers in that matter)

As for Gerson's article, I think this provides a better analysis:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/33621.html

2 paragraphs:
"After months of struggling to harness the energy of newly engaged tea party activists, the conservative establishment — with critical midterm congressional elections on the horizon — is taking aim for the first time at the movement’s extremist elements.

The move has been cast by some conservatives as a modern version of the marginalization of the far-right, anti-communist John Birch Society during the reorganization of the conservative movement spearheaded by William F. Buckley Jr. in the 1960s and and 1970s."

I think the right has a long way to go on this (surprise!). CPAC (where the Ashbrook Award was given out) is co-sponsored by the John Birch society. Has there been even a perfunctory word of dissatisfaction with that here at NLT?

CPAC is the fringe, and today CPAC is also the mainstream establishment, as well (see Cheney and Gingrich's "rock star" appearances, as well as Romney's and Pawlenty's). They have blended and blurred together.

"for over forty years" - interesting math, there! [I came up with something around 70]

Reagan fired the air traffic controllers in 1981. I'm no mathematician, but by my count that's 41 years after 1940. And I'm not blaming the liberals. I'm just saying that if they were so bothered by the notion that federal employees weren't allowed to strike, then they had plenty of opportunity to change that. But they didn't.

Your comment was honestly the first time I'd ever heard ot the Wal-Mart thing. I googled it, but only found clearly anti-Wal-Mart sites. Has this been covered in the news media? If it's true that they're not paying their workers, they should be sued, if not prosecuted.

Well suh, marse Lincoln did, I seem to recall, say that if he could preserve the union without freeing any slaves he would sho nuff do that and if he could preserve dat der union by freeing them all he would do that. Marse Lincoln was a pragmatist which is a high order of scoundrel.

The trouble is that marse Lincoln's preservation of the union set this country on the path towards empire and the fatalistic impulse to go around the world refounding the union over and over again. TR is the direct descendant of this Lincolnian impulse and he is an even higher order of scoundrel than the great obfuscator.

I doubt that Washington, who urged future presidents to steer clear of foreign entanglements, would countenance the path upon which Lincoln and his scion TR placed the former republic.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

The Confederacy thought it was fighting the 2nd War for Independence, and it was. Lincoln may have saved the Union, but he betrayed its essential spirit - that people have the right to chose their own government.

Ever since the Civil War, the issue of slavery has been used to obscure this fact. Lincoln was no friend of liberty, not really. He was the instigator of governmental power, and we are still struggling with his legacy.

My mistake on the math, YP - I thought you were quoting from the FFF piece (which is from '98 - I also thought it was more recent), but you were quoting the NYT piece. Sorry!

It's the FFF piece which says:

"What the "right to strike" really boils down to is a claimed right to breach a contract by ceasing to work, to trespass, and to interfere with the freedom of other people to peacefully interact. We can emphatically say that there is no such right."

- which largely sums up a lot of conservative thinking on the issue of labor and worker's rights.

"Your comment was honestly the first time I'd ever heard ot the Wal-Mart thing. I googled it, but only found clearly anti-Wal-Mart sites. Has this been covered in the news media?"

Wow. Um, yeah:

2002, Oregon:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/20/us/us-jury-cites-unpaid-work-at-wal-mart.html?pagewanted=1

2005, California:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4554404.stm

2008, Minnesota (adjust the URL to get the article):
startribune dot com/business/35819094.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aU7EaDiaMDCiUZ

Forgot this one:

Pennsylvania, 2006:
http://hd.bloggingstocks.com/2006/10/13/judge-wal-mart-broke-labor-laws-could-pay-62-million-in-damag/

(which also mentions a Colorado case)

Winning plaintiff of PA case said:

"One of Wal-Mart's undisclosed secrets for its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees."

So you're saying that, under the rubric of a right to strike, workers have the right "to breach a contract by ceasing to work, to trespass, and to interfere with the freedom of other people to peacefully interact"? I doubt Lincoln would have approved of that (remember this conversation was originally about Lincoln, and whether conservatives have misrepresented him).

Thanks for the Wal-Mart links, but it seems to me that in every case the correct result occurred. The workers sued, and Wal-Mart had to pay millions in damages. Justice was done, and presumably if Wal-Mart is dumb enough to keep doing this they'll be hit with bigger and bigger penalties. I'm not sure what you want from conservatives. Now, if you can find evidence of anyone in the "right-wing blogosphere" complaining that Wal-Mart got some kind of raw deal in these court decisions, then you'd have a valid point.

JJ: And which foreign affair did Lincoln entangle the Union in?

Bristlecone Pine: Is that why the deep South seceded before Lincoln even stepped foot in office?: "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

They must have missed that part.

Well, now that you mention it, the Civil War, which was waged against a polity which had every right to secede, was the "foreign affair" in which Lincoln entangled the north. The Confederate states were not fighting to take over the north. They were fighting because they had, like the thirteen colonies some decades earlier, declared themselves independent and had been invaded for doing so.

One wonders if Glenn Beck, who I have listened to on occasion, will eventually come to draw the connection between Wilson, TR and dishonest Abe. If the American right could ever get over the delusions bequeathed to them by this trio then they might, as yet, deliver us from some or, perhaps, even most of what ails us. I am not holding my breath.

Needless to say, I don't buy FFF's premises, nor their interpretation(s) - even if they "could just as easily be called a liberal group." (haha)

I agree with Lincoln that "...some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government."

As for the Wal-Mart links, they were mostly to underscore your poor googling skills, your unawareness of news events (seriously, those Wal-Mart stories got plenty of coverage, and deservedly so - there have been many cases, and not just on the issue of unpaid labor), or both.

Still, you've shifted the point of contention. We've gone from my asking who, if anyone, on the right openly supported these workers and criticized Wal-Mart for their obvious policy of trying to squeeze unpaid labor out of their employees to you asking for evidence of anyone in the "'right-wing blogosphere' complaining that Wal-Mart got some kind of raw deal." AFTER the court verdicts and settlements were made. Look, even I can see that there are limits to the right's audacity - although they will push the envelope as much as they can. They're not going to just come out and openly endorse slavery ("Party of Lincoln" and all that!), but what they will do - and have done - is be silent on all of Wal-Mart's crimes and misdeeds, and instead give us stuff like this:

American Enterprise Institute (heard of them?), Nov. 2005 - "Three Cheers for Wal-Mart":
http://209.85.129.132/search?q=cache:yaVrfcHG1pUJ:www.aei.org/article/23455+site:aei.org+aei.org+%22wal-mart%22&cd=13&hl=en&ct=clnk

Here, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (geez - how many "enterprise institutes" do we really need?) calls them a "Boon for U.S. Consumers" (adjust URL to see page):
http://cei dot org/gencon/019,05089.cfm

I found this interesting, a NYT article posted on the site of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy - which talks about how the Walton Family Foundation (Walton of Wal-Mart fame) has funded some of the very same conservative groups (such as AEI and Heritage) that - surprise! - have been, quite literally, cheerleading for Wal-Mart:

http://www.ncrp.org/news-room/news-2006/294-wal-mart-finds-an-ally-in-conservatives

Right-leaning libertarians are all about Wal-Mart. Jeffrey Tucker offered his go-free-markets verdict on the blog of the Mises Institute, in Oct. '06:

"Wal-Mart is guilty of nothing other than making a profit by selling stuff that people want at prices that people can afford."

Apparently having employees do work off the clock is just no problem at all!

"...the Civil War, which was waged against a polity which had every right to secede, was the "foreign affair" in which Lincoln entangled the north."

Why is it, then, that you refer to the South as a single "polity?" As sovereign states, shouldn't you show respectful deference to each as such? If you could, do explain from whence a state's right to secession is derived:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another..."

I thought the idea of "Union" entailed that the states collectively make "one people." It seems that your reading of the Declaration must rely on the premise that each state individually constitutes "one people" amongst many others. But this seems rather arbitrary. And thus, it leads to a West Virginia breaking away, and on and on. As Lincoln said, secession is the principle of anarchy.

JFK signed the order allowing federal employees to unionize in '62, not too long after the mayor of New York let city workers unionize. As there are no profits to split, government unions can only agitate for higher taxes.

TR's dad was a Lincoln advisor and his uncles were Confederate officers--no wonder he was so big on Americanism.

And one more thing--under TR, Cuba was free.

Congratulations on your googling skills, but let's keep this in perspective. You've turned up four court cases over a ten-year period, involving a relative handful of stores when considering the massive size of the chain. Because these things happened at Wal-Mart stores, the chain itself is liable, so the verdicts are just. But these articles don't prove that they're a systemic problem. I've known Wal-Mart employees in several different towns, and none of them have ever said anything about practices like this. I personally have spent several years in retail (not Wal-Mart) and I can tell you that at particularly busy times (especially around the holidays) managers will sometimes suggest that employees skip their breaks. From what I've seen nobody really minds as long as it only happens once in a while. We just saw it as doing our bit for the team, because every time one of us left the other employees would have to take up the slack. I suspect that this is what was going on here, but that because Wal-Mart is so big and such an easy target for lawyers we end up with big-money lawsuits.

Look at it this way. If it were really corporate policy to deny employees breaks and force them to work off the clock, don't you think we'd have former managers coming forward to tell us they'd been pressured by headquarters to do this?

"...Wal-Mart is so big and such an easy target for lawyers..."

I doubt I'll be able to stop laughing from that one long enough to address the rest of your evasiveness.

Yep, poor Wal-Mart, I'm sure that they're lucky to have enough money to hire some kid fresh out of a bottom-tier law school. EASY target!!

I think the Southerners made it very clear why they wanted to leave. And, given that the Constitution did not forbid secession, and that the 10th Amendment clearly empowers States with all powers not delegated to the Federal government, it is clear that the South had the right to secede under the prevailing laws. But Abe Lincoln made us a country of men rather than laws.

Few remember or note that the New Englanders threatened to do the same over the War of 1812. It is clear that the right of secession was commonly understood.

As for "anarchy," that's allowing the end to justify the means. Just because bad things might happen if you allow something to occur does not automatically justify preventing those occurrences. Moreover, after the Civil War, both nations could have easily amended their respective Constitutions to disallow secession. But under the rules of 1860, the South was within its rights, and so Abe Lincoln fought a war of aggression against a sovereign people.

And now, of course, I expect to hear a lot of nonsense about how ending slavery was the real point of the war (and how, implicitly, this justifies overriding the Constitution). Again, ends justifying means.

"And, given that the Constitution did not forbid secession, and that the 10th Amendment clearly empowers States with all powers not delegated to the Federal government, it is clear that the South had the right to secede under the prevailing laws."

- That's a non sequitor.

"Few remember or note that the New Englanders threatened to do the same over the War of 1812. It is clear that the right of secession was commonly understood."

- Ah yes, the Hartford Convention. Just because a state threatens secession does not clearly delineate it as a "state's right."

"As for 'anarchy,' that's allowing the end to justify the means. Just because bad things might happen if you allow something to occur does not automatically justify preventing those occurrences."

- That's question-begging, and assuming that Lincoln fought a "war of aggression." As if any government claiming itself to be a good government contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. It was Southerners who fired the first shots at Sumter, right?

Furthermore, I am disposed to think that the history of threatening secession supports the opinion that secession was not understood to be a right, as none of those states so threatening were ever actually serious (or crazy?) enough to do it. It seems to indicate that those states would have faced not unsubtle opposition if they chose to do so.

Sir, your words chase one another. It is clear that the belief in the right of secession was pervasive. Certainly millions of people in the South thought it was perfectly legal. Did the Constitution forbid it, explicitly? If not, then read Amendment X.

And there was nothing crazy about it. While the South was seriously outgunned and outmanned, Abe and his butcher Mr. Sherman were forced to resort to total war in order to win in 1864 (against all the laws of war at the time). It is conceivable that the South might have won its independence sans the brutality.

As for Sumter, you can't "fire" on your own territory, and that's what South Carolina thought it was doing. Abe reinforced that garrison to provoke a fight, which he got. The man freed the slaves, true, but he also drove a whole section of the country into poverty for a century, created a legacy of centralized Federal power, and got more than half a million young men killed in the process.

He was no hero.

Lincoln's famous statement on union and slavery is the farthest thing from pragmatism: It would have been impossible to free slaves without a Union. And the Confederacy knew it.

Would the author of the Farewell Address, with all its emphasis on unity, allow for secession? Impossible.

Every attack you make on Lincoln applies to Washington. Or would you deny that? Where in anything Washington did or said would justify secession? There is nothing about that subject in the 10th Amendment, which applies to life within a constitutional government.

The contradiction that the secessionist argument contains within itself is the fact that it appeals on Constitutional (cf. your parrying any reasonable argument by crying "10th Amendment!") grounds to a Constitution which it, by the by, rejects. That "millions of people in the South" believed something is irrelevant. Millions of people in the South also believed any number of things that were insane.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Where does the Tenth Amendment say anything about secession? All it says is that “whatever isn’t there, isn’t there.” One needs to read the actual text of the U.S. Constitution in order to determine what powers were given or denied to the federal government, and what powers were denied to the states. (See especially Article I, sections 8, 9 and 10.) As Justice Joseph Story wrote, the amendment is merely declaratory and was adopted out of an abundance of caution. It neither delegates nor denies any governmental powers.

As for the claim that southerners in 1861 were exercising the same right as their ancestors who sought independence from Great Britain, that is ridiculous on its face. What the revolutionaries did was illegal under British law, as they were appealing to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” The secessionists were attempting to justify their act under the Constitution, which could only make blank paper of that document and plant the seed of anarchy within the secessionist movement, no less than in the nation. And of course the purpose of the two movements could not be more diametrically opposed, as the founding generation fought for the right of all men to govern themselves, while the southern rebels fought for the right to keep millions of human beings in bondage.

It is absurd to argue that the ends don’t justify the means, for nothing else can. How do means justify means, anyway? Nothing speaks like violence, and nothing can justify violence except justice. Unless southern apologists mean to impugn the motives of the revolutionary fathers, they have to admit that establishing self government is altogether different from perpetuating slavery.

Oh my, where to begin. First, I dare you to find that part of the Constitution that explicitly bans secession. If it's not there, then there is no reason to believe the right would not exist for the States. Most people of the time thought it did, and they were correct.

Amendment X was explicitly placed there to placate those States who feared an overweening Federal government. In a classic bait-and-switch, States essentially lost their sovereignty after the Civil War.

Beyond that, these other arguments you people are making are sheer nonsense. Contracts are (legally) broken every day, as are compacts. Perpetuity never happens in the real world, and the larger States (such as New York and Virginia) would never have signed a document that explicitly locked them in for eternity (or despite changing political conditions).

As for disagreeing with George Washington, so what? You people disagree with Thomas Jefferson, who explicitly agreed with the right of secession. And I disagree with Andy Jackson...and...so it goes. These are not arguments. One must judge by the terms of the compact, and those terms allowed secession. Sorry, Lincolnphiles, but you are wrong on this one.

Not wrong, but definitely on the side of the Constitution and the natural rights philosophy on which it is based.. The Constitution surely cannot be charged with failing to forbid a right which never existed, for even the Articles of Confederation dedicated the states to perpetual union. The Articles were replaced only when the requisite extraordinary majority ratified their replacement by the Constitution, ultimately approved by all states as a condition of enjoying its protection. No one enters into a contract with the intention of abrogating it, and no one is justified in actually doing so when the reasons are in manifest conflict with the understanding, which James Madison articulated in 1832 in the North American Review, that all states must agree to abolish the Constitution, rejecting any unilateral “right” of any state or number of states less than the whole. What “most people thought” before or during the secession crisis is immaterial to the Constitutional question, unless the whole people repudiated the Constitution, which they did not.

There was no “classic bait and switch” after the Civil War, for no state had a right to secede at any time. The contemplated secession of New England states in 1814, or the hint of interposition in Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution, do not alter the case. Two wrongs do not make a rightful precedent. Granted, thirty years of Calhoun’s propaganda against the supremacy of the Constitution finally took its toll in 1860, though even James Buchanan said that secession had no legitimate basis. The difference between him and Lincoln is that the latter had the courage of his convictions and a greater sense of duty to the Constitution.

Whatever reservations any states may or may not have had about their supposed sovereignty has to be weighed against the greater good made possible by a union of the states under one government. As I said before, the Union stood for freedom, the confederacy for slavery. The proof of the Southern ultras’ intentions was that the Confederate constitution removed any limits on slavery.

It matters not only whether one agrees with George Washington, but especially on what issues. Confederates professed admiration for Washington, but he stood against everything they stood for. He freed his slaves, an example too palpable to miss for its significance. Just where was he wrong?

The southern states were not wronged in 1860, as they knew that Republicans had no power to abolish slavery where it existed. They invented a nightmare where none existed. They tried to leave the union on false pretenses. No such breach of contract would be tolerated in any court of law.

The point is that the Lincoln-haters believe anarchy to be consistent with constitutional government, and it isn't. You don't deny that the real enemy of the Lincoln haters is George Washington, and that means America itself.

I see...the perpetuity was implied. What complete nonsense. We don't act on Constitutional maybe's -- something that important would have been stated quite clearly, but it wasn't because there was no assumption that it was necessarily perpetual (and one wonders which States would have signed off on such a clause).

As for "anarchy," not a bit of it. People are either able to determine their own government or they are not. "Anarchy!" has been the cry of every tinplated dictator since history began to be recorded.

The fact is, we can amend the Constitution at will, but the Founders made it hard to do. There is nothing sacred or perpetual about it. Just so, secession wasn't easy, and that was enough safeguard for the Founders. The fact that so many States joined in the "rebellion" clearly belies this nonsense you people are spewing.

I'll go further. So long as you hold LIncoln so close to your breasts, your conservativism will be unalloyed and brittle.

So they fought a revolution to set up a government which might last a day? Perpetuity and not the fickleness of the people is the assumption of constitutional government. Your admission about amendment is telling in that regard. Amendment and secession differ not by degree but in essence.

Any government might of course violate the natural rights that justify it and thus render it illegitmate, but a slaveholding people is at long odds in making such a case.

Mr. Thomas, most Southerners didn't own slaves, but most DID want their own central government that more directly represented their interests. This is one of your supposed "natural rights." Far from preserving government "of the people, by the people, for the people," Abe Lincoln used lethal violence to enforce a compact on a people who have grown unwilling to live under it any longer.

As for slavery, it's a convenient way to justify what isn't justifiable. It's typical "victor-speak." Do you realize that Irish immigrants weren't as well off as slaves in the ghettos of New York at the time? Had the South won, perhaps they would have noted the evil robber-baron system that essentially enslaved hapless immigrants. The bottom line is that no human societies are spotless, and when they fail it's very easy to find the weaknesses to blame.

Why is it that every other slave-society in the modern era found a peaceful way of ending the terrible practice, but not the US? Ask yourself that question.

For those who'd like to get back to the issue of Teddy Roosevelt (and I know, I have little room to talk here, having gone off myself about conservative's mischaracterization of Lincoln), this fellow John Avlon has a good piece in The Daily Beast - "The GOP's War on Teddy Roosevelt."

The wrap-up is great:

"TR's contemporary critics should ask themselves whether big-business monopolies represent the triumph of free-market capitalism or its corruption—because open competition, the essence of free markets, is protected by reasonable regulation. When China's exportation of toys made with poisonous levels of lead is rightly criticized by talk-radio hosts like Beck, it's worth remembering that U.S. government regulations are what protect American consumers from the same abuse. All government action is not a usurpation of individual freedom—it's a matter of striking the right balance.

But balance seems too subtle a concept for all-or-nothing absolutists, especially when they are trying to lead a conservative populist revival that characterizes centrist policies as a slippery slope toward socialism and then communism. Rather than trying to purge Teddy Roosevelt from the party rolls, today's GOP leaders would do well to remember TR's example and his advice: 'We Republicans must hold the just balance and set ourselves as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other.'"

"As for slavery, it's a convenient way to justify what isn't justifiable. It's typical "victor-speak." Do you realize that Irish immigrants weren't as well off as slaves in the ghettos of New York at the time? Had the South won, perhaps they would have noted the evil robber-baron system that essentially enslaved hapless immigrants. The bottom line is that no human societies are spotless, and when they fail it's very easy to find the weaknesses to blame."

- That sounds a lot like the thesis of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Ruling-Race-History-American-Slaveholders/dp/0393317056

Which, of course, is utter nonsense. The fact that Irish northerners were treated badly - even in the highly contentious case that might make their material-economic condition less privileged than that of the slaves - does not place them on the same level with a people who were treated as sub-human and had no political enfranchisement.

And it isn't victor speak. Any anti-government or economic trope that you defenders of Calhoun throw out can be, in historical terms, tied back to the question of slavery. For example, the South opposed governmental intervention in the status of territories as slave or free - a question not unrelated to their economic interests and political sentiments. But those interests and sentiments were shaped by slavery to begin with!

As for why the United States was supposedly the only country who could not rid itself of slavery in a peaceable manner? So entrenched in Southern life was slavery that only William Tecumseh Sherman could severe the one from the other.

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